I love using stuff I already have to set up a party. I really hate to have to buy plastic or paper decorations. I think of it as if I were just decorating my house with that theme instead of party decorations. You wouldn’t put a plastic table cloth on your table normally so why do it for a party? If you stick with mostly white serving pieces and table clothes you can mix in smaller things to give it the look you want.
I wanted tropical but not luau. So first, Pinterest. Then I looked around my house to find stuff that felt like those images. We used plants and flowers in Hazel’s great grandparent’s yard and we filled in with stuff from Amazon. I tried to buy biodegradable plates (made from palm leaves), cutlery (made from wood), cups (from corn) and paper straws. All on Amazon.
Outside we used my neighbor Rhonda’s idea and we spray painted the pineapple leaves, we gathered coconuts, halved small watermelons, and hibiscus from the yard on top of split leaf philodendron also from the yard to make center pieces for the outside tables.
Inside we strung garland from Meri Meri (Amazon or the Meri Meri website) and a pennant banner that we added the letters – Hazel to. We hung tissue fans over the table, (be sure to get the tissue ones, the heavier cardboard fans fell down) and floated balloons in the pool (you need to weigh them down maybe add a little water in the balloon before you blow it up they blew out of the pool, that’s why we don’t have a photo) and tucked extra flowers and leaves around the house. I have pillow covers from the Bali trip that we used to cover existing throw pillows in the house. Little stuff that just added to the theme. But use big statements. One big hibiscus is better than a lot of little things. Your house already has a lot in it so you want to make a statement and notice it. Try to clear some of the usual away and just add pieces that make sense for the party.
For the table I like to have lots of layers. If the table isn’t a folding table leave some of it showing, it’s a layer. Then add a runner and some cloth napkins that go with the theme. Then add something overhead or really tall items in the center and work around that. Have 3 tall pieces varying in size and add things under the platters like other platters or trays or plates to give them different heights as well. You can use almost anything as long as the platter is stable on it. I have some old canisters from So.Ny Market Trading Co. that work perfectly. They look good and add height.
Mix and match colors and patterns and textures just keep within your theme. The big basket lantern is from Target. It’s a lantern but we used it as a vase.
For the bar we picked signature drinks and bottled drinks that looked good with the theme as well. Watermelon juice (Tropicana), cucumber vodka, and club soda and Cucumber water. The bottled drinks were from World Market and Publix. We set out prepared cups with straws and limes on a tray so people could easily serve themselves. I only had one pedestal for the drink dispensers that looked right with this theme so I borrowed the homeowners casserole dish and turned it upside down. Perfect.
For the Food…
Curried Chicken Salad Shredded rotisserie chicken with diced apricots, celery and green onion, chopped cashews and a dressing of sour cream, curry paste, lime juice and honey. Salt and pepper always.
Ham Salad Store bought diced ham, drained crushed pineapple, diced red and green bell peppers with a dressing of sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lime juice and honey. Salt and pepper.
Shrimp Salad Thawed frozen, deveined, shelled, cooked medium shrimp cut into 3 pieces and the tails removed, with diced cucumber patted dry, green onion and a dressing of sour cream, mashed avocado, onion and garlic powder, and lime juice.
All three served with Hawaiian rolls
Rice Salad Cook white rice according to the package but replace the water with equal parts coconut milk and pineapple juice. Stir in curry paste, onion and garlic powder into the liquid before you add the rice. Cook according to the package then fluff and stir in shredded coconut, drained crushed or pineapple tidbits, chopped green onions, and chopped cashews. Serve at room temperature so if you make it the day before and refrigerate it, take it out long enough before you serve it to come to room temperature.
Brie with Dried Apricots and Golden Raisins Slice the top off the brie then warm it in the oven for a few minutes to make it oozie. Put the dried fruit in a microwave safe bowl and cover with apple juice, heat for 30 seconds to a minute to rehydrate the fruit. Drain and top the brie with the fruit.
Fruit Bruschetta For the tropical feel we diced strawberry, kiwi, mango, and pineapple but you can use any fruit that you like. Toss it with a dressing of lime juice and honey and serve with toasted bread. Pinterest showed it already assembled but we had too big a crowd. There wouldn’t have been room on the platter for 50 of them and they would have gotten soggy.
Spicy Pineapple wrapped in Bacon Toss pineapple chunks in habanero hot sauce and brown sugar then wrap with 1/2 a slice of bacon and broil until crispy. Turn over and broil the other side. Serve warm or room temperature. We learned the hard way, don’t wrap the bacon the night before, the pineapple is too acidic and works like a tenderizer. The bacon was all mush by morning and they had to be rewrapped.
