A Fourth of July party can be a casual affair. In fact, it's a time to serve a fabulous meal without the fuss of china, elaborate recipes and elegant linens. It's the holiday to bring the fun outside with barbecues, picnics and games.
You can set the patriotic mood with a little planning and a lot of red, white and blue. From crafts to mouth-watering desserts, we gathered our best ideas to celebrate America's birthday. Our decorations are fun, reasonably priced and add sparkle to the occasion.
STAR-SPANGLED STRAWBERRY TREE
1 (8-by-4-by-2-inch) florist Styrofoam block
1 garden container or bucket to hold topiary (we found this one at a local craft store for $15.99)
3 (5/16-by-18-inch) wooden dowel rods
1 (5-inch) florist Styrofoam sphere
1 package of mini craft wooden picks
About 1 quart fresh strawberries
Spool of blue sheer craft ribbon
Red, white and blue filler. We used garland ($4.99 for 5 feet) at Hobby Lobby.
1. Cut Styrofoam block to fit inside container.
2. Press three dowels into the center of foam in container.
3. Press Styrofoam sphere on top of the dowels (about 21/2 inches deep).
4. Press strawberries onto wooden picks. Then place pick into sphere. Continue until entire sphere is covered, placing
strawberries close enough together to hide foam.
5. Wrap dowels in ribbon to hide them.
6. Place filler (your choice) on top of foam in the container.
7. Tie a bow under the strawberries.
SPARKLE IT UP
Create your own centerpieces with red, white and blue sand ($2.49 each, for 1 1/2 pounds) at Hobby Lobby, hobbylobby.com. Pour the sand into small glasses and add Patriotic Foil fun picks ($1.99 for 12 picks) at Michael's, michaels.com, to create a fireworks display.
Create your own flatware organizer in a metal bucket ($4.99 at craft stores). Red and white polka dotted napkins ($3.99 each) and red, white and blue cooking tools ($8.95 to $10 each) all from Sur La Table, surlatable.com.
QUENCH YOUR THIRST
Show off your holiday drink colors in this drink dispenser (from $20 to $80, in acrylic or glass versions, available at various online stores), and add refreezable cubes in star shapes, or use silicone star ice cube molds (about $8, various online stores).
Try this Cheesecake Cupcake recipe for your holiday celebration. White pedestal cake stand ($12.99) at TJ Maxx, tjmaxx.com for locations, and Martha Stewart cupcake liners ($3.99 for 75) at Macy's, macys.com.
Servings: 15 to 18 cupcakes
15 to 18 vanilla wafers
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 (21-ounce) can cherry or blueberry pie filling
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in muffin tins, and place one vanilla wafer into the bottom of each cupcake liner.
2. Process cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth in a food processor or beat on medium speed with an electric mixer.
3. Fill each cupcake liner about three-quarters full with cream cheese mixture. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, until cheesecake is set. Filling rises during baking, then settles after cooling.
4. When cool, top each cupcake with pie filling. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
Note: If making ahead, freeze cheesecakes in an airtight container. Thaw in the refrigerator and top with pie filling just before serving.
Per cupcake, based on 18: 185 calories; 10g fat; 6g saturated fat; 50mg cholesterol; 3g protein; 21g carbohydrate; 10g sugar; no fiber; 100mg sodium; 30mg calcium.
Keep the kids busy decorating drink cups with stickers and markers. Plastic blue cups (about $2 for 20) at mass retailers and stickers ($1.49 to $2.99) at Michael's.
Fill your favorite holiday sweets into this blue stoneware basket ($49) at Williams-Sonoma.
Festive beverage bucket
Fill your drink tub with cool and refreshing choices. Red- and white-striped party tub ($22 on sale) at whimsicalpaper.com.
RED, WHITE AND BOOZE
Maestro DOBEL Diamond Tequila has created a new drink to resemble the American flag. This sweet cocktail is made with watermelon, blueberries and tequila, a refreshing drink sure to satisfy even the most patriotic partygoers.
4 ounces tequila
2 cups watermelon
1 cup blueberries
1. In a blender, puree the watermelon until smooth and then pour into four shot glasses.
2. Puree the blueberries until smooth, pour into four shot glasses.
3. Pour tequila into four shot glasses.
4. Sip the watermelon, tequila and blueberry juice consecutively.
Note: Recipe courtesy Maestro DOBEL Diamond Tequila.
ACTIVITIES TO KEEP YOUR GUESTS BUSY
- Balloon toss. Fill up red, white and blue balloons.
- Patriotic coloring pages (free printable pages available at coloring.ws/usa.htm).
- Have the kids create a patriotic hat with red, white and blue construction paper and markers.
- Plan a parade with the kids. Purchase small flags for them to carry, even if the parade runs from your front yard to the backyard. Let the kids dress in red, white and blue clothing.
- Red, white and blue painting. Let the kids paint their favorite patriotic scene and honor the winner.
- Outdoor games such as horseshoes, badminton or washers.
- Patriotic games such as American history trivia or a patriotic word find game (try familyfun.go.com for free, printable games).
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