Now I love me some Fourth of Juleeeeeeeee. The whole ritual just screams summer. Burgers, beer, corn on the cob, baked beans, (hopefully) sunshine…just some good ole American daytime fun that carries well into the evening and ends with a bang of fireworks. Sign. Me. Up.
However, anyone who knows me at all also knows that I take serious issue with plastic utensils and paper plates (curiously, Solo cups don’t offend me, unless you’re pouring champagne in them). My only problem with the Fourth is that it can border on being trashy if you’re not careful. So let’s make Merica’ proud and do her justice with a classy tablescape.
The table runner here is actually a scarf that I bought several years ago for less than $20. But really you could even buy a few yards of navy star fabric at Jo-Ann Fabric and fold it and press it into a runner with an iron.
Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures. I found these wooden starfish for $2 each and decided they’d be the perfect way to incorporate stars since we live at the beach.
With respect to flowers, less is more. I picked up these red dahlias at Trader Joe’s for $3.99 and dispersed them in small, simple bud vases.
But white hydrangeas really do represent the American summer dream and you might even be lucky enough to have some in your backyard or neighborhood. When I lived in San Francisco there was a gorgeous hydrangea bush in my courtyard filled with lush blooms year-round and I would often sneak down after dark to clip a few for my apartment.
Keep your eyes open when looking for Fourth of July decor. Michael’s, Target, and Jo-Ann Fabric all have diamonds hidden in the rough. These pillows for example, were buried in the Dollar Spot section at Target (though everything I like there always seem to be in the $3 bin, which is really just so typical).
Placed on a chair it’s kind of cute, right?
***Title cred: Chad Yu & Kellie Reince
So here’s the thing: the thought of long stem red roses, baby’s breath, and a decadent, ornate vase literally makes me want to throw up in my mouth. I would rather be the recipient of a sole, dead dandelion (and at least then, I could make a wish).
I will never forget circa 2006 when my girlfriend and I were living in San Francisco and her then boyfriend sent her a bouquet of red roses from Walmart.com for Valentine’s Day. Their relationship ended shortly thereafter (obviously).
Since then, I’ve been steering clear of roses altogether, but a few weeks ago I was enjoying coffee in our garden and the scent of our fresh, fragrant roses took me back to a time when I didn’t have such disdain for this innocent, beautiful flower. After all, it’s not the poor rose’s fault Hallmark exploited it.
So I decided to give them a go, and I’ve since concluded that they are perfectly lovely (and indeed classy) when cut short.
You’ll start with a bouquet from Ralph’s or some other god-awful chain (and hopefully you won’t pay more than $9.99 for a dozen).
Start by pulling apart the roses and one by one, picking off the leaves and clipping the stem.
Make sure the bottom of the rose hits the top of the vase.
Keep going, one by one placing them in the vase.
Eventually you’ll end up with a pile of leaves and thorns.
And a beautiful, small bouquet that looks something like this.
So sweet it kind of makes my heart hurt.
Truth be told, I forget about them when they’re gone. It is very out of sight, out of mind. But when they do eventually return (note: they always do) and I catch that first glimpse of them from across the room, I almost lose my breath. It’s like running into a really handsome college crush that you could never quite keep around for more than a few weeks at a time. You think I’m being dramatic?
That do it for you?
The thing about peonies is that they only flower once a year, which varies depending on where you live, but typically in Southern California they start making their annual appearance at the supermarkets in late April and will only be available for two to three weeks tops.
Closed in their cellophane packaging, they don’t even look particularly special or enticing. In fact, they start off as small, bright, tight little golfball sized buds. But do not make the mistake of passing up this seasonal purchase. Trust me, these flowers will repay you many times over.
You’ll get them home from the market, put them in fresh water, and within an hour they’ll start opening up.
By the time your dinner guests have arrived, they’ll be making a pretty serious statement.
But the real magic won’t happen for another day or two, when the blossoms have fully opened and the colors become more subtle and understated.
By day 5 you’ll wonder how this is possibly even the same flower you almost didn’t purchase. And by the way, why did you limit yourself to just one bouquet???
So go now, get your peony on. These days I’m a firm believer of making things happen for yourself. No one else is going to bring you flowers so what are you even waiting for? Trader Joe’s has them for $6.99 and Wholefoods for $9.99. Stick them in a vase and wait for happiness.
I first fell in love with bougainvillea when my now-husband and I were in Cartagena, Colombia in April 2011 for our dearest friends’ wedding. In fact, it was one of the first things I noticed when I stepped out of the taxi, second only to the weight of the humidity and heat that was so foreign to our coastal California selves at the time. It was literally everywhere, cascading down verandas and climbing up walls.
I couldn’t turn a corner without its vibrant, playful colors catching my eye.
It crept even out of the most unassuming windows and cracks.
Of course I had seen bougainvillea in California, but not like this. Not winding its way up sherbert colored walls with women carrying full, lush fruit baskets on their heads while walking down the street like it was really no big deal.
Sadly, the week before our trip, we had just cut back an entire bougainvillea bush in our front yard because it was unruly, thorny and seemed to lack structure in comparison to our succulents and neat, simple landscaping. We had succumbed to the all too pervasive mindset that bougainvillea is like a weed that can’t be controlled. After all, in California, it grows in dark alleys and along freeways. I guess you could say it’s kind of no big deal (making it the perfect topic for this post, of course).
So where am I going with this? Bla, bla, bla…we went to Colombia and I became obsessed with bougainvillea. I realized it is not a weed and accordingly, mourned the loss of our bush for a few weeks after our trip.
But with my newly trained eye, I quickly noticed that bougainvillea was absolutely everywhere in our neighborhood and was in fact, often being trimmed back by the gardeners. In other words, would anyone really care if I snipped a few sprigs of it and popped them in bud vases for my dinner parties? Um, absolutely not.
So at our own wedding in Cabo, Mexico two and a half years later, I didn’t even bother dealing with a florist who likely wouldn’t get or appreciate my non-wedding vision. Instead, I enlisted the help of all my boozy friends and family and began collecting tequila bottles of all sizes and shapes. I soaked them in water and scrubbed the labels off. It was a little awkward explaining to the customs agent why I had 40 empty tequila bottles entering Mexico, but I’m pretty sure I was the least of their worries. The morning of my wedding day, I took two pairs of scissors, a large Frieda tote, and one of my very best girlfriends and we raided some massively overgrown bougainvillea bushes that lined the outskirts of the resort where I was staying.
In less than an hour, we had my flower arrangements completed and it literally did not cost me a dime, though I remain forever indebted to this bestie for helping me pull it all off.
I realize not everyone lives in a tropical environment with access to bougainvillea, but for those of you who do, I encourage you to take advantage next time you’re entertaining and don’t want to make a big fuss over flowers. They look so bright and cheerful scattered across the table in bud vases. And even if you don’t have bougainvillea, I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that you at least have access to tequila. Those empty, clean bottles make great vases for outdoor dining (especially if you’re serving margaritas and Mexican food). Any bright flower will do: Gerber daisies, roses, azaleas. Have fun with it and whatever you do, don’t make it a big deal.