Don’t you just love it when you get to be a little Christmas Elf, bringing good cheer and sweetness to those who have no idea it’s coming? Now that’s the kind of surprise I can get behind! A couple of days ago I had the idea of creating a Hot Cocoa Dessert Bar to honor the hard-working teachers and staff at my daughter’s school. It turned out to be *perfect* timing…as I arrived with my supplies, the secretary informed me that the boiler had broken down and the school had no heat! Teachers and kids were wearing their coats in their classrooms, which made me wish I’d brought enough for the whole school!
Armed with free chalkboard printables, a few items from the grocery store, and craft supplies I had on hand, I was able to create this sweet display in just one evening. It was easy to transport, too. The backdrop folds flat and all the supplies shown (with exception of the hot water thermos) fit into 2 medium-sized plastic storage tubs (you can see one of them in the photo–I did double duty and used it as a serving platform, too!)
I’m a big fan of transforming simple materials into beautiful party decor and this festive table display is a great example! All the decor you see was handcrafted and easy…never under estimate the impact of packaging and presentation! If you’d like to create your own hot cocoa bar for a party, to share with your family, or to honor someone this holiday, I’ll walk you through each element of my design.
DIY PORTABLE PARTY BACKDROP // Teacher’s staff rooms are notoriously, how shall I say…um, ugly. They’re like the forgotten “junk drawer/closet” in your home…it’s full of mis-matched, leftover furniture, random collections of junk, and decor that hasn’t been updated since the oh-so-stylish 80′s. (Fact: at my daughter’s school this small room boasts 2-3 different wall paint colors, a wallpaper border AND real seashells glued to the walls. GLUED, people. I needed a quick and easy way to hide all that, stat!
Guess what makes a fabulous portable backdrop? A tri-fold presentation board from the school supply section! I got mine at Walmart, but you can find them just about anywhere. I think mine was under $5 for the 36×48″ size. I covered mine with black butcher paper (I borrowed it from school, but you can buy huge rolls at craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby). You could also cover it with wrapping paper, kraft paper, fabric or even a plastic tablecloth.
Then I layered on my decor:
- free printable Hot Chocolate Bar sign from Yellow Bliss Road, outlined in red and white stripe washi tape
- coffee filter snowflakes adhered with tape
- red pom pom yarn (from Michaels)
- scalloped banner made from coffee filters folded in half, layered with a red + white stripe cupcake liner folded in half and stapled over the top
- paper straw garland
I secured my garlands with masking tape on the back of the tri-fold board.
COFFEE FILTER SNOWFLAKES // Yes, these are made just like your standard snowflakes, only they turn out delicate and almost transparent, which makes them appear all the more real. Fold a white coffee filter in half, then in half again, then in thirds. Cut out various shapes and patterns along each edge. Carefully open and adhere to your board with clear tape, or hang them from thread. They look especially cool on windows. I made extra snowflakes for the sign I posted on the outside of the teacher’s staff room door, to let them know a surprise was waiting for them inside.
PAPER STRAW + COTTON BALL GARLAND // This was my favorite DIY project! It’s a great project for your kids to help make, too. You will need thread, a needle, paper straws and a bag of cotton balls. Cut a length of thread to the length of your finished garland and knot one end a few times. Thread the other end onto a long needle (a plastic one, if kids are making it). Cut striped paper straws in 1/5-2 inch lengths. Begin threading your needle through the center of the cotton balls and paper straws, beginning with a cotton ball. Alternate for the whole length of your garland, ending with a cotton ball. Knot your thread a couple times at the end, next to the cotton ball.
I bought a tube of 40 red stripe paper straws at Target for $4 (a great price!) in their holiday tableware section, but they also have a good selection in their wrapping paper / partyware section–I saw silver and gold stripes and mini black polka dots on white straws. SO cute!! This is a project that could easily be used year-round…just change the color/pattern of the straws and use different round objects in between, such as wooden beads or glitter pom pom balls.
COCOA CUPS WITH PRINTABLE TAGS // I printed the “Cup of Cheer” chalkboard tags (a free printable from Yellow Bliss Road, along with the sign) at Staples. (FYI: Staples has great quality printing with good color saturation and a slight sheen to their cardstock. I’ve tried printing at other places and they just aren’t as good.) I used styrofoam cups (gasp! Yes, I know, not earth-friendly…but it’s what I had on hand), used a single hole punch to make a hole near the top, and then threaded a 6-8″ length of red + white stripe grosgrain ribbon through to tie on the printable tag. Easy and quick, but oh so darling. (Tip: you might wish to warn your guests that there’s a small hole near the top of their cup…I had a couple very enthusiastic hot cocoa drinkers who filled theirs really high and some spilled through the hole.)
POLKA DOT HOT COCOA PACKETS // Okay, this step is totally not necessary, but those of us who are party lovers don’t ever pay attention to “necessary”, right?! If it pushes the cuteness level to “over the top”, I’m on it. Starting on the back side of a packet of hot cocoa (I got boxes of packets at Target for $1), wrap crepe paper streamer down the left edge of the packet, across the back on a diagonal, and then back down the right side of the packet. Loop it up over the top and secure on the front with a strip of clear tape, then washi tape over the top. (Washi doesn’t like to stick to crepe, apparently.) I had the polka dot streamers in my party stash, but they’re from Party City.
RIBBONS + TAGS // I happened to see this red and white grosgrain ribbon on super clearance at a fabric store last summer for 50 cents a yard (!), so I bought 10 yards to save for parties and packaging. So glad I did! I used probably 3-4 yards for this party. What got the ribbon treatment? Mason jars filled with hot cocoa fixins: large marshmallows, mint chocolate marshmallows, Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, Nestle mint chocolate chips and plastic mini tongs from the dollar store. I typed up simple tags and signs on my computer using my favorite Lavanderia free font. The hot cocoa packet sign (in a 99 cent Ikea frame) and food tent cards were embellished with washi tape.
DESSERT RECIPES // My dessert post yesterday told you all about the hot cocoa-flavored cake bars with hot chocolate buttercream frosting and the red velvet white chocolate chip crinkle cookies that I made for this dessert bar, along with a collection of other hot cocoa and red velvet recipes. You’ll definitely want to check them out and pin them for later! Both recipes were a huge hit…not a single crumb was left when I returned hours later…and people were asking for the recipes.
Goodness, this little surprise party was so much fun! I love any excuse to craft, bake and create parties…but the best gift of all was seeing the teacher’s faces light up and hear, “Oh my goodness, this just makes us feel so loved!” Now that’s what it’s *really* all about, during the holiday season or any time of year. Giving from your heart and bringing love and kindness to others is a deeply satisfying blessing to me in return.
Whom will you bless this season? For more free hot cocoa bar printables + general Christmas printables, please visit my Christmas Printables board on Pinterest. You can find the holiday dessert recipes I featured, along with hundreds of other holiday treats, on my EAT | Christmas treats board.