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.

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Tablescape Thursday

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.

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.

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Tablescape Thursday

Next Step

DSC01572With the house having little touches of fall, it was a no brainer to have the next step be continuing them on the table for the evening dinner.   Already what can serve as a centerpiece is there making it easy to add the rest.

DSC01603None of my dishes reflect fall better than these.  The rich color with its arty black leaf outline is perfect, and I like using them for another reason.  They were a gift from a very special and thoughtful friend who knows how crazy I am about all things for tables.

DSC01579Some time ago this flatware was on sale at Target, and it has been such a good find. Its coppery contrast with the table’s wood surface adds such warmth.

DSC01586Thinking about what food is going to be served, I don’t put more dishes on the table than can be used.  Tonight there will be an entree and a salad, so nothing more than dinner and salad plates are needed.  The black salad plate complements the leaf outline, and its shape will be perfect for the salad.

DSC01593On any table, the napkin presentation is one of those little touches that make a table special.  One of my favorites is this one folded accordion style and fanned to make it stand.

DSC01592With the addition of wine stems and water glasses, a table can’t be much simpler than this.  It started with what was already there and has warm color and texture which makes any table inviting.

DSC01588I can’t resist sharing with you one of my favorite salads made with delicata squash, one with which I was unfamiliar. The attraction was its green and pale yellow striping, reason enough to give it a try!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the salad, cut the squash into rings and remove the seeds.  Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast at 400 until tender, roughly 15-20 minutes.  To prepare the salad, place mixed greens or any lettuce on a plate.  Top with the roasted delicata rings, sprinkle with craisins, toasted almonds and feta (optional).  My preference for dressing is a honey mustard vinegarette, but most any salad dressing would work.

I can assure you this salad will be a hit at your table not only because it is so tasty but because it’s a little different.

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Tablescape Thursday

Full Plate Thursday

Share Your Cup Thursday

Eating With Friends

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him.  The people who give you their food give you their heart.

Cesar Chavez

How grateful I am to have friends who enjoy planning, preparing and gathering for a once a month dinner where a lot of heart is given. All of us contribute to the meal, which is always wonderful, and the hostesses do a bang up job of preparing the table.

DSC00331The most recent dinner was a visual treat. The delicately designed dishes are quite old, a memory of the hostess’s mother.

DSC00326Without question, they made a lovely setting when combined with silver and glass.

DSC00327Playing off the pale green in the pattern, the hostess found the perfect linen tablecloth and napkins.  All together the look was quite elegant at the same time warm and friendly.

DSC00334A few days before our gathering a storm blew through that flattened many of the small blooming things.  The hostess was clever enough to see that her damaged flowers perfectly matched the colors in the china, so, voila, a just right centerpiece made in a silver bowl.

DSC00332So there would not be question about where each person sat, there were name tags directing us to our place.  That is always a thoughtful gesture.

DSC00338The first course, a zucchini mold, happened to be my assignment.  It was something with which none of us were familiar, so we all experienced a new taste treat.  Not only was it tasty, it was easy to prepare which makes it worthy of making again as it gives a whole new way of presenting zucchini.

Zucchini Mold

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 lbs. zucchini, finely diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 eggs

1 c. grated Parmesan

1 T. chopped Italian parsley

1 T. unsalted butter  

1/4 c. fine dried bread crumbs

Preheat an oven to 350.  Grease a 9″ ring mold or individual molds with butter and coats the bottom and sides with the bread crumbs.  Warm the oil in a skillet.  Add zucchini, onion and garlic and cook until tender.Add a little water, if needed, to keep the mixture moist.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Transfer the zucchini mix to a bowl and add eggs, cheese and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and spoon into prepared mold(s).  Bake about 20 minutes or until firm.  Invert onto serving dishes and serve immediately.  (6 servings)

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Valentine Day….Another Year

Years may pass with their associated changes, but there’s one thing that remains constant….dinner at home on Valentine Day.  How that started is told here.  Actually, I don’t mind this night at home because it’s a way for me to say thank you to the man who has given me so much that makes life very special.

Over the years nothing much has changed  except for the table where we enjoy the meal.  I like the tradition of using the same things year after year as it’s the only time the hearts make an appearance.

Not so the centerpiece.  Each year I try to do something that adds a new twist to the table. I found this cute little mailbox at Target and by adding flowers and chocolate the something new is created.

Nothing says Be Mine better than hearts and flowers.

Dinner may again be the veal chop that is part of our tradition, and dessert is going to be my attempt to duplicate the cute heart shaped brownies shared by Pinch of Yum.  No way can you go wrong with chocolate and caramel!

While the brownies are baking, I think I’ll take time out for a glass of wine.  It is after 5!

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Mixing It Up

Keep in mind that no table top in my house is ever going to be empty and whatever is there is going to influence what happens next.  For no reason other than it’s seldom used, this table runner was chosen as a starting point.

