December 11, 2012

Right Down Santa Claus Lane

Before I launch into an explanation of the patio decorations, I want to say something about the lights.
SantaClausLane2LED string lights are bright enough to light up a maximum security prison yard. Honestly. They make the dead of night look like high noon.
This picture was taken at midnight.
I used a series of 50 little, round LED G12 string lights.
In an attempt to avoid the above mentioned prison yard lighting, I used warm white bulbs (as opposed to cool white or true white).

Every few feet, 50 bulbs were stuffed into a large Mason jar.
Light plugs are hidden in the jars or under the Santas.
These lights are not harsh, but they definitely light up the table.
Though it may not appear so in this photo, they turn the Mason jars into magical beacons of light.

Ahh. The Grand Experiment.
Christmas Eve Dinner on the patio.
If your interested in how I built the table, visit my earlier post.


Didn't care for the salad bowls on the side.

Thought they looked so-so on the dinner plates.

Eventually, I decided to put the bowls on the buffet and have my guests fill their salad bowls first, then return to the buffet with their dinner plates.
It's a plainer look, no doubt, but more efficient considering the lack of wiggle room.
The burlap tablecloth, which is edged in red and white gingham, is covered with the word "believe". I seamed the fabric down the middle so that the words read right side up on both sides of the table.


A paint pen (especially designed for glass and ceramic) was used to write the word "believe" on Dollar Store wine glasses.

Strips of burlap and gingham wrap around Mason jar mugs.

The coffee station is to the left of the fireplace. The large coffee maker hasn't made it out of the box yet, but will be added shortly.
I spotted the big Santa on Jo-Ann's 60% off table. With the addition of a 50% off coupon, it was mine! I NEVER find deals like that.
At any rate, I love this Santie because his face and beard mimic the faces of the little table Santas.



Far be it from me to let the
Chalkboard Painting Craze
pass me by.

Armed with plenty of samples from the internet, I added a sign to lure guests into thinking
there's more options than I'm actually offering.

A chalk menu board is permanently mounted above the outdoor buffet.


Burlap stockings await Santa's arrival,
while a burlap ribbon wreath hangs above the mantel.


And on the only wall that has space left,
hangs a jigsaw puzzle my son put together
when he was about 8.

Added these place cards,
alternating Naughty and Nice at each placesetting.

In the Early Morning Rain
(I know some of you oldies just said, "With a dollar in my hand.")

Merry Christmas

Update, December 30, 2012:
This picture was taken by one of the Christmas Eve guests using the panoramic feature on the iPhone.


Red plates: The Dollar Tree
Felt table Santas: The Dollar Tree
Wine glasses: The Dollar Tree
Red flatware: Ginkgo,
Party straws: Sur La Table
Tablecloth, napkins, felt napkin rings, Christmas stockings: fabric from Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts
Large felt Santa: Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts
N. Pole Beanery sign: Scrap masonite, chalkboard paint (Lowe's), chalk pens (Aaron Bros.)
Large Mason jars: Meaney and Son Ace Hardware, La Jolla, California
Burlap wreath: wire frame and burlap ribbon from Michaels

December 9, 2012

Party in a Bag

PartyBagIntroAs you will see, I've made this gift, especially for you.
It's a Party In A Bag - a party just for two.

You're meant to use it with a friend, a colleague, or your brother,
Sister, child, closest cousin, or significant other.

You can choose to celebrate at a time you think is best -
You win a prize, find your keys, or just avoid arrest.

Although there's no official mark on calendar or chart,
The day will be remarkable because it's in your heart.

The point here is, the time and place are yours alone to make.
So find a cause, unpack these goods, and take a little break.

And while you're making merry at your own unique event,
Take a selfie, message me, and tell me how it went.

Turn up the music. Laugh a lot. Kiss and hug a while.
And when you toast your special day, please think of me and smile.


Let's start with the bag.

I bought ornaments and a few small items at Sur La Table.
I asked the clerk to place each item in a separate bag. She even threw in a few extra for me (as I needed 12).
Labels were printed and pasted over SLT's logo.


Inside, the recipient will find:

two small bags of confetti,
two plastic wine glasses,
one bottle white wine,
one bottle red wine
one candle (tea light)
two noisemakers,
two plates,
two napkins,
two balloons,
two snack servings,
plus . . .

a pennant garland. garland

Pennants were printed on the computer. (Google images for a nice B&W or colored background of your choice. Put the background inside a triangle and add a big letter.)
Strips of card stock were glued to the back for reinforcement. You can, of course, eliminate this step by printing directly on card stock. However, the Strip-on-the-Back Method is much cheaper if you are making several garlands.
The excess card stock strips were trimmed, and the pennants were threaded on a plastic-type ribbon I found at Michaels.


The "hors d'ouvers" are cheese and pretzel lunch snacks with a new label taped to the top of the plastic container.
Noisemakes are spray-painted mini coke cans with gravel inside.

If you're feeling flush, you can jazz this up with two glass flutes from The Dollar Tree, a split of champagne and a small string of clear Christmas lights.
I'm linking to

Inspire Me Monday Week 49
Between Naps on the Porch

December 5, 2012

Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot Chocolate Bars seem to be all over the internet these days.
I'm wondering if they're an extension of the Candy Bars that have come to be so popular at wedding receptions.
At any rate, I saw one that used an old bottle carrier on the blog Clean and Scentsible and had to try my hand at making one like it.


