“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” —Thornton Wilder
I’ve always considered Thanksgiving the most family-oriented, homegrown holiday. If you’re lucky, your loved ones gather around the table and catch up, sharing what they’re grateful for, as well as the occasional embarrassing memory. In a world where everyone is glued to their phones and holding several conversations at once, taking a day to focus solely on those at the table is a very good thing.
In order to keep costs down and priorities straight, I don’t stress out over family visits or holiday décor at Thanksgiving. I keep my fridge and pantry stocked with go-to items that I can serve on the fly, and I decorate mostly with what I have around the house. And that suits Thanksgiving just fine. After all, it’s not as flashy as Halloween or Christmas, and especially compared to the commercial onslaught that follows, it deserves credit as a grounded and practical holiday. In keeping, below are a couple of my favorite cheap and easy Thanksgiving crafts.
THANKSGIVING CRAFT: HOLIDAY CANDLEHOLDERS
As you probably could guess from my last post, I consider candles one of the staples of holiday decorating. To be truthful, I burn so many on any given day that my boyfriend frequently asks if I’m expecting the electricity to go out!
For my first project, I hit the dollar store. My entire shopping list—three pillar candleholders, spray snow, candles, and green glass beads—came to about $10. You could also round up all those vases from flower deliveries you’ll never use again. To round out my supplies, I picked up some cranberries and corn (you can use deer feed, if you have it lying around; we just ran out) from the food store. Last but not least: spray glitter. A craft is not a craft without glitter.
I decided to leave one candleholder plain, flock one with the snow, and cover one with gold spray glitter. When using spray snow, it’s up to you how gung-ho you go. Me, I prefer heavy-handed snow for an ethereal glow.
I filled the snowy glass with cranberries and snuggled in a cranberry-colored candled from the dollar store. I filled the glittery gold one with alternating layers of cranberries and corn and topped it with a beige candle. I filled the clear one with cranberries and green glass beads and sprinkled in some red glitter for good measure. Not only did I love the results, but once the holidays have passed, I can toss the corn and berries into the yard for the deer, rinse the glitter and snow from the vases, and use them throughout the year. Well, I might keep the glitter.
THANKSGIVING CRAFT: REDNECK WINE GLASSES
My second project is one I’ve made many, many times: as housewarming gifts, for large picnics, and when I get married, I’ll make them for my rustic reception. They’re commonly known as “redneck wine glasses.”
When I first bought my RV, my sister bought me a redneck wine glass as a joke. You know, a “This here’s an RV” type of a joke (gotta love National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). I promptly fell in love with the glass but not with its $15 price tag. I wasn’t about to spend $100-plus for a set of eight, so I got to thinking about how I could make my own.
I eventually spied glass candleholders at the dollar store and had an epiphany—or, at least, a small a-ha moment. I purchased a case of them, pulled out my Mason jars, picked up a tube of clear epoxy, and got to crafting. Here’s how to make your own.
Start by cleaning all of the glass parts. Once dry, flip the Mason jars upside down on a flat surface. Make sure you have a damp cloth at the ready before you begin gluing. Trust me on this. I’m lucky to be able to type after my first epoxy disaster. Line the rim of each candleholder with a thick layer of epoxy. Don’t skimp: You want it fairly thick so the seal is firm and leaves no opening for water to get through. Then simply place the rimmed candleholder on the bottom of the Mason jar and align it so that it sits straight. Most epoxies require a considerable drying time, so have a few heavy objects handy to set on top of the candlestick bottoms, applying pressure. Then leave your glasses alone overnight. If any epoxy bubbles out of the seal, simply wipe it away with your wet cloth.
At most, these glasses are about $2.50 apiece in supplies, and they make excellent Thanksgiving hostess gifts. Pair them with a bottle of wine, tie a pretty ribbon around the stems, and voilà: a heartfelt, useful present. Remember to include the Mason jar lid; in the summertime, it comes in handy for keeping bees out of your beverage when sipping outside.
MORE THANKSGIVING CRAFT IDEAS
• Present Box: If you’re hosting, place a box at the front door with a sign asking people to drop their cell phones inside and to focus on being present for the holiday.
• Grateful Tree: Paint some large branches (or just leave them natural), put them in a vase, and leave some craft-paper leaf cutouts and a marker at the ready. Ask guests and family to write what they’re most thankful for and hang the leaves on the branches using twine, raffia, or fishing wire.
• Purposeful Pumpkins: Repurpose your leftover mini and decorative pumpkins by covering them in white or metallic paint. Use a metallic marker to write holiday phrases on them, such as “Give Thanks.” You could even use the minis as place cards on the Thanksgiving table.
• Craft Table: To keep little kids busy, set up a project area. (My favorite: pinecone birdfeeders. No scissors needed!) It’s also a chance to bust out the craft paper, stamps, crayons, and markers and have kids go crazy making holiday wrapping paper: recyclable and homemade.
• Feed Bin: If your chickens (goats, pigs, etc.) love table scraps, but not all of your kitchen helpers are familiar with animal diets, put out a small trash can with a list of food items that are animal-friendly. You can even put a pint-sized guest in charge of monitoring the scraping of plates and cutting boards, making sure the appropriate goods go in the feed bin instead of the garbage disposal.
Lastly, take your time: Take the opportunity to delegate, share the work, and share the joy. Put on your favorite tunes, hold hands with those you love, and be grateful for the moment. There’s something to be said for a good, old-fashioned turkey coma.
Although she’s something of a newbie homesteader herself, Michelle comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a home on the grounds of a Pennsylvania CSA farm. You can read her monthly posts on beginner homesteading with kids and more here in HOMEGROWN Life, and sometimes you can find her popping up in The Stew, HOMEGROWN’s member blog.
ALL PHOTOS: MICHELLE WIRE