With Thanksgiving around the corner, this year we have much to be thankful for.  The pandemic which has separated us from family and friends makes it difficult sometimes to count our blessings. Rather than taking one day to acknowledge what you are grateful for, why not take a moment every evening to reflect on the best part of your day.

A creative way to do this is with a Gratitude Pumpkin. All you need is a pumpkin and a sharpie, and each night you can take a moment to write one thing on the pumpkin that you are thankful for. Start at the top and wrap the words all the way around the pumpkin until it is full. If you live alone, this is a great time for self-reflection and positivity and if you have children, it is a great way to get their creativity flowing. They will be excited each night to contribute their addition to the pumpkin. It is wonderful to watch the pumpkin grow with so many reminders of how lucky and blessed you and your family are.

If you begin writing on your pumpkin on Thanksgiving Day, it will be filled with words and ideas that have brought you happiness right up to Christmas. It will also be the perfect unexpected addition to your Christmas centerpiece and a great conversation starter to share with your extended family as you sit around the table and reflect. Sometimes we all need those little reminders that happiness can be found in each and every day and your gratitude pumpkin can do just that.

Whether you serve your Thanksgiving meal family style, buffet, or plated, there is room to add some pizzazz to the table and, therefore, the event.  People notice when you take the time to make something special.  It lifts their spirits and enlivens conversation, making your time together more enjoyable.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

Flowers, pumpkins, and gourds, oh my! These are the staples of Thanksgiving decorating and are used several ways. A woven basket of small gourds makes a colorful centerpiece for your table. Just make sure your centerpiece is no higher than 7 inches so guests can still see each other.

Cut the top off a small pumpkin, scoop out the pulp and place flowers inside to create a unique table accessory. It is easier to arrange the flowers in a small jar that sits perfectly in the pumpkin. This also allows you to keep water in it so your arrangement lasts longer.

Tiny vases of baby mums are great to cluster in empty spaces on your table or buffet.  Spread them down the table amongst the pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, or arrangements of larger flowers.

Consider creating a table runner of several small gourds, pumpkins, and flower arrangements.  Place a large cluster as the centerpiece of the table, then scatter the rest down the table in each direction.  Or, if your table is round, scatter them in a circular area around the centerpiece.

Size matters. As mentioned above, keep your table pieces 7 inches or shorter. This ensures that guests are able to make eye contact and keep their conversations going.  Very important if a fun, lively event is your goal.

Use any large pumpkins, gourds, or flower arrangements in other areas of your home.  On your coffee table, in your entryway, or on the front porch.

Get your family involved. Holiday decorating not only creates a pleasant, colorful atmosphere, it also provides a memorable bonding experience with your children.  Find ways to get them involved.  They might help arrange the items on the table.  If you have more than one child you may give each of them an assignment of decorating a specific area – the table, the living room, the entryway, etc.

Reap the rewards. Your guests and family members enjoy your efforts to make their holiday even more special.  Your children have their confidence bolstered from the compliments they receive on their decorations. Your Thanksgiving holiday is a success!

Pumpkins and Gourds
Pumpkins and gourds make colorful table arrangements

Flowers in a Pumpkin
Flowers arranged in a small pumpkin provide unique table decorations

Using baby mums
Tiny vases of baby mums make lovely space fillers

Roses
Large flower arrangements can be enjoyed in other areas of your home

Test your Thanksgiving Manners with our True/False Etiquette Questions Below

1. As soon as you are seated at the table and have your food, you may begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

2. If someone asks for the salt, pass them both, the salt and the pepper.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

3. At the beginning of a sit-down, family-style meal, food is first passed to the right.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

4. Cut up all your food before you begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

5. If a toast is given, but you don’t drink,  just sit and watch everyone else hold up their glass.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

 

6. If you have to get up from the table place your napkin in your chair.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

7. If you have to remove a piece of meat or a bite of food that you can’t chew, discreetly slide it back onto your fork and place it on your plate. Try to cover it up with something else so that it is not visible to others

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

8. Crumble up your napkin and put it in your plate when you are finished with your meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

9. If you have to sneeze or cough at the table, always turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with the napkin. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

10. By placing your silverware in the 3:15 or 6:30 position on your plate, it means that you are finished eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

Thanksgiving can be a joyful time with family and friends, or it can seem like you the host, have taken on too many responsibilities as the cook, server, and dishwasher. Whether having dinner with new in-laws, old friends, or close family members, there are certain tricks and tips that can make you look like a pro at hosting a thanksgiving feast.

Plan ahead. Make the turkey and side dishes in advance. Set a schedule and lay out exactly how much time you will need.

Accept help. If others offer to bring an item or come early to assist you, always welcome their kind gesture.