Having already owned a bottle carrier
(which is probably why the Clean and Scentsible one caught my eye), I gathered up some sweet ingredients and set one up in the kitchen.

The chalkboard is made from a piece of cardboard covered in chalkboard paint and trimmed with red duct tape.
It's light-weight and sticks to the upper cabinet with painter's tape. CocoaBarLongView
Two-inch blocks (painted red in keeping with the holiday),
were placed under the back three bottles to give them additional height.

The back right bottle has been replaced with something a little more potent than cocoa.
I made the red bottle stoppers, but they are quite unattractive.
I've ordered some big, fat corks to keep the chocolate mix and marshmallows fresh.

November 7, 2012

How to Build a Temporary (and Off-Center)
Dining Table that Seats Twenty

I have a fairly narrow, short dining area. If you couple that with the need to seat 15 to 20 people during the holidays, you'll always end up with a headache. This year I was ready to spring into action.

Now, where can we all eat in the same room? . . . . . . . The patio!

Southern California can be pretty sunny on December 24 (Think, "Rose Parade."), and even if it cools down after dark, we have a nice patio fireplace that throws out a tremendous amount of heat.

Yet, two rectangular tables (or more likely three) won't work in the space. There's simply no way to configure the tables such that all the diners would be a safe, comfortable distance from a fire.

Solution? Design a customized table.

I hauled out all the folding chairs from the shed and arranged them in a slightly curvy line, making sure that the chairs weren't too close to the fireplace.
chair arrangement
When you build your own, you can arrange the chairs any way you wish - slight curve, major curve, no curve, or, in my case, a curve closer to one end than the other.
In addition, you will also note that this is sort of a "pedestal table" with no legs near the edges, so no guest has to straddle a table leg.
It turned out that, despite what I imagined to be a small space, I placed 10 chairs on the outside curve and 8 chairs on the inside. And if need be, I can add a chair at either end.
Butcher paper was used to make a template for the tabletop.
butcher paper

I ordered 2X4 and 4X4 lumber cut to length, plus three sheets of 3/4 inch plywood. My 2X4s (used for the feet) are 14" long. This length is probably over-kill, but I was making this up as I went along and decided to error on the safe side. Wobbly tables drive me nuts!
The 4 X4s are 26-1/2" in length. (The chairs I'm using are slightly lower than regular dining room chairs. Normally, they should be at least 2 inches higher.)

My grandson and I made 6 legs. I wanted lots of support. Everything is screwed together, so it will all come apart later.

Four utility shelf brackets (meant to support 10" shelves) were mounted around the top of each leg. The table tops were cut and set upon the legs. Each bracket was screwed to the underside of the table top.

Once the table tops were attached to the legs,
metal straps are screwed to the edges of each joint. Brace2

VoilĂ !


The legs got a coat of red paint.

I've got free labor in the form of three grandchildren who love to help. I can easily get the legs repainted and repainted and repainted again, anytime I want. (Well, at least until the youngest turns 13 and grandma is demoted).

To see the table dressed up in all its Christmas finery, visit this 2012 post or this 2013 post.

Oh, one more thing:
TableCurveDiagram2 The table top is 36 inches wide, EXCEPT AT THE CURVED AREA, where it is 42 inches wide.
If kept at 36 inches, at least two of the diners on the inside curve would not be able to easily converse with one another because of the severity of the curve.
Since I was making the table and could do anything I wanted, I widened the table at the curve and then tapered it back to the 36 inch width at the straight runs. In reality, the problem of the inner chair dilemma was even more pronounced than it appears to be in the diagram to the left.
Of course, you may not run into this if your curve is more gradual.

I will be linking to
Linking to Craftberry Bush

May 17, 2012

Circus Day

On May 19, 1884, Ringling Brothers Circus gave its first performance.

A few years ago, when my grandchildren were still let's-play-circus age, I decided the four of us would celebrate Circus Day with a special circus dinner and a video (Dumbo).
The tablecloth is a fabric piece from a church bazaar.
A jar dipped in yellow paint was used to make the circles.

The balloon centerpiece was copied from a picture I saw on the internet.

Candles are Christmas pillars atop upside down stemware.
Place cards were made from a graphic on the internet.

Sponge clown noses rest on yellow napkins.

Turned out, it was too hard to eat dinner and wear the nose at the same time.
Still fun, though!

Dinner plates were found at a summer yard sale. This was the first time I’d used them. Got the salads too, but there were only two of them - all six for $5.
If I would have had some of those dishes that look like ice cream cones, I would have used them in place of the plastic juice cups. Every summer I say I’m going to buy a set.

The small Playmobile figures were part of a box of leftover items I used when teaching an animation class in middle school. After retirement, I gave them all to my grandchildren. A week before Circus Day, I asked the children to go through their toys and bring me "all the people and circus animals you can find." I went to the store and bought a clown. What’s a circus without a clown???

The yellow booklets tied to the backs of the chairs contained circus themed pages
I found on the internet: dot-to-dots, word searches and coloring pages.
Animal crackers were meant for lunch boxes the following day.

Chicken on a stick (I have a grandchild who doesn’t like hot dogs.),
corn on the cob,
a watermelon slice,
and lemonade in a box,

Then we all took our vanilla ice cream cones
to eat in front of the TV while we watched Dumbo.

I 'm joining
PhotobucketA Stroll Thru Life
for the 116th Table Top Tuesday
100Between Naps on the Porch
for 194th Tablescape Thursday

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