The colors had me stumped, but as I looked around the house several pieces of pottery seemed to cry out, “Try me”.  That sounds kind of Alice in Wonderlandish, but I could find no reason to resist.

In place I rather liked the way the colors seemed to play off each other, and it made me happy to see some of my favorite pottery grouped together..

A few evenings later friends were coming for dinner and my thinking was there was no way I could set a table around this quirky centerpiece.  Being one who does not like to undo, I challenged myself to make it work and what followed was great fun.

There was enough blue in the runner to make me think to try the Polish pottery which is the only blue in the cupboard.  I tried them at first on a square, natural placement which was kinda blah so I added the blue denim charger.

If you are familiar with this pottery, you know that no two pieces are alike.  The real surprise here was that many in this collection had colors similar to the runner.

On a roll now, I saw no reason for the stems to be the same so each place has a different one.

Mixing things up is my favorite way to create a table and each piece that was added did just that yet there is a cohesiveness to how it all comes together.

There is enough going on without making a big deal out of the napkin so it is tied simply with a piece of twine.

From this table I learned to never say never which can open the door to a special kind of creativity.  I say go for it!

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Tablescape Thursday

 

Getting It On

I stubbornly wait until early December to begin decorating for the holidays.

ChandeliersNow I don’t have a chandelier to embellish

Christmas decoror a mantle to drape with greenery

IMG_1457or a bannister to festoon.

So, what is a girl to do?  First, I go to the closet and pull out the wreaths that I use year after year.  They suit the house, and as long as they hang together I see no reason to change them.   Looking at them, can you guess that the traditional reds and greens are not what you’ll find inside?  No, here the palette is slightly off but still reflective of the season.

Next is my favorite thing: creating a centerpiece for the dining room table.  I should tell you that these days I don’t buy much new but use favorite familiar pieces in different ways.  These metal holly leafed trees are a good place to start, and the cranberry table runner is a perfect background.  

What makes the runner special are the details at the ends.  I’m a sucker for tucks.

I was delighted to find the same color candles at Michael’s when I went there to pick up some gift boxes.  They are in brass candlesticks that were given us as a wedding present so many years ago. It took a little Brasso to get them gleaming again.  The ribbons were an afterthought, and not being able to decide which to use, I used them both.  How’s that for not being able to make up your mind?

I look for any opportunity to use bells from my extensive collection.  Most are clear glass and crystal with a few colored ones thrown in.  While the ones here are not the same color, they are close enough and I like their differing textures.

IMG_0081Well, this is the beginning.  Next I will choose a few more favorite things to sprinkle through the house.  I like the picking and choosing which makes everything seem new again.

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It’s Time!

Four days until Thanksgiving means it’s time to get my act together.

The first thing, my favorite, is setting the table which means bringing out the dryer hose pumpkins and the Della Robbia dishes. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving at this house without them!

The challenge is thinking of some new way to use them each year. Hmmm, how about mixing them with some almost real pumpkins, a few fall leaves and some green apples?

As I add each piece to the table, I am overwhelmed by memories.

Some memories are of people who are no longer with us and whose chairs have been filled by new family members.

Other memories are of years when our family was a little out of sync. Those may not be the most pleasant, but they, too, are part of our Thanksgiving story.

As every item is brought out, I think of where it came from and who brought a special little treasure to add to the table.

Most of all I think about all that my family has to be thankful for which is reason enough to put all else behind us.

As I hold on to those few things that are repeated year after year, I find myself hoping that when daughters take over this holiday they might hold on to them, too.

With the table done and reflections safely stored, it’s time to move to the next step, thinking about what is needed from the grocery for the familiar favorites that will be on the table.

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Digging’ It and Dishin’ It

 

Simply Fall

shades of fall

When leaves begin wearing their rich fall colors, they inspire many a table setting at our house.

No dishes with their deep red orange tone and  leaf outlines are better complements to fall than these. They are right not only because of their color but because they always make me think of the sweet friend who gave them to me.

Playing off the black, these plates are chosen for salad,  

and for a first course of soup they are topped with cups that are companion pieces to the larger plates. The contrasting shapes of all the pieces are playful and interesting.

Add to the place setting a napkin tucked into a simple black napkin ring, and all is done, and I’m liking the way the setting brings out the richness of the table’s wood tones.

Several years ago, a daughter gave me candle holders that fit into bottles.  Somewhere along the line I put them away so well I forgot where they were.  Something made me think of them, and after searching high and low, they reappeared to become part of a fun centerpiece.

Laugh if you will, but I buy many wines because of their label.  It was fun going through the empty bottles and finding ones that would add a playful touch to the table.

Except for the time it took to recover the candle holders, this table went together in a matter of minutes which leaves plenty of time to play in the kitchen.  That’s the way I like it!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Tablescape Thursday