Sugar Donuts with Pineapple Toppers We’re not crazy, we bought the donuts. Toppers are from Amazon.
The wooden cutlery and palm plates are in the background of this photo. BTW. And the cutlery is in a well washed planter, like I said I look around my house for stuff.
Coconut Pound Cake with Mango Jam, Strawberries and Macadamia Nuts
I used Dottie Grantham’s pound cake recipe which I love and switched the milk for coconut milk then added shredded coconut. Topped each slice with mango jam from Scullery Kitchen Provisions, homemade whipped cream, diced strawberries and nuts.
This makes 1 bundt cake or 2 loafs. About 20 slices. For the party I halved each slice.
1 lb butter (4 sticks) at room temperature 3 cups sugar 6 large eggs (please get cage free eggs) 1 tablespoon vanilla 2/3 cup milk (which I exchanged for coconut milk) 4 cups flour pinch of salt 1 cup shredded coconut (for the coconut version only)
Cream the butter and sugar until it looks like icing. Add the vanilla, pinch of salt and one egg at a time. Alternate adding flour and milk. Scrape the side and toss in about a cup or so of shredded coconut if you are doing the coconut version.
Pour into a greased and floured (I just use Pam for baking) pan and bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. According to Google a loaf pan should only take 1 hour and 10 minutes but mine took the 1 1/2 hours. Just keep checking it after 1 hour in 15 min. You want the middle to be firm and not liquidy feeling or giggly but you don’t want to over cook it either. The center should just slightly bounce back.
Lovely lovely party that was a team effort. Can’t wait for Will’s little sister to arrive.
Citrus Salad with pomegranate and minted crème fraiche
Orange and Pink grapefruit segments sprinkled with pomegranate seeds Crème fraiche sprinkled with bourbon black walnut sugar and mint leaves
Strawberries with Mascarpone cheese
Cut the bottom off the strawberries so the sit upright Cut a an X in the top of the strawberries Mix a tub of mascarpone and 2 tablespoons brown sugar Put the mixture in a piping bag with a star tip Pipe into the X of each strawberry Top with a little sugar and a mint sprig
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Orange Mustard Sauce
Slice fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise Place on a sheet pan, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and onion powder Roast at 425 for about 25 minutes or until golden and soft Place on platter to cool Mix equal parts brown mustard and orange marmalade
Egg salad with Bacon, Cucumber, and Pepper Jelly
Make your favorite egg salad, keep it stiff Spread pepper jelly on a halved mini croissant Top with egg salad, cucumber slice and bacon cooked and crumbled Sprinkle with celery seed and dill
Blue Cheese Dip with Pear Slices
Pimento Cheese with Apple Slices
Chicken salad with Peaches, Blueberry, Cashews and Chutney
Shred the breast meat of 2 rotisserie chickens Toss chicken with 1 peach, skinned and chopped small Add 1/2 cup dried blueberries and 1/2 cup chopped cashews Add a finely chopped celery stalk and grated 1/2 a small white onion Mix 8 oz of sour cream with 3 tablespoons chutney and the juice of 1 lime Pour the mixture over the chicken mixture and toss to coat Top toasted pumpernickel bread slices with chicken salad Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds
Sliced peaches and fresh blackberries in Peach juice
Sliced strawberries, cucumber, and limes in limeade
I used a lot of things I already had. I don’t like to buy stuff that’s super specific for a party. I like to use stuff that you might use in real life and just double duty it for parties.
For this I used a lot of natural elements, wood trays and plates, I had faux fern and evergreen wreaths that I use for lots of things. Magnolia Market has cute ones. I had old thermoses, wooden lanterns, and old Coleman ice chest. I have wooden berry baskets that I use usually at the holidays to put cookies in. I put an enamel bowl in one for snacks. If it had been fall or winter I would have used some plaid blankets.
Just think about the theme. Don’t think about what kind of party it is or look at regular party stores they will mess you up. Instead think about the theme. It’s a woodland theme. What is in the woods, what do you do in the woods, that kind of stuff. So there are trees, pine needles, pine cones, acorns, ferns, wildflowers, nests, and wildlife in the woods. So then I look around my house and in my storage of stuff for those kinds of things. Next what do you do in the woods. Camp. So campfires, s’mores, etc.
