Decorating Organically: Hydrangea, Pinecones + Acorns and Cranberries + Sugar

How does one chair a decorating committee for a wine tasting event on a very small budget? One must be creative and resourceful and look to nature. How can one make an event look elegant and grand on a shoe-string budget? By focusing where the dollars are spent and looking to nature. Recycling is key. Relying on what we have in our homes and friends homes is key. Working with three creative and talented women is key.

We started planning our event around some dried hydrangea. I simply love these dried flowers. They can go with just about anything. We cut flower after flower after flower and set them out to dry. Our hydrangea were a varied lot. Some were greenish, others blueish and others pink and purple. We had a surplus of acorns and pine cones. Add a little gold spray paint and the three make a perfect set.

Gold painted hydrangeas gently placed in a hurricane vase.
A simple cranberry colored ribbon completes the look.

Unpainted hydrangea a gently placed in a hurricane with some acorns, some painted gold and inexpensive,
gold painted apple ornaments. A simple, sheer white ribbon completes the look.

They compliment each other without being too matchy-matchy

Hydrangea, pine cones and a sheer ribbon strategically placed inside the hurricane

An ordinary glass pitcher becomes extraordinary with gold acorns and pine cones of varying sizes.
A simple cranberry colored ribbon completes the look.

Glass wine decanters filled with hydrangea leaves and simple gold balls individually cut from a gold chain --
Just waiting for more ribbon to complete the look!
More challenging was to figure out how to decorate the Bistro tables. The small table-tops make this tricky since their purpose is totally utilitarian. I was told nothing except candles. Candles were wanted and needed. I tried playing around with the flameless variety but they just looked so very tacky. Looking around I saw some small glass votives that had been used on the school property before. I decided to work with those. Inspired by the cranberry and off-white linens that we chose, and limited in budget I looked around my kitchen for some inspiration... something that would go well with the hydrangea and the pine cones and the acorns.
And there it was. Inspiration. On the counter right in front of me. Sugar and cranberries. Sweet. Simple and sophisticated.  We were getting someplace... but we still had further to go...

Sugared cranberries are a fun way to add holiday flare to your home or event

A canning jar gets a whole new look. Cranberries strategically placed on top of white sugar
to simulate the look of freshly fallen snow. Some jewel toned garland adds a nice finishing touch.

Cheap plastic berries get a new look with a thin layer of gold paint and a pretty ribbon

Among the acorns we found these still attached to the stems. We added some gold paint and tied a ribbon around it.

A hot glue gun secured everything into place to dress up the jar.

My strawberry jam jar gets a whole new look!

I love the 3 small white ornaments tied to the orange ribbon but we all agreed it was a little too
Christmassy for an Autumn Evening of Wine and Food!

Our works in progress... more to come!

Decorating for the change of Seasons, Organically

When the seasons changed my great grandmother promptly got her house ready. She had summer drapes and winter drapes. Summer bedding and winter bedding. Each room underwent a seasonal makeover of sorts. While I would love to swap my linen for velvet, pastels for burgundies and swap out my bone china for heartier, earthier tones I cannot do this. I have neither the funds nor the desire or inclination to do all this work! Your home can transition seamlessly from summer to fall by using a few simple items collected from the garden, backyard or orchard!

I'm a huge fan of bringing the outdoors in. I am a huge fan of decorating with nature and using items that can be recycled. I adore decorating with fruit. I love the bright and vibrant colors and I especially love the fact that, unlike freshly cut flowers, fruit can be eaten and enjoyed. When it starts to wilt it can get recycled into pancakes or muffins or breads or even as an oven-top potpourri. Fruit is inexpensive to decorate with and can be as aromatic as freshly cut flowers.

It is apple and pear picking season here in New England. Most of us pick much more than we can consume. Of course we can bake them, but why hide their beauty. The fall fruits have such wonderful colors -- warm reds, yellows and greens. These fruits should be displayed... and then enjoyed!

Some ideas ...
Nothing could be more simple than placing some apples in a bowl or arranging them on a large platter... or floating them in water. Don't limit them to your kitchen. Display your season fruit bouquets proudly in dining rooms as center pieces, living rooms, family rooms and bedrooms. Really, fresh fruit can be placed anywhere you would place a vase of fresh flowers.

Nothing says cozy and warmth and romance and autumn like these apples that have been turned into luminaries. Again, place these in any room of the house. The same can be done with certain gourds and mini pumpkins. Place a couple in a bathroom when company is expected, or line your walkway with them to light up the path at night. Is your mantel to bare? Too boring? Place these apple luminaries on your mantel for a simple, elegant and festive look. Perhaps red does not go with your decor. Don't be afraid to use red, yellow or orangy apples.

