For the Birds!

birdhousesCan you tell I like birdhouses?  There are more than 20 sitting above the cabinets, each one different and most created by a talented artisan.  Every day I look at them and get a kick out of remembering the story that goes with each one.  

Now you’d think with so many fun and interesting shapes and sizes some of those birdhouses would have been used on the table.  Not so, but today that’s going to change!

birdhouse tableI just got these bird topped cloches and my daughter game me the little bird vases, and  they seemed perfect matches for the birdhouses.  Oh, this is going to be fun!

birdhouse tableSince it is spring, at least in Houston, these placemats and napkins from World Market were an easy choice.

birdhouse tableWith the pattern seeming so right for birds and birdhouses, I chose simple glass plates that allowed its boldness to show through.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ll notice that once again the textured pink glasses make their way to the table.  When my friend gave these to me from her grandmother’s collection of glassware, she had no idea how often they would be used!  You just don’t see anything like them today which makes them all the more special.

birdhouse tableAll done, this table brings a great big smile to my face because it shows off some of my favorite things.  

Usually a table suggests a menu to me, but I’m having a little trouble with this one.  Bird seed doesn’t sound too appetizing, but what about something embellished with berries?  I better get to the kitchen and start studying some of those cookbooks!  If you have a suggestion, send it right on.

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Another Look

tablescapeAs soon as I saw these chargers last week on Must Love Home, I knew I had to have them and was at Michael’s as soon as the doors opened hoping to find them.  Lucky me, not only did I find them, they were on special.

tablescapeWhen I got them home, the first thing I noticed was they were a perfect match for the runner that had been on the table for several days. (No, I don’t change everything from one meal to another.)  

tablescapeAlready, the tulips had been replaced with beautiful orange roses and candles.  Playing off the slight orange in the runner had appeal to me last time around, so it was impossible not to take the contrast between the brilliant pinks and orange a step further.

tablescapeWith all the color on the table, there was little need to add more so white plates were in order. A white napkin, however, was a bit dead so one repeating  the colors in the charger provided a just right touch.

napkinsThe napkin fold, a simple triangle, is held in place with cute little wooden dragonflies. I’m not sure what their real purpose is, but they are a fun alternative to napkin rings.

tablescapeOnce again I can’t resist using the textured pink glassware, this time adding a salad plate.  I do love these pieces, and they are a complement to so many tables.

tablescapeThe finishing touch is multi colored flatware from Ross.  With just a few changes, a table takes on an entirely different look and is ready for the next meal in only a few minutes.

I’m trying a new recipe tonight, so keep your fingers crossed it turns out.  One thing’s for sure: the salmon will look very good on this table!

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Easy Does It

tablescapeIt’s easy to prepare a table when a beautiful woven silk runner and tulips left from Valentine’s are already there to inspire.

tablescapeLooking in the cupboard for dishes, the fake Fiesta ones offered the most possibility.

tablescapeThe lavender was an obvious choice, but looking again at the runner I saw hints of orange in the stripes where color had merged to create a new tint.

tablescapeThat made the coral plate an interesting addition.

napkinsMixing patterns and textures is something I enjoy, so the multicolored/patterned napkins from Anthropologie were an easy choice.  That store is such a great place to find fun accents and sometimes there’s even something special on the sale rack!

tablescapeI love using these textured pink glasses at every opportunity.  There’s no telling how old they are as they once belonged to my very good friend’s grandmother who would be well past 100.  Needless to say, they are very special treasures. 

bellsFinally, just for fun I added a little bell to each place.  I have such a collection , and I like finding ways to get them off display shelves. 

tablescapeSimple though it is, the table has what for me makes a happy table: color, texture, pattern, whimsy.  Now, if I can just decide what to fix for dinner all will be well!  Any ideas?

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Challenged!

Rarely do I have a problem putting a table together, but this one was hard, I mean really hard.  The challenge began with wanting to use a lace table topper given me by one of our exchange students.  It is white and not big enough to be manipulated in the same way as runners or cloths.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can see, things didn’t get off to a very good start.  Is this boring or what?

tablescapeDefinitely some tweaking is required.  Turning pieces upside down, rearranging them and adding some candles helped.  Now there is some dimension and texture starting to happen.

tablescapeWhen it came time to select dishes for the table, I decided to stay with a neutral (hard for me) palette and chose these hobnail edged plates, yet another of many purchases from TJ Maxx.

tablescapeSurveying the developing look, I couldn’t do it, that is stay colorless, so I added touches of color with  multi patterned napkins, floral for gals

tablescapeand animal print for the guys.

tablescapeAt the last minute, a flower  or herb stem was tucked into each napkin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpeaking of flowers, they were another way to add a little color to the table, so the cake stand pear was replaced with a lovely pitcher of subtle hued fall blooms.

tablescapeNow things are beginning to come together, and a touch more color is sneaked in with the addition of the goblets.

tablescapeStanding back and taking a look, I think OK, this is kinda me, but the getting there wasn’t easy.

tablescapeI have to tell you if it took me this long to set every table, there would be fewer of them!  Isn’t it amazing how some things can be such a challenge?

