Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Thankful…

The traditional Odom Family Thanksgiving Big Cookie

This Thanksgiving will be different.  No doubt about it.  We won’t have our usual Zuniga-Odom family gathering with too much food and the coveted big cookie.  People won’t be scattered from the kitchen to the dining room and our deck.  It will be different and I’m while I’ll miss the tradition of it all, with all our people gathered in one place, I know we are doing the right thing.  We want everyone to stay safe and covid free.  So, for me and Eddie, it will just be us, my mom and two of our grown children. 

With just the five of us, the temptation would be to just make it simple and not even make a turkey.  But I wasn’t about to let that happen!  I do love a good turkey with stuffing.  I know enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal and having enough for leftovers will make us all happy.  My dining room table has been set since early November and the Thankful Tree that I made with my girls several years ago is sitting prominently on the bench in the hallway.  I will miss seeing what everyone writes on their cut out leaves this year but I will encourage the five of us to fill them out.

In a year like this, it could be said that its hard to find things to be thankful for but I don’t feel that way.  Sure, this pandemic has dealt its share of blows to our family but thankfully nothing drastic and for that I am extremely grateful.

Our family’s Thankful Tree that we use every year. Family members will write what they are thankful for on a cut out leaf and pin it to the tree. I have collected these leaves for several years…

So, what am I thankful for in 2020?

  • Baby Girl Dunne – Our first grandbaby was born on Thursday, July 2, 2020.  Amelia Faith Dunne arrived at 4:44 p.m. on that day as her Pappy and Tisa (and Uncle Cody and Auntie Lem) were on the road traveling to Colorado to meet her.  How can a year be bad when the sweetest soul entered our lives?!  She has brought so much joy to our family in these past five months and just looking at a photo of my sweet baby Mela melts away any troubles I have.
  • Working with United Way of Central Alabama – This was my third year to serve as a Loaned Executive Manager and it was just what I needed.  I was feeling so helpless earlier this year and needed something where I felt I could at least help in some way.  I got to manage two teams this year too and we participated in a fundraising campaign like no other where 90% of the meetings were held virtually and our community said yes to making hope happen.
  • Retirement – Not mine, I retired in 2017 although some of my friends would question that…my husband’s retirement!  Although Eddie decided to stay on a little longer than he had planned with this job, it was only an extra two months.  Now he is tackling that long list of things around the house that he’s been anxious to get to.  Aside from the random chainsaw mishap, he has really gotten quite a lot done over the past 3 months.
  • Health – In this case, I mean that we have been covid free and I’m so, so thankful!  Eddie and I have our routine of hand sanitizing and Clorox wiping whenever we go out.  And we steer clear of crowded places, opting for dining al fresco vs. indoor whenever possible.  We just aren’t taking any changes…and we aren’t hoarding toilet paper either!
  • Family Health – I’m also grateful that my family has remained healthy this year.  Everyone has remained covid free and they’ve been able to continue in their respective jobs especially since all three of my children are in service professions.  My 82 year-old mother has been cautious and we have been extremely cautious with her too.  I’ve heard so many stories of family members being hospitalized with no visitors allowed, so I’ve stressed this to my mother so she will stay safe.  Eddie had to have overnight surgery last week and while the hospital permitted one person to be there, Eddie didn’t want me there and potentially exposed to covid.  So I stayed at home and waited for word and that was not easy.  My heart goes out to people who have been unable to be with their loved ones for extensive stays.  I cannot imagine…
  • Innovation – This may sound like a random word to throw out there but I’ve been so impressed with the innovation of businesses and nonprofits this year.  For my favorite event, Fiesta, we turned a one-day event into a 30-day online celebration and we were able to award $10K in scholarships to Hispanic students!  And my Women’s Network group (TWN), created a virtual event to fundraise for our annual Party with a Purpose.  We paid for a party pack (proceeds went to the YWCA) and picked them up a few days before the event and then joined by zoom for fun and trivia with a local radio host. 
  • Time to Reflect – This year has given me time to take long walks with my dog or just myself, sit on my deck drinking coffee or wine and somedays doing absolutely nothing.  For someone who generally has a packed calendar this has been a wonderful thing.  It has taught me to slow down.  It has let me reflect about all the things I was doing and decide what things were important and what I could let go of. 
  • Time to Plan – Now that Eddie is retired, I love that we are talking more about what comes next for us.  Where we will travel, what we will do to our house, even what television shows to binge watch together.  This is chapter three for us and we are embracing it with everything we have and I look so forward to enjoying the rest of our lives together.

