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Thanksgiving Timeline Week 4


I love this song.

I love this song.

I love this song.

I love this song!

That’s what Shanti and I sounded like in the kitchen yesterday after discovering that creating a Prince station unlocks the magic that is Pandora.  The mix was a little bit eighties, and a whole lot of fun.  Think Father Figure.  This year I am thankful that Prince is so supremely talented that only the best songs get into his algorithem.

This is it, loves.  We’re in the homestretch.


The Weekend Before
The Big Clean, house and kitchen. Be sure to clear out your fridge so you have space for all the new groceries coming in.

Two Days Before

1. Buy remaining groceries

2. Buy ice

3. Set your table and pull your serving platters.  Use post-its to label each platter so you know where to plate each dish.

4. Set up your bar area

5. Make any do-ahead dishes according to your timeline, e.g. cranberry sauce, salad dressing, etc.

1 Day Before
Review your timeline and do your prepwork. It may include:

1. Brining your bird

2. Cubing bread for stuffing

3. Cleaning and prepping any veggies and herbs except apples and onions (they turn brown and get watery, respectively.)

4. Making pie.

Day Of

1. While you’re brewing your morning cup, measure and grind beans into a plastic bag for after dinner

2. Enjoy your coffee and cereal.  This is very important.

3. Preheat your oven, turn on some music- the Prince mix- and get cooking!

Élan’s Top 5 (highly debatable) Entertaining Rules


The last installment in our Entertaining Rules series comes just in time for your Thanksgiving prep! Élan is our resident baking guru, she is especially gifted with gluten-free and vegan delights in the most creative flavor combinations. Horchata cupcakes, almond cake with Thai iced tea frosting, strawberry margarita cupcakes, all GF and vegan too. A talented cook with a gift for organization. xo, LEH


Élan’s Top 5 (highly debatable) Entertaining Rules

1. Make dessert something to look forward to. I’m a sucker for a good dessert, but I’ll pass it up if it’s not worth the indulgence.

2. Make an organized to-do-list. A step-by-step shopping and prep list will give you a better sense of what you have to do (and how much you can prep beforehand!).

3. Make your expectations clear. As a partygoer I’m always happy to bring something, but I hate the idea of bringing something totally superfluous or something the host already has. If you’re throwing a party and guests ask/offer to bring something, point them in the right direction.

4. Let your iPod rip. Create a playlist beforehand worthy of the atmosphere you want to create. That way you can hit play as you finish getting ready and not worry about that recording of you playing Dorothy in high school spoiling the mood.

5. Enjoy yourself! No one’s judging you on the fold of your napkins or if the wine is served a degree or two in the wrong direction. If you’re having fun, your guests will, too.

Thanksgiving Timeline Week 3




If you’ve been following our timeline, you’re probably feeling verrrry accomplished right about now.  Week three is going to be a breeze for you.  Here’s what needs doing:

Third Week of November

1. Wash towels and sheets for guests as well as kitchen towels to reserve for the Big Cook.

2. Stock up on essentials: paper towels and toilet paper, Q-tips, cotton balls, advil, toothpaste and toothbrushes, etc.

3. Buy your pantry and freezer items and cross ‘em off the list.

4. Set up your non-perishable table décor items (pumpkins, candles, etc.).

5. If you’re making homemade stock, make and freeze now.

6. Test any new Thanksgiving recipes while there’s still time to revert back to the classics.

There’s a pumpkin meringue pie trial run in our very immediate future.


Thanksgiving Table


Thanksgiving centerpiece

Remember our Halloween table? We’re using the same elements for our Thanksgiving decor.  Run a similar arrangement down the center of your Turkey Day table or along your mantle for a natural, elegant and understated display.

Thanksgiving decor

We started with our faithful workhorses: the burlap strips.   Then, inspired by the darling mini pumpkins, we clustered orb-like clear and white bud vases and filled them with Chinese mums.  The repetition of almost round, squash-like shapes is what makes this look work. Lydia had the great idea to toss in some cipolline onions I had in the kitchen- it’s a cucurbita and allium table for those taxonomes out there!


Off-white pillar candles stand ready to bring the glow.  My Juliska gourd carafe does double duty as an elegant vase, adding height to a side table or mantle.

White pumpkin Thanksgiving centerpiece

For a dinner table centerpiece, you want something low enough to see over.  So we removed the tall flower arrangement and swapped in a medium-sized white spray-painted pumpkin, adding in a few silver for sparkle.

Thanksgiving table display

All we need is food and family!



