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Perk up your table with creative touches

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Friends or family due over for dinner and you want to give the occasion your special touch? Try one of these low-cost, clever ways to perk up your table without too much trouble.

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Votives

These dainty decorative dollops can be used for more than holding candles. For a little sensory stimulation, fill them with dried herbs or potpourri. Or use them to create miniature flower arrangements using moss and small chunks of floral foam. An interesting culinary touch is to use them for holding s palate cleanser. Start with a clean, dry votive and fill it with:

  • Oyster or similar soda crackers
  • Thin slices of apple or short sticks of celery
  • Steamed, whole edamame (soy beans)
  • A mixture of fennel, cardamom, and dill seeds
  • Fresh parsley, rosemary, lemon balm, or mint
  • A splash of gazpacho

Small frames

Often you'll find small frames for $1 or less at craft and hobby stores which are perfect for adding a graceful touch to a dinner party. Invest in the purchase of a dozen frames to match your table settings or select a simple, classic design you can use on any occasion. Before guests arrive, jot down names and slip them into a frame to be used as place cards. One fun alternative, if you are hosting a casual evening or family gathering, try using childhood/baby photos of guests.

Get more hostess miles from the frames by using them for buffets to identify different dishes ( example, Gran's Creamed Onions); or ingredients or allergen warnings (example, Gluten-free). Seasonal or themed frames can double as a little gift to remind guests of the evening.

If you are lucky enough to find such frames marked down for post-season clearance, grab up extra and give out sets or 6 or 8 as a quick, low-cost gift.

Empty jars

Use pint or half pint canning jars to hold flowers, palate cleanser, or treats. Using a variety of jar types creates an eclectic touch. You can personalize the experience by creating paper hang tags with guests' names or photographs. For a fun alternative, fill the jars with fun fortunes or conversation starters written on slips of paper.

For birthday parties or similar celebrations, make copies of the guest of honor's photo, trim and tuck it inside the jar, then add small candies, nuts, or dry fruits. Or fill the jars with crayons or materials for a simple craft, such as flower fairies, worry dolls, or pom pom creatures.

Natural elements

Create a little outdoors on your table by gathering fallen leaves, flowers, or ivy from your yard. Even two or three small bare branches arranged in a vase or down the center of the table can look interesting, especially if you have time to add a few extra touches like a dusting of glitter or white spray paint.

Ribbon, twine, and fabric

Upcycle gift ribbon into a showy spray of of color around glass stems or tie silverware into neat bundles. Wrap water glasses with a few feet of plain twine to add adventurous texture. Torn strips of old fabric can be used to personalize wine glasses.

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