Monday, April 6, 2009

lighting an outdoor fete


Bars and buffet tables must be adequately lighted, but they're often located far from electrical outlets. An easy, inexpensive solution is to gather clear apothecary bottles and fill them with lamp oil and wicks. Arrange the bottles under a large hurricane for protection; we set these on a sturdy glass cake stand (make sure the bottles are evenly balanced on the stand).


Geometric "topiaries" stand on both sides of this swimming pool. A few white plastic beach balls tied to weighted lines float in the pool like pearls cut loose from a giant strand (for safety, never cover the surface of a pool with a large number of balls).
Light Columns How-To:

1. Purchase a bamboo stick or dowel that's 6 feet long and 1 inch in diameter. Drive the pole deep into the ground until it's solidly anchored. Run a 50-bulb string of lights up one side of the pole and down the other, securing it with masking tape.

2. Stack paper lanterns (ours were 14 inches in diameter) over the stick. Secure the lanterns to each other with tape. Note: If you intend to place these fixtures by a swimming pool, it is imperative that you plug the lights into GFCI outlets and use extension cords approved for outdoor use.


Quilted jam jars holding votive candles hang from a grape-covered arbor. As night falls, crystals wired to the bottoms of the jars will cast refracted candlelight onto the stucco walls.
Candle Chandeliers How-To:
Collect enough jam jars and chandelier crystals for the project. Wrap 20-gauge wire around the top of each jar at one of its grooves (the wire should be snug but not overly tight). Hook a U-shaped 24-gauge wire onto the first wire, leaving a small gap so it "swings" under the jar. Make a small crimp in the wire where the crystal will hang; attach a crystal. Use 20-gauge wire to create a hanger. Tighten all wires by twisting them with needlenose pliers. Place a votive candle inside the jar. Hang jars from chains purchased at a hardware or jewelry-supply store.

Cocktails at sundown are more memorable when you supplement the waning daylight with . The tabletop Asian-inspired lanterns consist of colorful sheets of vellum paper sandwiching tall votive candles in glass holders; chopsticks hold the paper in place.
Vellum Shields How-To:
You'll need 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheets of vellum paper in the color of your choice, chopsticks, and 7-day candles in glass vessels (sold at supermarkets). Sandwich the candle between 2 sheets of vellum, clipping the sheets together with 2 sets of unseparated wooden chopsticks 1 inch in from edges.


There's something magical about fire dancing on water. Reflected in the liquid's shimmering surface, the flickers of a candle's flame appear doubly radiant and twice as beautiful. Floating candles add instant atmosphere to a casual summer table, and with our technique, you can create lots of them in only a couple of hours. These candles float because of the way they are made. They're flat on the bottom and not too thick, so they won't tip or flip over. The molds for making them are probably residing in your kitchen cabinets right now: Muffin tins, cookie cutters, and tart molds have just the right shapes for the task. Not only that, but they make it easy to turn out dozens of candles at a time. All you have to do is melt the wax, pour it into the baking pans, add the wicks, and set the timer. Before long, you'll have 12, 24, 36, or more little lights to brighten your table (or give as gifts). Make the candles from used tapers, pillars, or votives you have at home, or if you prefer, start from scratch with wax and dyes from a crafts store. Either way, your colorful creations will soon be bobbing in their bowls, keeping company with the moon -- and, if you're lucky, with some fireflies, too.

Tools and Materials:
muffin tins or other molds
petroleum jelly or nonstick cooking spray
paraffin or beeswax candles, or wax bricks and color chips
double boiler
candy thermometer
craft sticks, for stirring1 1/4-inch metal-tabbed tea-light wicks

Floating Candles How-To:
1. Coat molds with petroleum jelly or cooking spray; set aside. Place used candles in a double boiler over just-simmering water (never over direct heat; wax can catch fire if too hot). As wax melts, stir it and remove old wicks. If using wax bricks, melt and add color according to package directions.
2. When wax reaches pouring temperature (150 degrees for paraffin, 160 for beeswax; if you don't have a candy thermometer, wait until a thin film forms at edges), pour into molds. Then carefully lower in the new wicks.
3. After candles harden (1/2 hour to 2 hours), lift them out by the wicks. If they resist, put molds in freezer until they pop out easily. Wipe off any haze with paper towels.
4. Trim wicks, if necessary, to 1/4 inch before burning.

• Muffin Tins: Pick a size. Mini-muffin candles burn for an hour or so; large ones, for three. A variety of candles in tonal hues -- such as warm reds, oranges, and yellows, like the ones we used -- look wonderful together. Vary the sizes by pouring wax into large, medium, and mini-muffin tins, and create a playful polka-dot presentation. For uniform results, pour the wax to a depth of no more than 1 inch.
• Cookie Cutters: Use simple, broad shapes to make sure they float. To turn a cutter into a mold, run masking tape along the edge, snip at the corners, and bend the tape so the cutter sits flat on the foil.
• With a set of graduated cookie cutters, you can make stars in many sizes at once. Float some in little bowls, and set others in shallow dishes of water. Arranged on a long runner, they will supply your dinner table with a galaxy of gentle light. We like beeswax for these candles. It has a more viscous consistency when melted, which prevents it from leaking out of the molds.

from Martha Stewart Living

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