Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Dinner Table

This was our first year to host Christmas dinner at our house.  We had both of our families over for a total of 11 people.  I wanted to make the table festive and elegant with a lot of natural elements.  Here's what I came up with:

I knew I wanted greenery on the table, but I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do it until I went browsing at the craft store.  I found nice quality artificial garland 70% off the weekend before Christmas.  I cut it into pieces, averaging about 12 inches long each, so that I could place the greenery more precisely how I wanted.

To add elegance and a nice ambiance, I used a variety of candles.  In the center, I floated three red candles in a bowl with fresh cranberries (bringing in the natural elements).

On either side of the bowl, I had a pedestal candle holder with a red pillar candle.

Then on each end, I used a bowl half filled with Epsom salt (to mimic a snowy look) and topped with fresh cranberries.  I used a small pedestal candle holder in each bowl with a white votive candle.

When entertaining for big groups, I'm usually big on easy cleanup, but because I wanted this to be a really elegant table, I decided to use my wedding china.  It meant more dishes to hand wash, but it looked beautiful!  (And how often do I get to use my china anyway?  It's worth the extra cleanup once in a while).

I wanted natural elements at each place setting, so I tied the napkins with natural jute twine and tucked a cinnamon stick and a sprig of fresh rosemary in each one.  I also used real wood "stump" place card holders.

Finally, to tie in the cinnamon sticks to the centerpiece, I filled four small votive candle holders with Epsom salt and cinnamon sticks and placed them alongside the greenery.

I love how it all turned out.  Merry Christmas!

Ladies' Small Group Christmas Party

I am in an absolutely wonderful ladies' small group Bible study.  I love these women so much, so for Christmas, I wanted to give back to them by hosting a Christmas party for them.  I had so much fun setting up for this party.  I wanted the table settings to be really fun, so I took some ideas from Pinterest and modified them to make them my own.  I love how it all turned out!

I used plain white dinner and salad plates to form the snowmen.  The hats are made with a plain blue beverage napkin and a table knife for the rim.  The scarves are made with two rectangular napkins.  I folded one to wrap around the "neck," and another to tuck into the neck.  Each snowman has fork and spoon arms, Hershey's Drops for eyes and buttons, and a mini carrot nose.

I found these cute little mitten ornaments at a local craft show, so I put one mitten on each snowman.  I just tucked the hanger part under and hooked the mitten onto the fork.  The ladies took their mitten home as a party favor.  Since we ended up with more place settings than people, they had fun looking around to pick which mitten they wanted.

I typically like to do name cards for company, but this was the type of gathering where I didn't want to assign seats.  So instead of name cards, I wrote a little message on the cards.  I wanted the women to feel loved and appreciated because they mean so much to me.

For dinner, we had homemade spaghetti and meatballs, garlic green beans, bread made in my bread machine, and a Christmas tree shaped chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.  It was a great evening!

My Memory Tree

Whenever I'm browsing Pinterest or looking through a home decor magazine before Christmas, I admire all of the pretty Christmas trees, perfectly decorated with just the right balance of colors and shapes.  As nice as those trees look in a magazine, though, it just wouldn't be Christmas to me if I decorated my tree that way.  My Christmas tree (and all the trees I had while growing up) is a memory tree.  I've been collecting Christmas ornaments since I was a child.  I've actually had to cut back on my collecting in recent years because I've run out of room on the tree.  I now limit myself to one Hallmark ornament per year (and an occasional other "special" souvenir type of ornament).  Continuing a tradition my parents have had since they were engaged in 1976, my husband and I choose one Hallmark ornament each year to represent something from that year.  So when I decorate my Christmas tree each November, I'm not just thrilled by the way it makes our family room look pretty and festive.  It's also a heart-warming experience as almost every ornament brings back some special memory.  Here are just a handful of examples of the memories on my tree.

A pair of mittens that I got from AWANA (a kids' church program) in 5th or 6th grade.  I cashed in the reward bucks I had earned and picked out this pair of mittens that still hangs on my tree.

A bell from the tables at our wedding reception:

Every year, my mom gives me the Mother-Daughter and the Daughter Hallmark ornaments.  Here is one of them.

In 2010, I went ice skating for the first (and only) time in my life.  I was TERRIBLE!!  I held onto my friend Emily the whole time and couldn't move at all if I let go.  Emily later gave me this ice skate ornament.  It always makes me chuckle (and appreciate my sweet friend who kept me from falling.)

This "Joy" mug is such a tiny, little, nothin'-fancy ornament, but my grandparents gave it to me the last Christmas before my grandpa passed away.  So even though it's a tiny, generic type of ornament, it means something to me.

The year we got married:

The year we found a toad in the crock of the sump pump:

An ornament that my grandma (who passed away in 1994) gave me as a child.  I had a matching painting on my bedroom wall.

An ornament I got the last time I went to a Christmas tree farm with my parents:

The ornament that probably gives me the biggest chuckle every year is my black Christmas tree.  A little girl that I babysat (she's now in high school) colored this ornament for me when she was just a little squirt.

Even though I don't follow the Pinterest or HGTV instructions for how to decorate a Christmas tree, I, for one, think that our memory tree is beautiful!  Merry Christmas, Everyone!