Helmar Share: Thanksgiving Centerpiece

In The Studio

The Victorians were known for their ability to combine widely different patterns and make them work together. I’m not sure I’ve got the hang of it just yet with the pink rose wallpaper and our grapevine runner, but I’ll get there.

Something about finally being settled here at the Gingerbread Dollhouse makes me want to decorate all the things. Sure, the wallpaper in the foyer needs replacing, the floors need refinishing, and everything else needs painting, but I can live with the naturally-aged, shabby-chic-ness of it all for the near future, as long as we’re seasonally appropriate!

One other thing I’ll say, in deference to closed-plan homes, is that it’s very nice to have an actual entry hall with little of the living space visible from the front door. It’s so much easier to keep one relatively-narrow strip of the home guest-ready should someone knock on the door than worry about what’s piled up on the sofa. Having our console table in the hallway creates the perfect spot for a seasonal centerpiece (because our Thanksgiving table will have food as the centerpieces) and I’m challenging myself to come up with a new one each holiday.

This one has the look of a farmers’ market, to me, so to assemble your own Marketplace Centerpiece you’ll need:

  • 2 pieces of Styrofoam (upcycled packing material is great for this!)
  • Helmar Foam Glue
  • Skewers or toothpicks
  • Burlap ribbon, 6″ wide or better
  • Fall floral picks, faux acorns and pumpkins
  • Helmar Quick Dry 450
  • Lace and punchinella scraps
  • Ribbon
  • Ouchless Cardboard
  • Pens, Stickers, and Washi Tape

To see how that all comes together, check out my Marketplace Centerpiece post on the Helmar Blog.

Hope everyone that celebrates has a fabulous Thanksgiving tomorrow. If you choose to be part of the crowds on Black Friday, well, good luck! I’ll be cozy on my couch with some project or another but you go right on ahead!

Highway to Happiness: A Few Words Before Brunch

Wedding Recaps

We’d made it to our seats, our DoC asked us what wine we wanted to drink, and everyone got settled in chatting among themselves while we waited for our first course.

MiL Road Trip, Roadie, Mrs. Road Trip, Dr. Aunt--you can really see the respective family resemblences! | Images via Pink Shutterbug Photography

MiL Road Trip, Roadie, Mrs. Road Trip, Dr. Aunt–you can really see the respective family resemblences! | Images via Pink Shutterbug Photography

Now, we hadn’t asked anyone to make any sort of toasts on our behalf, but once we were settled-in, FIL Road Trip stood and gave us a very sweet toast–I wish I could remember what he said but it escapes me at the moment.


Hey, would you look at that–I wasn’t he only one who changed after the ceremony. FIL RT had swapped his white sports coat for a red one. We didn’t immediately catch on, but apparently he was showing his Cornhusker pride that day!


Then Mama Leadfoot (who chose to stay seated) told the story about how I told her I was hesitant for Roadie to meet my family as I was afraid they’d overwhelm his reserved midwestern sensibilities. I don’t remember that particular conversation (and, as such, inadvertently heckled my mother’s “toast” to us by saying as much) but the long and the short of it is that he stuck around so must not have been too overwhelmed.

FiL Road Trip asked if we would mind if he said the blessing before the meal.

FiL Road Trip asked if we would mind if he said the blessing before the meal.

Then it was time to eat!


I believe I’ve already alluded to the fact that the menu was not exactly what we’d approved back during the tasting. Everyone enjoyed their soup (for which I’m grateful) even though mine looked like it was about to separate and had absolutely no flavor, and the bacon-wrapped breadsticks weren’t how I envisioned, but folks seemed to like them so I won’t quibble too much with that. When the second course came out I was dismayed to see that the fruited salad with citrus dressing was fruit salad on one side and a green salad on the other, with ranch and vinaigrette. And the kitchen couldn’t even figure out how to evenly portion the quiche so that the first half of the room got nice, wide slices but the other half got slivers in comparison. Finally, the country-fried steak wasn’t really, the gravy lacked the andouille sausage so was rather plain, and the last-minute vegetables were barely seasoned and only somewhat grilled–a far cry from the terrine that we were expecting.


Not only did the chef bring down our brunch to the rubber-chicken equivalent thereof, there were serious gaps in service. Because my plates were prepared separately I would be served and a good 5-10 minutes would go by before the rest of the food came out. We’d go long stretches without seeing a member of the waitstaff and because everyone was so jammed in on the sides, moving around and visiting with others not directly to your left or right was near impossible–thank goodness we’d done the receiving line!


