Seeing Red

This is one of my favorite table runners made by the hands of a Vietnamese person with disabilities working in a state run workshop. Funny how it has been used dozens of times and I’ve never paid much attention to the red.  Usually, it is the blue and orange tones that dominate my thinking.

Not today!  Red has totally grabbed my eye which was reason enough to pull out the crocheted placemats made by my mother-in-law.  I smile as I think of her trying to teach me how to crochet.  My hands were so awkward with a crochet hook, and I didn’t get much farther than casting on with a chain stitch.  Red is not a color I use much on a table, and I’m not sure why because it is one of my favorites.

Maybe it was the flowers on the runner that drew my eye and made the red seem more important.  Whatever the influence, it made for a very happy table.

There was no need to add more color, so white dishes provided the finishing touch.

Later, when chili was dished up, I had to laugh when even it had traces of red.  On this day, red was meant to be.

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International Flair

You never know what is going to inspire a tablescape.  This one started with orchids which were thoughtful gifts deserving  special attention. 

Orchids made me think of Thailand where the markets literally had bags stuffed full with purple, pink and white blooms.  That thought led me to choose this beautiful handwoven silk table runner that was made in Bangkok.  Thanks to Jim Thompson, the weaving as a cottage industry is alive and well there.

The runner paired nicely with placemats purchased from a street vendor in that same city.  I love finding things for the table that are light and take little suitcase space when I travel.

Because it is spring, a season of gardens bursting with color,  these dishes that once belonged to my mother-in-law seemed a nice complement all the pink tones.  According to the writing on the back, they were handpainted by a woman named Ernestine in Salerno, Italy. I believe they were sent home by a soldier husband during World War II.  I would love to know the whole story.

OK, Thailand and Italy are covered, so let’s go with napkins from a Saigon market.  Each little flower is hand embroidered.  In addition to this table showcasing pieces gathered from my travels, it also confirms my attraction to all things hand done.

All that is left to complete the table is glasses, and they, too, have a story.  I don’t know where they are from, but they belonged to a special friend’s grandmother.  My friend thought I would use them more than she and gave them to me.  She was not wrong, and the glasses with their wonderful texture are much used.

So many of my tables are filled with special memories of people and places.  This one, with its international flair, is especially so as with each piece my mind wandered to another place and the experiences had there.  

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Tablescape Thursday

India Inspired

There was never a doubt that this beautiful meticulously handwoven runner from India would be the inspiration for a tablescape and dinner for our gourmet group when it next met at our house.

The design elements in the piece are many, but the primary ones are symbolic of the images seen again and again in Rajasthan.  I still marvel at its artistry  and treasure the runner as a favorite possession.

My first thought was for the table to be as elegant as if it were in a maharajah’s palace which meant bringing out the china, crystal and silver.  Good idea but it proved to be a bit much so began the process of simplifying.

I wanted nothing to take away from the beauty of the fabric so glass candle holders and vases as a centerpiece allowed the colors and pattern to show through.

Gold chargers did survive the cut and became the backdrop for varied colored plates that not only played off the thread colors  but were more subtle and took nothing away from the beauty of the runner.

IMG_0356With napkins of gold and burgundy and etched stems with different patterns, the table was simple with touches of elegance that fit my comfort zone.

IMG_0357To this point the only thing missing was the flowers. Choosing roses was a no brainer as in India we were showered with rose petals upon arriving at every hotel.  As luck would have it, Trader Joe’s had the perfect colors, and the tea roses nestled beautifully in their globes.

IMG_0354With memories of India swimming in my head, there was never a doubt that the food would also be inspired by that adventure.  I opted for chicken tikka masala seasoned with spices gotten in Dehli, and to my delight the hubby found Kingfisher ale at Total Wines.

I have to admit that Indian food met with resistance from some of the group, but the ale was a big hit!  Hey, isn’t challenging the taste buds part of the planning for a gourmet group meal?


Tablescape Thursday


Mixing It Up

Until recently I never thought of using these vases on the table, but once they landed there they’ve inspired several settings.  The colors lend themselves to many options and it’s so easy to refresh the flowers.This time around a table runner with some of my favorite colors is the background.

