Category Archives: Entertaining

Small Table Solutions for Holiday Dinners – And Some Dinner Party Themes

This time of year, magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram are packed with dreamy images of holiday tables large enough to seat armies and piled high with picture-perfect holiday decor. Somehow, guests cheerfully manage to pass serving dishes between the towering centerpieces, candle groupings, and festive bric-a-brac.

Yeah, right.  In the real world, once the food platters arrived, most of that stuff would have to go.  And in the real world, dining room tables and family celebrations come in all sizes – even small.  So today I’m sharing a few tips for decorating a small table without sacrificing space.

Use Scaled-Down Centerpieces

I have a tiny dining room that can only house a small table.  But because my husband loves to cook the turkey, we happily host Thanksgiving.

For small holiday tables, it’s best to keep the look festive yet clutter-free.  So I keep my centerpieces compact.  They don’t sprawl across the table, and they are not too tall.

Take last year’s centerpiece for example.

Holiday table decor: Jewel toned centerpiece

In an urn with a small base, it didn’t take up much real estate on the table.  And it was just tall enough to add interest without being a distraction.

Choose an Interesting Theme

Since I have to carefully edit what I do put on the table, I try to come up with an interesting theme.  Last year it was jewel tones.

A lively tablecloth and flowers,  and amethyst runners and napkins, kept the mood festive.

Holiday table decor: jewel toned table decor

And the year before that, it was serene earth tones and rustic textures.

Holiday table decor: subtle elegance

Again, these looks are clean and simple.  On a small table, any more decor would add clutter.

Use Smaller Plates

Over the years, dinner plates have gotten bigger and bigger.  Many modern dinner plates are 12 inches wide.  Get a few too many of them on a small table and things look crowded.

For dinner parties, I often use our antique china plates which are just under 10  inches wide.  They are a better scale for the table, and they still hold plenty of food.

Use Narrow Chairs

According to Emily Post, for guests to be seated comfortably there should be at least six inches between chairs.  So using narrow chairs means that more chairs can be placed at the table.

Place the Silverware on the Plate

Another way to keep the look clutter-free and add the appearance of more space between place settings is to use this restaurant-inspired trick.

Rolling the silverware in the dinner napkin and placing it in the middle of the plate (as opposed to beside the plate) saves space.

Holiday table decor: silverware

Rethink the Placemats

When I’m trying to seat eight people on my small dining room table, placemats wind up too closely spaced to look good. Scaled-down chargers can be a nice alternative.

Bending the rules a little is fun too.  Simply using smaller, attractive dinner napkins as placemats can work.

Last year, I placed narrow homemade runners across the width of my table to give the place settings definition without taking up space.

Holiday table decor: homemade runners define the place settings

Which leads me to my fun new way to define a place setting without taking up any table space at all.

Save up to 60% on Black Friday

Put It Under Glass

When we are not hosting dinner parties, we take the leaves out of our table and it becomes a small square table – great for two to four people.

It’s an antique table from the Craftsman era, so to protect the wood – and make the table easier to clean – we had a piece of polished glass cut to fit over the top.

custom cut glass table top

Sometimes we put a tablecloth under the glass and sometimes we just enjoy the look of the wood. Either way, it’s super easy to clean now. This is a wonderful option for a small table.

And it got me thinking.  I started playing with ways to define place settings by placing gilded leaves – in this case, witch hazel leaves – between the tablecloth and the glass. (For how I gilded the leaves, see this post.)

Holiday table decor: gilded leaves under glass

They are placed fairly tight around the edge the of the plate – again keeping the look compact.

The dark tablecloth adds elegance and sets off the golden leaves.

Holiday table decor: gilded leaves under glass closeup

And as you can see, the leaves are under the glass, so they don’t interfere with anything on top of the table yet they still add interest.

Leaves can also be arranged under the glass to expand the look of the centerpiece.

Holiday table decor: Gilded leaves as centerpiece under glass

The possibilities here are endless.  For spring and summer, flowers or fern fronds would be fun.

Of course, once we expand the table for Thanksgiving, our glass top won’t fit.  But at least this started me thinking, so this year my Thanksgiving decor just might include leaves pressed under glass.

Have Fun

Whatever the size of your dining room table, things always turn out better when you enjoy decorating it. So don’t forget the most important tip of all:  Have some fun with it!

