This T-Day, are you driving or decorating?

Driving or decorating?
by Julie Nolta
Julie Nolta Design

Several years ago I was getting the gas tank filled as I was on the way to my parent’s place for Thanksgiving. The attendant, making casual conversation, asked me, “Are you cooking or driving?,” a cute way of asking was I having people over for dinner or was I going somewhere for dinner.

It seems to reason that more than half the country is usually driving, but if you’re cooking, you may be really busy right about now planning the menu, making shopping lists and cleaning the house. And, if you’re cooking and having people over, that probably means you’re going to want to do some decorating around the ol’ homestead too.

If the word “decorating” is enough to drive you right over the edge (no pun intended!), there are lots of simple, pretty things you can do…and all from materials you can pick up at the grocery store when you do your turkey shopping.

If you don’t have a lot of time or resources, concentrate on your table centerpiece first – – that’s where the main event is probably going to be.

You can do a lot with the season’s usual suspects: pumpkins and gourds. Create a fun vase from a medium-sized pumpkin. Cut the top off, hollow it out, and arrange a bouquet of flowers, leaves, and twigs in it. Tuck in some apples or cascading bunches of red grapes. Sit it on a decorative platter or pile up leaves, nuts, or small gourds around it.

You can use miniature pumpkins or those little colorful gourds for lots of things. Make place cards by writing each guest’s names on a piece of ribbon or decorative paper with a gold metallic Sharpie. Attach them with a little pin or double stick tape. Or hollow them out and use them for votive candles or little serving dishes for olives, etc. Set them on top of large candle holders for a little bit of whimsy.

Apples and pears make nice accents too. Load up a wooden bowl with a couple of different varieties and include some fall leaves, etc. Apples also make great candle or tea light holders if you hollow out the top. Garnish them with a little moss or a few fresh flowers to cover up the edges of the opening if you’re using tall candles.

The kids can help with this one – – if you still have some brightly colored leaves hanging around after the storms, let them dry out a little, spritz them with a dab of cooking oil spray and lightly rub it into the leaves to create a slight sheen. Brush the edges with a little gold acrylic paint and they’ll look great scattered around on your holiday table. And they’ll last for several years too. My mom still has a box full that I made many holidays ago!

One of my favorite accessories these days is twine. You can make great bows for arrangements or napkin rings with it, and it looks great with natural materials. Or pair it with metallics for a more eclectic feel.

Whether you’re driving or decorating this year, I hope your holiday is filled with family and friends and the things you love best!

If you have design questions or you’d like some one-on-one decorating help for the holidays, email me at [email protected] or visit my website at

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