You want tall things, medium things, then tiny things to scatter and fill in empty spaces. The lanterns and thermos were tall, I used cake stands to raise some of the food platters. Then the platters and plates are the medium items. The small things are pinecones, fake acorns I have for fall a fake nest with moss in it. I found some mason jars, filled them with battery twinkle lights and moss to look like fireflies. Your serving dishes should go with the theme too. That’s why I mostly have white, silver, and wood. You can pretty much use that combo for anything.
I also don’t like paper products. It cost more money, you are throwing more into the dump and it’s not as nice. I only use paper plates if it’s a lot of people. I have white plates from World Market or TJ Maxx or even Target they all have standard nice white plates that will go with anything. Target and World Market carry the same style for a long time so you could gradually buy what you need. I think at least 20 is good. You’ll use the small plates more so buy those first. Same thing with napkins, silverware and cups. You can get inexpensive white or off white napkins almost anywhere. Just don’t get the polyester ones. They feel terrible, look cheap, and don’t work anyways. Get cotton, linen or something natural. The cups you can mix and match so just buy cool smaller glasses when you find them. They should be old fashioned sizes. That works best for parties. The silverware will be the most expensive. You can get them at the same places or go to an antique shop that sells silver and buy mixed matched ones which I prefer. But eventually you’ll have a nice collection and never have to buy paper products again. And it just looks so much nicer.
For the food…
If I want to go with the theme because you don’t have to always do that. But if I go with the theme I think about food that would be eaten in that country or in that location or if you were really doing the thing the theme is based on. So in this case woodland, I went with camp type stuff.
Local baker made S’mores cupcakes (I got the idea from good ole Pinterest), I tried to make the cute little red toadstools from Pinterest but I couldn’t figure out how they made the little white dots. So it wasn’t a complete success but they were still cute. Made deviled potatoes that I just made up. Bought some fancy nut mix (Sahale) for a trail mix, made pigs in a blanket but put them on little twigs to look like we roasted them over a fire (you can order the twigs from Save-On-Crafts) Then the rest wasn’t all that camp like but it went with the rest of the food. Just roll with it.
S’mores Cupcakes Graham cracker mini cupcakes with chocolate Hersey icing, toasted marshmallow and a teddy graham (if it needs to be baked the day of – order it instead it will be too much to do the day of)
Camp Sliders Hawaiian rolls, with turkey, smoked gouda, and sautéed onions mixed with fig jam
Campfire Pigs in a Blanket Good quality hot dogs rolled in crescent roll dough baked according to the package. Then skewer with a twig and serve with mild mustard mixed with apricot jam
Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Sandwiches Pepperidge Farm white bread cut in half and toasted 2 pouches of smoked salmon (like tuna) mixed with crème fraiche, chopped drained capers chopped dill, mustard, lemon zest and juice top the toast with the salmon, a thin slice of cucumber that’s been patted dry, celery salt and a few sprigs of watercress.
Toadstool Caprese Skewers Skewer half a grape tomato, a little piece of mozzarella string cheese, and a leaf of parsley. (maybe you can figure out the little white dots)
Deviled Roasted Potatoes Baby gold potatoes, cut in half tossed with olive oil salt and pepper and roasted until soft and browned. Hard boil eggs and remove the yolks, whip the yolks with sour cream, mustard, and drained relish. You want it stiff. Top the cooled potatoes with a dollop of egg mixture and a piece of cooked bacon.
Spring Vegetables with Dip Bousin cheese with sour cream, chopped fresh chives. Microwave a bag of French green beans until still crisp. Microwave very thin asparagus with the woody ends snapped off until still crisp, slice radishes in half.
Fancy Trail Mix Sahale nut mix they have many different flavors
Coffee and Nut M&Ms These were buy one get one at Publix so I grabbed them can’t really taste the coffee but they are all different shades of brown so they looked like pebbles! Perfect!
For the drinks
I bought Simply Lemonade brand juices. They are all natural not from concentrate so they taste great. Not fake.
Simply Peach | add sliced fresh peaches and blueberries
Simply Limeade | add sliced cucumber, limes, and strawberries
Pitcher of water | add sliced cucumber
Then I also had a bottle of champagne if anyone wanted to spike their juices.
Usually I set up everything the week before to make sure I have what I need and have time to go buy what I’m missing
Then I prep the food the day before and just assemble the morning of. It was a busy week so I didn’t get to prep ahead of time. Fortunately, I had chosen simple things and my son, his boyfriend, and my husband all pitched in. We had the food ready to go in 3 hours. Sweet!
I helped my daughter-in-law and son with their wedding 3 years ago, before I started my blog. Since I have so many photos from the lovely day I thought I’d go ahead and post it.