With these pieces on the table, it was easy to add others for a simple at home dinner with friends. Perfect color matches are in these dishes from Target. 

Though I often mix and match, this time I’m sticking with the coordinating salad plates and adding a napkin that introduces a variation in pattern but is true to the color way.

That’s all there is to it.  In less than 10 minutes, the table is set made easy by what was already there.  That is why I rarely leave a table top bare, and it doesn’t bother me at all if the same pieces are used multiple times. It’s fun to see how many different looks can be created from the same elements.

This dinner was preceded by a busy day, and that’s when a slow cooker comes in real handy.  Not only does it provide the freedom needed to do other things, it fills the house with tantalizing aroma.  For sure that was the case with these Asian Style Short Ribs that you just might want to try.

Asian Style Short Ribs

6 lbs. short ribs

salt and ground pepper

3/4 t. 5 spice powder

1/4 c. each hoisin sauce and ketchup

2 T. rice vinegar

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. fish sauce

1 T. honey

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 T. minced fresh ginger

5 cloves mince garlic

Season the ribs with salt, pepper and 5 spice powder.  Brown on all sides in a multipurpose cooker or broil until nicely browned.

Mix together remaining ingredients and place all in the cooker being sure to coat the ribs well with the hoisin mix.  Cover and cook on the low setting for about 6 hours or until the meat is very tender.  If the ribs are boneless, cooking time will be less.

For serving, place the ribs in a bowl or on a plate and moisten with some of the cooking liquid.  Garnish with Italian parsley or cilantro and chopped roasted peanuts or cashews.

Serves 6

I can assure you there will be no leftovers!


Tablescape Thursday

Thinking Ahead

OK, I know we haven’t even gotten through Christmas, but it doesn’t hurt to be thinking ahead to next year knowing that holiday goodies will soon be on sale.  I always like to have a little something new and there’s no better time to buy it than when it is marked down.

Luckily Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma are in the area where I was doing some last minute buying, and here’re some of the things that caught my eye.

Believe me when I tell you I don’t need any more dishes, but it doesn’t hurt to look and, perhaps, get an idea for a table setting as well.  Williams Sonoma has several patterns that are sure to tempt some of you.  Plaid is very in and if these settings are any indication, it is very versatile as well as timeless.

Pottery Barn is always a great source for cute accessories like these napkin rings.

3111914_14Each one has that little touch of whimsey that so many of us are drawn to.

berry-place-card-holder-set-of-4-oThe same is true of these adorable place card holders also at Williams Sonoma.


I’m a sucker for table runners, and I have my eye on this one at Crate & Barrel as it would go well with both sets of my Christmas dishes.  I’m envisioning the table already!

For the younger set, Target has the perfect melamine plates.  No danger of these getting broken!

Well, there you have it, a little something for everyone.  By the way, I stopped at Michael’s on the way home and found their chargers  in red, green and plaid marked down 70%.  None were more than $1.35, a very good deal for sure.

Happy shopping!

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Hanging On

Linda  054 (1)Some may think summer is over, but as long as there is blooming color, I’m hanging on!

tablescapeLittle sprinkler cans are among my favorite things, and they are perfect for creating a colorful centerpiece.

tablescapeWhat’s great about using them for flowers is it doesn’t take much  talent to arrange something attractive.  Here, the cans are filled with colorful blooms and spread atop interlaced table runners that are substituting for placemats.

tablescapeFor a little added texture are burlap wrapped glasses from the Dollar Store that I wrapped with a strip of burlap. Sometimes they are vases, but this time around they serve as holders for candles that tonight will cast a soft glow over the table.

tablescapeTaking a cue from the flowers made it easy to select these plates, another of my collection of finds from TJ Maxx.

tablescapeThere is just enough inky blue on the plate to make these thumbprint stems a perfect complement.  When I bought these as an antique store several years ago, I never dreamed they would work with so many things. What a wonderful find!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo napkin folds this time as napkins are tucked into pewter rings.  For years, I yearned for the real thing, but the prices for silver ones is dear, so these are a great substitute.  Each one is different and on this garden themed table, they look like they could be meandering among the flowers.

tablescapeAdd coral and green salad plates, and this table is done with little fuss.  You know, it doesn’t take much to create a warm and welcoming table in a style that best suits you.

