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Keep your spring party light and airy with linen table coverings and clear glass containers. The glass vessels create a modern look that shows off the flowers and plants. Bring nature inside by parading different sizes of mini greenhouses down the middle of the table. Each is made with a bit of dirt and pretty ferns underneath a glass cloche. Fill gaps between the cloches with roses floating in a bit of water in stemless wineglasses.
Paul's placement of the knife and fork to the right of the plate is a traditional way to set the table in Norway, where he is from. It also gives the table a casual look. "I like to take the work out of entertaining and make it fun," Paul says.
Forgo standard place cards in favor of quotes or sayings about the season. Pair the notes with a sprig of fern at each place setting. Here are some fun spring quotes to consider:
"Spring adds new life and new beauty to all that is." -- Jessica Harrelson
"Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'" -- Robin Williams
"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow." -- Proverb
"With the coming of spring, I am calm again." -- Gustav Mahler
"My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather." -- Loire Hartwould
"Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil." -- Bishop Reginald Heber
"Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself." -- Lao Tzu
"Spring is when life's alive in everything." -- Christina Rossetti
"The world's favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May." -- Edwin Way Teale
"April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." -- William Shakespeare
"The earth laughs in flowers." -- E.E. Cummings
"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn." -- Hal Borland
Apple Lime Coolers hit the spot for a spring-fresh libation. To make homemade swizzle sticks, cut leaf shapes (get our patterns, below) from coordinating decorative papers and hot-glue to bamboo appetizer sticks.
In a large pitcher or jar, mix 3/4 cup lime juice (6 limes); simple syrup (recipe, below); 1-1/2 rum; 1 to 2 green apples, cored and thinly sliced; and 1 to 2 limes, thinly sliced. Add ice. Stir. Serve in drinking glasses topped off with chilled club soda. Serves 8.
Simple Syrup: Bring 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes, and let cool. Makes about 3 cups.
Editor's Tip: For a nonalcoholic version substitute chilled apple juice for the rum and skip the simple syrup.
Create gorgeous pleated paper medallions that look like big blooms. Arrange different-size medallions into a collage. For additional decoration, wrap books in the springy papers.
To make the paper medallions:
Cut a strip of decorative paper; the wider the strip, the larger the medallion will be. (Our strips ranged from about 2-3/4 to 5 inches wide and about 20 inches long.)
Score the strip every 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Use scissors and punches -- decorative or regular -- to trim one of the long edges, which will become the outside edge of the medallion. (We varied the designs: scallops, points, and "fringe" with holes punched in the fringe.)
Accordion-fold the scored lines. Glue the short ends together, forming a tube. (For best results, use fast-drying paper glue, such as Zip Dry.) Gently flatten the tube to form the medallion, gluing in the center. Embellish the center of the medallion with paper circles. Use a circle punch, or cut circles with scissors using a drinking glass, cookie cutter, or other round object as a template.
Punch a small hole in the top of the medallion. Thread string, ribbon, or fishing line through to hang. Or, for a collage, hot-glue balsa wood strips to the backs to connect several medallions.
Ruffled bird's nest fern fronds from the florist compose an unexpected bouquet. Single plant fronds of any type work just as well when you bunch them to fill out the container and stand upright. Ferns are a good way to stretch your budget and they last much longer than flowers.
Before guests get going, get them growing. A potted seedling -- a fern, an herb such as sage or basil, or a sunflower -- makes a fun little growing-season favor. A lollipop stick bearing a message finishes off the gift.