But I will say this–our group didn’t let it bother them. While there weren’t many lulls in conversation, when one did occur my centerpieces came in quite handy! You may remember I’d added bits of trivia to the centerpieces just in case we needed some ready-made topics. The table my boss and his wife were seated at included the year that email was invented and she was surprised at just how far back it went. That spurred Dr. Aunt to recall her early days in academia when email was still very new, and our IT/Database guru at the third leg of the U-shaped table to chime in, as well. Even though I figured the chances slim that our guests would actually notice the trivia in actuality, I was amazed that it worked as well as I’d hoped.

Just goes to show, you never know what little touches will have an impact on the actual day!


The Road Trip Wedding Recaps:

Bottles and Bunches

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

All those bottles I spent an afternoon cleaning a while back? A good many of theme have now met their destiny as centerpieces and table numbers.

First were the table “numbers,” (actually names, specifically wine names), made up of a wine bottle filled with burgundy beads and topped with a paper-flower topiary. On each side of the bottle is the same viney frame I drew for our Save the Date cards around the wine name; nice, simple, and to the point. Even though we’ll only have six tables in a U-shape and a seating chart at the door (making table numbers or name rather superfluous), these were one of the first decor items I knew I wanted, so I stuck with then anyway.

I think the beads inside the bottles look a little bit like bubbles!

I think the beads inside the bottles look a little bit like bubbles!

As I was putting them together I realized that at the top of each bottle there was a necessary gap between where the beads ended and the stem of the topiary (which will keep it in the bottle in case the glue fails) meets them that looks just all kinds of ugly. So I took that same viney frame, popped our names and wedding date inside, and then made a quick logo of our initials and created a repeating pattern in Illustrator of it. Cut into 2 1/2″ x 5″ strips it made the perfect stand-in for the usual foil that wraps this same space.

Since we went with rectangular tables, a single centerpiece wouldn’t quite do. And while I love the look of a continuous arrangement down the center of the table, I also didn’t want to end up crowding the table too much. Instead, on either side of the table number, will be a cluster of elements, both bottle and otherwise.

jwalker_ttb_centerpiece cluster

The full bottle is a lot like the table numbers (without the topiary) only this time instead of wine names we inserted fun trivia from the years we’ve lived. After all, one of the fun things I first learned about Mr. Road Trip was that he was born the same year the original Star Trek series first aired. So we went from there, finding what information we could between sites like InfoPlease.com and looking up the dates some of our favorite movies were released. It seemed like a good way to include our “very good year” timeline idea from our Save the Dates as well as give our guests something to talk about, should they notice the little fun facts.

Not all were successful, but most cut fairly straight.

Not all were successful, but most cut fairly straight.

I spent an afternoon cutting some of the cleaned wine bottles so that they could be used in various pieces and parts in the centerpieces and other decorations. The cutter I purchased (Generation Green G2 Bottle Cutter) suggested dipping the scored bottles in hot then cold water to create the break, but that never worked–not even a crack. Next I remembered seeing something about using a candle flame to heat the score, then the cold water to stress the glass. That worked a little, but not well (the first half cracked well enough, and then went nowhere). And then when the air conditioner kicked on it started to work against my efforts. Finally I went to the web and found the same video that Mrs. Pain au Chocolat found using the tea kettle and tap water method and it worked like a charm (providing my score lines were correct–something that takes a bit of practice, I learned).

I had to set up an extra workstation in our library--no such thing as too many flat surfaces!

I had to set up an extra workstation in our library (aka the repurposed dining room)–no such thing as too many flat surfaces!

The bottom halves of some of the bottles serve as “vases” of a sort, filled with excelsior and topped with faux grape cluters. A couple things I learned on this one: don’t buy your grape clusters from the craft store (where they charge anything from 3-8 dollars per cluster), head straight to your nearest Dollar Tree and you’ll likely find a bin of them for the predictable $1 each. It takes about a cluster and a half to top a wine bottle vase and they should be secured with GOOP-style craft glue. Noxious stuff, but according to ThistoThat.com, the best option for securing pretty much anything to glass clearly. (No, hot glue isn’t recommended for this.) It also takes about an hour to set up, so I used painter’s tape to hold things in place while the glue dried.

Emery paper, a little water, and a movie on Netflix easily gets through a dozen bottle edges.

Emery paper, a little water, and a movie on Netflix easily gets through a dozen bottle edges.

Finally (or so I thought) the top halves of the bottles will round off the trio with an electric tea light inside to add some flickering atmosphere. I did sand these down a bit with emery paper (different than regular sand paper and not the same as emery cloth used for metal, either, though we did try that last one in a pinch) just enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about someone cutting themselves during set-up. They don’t all stand 100% straight and I’m somewhat surprised at myself for not caring that much. My OCD-ish tendencies must be taking a day off, is all I can figure.

That looks better--and what's that peeking out from the back, there?

That looks better–and what’s that peeking out from the back, there?

Of course, when I put the three pieces together I realized that the grape-topped vases needed a little bit more height. Guess it’s time to add one more project to the centerpieces before calling them done!