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Tablescape Thursday

Burlap and Ribbons

burlap and ribbonWhat was I thinking when I bought 25 yards of burlap and 50 yards of ribbon?

pumpkin tablescapeLast week a small amount was used for overlapping table runners and to gussy up candle holders, but there’s lots more so I better get thinking.

burlap/ribbon tablescapeWith Thanksgiving just days away, there’re definite possibilities for the dining room table.  I cut a length of burlap for the center of the table and tied it at intervals with the ribbon.  So far so good.

burlap/ribbon tablescapeAren’t the colors in the so real looking flowers perfect?  (These vases of artificial lovelies are one of my best ever purchases.)  And who says napkin rings can’t serve a different purpose?

burlap/ribbon tablescape

There’s still lots of burlap and ribbon left, so it’s up to the sewing room where I cut the burlap into placemat size and stitched the ribbon to the raw edges.  This was a quick and easy project and will give a finished look to the table.

burlap/ribbon tablescapeNow for the dishes.  To allow the colors and textures to show through, I selected glass plates and added  an accordion fold napkin and a sprig of fall leaves.burlap/ribbon tablescape

To finish the setting amber stems from Pier One and salad plates borrowed from another set of dishes are added.

burlap/ribbon tablescapeWell, that came together pretty easy and gets me one step closer to being ready for Thanksgiving festivity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I better start making a grocery list of ingredients for all our traditional favorites.

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Thursday Favorite Things

One Last Time

white tablescapeWhen I like something, I really like it!  So it is with the collection of white pumpkins and squash that have appeared here and here.  I couldn’t bear to leave them behind so they traveled from Maine to Houston and have found themselves surrounded by all new things.  

tablescapeFor a different look, the pumpkins and squash rest on a glass top table atop two pieces of burlap used as table runners.    Add a bit of fall colored ribbon and candle holders gussied up with the same ribbon and here is a new look using the whites, now sporting a slight yellowish tint, one last time.

tablescapeAdding a little kick to the table is handpainted pottery from Ravello, Italy.   Each plate has a different critter, but what the plates have in common is a touch of orange that goes right with the ribbon.

tablescapeWith such fun pieces on the table, it need not be fussy so nothing more is added except for napkins that again repeat the colors in the ribbon as well as complement the pottery.

 pumpkin tablescapeLight the candles for a soft glow

pumpkin tablescapeand  there you have it, a table using the whites one last time unless, that is,  I decide to do something with them for Christmas.  Think they will last that long?

As I set the table I was thinking about what to have for dinner.  Chicken breasts are in the refrigerator, and with a little cool snap headed this way, I’m getting out the Cuisinart multi cooker to prepare Moroccan Chicken with Couscous.  It’s simple, tasty and fills the house with wonderful aroma as it simmers away.

Moroccan chickenMoroccan Chicken with Couscous

8-10 chicken pieces, bone in

2 T. olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

3 bay leaves

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 t. ground cumin

1/2 c. dry white wine

1/2 c. chicken stock

Season chicken with salt and pepper; brown on both sides in hot oil.  Remove and sauté onions, bay leaves and garlic until softened.  Add cumin, 1/2 t. salt,wine and stock.  Transfer to slow cooker and add chicken.  Cover and cook on low setting for about 3 1/2 hours.


Bring 1 1/4 c. chicken stock and 1/2 t. salt to a boil.  Pour hot stock over 1 1/4 c. couscous.  Add 3/4 c. raisins, cover and let stand about 5 minutes or until stock is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and add 1 can of chickpeas, well drained,  1/2 c. lemon vinaigrette, 1/2 t. cumin and 2 T. chopped parsley.

To serve, mound couscous in the center of a plate, top with chicken, drizzle with pan liquid and top with toasted, sliced almonds.


Combine 1 t. Dijon mustard, 1 T. white wine vinegar, 1 t. lemon zest. 2 T. lemon juice, 1/4 c. olive oil, salt and pepper.

Savor every bite and don’t be surprised if seconds are requested.

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