Independence Day – Tablescape and Printable Banner

Independence Day Tablescape and Pintable Banner

Patriotic Tablescape and free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy

Happy Fourth of July!!!!   A beachy vibe, a patriotic nod and beautiful outdoor weather create the perfect setting for a leisurely afternoon spent on the deck.  Follow it up with a great barbecue before heading off to meet friends  at the community fireworks.  Relaxation, sophisticated easy living.  We are ready!    (We can pull it off for one afternoon.  Can’t we???)  

Place Setting Paula, the delightful Brazilian headwaiter on our Hawaiian cruise, would not tolerate this place setting.  She was ultra precise with every utensil perfectly aligned and one inch from the edge of the table.  I’m not sure what she did with the napkin before shaking it out into the diner’s lap — but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t hapharzardly placed under the tableware.  I doubt that she would use plastic plates and glasses from JoAnn’s either.  But we are relaxed and beachy this July Fourth afternoon!

TAble with Lanterns

The table runner is actually a light turquoisy blue printed with silver stars.  The solar lanterns are newly refurbished.  I picked them up at a moving sale (A multi million dollar lottery winner was moving out of the first $1 million house into a new bigger house!   Maybe some of that will rub off!)   The lanterns needed a new coat of spray paint, which was easy enough.  The crane lantern has its original diffuser, but the cattail lantern needed a new one.  We looked high and low and finally  I found it in the quilting department at HobLob.  It’s a sheet of plastic used for making quilt piece templates.  A little trimming and finesse-ing and it works perfectly.  The lanterns have a beautiful soft blue glow in the early evening that fits the blue and beachy mood.  Drink stationa

A drink station set up on the deck cushion box, with citronella candles at the ready.   The tray was a garage sale find several years ago, transformed with a can of teal spray paint.  Love it!

Patriotic Free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy

A banner is a quick and easy way to get in holiday mode!  Colorful, simple and festive are good. And if you are like me, trying to juggle a dozen things at once, quick and easy is really good!   This red, white and blue banner, starred and striped was easy to do – and it will be quicker for you since I saved the template for you HERE


Patriotic Free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy Print on letter sized paper or card stock.    Cut out each flag, leaving the white portion on the LEFT side of each one.

Patriotic Free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy

Fold the white portion over a ribbon, butcher twine, or whatever you choose for the base of your banner.  I used quarter inch grosgrain ribbon. Be sure to leave plenty of extra ribbon on both ends for hanging the finished banner.   Tape each folded tab securely to the back of the flag.   A little pocket is created that will let you slide the flag along the ribbon.  If you want stability and don’t want the flags to move,   staple the flags to the ribbon.

Patriotic Free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy

Done.   Unless. . . .

Patriotic Free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy

You want to add spacers or embellishments.   I used two torn muslin strips, each about 1 inch by 10 inches, tied in between each flag.  They add to the beachy vibe and follow the spirit of our Uncle Sam.  It took about 40 minutes to add them, but that included figuring out how big and how to do it.    Red or blue striped paper an inch or so wide, folded and taped would add more color and length to the banner.    Red/white/blue ribbons would also work.  

Patriotic Free printable Americana Banner -- A Pinch of Joy

Uncle Sam wants YOU to have a Happy Fourth of July! 

Isn’t he a cute dude? 

(A handmade gift once upon a time from Wheel’s sister, JayEl!)

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Potato Nests and holiday menu suggestions

Potato Nests 5

A Pinch of Joy:  Potato Nests

I served this at a tea party brunch for something a little more substantial and with a different texture and savory taste than the usual fare.  I served in the fancy ramekins in which they were baked.  A platter of these nicely turned out would be spectacular, especially with a few chopped chives over the top and perhaps a bit of other green garnish tucked in between the cakes.   Foods that are already portioned make a buffet line move quickly.

This is quick to make because you start out with packaged shredded potatoes.  I used the kind found in the refrigerated section.   The shredded Parmesan cheese adds to the flavor and you can use your choice of cheese for the remaining measure of cheese.  I didn’t want my potato nests to have a bright yellow color so chose a white yellow mix of cheese.  You can also use this mixture as a “bowl” for scrambled eggs after baking.  To do this, press the back of a tablespoon into each mound, making a nest, before baking.  During the last few minutes of baking, scramble eggs as you usually do.   Remove the nests to platter or plate, mound the eggs into each “bowl” and garnish with bacon.  Serve hot for  breakfast or brunch.

Not just for breakfast or brunch, these savories make a nice portion controlled side dish for a special dinner, too.  Or use them for a hearty appetizer.  Very versatile!!!!

Check out these other versatile menu ideas for Easter holiday goodness, too!

Resurrection Rolls              Lemon Poppyseed Zuchinni Bread         Honey Banana Bread

Wicked Good Pork Chops              Aloha Chicken                         Orange Glazed Cornish Hens

Sunny Broccoli Salad             Wicked Simple Sweet Slaw        Spinach Salad/ lemon garlic dressing

Spiced Pineapple Carrot Cake       Coconut Macaroons                    Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

Potato Nests
  • 1 20 ounce package shredded refrigerated potatoes (I use Simply Potatoes)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 green onions chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used Colby jack, but your choice)
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Grease or spray 12 cup muffin pan or 10 ramekins; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the 2 eggs just until yoke and white are mixed.
  4. Add green onions, salt, cheese and stir.
  5. Mix in refrigerated potatoes.
  6. Scoop mixture in greased muffin cups or ramekins.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and set.