I have always adored these golden pears by Martha Stewart. Lightly brushed with gold powder, these ordinary pears receive a festive sheen perfect for any elegant holiday dinner party.

Look no further than your backyard for inspiration. A vase filled with acorns is so simple and yet so exquisite.

Add some acorns and nuts to a hurricane vase with a white pillar candle and you have something simple, stunning, autumnal, affordable and eco-friendly!

A simple boxwood wreath, a few nuts and a candle. Simple, elegant, festive and pure genius!

I simply adore pine cones. Though usually associated with Christmas and the colder months, simple brown pine cones, of all shapes and sizes look smashing in these apothecary jars... or arrange them casually in a nice off-white serving bowl.

String a few together and you have a festive garland that can last you throughout the holiday season. Simply change the color of the ribbon... start with an orange ribbon for fall and Thanksgiving and swap it out for a red or green one for Christmas.

We love to paint our pine cones. Mix the pine cones on a large platter with acorns and apples, real or plastic for a smashing centerpiece. Some of the pine cones are silver, others are gold, and others are white. The acorns were give a once-over in gold paint as were the plastic apples. I tossed in a few extra ornaments that were lying around with nothing else to do for the final touch. No need to toss the items when the season is over. They will all store nicely in a box or plastic bag.

Image, courtesy Martha Stewart

Perhaps you live in the South where pine cones and acorns are hard to come by. No worries, for this clever idea you have to look no further than your pantry for bags of dried beans and lentils to dress your pillar candles and pumpkins. For this you will need some wide double-stick adhesive tape and an assortment of mixed beans. Carefully roll the candles and pumpkins into the beans. You will need to fill in the holes by hand.
The same can be done with coffee beans, as seen below.

Coffee and candles make a lovely pairing as well!

If you like these ideas, be sure to visit my post on Cranberries. One of my absolute favorite and versatile seasonal fruits ever!

Getting your home ready for the holidays need not cost much and can be done in such a manner than we can all reap the beauty from our backyards!

is there anything quite so perfect?

I love cranberries! I love the look, feel, smell and taste of them! They are perfect in so many ways. I love cooking with them, baking with them, tossing them into drinks for a lively and lovely festive effect. I love snacking on them (dried and sweetened) and I love decorating with them. Their color is perfect to carry you from the fall to the winter festivities. What's more is that cranberries are so good for you.

Admittedly, I might have overdone the pumpkin a bit this year. I'm not saying I won't return, but for now we're shifting to the perfect little cranberry!

Photos and ideas courtesy Better Homes and Gardens

The Frozen Cranberry Margaritos, photo and recipe courtesy Southern Living

Cranberry Bog Cocktail, photo and recipe courtesy Food Network and Gail Gand

Cranberry, Tangerine and Pomegranate Punch, photo and recipe courtesy Martha Stewart

Did you know that the cranberry is a cousin of the blueberry? These tart, bright berries can still be found growing on shrubs, but when cultivated, are grown on low trailing vines in great sandy bogs. The American cranberry, the variety most cultivated in the northern United States and southern Canada, produces a larger berry than the wild cranberry or the European variety.

Fresh cranberries, which contain the highest levels of beneficial nutrients, are at their peak from October through December, just in time to add their festive hue, tart tangy flavor and numerous health protective effects to your holiday meals. The cranberry season is short, so stock up and toss a bunch in your freezer! When the season passes and you have run out of these fresh berries, you can still enjoy cranberry juice and dried or frozen cranberries both of which have still have many of the wonderful health benefit that the fresh berry contains.

It was the Native Americans who first took advantage of cranberries. They mixed deer meat and mashed cranberries to make pemmicana-survival food. The Native Americans also believed in the medicinal value of cranberries. The utilized the berries and the leaves to create their own antibiotic medicines. Medicine men would use cranberries in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. They also used the rich red juice of the cranberry as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing. Legend has it that the Pilgrims served cranberries at the first Thanksgiving. The tradition still continues today. Sailors used cranberries as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

We now know that cranberries are full of Vitamin C, and full of antioxidants that help cleanse and purify the body. Cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. Now, recent studies suggest that this native American berry may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health, prevent the formation of kidney stones, lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.

So Bon Appetit and Chin Chin! Enjoy your cranberries this Holiday Season!

Cranberry, Apple and Maple Phylo

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

and Cranberry Lemon Squares,
all courtesy
Martha Stewart

For more Cranberry recipe ideas visit Ocean Spray and The Entertaining Kitchen, where cranberry recipes are being added daily!