Tis the Season

Since all things Christmas have a chance to shine only once each year, I make the most of them during December.  Without question, my favorite thing to do is dress the places we eat.

Always I start with a centerpiece.  Here it is a most traditional one using an antique mold and a variety of artificial accessories.

No dishes are more traditional or recognizable than these by Spode.  Getting them out of the cabinet year after year is like welcoming an old friend.

The placemats and napkins are almost as old as the dishes, and if memory serves me correctly, they, too, were a gift from mother.  Eventually they will be passed on to the more traditional of my two daughters.

Playful and fun are the flatware that I found a few years ago at Ross and the holly berry napkin rings that give off a happy jingle.

Adding a bowl for a soup starter and a holiday popper completes each place.

Thinking about who will join the hubby and me at this table makes me smile as I know there will be lots of shared memories and laughter.  That is what makes the holidays special.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining


Tablescape Thursday

Making the Most of Leftovers

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s we seem to have more leftovers than usual.  Fortunately, the hubby doesn’t mind eating things the second time around so most everything disappears.

When it gets down to a little of this and a little of that, I find that the best thing to do is throw it all in a pot for soup.  That’s just what happened when a few carrots, a potato, green beans and the slivers left from the Thanksgiving turkey were all that were left in the refrigerator.  

I threw everything in a pot with some organic chicken broth diluted with 2 cups of water.  A bit of poultry seasoning, sage, salt and pepper were added and the mixture bubbled away until the veggies were tender.

As the soup was cooking, I opened the refrigerator for some salad fixings and spied what was left of the cornbread dressing.  It was just a dab, and just as I was about to throw it out, I thought why not put it in the soup.

Two things happened.  The dressing thickened the soup to a perfect texture and took the soup from good to very, very good.  It just goes to show there is no end to what you can do with leftovers!

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A Peek Inside

Mine is an ever changing neighborhood with old houses coming down one by one to be replaced by new ones more satisfactory to today’s lifestyle.  When there is opportunity to look at new construction, I like to take a peek inside to get a feel for what is currently  trending in architecture and design.

I’ve watched this house being built, so an open house lured me inside and I was charmed by the presentation. 

Open spaces define the first floor. 

With its bright white walls, wide plank oak floors and doors opening to the outside, the house has a light and airy feel.

Kitchens always get my attention, and this one has much to offer.  There’s plenty of work space, ample cabinets and an island featuring the waterfall detail which is a popular one these days.

Off the kitchen is a delightful space to enjoy morning coffee and, like the larger interior area, opens to the walled in courtyard which brings the outside in.

The lot on which the house is built is not large, but because the design maximizes views it feels like a much larger property.  The second floor study with three walls of windows is like being in a tree house.  I could imagine writing here or sitting and reading in one of those very comfortable chairs.

New construction seems always to have enormous master baths and closets, and this house is no exception.  In the bath, the tub is typical of the look often seen in current magazines, and while it is dramatic, I’m thinking getting in and out might be a challenge!

Wandering through this house was a pleasure thanks to the tasteful staging of the young woman* hosting the open house.  I liked several of the pieces and queried where they were from.  She revealed that most everything was from Restoration Hardware and High Fashion Home in Houston.  All in all, the house made a very good impression and by the end of the day there were several offers.  That’s what I call success!

*All photos are courtesy of Kastenna Parikh whose good work resulted in the sale.

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Sparkle and Shine

With lights sparlking and shining throughout the neighborhood, it seemed a good idea to bring some of that to a table where friends will gather for a bit of preholiday cheer.

Textiles play a big part of my table settings, and this sparkling handwoven fabric was a perfect starting place.

It is a piece from Morocco woven with silk threads so fine as to be almost invisible.  As in many other countries, much of the weaving is done by men, and this one was quite a character who was only to happy to show off his skill.  My hat is off to him for having the patience to weave  such a fine cloth as I know how long it takes when many weft shots are required to produce just one inch!

OK, back to the table. The textile was folded to create a runner on top of which are glittering ornaments and candles placed among the still shiny magnolia leaves left from the Thanksgiving table.

No dishes work better to add  sparkle and shine than china left to me by my mother.  For their background, I pulled out all the stops with gold trimmed linens and a gold charger.

Now there is nothing left to do but add the pieces necessary to complete each setting.

The look is more of  a big girl table than I usually do, but it is still simple  in keeping with my theory there should be no more  on the table than will be used.  I managed to include a surprise or two by having the napkin rings and the wine stems be different patterns.  I can’t stop myself from having a little something that is unexpected!

When evening fell, I couldn’t resist lighting the candles which put the finishing touch on the sparkle and shine.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Tini Time

Tini time is a tradition at our house.  That doesn’t mean everyone has a martini. Rather it is a time for whoever is around to enjoy being together and having snacks and a beverage of choice.  I concoct what they call a special drink for the kids, and for adults, quite often the choice is a martini which makes me think of how I learned to make one.

Years ago we were in London staying at the Duke’s Hotel  said to be known for its martinis. One afternoon while waiting for the hubby to return from a business meeting, I asked the bartender to instruct me in making the drink.

“So,” he says, “you want to know how to make the real thing rather than the minestrone soup you Americans seem to prefer?” Well, that response quieted me, and all I could do was nod in affirmation.  He then brought out  what is necessary, including an eyedropper.

The first requirement is to have the glass and gin both icy cold from having been kept in the freezer. Then approximately 2 ounces of gin is added to the glass along with a hint of vermouth (3-5 squirts from the eyedropper) and a lemon twist. Simple enough, wouldn’t you say?

