November 29, 2010

Ernie the Tree-Trimming Elf

and Friends

The North Pole's 732nd Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will be held on December 1.
Ernie the Tree-Trimming Elf has been working around the clock.


Ernie must have every tree ready
before Santa can throw the switch.

The tree in the center of
Noel Plaza is complete.
So too are the trees that line
either side of the Reindeer Runway,
the tree in the rotunda of
the Toy Design Building
and the tree in Mrs. Santa's kitchen.

Ernie has just one tree left to complete: the Tabletop Tree in the Elf Dining Hall.

Hamilton Elf, the North Pole's chief accountant, recently sent a memo encouraging all department heads to use LED lighting. Citing a frozen economy (Is there any other kind at the North Pole?), Hamilton reasoned that LEDs would help lower energy costs.
In addition, LEDs produce almost no heat,
a quality greatly appreciated by an elf who remembers a time when trees were lit with candles,
and the devastation caused by The Great Toy Factory Fire of 1584.


Ernie has his own way of doing things.
(After all, he's had hundreds of years
to develop an efficient decorating routine.)

His first step is to place the tree topper
(always a big gold star) on the tree,
unlike most tree-trimmers who
save this step for last.

While he works his way
down the tree,

twin elves Martha and Stewart
set the table below.


Over 630 elves live and work at the North Pole. (The exact number is never revealed.) With so many mouths to feed, it’s been a bit of a problem keeping full place settings of any one pattern. (The Rugby Equipment-Testing Elves are particularly hard on the stemware.) So Martha and Stewart have learned to mix and match whenever possible.


Yellow flatware and red wine goblets (Yes, elves are allowed wine at dinner.) are paired with white chargers. White flatware rests along side the yellow chargers and the String Light goblets.

Martha arranges the napkins so they spill out of heavy red water goblets,


while Stewart makes sure the
Tree Light salt and peppers
are available at both ends of the table.


Soon all will be ready for
the Tree Lighting Ceremony.


Tablecloth and placemats: Target
Yellow chargers: Michael's, sprayed yellow
White chargers: Aspen, Crate and Barrel
Dinner plates: Red Coupe, Crate and Barrel
Salad Plates: Christmas Light Dessert Plates, West Elm
String Light Goblets: Christmas Lights,
Red Wine goblets: Thrift Store
Red water goblets: Inherited, no information
Yellow Flatware: Splendente Italian Flatware, NapaStyle
Salt and Peppers: Pfaltzgraff
Alpine Tree: Tai Pan Trading Company
Napkins: fabric from Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts
String lights: GE 200 LED C-9, Lowe’s
LED Tree Topper: WalMart
Place markers: Tree ornaments, Big Lots
Red ladder: trim, dowels, red paint, Lowe’s

Elf: Help me out here.
This is a vintage elf, made in the
style of the Coca Cola Santas.
One of his hands is fashioned so
that he can hold a small coke bottle,
just like the coke santa dolls.
If you know anything about this doll,
please let me know.

November 24, 2010

If You Simply Must Plug It In

It's not yet December and the Christmas Season is upon us. Lights are everywhere. Suddenly the sparkle factor increases ten-fold.
Let's pretend that you're going for the gaudy look this year. Wouldn't glaring electric lights look great on your table? Sure they would! But how do you plug them in? Despite the increase in battery powdered LED lights, not all things twinkly can be lit with a Duracell Double AA. Here's one way to handle the situation.

First, focus on the spectacular, attention-grabbing photograph below. I believe it's important to capture my reader's interest right from the get-go.

1. If you possess minimal woodworking skills, you can make an extra leaf for your table. The leaf can be made from the cheapest wood available. Its edges don’t have to match the beveled edging on your present table. It doesn't even have to be stained or painted. Tablecloths and table pads make such details unnecessary.
It's pretty much just a board with holes drilled on one side and holes fitted with pegs (called table pins) on the other side. If you can't locate pins locally, you can find them at Rockler Woodworking.

The THICKNESS of the board is the most important measurement to keep in mind when locating the wood. You can cut the board to the proper length or have the lumber yard cut it for you. Remember, you will be covering it with a tablecloth, so aesthetics are of no concern.

Of course, for a fee, you can hire a carpenter. I hired my dad. He was very cheap.

My leaf is rather crude, but it has served me well for many years. No one suspects it's anything less than part of the original table. (I take that back. The lamp wire disappearing down through the middle of the table is probably a big give-away, but my guests definitely don't know how ugly it is.)

2. Drill a hole in the middle of the leaf, big enough for a large electrical plug to drop through. Screw a long block of wood near the hole on the underside of the leaf. (Mine shows two wood strips that form a right angle.) Attach a power strip to the long block.

DO NOT attach the power strip directly to the underside of the leaf. You may want to plug in those heavy adapters commonly known as wall warts. They'll fall right out if they're plugged in upside down. I discovered this the hard way.


3. In order to connect the power strip to an outlet, run an extension cord under the tabletop and down the inside of the table leg that is closest to an outlet.