First thing I would tell any bride/groom (or yourself if you’re the bride/groom) to do is get magazines and research the hell out of Pinterest. You need to get an idea of the style of wedding you want. I love the trend of having a personal wedding that really speaks to who the happy couple are instead of the standard church / banquet hall weddings. You’re wedding should look like you. You shouldn’t fit into some boring mold of what a wedding is supposed to look like (for the last century anyways because I’m sure weddings were a lot different a couple of hundred years ago). If you don’t have a specific style already picked out then think about your family heritage or a place you and your soon to be spouse traveled or always wanted to travel to. Think about what you do in your spare time. All the things that make you you then start there. Google those ideas, search them on Pinterest and make a little notebook of what you want.
Now that you have the notebook, start to whittle down the ideas into one idea. Maybe you like bohemian and beach and Paris. You’ll either need to combine some of those themes or eliminate some. You can do a bohemian Parisian theme or a bohemian beach theme. Once it’s narrowed down to a specific theme, STICK TO THAT THEME. You’re going to see ideas you love when you’re searching the web. Just keep telling yourself – that’s not my theme. Stay focused or you’ll have a thousand things going on and you won’t be able to decide on anything.
Once you have your theme pick a location that best suites that theme. Don’t get hung up on where weddings usually are. My son was married in a bar, and it was beautiful. Pick a place that already has the vibe of your theme – less decorating which means less money and less time.
If you want it to feel like the woods, find a place in the woods, etc. Don’t try to recreate the feel just find it. Real is always better. And cheaper. Use someone’s beach house or their garden, public gardens, cool bars, old garages. If it’s going to be exposed to the elements though keep that in mind. Don’t have a wedding in an old barn with no heating or a/c in the middle of the winter or summer. And always always always plan for rain. You can plan for a tent and if there’s 0% chance of rain a couple of days before the wedding – I mean 0% chance then cancel the tent. And if it does rain, just go with it. There’s nothing you can do about it. Trust me people will remember your wedding for a long time. You also need to pay attention to how many people you’ll be inviting. Don’t pick a place that holds 500 and you’ll only have 100 it will look bare. And obviously don’t pick a place that holds 100 and invite 500. Duh.
So once you have the location picked out, and booked. You’ve paid attention to the time of year, weather, and head count. Planned for the additional things you might need like tables, chairs, tents, fans, heaters, lighting. All the basic stuff you need. Then you need to think about the food and bar.
Where will it be. Buffet or sit down. Open bar or cash bar (do what ever you want stop worrying about rules. If you can’t afford an open bar don’t have one) My sister bought liquor over the year prior to her wedding and stock piled a bar. At my sons wedding we had 2 signature drinks, beer and wine. Because it was at a bar we started with a small amount and just added beer and wine to the tub as we needed it. Which meant no waste at the end. I know most places like Total Wine will let you return stuff if it’s unopened of course.
With the food and bar location and particulars worked out you can figure out the tables and seating for the reception and the wedding if it’s in a place where you can choose were the seating goes. I was recently at a wedding where the ceremony was in the woods they set up an alter type area in the front between 2 trees and had beautiful natural edge benches the groom and his friends made. There were enough benches to make it look like the setting for a wedding but not enough for everyone to sit. Which was fine because the ceremony was only about 10 min long. It was awesome. The standing guests just gathered around the sitting guests it worked perfectly and they didn’t end up with 100 benches after only using them for 10 min.
Once you have the table situation worked out you’ll be able to figure out how many tables and what you can afford to do regarding centerpieces for each. If it’s only a few you can go a little more crazy. If it’s 24 tables you need to really think about what you’re using. 24 things will add up really quickly. We used containers we already had, tin cans, jars, my daughter-in-law’s family friend made candles using halved oranges, we used orange leaves, and just used large bunches of flowers instead of having individual arrangements made. We used fabric swatches for table clothes and borrowed candlesticks. Just figure out what you want 1 table to look like then times it by the number of tables you have. Then make a list of what you can borrow and who you borrowed if from so you can return it. I highly recommend tape with their name on it on the bottom. And then list what you need to buy. Craft stores and places like Save on Crafts online are awesome for getting moss, stones, dried flower petals. We had a friend slice some logs for us instead of buying them. The stump with their initials I have in my garden still.
