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When I think about the holiday season, some of my fondest memories are how it was spent growing up. All the major holidays were spent at my aunts house, for Christmas she would decorate her entire house with holiday festive cheer. Every room would be decorated and I would go through the house admiring every little touch she would add.
She would spend all day in the kitchen preparing our family meal, probably for more hours than I knew because she’d been cooking since before we arrived. Once dinner was close to being ready she would assign the task to my cousin and I to go through her buffet table and find the table linens and candles we wanted for the table setting. She had many different tablecloths and place-mats, pretty napkins and all sorts of different colored candles. We’d set the table together, add a centerpiece and complete each persons place setting with a full set of gold ware. I learned at a young age how to fold the napkins in different fun ways for a beautiful formal holiday table.
Those memories are so special to me, that I wanted to recreate some of those same traditions for my own family. The first time I hosted a family dinner for the holidays I went all out just like my aunt used to. The beautiful table, pretty linens in complimentary colors, formal dinner ware, complete with a full set of gold ware. That year my mom and I went to Big Lots because I didn’t have the dishes I needed and formal linens to have a gorgeous holiday table. I remember my mom and I filled up our cart with a variety of casserole dishes, sets of glassware, and lots of odds and ends to use for the centerpiece as well as other decor.
Well we ended up realizing that not only do they have great decor items for the home and for the holidays, but they also have a pretty extensive selection of food items, too! There’s a full baking aisle with sugar, flour, prepared mixes and all kinds of dried fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, and many other items.
That year I made this cranberry salad with two different types of gelatin (cherry and raspberry), cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, nuts, and a chopped apple. Even my family that doesn’t usually like cranberry sauce loved it! It’s really so easy to make and most of the items are available right there in the food aisles of Big Lots. I’ve continued to make it each year, and now prefer to serve them in little parfait glasses for a single serving instead of in a large bowl. It looks pretty and there’s no more fighting over who gets a serving of how much!
Now that the youngest boys are getting older, I’d like to reintroduce my family to the type of holidays I grew up with. We’ve only had a handful of formal holiday dinners at our house because shortly after that first time we had D-Man, and then a few years later RoRo came. Since then our dinners have been much more casual and buffet style, and I’d like to move them back to a little more of a festive and formal theme. I still have a lot of the items I purchased from Big Lots several years ago, but each year we also go there for Christmas lights, decor, ornament sets and gift wrap during the holiday season, among other things. I just love finding great quality items at a great price. This past summer we also redid our backyard and purchased two gazebos at Big Lots as well as new decor for our fireplace mantle. My favorite time to stop by is during the holidays though, they always have the best deals. Of course styles and assortment vary by store, but you’re sure to find something that will fit your needs!
I recently stopped in and was trying to get some ideas for this years holiday table. I found a pretty green tablecloth as well as a scroll pattern table runner adorned with pretty red poinsettias. My holiday table for this year just sort of came together, and once I saw these pretty gold bows in the holiday decor section I had the idea to use them for my holiday napkins instead of on a tree.
Just fold the napkins in half diagonally to make a large triangle, then in half again to create a square. Turn the square so the points face towards the top and bottom, like a diamond. Bring the side points in around the back, then wrap the bow around the middle, the fold the top point downwards into the back, almost like a man’s tie.
I just love how the napkins came out! The red napkins with the gold bows pop so well, and it looks so pretty against my white dishes and the green tablecloth. What I find is that sometimes my color theme will just pop out to me, I’ve learned to not plan it. Those types of things just come together based on what is found and how creative you want to get. Once I found the runner, tablecloth and gold bows I was on the hunt for a cool centerpiece. One year I turned a punch bowl upside down and used holiday leaves with glass ornaments that complimented my table linens. That was fun, but since my boys are still a bit young I wanted something simple and inexpensive enough that I wouldn’t have a heart attack when they get near it. I’m still not fully prepared for flammable items on my table, or anything too shiny and breakable.
Once I found this gorgeous faux candle set that spells out “Noel”, I knew this would be the centerpiece. It’s pretty, sparkly, and the candles have an on/off switch and it takes batteries. Perfect! I grabbed some garland with more poinsettias to wrap around the centerpiece and knew it was going to be beautiful.
And it was! I couldn’t wait to get home to set it all up, I just love how the red, green and gold look together. It’s so pretty and festive, you wouldn’t believe everything was as affordable as it was! I couldn’t stop staring, it just came together so well.
I set the table to lay everything out and make sure I still had enough place setting and pieces for everyone while I waited for the gelatin in the cranberry salad to chill. I just might leave it like this all month long!
Would that be weird?
There’s a few different ways to set up a formal place setting. If I get any more fancy than this I will need more gold ware though, and I think as long as my kids know what each of these utensils are used for and in what order, then we are doing good. Don’t you think? Oh, that bow on the napkin just ties it all together, doesn’t it?
Oh, and the cranberry salad mini parfaits look so festive. They’re really the perfect treat during this time of year. I whip up my own little topping to plop on top and sprinkle with a bit of pecans and add a little twist of orange peel to finish. It’s the big season for being festive, and these little cuties are the perfect little treat.
Cranberry Salad Ingredients:
- 1 can crushed pineapple (20 oz), drained with liquid reserved
- 1 package cherry flavored gelatin (3 oz)
- 1 package raspberry flavored gelatin (3 oz)
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 can whole cranberry sauce (about 16 oz)
- 1 can jellied cranberry sauce (about 16 oz)
- 1 apple (I used Braeburn), peeled, cored and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Parfait Topping Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 oz cream cheese, softened
- 2.5 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- orange peel, for garnish
- crushed pecans, for garnish
Begin by draining the pineapple and reserving the juice. Measure the reserved juice, adding water if needed to reach one cup of liquid, and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Add the drained crushed pineapple to a bowl along with the diced apple, cranberry sauce and nuts.
Once the pineapple juice and water mixture comes to a boil, add the packets of flavored gelatin and mix well until dissolved. Remove from heat and add one cup of cold water. Wait until mixture has cooled completely, then stir into the bowl with the fruit and nuts.
Carefully scoop out the mixture using a measuring cup or ladle and pour into parfait glasses. Alternately, you can place it all in one dish to serve instead. Refrigerate for about 2-3 hours, until mixture has gelled completely.
Do you have any holiday traditions?
What can you count on your local Big Lots to have in store for you? Are you in it for the many varieties of food like soups, canned items, baking items and snacks, or do you prefer the holiday decor? I love it all!