Gobble up These Unique Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Between basting the turkey, cleaning the house and prepping the pies, decorations may be the last thing on your mind. While you can’t cook everything in advance, you can create a beautiful themed table ahead of time for your Thanksgiving dinner. Here are a few ideas to help you on your way.

If you took some decorating ideas from our Halloween blog post, you may still have some pumpkins lying around. As long as they aren’t carved, you can repurpose them for Thanksgiving décor. Try hollowing one out and using it as the base for your centerpiece, or paint them to add some color to the table. You can even use mini pumpkins as place cards.


Photo Credit: A Pumpkin and a Princess


Photo Credit: Everyday Occasions


Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens









Here are some additional ideas using items you may already have on hand.

Take an old hurricane vase and candle and layer corn kernels, red beans and split peas to make a colorful arrangement.


Photo Credit: My Hearts Desire

We also love this simple idea- turn apples into festive candles with an exacto knife and a tea light candle.


Photo Credit: The Berry

Use this free printable to make an adorable ‘Thankful’ banner.


Photo Credit: Shanty 2 Chic

Take advantage of what your backyard has to offer and try these creative ideas. Pinecones not only smell fantastic, but they can also be used in vases or as place cards. If you have some extra time, paint just the tips of the cones for a hint of color.


Photo Credit: Boulder Locavore

Another cute and easy idea is to fill a vase up with acorns and place a candle in the center.


Photo Credit: Good Housekeeping

If you are feeling really creative, write your guests’ names on dried fall leaves to jazz up your table.


Photo Credit: Elements of Style

Finally, incorporate wood into your tablescape to complete a rustic fall look!


Photo Credit: The White Buffalo Styling Co.

We hope these simple ideas will help you create the perfect holiday look.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Swank Team



Venue Spotlight: Willowdale Estate

Willowdale Estate

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Photo Credit: Ryan Kenner Photography

The Willowdale Estate is located in beautiful Topsfield, Massachusetts and it is the perfect place for a wedding, shower or any type of party. We were there recently for their Entertaining 101 series and had a blast learning how the be the best host while checking out the gorgeous venue! Below you’ll find all the information you need on hosting your next event at the charming Willowdale Estate.


Willowdale Estate is an Arts and Crafts Stone Mansion; the property today is about 4 acres of the 720-acre Bradley Palmer State Park. In 1901, construction of the mansion was under way with owner Bradley Palmer and architect Charles Amos Cummings. The home was host of many grand parties with guests such as President Taft, Prince of Wales and General Patton. A preservationist and equestrian Bradley Palmer was committed to nature and conservation which is partly why in 1944 upon his death, he left the Mansion and Land to the State to be turned into a park for all to enjoy! Upon being awarded the 50 year lease to Willowdale in 1999, the Forsythe-Fandetti family renovated the mansion for the next eight years—carefully balancing historic accuracy with modern building codes.

Briar Rose Forsythe, their daughter, created her own company at Willowdale Estate providing catering services within the historic estate. Utilizing her decades of hospitality experience with her family’s businesses and her fundamental love of good, wholesome food, Briar has built an organization that leverages the beauty of this historic residence as backdrop for wonderful party experiences throughout the year.


The property includes a tented pavilion during the months of May-October which can hold up to 240 guests, with a minimum of 125. The typical flow of Tent Season weddings would be to host your ceremony in the lovely butterfly courtyard, cocktail hour throughout the mansion, and dinner and dancing under the custom built Sperry Tent. Willowdale only holds one wedding a day, so you’ll have exclusive access to the property for your event.

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Photo Credit: Dani Fine Photography

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Photo Credit: Nate Creamer Photography

Many couples with smaller guest counts (70-125 guests) often consider a more intimate indoor wedding held November through April. The Arts and Crafts style Mansion includes: exposed beams, detailed woodwork, an oversized skylight, French Windows and cozy fireplaces. The Mansion provides the comforts of home and an intimate setting that brings everyone together.

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Photo Credit: Adriano Batti Photography

Vendor Information

Willowdale Estate has a list of preferred vendors to recommend to clients. If a client wants to book a vendor that is not on the list, they work with the client to make sure that they are hiring an experienced, licensed wedding professional and to ensure they get the best service possible.

Willowdale Estate has an in-house catering team which adds to the convenience of hosting your next event here. The catering packages range from $99-$119 per person based on the season and day of the week. These packages include a large selection of food choices, linens, flatware, glassware and all of the service staff for the event.

Rental Information

Willowdale Estate has a range of site rental rates for 2015 that starts at $3,200 through $7,500 depending on the season and day of the week. The cost for adding a ceremony is $750 and covers all of the chairs, setup, extra time including 2 hours of getting ready and a full hour for parking, seating and the ceremony.

Contact the Wedding Sales Managers, Belinda and Kaitlin for more detailed information and to book your next event: Info@WillowdaleEstate.com or 978-887-8211.

Happy Planning!

The Swank Team

Vendor LOVE: Oakleaf Cakes

Oakleaf Cakes: Amanda Oakleaf

amandaWe first worked with Amanda Oakleaf and her talented team back in 2010 on Meg & Collin’s rustic wedding. Collin wanted a groom’s cake that incorporated his love for classic video games, and Amanda whipped up a Super Mario Brothers cake below that has become one of our all-time favorites! We’ve followed Amanda’s work since then and we continue to be blown away by her incredible designs (i.e. life-sized stormtrooper cake!) and we think her cake art is some of the best in Boston. We caught up with Amanda and asked her to tell us a little more about herself.

Where did you grow up?

Hartford, SD.  Small town outside of Sioux Falls.  Graduated high school with only 80 people in my class.