Both my son’s wedding and the recent wedding I went to enlisted the help of friends and family. For everything. The caterer at the last wedding (a friend of the couple) was mowing the field the morning of set up. All of the couples friends and family that weren’t in the wedding were there helping set up. It made it so special to have people you care about helping pull everything together. At my sons wedding we prepared everything, even the food, set everything up. Whike they were getting pictures we put the food out. When it was over we cleaned up. The only thing I would say is a must to pay for is someone to work as waiters during the event. To refill the platters and clean up the tables and make sure the bar is full. $100 a person and you won’t have to worry about it the rest of the evening. Spending a little extra money on an event planner just to help the day of is a really great idea. They will keep everything organized and flowing according to plan so you can enjoy yourself. My favorite it Courtney Ford Events!
When you set up the buffet line use things you already have and buy what’s missing. Think about lighting. You want the table to have lots of levels and make it crowded everything should be close together. Measure how big the buffet table(s) will be then lay everything out on your floor at home in the same square feet. Put a sticky note on each platter to make sure you have everything covered. Be sure to leave space for the napkins, plates, silverware if it’s not on the tables already. That way you only haul exactly what you need to the reception location for set up instead of taking a bunch of stuff because you aren’t sure what you’ll need. Plan it ahead of time you don’t want to be messing around the day of.
Get creative on the wedding dress, groom’s clothes, and the groom’s men and bride’s maids too. We made the wedding dress from a beautiful corset she bought online, tulle and ribbon. We added the tulle around the top of the corset and made a skirt from it. Then added antique style rhinestone buttons along the bottom. We used a ribbon to hide where the corset and skirt met. She used the lining of an old dress for the lining under the skirt. Then she made a necklace using old brooches and attached them to an inexpensive pearl necklace.
My son wore a suit from Jcrew that he could use again instead of a tux he had to rent that wouldn’t fit very well or buy and never use again. And for his brother the best man we just didn’t buy the jacket so the groom would stand out. The bride’s maids wore dresses that were similar but not matching. The bride found antique off white style she liked for each of her sisters. And everyone except the bride wore sneakers.
For the cakes we found toppers that worked with the theme but I have to say I’m still a fan of the old school bride and groom or groom and groom or bride and bride as a cake topper. Especially if you have your grandparents or find an antique one.
we used candles
a mini nest from the craft store and an small peach (we wanted an apricot but they weren’t in season yet – improvise)
and butterflies also from the craft store. The top cake has a daisy wreath around it from the florist and all 3 cakes are on logs we had a friend cut.
Placed in a corner with birdbaths that were at the bar and a table from my house. (it’s a unique bar it’s the garden area of an architectural antique store).
We used tables from my house and borrowed suitcases from a friend for the sign in table and a chandiler my daughter-in-law had for the “alter” area.
We set up a special bride and groom table instead of the long table with the whole wedding party. We used frames on the food table to explain what everything was and at their table as a place card. We had a vase on the table for the bride to put her bouquet so it worked double duty as an arrangement.
The bar was set up on a counter next to the old bathtub in the garden. The tub was filled with ice, beer and wine. The signature drinks, cups, and some bar snacks were set up on the counter. Be sure to note what’s in your signature drinks so kids don’t drink the wrong thing. We had frames with the drink’s name and ingredients next to each dispenser/pitcher. You can also use boards you’ve spray painted with chalk board paint and framed. And boards covered in burlap or any fabric or even moss then frame them and tack a menu or note in the center.
The food was all home made. We figured 1.5 of each item per guest. I picked things that could be made ahead of time and frozen then thawed or heated the day of. Things that are good at room temperature. Fortunately for us we live about 4 blocks from the venue and had a neighbor that wasn’t home so we could us her fridge. But you could definitely rent a freezer/fridge and store it in your garage the week before the wedding. Have family members help make the food. Just keep everything in disposable aluminum trays. They make great containers for leftovers too to give to people.
Notice the lamps from home, not only for light but it gave height to the table. The hamper in the corner that we used as a garbage can. The topiaries and urns all from my house. The urn in the middle we just used a bunch of cut greenery instead of a formal arrangement – much cheaper. The table cloths are actually white king sized sheets. My favorite trick. I have a bunch in different colors. So much cheaper then large table cloths. Use lots of different serving trays and containers but be sure they all go together. I used white, wood, and metal. If you don’t have a lot of platters borrow from friends. Just be picky. You want it to all go together and look catered not like a pot luck. Depending on your theme just look at the kind of dishes and platters they use on Pinterest for the style wedding you’re going for then gather that style from friends. Don’t be afraid to throw in a wild card either. Like if you have all very rustic pieces and add a beautiful cut glass bowl. It just makes things interesting.
