Libby Langdon, expert commentator on HGTV’s latest hit “Small Space, Big Style” and host of FOX’s “Design Invasion,” has come up with a few easy-to-do decoration and party ideas for Thanksgiving. Whether you are entertaining a large group or having a quiet dinner with your family, Langdon’s tips will help you make the most of the holiday and add a little bit of good cheer to your home.

“You can live in beautiful and stylish spaces — no matter the size — and not spend a lot of money,” said Langdon in a telephone interview Thursday.

One of these ideas is the bobbing apple votives.

Fill large earthenware bowls or galvanized buckets with water and float several apples to see how they balance in water (each one will float differently) and mark their topsides with a dot. Place a tea light over the dot and trace around the tea light with a pen. Using a good utility or pairing knife, cut into the apple vertically as deep as the tea light is tall. Insert the tea light and float bunches of apples in the bowl or bucket.

“This is so easy to do and it really looks neat in bowls or even in galvanized buckets,” Langdon said during a phone interview Thursday. “You can put the bowls or buckets on each side of the door so your guests can see when they come in. It’s welcoming and unexpected. This is a wonderful way to greet your guests as they enter your house for the holidays!”

Leftover apples can be used to make a pie, Langdon said.

Gourd groupings also are festive ways to liven up a fireplace mantle or the center of a table. Group together white gourds and white pumpkins and set out bunches of red grapes and grape leaves in between the gourds. Then intersperse silver and glass candlesticks in varying heights with tall white taper candles in between the gourds and grape clusters. The choice of white pumpkins and gourds are an elegant combination.

“This is something that you can do even at the last minute. The combination of white pumpkins and gourds grouped with candles of different sizes gives it an elegant look,” Langdon said. “It’s the holidays and you are pulled in all directions. With this, you simply light the candles and are done with it.”

Making twig hurricanes also can give a festive look to your home during the holidays. Find delicate brown twigs in your yard, attach the twigs to the outside of a cylindrical vase or hurricane using a small amount of hot glue to temporarily hold them in place. Attach them so the thicker part of the twig is at the base and the smaller finer top of the branch goes up to the top of the cylinder. Put them sparingly around the entire cylinder then secure them by tying twine around them at the base of the cylinder and another tie about halfway up. You can use the hot glue again to secure the twine to the twigs and when the season changes just pull them off (the hot glue will come right off the glass).

“That is the great thing about fall — no matter where you live, you can find inspiration outdoors,” Langdon said. “The table decorations are intimate touches that people really appreciate.”

Here are some more tips from Langdon to make your holidays this year more memorable:



Holiday Table Décor:

• Flower Arrangements: Create modern fall flower arrangements with dark calla lilies in low square glass containers. Line the glass container with variegated leaves or dark green leaves. These look great down the center of your table and they are low enough so your guests can still talk across the table!

• Cookie Place Cards: Use big, iced cookies in fall colors as your place cards, they look beautiful resting on top of a large brown linen napkin at each place setting. If you don’t have the time to make them yourself buy finished cookies from a local bakery and ice each guest’s name on them, they are fun and festive.

• Personal Posey Bouquets: Tie a small bunch (three buds) of richly colored mums with a chocolate brown satin ribbon. Then, fasten the ribbon around each napkin for a personal little bouquet at each place setting.

• Rustic Centerpiece: Make a “Country Americana” table centerpiece using wooden duck decoys surrounded by pinecones, twigs with berries, grapes, pomegranates, mini pumpkins, gourds, pears and fall leaves.

• Leaf Place Cards: A week before your event, gather beautiful fall leaves and press them in between the pages of a phonebook to dry. After a few days take them out and write each guest’s name on a leaf with a silver or gold metallic paint marker.Set the table with a softly folded napkin on top of each plate and lay a leaf at each place setting on top of the napkins.

• Mix and Match Dining: Don’t be afraid to mix and match china, glassware, silverware and seating at your Thanksgiving table. Having an eclectic look can sometimes be more interesting and it’s a great way to create a whimsical feel.

• Candle “Scape”: Make a candle-scape buy arranging a rich fall palette of pillar and ball candles in various sizes and heights on a wooden platter. It’s simple to do and will look rustic and hearty.