PhotobucketTry as I may, I've been unable to come up with a way to camouflage the extension cord as it runs along the floor from the table to the outlet. So I've taken the reverse position and decided to call attention to it.

4. Grab a paper tube from a gift wrapping roll. You should have a lot of them this time of year. Make a very long Christmas Cracker with fringe at each end. Insert the extension cord before you tie the ends with ribbon. (I know that was obvious to you, but I had one end all tied up before it dawned on me.)


5. Put a very large buttonhole in the center of great grandma's linen tablecloth.

OK, I'll wait a minute while you catch your breath.

Breathe . . . Breathe . . . Now think about it for a minute. A buttonhole is not going to prevent you from using the tablecloth without a lighted feature at some other time. If you go to the trouble of ironing a linen tablecloth, you’re probably going to place some type of centerpiece, whether fancy or plain, right in the center of the table. It will cover the buttonhole. No one will ever know - especially not great grandma, because she went to heaven years ago.

6. Plug everything in. Don't forget to flip the power strip's switch to ON.

7. Sing "You Light Up My Life" while you admire your handy work.

Back to the How-To Page.
Back to the Random Thoughts Page.

November 17, 2010

Not Too Formal, Not Too Casual

A Thanksgiving Table

Our family Thanksgiving dinners are more and more casual these days.
Jeans and a collared shirt pass for acceptable attire.
Still, I like to set a nice table. So the challenge becomes one of emphasis - not too formal, but not too casual.


Traditional Thanksgiving dishes (turkey, stuffing, yams, etc.) will line the built-in buffet.
After the youngsters are settled and served, everyone is in charge of his own plate.


Tom Turkey, flanked by two lanterns, is making his Thanksgiving debut.
He sits atop a small glass cake plate surrounded by an orange and yellow pip berry garland.
Alternating solid and checkered napkins are placed in the center of each dinner plate.


A variety of nuts and a few mini pumpkins are scattered lengthwise down the table.

Pumpkin salt and pepper shakers sit at either end of the table.

Two special details (One is a little surprise.) can be found at each place setting. Both came straight from The Craftberry Bush, a marvelously creative and crafty site full of all sorts of goodies.




Along with a single fall leaf tied around each pumpkin or squash, is a whole walnut shell containing a small slip of paper, much like those found inside fortune cookies.


On each slip is a bit of Thanksgiving Trivia. (Did you know a full grown turkey can have up to 3,500 feathers?)

Prior to eating, guests crack open their Thankful Walnuts and read aloud what is written on the slips. Instructions for making Thankful Walnuts, along with more ideas about what to include on the secret slips, can be found on this page of The Craftberry Bush.


Place card holders are made from four short twig branches. Just a dab of hot glue and they're ready. Craftberry Bush instructions are found here


The wine and water glass arrangement is opposite of traditional stemware positions. The grouping looks more pleasing with the taller goblet to the left.
Though they appear to be a linen weave, the placemats are a wipe-clean vinyl.


Dinner plates: Heathware Pottery, Sandalwood, coupe design
Placemats: WalMart
Salt and Peppers: Hallmark
Woven chargers: eBay
Tablecloth: Painter's Tarp, Lowe's
Wine Goblets: Certified International, Olive Green,
Sterling: Reed and Barton, Burgundy
Water Goblets: Dollar Tree
Lanterns: Pottery Barn, Malta Lantern
Turkey, Tai Pan Trading Company

November 14, 2010

Fall Breakfast Table

Living in such a mild climate, Southern California residents miss much of the natural beauty associated with each season. Still, nature has given us some special gifts. One of them is the length of our outdoor living and entertaining season. It stretches from late April to early December - and sometimes even longer.

Although early mornings in mid November can be brisk, most are not cool enough to keep you indoors. By 9 am the sun is out in full force and temperatures are on the rise.


It's fool-hearty not to take advantage of the glorious weather, so this morning's breakfast will be served on the patio with Fall as the theme.
Nature's colors and seasonal foods define the design.


The menu calls for relatively few serving pieces - a plus when the dining area is more than a few steps from the house.
A sugar bowl and creamer rest on a small bamboo tray; one filled with dried cranberries and coarsely chopped nuts, the other with maple syrup.
Lanterns, a paper garland and a few small pine cones combine to make a centerpiece that's easy to cart outside, set up, tear down and haul back indoors.


Once napkins
find their way
onto laps . . .

. . . leaf plates
can be moved to
the side.


The cook announces, "Pumpkin waffles. Get 'em while they're hot."
Leaf dishes hold bacon and sliced apples.

An internet search will produce a dozen pumpkin waffle recipes. One such recipe can be found on the Betty Crocker Website. It has just enough pumpkin flavor so as not to be overwhelming. (In fact, pumpkin lovers may want to spice up the recipe a tad.)


Dig in!


Dinner plates, mugs, creamer and sugar: Heathware Pottery, Sandalwood, coupe design
Bamboo cracker tray: The Pampered Chef
Leaf Plates, Pottery Barn
Hammered flatware: Pottery Barn
Placemats and napkins: Sur La Table
Lanterns: Pottery Barn, Malta Lantern
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