A Good Belle Stocks Her Bar

Well ladies, if your house guests have not arrived yet, odds are you will all be together by tomorrow. So what sort of belle would I be, if I didn’t include one of the most important things to have on hand during the holiday season? I’m speaking of drinks, of course! It’s very hard for people to have unhappy discussions while holding a drink. It’s not only something to do (sip when there’s a lag in the conversation) but also something to spill, which will prevent the discussion from getting heated. So here’s how to build a basic bar with something for everyone…

Start with Liquor

You’ll want a good vodka, gin, and bourbon. Then, you can start adding different things like a good rum and a good scotch. You’ll also want some things to help you make cocktails like bitters, Triple Sec and simple syrup. Oh, and Grand Marnier.*

*Fun Fact: A glass of Grand Marnier is guaranteed to make over-stuffed Thanksgiving tummies feel better.

Add Some Wine

At all times you will want to have a good red, a good white, and a good sparkly wine on hand. Here are a few of our favorite picks.

Of note: Cupcake Prosecco is the perfect sparkly for every day, but if you’re having a celebration, you may want to invest in a good bottle of Veuve.

Then There Are the Extras

You want to be sure you have something for everyone. Always have Coke and Diet Coke on hand. This will take care of the people that don’t drink, the people that need a jolt of caffeine, and, heaven forbid, people that mix things with Coke. On that same note, having a variety of juices is great for kids, non-drinkers, and people that love cosmopolitans. Also, stock up on fruits commonly used as garnish with emphasis on the lemons and limes.

Finally, the Tools

A shaker and jigger are the absolute musts, and, if you’re looking for something new, might I suggest looking at the W + P collaboration with West Elm? I want one of everything!

Hope this helps you prepare for company. On a personal note, we just made a liquor store run and are now stocked up for the weekend. Bring on the in-laws! Cheers!

The Pumpkin Pie Post

How 9-year-old Me Won the Pie Contest

When I was little, one of my earliest memories is helping Woo-Woo (my grandmother) make pumpkin pies before each holiday. She would make the dough a day in advance and then spend a morning making enough pies to feed our huge family as well as numerous neighbors that would pop in or get a special delivery Thanksgiving day. She was so patient teaching me how to form the dough (despite the fact that I always wanted to overwork it), and I will always remember how super-cozy her kitchen smelled the rest of the day.

When I was 9, we moved to Tennessee and our church was preparing for it’s annual end of summer social. Naturally when I heard that there was a baking competition I wanted to make Woo-Woo’s pumpkin pie. Little did I know, it was (at the time) a contest for all the blue-haired ladies of the church.   So there my pie went on the table with all the ladies’ entries and, after a blind taste test by the judges, guess who won? The only thing I really remember is that I couldn’t wait to get home and call Woo-Woo! But I was thinking about that the other night and thought, in the spirit of giving, I should share the recipe for Woo-Woo’s *Award-Winning* Pumpkin Pie with you… Enjoy!

Woo-Woo's Award-Winning Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Woo-Woo’s *Award-Winning* Pumpkin Pie Recipe

1 cup pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbls. molasses
2 eggs (well-beaten)
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
unbaked pie shell*

– – – – – – – – – –

1.) Preheat oven to 450°

2.) Mix ingredients & cook in an unbaked pie shell at 450° for 10 minutes.

3.) Reduce heat to 350° and cook for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when stuck in the filling.

* This time of year, I tend to keep store-bought pie shells in the freezer, but if you’re looking for a great crust recipe, I’d recommend Emma’s on A Beautiful Mess. 

The Thanksgiving Game Plan: 6 Days Out

Today, we discuss one of my very favorite parts of the holiday party season: Planning the menu. The first year we hosted Thanksgiving, I completely geeked out on the research. (Full disclosure: I have a slight obsession with buying cookbooks from the 1940s & 50s that introduced the ‘modern housewife’ to planning a menu for new-fangled nutritional needs.) All that to say, I thought I’d offer a simple set of things I’ve learned along the way from vintage cookbooks, Williams-Sonoma, and Martha Stewart. (You can also find some other favorite links and recipes on my Pinterest board: The Belle’s Thanksgiving Game Plan.)

