How to Create a Fabulous Holiday Table

I love decorating for the holidays. Not only does it allow a much needed creative outlet, it allows me to spend time in the space and create a feeling of peace and joy.

This year, we are in a new house, where we will establish new traditions. First, I cleared the space (removed all artwork from the walls) as to not “clutter my vision.” The first pass was a bit barren, incomplete…

festive dining room table
Holiday Table – Take One

So, I began to gather more items to add interest. Some items were being used in other spaces, some were new, some were found. Here is the updated view and I believe it’s the final version of how our Thanksgiving table will appear (sans food and guests of course!)

Holiday Table
Holiday Table – Take Two

Ready for me to reveal my super secret?? (The local dollar store! The snowflakes on the back wall were exactly $1 each, the vases where I placed my own spray-painted branches were $1 each. I did purchase the party poppers (Costco) and little chocolate turkeys (Cost Plus) for the table as well as the cloche (TJ Maxx) as the main centerpiece, but I already had the other décor items.)

Here’s a closer look:

Holiday table center piece

I also spray-painted the pine cones that have been hanging around in the holiday bin for years, giving them a fresh and festive face-lift!

Silver pinecone table decor


I recently purchased (on Craig’s List for 30% less!) the buffet table behind the table, which acts as a perfect addition to hold wine, and side dishes after you’ve served your guests (it keeps the main table free for elbow room, read=face stuffing!!) I love the final results.


Beginning last year, we began the tradition of a “Gratitude Tree” that was placed on our Thanksgiving table.

How I created a Gratitude Tree:

I stenciled leaf shapes on double-sided craft paper, cut out the shapes, punched a hole near the top and added a piece of string for hanging. Prior to dinner, I asked that our guests select a leaf and write what they are most thankful for, then hang their leaf on the Gratitude Tree. All the blessings of gratitude were read before dessert.

This year, the repeat guests can either add to the leaf they created last year (writing on the opposite side) or they may select a new leaf to pen new attributes for which they are thankful and blessed. New guests will be included to participate in the tradition.

I recommend that everyone begin a Gratitude Tree, as your guest list may fluctuate from year to year, but the traditions and memories will last a lifetime!

Grateful tree silver branches

Gratitude tree silver decor

I invite you to share an image of your holiday table on An Authentic Life’s Facebook page for all my gentle readers, both near and far to enjoy.



Sweetest Dish on the Thanksgiving Day Table

{Editor’s Note: I don’t recall from where this recipe originally hailed, but it now owns prime real estate on our annual Thanksgiving day table. I planned my menu last night, and the shopping will begin this weekend all in preparation for the day in which we all look to with gratitude, blessings – and an elephant-sized appetite! It goes without saying, this item was #1 on my list! Try it, I promise you won’t regret it!}

I sit here dreaming…

…until Thanksgiving, when I can pile-drive my fork into this dish full of heaven and close my eyes, letting the sweet taste melt in my mouth…

I am talking about my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Sweet potato casserole.

A new tradition on my Thanksgiving day table…

Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup brown sugar (if you are watching sugar intake, you can omit this altogether)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Combine first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish.

Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top.

Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.

Serves 6 to 8.

{Or one.

They’ll have to fight me for it.


Not sure I can wait until next week…}

Easy Kitchen Update

When I was in California a few weeks ago, a friend said, “Where’s the photo by photo update of the new house?” Damn, you people are spoiled. It takes time to organize, and purposefully and artfully decorate – not to mention time to gather the appropriate levels of expendable finances.

Aside from replacing appliances (which will be awhile down the road) here’s the updated kitchen as it stands today.


Kitchen BEFORE


kitchen after

Itemized updates:

kitchen after

kitchen after

I always carry a little bit of Petaluma magic wherever I go! (And a special thanks to RR for the little blue chick – purchased at the new B Street Mercantile in Petaluma, California.) The striped ceramic dish to the left of the chick contains the sage mixture used to “smudge” the new house = relieve the space from previous negative energy.)

Hallway Before:

hallway before

Hallway After:

Also known as my mini-gallery wall…

gallery wall


New House Guest Bath Revealed

Considering moving sucks and considering it takes for.ever and a day to get everything together after said move, the only room I’m even remotely prepared to share is the guest bath.

The guest bath.

The smallest – yet perhaps most used – room in the house.

Here is the room before (when I first viewed the house)….

