Sunday, July 8, 2012

Frugal Fourth of July Party

We had a pretty un-festive Independence Day last year, so this year I decided we would make up for it by throwing a party. With a large lawn and huge deck on the roof of the garage, our rental house begs to be used for entertaining. It wasn't long before red, white, and blue decor started catching my eye at the thrift store. This post is about all my finds for our party, and how awesomely little I spent on them.

My first find was at the Salvation Army. Back in April they had crates of little fabric American flags. I got a pack of a dozen medium-sized ones for $3.49 and another pack of 120 mini flags also for $3.49! I used the boyfriend's staple gun to attach the flags to the fence along our lawn.

I didn't end up using all 120 mini flags, but I stuck them all over the place - in vases with my knock-off Pottery Barn spring flower branches, in the planter on the front porch, and in a mason jar as a centerpiece. Here they are lending a colorful background near the burgers awaiting the grill.

I also grabbed two large vinyl flags on wooden poles from an independent thrift store for $.99 each, but didn't get any good shots of them.

The tray in the next photo will be featured in a future post, but it's also a thrift store find. It cost $3.49 (Salvation Army's standard bric-a-brac price, by the way) plus some red spray paint.

Funny thing about living with roommates is that over the years you end up with a lot of objects of hazy origin. The two bowls I used for chips are such items, as are a few of my mason jars. The red bowl is actually a vintage enameled pot designed by Dansk Kobenstyle. I knew it was old because I stumbled across an ad for it in a 1970s design annual that my roommate bought, but it turns out it's quite a collectible (though the turquoise color is more sought after).

Okay, now that we're back from that tangent, I want to introduce my new favorite summer cocktail - Kentucky lemonade. I discovered it when the boyfriend and I went to Gus's BBQ in South Pasadena a few months ago. There are many ways to make Kentucky lemonade, so I based my recipe for the 4th of July party on the one at Gus's.

Mix lemonade with lemon-lime soda, roughly one-to-one. Add a few leaves of mint, lightly crushed or pinched. Add Kentucky bourbon to your liking - I added the equivalent of less than a shot per cup so it still tasted primarily like lemonade. Serve with ice.

I count this cocktail among my thrifty party preparations because I served it in vintage-style glass decanters that I got at Goodwill for $3.99 each. The jar holding the mint started life as a jar of roasted garlic salsa from Trader Joe's. Also, the mint was harvested free from our yard. All of this sat on a red and white knit runner found with a matching blue one (on another table), $7.99 from Goodwill.

My favorite frugal party fixture was a cozy hangout of my own design. I call it a lawn canopy. Here it is with a doggie friend as a model (he showed up when the party started and turned out to be a gate crasher).

The top of the canopy is a shower curtain found at Goodwill for $3.99. The red, white, and blue picnic blanket is an awesomely appropriate find (also $3.99 from Goodwill). The pillows were on sale at Ikea for $.99 each, and the pillow cases were sown from a linen tablecloth (Goodwill, $3.99).

Here is my original design sketch of the canopy from back in May. I strayed from the original design ultimately. Instead of sharpening the 1-inch dowels (Home Depot, $1 each) I stuck them into plastic pots filled with dirt and stones from the yard. I kept the canopy from buckling by attaching a flat 1-inch dowel (Home Depot, $.69) between the two support dowels. All this attaching was done with a staple gun.

July 4th turned out to be pretty windy in Los Angeles, so I added twine tied to rocks as ballast. The twine was on hand and the rock I scavenged from the yard, so they were basically free.

As the day wound down guests grilled their dinner on the deck and ate under the fairy lights hanging from the oak tree above. When the sky finally faded from blue to navy, guests grabbed their drinks and gathered in groups on the roof to watch the neighborhood fireworks. Many went home with American flags perched in breast pockets and ponytails.

One guest even decided that my lawn canopy was a good place to spend the night. Oh well, I guess we'd rather he crash in the yard than crash his car trying to drive home.

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