How to Create a Fabulous Holiday Table

I love decorating for the holidays. Not only does it allow a much needed creative outlet, it allows me to spend time in the space and create a feeling of peace and joy.

This year, we are in a new house, where we will establish new traditions. First, I cleared the space (removed all artwork from the walls) as to not “clutter my vision.” The first pass was a bit barren, incomplete…

festive dining room table
Holiday Table – Take One

So, I began to gather more items to add interest. Some items were being used in other spaces, some were new, some were found. Here is the updated view and I believe it’s the final version of how our Thanksgiving table will appear (sans food and guests of course!)

Holiday Table
Holiday Table – Take Two

Ready for me to reveal my super secret?? (The local dollar store! The snowflakes on the back wall were exactly $1 each, the vases where I placed my own spray-painted branches were $1 each. I did purchase the party poppers (Costco) and little chocolate turkeys (Cost Plus) for the table as well as the cloche (TJ Maxx) as the main centerpiece, but I already had the other décor items.)

Here’s a closer look:

Holiday table center piece

I also spray-painted the pine cones that have been hanging around in the holiday bin for years, giving them a fresh and festive face-lift!

Silver pinecone table decor

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I recently purchased (on Craig’s List for 30% less!) the buffet table behind the table, which acts as a perfect addition to hold wine, and side dishes after you’ve served your guests (it keeps the main table free for elbow room, read=face stuffing!!) I love the final results.

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Beginning last year, we began the tradition of a “Gratitude Tree” that was placed on our Thanksgiving table.

How I created a Gratitude Tree:

I stenciled leaf shapes on double-sided craft paper, cut out the shapes, punched a hole near the top and added a piece of string for hanging. Prior to dinner, I asked that our guests select a leaf and write what they are most thankful for, then hang their leaf on the Gratitude Tree. All the blessings of gratitude were read before dessert.

This year, the repeat guests can either add to the leaf they created last year (writing on the opposite side) or they may select a new leaf to pen new attributes for which they are thankful and blessed. New guests will be included to participate in the tradition.

I recommend that everyone begin a Gratitude Tree, as your guest list may fluctuate from year to year, but the traditions and memories will last a lifetime!

Grateful tree silver branches

Gratitude tree silver decor

I invite you to share an image of your holiday table on An Authentic Life’s Facebook page for all my gentle readers, both near and far to enjoy.

 

KW AAL Logo

Sweetest Dish on the Thanksgiving Day Table

{Editor’s Note: I don’t recall from where this recipe originally hailed, but it now owns prime real estate on our annual Thanksgiving day table. I planned my menu last night, and the shopping will begin this weekend all in preparation for the day in which we all look to with gratitude, blessings – and an elephant-sized appetite! It goes without saying, this item was #1 on my list! Try it, I promise you won’t regret it!}

I sit here dreaming…

…until Thanksgiving, when I can pile-drive my fork into this dish full of heaven and close my eyes, letting the sweet taste melt in my mouth…

I am talking about my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Sweet potato casserole.

A new tradition on my Thanksgiving day table…

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup brown sugar (if you are watching sugar intake, you can omit this altogether)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:

Combine first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish.

Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top.

Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.

Serves 6 to 8.

{Or one.

They’ll have to fight me for it.

Enjoy!

Not sure I can wait until next week…}

How to Create A Thankful Tree

First off, I will admit, this idea is not solely my own (I saw it on Better Homes and Gardens) but when I saw it, I thought, “I am creating that for my holiday table.” So I did. A tree to adorn your Thanksgiving day table where each of the attendees writes what they are most Thankful for this year.

This is a terrific project for FAMILIES to do together prior to Thanksgiving, allowing time together and discussing all the reasons we have to be thankful and have gratitude this holiday.

How to Create a Thankful Tree

The first part- creating the paper leaves was done with my CAP – Child Advancement Project – Pal at Irving School. {I am with the same CAP Pal now for a second school year, and I visit with her once a week for one hour. Such a short time, but I always try to discover new fun projects we can do together.  For more details on this super program, visit THRIVE’S website.}

Step 1:

Hunting and Gathering

Engage your children in this activity with you. Take a “nature walk” together as you collect as many different shaped leaves as possible. While you’re out, also collect several branches to use as the base of the tree.

Ask: What tree produced each leaf?