35 Dinner Party Themes

Recently, ProFlowers reached out to me to share their wonderful post “35 Dinner Party Themes Your Guests Will Love.”  It’s a compilation of dozens of creative dinner party themes with helpful filters such as style, season, and guest size to help plan the perfect holiday get together.

In addition to being packed with creative ideas, the guide is beautifully photographed.  I hope you enjoy perusing it as much as I did!

ProFlowers Dinner Party Guide


You might also enjoy:


Linking up with:

 

Roses, An Easy Patio Tablecloth, and Some Vintage Finds

Are we already in August?  As usual, the summer is going by too fast, and now we only have a few weeks left – with so much we want to do.  So I’ve decided to put this blog down for a little late-summer nap.  While it’s sleeping, I’ll be working on projects to share with you in September.  At least that’s the plan.

And since this is my last post until then, I have all kinds of things to show you.

Costco Roses with Summer Garden Clippings

As I mentioned in my previous post, My Three-Season Greenhouse, my husband gave me two dozen Costco roses for our anniversary.

Arranging roses in a Sunglo Greenhouse

With so many roses, I thought it would be fun to break them into several different arrangements and include some fresh clippings from the garden.

I gathered some of my favorite vases and headed to the greenhouse.

Vintage vases

I had to work fast because it was warm in there and I didn’t want the roses to wither.  I came up with these three arrangements.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

The old thriller-filler-spiller technique used in container gardening also works well for floral arrangements.

Roses, lady's mantle and love-lies-bleeding in a vintage glass vase

  • Thriller:  Red roses
  • Filler:  Lady’s mantle flowers (Alchemilla mollis or Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • Spiller:  Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

I love the fresh green of the lady’s mantle flowers as a substitute for fillers like baby’s breath.  The crimson-tasseled annual called love-lies-bleeding adds a little drama and works nicely with the color of the vintage glass vase.

Manicured

I set yellow roses upright on a spike frog in a vintage milk glass vase for this buttoned-up look for the master bedroom.

yellow roses with dahlias and maidenhair fern in a milk glass vase

I tucked in maidenhair fern (Adiantum) fronds from the shade garden and, around the perimeter, Bishop of Llandaff dahlias.

This late in summer, most of my summer perennials are starting to fade, but because I deadhead these dahlias, the plants bloom for months.

Classic

I put the remaining roses in a tall crystal vase with honeybush (Melianthus major) leaves around the perimeter.  These large silvery leaves add a touch of glamour.

roses with honeybush leaves in a crystal vase

An Easy DIY Patio Tablecloth

Feeling like the summer was getting away from me, I hosted several small get togethers on our patio last week.

Planning the table decor is always half the fun, and I wanted a tablecloth that would complement our china and the chair cushions.

At the fabric store, I came across a whimsical home decor fabric called Sannio Cabana by SMC Swavelle Millcreek.

outdoor table setting

It was 54 inches wide, so I just asked for a 54-inch cut of fabric and hemmed it to have a square tablecloth.

home and garden - outdoor table setting

The square tablecloth worked well with the 42-inch round table.  I positioned it so that it draped elegantly between the chairs yet guests didn’t wind up with a bunch of extra fabric on their laps.

home and garden - square tablecloth on a round table

With a tablecloth this lively, I didn’t need much else in the way of table decor – especially on such a small table.

home and garden - patio party table setting
Photo courtesy of Lisa Wildin

Not wanting to attract bees, I didn’t use any flowers.  The centerpiece was a citronella candle.

home and garden - citronella centerpiece

That and a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth did a fairly decent job of keeping pests away.   (Note: For more tips on keeping bugs from crashing a patio party, see this post.)

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

My Recent Vintage Finds

I always look forward to the annual garage sale that my neighborhood hosts.  I never participate because I would rather cruise around and see what everyone is selling.

This year I scored with two of these tall fir cabinets with leaded glass doors – for $5 each!  The style is an exact match to the original built-ins in our house.

home and garden - vintage cabinets

They have that “old schoolhouse” smell that I love.  I have several ideas of where to use them in our house, so we’ll see what happens.

My friend, Carolyn, participated in the sale and when I admired these adorable mid century salt and pepper shakers that belonged to her mother, she gave them to me.  Thanks Carolyn!