Set it pretty. Entertaining is the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops when it comes to your table setting. Use the china, crystal, and silver that you have. Place flowers, candles, and seasonal items down the center of the table to create ambiance. It is well worth the extra minutes and effort.

Shake up the seating arrangements. If possible, separate couples so that they are not sitting across from or next to each other. Seat people according to personality and interests.

Set the tone. Most guest will follow the host’s lead. Your mood is critical to set the tone of the dinner.  Always remain positive and keep a smile on your face.  Your attitude can put any guests at ease.

Get dressed and ready early. If you stayed up all night cooking and cleaning, never allow your guests to know you are tired or stressed. It is always best to plan ahead and make sure you are refreshed and ready for any small emergencies that may occur.

Steer the conversation. Stay away from conversations about sex, religion, or politics. These topics have been known to put a damper on the evening. Do your best to direct the conversations so that they don’t lead down a dangerous path.

Have your 10 questions ready to go. If you are acting as host, consider the opposing views of dinner guests. Plan a list of appropriate discussion points ahead of time. Stick to topics suitable and appropriate for all audiences.  Pick 10 questions to get the conversation going – include the weather, pets, movies, books, travel and so on.  Pay attention to local and national news so that you are well informed about things happening around you.

Make it a game. Between courses, if there is a lull in the conversation and guests get that glazed-over look, pull out a game such as Table Topics. Have guests draw a card and answer questions that are posed. Boredom be gone!

Stay neutral. Try not to take sides. Make your guests comfortable by listening to different points of view.  The relationships between guests in your home are far more important than anyone being right or feeling superior.

Being a great host takes planning and patience. Good conversation is as important as good food, wine, and flowers to ensure that everyone will have a great time - including you, the host.

Well, it’s official: now is the time to reflect on all that is good in our lives and give thanks. We will go to great lengths to be with our loved ones, prepare and enjoy a scrumptious feast, and acknowledge our many blessings. Just as the ghosts and goblins come out in October, November is the designated month for gratitude and appreciativeness. But, unlike the ghosts and goblins, perhaps we shouldn’t pack up our gratitude with the serving platters as soon as dinner is over. Perhaps we should instead strive to make giving thanks a year-round endeavor.

We know that expressing gratitude is the right thing to do. Although some say a handwritten thank-you note has been lost to texts, emails, posts and chats, most of us were dutifully instructed to give thanks upon receipt of a gift. But outside of the simple expectation of a thank-you note, it seems adopting an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is actually good for us – and there is science to prove it.

 

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Research has demonstrated there are tangible benefits to consistently acknowledging the positive. Studies at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of Berkeley suggest that “thankful people are healthy people” and enjoy a myriad of benefits. These include stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, experiencing more optimism and joy, acting with compassion and generosity, and feeling less isolated.

In one study, participants were divided into three groups. Group 1 was asked to write down things they were thankful for; Group 2 was to write about frustrations and day-to-day annoyances; and Group 3 had to write down any events that affected them, positive or negative. By the end of the ten week study, results indicated that Group 1 enjoyed a more optimistic and positive outlook on life, more frequent and consistent exercise habits, and less frequent doctor visits. This suggests that by consciously focusing on blessings as opposed to burdens, we can reap emotional and physical benefits.

Workplace and personal relationships can also flourish because of gratitude. The National Center for Biotechnology published a study which showed that managers who said thank you to workers on a regular basis noted an overall improved work ethic. Couples who made it a point to verbally express their gratitude for each other were more content in their relationships.   There is even data to suggest that thankfulness can lead to improved sleep patterns, which directly impact our physical and emotional well-being.

Even if you aren’t naturally the half-full type, you can consciously cultivate and increase gratitude in your everyday life with a few simple tricks.

  1. Journal. Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to become cognizant of your blessings. Some people start each day with a gratitude list, some jot down the good stuff along the way, and some wind down with a review of the positives. Regardless of the approach, counting your blessings can change your life.
  2. Write Thank-You Letters. This is different than a thank-you note scribbled off to Aunt Jane upon receipt of her annual Christmas fruitcake. A thank-you letter is a heartfelt message to someone that has deeply affected your life or contributed to your success. Writing in detail how you have benefited from someone else’s influence or kindness is a powerful cultivator of gratitude.
  3. Have a Grateful Group. By surrounding yourself with positive people, you will pick up on their habit of focusing on the pluses not the minuses. In the same way that the healthy eating habits of your friends will affect your diet, gratitude is contagious.
  4. Volunteer. It is impossible to help those less fortunate without becoming more thankful for your own circumstance. People who spend time in service to others experience deep spiritual and emotional benefits themselves.
  5. Focus on the Little Things. Communicating appreciation for common, everyday things can increase gratitude. A smile and a “thank-you” to the grocery clerk; a quick text applauding a spouse’s efforts; a simple compliment to a co-worker …there are countless opportunities each day to express thankfulness that will mutually benefit you and the recipient.
  6. Exercise. Grateful people exercise more, and people who exercise are more grateful. This has been proven in studies examining the link between thankfulness and overall physical health.

