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While it is the heroine of the day, a glistening, plump turkey does not make for a great candleholder on Thanksgiving (or ever, for that matter). But it is easy to forget about the dining room when there is already plenty to do in the kitchen.
Use one or several of the ideas here to create an inviting and sophisticated table without spending too much time or money. Since they all use items found around the house, you’ll only need to buy candles, decorative paper, ribbons, or flowers to complete the table in no time.
1. While food shopping, pick up small decorative gourds. Arrange them around your living room and on the table, surrounded by votive candles. Carve some of the larger ones into candleholders by removing the top so that the flame can escape, and cutting out the “belly” of the gourd almost completely through. The bottom of the carved area should be flat so that the candle does not tip over. Place a small votive candle in the center of each gourd, arrange on your table, and light up. Alternate them with small water glasses filled with water and fall flowers, such as mums.
2. Use natural elements to recall the colors of the season. Collect twigs and bright leaves in your backyard or in a park. Scrub the twigs gently and place them along the length of the table, as you would a table runner. For a casual look, leave them untied and bare. For a more polished table, tie them together at each end to form a bundle, and then weave the leaves and ribbons in complementary colors in and out of the twigs. Fill a clear vase or large glass with water, put a few twigs in it, and add cranberries, which will float on the surface.
3. The cake stand bought on a whim when you decided to take on baking can be put to good use on Thanksgiving. Place a sheet of decorative paper, such as scrapbook paper or even wallpaper, on the stand, then arrange small gourds, crab apples, nuts in their shells, and leaves on it. Place a candlestick with white taper candles in the middle of the stand, to give the arrangement some height. If the cake stand comes with a glass top, forgo the candles. Instead, add twigs to the decorative elements.
4. Use a scarf as table runner. Maybe not the vintage Hermès passed on from your grandmother, but rather one that can easily be washed or dry-cleaned. Layer several thin cotton scarves, allowing two to three inches of each scarf to peek out, to give a striped effect. The skinny scarves you bought when they were in fashion and forgot in the back of the closet can be used together; three to five should suffice, depending on the width of your table. Place orange or white candles in candlesticks and votive candleholders on the scarves.
5. Mason jars or clear glass jam containers make elegant table decorations when a thick, wired ribbon is tied around their center. Choose a ribbon with a gold shimmer and a contrasting trim for ultimate effect. Fill the jar with water, some cranberries, and a floating candle. Or, put a taper candle in a holder in the jar and loosely arrange the ribbon around it inside the jar. For a minimalist look, place a crab apple or a pine cone (you can alternate between the two) in the jar and tie the ribbon around the lid.
Author Bio: Anne E. McBride is a writer and editor for consumer, trade, and academic food media. She is the director of the Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University and of the Center for Food Media at the Institute of Culinary Education. She wrote Chocolate Epiphany and Bite Size with Chef François Payard, and is currently co-authoring a book about working in the food industry.