I saw a quote this week on social media and I screenshot it because it resonated… “I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted.  Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have.”  There is always something to be thankful for, no matter what the circumstances…

Remembering Thanksgiving 2019

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy.  They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

Today I was looking through photos from last year’s Thanksgiving celebration at my house.  We sure had a houseful of family over and I couldn’t have been more pleased.  I remember having the head count finalized (or so I thought) several days before Thanksgiving and every day Eddie would tell me two more people were coming.  I think he thought I was getting irritated but I was secretly delighted.  I love a full house during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving has always been that holiday for me that was most special.  I mean, what could be better than tons of food, pie, wine and family and friends hanging out all afternoon?  It’s a carryover from my mother and how she would prepare for Thanksgiving each year when I was growing up.  Back when we lived in Chicago, it would be our immediate family, my grandparents (mom’s parents) and then mom would invite several of her friends over so they would have family to be with.  The joke was that if mom heard of someone on the street corner that didn’t have a place to eat turkey, she would invite them over!  Once my parents moved to Alabama, this became the gathering place and then when Eddie and I built our house in Hoover, our home became the place we would celebrate.  It was the one time every year when my parents and my sisters with their husbands and kids were all together.  As our families grew and the kids grew up, it was more difficult to get everyone together here in Alabama and my sisters began having their own family celebrations in their home states.  Times change and we have to change with them…

Brother-in-law Terry (TO) with daughters Kate and TJ and grandson Cooper

When I think about our Zuniga-Odom Thanksgiving last year, I can see changes coming once again.  My brother-in-law, Terry has permanently moved to Orange Beach this year.  Just recently, his daughter Kate, along with hubby David and their son, Cooper have moved near Terry.  And even more recently, daughter TJ and hubby Matt are planning a move to Pensacola.  Taking the annual “cousin” picture is getting a little more difficult.  I know we will all get together for holidays in the future but it will take a little more planning!  

Having my sister, Kanista home for Thanksgiving last year felt like old times.

Thinking back to last year…it was just so perfect.  The weather was beautiful and we all enjoyed being outside. We spread out around four rooms in the house and the adult kids ended up around the table on the deck and had a great time.  I even tried out two new recipes on the family, which is something that I don’t typically tackle!  My cranberry sauce and corn souffle were well received, much to my pleasure! In addition to the Odom/Harkins/O’Reilly families being present, I was so happy to have my baby sister, Kanista and her husband Ken with us too.  That was the icing on the cake for me personally.  My favorite memory though is of my super sweet helper, great-nephew Samuel, who made it his mission to make sure every family member filled out a leaf for the Thankful Tree.  

Change is inevitable and I see it happening more and more in our family.  Holidays are changing too and I’m trying to be flexible!  Traditions will change too but the thing that gives me hope is when I hear my children talk about wanting to maintain certain traditions that they’ve been a part of or shift them slightly to make sure they continue.  This makes my heart happy. 

But for a few moments today, I want to remember Thanksgiving 2019 and all the family that gathered together and what a special day that was.  So thankful to have these wonderful memories…especially this year.

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Why I Love Holiday Tablescapes

Thanksgiving Dining Room table 2020

My dining room table is set and ready for Thanksgiving!  This time of year, I’m working out of so many storage boxes for my dining room décor.  I start in October with a Halloween setting.  Then on October 31st, I begin the transition to Day of the Dead, including my ofrenda (altar) on my buffet with a few touches on the dining room table.  Finally, after letting my altar stay up through the weekend – depending on when Day of the Dead falls on the calendar – I take everything down the first weekend in November to prepare for Thanksgiving.