For the flowers we took a picture of the exact bouquet she wanted to the florist to recreate. The bride’s maids had tin buckets full of dried flower petals we bought online at Save on Crafts. They scattered them as they walked.
We had the small daisy wreath made for the cake and the rest were all just bunches of flowers and greenery. We picked everything up from the florist in buckets full of water and then the day of the wedding we just cut and placed everything in the containers. So much cheaper and it looked beautiful. For amazing floral designs whether you’re just going to get the bride’s bouquet or arrangements for all the tables I love Julia’s Floral Design!
When they left we had a cool garden pot filled with sand and stuck sparklers in it everyone grabbed a sparkler and lit it as they walked through the gates and jumped on their bikes (decked out with hydrangeas in the basket and used as decoration during the event) and rode off (we live 4 blocks away so they rode back to the house but you could have a car stashed a block away to ride to as well. With someone there waiting to collect the bikes.
When it was all over we cleaned up and went home.
For the photos. First, pick the right photographer, we used Jenna Alexander and as you can see the photos were beautiful! They need to take beautiful photos that capture the feel of your wedding and really make it look even better then it was. Check out Jenna’s and my daughter-in-laws’ website Carly Robertson Photography to see what I mean. Have your photographer take photos before the wedding in a location(s) you love. Photos of each of you getting ready especially with the bride’s maids, groom’s men and mothers or fathers. At the wedding plan in advance what you want photos of – the couple with each set of parents, the couple with the wedding party etc. Write it down and give it to the photographer so it all goes quickly. There’s nothing more annoying then waiting hours for the wedding party to arrive. Also, serve at least appetizers or snacks and open the bar for everyone while they wait. But trust me. The photos you’ll love the most will be the candid shots the photographer takes not the posed ones. So don’t go crazy with combos of family the day of the wedding. Get one with just your immediate family, one with both parents, one with the wedding party and one with the whole family. That will be fine. Trust me. My favorite photo from my wedding you can’t even see our faces.
Or my dress which is a good thing because it was the most ridiculous 1986 princess dress ever. But I was 20 and it was 1986.
What I could have done if only Pinterest and the internet had been around then!
My idea of the holidays is Yule. I’m 3/4 German and 1/4 Scottish so I love Celtic and Germanic traditions. Bringing evergreens into the house and using as many natural elements as I can. I also like to use what I already have. If I have something pretty I don’t want it to sit in the cupboard I want it to be out where I can see it.
This year I used The Magnolia Company for all my garlands, wreath’s and the mini pine trees. I laid the garland along the top of a hutch and the fireplace mantels, along the railing of the front porch and draped them over the backs of my wicker swing and wicker couch. It was really easy – just lay or hang the garland then add some ribbon or a bow.
Wreaths hanging in the 2nd floor windows with ribbon and over the lights on the garage, garlands along the front railings, a swag over the front door, poinsettias tucked here and there (I always put the poinsettias in either clay pots or metal tubs I don’t like the foil they come in). Garland draped over the swing and couch and a tray of mini evergreens with a grapevine wreath around them. Take the holiday items and put them in your normal pots or incorporate them into your usual décor don’t just plop a poinsettia with foil on it by the front door and call it a day. Just drop it into a clay pot or switch out the usual plant by the front door. Tuck ribbon or trimmed branches from the Christmas tree in stuff you already have.
Pull the kids wooden (not plastic) red wagon around and fill it with poinsettias and boxes wrapped like presents. And use natural reds and greens like green leaves or red berries.
I hung a wreath from the railing instead of garland on the railing – I moved my lanterns from the living room to the built in seat and left the straw broom there. I love how homey it looks. Then tucked in some tree trimmings. On the window seat I have a collection of holiday trees to grouped them together and curled a ribbon through them. I wanted to add a pop of color since the trees are a natural color on the wood seat so I put a large red tray under them. The lanterns have flameless candles that I turned on for parties it’s nice to have a warm welcome at the front door. I also have a board I painted with chalkboard paint then used an old frame of my grandmothers. I tried using chalk on it but it doesn’t really come clean so I just print out any notes, menus, thank yous etc. and use that putty stuff to stick it on.
The Living Room
I put the tree where I can see it from the couch and people can see it through the window from the street. I like to use a real tree of course and different sized little white lights. I love vintage style ornaments and actual vintage ornaments. My oldest is a lamb that was my grandmothers it’s from the 1930s. I add new ones every year. I started collecting an ornament each year for my sons when they were born. And I get a new ornament for each of us from Epcot each year. Not every country will have ornaments. United Kingdom I bought a pack of pub coasters and punched holes in them and ran a ribbon through. Mexico I found little tiny sombreros. China I used little key chains that were each of our Chinese Zodiac animals. Canada was easy they had gold maple leaf ornaments and Norway has scan design ornament balls. This year was Africa and they actually had little hand made origami type safari animals.
