A Forest in Winter Theme
My husband's birthday is Christmas Eve. His whole childhood he got a combo gift and only had one party. So, we've had a birthday party every year for the 37 years we've been married. I don't want it to seem "combo" at all so I never use a Christmas theme or colors. This year we were shopping in Boerne, Texas, the weekend after Thanksgiving and I spotted a wide ribbon that was made to look moss covered. That got me started on a winter forest tablescape.
The first layer is snow white linen, hem-stitched cloths on our 24' dining table and then simple white china with a narrow silver rim.
Napkins were large vintage white damask with a twisted silver metal napkin ring
I used the Waterford Lismore cut glass that we collect, a balloon shape for red wine, and two different shapes for water since I don't have 16 of either one. I think they are probably both actually iced tea glasses. The ones on the left are a more recently produced shape and a little heavier so I used those for the men and the one on the right for the ladies.
I like for each guest to have their own salt and pepper set; otherwise, one or two sets would get lost on our very long table. These are all vintage, probably 1930's and 40's.
Two sets of place card holders were used because I needed 16 and had 8 of each. I alternated them at the place settings using a plain white card and silver ink.
I wanted the table to be elegant so I used sterling flatware, my mother's "King Edward" by Gorham and my "Grande Baroque" by Wallace. It is interesting to note that the three main place setting pieces of Grande Baroque each have a different flower. The spoons have a five petaled one, the forks have narcissus, and the knives have a rose. This pattern was first produced in 1941. I started collecting it in 1969.
I collect "youth" size silverplate flatware in various patterns to mix and match. I want to keep dinner party tables pretty and plastic Spiderman flatware just doesn't seem to fit in. I do have vintage Bakelite child-size pieces and do use those if the color happens to fit in, which it wouldn't for this white winter table. This knife and fork was used in my five year old Grandson's place setting. I get most of my youth flatware from a couple who sell silverplate at "The Depot" venue during the Round Top show twice a year. They are very knowledgeable and their prices are quite reasonable.
A complete setting.
This mossy ribbon was what spurred my imagination to do a foresty themed tablescape. I was in Boerne to do Christmas shopping but kept my eyes open at each shop for things that would work with my winter table theme. My husband is a wonderful, thoughtful shopper so I explained my idea to him and he helped find items to include in the tablescape.
I bought two rolls of the ribbon, each about 15' long, and laid them out, started in the middle and working my way to each end of the table leaving in curves and loops. It is wire-edged which made placement easy. My husband made me a rough cedar riser for the middle so there would be some height change in the tablescape. In addition to the ribbon, I also used two faux pine garlands and two with green leaves and white berries. I save things like this, year to year, in big plastic tubs in the attic and use them in different ways year after year.
One catagory we collected for the table was birds and nests. We found glittery silver ones and white ones.
This piece is an antique reproduction ornament meant to look like mercury glass with a bird on its nest.
White birds with clear glitter looked like they were hunkered down in a snow drift at night.
A white bird with white glitter on a silver pedestal tucked in close by a silver tree.
One of the bird nests had glittered twigs. (I realize winter is not bird egg season, I'm not a big city girl, but it looked pretty anyway!)
Another nest had twigs, moss, and leaves and fit in well with the mossy ribbon.
I also used candle holders made out of branches with a hole cut in them just deep enough for a tea light that my husband had made for me years ago. Some have one candle and others have more.
The largest Mesquite candle almost looks like a stump. He left stubs sticking out on all of them so they wouldn't look too finished or perfect. I like rustic.
I also included a collection of faux mercury glass candle holders picked up at various Boerne shops. Different shapes in mostly small sizes. Some a little plainer and some blingy. Plus mercury glass and silver glitter candle sticks with white tapers.
For the buffet I used all silver serving pieces, to match the color theme of the tablescape, for our menu of pork roast, twice baked potatoes, artichoke quarters, sauteed corn with bacon, crusty French bread rolls, and for dessert, German chocolate cake, pumpkin tres leches cake, plus there were birthday candles on a chocolate meringue pie, my husband's favorite.
The cloth I used on the buffet is an antique Battenburg lace.
For dessert, I used three vintage servers. One with a celluloid handle and two with two-tone Bakelite. Whenever I see ones like the one on the left, I buy them. You can find the same style with mother-of-pearl handles and those make pretty wedding gifts.
Happy Birthday to the younger man I married! (We were born the same year but my birthday is in July.)
Recipe for Baked Artichoke Halves
1 whole fresh artichoke per 2 guests (if your menu is large you can do 1 per 4 quests)
1 whole lemon, cut in half, plus 1 lemon slice per half
2 or 3 stems of fresh thyme per half
1 clove of peeled garlic per half, cut into thin slices
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or as Rachel Ray says, EVOO)
Heavy duty foil
Fill a bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes and squeeze in the juice, dropping in the lemon halves.
Cut off the artichoke stems to within 1/2" of bottom. Using scissors, trim the tip off every leaf. Cut the top 1" off with a knife. Hold whole artichoke on cutting board top down and cut in half with a serrated knife. Using a "sharp" edged tea spoon, carefully carve out and discard the choke and the little purple leaves. Immediately drop each artichoke half into the acidified ice water. This can be done a day ahead. Set a plate on top of the artichokes to make sure they stay submerged.
Tear off squares of foil and bend up the sides a little to hold liquid. Take an artichoke half out of the water and hold upright. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt, apx 1 tsp each, making sure it falls down into leaves. Place 2 or 3 halves on a piece of foil and sprinkle cut sides with a little more salt. Put garlic slices on top, then a lemon slice, and lastly, 2 or 3 stems of thyme. Spoon in 2 Tbsp of the acidified water and drizzle with a Tbsp of good EVOO per packet. Fold up foil tightly so that no liquid escapes. If even a small tear happens, wrap in a second layer of foil since the artichokes will not steam if the liquid escapes. Set foil packets, folded sides up, on a cookie sheet.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Open one packet and test for doneness by pulling out one leaf. If it does not come out easily, close and bake all an additional 15 minutes.
Serve as is or with lemon-butter or, better yet, homemade aioli.
Tip of the Day: To remove wax from a candle stick, wrap it in paper towels, secure with 2 or 3 rubber bands, and set it on a foil covered cookie sheet. Put in a warm, 200 degree, oven. As wax melts it will be absorbed by the paper towels. Depending on the amount of wax, paper towels may need to be changed periodically. This can take a while but is a lot easier and safer, for you and the candlestick, than trying to chip off the wax.