Mid century salt and pepper shakers

They are perfect for our vintage trailer, the June Bug.

And then while visiting an antique store in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, we found this spike frog to add to my frog collection.

vintage flower frog

I couldn’t resist that rustic patina.

See You in September

I hope those of you living in the Northern hemisphere have a chance to get out and enjoy what is left of your summer.  Let’s meet back here in September!


Disclosure:  This post contains Affiliate Links. 

Resources:

Here are a few fun tidbits from around the web, including the fabric (at a lower price than I paid) and the salad plates I used in my table setting.

Late summer design inspiration

Center:  Villeroy & Boch Switch 3 Cordoba Salad Plate  Clockwise from top:  Set of 2 Vintage Flower Frogs  | Sannio Cabana fabric by the yard | 4″ Daisy Milk Glass Ruffletop Vase | Beettle Kill Pine Candleholder with Citronella Candles


You might also enjoy:


Linking up with:

A Birthday and a Bunch of Carnations

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links


 

We recently hosted a family birthday brunch for my mom.  She appreciates pretty table settings and beautiful floral arrangements as much as I do, so I was looking forward to setting the table.

The Centerpiece

Around Valentine’s Day, the price of roses skyrockets.  And in February, other options for fresh flowers are limited.  But one enduring classic came to the rescue:  Carnations.

Mom uses them as one of her go-to flowers in her floral arrangements, and no wonder.  They have a lovely light, spicy fragrance, come in a variety of colors, and stay fresh a long time.  As a cut flower, they are underrated and usually reasonably priced.

So I bought a grocery store bunch of carnations in mixed colors.  I put a wire flower frog inside a milk glass container and cut the carnations to fit just above the rim.

I had some eucalyptus leaves that had dried in place in one of my winter white arrangements so I used them around the perimeter of the container.

birthday brunch centerpiece

And I had a pretty centerpiece.

birthday brunch centerpiece

Vintage Linens

For the table dressing, I used a few pieces from my vintage linen collection.  I placed a square table topper diagonally over a linen tablecloth and used cheerful rose print napkins on the place settings.

vintage fabrics

Porcelain China

The china is Villeroy & Boch “Switch 3” salad plates over Villeroy and Boch “Casa Look” dinner plates.

birthday brunch table setting

birthday brunch table decorations

What looks like a tea pot is actually the coffee pot for the Casa Look pattern.  The Casa Look china is discontinued.  It is our everyday china, and I love that it is strong porcelain china.  Clumsy as I am, these pieces have stayed intact for years with no chips.

The Switch 3 pieces are a gift from Mom.  They work nicely with the Casa Look and are also very durable.

birthday brunch
Can you spot the tabby cat in this photo?

The Leftover Carnations

When I first unwrapped the carnation bundle, I found that three of the blossoms were broken off at the base.  But why waste them? They made a cute statement on a bathroom windowsill.

carnations on windowsill

And the carnations I had left over from the centerpiece looked sweet in this little cup on the living room sideboard.

carnations in blue cup

The Birthday Cake

The cake was actually a key lime pie.  I got this key lime pie recipe from a trusted source and it is delicious and easy to make.

I wanted the pie to look like a cake so I pressed the graham cracker/almond crust into a springform pan but I went up the sides of the pan too far with the crust – far beyond the level of the custard filling.  I was worried the crust would crumble when I took the springform apart, but luckily that did not happen.

So what started by mistake became an interesting presentation. The crust was precarious, but it looked unique and held together while we sang Happy Birthday.

birthday brunch: the cake


About Villeroy & Boch:

What I love about Villeroy & Boch is that this company is not afraid to take chances and have some fun with their china.  Many of their designs are fanciful and so imaginative.  Even their more traditional designs seem to teeter just on the verge of whimsy. This edginess is surprising for a company whose origins date back to 1748.

An eclectic assortment of vintage Villeroy & Boch china can be found on Etsy.

Villeroy and Boch
Photo courtesy of Shop on Sherman

.


You might also enjoy:

Linking up with:

Three Ways to Simplify Party Hosting

If you are planning a holiday party, you are probably so busy right now that you barely have time to read this, so I will get right to the point:  If you think you will have time to mix cocktails for your guests, you probably won’t.  Bring out that perfect chilled or heated dessert at just the right time?  Doubtful.  Hover around the food table so you can let your guests with dietary restrictions know which foods are safe to eat?  Not likely.

