Since 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a federal holiday, the turkey has been the symbol of the celebration. Benjamin Franklin even wanted to make the turkey our national symbol instead of the bald eagle, writing in a letter to his daughter that “the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird…” No disrespect to Franklin (who was indisputably a genius and kind of a hoot) but let’s face it, turkeys are not attractive birds. Their physical features include the wattle, which is a gross piece of red skin that hangs beneath a turkey’s chin, the snood, which is an awkward chunk of skin that protrudes from its beak, and let’s not forget–a bald bumpy head!
It can’t be denied that turkeys make an impression, if only for their size. And if doused liberally in gravy, they can be quite tasty. But while the turkey may be the poster-child for Thanksgiving, they are definitely not pin-up material in my book. Think about it; even the word turkey is derogatory. Call someone or something a turkey, and you are saying they are a dud. And of course, there is the dreaded” turkey neck,” of which all women my age live in fear.
My aversion to this foul fowl has always created a conundrum for me, as when it comes to decorating my home and table for Thanksgiving, I’m a girl who dearly loves a theme. Because of this, and because I’m a fan of transferware china, I have been tempted to buy a set of one of the many turkey-themed transferware patterns I have seen over the years.
I actually think that all of these plates are gorgeous, but I would argue that what makes them beautiful is the vibrant color and the elaborate border designs–the turkey, not so much. So given my reluctance to embrace the homely turkey as my theme, I have been forced to look for Thanksgiving inspiration elsewhere. Last year, I really leaned into the pumpkin theme, using pumpkins as bases for a variety of flower arrangements as well as lanterns.
I created all the pumpkin floral arrangements by impaling oasis or wet floral foam on the stems. I bought all red and yellow flowers from the grocery store, and I cut the greens from my yard. The large centerpiece was made using a natural white pumpkin, while the small Jack Be Little pumpkins for the individual arrangements were sprayed gold. I also applied gold spray paint to the lantern pumpkins on the buffet. I created these by hollowing them out and perforating them with rows of holes, using a drill, to allow flameless candlelight to shine through.
Since I didn’t have Thanksgiving-themed plates, I used my antique Salem Aristocrat-Maroon (floral center) china which I purchased from an estate sale years ago because it coordinated with the color scheme of my dining room
Since I went a bit overboard with pumpkins last year, I resolved to try something different with this year’s table. Being the crazy plate lady, I set out to try to find some Thanksgiving plates that featured a fall leaf and acorn motif. Just as I began to despair that the plates of my dreams did not exist in this plain of reality, I serendipitously found these great bargain-priced antique Masons Oak Gold salad plates on ebay.
I placed them on top of relatively inexpensive Charter Club Grand Buffet Gold plates. I decided to go for the gold and created napkin rings with gold acorns and gold leaves. I wired these together onto a gold ribbon which I tied around white damask napkins. ( I stole this idea from the goddess of entertaining, a.k.a. Martha Stewart) I am not a big fan of tablecloths, so I used gold woven placemats from Pier One as a foundation for my place settings.
I made the center tablescape by placing leaves and gold acorns along a wide gold ribbon that runs the length of the table. For the arrangements in the urns, I covered half spheres of oasis with moss and a variety of green and burgundy mums, and light green hydrangeas. I topped the flowers with battery-powered lighted branches as well as gold branches.
In addition to the lighted branches, I illuminated the table with white votive candles. The urn on the buffet is filled with pinecones, magnolia leaves from my yard, and large mercury glass acorns from Pier One.
I am pleased with the way my gold leaf and acorn-themed Thanksgiving table turned out. And no matter what my guests feel about it, I am pretty sure they won’t think it’s a turkey.
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