candy centerpiece by Kate GeorgeI never intentionally over commit myself. I don’t. My thought process goes something like this. Oh, they need someone to chair the conference committee. Huh. I bet I could do that. After all, the only thing the coordinator does is supervise everyone else. I could do that. I do that all the time. Then I raise my hand and volunteer myself. I’m silly like that.

Flash forward ten months, the conference is barreling toward me at the sound of light and I realize we don’t have any table decorations. Did I delegate? Did I hire someone to make centerpieces? Did I say “it’s too late now,”  and leave the tables bare? No, I did none of those things.

What I did was decide I could do them myself. Twenty candy centerpieces for Friday night, twenty silk floral centerpieces for Saturday lunch. Luckily someone else stepped up to do Saturday breakfast or I would have tried to do that too. I’m creative, I’m frugal, I want more things to give to my conference attendees. So I’ll do centerpieces. I did briefly contemplate delegating them to someone or several someones. But it didn’t seem fair to dump them on someone else. But I wanted those centerpieces and I figured I could get them done.

I googled make it yourself centerpieces and saw some I thought would be nice. But a friend of mine had actual books so I picked one out. The first problem was I didn’t know where to get a thousand pieces of candy. None of the stores I have access to had something called Sixlets or big swirl suckers, or rock candy. The funny thing is I recently saw Sixlets in a dollar store – whole bags of them in little clear sleeves. Much better sleeves than the ones I ended up using, actually. Anyway, I ended up on the internet pricing candy and shipping and trying to find a store that had everything I needed. No luck. I ended up shopping at two different online candy retailers and having huge boxes of candy shipped to my work.

I felt pretty successful at that point. I was on my of candy by Kate George

I have a friend who is a florist, and when she bought her shop she inherited a bunch of vases that she didn’t like. They were perfect for my candy arrangements, or so I thought, and we both walked away from that deal with smiles on our faces. It was only later, when I was trying to get my candy bouquets to STAND UP, that I realized my mistake. Candy is top-heavy. I can’t tell you how many times I put those dang centerpieces back together.

I bought Styrofoam on the advice of my florist and searched for floral blades, but I never did find them so I gave up and left them off. It’s probably just as well, I had my hands full as it was. When I finally had all my supplies I put together one centerpiece and brought it and all the supplies up to my friend’s house, where five of us spent several hours putting them together. They did seem top-heavy, but I thought they were manageable. Hah! What do I know?

I left the sparkly fireworks candy centerpieces at my friend’s and set out with my eleven year old daughter to find inexpensive containers for our luncheon centerpieces. Have you ever shopped with an eleven year old? Let’s just say she wasn’t reducing my stress levels any. I had about a week to find the materials and put them all together, but my eleven year old thought she should have a say in how it looked. Lord help us.

I lucked out at Kmart where I found plain terracotta flower pots for a dollar each. Jackpot. We could paint them. – Okay, I know I’m insane. Faced with a whole conference to organize and all the last minute details to keep from going awry and I decide I can paint twenty flower pots so that they’ll be pretty. With my eleven year old helping. Obviously I need my head examined. –

candy centerpiece with Kate GeorgeWe buy the pots and go to JoAnn Fabric for fake flowers. No way was I going to try and manage real flowers, I’m not that insane. We decide on purples and white or pale yellow. And bought out the shop. We had everything we needed. Oh, except time.

Back at home we started the painting process by painting half of the pots pink and half green. We had left over paint from when we redid my eleven year old’s room, so we used that. Recycle, reuse and all that. It took three to four coats of paint to get complete coverage. Luckily it was still cold and occasionally snowy out so I could justify having the wood stove blazing. It still took forever for the pots to dry. Once they were dry we needed to add pretty little details like contrasting rims, stripes and polka dots. Is that right? Is it Polka Dots or is it Poke-a-dots? Maybe I should just say circles.

Meanwhile I was cutting out Styrofoam rounds. If anyone ever asks you if they need to buy the twenty-five dollar Styrofoam cutting tool to work with Styrofoam, say yes. Say it strongly with no doubt in your voice. They need that tool. If they do not buy that tool they will have Styrofoam dust floating around in their house for the rest of their lives. I know this for a fact. I used a kitchen knife to cut the Styrofoam. What a fool I was.

In case you are wondering, the Styrofoam cutting tool melts the Styrofoam so you aren’t covered with little pieces of the stuff for the next six weeks. Well worth the twenty-five dollars.

Well finally the pots were painted and stuffed with Styrofoam so I started shoving flowers in, but as it turns out I under estimated the number of flowers I would need. There were just enough purple flowers, lilacs and some other similar looking purple thing. I bought a bunch more than I thought I would need – every last one in the store but just managed to stretch them among the twenty pots. I wasn’t as lucky with the whites and yellows. As hard as I tried to make what I had work, there was no way. I had to drive back down to the JoAnn fabric(luckily they’d restocked) and buy more. Much more. Too much, as a matter of fact. But by this time I was beyond caring if I was going to have white flowers floating around my house forever. I needed to get those centerpieces done. Like yesterday. flower centerpiece by Kate George

I did eventually finish them – barely in time and I packed them in boxes and filled the trunk of the car. Then I drove to my friend’s house to pick up the candy centerpieces. Remember them? They’ve been occupying my BFF’s dining room for all this time. Luckily she has a sense of humor and didn’t smack me upside the head as I deserved.

I want you to picture the candy centerpieces. They have big swirly lollypops and rock candy and sixlets and all manner of stuff exploding out ward. There is sparkly wire with stars and shiny pipe cleaners and all manner of things to get tangled together. Which is of course what they did when I tried to pack them in boxes. Oh, and did I mention they were top-heavy. So if I wasn’t very careful when I set them down, they fell over. They fell over a lot. And when they fell over the candy fell out and got hopelessly tangled with the candy that had tumbled out of other vases.

I did eventually get all the pots, flowers, candy, vases and sparkly star wire the one hundred and fifty miles to the event.  Where I had put them together yet again. Let this be a lesson to you, if you are crazy enough to make candy centerpieces after reading this, then make sure you get the supplies to your destination before you start assembly. Go a day early if necessary. And check to see if your vase is heavy enough to conteract the weight of the candy. Trust me, you’ll get tired of picking those suckers (pun intended) up. Otherwise it’s likely you’ll turn out like me. I don’t care to see any kind of centerpiece for a good long time.

Or at least until next year when I’ll do the breakfast centerpieces. I’ve got this great Idea with coffee cups and coffee beans and…

Kate George, authorAward winning Author Kate George is recuperating from the centerpiece fiasco with her husband, four children, three dogs and a cat in the boonies of Vermont. Her latest book California Schemin’ is a madcap murder mystery that takes protagonist Bree MacGowan across the nation and back again. It’s on sale at, all online retailers in both paperback and e-book, and can be ordered from any book store.  Kate’s website is  Check out her video Schemin' by Kate George