Even if you did somehow manage to get across the room, mix that cocktail and bring it to your guest before he or she dies of thirst, it would come at a very high price:  Missing out on visiting with all the other guests you pass along the way.

I have learned the hard way that it’s no good to flit around nervously at your own party, trying to do a million things at once. Your guests will enjoy the party more if you are relaxed and have time to chat. And so will you.

So here are a few simple suggestions to help make that happen.

1.  A DIY Cocktail Station

Since I do not have the first clue about how to mix a cocktail, this task lands squarely on the capable shoulders of my husband, Chris. But he doesn’t want to be anchored to a bar all night.  So he sets up a little DIY cocktail station so guests can help themselves.

This is the simple countertop station that he recently set up.

Party Hosting Tips - DIY Liquor Station

You could definitely have some fun with this idea and set up a more elaborate station.  Shakers, mixers, garnishes, and glasses should all be available for guests to help themselves.

Sometimes if Chris knows that several guests will want the same drink, he might pre-mix a pitcher of just one type of cocktail.  But even so some guests want to mix their own drinks a specific way.

Of course for this to work, you have to be able to trust your guests to know their limits or have a safe ride home.

2.  A Cookie Table

Chilled or heated desserts can be tricky for a party, especially an open house where folks are dropping by at different times. The most practical dessert would be something that can sit for several hours at room temperature – namely cookies.

Many people, myself included, shy away from foods that are difficult to eat while standing and mingling.  But cookies are easy and portable – no fork or plate is needed.

For a cookie table to be interesting, the cookies should be beautiful, tasty, and small. Small cookies mean that folks can sample a variety without feeling guilty.

My mom, Erika, makes wonderful cookies using old world recipes.

cookie table - party hosting tips

Whenever she volunteers cookies for my parties, I jump at the opportunity.

cookie table - party hosting tips

It spares my guests from my own baking efforts, which are marginal at best.  Add a bowl of nuts and some chocolate and you’re good.

We all know someone who loves to bake, so if you don’t have time to bake or don’t enjoy it, seek that person out to bake cookies for your party.

3.  Food Tags for Guests with Dietary Restrictions

Guests don’t always want their dietary restrictions to be a topic of conversation at parties.  So instead of pointing out which foods your friend with a dietary restriction can eat, make little tags and signs to place near the food.

For example, a few gluten-free appetizers can be grouped on one platter with a simple “GF” sign placed in the middle.

Party Hosting tips - Gluten Free Tray

For this sign, I used a wooden stir stick as the little signpost and a flower frog to anchor the sign.

Party Hosting tips - Gluten-Free Tray

Similar signs can be attached to bowls of gluten-free crackers and chips.

No more worries, and no more having to scream “Don’t eat that!” from across the room.

4.  Now Enjoy the Party

My suggestions do require a little planning and work in advance, but that will pay off later when you are able to relax and enjoy the party.

Happy Holidays Dear Readers!

This will be my last post before the new year, so I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my dear readers the happiest of holidays. We will meet here again in January.

Happy Holidays!

 



You might also enjoy:

 


Linking up with:

A DIY Cake Stand for Holiday Entertaining

I was shopping recently with my mom, Erika, and we ran across a beautiful red metal footed cake stand that I just loved.  I prefer to buy vintage or handmade when I can, but this cake stand was new and mass produced.

So my shoulder devil started arguing with my shoulder angel, saying I should just go ahead and buy it.  But then Mom’s voice cut through the clamor.

“You could make your own.”

So I gave it a try.

A Visit to the Thrift Stores

Originally, the plan was to use a metal candlestick for the base and the lid of a cookie tin for the platter.  But I ran across a small metal flower pot at a thrift store.  Used upside down, it would be a nice stable base for the cake stand.  Price:  69 cents.

I wrote off the cookie tin lid idea after realizing that most are not big enough.  So at a second thrift store, I found a round metal platter that would do nicely.  Price:  $2.39.

DIY cake stand using a flower pot and a vintage metal platter

Painting the Cake Stand

I used two Rust-Oleum paints that I already had on hand.