Burlap-  Michael’s or any other craft store

Carafe-  Juliska

Vases- Jonathan Adler and Heath Ceramics

Thanksgiving Timeline



This is the time of years when our sarcasm kicks up. Everything we read suggests that hosting a 6-course Thanksgiving Martha-style is as easy as (pumpkin) pie. But creating an elaborate feast that nourishes family and friends is not a simple thing, particularly when each guest carries with them their own personal holiday bible. Since we make elaborate meals everyday for a living we can attest that it takes planning and work! But like anything that takes work, it can be a fantastically fun and empowering experience. A privilege. And it can be a whole lot easier if you start now. Just follow our timeline for a stress-free turkey day.

First Week of November

If you get through these steps this week, the week of will be a joy.

1. Collect your recipe and table décor inspirations and pin them to a board above your desk or in your kitchen. Decide what you want to make and what you want to delegate and start delegating. Print or copy all recipes and place them in a folder to have on-hand during cooking.

2. Enlist your littlest helpers. If kids are coming, ask them now if you’d like them to make something special for the table. Sarah’s family still whips out laminated place mats her now-adult sister made for each person in their family. You won’t believe how sweet and chic they look on a table set with her mother’s best.

3. Make a detailed shopping list organized by store and by store section, e.g. produce, pantry, meat, bakery, wine, etc. You will be so happy you took the time to do this now when you have the time to relax with a glass of wine two nights before T-Day! Include ingredients for a green salad and a loaf of good bread. You’ll see why in the second week.

4. Make a timeline. Decide what dishes can be made ahead (e.g. cranberries and salad dressing can be made 2 days ahead and most desserts can be made the day before) and work backwards from dinner according to how long each dish will take. Pin timeline to your inspiration board.

5. Take inventory. Make sure you have enough pots, pans, baking dishes and platters to prepare your meal and plate it. Count your plates and glasses. Now is also a great time to iron those holiday napkins and tablecloths and make sure you have enough candles to make your table glow all night.

6. Order your bird. Plan on 1-1/2 pounds of turkey per person.

Second Week of November

1. Make and freeze your pie crusts. Cross those ingredients off your grocery list!

2. Make and freeze a good quantity of good soup. If you’re hosting the big day, chances are you have friends staying over the night before. You’ll be busy cleaning, prepping and catching up and you’ll be hungry. Surprise them (and yourself) with a light and healthy homemade dinner. All you’ll need is that bread and salad you already put on your shopping list.

3. Buy wine, liquor and sparkling water. Cross them off the list! Feels good, right?

4. Pick a table look from your inspiration board and buy supplies. Add necessary flowers and other perishables to your master shopping list.

5. Stock your pantry with good nuts, crackers, popcorn and buy a few hard cheeses and jarred olives. Now you have easy appetizers and nibbles for house guests. Cross ‘em off the list.

What special steps are you adding?


Shanti’s Top 5 (highly debatable) Entertaining Rules


Sarah and I had so much fun sharing our entertaining tips we have asked our A & O private chef team to share theirs as well. First up is Shanti…


Hey All… my name is Shanti and I am one of the other three chefs L & S work with. Short intro…cooking for 8 years, obsessed with all things food and fashion, especially love wearing pretty aprons. I LOVE dining out and even consider it a second job. So lets see, my Top 5 (highly debatable) Entertaining Rules… or should I say things I have done and in turn you should NOT do…


1. Do not get sauced before the guests arrive. Being a tipsy hostess goes against all rules of decorum, not to mention you poop out before the party even gets started! Pace yourself and make sure you eat something other than chips and salsa. Ahh hindsight…


2. Be aware of your jewels and accessory selections. Although turquoise stones are pretty to look at, no one wants them in their ceviche. Save the prizes for the piñatas. I discourage long scarves, necklaces, shoulder duster earrings and the like.


3. Do not invite more than one man you’re dating. Although you will be tempted, don’t do it.


4. Have a start time and an end time. Then people will (hopefully) attempt to show up at a reasonable hour (Angelenos… I’m talking to you!).


5. People are there to see you and be social, do not spend all night in the kitchen, go mingle!

How-To: Halloween Table


Halloween table decor

Remember our sneak peek from Friday?  Here’s a behind the scenes look at our Halloween table for The Daily Meal.

Halloween decor supplies

Mini pumpkins and one medium-sized pumpkin for spray painting, plus some white mini pumpkins for keeping natural.
Spray paint.  We went with an enamel finish in black and gold to add some gloss.
Painter’s tape (for covering the pumpkin stems)
Burlap (available at Michael’s or other craft stores)
Votive candles
Black ribbon
Black spiders or spider rings (available at the drug store or craft store)
Candles and candlesticks
White place settings
Matching napkins
Wine glasses
Water glasses

Note: spray paint the day before your party so your  pumpkins have time to dry.

Wrap your pumpkin stems in blue painter’s tape to keep the stems natural.


Shake your enamel can and start spraying. Keep the spray can a good 6 inches away from the pumpkin.  Otherwise the force of the spray will wipe off your first coat.  This photo was taken before I learned that lesson.