Step 2:

Tracing and Cutting

If leaves are wet, be sure to dry them carefully, then gently place leaf on double-sided scrap-booking paper – or construction paper – and trace the outline. Once all the leaves are traced – enough for at least ONE leaf per Thanksgiving day guest (I made several extras just in case my guests are extra thankful!) then cut shape with scissors and punch a single-hole in the leaf, and tie a piece of string to the leaf.

Step 3:

Painting the Tree

You can use spray paint in white, gold or silver. I actually painted my branches with Glimmer Modge Podge. They have a lovely iridescent glow! Allow time to dry completely.

Step 4:

Putting It All Together

You’ll need a vase or pot to hold the branches, I used two narrow-throated vases. Have pens – preferably gold or silver – and the leaf’s in a pile so guests can select a leaf and pledge what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. You can read them all prior to sharing your meal together.

I encourage you to create you own Thankful Tree – and please post the images to our Facebook page. I’d love to see what you create!

It’s Almost That Time Again…

{Editor’s Note: I’m so excited to announce we will be hosting my parents in Montana for Thanksgiving this year – which means, it’s time to start prepping for the big day. Yep, I’ve already begun the turkey-task of taking an inventory of what I have, what I need, and what might be fun to add – just because.

I’m also happy to say, if you ARE  buying something new this year – as I will – the Thanksgiving items are already getting pushed aside for more jolly-themed items, thus, you can get some terrific deals!

Have fun. Be creative.  I invite you to post images of your decor on Authentic Life’s Facebook page. Do share! I get lonely over there without someone to play with!}

Regarding decorating, you’re probably sick of me saying, “Grab what you already have” – yet – it makes for a well-rounded (and FREE) table setting.

Can you tell the weather is beginning to shift in Montana? I’m cooped up, forced to find my own “entertainment.” By the way, this is the third go-round of “table staging” I’ve created, and it’s not even November! (At least I’m not breaking yet another of Sexy Hubby’s “House Rules” – No Christmas decorations until AFTER Thanksgiving. Bah humbug!!)

Antlers on the Thanksgiving day table!!

In your decorating theme, don’t forget the side-board, or buffet…

Proof positive that I will have more than one “turkey” at my Thanksgiving day table.

Perhaps more than two…

Cornerstone Gardens

I met with a few old {read=known since junior high} gal pals for lunch recently at a new, undiscovered spot.

I love exploring new places – local spots that glorify the bounty of the county – Sonoma County that is. The county of my upbringing.

Although I was hoping for California “spring-like” weather, it was rather blustery and chilly, even by Golden State standards. Nonetheless the food was local and fresh, as was the wine, and the scenery.

Enjoy the vistas from Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma, California.

I love the eccletic assortment of jewels adorning my friends fingers.

 

Shopper self-portrait

This is the sales person from Zipper. He was so tre chic, I had to snap his photo (with permission of course!) What a fabulously fun shoppe – Zipper Gifts 

Visit to the Misco Mill

I love local history – where past eras meets the present day.

I was invited by a close friend to preview a location for an upcoming event, and I was happily surprised to discover a new relic in my town that was previously unknown to me. And not so new.

Introducing the Misco Mill, a historic grain elevator that was crafted in 1933, and now is an art gallery to local pieces of eclectic western art. And what a fabulous location for a private event – it’s cozy, woodsy, charming, and quintessentially Montana.

You could wrap me up in those circle-sawn, rough-hewn floors. Ah, heavenly.

Amid the loveliness of that incredulous blue-bird sky as a back-drop, we’ve still got icicles to deal with…

Friday’s ‘Fitti Fhoto

While walking the streets of So-Ho in New York, I noticed the dichotomy of this store front.

In honor of fashion week, this display was a fashionably inspired art piece. Looking inside this “Faux Shoppe” was a line-up of paper tuxedos. And the outside windows were purposely strewn with graffiti.

I love the creative visionaries often disguised as every-day Manhattanites.

It also makes me wonder if I missed my other calling…of which, there are a multitude of options…pro photographer, fashion/interior designer, or stylist to the stars…

Image Worth A Thousand Memories…

On a random Saturday afternoon search for a misplaced item, another long-lost and previously forgotten item appeared.

The item was a photograph taken circa 1988 from a film-camera – something I swore I would never relinquish in exchange for a digitally based version.

As I stood with the yellowing photograph in my hand, immediately I was transported to a different time – worlds away from my current reality.