I’ve had friends ask me why I go to all this trouble to decorate for every holiday.  Honestly, I can look back on when I was growing up and see how special my mother made everything for me and my sisters.  She worked at a Hallmark store when I was in high school and would bring home some of the cutest holiday related items to decorate the house and for us to enjoy.  As a mother, I took that example and always tried to find the best ways to make holidays festive for my husband, kids and extended family.

When Eddie and I built our house in Hoover, AL, it quickly became the place where our extended family gathered to celebrate the holidays.  We have plenty of room, live on a cul de sac, which was great when our kids were little, and the adults would enjoy the deck.  With everyone scattered around the house, it was fun to add little holiday touches here and there. 

Charlie’s candle and Anna Marie’s tent prayer from their kindergarten years

Over the 27 years we’ve lived in our house, I’ve naturally changed things out.  When my kids were little, the table was set a little more for them.  As they got older, the table décor grew up too.  Some things remain constant though.  For instance, for Thanksgiving we always display a Thanksgiving candle my son Charlie made when he was in kindergarten.  Next to the candle, we always display a Thanksgiving prayer tent card that my daughter, Anna Marie cut out and taped together. 

Several years back, my mother gave me a few of those items I mentioned we had when I was growing up.  Mom said since we were always at my house it just made sense for me to have them for us all to enjoy.  She had a straw-like turkey she used to display on her dining room table and it now graces my dining room buffet along with a wooden Native American couple and a wooden pilgrim couple.  Using these pieces every year takes me back to Thanksgivings in the suburbs of Chicago.  I do get pretty nostalgic over the holidays these days.  I blame my age and the fact that Eddie and I are empty nesters!

You can say that decorating and creating holiday tablescapes is a way for me to stay connected to the wonderful memories of the past.  I do find myself telling my kids the same stories over and over and while I’m sure they get tired of hearing them I’m happy that they listen and humor me.  I expect that when they all have children of their own, they will repeat these stories and they’ll understand why I keep retelling them. 

Meanwhile, here are some photos of my Thanksgiving table this year and a few other decorations around my home. 

Thanksgiving is Where Your Family Gathers

 

Emily learning how to fish

We got home last night from spending Thanksgiving at the beach with extended family.  Last year Eddie and I spent a long weekend in Orange Beach in October with my brother-in-law Terry and niece, TJ.  When we left, we talked about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and thought we might try to plan a week at the beach.  It was too close to Thanksgiving last year to pull it off so we decided this year would be the year to do it!

After our traditional family gathering the weekend before in Athens, AL at my niece/nephew Kate and David’s home, we packed up and headed to Orange Beach on Tuesday.  My mother went with us as well as our daughter Emily.  My son Charlie and his girlfriend, Danielle joined us Thanksgiving night.  We were also joined by Kate and David, my brother-in-law Allen and his wife, Rhonda and their son, Jason.  There were 12 of us Odoms total.

Sunset from my brother-in-law’s boat on Ono Island

My brother-in-law, Terry keeps his boat on Ono Island so he is very familiar with restaurants and places to go so he kept up entertained the whole time we were there.  Riding on the boat, dining at places like the Flora-Bama Yacht club and Tacky Jacks and just hanging out on the dock to fish, kayak, paddle board and watch the sunset…it was the perfect setting for everyone to spend time together and just relax.

For Thanksgiving day, we had lunch at Live Bait.  I knew it was a buffet but didn’t realize it was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet!  It was nice to have turkey and dressing and gravy at the beach and not have to cook and clean up for a change.  Of course, today I was thinking it would have been nice to have had some leftovers!!!  Ha!

Our final act was to hang around on Saturday as we were leaving to help my nephew Jason get his car repaired.  My son, Charlie came to the rescue along with my BIL-Terry with his connections in town.  Family sticks together!  We even had a little caravan out of Orange Beach until we all hit I-65!

It was a great week at the beach…making memories and celebrating our family.  Here are a few I captured this week.

Spirits of Thanksvings Past

Thanksgiving 2012 – Odom Family photo

This time of year, I do a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photographs.  Thanksgiving has always been “the” holiday in our family – both Zuniga and Odom.  When my dad, Aunt Gail, and grandmother were still alive, we always had Thanksgiving on the actual day at my house.  And we would have the Odom family Thanksgiving in Jasper the Sunday before.  Soon, we were having our gathering on the actual day in Jasper.