Guest Bath BEFORE:

Guest Bath BEFORE

Guest Bath AFTER:


Guest Bath After

Paint color: Benjamin Moore Willow Creek

Shower curtain: Target, clearance = $17.00

Wall art: Ross, clearance = $5.49 each

Towels: Target

guest bath after

Guest Bath After

Guest bath AFTER

That’s it.

Nothing else to show. Yet!

(Sexy Hubby needs to get home to hang the curtains, chandelier, and mirror in the master, THEN that room will be ready for the big reveal.)


Creating A New Year’s Prediction Bottle

Editor’s Note: Oh, how I love champagne. And oh, how I love any excuse to drink more of it!

With a brand new year lurking very near on the horizon, I wanted to share a tradition with you. And one that we create every New Year’s Eve – and one so simple, I invite you to do it as well – create a New Year’s Prediction Bottle. 

How to Create a New Year’s Eve “Prediction Bottle.”

Simple stated, grab any used Champagne or wine bottle. Rinse with water. Shake dry as best you can (for the inside.) Roll up a napkin and drop in the bottle to absorb excess water. Wait 10 minutes.

In the meantime, have paper and pens for whomever is participating in your “Prediction Bottle.”

Have guests write their predictions on the paper, roll up tight, kiss it (for luck) and drop into the bottle.

If you are fortunate enough to be celebrating with the same crowd year after year, it’s a fun event to break the bottle next New Year’s Eve and randomly have guests read the predictions.

We do this every year and reading the predictions is enlightening, frightening but most often, hysterical.

Sometimes, we even toss the opened (and read) predictions into the next bottle to read again next year.

This bottle is from New Year’s Eve 1999.

It was quite a year.

I had a gold pen and asked all my guests to “autograph” this keepsake bottle. We did not place predictions inside, as I didn’t want to break this bottle.

This one is a keeper.

As in forever and always.

Not only for the fine artwork.

It is one of the last reminders of New Year’s Eve spent with our beloved Dominic.

Well, not really.

See, he wasn’t at the party. And he HATED not being directly in the middle of any wild nights full of unbridled drinking, cavorting, pillaging and debauchery.

He stopped by the next day and wrote this on the bottle:

“It’s not a party without me. Dom.”

Good luck with the 2013 party preparations.

Feel free to share your secrets with us. Post on our Facebook Page – An Authentic Life. 


Lovely Boutique in Salt Lake City

Editor’s Note: I’ve gotten to a stage where peeps I’ve blogged about in the past, are now asking me to do it again, or update information, links or promote an upcoming event. 
I take that as a huge compliment. 
The fine folks at Bohme Boutique in Salt Lake City recently did the same thing. So here is the blog with an updated link to their fine establishment. If you are in the area, I highly recommend paying them a visit!
I am a sucker for a beautiful store.
I found this gem at a mall in Salt Lake City. It had it all – lovely fixtures, beautiful decor, and of course, couture and fashion – and for a really good price!
As soon as I walked into Bohme Boutique, I knew I was going to blog about it.
I walked around the store several times – allowing my senses wash over me. As much as the Internet is trying to compete for my shopping dollars, I am a marketing person. I love to see, touch and experience life inside the store. It’s all about design, product placement, displays – the ethereal experience of shopping that you just don’t get from a keyboard!
I love stores that makes sense. Bohme understands how women like to shop. Take the jeans, for instance. No hangers, just folded for easy access to sizing, and style. It was easy to see everything in this store = key to selling!

More views of Bohme Boutique…

Where was Sexy Hubby this entire time, you ask?
At the Cabela’s Super Store…about 15 minutes away. While I was in my own shopping bliss, he was in his! Isn’t love grand?

I simply couldn’t resist all the sparkling baubles in this store (I went home with a few pieces!)

This was the darling sales gal who rang up my boutique purchase. She even matched the decor! She was funny – and wouldn’t “pose” for me, but smiled none-the-less!

Au Revoir Bohme. Until we meet again.

Finally, Some New Decor for the Mantel

Usually, I am pining about using items you already own – or by adding a new piece here or there, you can update your decor look.

Blah, blah, blah.

Guess, I forgot to mention that on occasion, I believe in the school of thought – out with the old (all of it!) and in with the new.

As I dug through the old holiday decor, I just couldn’t bring myself to embrace the decor that I’ve had for likely more than a decade. Although I do not have the stomach – or patience – for any Black Friday non-sense, I did some shopping yesterday.

