Who else has been stressed and anxious lately? I know I sure have. With the pressures of a pandemic, pregnancy, and election, I’ve been feeling on edge, which has left me really anticipating the holidays. For me, the holiday season is a beacon of hope. The holidays incite cheer and most importantly, quality time spent with family.
A quick recap; we moved back to California after selling our Georgia home. This entailed us moving in with my parents to save on rent, but the deal was that my husband and I offer a helping hand with updating my parent’s home. We’ve already updated their living room, and now have completed the patio area so that we can host Thanksgiving strictly outside this year.
For Thanksgiving, my family and I typically try to use all the spaces we can to host family members. This means aunts, uncles, and cousins coming together in the dining room, living room, kitchen, and outside area – gathering around any and every table we can – California-style (the weather usually allows us to hang out in the front and backyards).
But this year, due to COVID, we’ll only be eating outside, as we feel this will be a safe way for us to gather. However, when we came to the realization that we’d be spending our Thanksgiving outside, we knew we had to whip it into gear with getting the patio ready for such a thing. Especially with my due date being Thanksgiving day. I know. What timing.
Did I mention I’m one of five children? Well, with that said, I should also mention I’ve only had the chance to see my siblings a few times since I’ve been home. Everyone in my family has been very sweet about not crowding me during such a timid and vulnerable time in my life – pregnancy during a pandemic. I’ve seen my youngest brother one time, and he hasn’t been back around since I freaked out after he hugged me from behind (without a mask). He is also an EMT and always dealing with sick people… so you can probably imagine why I freaked out when this happened. I should also mention that I’m asthmatic and have been dealing with lung issues during my pregnancy – back and forth to the ER for breathing issues (to further provide you insight as to why I went crazy during the no-mask-sneak-attack-hug). I think I may have scared my little brother a bit, so he hasn’t been back over to my parent’s house since.
My older sister (second to oldest) has been over once, she has a couple kiddos of her own, so she’s been playing it safe and staying home). My older brother gets the award for being the most cautious around me. He only waves to me from afar when I see him, and always talks to me through some sort of blockade (i.e. the car window, the house security system, window, or house door). Now my older sister is the one I communicate with the most. Her and I facetime, DM, text, Marco Polo, you name it! I believe she gets the most frustrated behind my pregnancy paranoia. Lately, she’s been making comments like, “I guess I’ll just see your new apartment when I read about it on the blogs,” and asking questions like “will I be meeting baby Jack via Instagram?” Nicole, if you are reading this, I miss you too. My older sister has been dropping sweet hints that she doesn’t want me to be afraid of the world right now, just because I’m pregnant. She really wanted me to have a baby shower, but I refused because I didn’t want people bombarding me and trying to rub my belly. All that to say, I haven’t seen her much since I’ve moved back to Los Angeles. My dad and mom have done their best to protect me during this pregnancy thus, we are not having all of our cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends over this year to celebrate. For the few people attending the gathering, they’ve been gracious enough to agree to get tested for COVID a few days before the gathering, and have even gone as far as getting the TDAP to keep baby Jack safe from whooping cough when he arrives. I’m pretty excited to see everyone.
The patio had been an area where items like toys, bikes, easels, and furniture had been housed (things my siblings left when they all moved out, and decided to use this area as their own personal storage). The concrete on the patio was red, and had never really been updated since my parents purchased the home from my dad’s late uncle. So my husband, dad, mom, and myself went to work on it! We emptied out the patio and made tons of donations.
The toughest part about this update was the work we did with the concrete, there was so much ground we needed to cover (pun intended). The concrete was originally red and peeling. There were also various cracks throughout. The red color really wasn’t pleasing to the eye, and did not work at all with the new vision we had in mind for the space. We wanted to keep a neutral theme going, as the outside paint color of my parent’s home is a light beige. We also wanted to lean more into a minimal look here – my mom was tired of having stuff clutter the patio over the years and was really looking forward to an open space where she could actually see the ground. We filled in the cracks then primed the concrete with an all-surface primer. Afterwards, we painted the concrete with a granite grip (this took two layers of paint).
Once the concrete was complete, my mom ordered a new gazebo with a canopy to cover the view of the neighbor’s house (these homes were built a tad bit strange, where you don’t get much privacy in the backyard). Plus on chiller nights it will keep us a little warmer. During COVID, we all need to take advantage of every available space for as long as possible. Ok, back to the process. We even painted the exterior wall the color Aspen – to lighten the area and have it coincide with the outside of the house.
