Whether we have fully accepted it or not, the holiday season officially kicks off the day after Thanksgiving.

You may reject the idea of Big Box lines at 2am for unnecessary gadgets and must-have technology (I do), but – completely against your will – you may also find yourself getting just a little excited at the prospect of fragrant wreaths, holiday baking and a new decorating project (totally guilty).

 

 

And then you find yourself with a long weekend on your hands, and often, family and friends to entertain. No wonder the retail madness of Black Friday exists – it’s just too easy to channel that burgeoning excitement and grumpy Aunt Irene into an expensive and exhausting trek round the Big Boxes with thousands of others just like you.

The garden and woods are treasure troves for natural materials.

There’s a better way for Black Friday.  Why not a day at home working with a friend, spouse or children on a few holiday projects that will give your house the warmth and center that we’re all yearning for during this time of year, but never feel we have the time to create?

A cozy Black Friday

To that end, I like to work with materials that celebrate the natural beauty of winter. They’re cheap and they inspire creativity, but most of all they’re timeless reflections of the cyclical nature of the seasons and how we have celebrated them for centuries.  Plus you won’t be shelling out huge amounts of cash for tchotchkes that you’re liable to grow out of next year.

Pick just two or three projects so that you can comfortably get the materials this week and have a good chance of completing them on the day.

After a leisurely breakfast on Friday made up of Thanksgiving leftovers, put a gallon of apple cider on the stove for sipping, add some favorite holiday music or movies in the background, and pre-order some yummy take-out or pizza for a mid-afternoon break where no one has to cook (or pull a pre-made casserole out of the freezer).  This last step is often the most important.

Don’t forget the kids

A note for those of you with little ones: make sure to include them! Be patient when their attention spans dwindle. It’s tough to parent your kids through projects when you know you can do it yourself faster and better, but these moments are memories your children won’t forget, and that you’ll reflect upon when they’re starting to fledge out of the nest.

Trust me on that one. [Sniff]

Help them to finish the project they started and make sure that phones and video games are not available to distract.  For best results, go with music in the background over movies.  If you have invited other adult friends and/or family, the process does not become lonely when the children lose interest (which they invariably do).  In fact, that’s when we break out the wine and start getting really creative.

A few ideas for Black Friday

With Pinterest a click away, I have no doubt you’ll have more ideas than you can possibly execute over a cozy afternoon in, but some of my favorites are:

♦ Drying sliced apples and oranges in the oven or dehydrator to be strung together with hemp twine for garlands. Lavishly coat with bottled lemon juice to preserve a lighter color.

Using an electric slicer or mandoline will make the most even cuts, but a knife works just fine too.

 

♦ Stringing popcorn or cranberries with heavy button thread, ready for your Christmas tree when you get it.

♦ Baking mini-gingerbread men (no frosting) for ornaments on the tree or in garlands – don’t forget to poke a hole for hanging before you bake them.

♦ Slashing clementines with quarter cuts, inserting lines of cloves between the cuts and drying in a slow oven (225°F) until they are dry and ready for arrangements or bowls.

An added benefit of drying oranges and cloves is the incredible scent that permeates your house and adds to the holiday excitement.

 

♦ Making an old-fashioned paper garland with strips of construction paper and a stapler to hang in the dining room or kitchen (kids love to do this one!).

♦ Making some fresh cranberry sauce or homemade marmalade for presents (it’s easier than you think!).

 

And my very favorite…bundling up and taking a winter walk through the garden or a neighboring woods looking for twigs, woody vines, wild rose hips and nuts for projects later in the month.

It’s a day you’ll remember, that your family and friends will remember, and one that all those people getting irritated with each other in a two hour line at Walmart wish they had remembered. It’s a better Black Friday.  Enjoy! – MW