Friday, December 16, 2011

General Merriment was Had

I hosted (hostessed?) my first Christmas party of the year (perhaps ever in the new house...?) last night.  It was my main group of long time girlfriends -- there were 7 of us total -- and we did a potluck dinner and ornament exchange.  I had fun tinkering around with last minute centerpieces and touches of Christmas around the house.

For the centerpieces I used my glass block vases.  I dumped in some Epsom salt for snow, tossed in some cranberries (I ran them under water to get them wet) and rolled them around in the "snow" for a frosted effect, stuck in some fresh pine branch pieces and  candles.  Next I added a few pine cones that my sister in California sent me  (they are huge and gorgeous -- I use them all year round around the house.  Love them!  I had plans to hang a few up in a group by some red ribbon, but so far... that hasn't quite materialized.  But it's not Christmas yet!  I still have time, right?)   Here's how they turned out:

In retrospect, the elf statue is random and perhaps creepy.  Oh well.

In the bathroom I added a few frosted cranberries to my usual (Feng Shui) stones on the cistern:

They, too, probably would have benefited from some pine branch sprigs, but like the pine cones on ribbons, it alas, didn't happen.

As a last minute decoration for the cross piece of the sideboard, I threw this together:

It needs a little tweaking but in the dim light and nearly on the floor, it was fine...

The dining room chandelier had it's own little party going on:

Wednesday afternoon I made some monogrammed burlap place mats to anchor the plates.  I tend to entertain outdoors most of the time, so I didn't have a set of eight place mats* -- and the plates really needed to be visually anchored to the table.  I was going to write Christmas words like "Noel" and "Peace" on them, but opted for the simple monogram so that I could use them on occasions other than Christmas, and, frankly, due to time constraints.  (I suppose if I can think of 8 Christmas words that end with the letter "N" I could still do that -- suggestions in the comments, please!  Ha ha!)

(I did add cloth napkins after the photo was taken, I swear...) 

The place mats were ridiculously easy to make.  I used the "pull one string" technique to mark a straight line to cut; and made each mat 19" x 14".  Then I starched and ironed them to get them to lay flat and have the tiniest bit of body, and then painted the monogram on using a stencil and a foam paintbrush.  Ideally I would have run the edges of the mats through my sewing machine to hold the edges intact, but again, due to time...    But the mats held up fine for the dinner -- (I mean, really, how much hard use does a place mat get anyway?  And -- worst case scenario, I can make plenty more with the oh, 20 or so yards of burlap I have in my garden shed) and I'll easily get more uses out of them if I am careful in handling them when I put them away.  So - color me pleased with that less-than-an-hour-of-time-spent making those!

Everyone's food contribution was yummy -- and because it's all about the food** I have to tell you all about it.  We had the creamiest, most fabulous hummus and pita bread and a side of tabbouleh salad from Ali Baba for the appetizer, roasted veggies with olives, feta and toasted pine nuts over couscous for the entree, a field greens with pears and goat cheese salad (I don't know where it was from but it was to die for) a really great (and healthy!) chilled broccoli salad from Wholefoods, some totally addictive (or should I say seductive?)  "Seeduction" artisan bread from Wholefoods (can you guess what grocery store is closest to my house - lucky me) and of course an abundance of delicious wines.  Then we moved to the living room in front of the fire and wrapped up the whole shebang with an assortment of tantalizing desserts:  bite-sized cheesecakes in edible chocolate cups, snicker doodle cookies and other sweet goodies and coffee and then did our ornament exchange.

(The dangling frog is my ceiling fan pull!)

The exchange was great fun -- we drew numbers for the order of choosing and had fun comparing what different styles of ornaments everyone had chosen to bring.  (Note:  The number of ornaments sold immediately becomes overwhelming when you are only shopping for one... They all look dazzling and it's sooo hard to choose.)  The ornament I received is THE CUTEST little Old World ornament in the shape of a hammer!  Since we all do Habitat for Humanity it would have been perfect for any one of us.  I'll try to remember to post  a photo of it tomorrow...

Overall -- a successful night of general merriment with dear friends (who also wash dishes --!)  I am ever grateful for each of them.  

I almost forgot to post the photo of my tree!  It's a little blurry...

*      Nor did I have 8 dining room chairs, or 8 wine glasses -- thank goodness for the generosity of  neighbors! 

**   Family joke

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