Sweet Parties: Holiday Cardinal Red & Birch Bark Dessert Table

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  I think that song needs updating for what the holidays mean for most nowadays.  We need verses about stress, family, and holiday entertaining.  All joking aside, we have just hosted Thanksgiving again for the 3rd time in a row, and we absolutely loved it.  Yes, it might does stress us out, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  We’re well on our way to starting a great family tradition.  Did you all have a nice time with family too? And while our new place is a tad on the smallish side (think Bilbo Baggins’ house in the Shire) and we didn’t have ample room to properly entertain, we’re going to show you the first of three ways you can do it up right for you and yours this holiday season, even in the tiniest of spaces!

Heather has been talking about ideas for our Christmas table design for quite some time, since before Halloween actually.  And once we got through a really busy 3 week time-period in October, we were left with some free time to brainstorm.  We knew that other designers had gotten the leg up on us and posted their tables on Amy Atlas’ blog as well as Hostess With The Mostess, and while they were all great tables, we wanted to take ours a different direction. And what better way to be different than having not one, but two, oh wait…this just in:  we are now adding a third table design!  Yeah that last one was pretty much my fault. (You make one off-handed comment and suddenly you’re committed!)  

Heather had a vision in her brain of what she wanted to base her design off of, and in that vision was a single scarlet tinged male cardinal.  The bird, not the Catholic senior ecclesiastical official.  We’ll have to save that inspiration for another article.  She also wanted to make sure that any other colors on the table were a bit more subdued, so as to give the cardinal center stage.  Birch also needed to be thrown in the mix somewhere.  And with those design elements known, it was then up to me to put it all together.  

It’s really interesting when you have no idea where to start on a project, that inspiration and actual items sometimes fall right into your lap.  Case in point, we were on our family vacation in Myrtle Beach when we happened upon a quaint Christmas store in Calabash, NC.  And this was no ordinary ornament store.  We had no idea what to expect going in.  I’d love to tell you about it, but sadly, St. Nick Nacks is an experience that Microsoft Word is unable to convey.  About the only thing that I can say is either click the link or go there for yourself, it is amazing.  We found an absolutely awesome deal on some Mercury glass hurricane holders. ($15 for the pair) As you can see here, when paired with the silver and scarlet red chargers we already had, they provided me with a most excellent foundation.  With the holders in hand, they gave us our initial score in the prop department for our first “Birds of a Feather” themed table: Cardinal Red & Birch Bark.

I happened to be in one of our favorite dollar stores, Dollar Tree, picking up some trash bags I believe, when I rounded the corner and found that they had started to put out their trim-a-tree merchandise.  It was almost as if the retail gods had read my mind and knew what I had needed for this table.  I found mini cardinals, faux snow and snowball ornaments, wrapping paper that was an exact what I was looking for, and inexpensive wide satin ribbon.  Oh my!  After purchasing all that, I still managed to forget to buy the trash bags.  Two words…true story.
Target is another place we love to look and as such, is a no brainer.  But it’s where in Target we like to look.  Located conveniently at the front of the store is Target’s version of a dollar store.  There are usually about 2 to 3 aisles that feature mostly standard dollar fare, but once in a while you’ll hit pay dirt.  There we found a galvanized tin star and container which I ended up painting a gloss white.  We also picked up some peppermint candy balls, and a spot on scarlet matched Pashmina shawl which I planned to use as a runner instead.

Now we didn’t do all this shopping for props on the same day, Heather would’ve objected to all that.  I know, it’s weird right, most ladies love to shop!?  Whatever we couldn’t find retail, we just plucked from Mother Nature.  In the midst of several days of bad weather, we lucked out one day with sunshine so Heather headed to her mother’s property to see if she could snag some birch branches.  The “good stuff” she said was a bit too far into the forest and hanging overtop a very large creek, so she had to settle for what was generally near the side of the road.  With her younger brother’s assistance she brought home some choice branches for us to create our backdrop, which she had envisioned as being in the middle of a birch forest after a fresh snow had fallen.  She was also able to bring home a branch thick enough that I was able to cut, with a mitre saw, cross section pieces to be used as our place card holders for food tags.  While also at her mother’s, we snagged a beautiful antique white hobnail milk glass compote dish, a family heirloom. With her permission of course, thanks Nana!  