One of the things that remained constant for many years was the annual family photo on the Odom family swing.  We have been taking a grand-kids photos for years on the swing but we really didn’t start taking a family photo until 2006.  My niece, Kate became our “family photographer” for these photos and we used these photos for our Christmas card too.  We were pretty consistent with this for many years until we switched to Christmas in 2015-2016.  But for this Thanksgiving, I thought an Odom Family pictorial over the years was in order.  Meanwhile, I always like to encourage everyone to take photos so you can reflect back on these times later in life.  I’m finding time goes by very quickly and these photos and memories are so priceless.

Here are our photos over the years…beginning with 2006.  We were all seated on the family swing and Allen and Rhonda’s dog, Ozzie decided he wanted to get into the picture!

In 2007 – Our 2007 photo was taken after a major family football game in my in-law’s backyard!  I’m surprised we were all so put together after all that!  Then in 2008, everyone sympathized with Anna Marie by puffing up their cheeks.  She had her wisdom teeth taken out a day earlier and was a bit swollen!  We didn’t use any of these photos for our family photo, of course, but she was a good sport and posed for photos regardless of how big her cheeks were that year!

I couldn’t locate the photo from 2009.  But here are the ones from 2010 and 2011.  We included Lucy in the 2010 photo.

Here are the photos fro 2012 and 2013.  In 2013, we hosted Thanksgiving in Hoover so we took the photo on our deck.

In 2014, we took our last family photo on the Jasper swing.  After that, we had to change to taking the photo after decorating the Christmas tree at our house in order to have everyone together.  I’m sure this will continue to change over the years but if we can manage one family photo together a year, I’ll be happy!

Nov 2014 – last family photo on the swing in Jasper at Thanksgiving

 

 

Thanksgiving at the Beach

Ocean view condo for Thanksgiving 2005

In 2005, we spent Thanksgiving at the beach.  It was a first for the Odom family.  We had always spent the day at my husband’s mom and dad’s house in Jasper.  But my mother-in-law, Johnnie, had been wanting the family to spend the holiday at the beach and we finally all came together and got it planned.

I don’t remember the name of the place we stayed but I do remember that we all booked rooms close to each other so we could come and go easily.  When we arrived the first day, it was a sunny and windy day and we decided to head to the Pink Pony Pub for drinks and appetizers.  Besides me and Eddie and our three kids, we had Eddie’s brother Terry and his wife Rhonda and their twin daughters, Kate and TJ.  Eddie’s older brother Allen and his wife Rhonda were also there along with my mother-in-law’s sister, Joyce and her daughter, Debbie.  We had quite a large group, much to our delight!

Fun at the Pink Pony Pub!

My best memory is of the family gathering at Pink Pony Pub.  We sat outside and just enjoyed each other’s company.  Our family tradition of taking a Thanksgiving photo on my mother-in-law’s swing was transferred to the deck of the pub that particular year.  I remember the kids being adamant that we would take a picture to keep with tradition.  I loved that they wanted to do this and not skip tradition just because we weren’t in Jasper.  Then we took family group photos together.  The one of me, Eddie and the kids is probably one of my favorites.  We all huddled close together and hugged not just to keep warm but because we were all excited to be at the beach and together.  I took the photo of my brother-in-law, Terry and his wife Rhonda and their girls – TJ and Kate.  For the rest of the family, they posed around the table where we enjoyed food and drink.

There is another great memory from that Thanksgiving at the beach and it was watching the kids play on the beach from our balcony.  They had a kite they were flying and then they also did some writing in the sand.  It was just great watching them all enjoy the beach from afar.  I didn’t have the best digital camera at the time so the photos I took are a little grainy when I tried to zoom in, but it’s still nice to have them to bring back those memories.

We also enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dinner that year at the condo thanks to the cooking of both of my sisters-in-law!  That was always a joke with the three of us since I didn’t do much cooking and they did…they used to just ask me to bring drinks, paper products and desserts!  That was fine by me!  They were both great cooks so why would I want to compete with that?!!!  I remember telling them one year that all the sisters-in-law named Rhonda did the cooking and the ones named Teresa brought the fun!  Ha!…and I still stand by that comment!