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How long have you been in business and how did you get started?

5 1/2 years.  I grew up baking with my Mom and both my grandmothers. At home, my mom had a Wilton cake decorating book from which my sisters and I would always choose our birthday cake designs. It was always the most important part of any friend or family member’s birthday, surprising them with a handmade custom cake. The best part, besides the fun and mess of creating the cake, was getting to see their reaction and making their birthday extra special.

I worked at Cold Stone Creamery as a shift manager while I attended college. One afternoon I had some free time and decided to learn how to decorate ice cream cakes ‘professionally.’ I studied Cold Stone’s manual and taught myself how to frost and simply decorate ice cream cakes. Now, if you haven’t worked with ice cream cakes before, you must learn to be quick. You can’t take your sweet time frosting those cakes! You have about 10 minutes before they start to melt underneath, so I learned how to frost a cake quite quickly.

While I was still in college and working at Cold Stone, I picked up another job doing gift baskets, event planning and decorating for a small company; another creative outlet for me. The owner found out that I enjoyed decorating cakes, and decided to add custom kosher cakes to her offerings, and so I spent an entire summer creating and testing new designs and flavors until the time came for me to quit. Leaving this job was a turning point for me. I knew I could surely do a better job on my own. Thus a month after leaving the gift basket job, I had my own website up and was taking orders for custom cakes. Of course, I did not do all this on my own: my husband, Tyler, is the brains and graphic designer behind our cake business. I would never be able to do this without his help. We make a good team – he on the engineering/marketing side, and me on the baking/creative side.

This was only the beginning. I operated out of my one-bedroom apartment in Boston for about 8 months until I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2009. After graduating, my husband and I moved to Winthrop, where we were able to rent more space for our residential kitchen. We got so busy that we were pulling all-nighters to get all our cakes made. Lack of sleep (combined with a large stack of upcoming orders that I wouldn’t be able to do alone) led us to open our first storefront in Winthrop in April of 2010. In March of 2010 – in the middle of construction of our new store, as if that wasn’t enough to handle – my husband and I flew out to Denver to film the Food Network Challenge: Dora the Explorer Cakes. We were also filmed on TLC’s Fabulous Cakes – Boston Episode in 2011.

We stayed in the Winthrop location until end of Oct 2013 when we made the big move into our current store on Westland Ave. in Boston, right around the corner from Symphony Hall.










What’s your favorite part of your job?

Making something new every week and getting to incorporate my art degree into everything we make.  We also have a great staff who are also artists and culinary experts and who are all very creative. Our awesome staff makes for a fun work environment that allows for creativity and for everyone to be excited about coming into work to make your cake!

How would you describe your style?

I’m pretty easy going overall and like to keep things light and happy.  Mostly though I’m a maker.  If I haven’t made something in a day it’s not a real day.  I need to have made dinner, a new dessert, cake, figurine, etc.  I have many skills and interests acquired growing up and through art school that I have lots to draw from.  For example I’m an oil painter, although I haven’t had a real studio since school), I made lots of pottery/ceramics while in art school, I have knowledge of sewing and have sewed clothing for myself as well as totes and purses for friends.  My mom taught me how to sew and she and I have sewn all the aprons that we wear in our store.  I also love to play the piano and trombone – I play these when I have a rare spare moment. I learned early on that I love to create things with my hands and then give them away to make people smile.  It’s all about the reaction that we get when someone receives their cake that makes it all worth it.


What’s your guilty pleasure?

Ice cream!  Always.  We always had ice cream as a family growing up.  I worked at Cold Stone Creamery for about 6 years and never got sick of ice cream.  (I do get sick of cake however).  My husband and I even had ice cream cake for our wedding cake…in December!











What’s your favorite quote?
I don’t really like to obsess over quotes or words to live by.

What makes you unique in your field?

Our emphasis on cake as edible art makes us unique compared with other bakeries in the area. All our decorators have art degrees. We have 2 painters, an illustrator and a sculptor and with our powers combined…we can really make whatever you want. We’re most famous for making a life-size stormtrooper cake. There is a post on our blog about how we made him and subsequently a life-size Darth Vader cake that was even bigger standing 6 ft 7inches tall.  As far as we know we’ve been the only people to pull off a life-size cake decorated in fondant.

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What is the best piece of advice you can give to a couple?

I guess from what I’ve experienced I would advise couples not to micromanage all their vendors.  If you’ve chosen a well-recommended, reputable vendor, give them some basic info about who you are and what basic theme or style you’re going for and let the professionals do the rest.  As cake artists we’re visual people so we really love it when couples bring in their inspiration from all different places, such as invites, dresses, wallpaper, headbands, fabric, plates etc. and then let us design the cake.  This approach is way more fun than someone bring in one picture of one cake and saying “I want THAT one.”  We can make THAT one but it would be much more appropriate to not copy someone else’s cake and have a custom creation created for your special day.  Giving creative vendors such as florists and cake makers lots of rope, creatively speaking, usually yields great results because creative people are creative all day, everyday and chances are they have lots of ideas a brewin’ all the time and are itching at the opportunity to actually apply their ideas at a real event/wedding!

Check out more of Amanda and her team’s incredible, edible art at www.oakleafcakes.com


The Swank Team







Coming Soon: Venue Spotlight!

Living in New England, we are completely spoiled with all of the gorgeous venues that are right in our backyard!  To assist with your planning, we will be highlighting one venue a month and explaining why you must check it out for your next event. We will include venue history, facts, photos and who to contact to book your next special occasion!

Do you know of an amazing venue that we should feature? If so, let us know! We are always looking for new, unique places to host events.

Happy Planning!

The Swank Team