Science tells us that deliberate thankfulness is linked to improved emotional, spiritual and physical health. Therefore, with Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, it may be a good idea to adopt some techniques to maintain holiday gratefulness well after the last turkey sandwich is gone.

Yes, these are the worst. We have tallied the most despicable and have them here for you in “countdown” fashion.

 

Test Your Table Manners

11. Pushing away the plate or bowl when finished.

10. Eating off someone else's plate.

9. Hovering over your plate and elbows on the table.

8. Checking your devices / not paying attention.

7. Beginning to eat before others at the table have received their food.

6. Not using a napkin.

5. Licking your fingers.

4. Inhaling your food.

3. Talking with food in your mouth and chewing with your mouth open.

2. Eating with your hands when you should be using a utensil.

1. Noisy eating – slurping, burping and gulping.

If you want to brush up on your dining skills, check out our DVDs Networking and Dining at Home and Abroad and Dining Skills for the 21st Century. Our DVDs are available as digital downloads and hardcopy.

Thanksgiving can be a joyful time with family and friends, or it can seem like you the host, have taken on too many responsibilities as the cook, server, and dishwasher. Whether having dinner with new in-laws, old friends, or close family members, there are certain tricks and tips that can make you look like a pro at hosting a thanksgiving feast.

Plan ahead. Make the turkey and side dishes in advance. Set a schedule and lay out exactly how much time you will need.

Accept help. If others offer to bring an item or come early to assist you, always welcome their kind gesture.

Set it pretty. Entertaining is the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops when it comes to your table setting. Use the china, crystal, and silver that you have. Place flowers, candles, and seasonal items down the center of the table to create ambiance. It is well worth the extra minutes and effort.

Shake up the seating arrangements. If possible, separate couples so that they are not sitting across from or next to each other. Seat people according to personality and interests.

Set the tone. Most guest will follow the host’s lead. Your mood is critical to set the tone of the dinner.  Always remain positive and keep a smile on your face.  Your attitude can put any guests at ease.

Get dressed and ready early. If you stayed up all night cooking and cleaning, never allow your guests to know you are tired or stressed. It is always best to plan ahead and make sure you are refreshed and ready for any small emergencies that may occur.

Families-Enjoying-Thanksgiving-Dinner-Family-Thanksgiving-Food-300x234Steer the conversation. Stay away from conversations about sex, religion, or politics. These topics have been known to put a damper on the evening. Do your best to direct the conversations so that they don’t lead down a dangerous path.

Have your 10 questions ready to go. If you are acting as host, consider the opposing views of dinner guests. Plan a list of appropriate discussion points ahead of time. Stick to topics suitable and appropriate for all audiences.  Pick 10 questions to get the conversation going – include the weather, pets, movies, books, travel and so on.  Pay attention to local and national news so that you are well informed about things happening around you.

Make it a game. Between courses, if there is a lull in the conversation and guests get that glazed-over look, pull out a game such as Table Topics. Have guests draw a card and answer questions that are posed. Boredom be gone!

Stay neutral. Try not to take sides. Make your guests comfortable by listening to different points of view.  The relationships between guests in your home are far more important than anyone being right or feeling superior.

Being a great host takes planning and patience. Good conversation is as important as good food, wine, and flowers to ensure that everyone will have a great time - including you, the host.

 

 

How Advanced Are Your Thanksgiving Table Manners? 

Take our True-False Quiz and put your table manners knowledge to the test.  Don’t worry, we won’t leave you in the dark, keep scrolling down to find the answers.

Let’s get started:

  1. At the beginning of a sit-down, family-style meal, food is first passed to the right.
  2. If you have to get up from the table place your napkin in your chair.
  3. If someone asks for the salt, just pass them the salt.
  4. As soon as you are seated at the table, you may begin eating.
  5. Cut up all your food before you begin eating.
  6. By placing your silverware in the 3:15 or 6:30 position on your plate, it means that you are finished eating.
  7. Crumble up your napkin and put it in your plate when you are finished with your meal.
  8. If a toast is given, but you don't drink,  just sit and watch everyone else hold up their glass.

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How did you do?

  1. True, 2. False, 3. False, 4. False, 5. False, 6. True, 7. False, 8. False

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