One of our best finds had to be the curled bark Christmas tree which we found already covered in “ice and snow” at our favorite little decor store on the Outer Banks of NC. We were there for a breif 24 hours delivering cupcakes for a wedding and had just enough time to visit our favorite store The French Door and eat a delicious dinner at Kill Devil Grill. (If you haven’t been to either, you must on your next visit!) It was at the French Door that we found the tree, on clearance and marked down a whopping 75% from it’s original price. All in all it was around $7.50 with tax. Don’t you just love a good find? It made us giddy.

In addition to the fake snow we had picked up from Dollar Tree, we also made some of our own out of Epsom salt and baby powder.  The homemade snow is used on several (free!) pine cones which I had spray-painted the same glossy white.  I then let them dry for about an hour before I glazed them with spray adhesive and finished by coating them with the Epsom salt/baby power mix to give them that frosted look.

All of these disparate elements, along with a $5.00 five yard bolt of crushed silver fabric from Wal-Mart (clearance bin), a large rectangular white serving platter from Crate & Barrel (already owned), some awesome looking and tasting sweets (follow up post with recipes coming soon for those), and an equally impressive backdrop of birch branches covered generously with spray snow, combined to form a cozy and inviting dessert table experience.

Heather chiming in here! We wanted to come up with a few new ideas that were simple to make for our holiday tables. This time of year is so super busy for most of us, we want to make a nice presentation for our guests but we do not want any added stress with complex recipes! Being huge fans and users of the Pinterest platform we had been browsing and pin-ing dessert ideas for quite some time that not only looked great but were sure to taste great as well. We settled on several homemade items and a couple of ready made candies as well. We featured Raspberry Linzer Cookies, Snowflake (coconut) Cake, Hot Chocolate Sticks with Steamed Milk, Peppermints, Peppermint Tootsie Roll Pops and Handcrafted Marshmallows. While we really wanted to showcase some beautiful Hammond’s Ribbon Candy as well, we found that they would really stretch the budget for this table and ultimately decided against them, using the tootsie roll pops instead.

The Hot Chocolate Sticks were our favorite item on the table. They looked great and they were super functional for a party atmosphere. Placing one into a mug of hot milk, letting it melt for about 5 minutes, then stirring well with the stick, resulted in a perfect cup of hot chocolate with just the right amount of gooey marshmallow melted on top. None of the tiny marshmallow slipping down the hatch during a sip nonsense we’ve come to expect. This is a real hot chocolate experience, the kind you might imagine yourself enjoying on a moonlit sleigh ride, or a midnight train ride on the Polar Express! Is that stretching it a bit? Nah, we dream about these things this time of year right?

We will be following this post up with another very soon that features all of our recipes and information on how to make all of the homemade edibles on our table. You will be amazed at how simple it is to create delicious hand crafted marshmallows and rich chocolate ganache squares. Make sure to check back with us or go ahead an add us to your rss feed to be automatically updated when that post happens.

OMG, just realized Jason forgot to write about his birdhouse! He also found a cute little birdhouse in the craft section of our local Wal-Mart and brought it home for the table. It didn’t take long to decide that it was pretty plain-jane and needed a bit of sprucing up. He took it from drab to fab by first spray painting it with the same gloss white paint he used on everything else. Then he meticulously, in only the way that Jason can, cut and glued on each and every little shingle on the roof, using wide wood craft sticks, some hot glue and a utility knife. He also decided that birdhouses really should have a perch on the front and drilled a hole and added one in with a small wooden dowel cut to size.

Our last design element was our Cardinal Red & Birch Bark printable set. We came up with a simple and slightly contemporary look for them that features a tiny little cardinal, a hint of red border and lots of neutral gray and white. For a table where the cardinal red is prominent you really want everything else to blend without competing and that was the ultimate goal for this set. As always you can find it in our Etsy shop where we offer customization of your holiday party details!

We hope you have enjoyed this theme and feel inspired for the holidays just as much as we do! Come back again for the next installment of this party, recipes galore, and for our 2nd holiday table! You won’t want to miss all the glam, glitz and feathers of our teal and gold peacock spread!