Fresh ideas to elevate your holiday celebration.
Celebrate: Natural selection
Leaves aren’t just for expanding the size of your Thanksgiving table. Take the kind piling up outdoors and make a one-of-a-kind runner. Start with a length of linen and fray the edges. Using a roller, coat fallen foliage one at a time in fabric paint and press it, paint-side down, onto the runner. Place a piece of paper on top and go over it with a brayer (available at crafts stores) to transfer all the little details. The result will be imprinted in your family’s memories.
Sources: Pier 1 Imports hemstitch napkins, in Stone Gray, $5 each, pier1.com. West Elm gold flatware, $39 a set, westelm.com. ABC Cocina ivory dinner plates, $45 each, abchome.com.
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Personalize it: Know when to fold them...
Napkins are the easiest, most elegant way to dress up your holiday place settings — and add a big serving of personality. Here are four simple techniques.
1. Make a pocket: Fold a square dinner napkin in half, then in quarters. Fold the open corner’s top layer to meet the opposite corner. Turn over the napkin, fold it into thirds, and turn it back over.
Sources: Pottery Barn Portland dinner plate, $58 for four, potterybarn.com. ferra Festival napkin, in Hazelnut, $57 for four, sferra.com. CB2 Bryn flatware (similar to shown), $90 for a 20-piece set, cb2.com.
2. Wrap it around: Pair a botanical accent, like a faux or dried branch spray-painted gold, with an unfussy band. Fold a napkin in thirds, wrap it around the plate and tuck the ends under.
Sources: IKEA Dinera plate (similar to shown), $3.50, in Light Pink, ikea.com. Martha Stewart Collection Gilded Marble salad plate, $84 for four, macys.com. Hawkins New York simple linen napkin, in Blush, $18, hawkinsnewyork.com.
3. Add a craft: A 3-D turkey and crayons keep kids occupied. Stick a honeycomb ball on hefty paper, add feathers and a face, and set the gobbler on a quarter-folded napkin.
Sources: SunBeauty honeycomb balls, $20 for 40, amazon.com. Canvas Home Shell Bisque dinner plate, in Blue, $22, canvashomestore.com. Project 62 Valetta salad plate, $70 for a 16-piece set, target.com. Fog Linen Work seersucker napkin, $14, shop-foglinen.com.
4. Tie one on: Knot a patterned napkin and set it off-center on the plate. Cut paper tags for place cards.
Sources: Fishs Eddy Gilded Scalloped dinner plate, $14, and Gilded salad plate, $12, westelm.com. Heather Taylor Home Amalfi napkins, $82 for four, heathertaylorhome.com.
Party starter: Bring the zing
For a quick, unconventional preturkey bite, serve a seafood appetizer. Build-your-own crostini topped with quick-pickled shrimp and vibrant fixings will tide people over and wake up their taste buds.
Whisk together 1/4 cup each fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon each freshly ground pepper and sugar. Stir in 1 1/2 pounds cooked medium shrimp and 1/4 cup sliced caper berries. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, at least 1 hour. Stir together 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 teaspoon grated garlic. Serve shrimp with garlic mayo, shaved celery, crostini (see recipe at marthastewart.com/simple-crostini) and more caper berries.
Sip & Repeat: Three cheers
A holiday all about harmony calls for a drink that pairs well with food and smooths conversation. A good solution: sherry. The Spanish fortified wine has a lower alcohol content than liquor but a higher one than wine. Here’s a cocktail to try, plus a few great sips.
This Iberian take on the classic aperitif swaps out gin for sherry, so it’s less boozy but just as bright — and can be made in a batch before your gathering. In a large, resealable bottle, combine 8 ounces dry sherry, 6 ounces each sweet vermouth and dry vermouth and 4 ounces Campari. Stir to combine; chill at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with orange peel and Spanish olives.
Good picks: (Light & Crisp) La Guita Manzanilla, $11 for 375 milliliters, despanafinewines.com. (Medium & Complex) Marqués de Poley Amontillado, $37 for 500 milliliters, flatiron-wines.com. (Dark & Nutty) Tomás García Oloroso, $26 for 750 milliliters, at Whole Foods Market Wine.
Do-it-yourself decor: Foreign accents
Forgot to bring handcrafted throw pillows back from Tangiers? No need to spend the price of a plane ticket on a designer version. Instead, buy a few affordable wide-weave cushions and commission your favorite artisan — here’s looking at you, kid — to trick them out, simply by working yarn right into the weave with a tapestry needle.
Sources (from left): West Elm silk hand‑loomed pillow covers, in Nightshade and Platinum, $39 each, westelm.com. Pottery Barn Linen Seed Stitch lumbar‑pillow cover, in Sailor Blue, $49.50, potterybarn.com.
To make bows
Thread a tapestry needle with six to 10 pieces of alpaca yarn and pull it through an existing stitch in the pillow. Trim the ends to the same length (about 3 inches total), repeat and admire your savvy “souvenir.”
To make stripes
Thread six to 10 pieces of alpaca yarn through a tapestry needle. Work it over and under a row of existing stitches. Stop every few inches to tease the ends into tufts or change color.
To make tassels
Thread 10 pieces of alpaca yarn through a tapestry needle. Pull it through a stitch in the side of the pillow, then tie the two ends of yarn in a knot to form a tassel, and trim the ends.
Instant upgrade: United plates
Everyone comes together at the holidays, and so do their pies, in all assorted forms and tins. Here’s a big idea for a cohesive dessert buffet: Wrap those flaky-crusted contributions in pie collars, little wreaths of greenery that hide diverse dishes and lend your spread immediate sophistication. Bay and olive leaves offer full coverage; eucalyptus makes a fragrant frame. Use floral wire to twist them into mini garlands, then wind them around for a finishing touch that’ll make your last course look even sweeter.
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