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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Tablescape Thursday

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

Holidays, Tablescapes

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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Food, Tablescapes

Winter = Comfort Food

What is it about winter that turns our thoughts to comfort food?  I guess it’s because winter means colder temperatures, inclement weather and, all too often, gray skies.  All those things make me want to stay inside which generally means spending more time in the kitchen.

For several days I craved chicken pot pie, so I finally broke down and made one.  I didn’t have the traditional ingredients so it was time to look in the pantry and refrigerator to see what might work.    On hand were a couple of chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, leeks, green beans,  mushrooms and a sheet of puff pastry.

While the chicken breasts were cooking in salted water, I chopped and readied the vegetables.  I steamed the sweet potatoes and green beans for a few minutes and sautéed the leeks and mushrooms in olive oil to soften everything up.

Once the chicken cooled enough to cut into bite sized pieces, all the ingredients were mixed together along with salt and pepper to taste and a teaspoon of herbs de provence. Now all that was left was to make a basic white sauce with a little parmesan mixed in and rolling out the puff pastry.

All done, the pot pies were ready to pop into the oven to bake until the pastry was a golden brown.Since the mixture proved to be quite generous, I thought it would be fun to make individual servings in these Polish pottery vessels.  Also, they would make it easier to serve as pot pie can be kinda messy.

They also became the starting point for an easy table setting.  

Flowers and candles were already on the table so adding denim chargers

and woodblock placemats and napkins that I got in India completed a table as comfortable as the food that would be served.  Have I ever mentioned how much I like to keep things simple?  

Oh, I should tell you the pot pies were scrumptious so the nontraditional ingredients combined in a most successful dish.  Now if I can just remember how it was done, I’ll make it again!

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