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From the Homefront: Keeping it red, white and blue for the Fourth

Planning a get-together for the long July 4th weekend? Of course you’ll want to decorate a bit – whether you pick up a few supplies at Party City or go all out with ideas spotted on Pinterest.

One thing I’ve noticed is that while there are many stars-and-stripes patterns out there, you can also pull together a red, white and blue theme using checks, florals, polka dots, plaids, even something unexpected such as the batik-style tablecloth featured in the July issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The white-on-blue printed cloth is the backdrop for red-and-white checked napkins, red flowers and blue-and-white, state-themed souvenir transferware plates. (No, I don’t own any either, but you get the idea.)

Bandanas are ideal for summer entertaining because they are casual, inexpensive and come in every color under the sun – including red, white and blue. You can arrange nicely pressed ones down the middle of a table as a runner ( alternates white and blue bandanas, each angled and slightly overlapping the next).You can also use well-laundered bandanas as napkins or basket liners or, for do-it-yourselfers with the time and desire, to cover thin outdoor chair cushions. Good Housekeeping recommends the no-sew approach: “Sandwich one cushion between two scarves, then join each corner together with a rubber band and hide bands with thin ribbon.”

Simple flower arrangements are a must for summer picnics, and here are three ideas shared by Maureen Bartley of Maureen’s Buffalo Wholesale Flower Market, 441 Ellicott St. (For the second year, the shop is growing flowers in an urban garden out back.)

1. Place baby’s breath in canning jars. If you have any red geraniums, add a few with long stems. Finish off each arrangement with an American flag.

2. Start with a cobalt blue vase. Add white hydrangeas, peonies or lilies and some ivy or other greenery snipped from your garden.

3. For an elegant look, ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies are gorgeous in clear vases. Add red and blue marbles to the vases, Bartley said.

Pinwheels and ribbons are other festive finishing touches, she added.

A few other ideas for July 4th decor – some more ambitious than others:

• Create a flag wreath: Good Housekeeping makes it sound easy. “Simply stick mini flag toothpicks ($12 for 500 at into a Styrofoam wreath until it looks full.” After hanging it on the door, you can top it off with a garland of flags clothes-pinned onto twine.

• Transform any vase or canning jar into July 4th decor by covering its exterior with patriotic-themed ribbons (use double-sided tape to adhere). Or add star stickers.

• If you can drum up red, white (or silver) and blue lanterns – or find them for a great price – line them up in the center of the table. Better Homes and Gardens placed a trio of them on a red-and-white striped tablecloth and snaked a length of marine roping around and between them to visually tie them together.

• Place a couple tabletop-sized flags in a small galvanized bucket and anchor them with pebbles, sand, marbles or anything else you have around the house. You can upgrade from ordinary plastic. shows 14-inch-high burlap American flags on natural twigs, for example.

• Party City suggests setting up a red, white and blue candy buffet: gum balls, candy sticks, lollipops and jelly beans stashed in clear containers, cups and small bowls, along with patriotic-themed favor boxes and bags for taking treats home. Again, ribbons and stickers add finishing touches.

• On the healthier side, you have to love the idea of star-shaped cookie cutter watermelon pieces – either on their own or topping a fruit bowl that would include, of course, blueberries and strawberries.

Another treat: Homemade ice pops frozen in molds using red and blue fruit juices. Yum.