Once again, it was 1988.  I was living in Howard Beach, Queens, a short drive to my work-place – JFK International airport. I was single, childless, car-less and could literally hop a jump-seat to any corner of the globe by simply flashing a laminated airline badge. It was freedom like I’ve never known.

I shared an apartment with several random airline employees. Our decor was a haphazard collection of misfit pieces triangulated into a scattered version of House Not-So-Beautiful. The relics of furniture I owned were either  cheaply purchased at the Aquaduct Flea Market, or wanton items that were abandoned on the street, waiting to be collected and carried to a new home.

Staring at the photograph, I imagined standing in my former sleeping place, viewing a baron mattress strewn on the floor, with a simple cover and curtain-less windows. It was winter in New York and the morning sun streamed into the eastern facing window bouncing shadows off the nearby wall.

A simple image of a simple time, when all of my worldly possessions would have easily fit into the back seat of a taxi cab…

 

My Favorite Holiday Tree

For those who follow An Authentic Life regularly, it should be apparent that I love home decor and decorating. It’s the silly, little things, but often after I rearrange something, I’ll walk by and admire the newly “staged” area, feeling proud, and loving the aesthetic pleasure it brings.

{Sexy Hubby just rolls his eyes, then asks, “How much money did we spend on that?”}

Over the Christmas Holiday, I heard such a lovely story to match an equally lovely, yet humble Holiday Tree, that I snapped a jillion photos of it, and thought, THIS is my next holiday tree – or perhaps my next everyday tree!?!

This tree that would even rival Charlie Brown’s on its best and most shining day.

From a Christmas past:

There once was a young boy who’s life began so harshly, it’s amazing he was able to ever trust another human being again. After a life that spun round and round, this young boy was raised by his grandparents, who did their level best on very limited finances.

Making ends meet was an everyday challenge, not to mention the extra pinch that was felt during the Christmas season. “Extra’s” just weren’t in the budget.

Rather than forego the holiday tradition of a Christmas tree altogether, Grandpa would gather branches, arrange them in a pot, then Grandma and the young boy would glue cotton balls onto the branches in an effort to replicate snow, and would grace the branches with whatever household items they could muster.  

Now, more than 30 years later, a tree reminiscent of his childhood memories graces a corner of that young-boy-now-grown-man’s living room with a quiet style, simple elegance and grace like no other object d’ art I’ve ever seen.

 

Gazing upon this tree made me realize how fortunate we have always been. Every holiday of my childhood was marked with a live and hearty Christmas tree. I’ve never known anything less.

Yet this meek little tree, with its sweet story, and brightly lit branches reminds all those who view it what it means to be thankful and to appreciate beauty, even in its most modest form.

 

New Year’s Eve Festivities

While preparing for our humble New Year’s Eve celebration, I realized, I own exactly two champagne flutes – the same two used on our wedding day!

In my effort to reuse (read=spend as little as possible) I made my way to the local thrift store and picked up four champagne flutes – for 50 cents each! It doesn’t matter that they don’t “match” – in fact, I selected a few various funky pieces, specifically because they didn’t “match!”

I love the Millennium glasses with festive little stars!

Random Broker Restaurant flutes – they have a cool “2000” embedded in the stem. Not bad for 50 cents!

You can’t see it clearly, but my name and wedding date are engraved herein.

This vase is filled with champagne corks I’ve saved over the years – corks that represent anniversaries, holidays and special events with special friends.  I try to write dates and information on the corks to remember with whom we celebrated. What a fun and festive way to showcase mementos – also, it’s a recycled decorator item!

We (mainly me) killed three of the four bottles showcased above.

Notice the mini-cheesecake? It’s my new favorite super-easy, crowd-pleasing dessert – and perfect for any event! I cheated and used a No Bake Cheesecake (yep, from a box) placed in cupcake tins, and topped with fresh raspberries.

It’s not a NYE party without a NYE popper! I purchased generic silver and gold holiday poppers (on clearance for 50% off!) and used as part of the NYE decor. Each are filled with a festive hat (notice the purple number on party attendee), a prize and a list of jokes and riddles. (My popper included a dainty, non-working watch!)

Funny cocktail napkins – purchased on super-clearance – add a hint of sarcasm to any party!

Wishing all my gentle readers a very Happy New Year!

Can’t wait to see what Twenty-Twelve holds!!

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