Tablescapes

From Field to Table

IMG_1676Though I walk for exercise, my eyes are always open for what is blooming in fields adjacent to the path.  There’s Queen Ann’s lace, goldenrod, interesting grasses, cattails, lupine pods and things I can’t even name.  Often I come home with a handful that combined become part of lovely arrangements for the table.

IMG_1677My favorite way to arrange flowers is to put them in a variety of vessels.  It is simple and the containers can be placed randomly to create an easy centerpiece.

IMG_1678The cloth that is background for the flowers is folded on the diagonal leaving part of the table bare. When it’s time to eat, a couple of placemats fill and protect the bare space as well as reflect the quiet background of the cloth.

IMG_1681Playing off the cranberry color of the small vases and the flowers in the textile, these dishes are perfect.  They are  long discontinued from the 40’s and 50’s and were a purchase from an antique show some years ago.

IMG_1687Their appeal is not only the color but the unusual shape.

IMG_1682Adding the thumbprint glasses continues the color scheme and finishes the table.

IMG_1683Tonight the family will gather around what we call the big house meaning it’s a step up from the breakfast room.  Having teenage girls get involved in the table preparation is a great way for them to recognize that setting an attractive table can be very uncomplicated.  Sometimes a pretty table is also a gentle reminder to use good table manners!

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Tablescape Thursday

Tablescapes

The Why of Table Setting

Friends who know I enjoy table setting have asked me why.  There are several answers, but the one that comes to mind first is that it is opportunity to be creative.  It took me a long time to recognize that, and once I did it opened the door to a new way of seeing.  The story of how I began to view setting the table as creative is another story which would take some time to tell.

flowers/tablescapeSo, how does one make table setting a creative process?  For me, it begins with there always being something on the table from which to draw inspiration.  Does that say something about my not liking bare surfaces? Here, it was nothing more than flowers arranged simply on a runner.

Now, I have to confess to being a dishaholic.  The beauty  is that it creates a variety of options when it comes to selecting.  With the colors of the flowers and the runner as influences, I picked these dishes for our evening meal, but the selection could just as easily have been a solid color that works well with a variety of accents.  By the way, places like TJ Maxx, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Goodwill are great resources for items that are both inexpensive and add flair to your table.

You will notice that the table is prepared for two, the hubby and me.  Whether it’s the two or us or company coming, the table will add to the experience of eating. That is a gift I give to others as well as myself.  

What is really important about setting tables or anything else for that matter is allowing yourself to acknowledge that you are creative!  From there, how you begin to see and think becomes second nature.

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Tablescape Thursday

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at home, Tablescapes

Quick & Easy

When friends suggested we gather one more time for dinner before the hubby and I leave for Maine, I, without thinking, offered to host.  Sometimes I am too spontaneous for my own good!

Luckily, my dining table is rarely undressed which made getting it ready quick and easy.  The new favorite table runner from India, decorative gourds from San Miguel and trivets were in place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith this beautiful runner, I like to keep the table simple and chose to use clear glass dinnerware on a subtle placemat. 

I had no solid napkins so the next best thing was to use ones with essentially the same colors as the runner.

They are bound with flexible holders that were a gift from a friend who knows how I like setting tables.  That’s the kind of friend to have!

As I was putting wine stems out, my eye was drawn to the orange in the runner, so I put the etched glass ones away and opted for the orange stems that usually come out only at Thanksgiving.

All done but for the flatware.  I know Carson of Downton Abbey wouldn’t approve, but I do like to lay it in different ways to add an unexpected touch.

So, in a matter of minutes, the table is set.  I’ve also thought of simple fixings for dinner: pasta mixed with tomatoes, basil and olive oil 

and one of my favorite go to desserts.  What this goes to show is that entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful or require a lot of preplanning.  The real point is to enjoy time with friends.

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Tablescape Thursday

Tablescapes

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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Tablescapes

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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Tablescapes

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?

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Tablescapes

Chili and Beer

During the three weeks of rodeo in Houston tastes turn to cowboy food like Bar-B-Q, smoked meats and chili.

When any of those are prepared at home, the table has to have some kind of western theme meaning it’s time to pull those straw hats off the shelf.

 

Mixed with a few farm animals, they make a simple centerpiece.  Livestock of all kinds is shown and sold during rodeo time and generates much of the money awarded to young FFAers who’ve worked so hard raising show quality animals.

Now I don’t have much in the way of tableware that would be used around a chuck wagon, so some creative thinking is required.  Denim chargers get the place settings started.

Polish pottery isn’t very western, but I picked the pieces most solidly blue thinking they would blend into the chargers.

I know I have some bandanas somewhere that I’d like to have used as napkins, but darned if I could find them.  Cowboys do wear some striped shirts which was reason enough to choose these.  And what better time to use the cow napkin rings?  They are one of those things I have no idea where they came from but am glad to have this day.

chicken chiliYou know, cowboys like to keep things simple and this table is just that and perfect for the chili that is cooking away in the kitchen.  It is my favorite white bean/chicken chili that would be tasty around anybody’s campfire especially with an ice cold Lone Star beer!

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Tablescape Thursday