Ideas for Designing Fun Kids Tables:

Adults love Thanksgiving but for younger kids sitting through a long meal can be difficult. Langdon has come up with a few ideas that will make the “kids table” an exciting and fun place where children won’t mind sitting through dinner.

“I can remember when I was a kid that were were given special glasses to use during the holidays. This is something that I remember and was special to me,” Langdon said. “As adults, the holidays is about fun and enjoying people, but for kids it is about making memories. Not only can you make memories, but you can start new traditions.”

• Coloring Table Cloth: Use brown craft paper as a first layer on the table then cover with white craft paper. Tie fall colored plaid ribbons around jars and fill with crayons and put fall shaped cookie cutters in a basket in the center of the table for outlining. Tell kids after they eat they can create their own masterpiece on the paper table cloth!

• Mayflower Tablecloth: Lay an old world map on the table and use it as a table cloth. Make miniature paper boats with toothpicks sticking out of the top and wrap masking tape around them. Write each child’s name on the masking tape “flags” and use the boats as place cards.

• Headdress Napkin Ribbon: Cut a small hole in the center of a brown 20” strip of grosgrain ribbon. Insert a long feather (available at craft stores) into the hole and tie the ribbon around a folded napkin with the feather in the middle of the napkin. The feathered napkin ring doubles as an Indian headdress!

• Thanksgiving Trivia Cards: At each place setting, set an envelope with a child’s name on it. Stuff each envelope with trivia questions about Thanksgiving and write the answers on the back. Be sure to include guessing cards so all the kids at the table can guess what’s on the mystery card. Seal the envelopes with fun stickers and use orange, yellow, tan and rust construction paper for the cards.

• Natural Centerpiece: This is a great way to get the kids outdoors and active before sitting down to eat. Give them each a small basket and have them go outside and gather pinecones, twigs with berries and colored leaves. Help them arrange it as the centerpiece and add some small pumpkins and gourds to finish the look!



Thanksgiving Craft Ideas:

• Glass-pressed leaf coasters: Find some striking fall leaves and press them in between two 4”x 4” pieces of glass. Wrap copper tape around the edges of the glass, fold over the edges, cut the excess with scissors and secure with a tiny bead of hot glue. These look great on any table and they make a great hostess gift if you are spending Thanksgiving away from home.

• Cornucopia Floral Door Swing: This symbol of abundance can also add some autumn color to a door. Find a small dark, woven cornucopia (5”-7” long) and tie a length of burnt orange ribbon at the top to hang from a doorknob. Cut a Ziploc bag and use it to line the inside of the cornucopia and fill it with water. Arrange 3 coral or yellow roses, fall leaves, fresh herbs and small berry twigs inside the cornucopia. Hang the arrangement from a doorknob to welcome guests.

• Acorn Place Card Holders: Hot glue together clusters of acorns and rest a place card in between one or two of the acorns at each place setting. It’s quick and easy and gives your table that extra autumn touch!

• Bittersweet Berry Votives: Tie a couple of small twigs of bittersweet berries around clear glass votives with twine or narrow rust colored satin ribbon. This is so fast and easy and it is little touches like this that take your table from ordinary to extraordinary.

• Golden Fruits: Spray paint pinecones, nuts in their shells, hard shelled gourds and mini pumpkins with gold spray paint. Pile them into clear dishes of various shapes and sizes and surround them with votive candles. This arrangement will cast a warm, inviting glow on your table or mantle.

Alternative Thanksgiving Entertaining Ideas:

There are lots of ways to celebrate Thanksgiving and not all of them are conventional. Just remember that it’s all about being with the people you care about and being grateful that they are in your life.

• Perfect Pie Party: This is a fun excuse to get together with friends without the pressure of cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal. You can host a pie party the weekend before or even the night before Thanksgiving, just make sure there is one person who is an excellent baker, they will be there to give tips and instruction. Invite eight to 10 friends over who like to bake, or even better, invite some people who want to learn to make a great pie.Ask guests to bring a rolling pin, pie pan, and six to eight firm, tart apples or pears. You supply the makings for the crust and don’t forget the wine and cheese! Begin by having the expert pie maker give directions and tips on how to make the best pie and then have everyone find a spot and get to work. Have everyone finish their pie but wait to bake it until they get home. People will share their baking secrets and favorite memories, and it’s a great way to kick off the holiday season.