We’ve lost several family members since this Thanksgiving in 2005 so holidays tend to be bittersweet for us.  Still, we still do things to keep their memories alive when we gather.  Having these photos is so precious to us all and taking this trip in 2005 is still one of our great memories.  Now after 12 years, many of us have returned to the beach this Thanksgiving to make new memories.  And of course, I am taking the photos…

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

Odom Thanksgiving at Kate and David’s House!

The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!

 The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!Thanksgiving doesn’t officially happen until November 23rd, but this year the Odom family had the gathering a little earlier than usual.  As all of our kids get older and everyone moves out of the general Birmingham/Jasper area, we are getting creative with how we celebrate and where!

Kate and David outside their new home in Athens, AL!

This year, my niece Kate and her husband David wanted to host the family at their new home in Athens, Alabama.  Kate and I kept in touch the week of the gathering via text message down to Kate making sure we had pumpkin pie covered for my daughter Emily.  (I thought it was so sweet that Kate remembered how much her cousin loves pumpkin pie!)  Their home is beautiful and there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy each other’s company.  But you know where everyone gathered, right?  Yep…the kitchen!  I told Kate that they have the same situation we have at our house…the end of the island is right in front of the refrigerator and that’s where everyone wants to stand!  Of course, I said this as I was standing there opening a bottle of wine!!

Everyone was able to be there this year except for my daughter Anna Marie and her hubby Ryan.  They were in town last weekend from Colorado for a family wedding so couldn’t return again this weekend.  We were also missing my nephew Dustin and his daughter Maddie.  They always make the gathering more lively!  We missed them all.  But we are working on a cousin reunion in December when everyone is back in town so stay tuned!

Our gathering was just what this family needed…great food, great wine (thank you Perry’s Steakhouse!), the tradition of our Thankful Tree, group photos and of course, the big cookie!  I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do…surprise…but here are several I took throughout the day.  Happy “early” Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

 

The Thankful Tree

Our Thankful Tree the first year...

Our Thankful Tree the first year…

When my kids were little, I was always looking for ways to bring the importance of thankfulness into their lives, especially at Thanksgiving.  We did the usual taking turns around the Thanksgiving table saying what we were thankful for and brought out little items they made at school as part of our dinner each year.  Pinterest wasn’t a “thing” at the time so going out and finding a multitude of ideas wasn’t readily available.  Hard to believe with the access we have on the internet these days.

One year I remember reading about creating a Thankful Tree using limbs from your yard and hanging leaves (cut out leaves or fake leaves) on a string to the limbs with why you were thankful.  I really liked that idea and it took on greater meaning to me in 2007.  That was the year that both my mother and her sister were diagnosed with cancer.  To me, for this to happen to two sisters in one year was an incredibly sad situation.  Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer that March and my Auntie Gail was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that September.  Getting them both through their chemo, radiation, hospital stays and doctor visits was tough that year.  But I’ll always remember how brave they both were and how difficult it was for them.  It was a privilege to be able to support them both that year and watch their courage as they fought this disease.

At Thanksgiving that year, I asked the kids to go out into our yard and find some limbs so we could make our first ever Thankful Tree.  We put them in a vase and cut pieces of brown yarn and added them to leaves.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t write on the leaves so we used sticky notes and stapled them to the leaves and hung them on the tree.  I remember watching my sweet Aunt write why she was thankful that year on a sticky note and then help two of her grandchildren with their own sticky notes.  I was so thankful that year that we were all able to celebrate Thanksgiving together because I know how difficult it was for both my aunt and Mother to get through their treatments.

A few years later, I found some paper leaves we could write on and we used those for the tree.  We had a few transitions over the next few years, celebrating Thanksgiving with the family in Jasper so we didn’t make the tree for a while.  But then my sweet Sister-in-Law, Rhonda, passed away suddenly in July 2014 and finding a way to be “thankful” was something I felt we needed as a family that Thanksgiving in Jasper.  I wanted to create something more permanent that year so I had this idea about using a bulletin board and using felt to create a tree on the board.  I enlisted my daughters to create this tree and they did a fantastic job drawing it out, cutting it out and then gluing it to the bulletin board.  They also cut out different fall color leaves from construction paper so we could write on them.