Here’s what I got…

I chose all silver pieces, with white accents. I love the new look.

The little bird in the nest was an ornament I’ve had forever and a day. And it matches the new theme. I also already owned the four candlesticks.

The next challenge – the Christmas Tree. The current debate – I am ready to invest in an artificial tree (I know, so unauthentic! But easier care and cleaning.) Sexy Hubby is bucking that idea at every turn.

How to Create A Thankful Tree

First off, I will admit, this idea is not solely my own (I saw it on Better Homes and Gardens) but when I saw it, I thought, “I am creating that for my holiday table.” So I did. A tree to adorn your Thanksgiving day table where each of the attendees writes what they are most Thankful for this year.

This is a terrific project for FAMILIES to do together prior to Thanksgiving, allowing time together and discussing all the reasons we have to be thankful and have gratitude this holiday.

How to Create a Thankful Tree

The first part- creating the paper leaves was done with my CAP – Child Advancement Project – Pal at Irving School. {I am with the same CAP Pal now for a second school year, and I visit with her once a week for one hour. Such a short time, but I always try to discover new fun projects we can do together.  For more details on this super program, visit THRIVE’S website.}

Step 1:

Hunting and Gathering

Engage your children in this activity with you. Take a “nature walk” together as you collect as many different shaped leaves as possible. While you’re out, also collect several branches to use as the base of the tree.

Ask: What tree produced each leaf?

Step 2:

Tracing and Cutting

If leaves are wet, be sure to dry them carefully, then gently place leaf on double-sided scrap-booking paper – or construction paper – and trace the outline. Once all the leaves are traced – enough for at least ONE leaf per Thanksgiving day guest (I made several extras just in case my guests are extra thankful!) then cut shape with scissors and punch a single-hole in the leaf, and tie a piece of string to the leaf.

Step 3:

Painting the Tree

You can use spray paint in white, gold or silver. I actually painted my branches with Glimmer Modge Podge. They have a lovely iridescent glow! Allow time to dry completely.

Step 4:

Putting It All Together

You’ll need a vase or pot to hold the branches, I used two narrow-throated vases. Have pens – preferably gold or silver – and the leaf’s in a pile so guests can select a leaf and pledge what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. You can read them all prior to sharing your meal together.

I encourage you to create you own Thankful Tree – and please post the images to our Facebook page. I’d love to see what you create!

Best Thanksgiving Side Dish – Sweet Potato Casserole

{Editor’s Note: Sexy Hubby is off to learn how to be “safe” leaving me to entertain myself! Love that. I will spend the weekend organizing and taking inventory of my Thanksgiving table decor, dishes, glassware and flatware. Also, see below for one of my favorite recipes and one that is certain to don my table in a few weeks.}

I sit here dreaming…

…until Thanksgiving, when I can pile-drive my fork into this dish full of heaven and close my eyes, letting the sweet taste melt in my mouth…

I am talking about my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Sweet potato casserole.

A new tradition on my Thanksgiving day table…

Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Combine first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish.

Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top.

Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.

Serves 6 to 8.

Or one.

They’ll have to fight me for it.



(Not sure I can wait that long!!)

It’s Almost That Time Again…

{Editor’s Note: I’m so excited to announce we will be hosting my parents in Montana for Thanksgiving this year – which means, it’s time to start prepping for the big day. Yep, I’ve already begun the turkey-task of taking an inventory of what I have, what I need, and what might be fun to add – just because.

I’m also happy to say, if you ARE  buying something new this year – as I will – the Thanksgiving items are already getting pushed aside for more jolly-themed items, thus, you can get some terrific deals!

Have fun. Be creative.  I invite you to post images of your decor on Authentic Life’s Facebook page. Do share! I get lonely over there without someone to play with!}

Regarding decorating, you’re probably sick of me saying, “Grab what you already have” – yet – it makes for a well-rounded (and FREE) table setting.

Can you tell the weather is beginning to shift in Montana? I’m cooped up, forced to find my own “entertainment.” By the way, this is the third go-round of “table staging” I’ve created, and it’s not even November! (At least I’m not breaking yet another of Sexy Hubby’s “House Rules” – No Christmas decorations until AFTER Thanksgiving. Bah humbug!!)

Antlers on the Thanksgiving day table!!

In your decorating theme, don’t forget the side-board, or buffet…

Proof positive that I will have more than one “turkey” at my Thanksgiving day table.

Perhaps more than two…

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