1-2 coats only. Repeat as necessary to paint all your pumpkins.

Gold, too!

In case any of the enamel was still sticky, we put parchment paper under each pumpkin to protect our plates.

Gold pumpkin, white plates, pewter flatware, and black and white tenugui cloth napkins.

arranging burlap table runner

Now the centerpiece.  Arrange your burlap strips so they have some height.

Ground your display with one medium-sized pumpkin.  A leopard print sweater really adds something!

Layer in the rest of the pumpkins.

Add in your candlesticks and votives.  We only had silver votives so we wrapped them in thick black ribbon and secured with double-sided tape.  Work with what you have!


Creepy and elegant.

Happy Halloween!



Dinner Party Games





We LOVE to play games at a dinner party. In fact, Lydia’s husband has to give her a talk before guests come to dinner to remind her not to “force” friends to play Trivial Pursuit if they don’t want too. Games can break the ice between a group of new acquaintances or be a bonding element between the oldest friends and family. Here are some great party games for grown ups.

Tip: serve dessert and coffee as the game gets going
Trivial Pursuit (get a fun modern version or one you know your particular group will love.  Here’s a list of ones you might be able to find on eBay or elsewhere )
Apples to Apples-If you’re not yet familiar with this game, please trust us.  It’s a classic in the making.

This is an involved game that needs some space as the version we prefer- the “alternative” version-  involves pantomime. Everybody, and we mean everybody, does a good pantomime after a drink or two.   Wikipedia has the best instructions for playing.  A great game for a BBQ or cocktail party

Who am I…? (the famous person game)
Write the name of a different famous or historical person on a post-it, one for each guest, and place one on each guest’s forehead.   Using the 20 questions format, each person tries to figure out their celebrity identity.  The person who guesses with the fewest questions wins.

I Never…
Drinking isn’t a necessary part of this adult version, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink while playing.  Have each guest write down a secret act they committed in the past, beginning the confession with “I never…”.  Put the secrets in bowl and let everyone take turns reading one secret aloud. After each secret is read, try and guess whose secret it is.  Guaranteed you’ll know one another by the end of the night!

The Secret Message (also known as the Phrase Game)
This is for word nerds like Sarah.  Write a different sentence on pieces of paper you slip under each person’s plate. Try for phrases that sound odd in adult conversation, such as “I want a pony” or “I find kittens terrifying.”  When your guests sit down, ask them to read their phrase to themselves.  They each must then incorporate their phrase into the conversation at some point in the evening.  If the person they are talking to calls them on it, the clumsy phrase-maker is out of the game.  The guest who first uses his phrase without being found out wins.

Fortune Telling Fish
Ok, so this isn’t a game per say, but fortune telling fish are as fun to play with now as they were when you were kids.  Write each guest’s name on a fortune fish box and set one in the center of their plate as a place card then watch your guests giggle as their fortunes change throughout the night.  And yes, good food and wine as well as warm conversation do affect how that little fish curls and flips.  We’ve tested.

Other fun table favors:

Heart holograph glasses

Googly nerd glasses

Vintage gum or after-dinner mints

Game on.


Labor Day Entertaining


The Daily Meal asked us what our favorite products are for entertaining this Labor Day weekend! So many simple ways to liven up your celebrations so you have some time top enjoy the weekend too!

Labor Day Entertaining

A store-bought artisan product- Don’t spend  TOO much time laboring over the food, take some help from the store with quality products. Start cocktails with a tin of Bazzini’s nuts. Artisan pickles ( add variety to your burger and dog toppings. Or pick up a pie from a local bakery or artisan ice cream at your local creamery.

Beverage Tub- Target always carries inexpensive beverage tubs in bright colors.  We love this turquoise.  Perfect for chilling water, beer and rosé as you relax in the sun.

Striped Straws- Because they’re fun, they’re striped and we want to SCREAM summer on this last weekend of summer 2011.  We think they do.

Deck Towel- Pool parties, beach trips and picnic blanket needs are solved with one linen towel/blanket. It even makes a pretty tablecloth!

Drink Dispenser- If you want to serve sangria, fresh lemonade, ice tea or Arnold Palmers, fill one of these beverage dispensers.  Then guests can help themselves and you’re free to have fun.

Outdoor Umbrella- Shade and stripes.  There’s no classier way to protect your skin.Striped Straws

Bambu Plates and Cutlery- Disposable, recyclable, compostable and still chic! These are the hippest option for plates and cutlery when you can’t transport the real thing.

Disposable Cotton Napkins and Placemats - These colorful rolls combine the elegance of cloth napkins and placemats with the convenience of paper, so they’re perfect for summer garden parties and picnics. They’re made of fine-woven 100% cotton with easy-tear perforated edges and special bonding so they won’t fray. Gingham prints and pretty red and navy blue colors add a fun touch.


A & O

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