For the topper I wanted something from nature so I bundled some silk Amaryllis and added bows around them and wrapped it all in ribbon.
Above the mantel I put a garland with ribbon, my red berry topiaries that I put in the pots I usually have on the mantel I just added burlap and satin bows so you couldn’t see the pot sticking up. Added my Christmas teapot some votives and tree trimmings.
On the side tables and the coffee table… I put large ornaments in the white bowl that’s usually on the coffee table. I put a cool vintage silver tinsel wreath on top of a silver urn and added a birch candle. I put a red berry wreath over the plant in the white bowl I usually have on the desk. And done.
The Dining Room
It was simple – add a couple of poinsettias to an ice tub that is usually empty and set the table with my holiday dishes. Add ribbon, votives (I like to use the flameless kind that will automatically come on each night) and a few fancy ornaments and you’re done.
I used jars of candy and cool marshmallows from Williams Sonoma, oranges studded with cloves, the trimmings from the Christmas tree, citrus, holiday towels and napkins, and ribbon. By just tucking a pretty curly ribbon and a vintage holiday towel in the corner it changes the same lamp and sugar bowl into a holiday setting. And the great thing is the tree trimmings are free, the citrus will last all season and then you can throw it away so no storage. The ribbon is cheap and can be rolled up to use again. Utilize your napkins and holiday dishes instead of buying a decoration just use what you already have that sits in a drawer all season. If you have people coming over put apple cider with mulling spices in a Dutch oven and let is simmer on low the whole time. It makes your house smell like the holidays.
The Family Room
Garland over the mantle with ribbon, flameless candles, and stockings. My old man Christmas (a nod to Oden the king of the elves) a poinsettia, and a pinecone in a pot my son made for me 22 years ago. (every now and then they actually make cool stuff. If you want to give someone a gift from your small child this one is pretty cute. Using a glue gun add Spanish moss to the opening of a small clay pot, then glue small little shinny balls in the petals of the pine cone and glue the pine cone to the moss. Done. You could white wash the pot and tie a pretty burlap or satin wide bow around it but plain is nice too). I used my round metal tray and filled it with like colored ornaments (mine are greens golds and browns) then nestled 3 live mini pine trees in burlap sacks amongst them (Magnolia Company).
Lots of simple ideas, nothing too fancy, but very warm and cozy. That was the plan.
My mom and I threw a baby shower for my cousin who is due in December. We decided to have it in late October. I’m a big fan of having parties weddings or events near holidays so you already have the decorations. I love multi-use things. So since my decorations for Halloween aren’t zombies and cobwebs and vomiting jack-o-lanterns I used what I already had.
I used a black metal tray, old fashioned silver trays work great too at Halloween especially when they are tarnished. I added 2 urns and 1 glass bowl. I put a fall looking wreath on the tallest urn and topped it with a cool Halloween top hat I found at Lafayette & Rushford Home. This beautiful shop in Winter Park on New England between Park Ave and Hannibal Square. Their displays really inspired me.
I added a small white pumpkin to the shorter urn and a taller pumpkin was just sitting to the side of the grouping. A Birchwood candle is in the glass bowl. I surrounded the whole thing with moss (you can buy it at Michaels or get it off a tree for free. If you do the free option be sure to microwave it first to kill any unseen bugs) I made simple burlap bows by taking about a 12″ piece of wide burlap ribbon and just tying it into a knot. Then wrapped black translucent ribbon and this cool twig/grapevine stuff I found at Michaels.
A lot of times I don’t know what I’m going to use to fill the space in so I look on Pinterest or I’ll just go to the craft store or grocery store and look at what they have. Usually something jumps out at me.
You want to start with a tray or something that will tie everything together. Like how your area rugs connects your couch and chairs in the living room. I like to use odd numbers so 3 vases or urn in different sizes. You want them to taper down not be all the same size. When you add stuff to the vases or urns keep that in mind too you don’t want to add stuff that then makes everything the same size. Pick one of the vessels to put your focal point in. The thing that will stand out the most. In my case it was the wreath and hat.
Then fill in the space around everything, I used moss and ribbons.
You want the table to look full, so use different height serving pieces like cake stands or urns with a plate on top mixed in with the platters on the table. And them place them close together.