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Tablescape Thursday

An Easy Start

tablescapeAs often happens, what is already on the table inspires what happens next.  In this case, it’s the wonderful piece of antique embroidered cloth that is used for a runner, the flowers and the female figure that determined both the table setting and the menu for the first gathering of the Maine gourmet group.

tablescape

The yellow in the cloth and the flowers made it easy to pick plates, a pale yellow from Tagg.  At first, I thought not to have placemats, but these multicolored straw ones from TJ Maxx begged to be used.

tablescapeBecause the little lady reminded me of a Spanish señora, it seems a good time to recreate some of the favorites from our recent Foodie Adventure in Spain.

tablescapeThe first course: gazpacho that will be served in cranberry cups that are part of a wonderful set of dishes from the 1930’s.

tablescapeI can’t stop here with  color, so alongside the wine stems are  inky blue thumbprint glasses, yet another find in a Maine antique shop.

tablescapeI can never resist doing a little something to a napkin.  Here it is folded in half, the upper left corners are turned back and the napkin is folded in half again to create a nice little pocket for the flatware.

tablescapeAll is ready for that first course to be served.

cod with shrimp and chorizoChanges will follow as the cups and saucers are replaced with blue bowls filled with our favorite cod with white beans, shrimp and chorizo (recipe here) that will become the main attraction.  Let me tell you, it doesn’t get better than this.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

PS  A sincere thanks to Kathryn at The Dedicated House and Kim at Savvy Southern Style for featuring the post on my back porch.  I appreciate all who stopped by to visit.

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Evolution of a Table

Sometimes a table setting doesn’t come easy, and that’s when I look around the house  hoping to find something from which a table can evolve.

tablescapeToday a handcrafted porcelain box, whimsical and alive with color, plants the seed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs they have so many times, these vases of not so real poppies and tulips become part of the evolution and with the box sit on a contemporary Italian design black rubber runner.

tablescapeDishes?  No problem.  Turquoise and green hand painted Italian pottery on alternating combinations of burgundy and gold, is made for this table.

napkinsnapkinsNapkin rings, again handmade, have just right colors, too.    Add the lovely little salt dishes from a forgotten spot in the cabinet, and the table is shaping up!

glasswareglasswareglasswareAt first, etched glass stems were part of the setting, but as I looked again at the box, it seemed very right to have the glassware play off the colors as well.

tablescapeWith all the elements in place, what began as a challenging exercise has become a table full of color and texture, qualities that never fail to excite me.

tablescapeAs the light dims and I take a last look at the table, I see it as part of a whole made up of mainly handcrafted pieces, each of which evokes a memory and is a special tribute to talented people.  Together they evolve to become not only a pleasing table but a very personal statement.

I would love to know what inspires your tables and what they say about you.

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Cuba: The Last Words

CubaSince I love tablescapes and food,  it’s not possible to leave Cuba behind without sharing some of both.

CubaBlack beans and rice are staples in the diet and goodness knows I had plenty of those, together with some variation of pork, beef and chicken.

CubaMost lunches were at government owned restaurants with simple foods served family or buffet style.

CubaThe tables were equally as simple with paper napkins and plastic tablecloths.

CubaSoup always preceded the main course, and this one had a secret ingredient which only I got.    The texture  was unappealingly soft, almost mushy, and there was an underlying sweet taste.  Asked what it was, the waiter explained that one plantain was used to flavor the soup and that was it!

CubaEvening meals were generally in lovely privately owned paladars and were a bit more gourmet with special attention given to presentation. 

CubaDon’t you love the look of this salad?  I’m thinking I’ll give it a try at some future dinner gathering.

CubaThe table settings were as attractive as the food presentation.  

CubaCubaCubaSome   were an eclectic mix of dishes, stemware and silverware on crocheted or lace trimmed cloths.  I couldn’t help but wonder if some of these items had been left behind when people fled Cuba as it had the look of having been around for awhile.

CubaOther tables featured wonderful locally made dishes that added a touch of whimsy.   If only I could have figured out how to get some home…….

