Trawl the knickknack bins for inexpensive, cheerful items to use as party accessories. A clip-on doodad, like this clear plastic bird, can serve as a place-card holder. Clip the card to a spoon or a fork, then rest it in a first-course bowl or on a napkin.
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Dramatic Doorway Decoration
A pair of stone-look plastic urns flanking the front doorway can be dressed up to welcome holiday visitors in grand style. Place a tall foam cone in each urn, anchor it with sand, use florist sticks and wire to attach greenery and Christmas balls, and voilà―instant Tuscan villa.
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Paint-Strip Gift Tags
Paint-sample strips make great gift tags. Besides all those hues, they’re printed with fantasy-inspiring names, like Flamingo Dream. Slide one under the ribbon, or punch a hole and thread ribbon through as a tie.
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For a rustic table runner (that you can recycle when you reseed that bald patch of lawn), use a length of burlap about two feet longer than the table. Carry out the earthy theme with pinecones, twigs, and other decorations plucked from the garden.
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Seed-Packet Place Cards
Remind guests of blooms to come with seed-packet place cards. Write a name on a card or a slip of paper, tape it to a packet, and wrap with twine. Got a Daisy, a Lily, or a Poppy at the table? Let the packet speak for itself.
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Colorful flowerpots make cheery cutlery caddies for a buffet. So everything is perfectly clear (and perfectly cute), tie a labeled price tag onto each pot.
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A stroll through the woods to gather pinecones doesn’t fit into your schedule? Buy them prestrung to make an easy swag. Tie a big bow in the middle so you can center it perfectly over the doorway, then tack the swag up with nails.
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Paperwhite Bunches and Bulbs
A rite of passage in winter is forcing paperwhite narcissus for a sneak peek at spring. Instant version: Buy several bunches and display as is. Or cut them to different heights, tie bunches at the base, and arrange in identical containers. Scatter loose bulbs about like au naturel Christmas balls.
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Vase Votive Holders
To create soft, flickering light for a mantel or a table in a dark corner, group inexpensive frosted-glass vases of different sizes, add tealights, then sit back and enjoy the glow.
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Velcro Napkin Rings
Keep the dish from running away with the fork (fickle dish!) by strapping cutlery to the napkin with Velcro. One-Wrap strips come in five-color packs, so you can do a rainbow table setting, or go monochromatic and save the extras to tie up your garden hose.
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You won’t need a match to light up the room with twinkling topiaries flanking the fireplace. Buy them ready-made, or insert five-foot bamboo plant stakes around the perimeter of a potted evergreen, tie them at the top with florist wire, then twine white lights all around.