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a cheap & cheerful christmas table

December 5, 2012

It has become tradition, over the last ten or so years since the girls & I left school, for us to gather for a meal around Christmas time.

What started as a fairly simple wrap-your-own-Vietnamese-rice-paper-rolls party (complete with tinsel halos and seasonally appropriate attire) has now become a full blown, Shez-hosted, annual pot luck affair with a specially selected culinary theme to boot.

Which, of course (for me) means an excuse to dress the table.

the table

The table last year was an exercise in frugality – seating for eight (with handmade decorations, table runner & place settings) for less than $20, and it was so well received that the (paper) table runner and decor stayed up well into the New Year.

Well, until my parents’ New Year’s Eve party anyway, where all attempts at keeping an as yet unsullied paper-based set of decor were futile at best.

This year, I upped the budget (just a little!) in an effort to create a table setting that was not only affordable, but one that would be able to be reused time and time again, without frantic paper blotting.

We had initially planned to have our Christmas luncheon outdoors, but on sight of the first smatterings of rain (and upon being informed that the weather was predicted to climb into the high thirties that afternoon) decided to move the party inside.

But not before taking some photos!

table & cloth

The table is (underneath all the finery) just two trestle tables that were pulled out of the attic the night before. They weren’t much to look at, but they were the same size and they were sturdy. Tick.

In order to cover the chipped laminate, I needed a cloth.

The cheapest tablecloths I could find were (aside from thin white plastic sheeting at the $2 store) cost in the vicinity of $20, had Santa faces printed badly across their middle and were only large enough to cover one of the tables, and with minimal overhang.

This would not do.

So a trip to K-Mart was had and a Double bed-sized quilt cover was located in the clearance section (only $12! And I got a couple of pillowcases thrown in!)

After cutting carefully down the sides of the quilt cover and opening it up flat, I had myself a 1.8m x 4.2m tablecloth in a gorgeously striking pattern.

The runner that I lay down the centre of the table is a 3m long strip of sheer fabric that I picked up in the wrapping paper section of my local discount store for $5. As it’s hemmed, I don’t need to worry about it fraying and can simply throw it in the wash for next time.

flowers, candles & napkins

I really wanted to decorate the table with flowers this year, but didn’t want to spend exorbitant amounts at a florist to get the right look.

To save a couple of dollars, I visited my parents’ place and asked to cut a few stems from their nature strip – the ones that would usually get run over by a garbage truck or errant vehicle. I also clipped a couple of brushy reeds from a car park (where I’ve seen the council coming by to clear them with a whipper snipper before tossing them in the trash) and some leaves from the trees in my area that overhung the footpath.

These were popped in old coffee jars that I wrapped in a bit of white crepe paper, and voila! Table flowers for next to nothing!

The candles and cake stands were recycled from last year (check out the post to see how they were decorated) and the napkins were decorated with some sparkly baubles ($3 for a box of 12) and wrapped with a strip of metallic edged ribbon ($2 for 3 metres).

The napkins themselves are just face washer-type cloths that we picked up from Costco some months ago for about 50c each. They’re not proper napkins, but having that bit of material to wipe your hands with just fancied up the table somehow.

I finished off each end of the table with a miniature white Christmas tree that I picked up from Daiso ($2.80 each).

what we ate

Being a potluck, there were only a few things I needed to prepare for the day.

A few misty green jugs of mint and cucumber water (chilled, of course) to supplement the drinks supplied by one set of guests.

(Who got engaged! And brought champagne! Hic!)

(ps: I’m completely addicted to mint & cucumber water. It’s remarkably easy and particularly refreshing on a hot and sticky day. Just slice some cucumber and crush some stems of mint, pop them into a jug and top with water. Leave to infuse for an hour or so and continue to top with water as the day goes on. The longer it infuses for, the better!)

To fit all of the food on the table, we employed some careful planning.

All food was transferred into a bowl or plate that fit in with the colour theme (to make this simpler for my guests, I provided a selection of blue, green and white plates, bowls and trays). Large plates were propped up on upturned ramekins or right-way-up cake stands. Smaller plates and bowls were tucked in underneath.

(Oh, and don’t forget to remove the flowers from the table before the food hits!)

We ate a selection of salads. Haloumi & tomato. Piquant, fetta filled Greek.

Dips and sauces by another, including a very fishy taramasalata, tzatziki, an eggplant dip and a garlic sauce that slowly oxidised over the course of the lunch and turned itself a lurid green hue.

(And which, by the by, gave us all horrifically bad breath).

I made two spirals of spanakopita and provided little dishes of olives that were promptly forgotten once the hot dishes arrived.

“Cut it like a pie!” I encouraged.

“I’m going to sneak a piece off the end.”

“But then it won’t look pretty!”

“Oh you and your pretty. I can’t eat a whole ‘nother slice.”

And the meaty highlight, a whole box of lamb souvlaki, sourced from Canterbury with a zesty tabbouleh to even out the meat sweats.

A galaktoboureko inspired baked cheesecake, a handful of macaron and a batch of homemade Greek shortbread rounded the meal off, as did a rather feisty round of Kris Kringle (in which I managed to lose a bottle of Sake and a balloon making kit to end up with a tin of Lindt balls).

(I didn’t do half as badly as one fellow though, who ended up with a dress.)

more Christmas? yes please!

Later this week and early next, I’ll be sharing the recipes for my galaktoboureko inspired cheesecake and my swirls of spanakopita, as well as showcasing some Christmas-worthy gifts that I’ve had the pleasure of coming across in the lead up to C-Day!

So tell me, is there anything else you’d like to see on onebitemore in the 20 days we have left before Christmas?

(And can you guess what the culinary theme was this year?)

 


  • #1
    koji
    December 5th, 2012

    that gigantic tablecloth was genius!

    also, leftover souvlaki makes a fantastic lunch.

  • #2
    December 5th, 2012

    Gorgeous! When I saw the sneaky instagram pics I was hoping for a post :) Great idea on the tablecloth and what a fabulous Greek feast! I’d love to see the recipe for that Greek shortbread. Happy Holidays! xx

  • #3
    December 5th, 2012

    Using a quilt cover and turning it into a tablecloth is genius! I love the Christmas get-together that’s become tradition with your friends, it’s got me thinking that I should start one too.

  • #4
    December 6th, 2012

    So much food! Food coma afterwards? :P Christmas feasts are awesome!

  • #5
    December 6th, 2012

    Your lunch party looks great. I love all the decor and thanks for sharing your tips on how to decorate with a budget. It really helps. Wish I had a place big enough to host parties like this, otherwise I’d do it so often!

  • #6
    December 6th, 2012

    This looks like a gorgeous Greek inspired Christmas dinner. I love the table setting, it is just beautiful, and so summer!

  • #7
    December 7th, 2012

    The table is stunning! I wish I was in charge of table setting for our Christmas dinner! And the food all looks amazing!

  • #8
    December 7th, 2012

    Saw the cheesecake, wanted the cheesecake. Very glad you will be sharing the recipe. Stunning table, looks very elegant for a quilt cover. Great idea.

  • #9
    December 8th, 2012

    Fantastic Shez! This summer cucumber and mint is also on my ‘love list’ for jugs of water, it really does elevate it to a new level.

Shez