An Al Fresco (and gratitude filled) Thanksgiving

When I was younger Thanksgiving was just a holiday where I would fill up on mashed potatoes & cranberry sauce (I'm a sides kind of gal)  and count down the days until Christmas.  Now, Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new meaning to me.  It's become a day I cherish with family and a time I use to reflect on what makes my life so full, with my gratefulness only heightened by the recent unimaginable tragedies that happened in Paris.

Being grateful is something we consciously have to remember to do and it can be so easy to take this life and the people in our lives for granted. Practicing gratitude every single day is no easy task, especially when our world is faced with such horrible acts of violence, terror and war.  It's hard to comprehend how these things can even happen let alone begin to understand what the families and victims of these acts have gone through or are going through.

But what we can do is hold each other tight, tell close ones we love them, support each other, give back to those in need and show our gratefulness for all we have while here on earth, and why not start this Thanksgiving?

I've always dreamed of hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner, but the thought of having to prepare and coordinate all of that food still terrifies me. So, since I don't have the space to accommodate a big family gathering just yet, I thought about hosting an intimate "Friendsgiving'' dinner or simply having a few family members over for a little pre-Thanksgiving lunch... al fresco style! 

The weather here in NYC has been unseasonably warm which gave me this idea for a little outdoor dining. With the help of the sun and possibly some heat lamps, it's probably one of our last holidays we can spend in the outdoors before the deep chill of Winter kicks in here in the Northeast. 

In an age where we are so attached to our smart phones and meaningful connections have lessened, I wanted to evoke a little conversation (and I can ban all phones at the table, right??) by having guests write one thing they are thankful for on a tag and place them in a jar in the middle of the table to be read after dinner. (You can find the free tag template I used here). By reading them at random, guests don't have to be embarrassed or shy about reading their own and opening up. 

I wanted this table top to be simple, fresh and inviting, with the focus more on the food and the company, so I chose cool shades of greens, neutrals and gold.  I incorporated earthy elements with eucalyptus plants, white chrysanthemums and a piece of driftwood I had collected from a trip to Costa Rica.

TIP: Incorporating trip mementos or items you have collected over time into your tabletops are also great conversation starters. 

Even the wine I chose (which is my new FAVE Pinot Noir) has subtle touches of nature. I love coordinating the food and wine I serve with the theme of the gathering. It's the little purposeful details that tie it all together. 

Even though the lovely presentation and the delightful food leave us feeling full and satisfied, we can't forget about the true meaning of the holiday and what it represents.  For me it's togetherness, life, family and kindness.  That's what I intend to focus on this year - perhaps over a piece of pumpkin pie of course.  

How will you be spending your Thanksgiving and what are you thankful for this year?  

From my table to yours,  I truly hope your Thanksgiving is full, happy, filled with delicious food and most of all filled with gratitude.   

**All Images My Own

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