The platters and napkins and dishes don’t have to all match but they have to go together some how. I used mercury glass, white platters, and rustic wooden pieces. If it was Christmas you could use different Christmas plates mixed with crystal and white dishes just make sure the Christmas patterns compliment each other.
I set up an area for the water, if I had been serving alcohol this would have been the bar.
And used a Keurig machine for the coffee and tea options. It works great, then everyone can have what they want and it’s fresh the whole party. I would suggest getting the larger version with the large reservoir so you only have to refill it once or twice. And a little framed note with instructions on how to use it. Lots of people have them but each one comes with different instructions. I added hazelnut, caramel, and chocolate syrups from Starbucks. Pumpkin pie spice and Sea salt. Honey, cream, and sugar cubes so people could fancy up their drinks if they wanted to.
I always try to have a mix of meat, carbs, something fresh, cheese, and dips. And it always needs to be good at room temperature. It’s a pain to try to keep things hot or cold. You also don’t want something that will get gross if it sits out too long – hard and crusty, soggy, or separate.
The party was at 10am so I went with a fall brunch theme for the food. If I can I’d rather do finger food. It’s a lot easier for the guests to eat while holding a plate and they can sample lots of different things. And everyone will find something they like.
Flatbread Pinwheels with Pimento Cheese and Green Olives
Dates stuffed with Manchego Cheese and Pecans
Goat Cheese Log rolled in chopped Apricots and Pistachios
Warmed Brie with Apple Chutney
Pumpkin Pie Dip with Bischoff Cookies and Apples
Bloody Mary Bites
Mocha Mousse Parfaits with Roasted Hazelnuts Chocolate Biscotti Crumble and Espresso Beans
Flatbread Pinwheels with Pimento Cheese and Green Olives I used a package of flatbread from the deli but you could also use a tortilla. Just don’t put them in the refrigerator before you use them or they will get too dry and crack when you roll them. Just spread pimento cheese from the deli on the flatbread, sprinkle with chopped green olives and roll up tightly. Leave the roll uncut and put it in a container overnight to firm up. Using a serrated knife cut into wheels about as thick as your thumb
Dates Stuffed with Manchego Cheese and Pecans Pretty much self explanatory – slice the date and add a sliver of cheese and a pecan You can make these the day before and just keep them in the fridge, covered until ready to plate. I topped them with Smoked Bacon salt from The Spice and Tea Exchange
Goat Cheese Log with chopped Apricots and Pistachios Let a log of goat cheese come to room temperature so it softens Roll it in chopped apricots and pistachios. You can make this the day before too.
Warmed Brie with Apple Chutney You can make the chutney the day before then warm it up in the microwave before pouring it over the brie. Chop a couple of apples, red and green, and an onion, sauté them in butter to soften Add brown sugar, lemon juice, craisins, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar Cook until everything is soft. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator over night. Cut the top off the brie and warm in the oven a few minutes until it’s a little gooey then top with the chutney
Pumpkin Pie Dip with Bischoff Cookies and Apples Mix 1 package spreadable cream cheese, 1 cup pumpkin pie filling, 1/4 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla Slices the apples and toss them in lemon juice and water to keep them from browning and don’t let the cookies and apples touch on the platter or the cookies will get soggy I sprinkled the dip with Caramel Salt from The Spice and Tea Exchange
Bloody Mary Bites Top sliced cucumbers that have been drained and patted dry on a paper towel with Finely chopped tomatoes, onions, celery, and green olives and tossed with Bloody Mary spice mix from The Spice and Tea Exchange. Be sure to drain the tomatoes in a colander and then on a paper towel. Use a slotted spoon to avoid the accumulated liquid when scooping the tomatoes to top the cucumbers. You can make the tomato mixture the night before but I would wait to slice the cucumbers.
Mocha Mousse Parfaits with Roasted Hazelnuts Chocolate Biscotti Crumble and Espresso Beans Easiest fancy dessert ever! I took Jell-O chocolate fudge pudding cups and added instant coffee to taste Let it sit a minute to make sure the coffee is dissolved Then carefully fold in extra creamy cool whip about equal parts pudding and cool whip Chop the hazelnuts and toast them in the oven Put the chocolate biscotti in a Ziploc bag and pound it to small crumbs Fill a clear glass about halfway with the mousse Sprinkle on the cookies then top with whipped cream Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts, add a couple chocolate covered espresso beans and top with a jarred Bing cherry You can make everything the day before but it needs to be assembled the day of – so the cookies don’t get soggy