For the base and for the top of the platter, I used Rust-Oleum Gold Rush Metallic.  It has a vintage appeal and is the same spray paint that my husband, Chris, used when he spruced up the heat registers in our 1927 house.

For  a little contrast, I used good old Rust-Oleum Satin Heirloom White to paint the underside of the platter.  It’s same color I used to paint this hose basket for my greenhouse and this serving tray.

A little Super Glue held the two pieces together.

The Result

The cake stand looks nothing like the red one I originally fell in love with.  But my Frankenstein monster cake stand is unique.  And I can use it for many things:  Cakes, cookies, appetizers.  Elevated food stands really add a festive touch to a buffet table.

DIY cake stand

Of course I do not trust the surface to be food safe.  I will use either a plate or some parchment paper with the stand.

DIY cake stand

So I’m safe from my shoulder devil – for now.


Resources:

I could spend all day looking at all the beautiful vintage and handmade cake stands on Etsy.  These are especially charming.

RoxyHeartVintage cake stands

Affiliate links used.


You might also enjoy:

 


Linking up with:

 

Six Easy Tips for a Memorable Tablescape

Have you ever received a gift  – maybe some little extravagance you wouldn’t have bought yourself – that got you thinking?  Recently my brother and sister-in-law gave me a big bunch of lavender from a lavender farm.

At first I couldn’t decide what to do with all that lavender.  But then I remembered my new estate sale find:  A footed milk glass urn.  I feel that anything arranged in an urn immediately takes on a more formal, buttoned up appearance, which I love.  So needless to say I have a lot of little urns floating around the house.

Anyway, I decided to pair the lavender – all of it – with the urn.

Lavender in milk glass urn

I trimmed the stems and used a spike frog to get the lavender to stand uniformly in the urn.  So easy, and it took all of five minutes.

Now going back to the “thinking” part I mentioned earlier:  This look was so pretty that it started me thinking about using lavender as a fresh spin on a fall tablescape.  So I created a fall tablescape for my tiny dining room table, keeping these easy guidelines in mind.

1.  Find Your Inspiration

I always need a starting point – something to build on.  The lavender in the urn was my inspiration.  For you it might be wheat stalks in a tall glass vase or short mums in a tarnished silver bowl.  Maybe your inspiration isn’t even floral.  Maybe it’s a few vintage glass floats.  Pick something that speaks to you and then build your tablescape on that.

2.  Choose Your Color Strategy

Fall décor can look heavy pretty quickly.  I wanted to keep it light and airy so I went with varying shades of blue, cream, and yellow.

tablescapes

It adds interest to repeat and layer similar colors.  I repeated the blue with the porcelain cup and the cream and sugar set.

tablescapes

I cut down my hop vines recently and have been using them a lot for fall decor.  Here they add a stronger shade of cream to the table.

I also layered a vintage tablecloth and a vintage runner, both in cream, to add some texture.

tablescapes: layer similar colors

Which leads me to the next tip.

3.  Contrast Textures, Shapes, and Heights

With such a muted color palette, it’s a good idea to add interest by using texture.  There is a lot of formal polish going on in this tablescape:  Silver utensils, fine china, a smooth milk glass urn.

To make it interesting, it needs some rustic texture.  Of course the natural elements – the lavender, the small pumpkins, the hop cones, and the dried reeds – add a lot of texture.

Another rustic touch that works well here is this terracotta pot filled with witch hazel leaves.

tablescapes: add texture

Standing with the fine china and silver, it doesn’t look out of place.  The large yellow leaves, simply stacked vertically in the pot, contrast in shape and size to the lavender as do the hop cones.

The varying heights of the green McCoy bud vase, the milk glass urn, and the terracotta pot make for an interesting triangle.

tablescapes: vary heights

Which brings me to the next tip.

4.  Symmetry or Asymmetry?

Much as I love symmetry, I decided to lay out the tablescape in an asymmetrical design to add some visual energy to the muted color palette. It gives the table a more casual feel.

last whole table1 (1024x683)

Along with the varied heights, the asymmetry slows down the visual feast that a tablescape provides.  It takes a little longer for the eye to take everything in, making it more interesting.

But symmetry certainly does have its place in tablescapes.  Items placed on a table in repeating, balanced patterns give it a clean, formal feel, and it looks great on a long or large table.  So it’s fun to play around with the concept and see what comes of it.

