There's simply too much to juggle on Thanksgiving Day to give the focal point of your table more time than it deserves.
In fact, let's just call it like it is: The Thanksgiving centerpiece is the warm-up act for the real rock star: the slow-roasted turkey.
So, spend your time on the big meal and don't stress about table decor.
Here are some quick ways to make easy Thanksgiving centerpieces that look festive but won't break the bank. In fact, you probably have many of these items around the house.
Tiered servers and lazy Susans to the rescue
Tiered servers are wonderful for outdoor gatherings, but in the fall, I like to put my lazy Susan on the Thanksgiving table and fill it with beautiful things I already have.
Stuff the spinning layers with silk flowers in fall colors. I love to use silk hydrangea flower heads because they take up so much space and are easy to work with.
I borrowed a few buds from other arrangements in my home and inserted them into the varied tiers. The flowers don't have to match, but it's good if they are all in complementary fall hues. For this project, I used about four to five flowers, some smaller and some larger.
Next, tuck painted pine cones (look for painting instructions in the project that follows) into the layers. Add fruit that you may already have in your cupboards, such as big red apples, brown pears or artichokes. I had a giant acorn from last year's decorations, so I threw it into the mix. Unshelled walnuts or chestnuts can give the centerpiece a warm look, too. Keep repositioning the objects until the balance is just right. The arrangement is really striking, especially when you plan to serve the turkey on the buffet.
Remember: Keep adding and taking away until the three tiers have the perfect balance of elements of the harvest and fall color. This is a simple but striking way to decorate the table. A bonus is that it is easy to convert the tiers with Christmas decor in just a few weeks. Just add sparkling fruits, pine needles and cranberry sprays.
Off to the races with horse apples
Start by being on the lookout for horse apples (also known as bois d'arc fruit, Osage-orange and hedge-apple).
The textural fruit of the bois d'arc tree drops around this time of year and if you have access to a tree and permission to harvest the fallen spheres, throw a few into your car's trunk. They are sometimes found in parks, and they will make a beautiful centerpiece in a jiffy.
Select ones that have just fallen to get them in the best condition. Insert them into a simple silk-hydrangea arrangement to create a lovely, textured look or lay them in a wooden dough bowl, a rustic metal tray or basket.
I placed a grouping on a long, rectangular tray. The end result was an earthy color combination of chartreuse and brown, a contemporary centerpiece that will be moved to a foyer table once the turkey comes to the table.
I took an old, white Easter basket and painted it a warm golden yellow. I brushed on the acrylic color, which I had diluted with a teaspoon of water, so it would look more lovingly worn over time.
Inside, I placed a whole silk hydrangea arrangement that I found at a craft store. The artificial hydrangea was already in a pot, and it went right into the basket, which had a wooden handle. You can use real or artificial plants -- flowers or just greenery -- to fill old baskets painted to match the colors of autumn.
This makes for a festive centerpiece, but you also can set this basket near the entrance of your home, on the ground, in a chair or sitting near the foot of an outdoor bench on the porch.
Pinecones of plenty
This idea was inspired by a display I saw at Domain XCIV on West Seventh Street in Fort Worth (www.domainxciv.com). I fell in love with the idea of antique silver lodged into pine cones and greenery in open vintage luggage pieces.
Take an old train case and make it explode with dried flowers, antique silver pieces, old books and pinecones. Wire it so that it is partially open, to view the contents inside.
You easily can convert any centerpiece to a holiday centerpiece by painting pine cones and inserting them into the arrangement.
Simply collect pinecones or buy them from a craft store. Find some exterior-grade spray paint in fall colors. (I used a saddle brown and an olive colored paint that I purchased at Wal-Mart.) Lay the pinecones on a piece of wood or cardboard that you can paint on. Give them two quick coats and allow to dry for a few hours.
For small guest tables, simply arrange the colorful pinecones in a decorative basket. On larger tables, surround candle in a hurricane glass chimney with pinecones.
Elevate a cookie jar
If you have a cake riser or antique plateau, use it to showcase a festive ceramic cookie jar or turkey figurine that you might have stashed in the pantry or china cabinet.
If you don't have risers, use wooden blocks or small, strong cardboard boxes to build up a raised space beneath a tablecloth or runner. The point is to lift the ceramic item off of the table a bit to give it some respect.
Then, use fall sprays, pinecones and candles to surround the collectible with some extra color. To set off turkey figure, I created a bed of vintage berries that I plucked from a tired, old fall wreath. Craft stores have fall sprays that will work as well. A fall leaf garland, if you have one, works well encircling the ceramic item, too.
Add some candelabras or silver candlesticks to stretch the centerpiece down the table runner, if you'd like.
Wooden dough bowls and antique bins
A rustic, old container, such as a dough bowl or bread bowl, can be placed on the table and filled with natural elements such as silk flowers of the season or spheres covered in beans or burlap. You can find unique spheres at the craft store, usually near the dried flower aisle. Buy enough to pile in your unique container and park it right in the middle of the table.
I also filled an old wooden bin with beautiful silk flowers in fall hues mixed with some vibrant purple. It made a unique arrangement that I later used on an entry table. This is a centerpiece that can be moved around easily, and the flowers, of course, will never need water or droop.
Fill vases you love with fall-colored flowers
We all seem to have a collection of vases that never see the light of day. End this sadness. Survey your stash and see what you have to use.
I buy deep-yellow or orange roses at my grocery store. Two dozen roses will make a gorgeous arrangement. Trim off the leaves and cut the roses to the same height so that there is little stem showing from the top of your vase.
This creates a thick, bountiful, beautiful bouquet in a jiffy. Any leftover roses can be popped into bud vases and spread around the house. If you can buy the roses a day early, you will give them some time to open and wow your guests on Thanksgiving Day.