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How To Turn Your Thanksgiving Gathering Into A Party

It's almost turkey day! The bird is in the freezer, the folding chairs are down from the attic and the DVR is scheduled to record the NYC parade because you're sleeping in this Thanksgiving. You'll need your rest this year after using these tips to throw the ultimate Thanksgiving soirée. Typical table talk of school, politics and Black Friday deals can get stale rather quickly. Liven up the mood this year with fun decorations, games and sensible parting gifts that will have your relatives begging you to host all future family functions.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Setting The TableBring a whole new meaning to the phrase "farm to table" this Thanksgiving with these great rustic decorating ideas. Go for natural looking decor in white, beige, light green and orange. When dressing your table, use a burlap or beige linen table runner. If you prefer a more low maintenance option, use brown craft paper. You can customize it by writing your guest's names at each chair instead of place cards, special quotes about Thanksgiving or give each guest their own pen and encourage them to decorate the table. If you don't have any brown craft paper available use brown bags from your local grocery store and cut out placements for everyone to be placed atop a clean white linen table-cloth.

The clean up is a breeze and each guest will feel the warmth of the extra effort. Next, add place settings, white or beige linen napkins and use left over rosemary sprigs tied together with twine or butcher thread to use as napkin rings.

Next, use medium sized light green pumpkins for a center piece and accent with pale orange gourds as well as little white pumpkins. For a touch of glamour you can spray paint the stems or the tops of the pumpkins gold. Flowers are also a great and budget friendly way to add nature and elegance to your home if you pick the right flower. Hydrangea's in pale tones will compliment the rustic decor and brighten up any room.

Now that our table is decorated, it's time for the funnest decoration of all...a Thanksgiving photo booth! You can choose to buy the props online, make your own, or google search and print free ones online. As for a background you can create an outdoor photo booth with hack stacks and corn stalks or hang some streamers, burlap ribbons or gold garland with a thanksgiving banner in the background. The website Shanty 2 Chic, has one ready to print for free.

Game TimeOf course, when you mention Thanksgiving and game time you might instantly think of football. However, there are plenty of other Thanksgiving games to be played! Fun games that the whole family can play. For outside games, what better Thanksgiving themed game to play than corn hole toss! You can invest in one online at Amazon or Target. Or if you're a DIY'er make one out of plywood, 2x4's and some paint. Throw in a couple of bean bags and you have yourself some year round fun. If the weather isn't quite as nice where you live, try a board game!

By now, you've probably played every classic board game with your family and you now refer to them as BORED games. However, Hasbro has recently come out with fun new games such as "Pie Face" and "Speak Out." You may have seen "Speak Out" on Ellen featuring Khloe Kardashian and Kevin Hart. Use the cards given to you in the box or make your own Thanksgiving day themed cards and laugh as you try to guess what each other is saying through a giant mouth piece.

As for "Pie Face," well who wouldn't want to see their uncle a few turns away from getting pied in the face. Add some pumpkin spice to the whipped cream for a pumpkin pie effect. If you're a family of DIYers, try this Gobble Wobble game. Using an empty tissue box, attach two long strings on each side of the box. Add feathers into the box and attach the box onto each player by tying the strings around their waist so that the box is on their backside.

To the tune of the wobble, have each player shake their "tail feather" until all of the feathers fly out. Whoever can get all of the feathers out the fastest wins! You can use the leftover feathers and brown craft paper to play stick the tail on the turkey. Cut out a big circle, create a few targets with black marker, turn the player around a few times and have them stick a feather with tape on it onto the targets. At the very least you'll have some new abstract art for your home.

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Thankful Thank YousTo finish up the best Thanksgiving party of the century, give your guests a little thank you to take home with them. Since this holiday revolves around family and good food try these easy DIY treats of appreciation that will have your guests feeling full and thankful all the way to Christmas.
Warm Cider Rum PunchA little booze goes a long way. You'll need a bottle of sparkling cider, two cinnamon sticks and a small bottle of dark rum. Print or write out a small recipe and attach with ribbon or string around the cider bottle with the cinnamon sticks. Recipe reads: In a large pot combine, apple cider, one apple sliced crosswise, one orange thinly sliced crosswise, cinnamon sticks and one inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and thinly sliced.

Bring to a boil over high then reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes. You can keep warm on low for up to two hours. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Transfer to a punch bowl and serve warm.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Salted Caramel Sauce And ApplesCaramel apples are the very essence of fall. You can even add a small bag of chopped nuts to accompany the apples and nuts with. Serve the caramel sauce in a small jar, top with green or red apple, nuts optional and wrap with cellophane and ribbon if desired. Recipe reads: Combine one and a half cups of granulated white sugar and half a cup of water over medium high heat in a medium saucepan giving it a good stir. Bring the mixture to a boil and shake/swirl the pan often until the mixture turns a medium amber color, about 12 to 15 minutes. If sugar crystals gather along the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush the sugar down the sides of the pan so that it gets incorporated into the boiling mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour in one cup of whipping cream. Once it begins to bubble up, whisk in one and a half tablespoons of unsalted butter, one teaspoon of vanilla and half a teaspoon of sea salt. Continue to whisk until the mixture is the color of the caramel. Transfer the mixture into a measuring cup and allow to cool. Once cooled, divide evenly among jars. Cover and keep cool in the fridge until ready to take home.

Slow Cooker Apple ButterYou can add this butter to virtually any food and it will transform any recipe into a sweet delicious treat. Make ahead of time and serve in a small jar! Recipe reads: Place six and a half pounds of apples (peeled, cored and sliced), in the slow cooker. In a medium bowl, combine one cup of granulated sugar, one cup of light brown sugar, a tablespoon of ground cinnamon, a quarter teaspoon og ground cloves, half teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg and a quarter teaspoon of salt and mix well. Pour mixture over the apples and stir to combine.

In the slow cooker, cook the apple mixture for about 10 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and dark brown. After 10 hours, uncover, stir in one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract and continue to cook uncovered for an additional two hours.

Merissa Principe is a teacher and a freelance travel blogger from NYC. Teaching early childhood education has provided Merissa an opportunity to travel all over the world and live in new places. Be sure to follow her at for all things travel, beauty, fashion and New York City.
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