I pride myself on being a semi-skilled floral arranger. Perhaps it’s the designer in me, but I always seem to have fairly good luck combining fruit, flowers, and a variety of found objects to create fun and unique centerpieces for special occasions. This Thanksgiving, I’m keeping things colorful and simple, creating a tablescape that features green hydrangeas, my beloved mood moss, and cranberries.
My choice in materials is somewhat monumental as it’s been an entire five years since I’ve chosen to work with cranberries.
It’s taken an entire five years for me to be able to work with cranberries again. Let’s just say the last experience was a little…well…traumatic.
It was the same year Scott’s family was traveling from Minnesota to join us for a vegan Thanksgiving in New York. Being that we were poor newlyweds who had foolishly spent all of our wedding money on a week of white river rafting and zip lining in Whistler instead of furniture, we would be eating our holiday meal sitting criss-cross style around a second-hand coffee table.
(A second-hand coffee table that had been the victim of an unfortunate run-in with a bottle of nail polish remover and was missing a significant amount of varnish.)
This was a huge blow to my hostess ego. While running to a home store and purchasing a new dining table wasn’t an option, creating a fabulously luxe centerpiece was. A tres chic tablescape would fit within our newlywed budget while hopefully distracting our guests from the fact that we were sitting on industrial grade apartment carpet.
Enter the cranberry topiaries.
The minute I saw this craft in a magazine, I knew it was the perfect solution to my coffee table dilemma. I would simply purchase some foam balls from a craft store, stick toothpicks into them, and then cover those toothpicks with an array of fresh, vibrant cranberries. It was genius.
It was also labor intensive. Twelve painstaking hours later, I finally had two giant cranberry topiaries, which sat delicately balanced atop gorgeous vintage candlesticks. I would have taken a photo, but my fingers were literally numb, swollen, and bleeding from the darn toothpicks. Sure, my final product looked exactly like the above photograph, but my hands appeared to have been dipped in a jar of acid and then wrapped in poison ivy. I’m not sure it was worth the trade-off.
When Scott arrived home, his reaction to my DIY masterpiece was somewhat disappointing.
SCOTT: Why are there giant cranberry balls on the table?
ME: They’re cranberry topiaries. I made them for Thanksgiving.
SCOTT: Well….you need to move them. That table is where we’re going to be eating.
ME: Right. These are the centerpieces.
SCOTT: Um, that’s not going to work. We’re not even going to be able to see each other over those giant cranberry balls…let alone have room for all of the food.
ME: Cranberry topiaries.
SCOTT: Whatever. So…how many bags of cranberries did it take to make those?
ME: About three.
SCOTT: Katrina, that’s so wasteful! We could have eaten them.
(Insert me, rolling my eyes.)
SCOTT: Actually…maybe we still can eat them.
Clearly, this was long before Scott got into composting. Otherwise, he simply would have accepted my decorative use of the berries, so long as they went in the shiny green compost bin after theit moment in the spotlight had passed.
Unfortunately, he had other plans.
And by other plans I mean homemade Craisins.
After Thanksgiving had come and gone (the topiaries were a hit, by the way) Scott insisted we leave the “cranberry balls” sitting out to dry.
For two entire months.
By late January, the cranberries had shrivelled up into miniature, wrinkled version of their former selves. The white foam craft balls they had one so handsomely covered were now blatantly visible under the thin shroud of Scott’s do-it-yourself Craisins. These topiaries-turned-eyesores sat prominently next to our television set where I was forced to stare at them on a daily basis.
ME: Scott…can we please get rid of these? They are so ugly.
SCOTT: Maybe you should have thought of that before you wasted three bags of cranberries on a silly craft project.
ME: Whatever. Everyone loved the topiaries. And seriously, Scott…these cranberries are haunting my dreams. They need to go.
SCOTT: Just wait one more week. They’re almost ready.
Wait we did. The following week, Scott finally garnered the courage to pluck a single cranberry from the not-so-gracefully aging foam balls. He popped it in his smug little mouth, chewed for a few seconds, and tried his best not to cringe.
SCOTT: They’re bitter.
ME: Told you. Let’s just toss them.
SCOTT: No. I’m going to soak them in sugar-water.
It was at this point I started to suspect these cranberries had a vendetta against me. Angered that they had been wasted on a centerpiece, they refused to leave our apartment. Their mission? To torment me with their presence until I vowed to never frivolously waste a cranberry again. It was the only rational explanation.
After eight hours of soaking in sugar, Scott decided to give the chastised berries another try.
SCOTT: Hey…they’re actually not bad. Try one?
ME: I don’t know, Scott…
SCOTT: Oh, just get over yourself and eat one. They’re good.
I did as he asked. After tentatively putting a berry in my mouth, I realized that calling these things “good” was a gross exaggeration. Characterizing their flavor profile is nearly impossible, but describing them as a petrified nugget of slightly tart cough syrup is as close as I can get.
After Scott sampled a few more, he too was finally I was able to see the light — them berries needed to go.
I couldn’t help but feel a sick twinge of satisfaction as we pried each fossilized berry from the tired tooth picks and dumped them into the waste basket. It had taken over two months, but I had won the battle against the cranberries.
Or so I thought.
As it turns out, one bad homemade Craisins can really do a number on your digestive system.
(Told you those berries had a vendetta against me.)
Looking for a Thanksgiving craft project that’s less labor intensive, and just as fabulous? Might I suggest these DIY turkey frills? They’ll take any bird from frumpy to fancy, and only require about five minutes of actual work.
Also, in case you’re in search of some last minute culinary inspiration, I thought I’d share what we’ve been cooking at our place this year.
Our Thanksgiving Menu:
- Brined turkey (as described here)
- Scott’s truffled mashed potatoes (potatoes cooked in broth, mashed with creamer, butter, roasted garlic and truffle oil.)
- Scott’s truffled gravy…? (He won’t share his plan of action with me, but has been secretly watching gravy how-to videos on YouTube all week.)
- My elegant turkey stuffing
- My cranberry sauce extraordinaire
- Green beans with browned butter and panko bread crumbs. (I’ve conjured this recipe up in my imagination…we’ll see if it turns out to be edible.)
- Scott’s made from scratch dinner rolls
- My caramel pecan pie (this stuff is like crack)
- My homemade apple pie (complete with made from scratch crust)
- A new endeavor in pie making – dairy free sweet potato pie with a gingerbread pie crust. (Sweet potatoes are totally the new pumpkins.)
- We’ll also be enjoying a giant bottle of wine Scott selected based on the fact that it came with a three dollar mail-in rebate. Yep–we’re fancy like that.
Have a wonderful, safe and gravy-filled Thanksgiving!
Main photo by Half Chinese