9 Steps to a Beautiful and Stress Free Thanksgiving | Step Two - Brainstorming. Throw Everything Against the Wall and See What Sticks


(noun\   ser·en·dip·i·ty \ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē\)
luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for

In the mid-1700s, English author Horace Walpole stumbled upon an interesting tidbit of information while researching a coat of arms. In a letter to his friend Horace Mann he wrote: "This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavor to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called 'The Three Princes of Serendip': as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of…." Walpole's memory of the tale (which, as it turns out, was not quite accurate) gave serendipity the meaning it retains to this day.

Step Two - Brainstorming. Figuratively, throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.

Unless you are arriving here in love with or perhaps are elbows deep in a design, remaining neutral or at the very least open minded will help to keep this step fun, stress free and dare I say enjoyable.  

Please take a moment to renew your creative license. Now let's get those synapses firing while we work towards inspiration.

You never know what will strike you.

What is Brainstorming

In 1953, Alex Osborn published the book, “Applied Imagination” which introduced the original concept of brainstorming. It’s not hard to imagine that this idea was first developed while he worked as a Madison Avenue advertising executive. Although, many improvements have been made to that idea over the years before it became what we know today.

The idea of brainstorming now brings together an informal, relaxed and sometimes playful take on creativity and problem solving. It then blends that with lateral or out of the box thinking. Encouraging ideas that at first glance may seem unrelated, silly or even a little crazy. Some of these ideas will be just that. Playful silly crazy unrelated nonsense. Some will just be plain ideas and some will be ideas that will connect to other ideas to create the inspiration that you are ultimately searching for.

The brainstorming step is a good place to try to involve a spouse or children in the Thanksgiving planning process. After all, people are much more likely to be committed and helpful when they have helped develop and plan something. Plus, brainstorming can be fun when it is done with others. This could be a fantastic family bonding experience.

A cautionary note about family brainstorming. This can easily turn into a silly game if it is not being taken seriously, at least a little bit, by the participating members. There is value to the silly and especially to the experience for everyone. However, you need to be the leader of the brainstorming pack. Meaning that you have to know when the group has actually come up with a good idea or nothing at all and not be afraid to diplomatically say so. It’s important to remember, while brainstorming in a group is often better at coming up with out of the box ideas, studies have shown that individual brainstorming tends to produce better ideas than group brainstorming.

Brainstorming on your own allows you to move more quickly and to shift in whichever direction you feel like. This may lead to more creativity and to connections that you may not have otherwise discovered.

Questions to ask yourself while brainstorming


When inspiration strikes you, it can strike hard. Before you know what happened, it has grabbed the steering wheel. Driven you out of town and down a dusty back road to the middle of nowhere. Inspiration swears there is a scenic overlook around here, but how confident are you that this is the right place? Reviewing a list of questions and goals that you will ultimately have to make decisions on, at least once before, during, and after will help keep you from spending too much time wandering down roads that lead to nowhere.

The Day

  • How do you want this Thanksgiving to feel? Informal, intimate and warm or more formal and elegant?
  • How does your guest list fit with that? Is your kooky uncle going to wear a tie? Or is his hawaiian shirt okay?


  • What look do you want? Country chic, shabby chic, industrial or rustic?
  • How will you be serving? Family style or buffet?
  • It’s not a bad idea to review the Pantone 2016 fall colors. These are likely to be the “in” colors when you shop for decor items.

The Menu

  • Do you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or something unique?
  • Which recipes are family favorites or a tradition and what dishes are missing? What are your guests bringing?
  • Dietary needs of guest? Are you hosting a vegan or vegetarian? Someone with a nut allergy?
  • Do you have all of the courses covered
    • Hors D'oeuvres
      • When will guest arrive? Will everything go out at once or will you have mini courses?
    • Salad or soup
      • We wrap our turkey in bacon. A small wedge salad is a great starter and a half a slice of that bacon tops it perfectly.
    • Main course
    • Dessert
    • Drinks
      • Alcoholic and non alcoholic options or a signature cocktail for the day.


  • What other family traditions do you have?
  • After dinner entertainment? Games?
  • Leftovers both for guest to take and your personal use.

What questions would you add? Share them in the comments! 

Brainstorming Tools


There are no end to the tools that are available today to help you brainstorm. Everything from Pinterest to a Google image search to a pencil and piece of paper. Although, there are a lot of benefits to keeping your brainstorming digital. Because of this, and because we all love Pinterest, we’ll stick mostly to that. 

Brainstorming with Pinterest

Pinterest is an easy and useful tool especially when you are wanting to brainstorm. It can help to keep your thoughts organized and all in one place. Start by creating a new Thanksgiving board then pin away! For those of you not familiar with Pinterest, think virtual corkboard. You create “boards” and “pin” different images to them according to whatever theme or inspiration or subject you desire. The images come from websites and can be clicked through to visit the site where they came from.

Back to pinning...just start pinning anything that strikes your fancy and images that speak to you. I had thought about coming up with some helpful search terms, but the truth is that that isn’t how brainstorming and inspiration work. You just need to take a deep breath, and fall down the deep colorful rabbit-hole which is Pinterest. Food, decorations, DIY projects, tablescapes; you name it. You’ll find things you’d never think of and things that could work just perfectly for your ideal Thanksgiving event.

Once you have exhausted your brain’s capacity to take in another image of a savory side dish or decorated table, it’s time to edit. It is time to step back and evaluate what you have come up with. Did you find any inspiration in that process? It’s okay to say no. We are not done yet.  

You have finished your brainstorming session(s) and you no doubt have a lot of pins and ideas to go through. Although it may seem like a long and arduous task to sort through. You’ll need to pull out the best ones. This is a crucial step that may lead to the connection you are searching for.

Fishing out the best


There are many different ways to sort through your ideas. You could make another Pinterest board and move your absolute favorite and usable pins there. Or you could copy images into your favorite photo editing tool and physically piece together your plan. This is where I personally like to involve the pencil and paper. Being able to sort through the array of inviting images and jot down notes and really determine what can work in the space and time that I have.

Perhaps out of all the images there are a just a few that really strike you. I think this is best when you can inspire the whole feeling of your Thanksgiving day with one or two pictures. And all the other images are there for next year. Let your inspiration then spill into all aspects of your planning. You are not necessarily looking to duplicate a design. Just for inspiration as you create your own day.

As I have searched through our Thanksgiving Inspiration 2016 board, I feel inspired by craft paper table runners. A blend of the industrial / commercial feel of the brown crafts paper with more polished accents. Or perhaps something with more of a lodge feel? Buffalo check napkins tied with twine and a sprig of rosemary for warm rustic feel. The smell of the rosemary would be a nice addition on Thanksgiving.

Using crayons in place of markers or pens or pencils. It would be a kid friendly touch and would help protect our tabletop from a heavy handed writer.

Who knows? It is still early yet. You’ll have to wait and see what we end up with. For now, you can follow along on our inspiration journey on Pinterest board!

What are you inspired by?

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2016 Thanksgiving Guide | Step Two | Home and Timber