It’s Thanksgiving week. The lines are long at the grocery store, and your to-do list is starting to need a stapler. Not to shell shock you, but it’s time to start thinking about setting the table.
Don’t fret. We have five easy ways to set a pretty, autumnal table that will save both time and sanity Thursday.
First things first, though: Bypass the bargain bin at the craft store. It might be tempting to pick up trite, faux-to-a-fault fall tree leaves in construction-vest orange for a dollar here and a dollar there. Keep moving to the checkout line — your turkey shouldn’t thaw in the cart.
By sticking to the real colors of fall, you will be able to integrate things that you may have around your own yard, like acorns, pine cones and woodsy branches. Natural colors also go with basic linens. You can also use simple produce like pears, apples, grapes and other fruits and vegetables in nature’s color palette.
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Use things without a shelf life and keep it simple. To make a centerpiece that is lovely but will not interfere with the food, here are some ideas..
Grow earthy flowers. Well, cultivate earth-toned ones, at least. Craft and hobby stores have a lot of floral choices in alternative materials such as burlap. At Hobby Lobby, I found stately roses, daisies and peonylike flowers in creams, browns and taupe burlap. There’s a casual elegance to these when combined to make a bouquet for Thanksgiving.
▪ 5-7 inch cylinder vase in earth tones or with some age or faux weathering
▪ 1 block of green, dry floral foam to fit inside the vase (or close to it)
▪ Serrated bread knife
▪ 9-15 burlap flowers in different styles and in monochromatic or tone-on-tone colors (amount depends on size of vase)
▪ 4-5 small pine cones, fall leaves and faux fruit in muted green colors (these can be hot-glued onto a wood skewer or just nestled into the flower arrangement)
▪ Handfuls of fall berries, nuts, small pine cones, leaves, wildlife figurines in subdued finishes, sphagnum moss and faux wooden or plastic fruit
1. If you are working with a hard-to-fit vase, use a serrated knife to cut the corners of the green foam and shape it to fit snugly into the container. Hide the top of the green foam with faux miniature grapes, sphagnum moss or nuts.
2. Insert the flowers around these items and directly into the foam so that all of the gaps are filled with a variety of hues. Secure the flowers.
3. Add some pine cones, nuts or fruit in complementary hues. Brown or seasonal leaves can provide some texture, too.
4. Place the centerpiece in the middle of your table and then use seasonal berries and any nuts or elements that look like fall around the base of the vase.
Sweet and vintage
Using unique containers is the fastest way to make bold centerpieces, and often you can use things that you already have on hand. Sometimes you just need a little inspiration to remember what you have. So, here are a few ideas.
▪ Milk and wine crates from yesteryear make terrific containers for fresh or textile flowers.
▪ Old dough and wooden bread bowls somehow just say harvest. Look for those at antique sales and online auction sites.
▪ A vintage wire grocery store basket with handles, filled with fresh red or green apples, can make a sweet centerpiece — and a lot of apple pies later. Park it right in the center of the table, instead of flowers.
▪ Certain vintage toys can become centerpieces that hold fresh or faux flowers, too. Maybe you have an old rustic toy truck that you can start up and drive onto the holiday table (filled with flowers).
“X” marks the spot
Place markers on the table are fun, and they also allow you to designate where you’d like for people to sit to encourage well-balanced conversations.
▪ If you have a small group, you can affix a galvanized letter of each guest’s first name onto a craft wire or wooden napkin ring with a little hot glue. It’s a casual yet industrial-looking way to personalize someone’s plate. The small galvanized letters are available at most craft stores. I found the supplies for this project at Hobby Lobby.
▪ Also, it’s easy to hot glue a burlap flower onto the wooden rings to make a set of burlap napkin ring holders (these are a great way to use any extra burlap flowers from a centerpiece). You can also find them ready made at stores like Pier 1 Imports.
▪ Papier-mache boxes from craft stores can be decorated with your guests’ names. They can hold fall seeds for planting, special fall-inspired candies or small gardening elements as party favors.
▪ Bottle up some dried herbs and tie a name tag on each one. Craft and sewing stores sometimes have spools of ribbons with the word “welcome” printed on them. These can be a nice touch.
Votive and tea lights, especially those in fall shapes, add elegance to a Thanksgiving table. (Tip: Use unscented candles so their fragrance doesn’t compete with the food’s.) Light them a little early and extinguish and remove them when the table is filled with food. Candles of all shapes and sizes look warm and inviting on buffets and in fall centerpieces. If you are dealing with a draft or wind, consider flameless candle options. Let guests take home votive holders as party favors.
If you have time, put something homemade by their plate. Small loaves of bread can be made and wrapped in cellophane, then tied with a ribbon for guests to take home. Or, set the bread out unwrapped but in individual servings at each place setting. Set the loaves on a collection of small cutting boards or purchase small, unfinished wood plaques from a hobby and craft store.
Make up some herb or fruit butters to go with the fresh bread that you are serving, placing them in lovely porcelain serving dishes. If you have a set of fall-themed dishes for salads and side items, plan to use those to serve special things, even if they don’t match your dinner china.
Take it outdoors
If weather permits, by all means take the gathering outside.
Decorate outdoor seating and bench areas with Thanksgiving pillows and fall-colored blankets to encourage guests to gather there before and after the meal. Set up coffee or tea service around these areas to entice them to stay. Fire up the fire pits with pinon wood if it’s a cooler day or evening.
For an outdoor centerpiece that won’t block the view, use a tray to hold candles, natural wood and moss spheres and other elements. Juxtapose these objects to make a centerpiece that reflects nature’s surroundings.
Move real wooden tables and comfortable dining chairs into the yard or on the patio and set the table like you would inside. These make the Thanksgiving set-up official.
As a special touch — but only if you have time and help — hang a chandelier-style light fixture in a tree. You can use it in daylight only as decor or you can wire it with a special conversion cord that allows you to connect a hard-wired pendant or chandelier light into an outdoor extension cord. Most hardware stores carry these adapters if you are taking dinner into the night hours.
This project takes some focus, time and a helper, so if you don’t have any of these, focus on the table and candles.