When I introduced it at the family gathering that year, it was just what we all needed. Don’t get me wrong, in no way did it replace those that we have lost over the years but it did give us time to reflect, all gathered as family, about what we still have and what we need to maintain our family ties.  I think it helped us reflect on our love for one another through whatever comes our way.  It was a blessing to watch the “kids” – almost all adults now – take to this “new” tradition and write something special to themselves on a leaf.

We have now used the bulletin board Thankful Tree for 3 years and I love reading what everyone writes.  Whether it’s something funny in the laughter of the gathering or if there is something special on someone’s heart, it captures that person at that moment in time.  I really do hope we continue to do this for years to come.

I have a larger project in mind after a few years of collecting these “thankful leaves’ and hope that by next year I can get it underway.  Meanwhile, each year I take the leaves that are put on the tree, write the year they were written on the backs of the leaves, and store them with my Thanksgiving decorations.  I am so very thankful that I found this idea so many years ago and I’m thankful for the creativity of my daughters in creating this on a bulletin board so we can keep it going.

Thankful…

The annual Odom Family Thanksgiving Cookie!  Always a hit!

The annual Odom Family Thanksgiving Cookie! Always a hit!

Today the Odom family gathered at our house to celebrate our annual Thanksgiving dinner.  I could go into detail about the preparations, the decorations, the food, and the conversations but I won’t.  I could also make a list of all the things I’m thankful for this year but I think the best way to show this would be to just share the photos I took today.  I’ll also share the messages several of us wrote for our Thankful Tree, a tradition be started a few years ago and that I hope will continue for many years to come.

Today was a great day…and I’m thankful for these wonderful people in my life…

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Just Add People

img_3172Tomorrow, the Odom clan will descend upon our home to celebrate Thanksgiving!  For the longest time, we have always celebrated the weekend before the holiday, on Sunday.  However, beginning last year we moved the gathering to Saturday to make it easier for several of our clan to travel.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  For as long as I can remember, this was the holiday that brought the family together the most.  I still feel that way so even after the family leaves on Saturday, a small group of us will meet again at our home to do it all over again!

This year I found quite a few new things to add to my Thanksgiving decorations.  I was going though my boxes and decided some things needed to go and luckily I lucked up on a few new items at the thrift stores!  To begin with, I found this huge porcelain turkey several months ago.  I could see it as the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving table when I bought it.  Of course, after I got it home, it found a home on my teacart.

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Another item I found were a bunch of fall corn with long husks.  They were piled in a plastic container next to one of the displays.  I pulled one out and it had an original price tag of $10.99 on it…and I thought “$10.99?? That’s nuts!”  Of course the thrift store price was 99 cents so I bought everyone they had and thought I could use them as accent pieces on my table and buffet. A few weeks later I found a couple of small pumpkins and squash in orange in a large plastic container.  In fact this time the store was lined with plastic containers because they didn’t have room to put them on the shelves.  They have the words “Thanks to God” and “Give” written on them and as I looked through all the containers I found more and more!  So I left with about 20 of these pumpkins and squash at 69 cents a piece thinking they would look great in a basket!  I added the pinecones to give it a little texture.

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Target’s Dollar Spot section is also a good place for season finds.  You have to hit them early to get the best selections thought.  Let’s just say I’ve learned the hard way!  I found fall placemats that say “Grateful” on them and some plain ones too.  I was able to get an entire set for 12 people from two different stores.  They also had table runners – I picked up two.  They aren’t as long as I would like but when I showed my daughter, Anna Marie, the table she like it.  Target also had some plaid leaves and I figured they would come in handy.  Yep!  I placed them on my coffee table to accent the bronze pumpkins that I’ve had for a few years.  I think I got them at Target at one of their after season sales!

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The final new items are a table runner found at Big Lots for half off and a Target wreath for $2 that is hanging on my large mirror over the buffet.  With this, all my new items have been integrated into my Thanksgiving day décor and now all we have to do is…just add people.

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