To further create consistency in the color palette, we got rid of the current eye-sore we call the garage door, and my mom and dad updated and customized a new garage door, replacing the outdated and broken brown one with a bright white functioning door. The garage is my dad’s working area (where he builds things like stools and desk tables).
Which brings me to how wonky the layout of the patio area is. The patio area is in between a five-car driveway and the garage, so we’ve never parked cars in the garage because of this layout. We’ve always preferred utilizing the patio space for family gatherings, rather than blocking it with cars. The new garage slides up in sections instead of letting out and lifting straight up, so we don’t have to worry about knocking over the gazebo. Updating the garage door led to repairing the gutters over the garage as well. A lot of great and needed updates.
We gave ourselves plenty of time to prepare for Thanksgiving, as we had a good idea that we’d need this area to host comfortably (given the current situation with COVID). We considered the fact that everyone who typically joined our thanksgiving celebration would not be in attendance this year, so only minimal seating was required to host immediate family.
I’ve always dreamt of the perfect outside get together and table-scape. In this dream, there are plenty of candles, whimsical florals, and warm golden tones. I imagine a wood table that seats plenty of people gathered around and market lights strung over us. My dad is more on the modern side, and my mother is really working towards minimalism, so the furniture from Article really helped to create a balance between all three of our ideal outside spaces. The Atica table from Article is like a good partner: sturdy, reliable, and a bonus, it’s gorgeous. It’s made from solid Acacia wood. It’s definitely ready to hold an Olympus-worthy feast, or a simple coffee date. Now the chairs were a personal favorite of my mother’s. The Caya chair is seriously light. It is built from steel and powder-coated, and if you ask me, it brings considered elegance to the patio space.
I was able to incorporate the whimsical feel I’d hoped for with the floral arrangement, large vase, and small vase used to set the table. The warmth I so desired was brought in with the champagne and gold flatware sets (spoons, forks, and knives).
Mix and match flatware sets to make a more visually interesting tablescape.
I also loved adding warmth by mixing in the new pillar candle holders and the vintage taper holders with tapers I’ve collected through the years. My dad appreciates the modern feel of the dinnerware set we selected (cups, bowls, and plates), and is a big fan of how light and airy the table runner and linen napkins are.
The rest of our family will be joining our Thanksgiving celebration via Zoom this year. We’ve all decided to keep the gathering to the immediate family members, and eat at our homes while tuning in for a dinner prayer, meal, and a few toasts. My cousin Ariel is the queen of facilitating and creating games to bring everyone together, and she’s got some really fun activities planned for us during our Zoom meal. I’m thinking I’ll grab Jenga and the werewolf game for the immediate family to play (if you haven’t played werewolf yet, you must partake – it’s a real hoot!). We are all doing our best to make this year’s dinner a fun one.
This year also looks a little different as we are celebrating earlier than usual. Baby Jack is due on Thanksgiving, and I definitely don’t want to risk not being able to have a plate of my mom’s infamous macaroni and cheese or cornbread before I go into labor (that would be a real tragedy – as I’m sure my siblings would eat it all and I’d never get the chance to have some). This brings me to my next concern – not being able to partake in my mother-in-law’s potatoes (I call them Tonya’s Taters). These potatoes are simply the best carb I’ve ever eaten. Every bite is filled with herbs, spices, onions, buttery potatoes, with the occasional bite of sausage. It is truly a hygge dish if you ask me (must be her Scandinavian roots at play). In summary, the dish is so good I have literally given her the nickname Momma Taters.
With our economy’s current state, I reiterate the importance for us to gather around the table and spend time with our loved ones. I’m very grateful as to how my family has gathered around me to uplift and support me during such a sensitive time, a lot of this support has consisted of meals and cooking for me. My husband has stepped up in a huge way, constantly preparing meals during my pregnancy and checking in on me and the baby. When we lived with my parents, we spent a fair amount of time gathered around the dinner table. Instead of remaining anxious and stressed about what is taking place in the world currently, I’d like to spend this Thanksgiving focusing on setting the table, gathering around, and gratitude.
I photographed this tablescape on a really windy day, getting whipped by gazebo fabric throughout the entire shoot and constantly relighting candles because of angry winds, but I needed to get it done ASAP as Jack could come at any minute! I did love creating this, and my mom is still swooning over the setup. Creating this space filled me with joy and already has me looking forward to the next Thanksgiving when we get to share these special moments with our son. Though these tablescapes could eventually be replaced by birthday decorations and kid-themed decor (such a scary thought).
Design and Photos by Ajai Guyot