• Good Old Wine and Cheese Party: During the holidays we all get pulled in a million directions and what’s easier than setting out some cheese, opening some wine and having friends over. It’s easy for people to stop over just for one drink and is inexpensive enough for friends to bring their houseguests. Choose five or six different cheeses and choose several different accompaniments. All you have to do is style them on platters and cutting boards with bunches of grapes, bowls of olives, and sliced pears; it’s as easy as can be and all your guests will rave about the presentation. A local wine store can help you choose suitable wine pairings based on the cheese you are serving. Light some candles, put on some music and have fun!

“It doesn’t have to be anything formal. It’s just cheese with a few special touches. It’s really about enjoying people you love during the holidays,” Langdon said.

• The “I-Only-Have-24-hours-off-for-Thanksgiving” Get Together: Even if you leave work Wednesday night and have to be back Friday morning it doesn’t mean you have to skip the whole holiday. You can actually do a scaled down version of the big feast for yourself and your friends, less work but just as much food, fun and laughs! Find out what friends have the same time constraint as you and invite them to your home. Tell everyone to come mid-afternoon since you only have 24 hours and you may as well make the most of it. The only thing they have to bring is a side dish, wine and a celebratory mood. Make a turkey breast instead of the whole turkey, buy pies instead of baking and serve wine and cheese early in the day.

• Friday Bike Ride and Lunch: A lot of us have guests for the entire weekend, not just Thanksgiving Day. Why not plan a fun bike ride or hike and then a nice picnic lunch. After the big Thursday feast you will want to get out and move around a little, but still spend time with your guests. If there’s no place to rent bikes and guests are flying and cannot bring their own, go for a nice walk in a park or round up a game of touch football. The main objective here is to get outside and get moving before you saddle up to the dining table again.



Fun, Fall Entertaining Ideas:

• Wine Tasting Party: Stage a relaxed, casual wine tasting party with friends. Invite 12 - 14 guests; one bottle of wine can be poured in small amounts for 12–14 people. Choose to compare four to six wines and set a theme for the tasting; maybe compare six different Cabernets or compare three Cabernets and then three Chardonnays. If you want to turn it into a competition ask friends to bring a bottle of wine, put the wines in bags to hide the labels. Pour a small amount in each glass and let the guests taste (everyone thinks his or her wine will be the favorite and that’s part of the fun). Print a "scoring sheet" off the Internet to rate the wines and then collect the sheets and tally the scores. Offer a bottle of Champagne to the guest who brought the overall favorite wine. Serve lots of simple, rustic foods; bread and crackers with a variety of cheeses, bowls of olives, crudités, thick sliced roast beef on crostini toasts with Roquefort cheese, red grapes, pear and apple slices. You can tailor the menu to the varietal of wine you will be tasting, smoked salmon or shrimp with white wine and beef or pork with red wine, just make sure it’s mostly finger food.

• Fall Cookie Decorating: Cookie decorating isn’t great just around holiday time, this is a classic kids activity that never goes out of style and can become a tradition no matter what the season! Bake the sugar cookies ahead of time, using large fall themed cookie cutters. Cover your kitchen table or counter with newspaper, set out a paper plate for each child and have lots of plastic knives and paper towels available. Mix up orange, brown, yellow and green icing (1lb box confectioners sugar, 2 egg whites, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice make enough icing for four different colors) Be sure to have lots of different sprinkles, jimmies and colored crystal sugars available!



About Langdon

Langdon is a model, actress, lifestyle enthusiast, designer and expert commentator on HGTV’s latest offering “Small Space, Big Style.” The show, which premiered in October, is broadcast at 7 p.m. CST on Thursdays and at 1 p.m. CST on Saturdays.

A native of High Point, N.C., she currently resides in New York. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, she began her professional career as a model. Afterwards she emerged as a soap opera and Hollywood actress, with dozens of TV appearances and films to her credit.

For additional decorating ideas, visit Langdon at www.libbylangdon.com



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