Place branches with autumn leaves in mercury jars or vases surrounded by votive candles, acorn and pumpkins. Have guests write on paper tags things they are thankful for; tie onto branches. Or write on collected leaves with a thin permanent marker and scatter on the table.
Cut 56 thirteen inch squares of autumn-color fabrics and sew together in eight rows of seven for a generous queen-size quilt. Add a thin batting, muslin for the backing, and add a simple border. Collect several varieties of leaves; trace on brown paper to make templates; lay the leaves on the quilt and outline in chalk. Stitch with embroidery floss in a contrasting color using a simple running stitch. Quilt around each block. This quilt can be used for a tablecloth or displayed from September through November.
As you plan your holiday menu, make a list of the foods and serving dishes. Plan your cooking and baking days and which foods may be made ahead and frozen or chilled.
Create a family bingo game with copies of photos of family members. This is a good way for the children to learn about their ancestors. You may use vintage scrapbook paper and cardstock. This game uses candy corn for markers. Have the family pitch in by bringing plenty of small gifts and toys for prizes.
Make or buy gingerbread houses and assemble a few days before Thanksgiving. Have at least one per family to take home. After the dishes are done, let the decorating begin! Be sure to have lots of frosting and candy (buy on sale after Halloween) to decorate with.
Although President Abraham Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday in November, personal schedules might suggest celebrating on a different day. Having Thanksgiving dinner the evening before gives you the day to take children to the mountains, beach or local historic sites the next day. Yummy leftovers make a great picnic.
Thanksgiving on the Beach
One year my clever mother and her friends packed up the feast, kids and grandparents and treated us to an authentic out-of-doors Thanksgiving on the beach at La Jolla in southern California. Yes it was cold and gray; but not as cold as the pilgrims experienced. It was an unforgettable holiday. With a little research you can find recipes and methods for a moveable feast.
One way to show gratitude is to share. During this time of year opportunities abound for helping the less fortunate. From serving dinner at homeless shelters, hospitals or retirement centers to gathering food for food banks and community kitchens; taking a pie to the fire department or police station or sending a treat box to military personnel and missionaries and other overseas volunteers. Look around your neighborhood to find people who would enjoy sharing a dinner with your family.