5.  Practical Considerations

Tablescapes are feasts for the eyes.  But when the real feast arrives, as my husband is always quick to point out, “Some of this stuff has got to go to make room for the food.”  So I might as well just state the obvious:  Tablescapes aren’t practical.

It helps when creating a tablescape to decide what will “go” later, what will stay when the food is brought out, and how you want that to look.

Of course if you are doing a separate buffet table for the food, or if the food is being plated for your guests, this won’t be a concern.

 6.  Have Fun!

The next time you decorate your table, give these tips a try.  And remember the most important tip of all:  Have fun!  It will show on your table.


Resources:

Need some inspiration?  I love these looks from Etsy.  The Thanksgiving Party Crackers are a fun idea.

tt mason jars tt party crackers tt plaid runner

Fall Distressed Mason Jars  | Thanksgiving Party Crackers | Handmade Plaid Runner

Affiliate links used.


 

 


You might also enjoy:


 Linking up with:

 

A (Mostly) Bug-Free Patio Party

One thing I love about summer is that we can have dinners out on our back patio.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

Tucked into the back corner of our garden, it’s a serene and private outdoor dining room – that is until the bugs find us.

When Pests Show Up for Dinner

Summer bugs are usually not a big problem here in the Pacific Northwest – especially compared to other parts of the U.S.  But this summer has been unusually hot and dry – and it seems that the mosquitos and wasps have been unusually pesky.

Allsop Home & Garden

Our dining room is small, so in summer I like to have dinner parties outside.  And since we had a little dinner party coming up, I thought I’d better search the internet to see how I could keep those pests away.

I came up with a combination of solutions from different sources and decided to give them a try.

Marigolds

One tip I found is that bugs, especially mosquitos, don’t like marigolds.

So the day before the party, as an experiment, I planted marigolds in clay pots and put them on our patio table while we ate dinner.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

It seems wasps and flies aren’t crazy about them either.  We were halfway through our salmon dinner before they found us – a small victory since wasps love salmon.

Other flowers and herbs can also be used to deter mosquitos, but some, such as lavender, would surely attract bees.  Speaking of which . . .

Avoid Using Floral Tablecloths

This tip is supposed to keep bees away from the table.  Actually I have never found bees to be a problem because real bees could not care less what we are eating.  If something that looks like a bee is hovering around or crawling on your food, chances are it’s really a wasp.

But bees are constantly searching for flowers, and they investigate anything that looks like a flower.  So I thought it would be best to keep outdoor table flowers to a minimum (except the marigolds) and avoid floral colors and patterns for the tablecloth.

Since muslin is inexpensive and, as far as I’m concerned, underrated, I decided to sew a muslin tablecloth.   I used a wide strip of burlap ribbon for a table runner.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

For our dinner party, we substituted our usual round patio table for this rectangular folding table since it accommodates more people.  The width of the muslin fabric was perfect for this table, and I didn’t even bother to hem the selvage edges, just the ends.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

So we had an understated tablescape not likely to attract those hardworking bees.

Our regular patio chairs were too large for the table so we used our vintage folding chairs.  With their burlap-looking seat fabric, they looked cute with the table setting.

chair

Citronella Candles and Oil

These really seemed to work.  I put three citronella candles in a wide jar and also had a small citronella votive at each end of the table.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

We also set out a tiki torch that burned citronella oil.

keeping bugs away from outdoor party

Dryer Sheets

Apparently this little trick is sometimes used by restaurants with outdoor dining areas.  So I tucked a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth.

Keep Food Covered

I did have a mesh food cover on hand in case I needed to cover the meat.  But I never did need it.  The combination of smells from the candles, the dryer sheets, and the marigolds must have confused the bugs enough to keep them away.

Success Even Without Traps

A few wasps did hover around a bit, but they didn’t stay long.  And even after dark, mosquitos were not a problem.

As an added precaution, we also set out a yellow jacket trap – the kind that uses a pheromone – but at the end of the night only a couple of bugs were in there.   Those traps can be unappetizing to look at during a dinner party.  Also, some wasps are actually beneficial as they keep certain predator insects in check.

Burkedecor.com is all new

So as another experiment, we had dinner out on the patio the following evening with everything except the trap – and we still were not pestered by bugs.

