Pilgrims, paper boats and festive placeholders

My thoughts keep turning to Christmas;  I can’t help it.  The stuff I always love to plan are the times when we’ll all come together around the table, feasting and celebrating.  This year we’ll have multiple family and friends over, so I’ll make a flotilla of paper boats as placeholders to float on plates along the table…

Pilgrim paper boats

Bedecked with festive mice transporting a forest of Christmas trees and topped with tiny, woven-thyme wreaths, they become even more special;Festive holiday placeholder paper boats

Whether you make these for Christmas or Thanksgiving, they are so simple to construct, and you can then make them as elaborate as you like.  Here’s what you’ll need;

  • Kraft paper sheets (A4 in the UK or letter paper in the US)
  • Rubber stamping kit and ink pad
  • Long wooden skewers and cocktail sticks
  • Pack of thyme stems, thin florists wire, edible silver balls (or beads – you’re not going to eat them so it doesn’t matter!)
  • Glue (ideally a hot glue gun, but not crucial)
  • Decorative items to place in the boats – I used hanging tree decorations and mini bottle-brush trees
  1. Firstly, fold your boats.  I used this tutorial as a reminder (what did we do before videos?!).
  2. When you have them constructed, stamp names along the side of each boat.  I found it easiest to start with the last letter at the mast and work backwards, so that I didn’t run out of space.  Here’s a tip; don’t do this after a glass of wine, and if you have any complicated names in the family write them out first; it’s surprisingly easy to make mistakes when you’re spelling backwards :-)
  3. Take a long skewer and push it up through the peak of the boat, pointy-end first.  Once you have it in place, use the glue-gun to secure a cocktail stick in place to make your mast.  (The order here is important; if you build the mast first you have to push it down through the boat and that’s harder, and creates a bigger/looser hole for the mast to rattle around in).  They should be looking a little like this:


(If you’re wondering about the tiny boat; we have a new baby due to arrive in the family between now and Christmas, so this yet-to-be-named, mini trawler will be safely roped to it’s new mum’s ship and will take pride of place!)

To make the wreaths, take a stem of thyme and wrap it around a length of thin wire, before bending the wire into a wreath shape as shown (it’s easier than it sounds..)  You can bunch together strands for thickness.  Then glue silver balls at intervals around the wreath if you want added decoration (I ALWAYS want added decoration!)


Drape your wreaths over the mast of the boats and fill them with whatever you choose!  I opted for a small flotilla of felted woodland creatures, bringing Christmas trees as their precious seasonal cargo – but the possibilities are endless.

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I hope your week has got off to a good start; I’m just home from work and have a local pub quiz to go to with friends tonight; it feels deliciously decadent to be out on a school night so early in the week, once we brave the cold and dark!

Have a good one, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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Autumn Tablescapes

The weekend is drawing to a close – a blustery, windswept close here in our small corner of England – but it’s been a rather magical one.  We’ve had a brief but promising flurry of snow prompting Harry to announce, rather prematurely, the imminent arrival of Father Christmas, and we’ve had walks through the autumn leaves and evenings snuggled in front of the fire.  Like all the best weekends though, it began with a lovely event; dinner here with some of our closest friends on Friday night.

Usually when we’re hosting dinner, it’s something of a mad rush; whilst in my head I imagine myself uncorking a bottle of wine and pottering around the kitchen in a form-fitting silky number as delicious smells waft from the stove, I am more usually arm-deep in bath time suds whilst my husband does emergency runs to buy forgotten ingredients, and the first guests to arrive have to tactfully remind me that I have only made-up one eye before getting distracted, and thus look like a freeze-frame from a You Tube video on how to apply eyeliner.  In the early days of dating my husband, I even managed to accidentally lock myself in the bathroom during the early stages of a dinner party (don’t ask how; it’s surprisingly easy I promise you..), and had to eventually ring him from my mobile phone to come rescue me.  This, after 20 minutes of waiting for him to notice my absence, I should add.

So, my history as a hostess is a somewhat chequered one, and evenings with us are nothing if not excitingly unpredictable – or so I tell myself.  On this occasion however, I managed to pull it off; the table was decorated with nature’s finest autumn finds, the menu was delivered without culinary disaster, and I even remembered all of my clothes and make-up.  I think I shall retire at this new-found high; it’s surely downhill all the way from here…

In a nod to Halloween, I added shimmering grey bat wings to small gourds and nestled them in martini glasses at each place-setting; I drew these freehand onto a piece of card stock then made small incisions into the sides of the gourds to slide them into place.  The name cards were glued to small pins which I pushed into the stalks.  I added tiny seed pearls to the tips of the wings.. and then decided I had better stop faffing around and concentrate on the actual cooking and cleaning *sigh*.

First though, I printed out menus onto end-pages from an old book and pegged these to each napkin; I’d bought a handful of yellowing paperbacks in our local charity shop with a view to using them in some crafty fashion, and they ran through the printer very simply; on one side guests could see what they were eating, and on the other were excerpts of letters by Evelyn Waugh – I carefully didn’t ask which side was more gripping..

Over the course of a day or so, I added odd bits and pieces to the centre of the table; blush roses and vibrant chrysanthemums, a selection of pumpkins and gourds which Harry and I dragged back from our excursion to the pumpkin patch (Harry picked up a small gourd and announced ‘my hands are all full Mummy; come along, you bring the rest!’, and marched jauntily to the car.  I see he has mastered the art of delegation at the tender age of almost-3).

Quail eggs, walnuts, corks and pine cones gave our guests something to examine and play with between courses and whilst chatting (though playing with fresh quail eggs after a couple of glasses of wine is a hazardous old business, as we found out)

As for the food itself, I tested out a recipe from my new favourite read; a magazine called The Simple Things, which is a sort of pared down Martha-like celebration of slow food, nature and living in the moment; their chicken and leek pie won the popular vote and will appear again on our table, just as soon as our arteries recover.

But possibly the best part of evenings like these is having managed to choose a husband who invariably says those magic words at the end of the night; ‘you head on up to bed; I’ll clear up down here…’