CubaNo matter where we ate there was always a welcome drink, typically a mojito and every one of them tasted different.  I’m not sure I want another for a while.

With every meal, I couldn’t help but think about how difficult it is for Cubans to get food which made me feel a little guilty for enjoying such variety and abundance.   As mentioned in the first post of this series, most of the food is imported and available on a limited basis.  If I left Cuba hoping for one thing, it was that government owned property would become more available for farming and that people would become interested in growing their own food.    That, to me, would go a long way toward improving the quality of life on this lovely island.

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Oh the Places I’ve Been

The Last Time…..Really!

white tablescape/pumpkinsRemember these?  They have been appearing on one table or another since October.  The hubby was about to throw them away, but they were still in such good shape I couldn’t resist using them one last time.

tablescape/pumpkinsFor their final appearance, they are simply placed against a wooden candle mold which is my new favorite thing for a centerpiece.  There are so many things you can do with it.  Here it holds simple bottles of blooms interspersed with candles.

tablescape/burlapI couldn’t resist using burlap beneath the candle mold as it provides a wonderful combination of textures.

tablescapeOften flowers influence my choice of dishes as they did here.   These are Tracy from Target’s Octavia Hill collection.  I think I was attracted to them not only because of their color but because of the braided edge.  The stemware is from Pier One, and is generally used only at Thanksgiving, but it adds a just right touch here.

napkin foldnapkin foldnapkin foldnapkin foldThe napkin is made into a little pocket for the forks, and this is the easiest napkin fold ever.  Fold the napkin in half, then in half again.  Turn the top layer up about 1/3 to 1/2 way.  Fold in half, then half again and voila you have a pocket with no wrong sides showing.

tablescapeFinished, the table is warm and cozy, perfect for a winter night.   Honest, the pumpkins won’t be used again, but you know, I might try roasting them and see if they’re still good.  

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Provencal Style

I love the flavors, colors and textures of Provence,  so  my turn to host  our gourmet group provides a perfect opportunity to put them in play.  All are understated, always appealing in their simplicity.

Provence tableWhat better place to start Provencal style than with jacquard linens so typical of the region?  

Provencal tableFilled with candles and flowers, my trusty candle mold adds textural interest  much like what you might see in a Provence setting.

Provencal table

The cloth is smaller than the table, but no matter.  It is laid on the diagonal and the long sides folded a couple of times to keep them from hanging so low.   Manipulating fabric is something I can’t help doing!

Provencal table Serving as a charger are these plates by 222 Fifth.  The pattern is Tuscany Rose which doesn’t sound very Provencal, but the colors are right for the linens and flowers.

Provencal tableThe napkin, folded as a triangle,  sits atop the plate

Provencal tableto become the background for a white salad plate.  

Provencal tableThe shooter is for a taste of roasted red pepper/tomato soup that will be our starter.  The knives for this occasion just happen to be French, Laguiole, probably known to many of you.

Provencal tableI can’t resist using these textured pink tinted stems for water.  They are special favorites that once belonged to a very good friend’s grandmother.  I think of my friend with affection and gratitude every time these glasses are put to use.

Provencal tableAs I look at the table, I notice how the colors are an unintentional complement to the painting in the dining room.  While that certainly wasn’t a consideration, I like it when those kind of happy accidents occur.

The menu is one featuring the simple flavors of Provence, and later this week I will share the recipe for the main course, Short Ribs Provencal.  I think it does the young man from whom I learned some of the tricks of Provencal cooking proud.

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Let Me Count the Years

I can’t even remember when it started, but for a number of years four couples have gathered during the holiday season for a special time together.   Sadly, one of us is now missing, but that doesn’t keep us who are here from getting together for an evening of memories and laughter and fun.

Christmas table

Whoever is the year’s host determines whether we meet at a restaurant or at home.  This year it is at home, and the hosts set a spirited table, full of Christmas cheer.  Santa gourds (do I love those?) line the table complemented by a happy Santa runner and boughs of red berries.

Christmas tableSpunky red dishes set the tone

Christmas tableand are topped with happy Santa plates for the first course.

Christmas tableI love the glassware with its differing pattern and texture.

Christmas tableAnd oh what fun are the napkins secured by tinkling bells which make the spirit bright.

Christmas tableIt is a table as spirited as the long time friends who will gather round for yet another memorable evening.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs for me, no way can I appear without wearing this top that dates back to the first of our gatherings.  Sequins are loose and it’s not quite as roomy as it once was, but this top is as much a part of the holiday tradition as the gathering itself.  Wearing it assures that I will receive considerable grief!

I would love to know about your special holiday gatherings.

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