According to my now expert, a martini is never shaken because the icy cold gin and glass provide just the right temperature and eliminates diluting the drink.  The lemon twist adds a complementary essence whereas olives or onions or whatever result in minestrone  soup.

Whether his technique is right or wrong depends, I guess, on one’s preference, but I’ve shared it with many a martini drinker who now keep gin and glasses in the freezer.  Some, however, can’t avoid adding an olive!

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Holding On

With daughters grown and creating their own traditions, the hubby and I have few left.  Thanksgiving is the one we hold on to, and when family gathers around our table my heart is full.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving at our table without a centerpiece featuring dryer hose pumpkins.  I don’t know how many years they’ve been used, but it’s a lot.

Every year it is a challenge to think of some different way to present them.  This year turkeys and magnolia leaves are thrown into the mix for a simple creation.

As for dishes, nothing replaces the Della Robbia pieces which now could qualify as antiques.  Thanksgiving is the only time they come out of the cabinet, and my hope is that some day they will grace a daughter’s or maybe a granddaughter’s table.

Most years I add something new, but not this one as I am working very hard to pare down rather than add anything to full to the brim cabinets and drawers.  That said there’s something special about pulling out those old familiar things.

What will make this table different from most are the people who gather round.  We are a small family which makes each person so very special.

Like the rest of you I am thankful  for family and friends.  Additionally, I am so very grateful for each of you who take time to follow my musings.  You are the reason this blog continues. Wherever you are, I wish you a most happy day.

Eggnog Surprise

I’m one of those people who likes eggnog, especially around the Christmas season.  This year I got started a little early thanks to spotting pumpkin eggnog in the dairy case.  That I couldn’t resist and except for the calories, it’s a real treat!

A  bonus was the recipe for pumpkin spice muffins that is right on the carton.  Thinking they sounded pretty good, I gave the recipe a try.  Talk about yummy! For sure they will be on our Thanksgiving table.  If you can find pumpkin eggnog, you might like to add them to your menu as well, and in case there’s no recipe, here it is.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

2 1/3 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 t. pumpkin spice

2 large eggs

1 c. brown sugar

1 c.  pumpkin eggnog

1/2 c. melted butter

1 t. vanilla

3/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and walnuts. 

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs and brown sugar until well combined. Add the eggnog, butter, and vanilla. Blend well on low speed. 

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a spoon until just combined. Do not over mix. The batter will be slightly lumpy. 

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool.

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A Peek Inside

Some people have a knack for putting things together in an appealing way that makes you pay attention.  So it is in a friend’s home, the style of which she describes as Ralph Lauren meets John Wayne, quite an interesting combo. 

For sure John Wayne would approve of this chair, likely inspired by Ralph Lauren, that would be comfortable enough for his large frame.

He would also like the western touches that are in every room.

I’m generally no fan of taxidermied animal heads, but this one hung high is right at home as a decorative accent and would get an affirming nod from both John Wayne and Ralph Lauren.

Speaking of accents, even the dog is perfect in its setting.

In the bedrooms, Ralph Lauren becomes a more noticeable influence.

Quite honestly, I could see myself hunkering down in here for a spell.

No cowgirl could resist feeling a little girlie in such a beautiful space.

Wandering through the house, I was impressed by each and every detail.

No matter the room, it reflected the personality and interests of the couple who lives here in a uniquely stylish way.  

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to nose around so this home could be shared  with you.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Perfect Gathering

For more than 30 years, a group of long time friends have met each month for lunch and to catch up.  We’ve raised kids together, volunteered at school and in the community, coached sports teams, shared our ups and downs, all of which translates to a lot of mutual history.  Now we have sons and daughters in law as well as grandchildren to add to the conversation.  Over the years, we’ve lost some of our group and we know that more change is coming.  What doesn’t change is the support we provide one another, and that is something for which we are all so grateful.

Sometimes we meet at a restaurant, sometimes at someone’s home.  This recent gathering was at home, and it was absolute perfection starting with the table.

The outstanding centerpiece was woven in and out of antlers, the real thing!  Our hostess said the antlers stay on the table year round to be combined with seasonal pieces.

Now, of course, is the time for all things fall.

Pumpkins mixed with candles, bittersweet and vegetables combined to create an effect that was just plain eye candy!

The choice of beaded placemats, gold chargers and simple rimmed china were an understated complement to the centerpiece.

As if not already perfect, the antler shaped napkin rings finished the table.

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures to share and was trying to be subtle, but someone caught me in the act!  I have no shame when it comes to beautiful tables.  They are meant to be shared.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Talking Smoothie

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While traveling in Vietnam, I discovered a new taste treat….smoothies!  They were made with fresh fruit and oh so creamy and thick.  My absolute favorite was made with avocado, and I have been trying to replicate it for some time without satisfactory results.  You’d think I would have asked how it was made, but it didn’t occur to me that it would be much of a challenge.

DSC01811-2After many tries, I have come up with one that compares favorably.  The ingredients are simple: yogurt (1 cup), avocado (1/2), honey (1 T.) and a bit of coconut.  I don’t know what possessed me to add coconut, but it resulted in an extra touch of flavor.

DSC01815The first sip was a bit thick so I added about 1/2 cup of milk which made it perfect.  No question this creation will be added to my list of favorite smoothies for breakfast or lunch.

If you have smoothies you especially like, do share!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind