It's December but no, this column isn't just about Christmas. When you live onboard your houseboat it's the place where you bake birthday cakes, store wrapping paper for every occasion, find storage space for the Christmas lights, have your annual Valentine or Halloween party, celebrate your wedding anniversary and maybe throw a baby shower.
With some imagination and engineering you can make the most of every holiday, season and family occasion. Here are some ways to pack a bushel of celebration into each peck of stowage space.
* Buy accessories that work for multiple holidays. Our bright red, star-shaped candlesticks work for Christmas, Fourth of July and Valentine's Day. A potted Norfolk pine makes a delightful houseplant all year, then dons a skirt and spangles for two or three weeks at Christmas time.
One "you are special today" plate (under $35 at www.redplatestore.com or www.sueheimer.com) comes out for birthdays and other good news announcements.
* Hang indoor-outdoor white fairy lights and leave them up all year, turning them on only when you choose to. (They're great for deck cookouts on soft summer evenings too.) Flick in colored bulbs for Christmas if you like.
* Buy flags for all seasons and unfurl a new one for every occasion. Fabric flags take up very little stowage space and they add a festive flutter for a one-day holiday or for an entire season. Find flags for all reasons at www.flagsRus.org or www.houseflags.com. Bonus points if you rig a spotlight for Old Glory and another one for the flag-du-jour.
* Go for solid colors when buying wrapping paper and ribbon so you can always create a pretty, but neutral gift for anything from a retirement roast to a baby shower.
* You don't need special pans to bake special occasion cakes. Find patterns at www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com. Cakes are baked in everyday pans, then cut up to form figures. Ideas are also found at www.familyfun.go.com. Click on Food, then Cakes and Cupcakes.
* Shop after-holiday sales for accessories that go for as much as 75 percent off. Stock up on things that stow flat, such as window clings in seasonal motifs. Then tuck them away for next year.
* Decorate with disposable items such as a can of spray-on snow, sidewalk chalk, crepe paper streamers, paper tablecloths or birthday "crackers." A giant fruit salad can be served in a hollow watermelon. Or, hollow out a big watermelon, use the fruit for another purpose, and make a disposable ice bucket out of the empty shell.
* Learn origami for a lifetime of creative fun making custom decorations for any occasion. Go to www.learnorigami.net and www.paperfolding.com.
* Buy a fireplace video to play on your TV screen in the winter. In summer play an aquarium or waterfall, with a fireworks DVD for Labor Day, Fourth of July or a launch party.
* Before buying a bulky appliance (coffee urn, roaster) or extra chairs for your next holiday party, look into rentals. You won't have to store big items and for your next big blow-out you can choose equipment instead of using the same old, same old.
* Are you determined to win next year's Christmas boat parade? If you're a woodworker, find patterns at www.woodcraftplans.com and www.woodworkersworkshop.com. Both sites offer instructions for making easy decorations from sheet plywood. They come apart to stow flat all year, then slip together easily to make big, three-dimensional decorations. Inflatable decorations are also colorful and stowable.
* Remember old-fashioned copper wash boilers? Now they are a fashionable home accessory, useful for stowing firewood, newspapers or magazines. Find one at www.farmhardware.com and you'll use it all year for hauling or stowing. When you need a big vessel for a holiday party fill it with pine cones, wrapped gifts or ice and drinks .
* If security becomes an added problem for your boat during some holidays (pranksters at Halloween, drunken boaters at New Years, toilet paper vandalism every time the local team wins), mark your calendar and take added precautions such as lighting more lights or organizing fellow liveaboards into a "neighborhood" watch. Ask the local police corps if they can send a speaker to your yacht club to give advice on improving security and organizing a watch committee specific to your marina.
About the Author
The Groenes lived full-time on the go for 10 years. Janet is a full-time writer specializing in travel. See her galley recipes at www.BoatCook.blogspot.com