By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
Make your Thanksgiving celebration even more special this year by adding a handcrafted touch with these super simple decorations and centerpieces. Many of them use inexpensive vegetables, fruit, leaves and flowers (some of which you can gather from your own backyard).
Use simple alphabet cookie cutters to bake words like "Give Thanks" or "Happy Thanksgiving." You can even spell out things you're thankful for like "family," "friends," or "health." Ice the cookies in fall colors like orange, yellow, brown, red and purple. Arrange the messages on platters, and use them as centerpieces on the dining table or serving buffet.
Before you plant them to sprout from the ground next spring, you can use flower bulbs (like tulips and daffodils) arranged in a pretty bowl as an autumn decoration. For added drama, you can display the bowl on a cake stand.
Inscribe a letter, word or inspirational quote on a white or orange pumpkin using a black permanent marker. You can create a small one for each person who'll be joining you for Thanksgiving or use several larger pumpkins as a table centerpiece. A great quote to consider: "When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others." --Dalai Lama
Instead of buying flowers to fill up your favorite vases, take a walk around your yard and the neighborhood to find pretty fallen branches with bright leaves. Maples are a great choice. Just be sure to ask permission before taking a cutting from some else's tree.
Create a harmonious seating arrangement for Thanksgiving dinner by using pinecones as place card holders. That way you can make sure to keep Aunt Millie away from Grandpa Ned to prevent a repeat of last year's epic family argument!
Create a lovely smell that will make your home even more welcoming to friends and family by drying oranges (with the peel sliced open in about eight places) in the oven on the lowest temperature for 12 to 24 hours. You can then display them in a bowl or clear vase as a Thanksgiving centerpiece. You can find dried pomegranates at the craft store or dry them yourself by placing them on a wire rack in a warm room for at least three weeks.
It might be decorative gourd season, but you can also decorate with edible winter squash. After your big Thanksgiving gathering, you can roast the squash in the oven, cut them into "fries" to bake or turn them into soup. Find tons of winter squash recipes here.
Nothing says "fall harvest" like a big bowl of apples. You can arrange them in a large fruit bowl, in a tall glass vase (with a wide mouth) or on an elevated cake plate. Not only will the fruit make your table pretty, it will provide a handy, healthy snack for family members.
Making a paper pumpkin is actually much easier than it looks. Simply cut two 12x12-inch pieces of paper into 1-inch strips. You can use pinking shears or other edging scissors if you want to add some texture. Use a hole punch to make a hole near the end of each strip. Stack the strips and attach a small brad to each end, then fan out the paper strips into a pumpkin shape. You can add a green paper leaf to one end or make vines using green curling ribbon.
Don't just rake up all the leaves that fall in your yard. Collect the prettiest ones and turn them into a festive garland you can hang around a window or doorway, or even around the edge of your dining table. Use mini clothespins from the craft store to attach the best leaves to a length of twine, raffia or ribbon.