These tips might not work everywhere and every time, but so far so good on my back patio.  Do you have any secrets of your own for keeping bugs away from outdoor parties?


Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post.

Resources:

A table setting that keeps pests away can still be romantic and fun.  I would love to try these options from Etsy.

amber candle blue candle burlap runner fence candle lace candle ruffled linen

Citronella Natural Soy Candle | Three-Wick Large Citronella Candle | Burlap Table Runners | Colorful Candle Holder with Citronella | Citronella 24-Ounce Candle |Ruffled Linen Tablecloth


 

Want some fresh ideas for your outdoor space?  Visit my new 2016 Summer Style Boards page.

2016 Summer Style Boards

You might also enjoy:


Linking up with:

 

 

A Tropical Makeover for an Old Cookie Sheet

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links


Recently I decided I needed another serving tray for our backyard patio.  I usually see all kinds of cute serving trays in local shops, but of course now that I actually needed one, I was having trouble finding one that I liked.

Finding Inspiration in the Basement

Then I remembered the old cookie sheet I had come across while organizing the basement last fall.  Too far gone to give to charity, it wound up in a pile of metals to be recycled.  Luckily I had not yet done anything with that pile.

cooking sheet before makeover

It was just the size I wanted for the tray.  So I went over it thoroughly with super-fine sandpaper and then spray painted it with one of my old standbys, Rust-Oleum Heirloom White.   Then I glued cork to the bottom.

That was a nice start, but it definitely needed something.  I kicked a few ideas around – maybe stenciling a border or doing some kind of artsy collage.  This project could go in so many fun directions.

Finding Even More Inspiration in the Basement

While looking for my stencils in the basement, I came across a poster from a trip to Hawaii.  One of us liked the poster enough to carefully pack it into carry-on luggage (the only way we travel) and bring it all the way back home.

poster for cookie sheet

We never got around to framing the poster.  It was moved from room to room and finally wound up in the basement.

With its beautiful colors and striking imagery, it would be perfect for the tray – if I cut it down a little bit.

My First Experience with Mod Podge

I cut the poster to size and glued it to the tray with the Mod Podge.  It was a little difficult to get the poster to stay completely tacked down.  A few bubbles formed, which I had to carefully work away.  Plus the poster already had some minor creases.

Allsop Home & Garden

So it didn’t look perfect but it really didn’t look half bad.  I decided to apply four coats of the Mod Podge over the poster, letting the Mod Podge dry between applications.  I used heavy brush strokes to apply it so that the imperfections in the poster would be blended into the overall look.

A Usable Souvenir

cookie sheet tray

Now I have a tray that is fun for use outdoors – and a souvenir of our trip to Hawaii.

cookie sheet tray

 Stylish Trays for Outdoor Entertaining

Fresh and easy care serving trays bring an elegant vibe to outdoor parties.

OB-snapshot

Goban and Paco Picnic Fog Linen TrayMetamorphosis Round Specimen Tray | Maritime Octopus Tray | Eden Roc Medium Tray Starfish Tray Design by Thomas PaulMelamine Handled Tray

Resources:

Want some fresh ideas for your outdoor space?  Visit my new 2016 Summer Style Boards page.

2016 Summer Style Boards

You might also enjoy:

Linking up with:

My Top 10 Posts for 2014 and a Look Ahead at 2015

This blog, My Sweet Cottage, which I started late last summer, actually made one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 come true:  To find more things I enjoy doing.  I really love having this blog, and I have you to thank.  Your comments and encouragement keep me going and keep it fun.

A blog is a great way of documenting the year.  Here, in semi-chronological order, is a look back at my top 10 posts for 2014.

Things That Happened in 2014

1. We lost my dear mother-in-law in May, but we found a beautiful way of honoring her life.  Betty would have loved her celebration of life party.

picture string closeup

2.  I shared the colorful makeover of our little garden shed.

Potting shed with paint and new roof

3.  In a three-part series, I talked about our master bathroom remodel.

master bath looking south

4.  In another three-part series, I covered our kitchen remodel.

kitchen remodel - south wall after

5.  My mother brought me some beautiful hydrangeas for floral arrangements.

Decorating with Hydrangeas

6.  I cleaned out our basement and found all kinds of treasures to revamp or repurpose.  My husband, Chris, reupholstered the mid-century chair he remembers from his childhood.

