Friday, July 1, 2011

Sparkle on the Fourth of July

It's that time of year again...the neighborhood BBQ, the parade of bicycles and wagons decorated to the max, the patriotic bunting draped across window sills, flags waving in the wind and who can forget the midnight firecrackers going off down the street from a couple of "hoodlums" (see.... I'm getting old. I really mean teenagers but I love saying hoodlums...and the fact that I'm complaining about firecrackers at 12:00 really makes me old). Anyway, the point is, Fourth of July is a big memory bank for most people. Almost everyone has a few great memories on this holiday and some good old-fashioned family traditions. One of my "family traditions" as a child was to picnic and listen to music at the Hollywood Bowl.

It's a rite of passage for anyone who's from L.A. So, when we moved here, I definitely wanted to continue the tradition so that my kids would be able to experience it too. Luckily the Symphony Pops here in Charlotte do a similar venue (no one can top the bowl, sorry) at Symphony Park in Southpark. It's the same type of feeling....picnics with friends, fireworks, great patriotic music.

In my last post, I mentioned sharing a few tips for decorating for the fourth, so I thought it would be perfect to share how to make a picnic stylish. But before I do, I'd love to share a compilation of some of my favorites from the web.

I love these images from Pottery Barn, from the decorator Nathan Turner, so simple but perfect for this holiday...I got a lot of inspiration from these.
I love a vintage ticking stripe and the metal embossed  "coins" are  chic and tasteful, I also love the rough edges on these homemade napkins.

I love pinwheels anyway, but the rusty old cans make this image cool.
These pinwheels are great too, but I love the basket-weaved container even more.

This bunting is great not only because it uses a stripe, not the normal flagged fabric, but because they use a  navy blue rope, so cool.

Blue glass with red flowers is a simple concept to achieve. Even reuse a blue glass water bottle or wine bottle.

Martha, Martha, have to hand it to her sometimes, she knows how to throw a party. I love the flag banner on the white picket fence. It screams "family fun"!

Bandannas are inexpensive and are back!! I used a few for color too.

This is creative and effective without shoving flags everywhere. I love the  idea of combining the living wreath behind. Elegant.

Most of the time I hate paper decorations but I love the way these have been placed, overlapping each other.

Martha again and her clever ideas. I like the mix of napkins.

I love the architecture here. This is a perfect setting for a party.
So, as I go about planning my own Fourth of July "picnic", I took away some simple ideas and added my own twist. The great thing about the fourth is that it's easy to can't really screw up the day....let's face it, it's our tackiest holiday, there is hardly any chic to's good old-fashioned, country-bumpkin hoopla.

The first thing I needed to do was to create the backdrop, in this case, the blanket. I had a quilt given to me from a family friend, and we've already used it tons but I thought it would be fun to create some "national"
holiday memories by decorating the backside, patriotic style.
Here is the backside of the quilt. Basic creamy white.
I found this funny red and white gingham ribbon at Michael's that has ants on it. I thought this was perfect for a picnic blanket.

I placed it at the stitched border and used fabric glue to attach it.

I then cut out stars with pinking shears from some remnants I had around the house.  I used old jeans from my daughter and blue chambray and gingham fabrics from my son's baby bumper. (This is a great way to preserve memories from your children and get rid of things that are taking up space. I may add a few things each year, keep the memories going.) I placed the stars around the border and glued them down.
The next thing I started working on is a simple tray to put drinks on. I bought an unfinished tray from Michael's for $3.00 and painted it white and spray-bonded an American flag for 50 cents. Cheap and easy, and perfect for a picnic to eliminate spills.

Here's a simple idea for name cards, if you are having a sit down party. Buy unfinished three-dimensional stars and paint them red.

I printed out every one's name and also included a factoid about the Fourth of July. Then I strung it on a ribbon. Done.

Next we need flowers. Even a picnic can use perky perennials to make it fabulous. I love using jam jars for this kind of holiday because it really says "American pastime". Instead of tying bows around the opening, I decided to make ribbon tassels to put a new twist on it.

Wrap ribbon around a piece of cardboard about 4-8 times. (depends on how big you want it)

Take the ribbon off the board and tie a string around the middle and knot it. (you can cut this off later)

Fold in half.

Cut the ribbons at the end and trim later.

Wrap ribbon at the top leaving a space to thread in another ribbon. I used a glue gun for this step.

Ribbon Tassel done.

Tie it to the neck of the jam jar.

Now for the flowers. I loved the simplicity of Nathan Turners carnation flag. Carnations usually make me gag. (I always think of this episode from Sex and the City when Carrie got a bouquet of carnations from a guy and she was horrified.) However, in this case, it's the perfect flower. I also love daisies. They remind me of the country so I got a few of each and put it together.
I cut up a few lemons and wedged them into the bottom of the jars for a little  red/white/blue relief!!

Lucky me...I had a sprig of blue babies breath  left from another bouquet.

These also make a great party favor or gift for someone since the jars are  inexpensive. (Save your spaghetti sauce jars so you always have one on hand.)

I made a few extra tassels and attached them to citronella candles....which is a must here in the South.
My kids have allergic reactions to bug bites, so I have to bring them. White ones are great because you can use them in different schemes.
OK....brace yourselves. Here's the picnic set up. Make sure to bring a wagon, not only for nostalgia, but to make packing it all up a breeze.

I couldn't find my picnic basket so I took two navy storage baskets to store dry goods and pack up all the napkins and supplies. 
I used three different types of napkins and tied them up with colorful napkins
The personal name tags can even be used at the picnic. It's fun to use trivia for conversation.
Utilize your wagon to light a citronella candle and set up the food.
Use the tray to put down your wine glass or light another candle.
Turn your baskets upside down for a mini table setting for one.
I bought 50 cent tins and placed battery operated votives inside. When it gets dark you can use them for ambiance/light without fire hazard.
Add more trivia to the votive bucket.
All packed up and ready to go....oh yeah, don't forget the food!!!
So, what's on our picnic menu??? Keep it simple since it needs to be transported. Baked fried chicken, pasta salad, watermelon slices. Dessert? Decorated brownies for the kids, add sparklers for fun!!

Enjoy the day and cherish how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country.