Best gifts gift guide

Heirloomed designer Ashley Schoenith’s grandmother loved to entertain, and she pulled out all the stops when it came to setting the table for dinner. Read about the tradition and the gift Ashley’s grandmother passed down to her here. And check out some of the other sentimental presents that some of my favorite bloggers have received in my best gifts gift guide series here, here, here, here, here and here.

Anyone who has ever celebrated Thanksgiving with my family has witnessed the tradition that my grandmother and mother started many, many, many Thanksgivings ago.

Cranberry turkeys

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Fourth of July party decorating ideas

I spent this past week in Germany and Austria, traveling with my good friend, Naomi (the one I designed the nursery for). We stayed in charming Bad Aibling, about an hour outside of Munich. The little town was peppered with tiny artisan shops–felt goods (where I bought something for Naomi’s nursery; there will be a post about that project when it’s complete), handmade housewares and Vergissmein Nicht, a fantastic flower shop.

Vergissmein Nicht

Wandering through this place, I could not help but envision the July Fourth party I would design. Here are a few ideas I would steal–and tweak.

Red wrapped bottles

Dig through the recycle bin and save all empty bottles–hot sauce, wine and beer. Wrap them with shades of red and blue yarn and secure (in a discreet spot) with hot glue. Play with texture and thickness here. I love the nubby blue one.

Blue wrapped bottles

Fill the vessels with small bunches of wild flowers.

All-white table

This is brilliant. I always run out of room on my table between the food and decor. Why not bring in a smaller console, coffee table, even a dresser to nest under the dining table and give yourself more surface area. Don’t have white furniture? Dress surfaces in casual white linens, like burlap. Then use all white and silver serving pieces and candle holders. Think outside the box when it comes to serving pieces. A galvanized bucket sitting in a closet makes a great chip container or utensil and napkin keeper.

Succulent ideas

Decorate with inexpensive varieties of succulents. Don’t plant them in squat tiny pots. Elevate the pretty plants on your table by planting them in tall silver or white vases.

Shim idea

These plant markers are actually just pieces of wood veneer, but it gave me the idea to do something similar with wood shims. I would tell guests what they’re eating by writing appetizer and dessert names on these wooden sticks (use a thicker paint pen) and placing them in small terracotta pots filled with dry rice (so they stand straight).

Steal these summertime party ideas

I’m a sucker for boutique bakeshops. For weeks, Cuppins, a concept bakery/giftshop in Lausanne summoned me from the cobblestone streets below. Though I had never been inside, I could see wooden swings holding collections of pastel bottles and sweet furnishings with feminine lines in the windows. It looked like an Alice in Wonderland fantasy land. I gave in to my craving–and my curiosity–this week and took a peek inside.

Cupcake cases at Cuppins

A display case of candy-colored confections greeted me at the door. Tiered cakestands and dessert domes practically screamed, “Eat Me.” Tables with paint-dipped bases and legs decorated the cafe space and flowers placed in vintage bottles sat on wooden swings in the windows. Colorful bakeware, tea sets and other gift-giving trinkets took up every other available surface.

Dip-dyed furnishings

The sweets, the colors, the presentation began turning the wheels in my head. I imagined the perfect setting for a baby or bridal shower, a girls-only brunch, a mother-and-daughter afternoon tea or a party for the kids.

Vases in window

Here, all the decorative trimmings for a delicate Wonderland fete, whatever the cause for celebration.

Cuppins party

* You don’t have to commit to paint-dipped furniture for an afternoon fete (though I think it’s fabulous!) Instead, wrap chair legs and table bases with stripes of colorful masking tape.
* You could comb Etsy for a wooden swing, or you could take instruction from the creative geniuses on one of my favorite blogs A Beautiful Mess, and make your own. Hang them from trees in the yard and use them in place of trays for showing off–and displaying your own sweet treats.
* To merchandise loose compacts in a salon I redid, I made tiered stands using inexpensive platters (check thrift stores or the clearance aisles of stores like TJMaxx, Marshall’s or Home Goods) and large, flat-topped candleholders. (For larger plates, you should definitely use candlesticks suited for pillar candles as taper holders can shatter under the weight of a filled plate.) Apply epoxy that’s intended for glass and ceramics according to the package instructions and let dry 24 hours before using. I’d display a collection of pretty bottles and blooms on these cakestands for something unexpected.

Cakestand Step 1Cakestand DIY

Uses for vintage bottles

I recently asked for creative floral arrangements here, and I was thrilled when my friend Cathy, an AMAZING entertainer, responded. Invites to her dinner parties are coveted spots. She’s an incredible cook, but her skill set encompasses way more than the kitchen. She creates an atmosphere and a theme for each party with the creative decor and incredible food. Check out her recipes at Word of Mouth.


Here, she hosted a graduation party for her niece, who finished medical school. Cathy decorated the table with vintage medicine bottles (from ebay), filling some with a few fresh blooms.

I imagine making my own “Poison” labels and wrapping vintage medicine bottles for a Halloween party or creating “Love Potion” labels for a Valentines’ party centerpieces.

Every Day with Rachael Ray Bathtub Gin

For Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, I created a Great Gatsby-inspired party. Instead of traditional party favors, I filled small bottles with bathtub gin (pictured above) and gave guests their nightcaps to go. You can download the bathtub gin labels here.

Bathtub gin was created in people’s homes during Prohibition when people steeped grain alcohol with juniper berries and water. Combine equal parts water and a strong grain vodka in a 750 ml sealable container. Add 0.35 ounces of dried juniper berries and 0.07 ounces lemon or orange peel as well as a little cardamom, cloves or nutmeg. Store in a cool dark place for up to a week, shaking the elixir thoroughly once a day. Before putting it in take-home jars, send the entire mixture through a strainer and then a water filter.

Tell me how you’ve decorated with small vintage bottles. I’d love to see photos.

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