Midcentury chair revamp

7.  My brother and his wife have been busy too with their 1908 house.  They did a stunning DIY dining room remodel.  If you haven’t already seen this post, don’t miss it!

dining room table and window2 jpg

8.  A major highlight of my year was when one of my long-held dreams came true:  We now have a greenhouse!

sunglo17

9. We reupholstered our old arts and crafts dining chairs with an unconventional fabric.Chair after with side table

10.  In my favorite post of 2014, my mother shared tips for setting a formal table – and some interesting stories from her experiences working in an English manor house in the 1950s.

formal place setting

The Year Ahead

I have several resolutions for 2015.  First, now that I have a greenhouse, I resolve to expand my horizons as a gardener by learning more about greenhouse gardening.

I resolve to make more time for sewing so I can do more fun projects like these gift bags.

I resolve to repurpose old items in fun ways, like these jewelry organizers and this porch bench makeover.

And finally, I resolve to be true to my own likes and dislikes.  I will look to new trends in décor and design for inspiration, but I won’t be swayed by their popularity alone.  I will stick with what speaks to me.  And I will share that with you.

Here’s to a fun and interesting 2015!


This post is part of a fun event called “Show and Tell Fridays” featuring the work of some very talented designers.  Click on the thumbnail below to check out their work.

Setting a Formal Table: Lessons from an English Manor House

One of the reasons I love holiday meals is that they are a great excuse to bring out the fine china, crystal, and silverware and set a beautiful formal table.  Why not enjoy a little old-world elegance once in a while?  And there are many great sources on setting a formal table – Martha Stewart, Emily Post, plus dozens of online templates.

But my favorite source on formal table settings is someone who actually worked in the dining room of an English manor house in the 1950s – my own mom, Erika.

One Less Mouth to Feed

Food was still scarce in Germany in the mid-1950s so, without knowing a word of English, Mom left home to work in England.  She figured this would give her parents one less mouth to feed.

Of course Mom was not a British citizen, so the only jobs available to her were in domestic service. She arranged to take a position working in a manor house for an elderly lady.

Mom has some very amusing stories to tell about working in such a formal environment, and she has agreed to share with us a few of her recollections.

Life in a Manor House

The impressive manor house was intimidating. I thought I would be one of many servants — something like Downton Abbey.  But except for a cook who hated Germans, I was the only help.

Mrs. Bostock needed a lot of attention and most of the  time I couldn’t understand what she was saying.  Once in a while her son, who spoke German, came to visit and explained her wishes to me .  There was no doubt that she expected to be treated like royalty.

I had two uniforms.  One was a gray dress with a full white-and-gray striped apron for doing morning chores. The cook brought Mrs. Bostock her breakfast in bed while I did the daily cleaning.

At noon I changed into a black dress with a little white apron to serve her lunch and high tea at five. I always had to be on call as she often wanted an assortment of cheeses later, again with formal place settings.

Arranging the silverware was confusing at first—some of the pieces I had never heard of or seen before.  But I quickly realized there is a proper tool for every food served.  Once I learned which tool went with which food, I had no problem. 

Mrs. Bostock’s meals consisted of many different courses.  Each course required a different spoon, fork, or knife—at least ten inches of elegant silverware on each side of her plate.  All for an old lady who lived alone.

The cook would give me the menu so I could match the appropriate silverware. It became easier once I remembered the order in which the food was served, starting with a melon spoon and little knife set on the extreme right and left of her plate.  Each course thereafter, the corresponding silverware was on the far outside of the place setting as she worked her way in. 

But no matter what was served, a little spoon came along with the palate cleanser between each course—the only spoon not set out ahead of time.

Numerous crystal glasses, each for a different wine or beverage, were also placed in a certain sequence. A different wine was served with each course.

Food was never set on the table, but served from the left and used plates were taken from the right, most of them still half-filled.

When Mrs. Bostock had enough of one course, she sat back and raised her eyebrows, a signal for me to take the used plate and silverware.  No words were ever spoken. This went on all through the lengthy meals, taking all of two hours each.

Thank God I didn’t have to do the dishes.


I hope you enjoyed reading a little about Mom’s manor house days.  She is in the process of developing her own blog with many more stories about her life in England.  I will be sharing the link to her blog once it goes live.


You might also enjoy: