Christmas Cooking For Dummies
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Thanksgiving really lends itself to inexpensive decorating, which is nice because we all know what a chunk the upcoming holidays can take out of the old budget. It's also a wonderful holiday to share decorating with kids.

Nature provides the most wonderful decorating materials for free. A quick trip to the backyard, a farmers market, or the park can sometimes give you everything you need to decorate gracefully and sufficiently.

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Infuse a little color into your world by decorating with an artist’s canvas! Purchase a few pre-stretched and primed canvases at your local arts and crafts supply store. Use these as your seasonal accent pieces! Kids can finish them in several ways:
  • Wallpaper them: Have you ever seen abandoned wallpaper books at your local paint and wall coverings store? Often, these retailers pile up discontinued wallpaper sample books available free to any takers. Here’s your chance to use small samples for a big effect.

    Choose a few wallpaper samples in complementing colors and let them cover the canvases. Depending on their age, you might have to help with the measuring, cutting and pasting.!

  • Attach objects to them. A spoon, knife, fork, pine cone, leaf, or other objet d’art can be tied or glued to the center of a blank canvas for a three-dimensional piece of art. Change the objects to reflect each season.

    You can paint, paper, or attach and reattach findings to them for each season. Because canvases are inexpensive, you can replace them when needed or add to your collection as desired. Use these little pieces of art to color block a wall or use where you’d normally place a picture.

Children would also enjoy the following holiday decorating projects:
  • Gather autumn leaves: Rake and create! Freshly fallen leaves are perfect for spreading out on a table around candles and centerpieces or stringing one on top of the other for a stacked leaf garland. To help get everyone psyched up, be sure to rake up a separate pile of leaves that the kids, and the kid in you, can take a tumble in. The plus? You get your yard raked.

  • Create centerpieces: Gather an assortment of mini pumpkins, gourds, nuts, candles, and baskets or plates for each child. Place a large pillar candle in the middle of the basket or plate and then let each child start placing the items around the base of the candles until her she gets the desired look.

  • Frame your children’s art: Find some simple frames that complement your décor and give the frames a special place in your home, which can be a corner in the family room.

  • Decorate the infamous “children’s table” at Thanksgiving with children’s art. Better yet, display it on the dessert table.

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Dede Wilson, CCP, contributes to Bon Appétit and Pastry and Design magazine and to NBC's Todayshow. She is also the Food and Entertaining expert for

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