’m so glad you stopped by today!   Be sure to follow A Pinch of Joy so you don’t miss a thing!  I’d love to have your company on this venture!!   Follow:    Facebook RSS feed  / bloglovin’ /   twitter  and   pinterest.   Share: if you found this helpful or inspiring please click one of the buttons below!  Your support of A Pinch of Joy is appreciated!



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How to puree a pumpkin

How to make pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin

How to make pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin

This big pumpkin has been on our front porch since early October.  Time to make the change to Christmas decor so it had to go.   Bytes has been the master jack o lantern carver, but was busy this year.  So this super large globe survived Halloween intact and went right up to Thanksgiving.   Nary a ding and only one surface blemish to mar its nearly twenty pound beauty.  Could not just throw it away.

You have to know, too, that Wheels has frequently worked on Thanksgiving.  Not every year, but often enough that we haven’t really established any traditions except a really good dinner sometime close to the fourth Thursday in November.  But this year, he was home.   And we had some time on our hands while the crockpot worked its magic with the turkey breast.  See where this is going??  This  is also about how we spent our Thanksgiving Day.  All day.

Cutting up a pumpkin to make puree

Step one — wash the pumpkin thoroughly since it will be cut and cooked with the skin on.  Wheels began by cutting around the circumference of the pumpkin at its midpoint and just about halfway around.  Then he began cutting wedges from the end of the pumpkin down to the cut at midpoint.  (He’s a lefty and has his own technique.  Don’t try to copy unless you are also a lefty and then you will know why he was cutting thataway!)  He was using his super sharp fillet knife.  But any sharp knife will work — like the big butcher knife  that is in the knife rack close by.   Pull the strings off the piece.  (They were not as slimy as I thought they would be.)


Wheels kept cutting wedges.  Because the pumpkin was so big, we reasoned we needed to cut reasonably sized wedges so that it would cook in a reasonable amount of time. They were 2-3 inches wide and 6-8 inches long.  And there were a lot!  He cut and cut and cut.  At the center, it was as slimy as I thought it would be!  But not in a gross way — if you handled them quickly and didn’t think about it.  I skipped all that and opted to let Wheels do it.  Just because it was Thanksgiving and I was putting together some part of our dinner.   He pulled out the seeds and we cleaned and roasted them — I’ll post that later.

Oven bake pumpkin to make puree

Wheels scraped the thinner strings off each piece, leaving just the firm pumpkin.   With such a large pumpkin we decided to cook the pumpkin in the oven, a process I saw explained at Cultured Palate.  It worked beautifully! I took a little different tack though by placing the wedges on jelly roll pans — three  pans full! — and pouring in enough water  to just cover the bottom to create steam as the pumpkin cooked.   I baked it at 350 for between forty-five minutes and an hour — until a cooking fork could easily pierce the flesh.   It took about 10 minutes before the pumpkin cooled enough to handle.  I first tried to scoop the pumpkin off the rind with a spoon, and then an ice cream scoop.  Unsuccessfully.  Grabbing a knife, I cut off the rind as closely as I could — which still left quite a bit of good pumpkin in the rind.  Try holding onto a very warm slippery wedge of pumpkin while artfully wielding a knife!  Wheels wandered back through the kitchen and began scraping the remaining good stuff from the rinds.  Been just me — those rinds would have gone.  But he has patience and made me laugh.  Its why I like doing things with him.

While Wheels was separating pumpkin and rind, I began the puree process, using the food processor.  Did I tell you this is a messy business?  I thought I had about half of it pureed and then stirred the bowlful of pumpkin.  Big chunks were hidden in there!  So back through the food processor.  You probably would know to stir each batch to make sure it was smooth.  Not just look at it.  I know that too.  Now.  It’s a beautiful color, isn’t it?

Pumpkin puree

Pure pumpkin puree  is thick, too.  See that ladle standing up all by itself in the middle of the bowl.  That’s thick.  And we had two bowl fulls.  You know we had to freeze most of it.  I didn’t have freezer containers.  And by this time it was Thanksgiving afternoon.  I had this vision of bags filled beautifully colored pureed pumpkin, carefully measured in one cup portions.  Ha!  First to go was the carefully measured idea.  Fill the one cup measure and turn it upside down over the waiting freezer bag.  Nothing.  Not one drop fell out.  You have the bag in one hand and a full cup of thick pumpkin puree that is acting like concrete in the other.  Can’t shake the thick orange stuff out, can’t hold the bag and scrape the stuff out of the cup.   MMMkay.  I’ll just scoop some in the bag.  There was no way that stuff was going to go in  plastic bag.  There was more on my hands, the bag zipper, the sink, the counter than ever saw the inside of the bag.  Then Bytes wandered in and devised the botomless paper cup funnel you see above.  Three ladles full made the measurements sort of consistent in each bag — even if we don’t know how much three ladle fulls of pumpkin puree really is.

Pumpkin puree

We ended up with sixteen bags of the finest pumpkin puree you will ever see.  Dinner was pretty tasty, too. And the kitchen was pretty much all clean again before bedtime.  The activity won’t become a Thanksgiving tradition at our house –who in their right mind cooks a big dinner and purees a huge pumpkin at the same time?! —  but we had fun working together.  And you can learn from our experience.   So all is well.

 How did you spend Thanksgiving Day?  Got any pumpkin recipes??

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