The Cardinal Rule of Dinner Parties: Always make enough for 3 extra guests. No hostess ever regrets having too much.

Well, she may if no one shows up, but for holiday parties, guests are usually kind enough to RSVP.

Before Dinner

Have something for your guests to snack on while they chat. The traditional choice is, of course, wine & cheese. But not too much.

The Turkey


A good rule is 1.5 pounds per guest. (Of note: For smaller birds, try 2 pounds per guest. The smaller the bird, the smaller the bone to meat ratio.)

Cook Time:

It doesn’t take nearly as much time to roast a turkey as some people think.

Start with the turkey, breast down, at 400°F for 45 minutes. Then, flip the bird and roast at 325°F until it your thermometer reads 180° when inserted into the deepest part of the thigh. (Be careful not to let the thermometer touch the bone.) The juices should be clear, not pink.

The basic idea is you want to seal in the juices in the beginning and then slow roast it the rest of the way.

A good estimate of cook time is: 2.5 hours for a 10 pound bird and add 15 minutes for every 2 pounds after that. (Here’s a really helpful

2 Secrets to Be Sure It Doesn’t Dry Out:

  1. Baste the bird every 15-30 minutes.
  2. Trust your meat thermometer.

A Couple Other Things:

  1. I use beer along with chicken stock to roast any poultry including turkey.
  2. I love bundling fresh herbs in cooking twine and using them when roasting the bird as well as in the stuffing.

The Sides

The Traditionals…

A Couple Others…

  • I *love* serving squash this time of year.
  • Always have 2-3 other veggies. (I know it’s unbelievable but these brussels sprouts are always a hit!)
  • My mother-in-law makes the best pretzel salad. (Think this, minus the pineapples.) I also eat it for my Thanksgiving midnight-snack and Black Friday breakfast.
  • Sides are the easiest thing to have guests bring. Just be sure you’ve made at least one or two yourself in case your guests forget. (Yes, this has happened before.)

The Desserts

2 Words: Pumpkin. Pie. (My *award-winning* recipe to follow!)

Also, might I recommend another choice for those (like Husband) that hate pumpkin. How about these little Caramel Apple Bundles?

The Thanksgiving Game Plan: 7 Days Out

Thanksgiving 7 Days Out Gather

Alright ladies, we are 7 days out from the big day. If you’re hosting for the festivities yourself and wondering what you should be doing this evening to help you get ready, I’m here to set your mind at ease. You should be Pinteresting, of course!

7 days out from any holiday party, I like to gather. Gather some visual inspiration on Pinterest, gather some new recipes, gather supplies (table linens, candles, etc.), and then, I make a ToDo List. It looks something like this…


  • Finalize menu.


  • Wash & iron table linens.
  • Gather, polish, & wash all dishes, flatware, stemware, and serving pieces.
  • Stock the wine rack & liquor cabinet.
  • Put together a stain remover kit.
  • Make place cards.


  • Grocery Shop. (best done LATE at night to avoid crowds)
  • Restock tea light & unscented candle supply.


  • Buy flowers.


  • Make a playlist.
  • Set the table.
  • Prepare the desserts.
  • Chop the veggies.

 As you might assume, tomorrow we’ll talk recipes. Until then, here’s a little bonus…
Click here to see The Belle’s Thanksgiving Pinboard!

The Thanksgiving Game Plan: 8 Days Out

8 Days Out: The Guest List

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is next Thursday! Are you hosting your first Thanksgiving and wondering what you should be doing today, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, to get ready? Finalizing your guest list. Make sure you know who will be at your table and also any special needs they may have. For example, my guest list for any party usually looks like this…

Name… any special needs

Joe Schmo… peanut allergy
Bella Boo… baby (soft veggies + Cheerios)
Linda Smith
Riley C. Riley
So on… & So forth

Tomorrow, we’ll start to get the house ready!