Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cowboy Dinner

Texas Lasagna for Eight

My brother was visiting from Dallas for several celebrations crammed into three days - his birthday (I won't mention an age but it begins with a 6 and ends with a 5), his only daughter's first baby shower, and my Granddaughter's 12th Birthday party.  Since so many things were happening at the same time, I decided I needed to do as much ahead as possible.  On the night they arrived, I served "Texas Lasagna," which I'd made about ten days ahead and froze.  
The table started with a green 90" to-the-floor base cloth.
Next up, a burlap square topper that began my Cowboy theme.  (Which would have been ironed had I not been stressed and running behind.)
I followed that with a vintage 1940's cowboy themed square cloth, placed so that its points were in between the burlap ones.
Branding irons, cast iron skillets, cactus and cows are symbols of how lots of Easterners think of Texas so I thought I'd play into that perception.
For our centerpiece I continued building on the theme by using succulents, planted in three fishbowl-shaped vases, instead of flowers.  
I just went to our local Home Depot's plant section and bought a variety of tall, short, big, little succulents and arranged them in the bowls.  (If you plan to leave them in the bowls, put in a first layer of gravel, sand, or marbles so the soil will drain well.)

I used my Red Wing "Chuck Wagon" and "Round Up" dishes.  The top one, with a cowboy cooking, is "Chuck Wagon" and the lower one, with a cowboy heating a branding iron, is "Round Up."

The first Red Wing stoneware company began in 1877 with two kilns and four potters' wheels.  Power for the plant came from a 24hp steam engine. In 1884 a fire from the kiln spread throughout and when it was rebuilt it was on a larger scale.  In 1906 it merged with three other potteries but in 1967 it closed. In 1984 the rights were bought and production was restarted.  Inexpensive tours are given, in Red Wing, Minnesota, at specific times every weekday.  
These two patterns, introduced in 1957, are impossible to tell what pieces went with which name, and are fairly rare due to having never been produced for retail sale, but rather by mail order only.  
I used the lug-handled cereal bowl for my chunky guacamole, a favorite of my vegetarian sister-in-law.
I used two new amber-colored glasses for water and red wine.  I have a lot more vintage dishes than crystal and glassware so I use new whenever I don't have an old set that goes well with the colors or theme. 

I've collected, what I call, cowboy cutlery for many years.  I have pieces with bone handles and pieces that are wood.  (In opposition to real ivory, which is a solid cream color, bone has brown slivers of color, which can sometimes be seen with the naked eye, and always with a magnifying glass or jeweler's loop.)  All of these pieces are bone.  Forks are the easiest to find in lots of shapes and sizes.  Knives are also fairly common but I don't think there are spoons.  Some of the forks have four tines and some, three.  It is my understanding that the ones with three are older.

Instead of napkins, I used vintage tea towels, each with a Western or cowboy motif.  All were purchased from Michelle Piccolo who sells at the Red Barn during the Round Top antiques fair.

I used two sets of vintage collectible salt and pepper shakers - bulls and cactus

I keep half-fold place cards in lots of colors.  Just one thing I don't have to locate and buy when I'm getting ready for guests.  For an elegant dinner I wouldn't use stickers but for my "cowboy" dinner, they're just fine and, since I'm a scrapbooker, I have lots of choices.  (Hint: if part of the sticker goes off the paper, coat the exposed part with a little baby powder so it loses its stickiness.)

A complete place setting 
Food was served buffet style on a table with a vintage rectangular cowboy cloth.
The dessert fork, for our pecan pie, was placed at the top of each dinner plate.

Chunky Guacamole and Homemade Chips
Texas Lasagna
(Cumin vs Oregano; Cheddar vs Mozzarella)
Sauteed Veggies from our Garden: Zucchini, onion, yellow squash, asparagus, and tomato wedges plus store-bought fresh corn cut off the cob since ours isn't ready yet
Salt and Peppered Ciabatta Rolls
Pecan Pie

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Night Fish Dinner

Friday Night Fish Dinner for Eleven
For a rather impromptu fish dinner for eleven, instigated by my brother and oldest son catching Black Bass in our pond, I used one end of the dining table and started with two light blue hem-stitched cotton cloths.
On top of that were three vintage 40's square cloths, all in the same pattern but different color ways.  All were purchased from Michele Piccolo at the Big Red Barn at the Round Top Antiques Fair at different shows.  If you love tablescaping, you must visit her at one of the many shows she does all over the US every year!

I used five of the six Johnson Bros "Fish" transferware dinner plates, Ca 1950's.  The only one I didn't use was the lobster.

I used blue Versailles, depression-era, etched crystal water glasses, a fairly new collection of mine.
Flatware used is also a fairly new collection.  It's called Charter Oak, by International silverplate and was first produced in 1902.  One can tell by the knife blade shape that these are pre-1950's.  A word of caution: Don't polish out the patina around the pattern!  See how much prettier the knife is with polished high parts but with the black patina left in the low areas.  It really makes the oak leaf pattern stand out.  This "over-polished" look can also happen because of the dish washer.
I made little fish-bowl centerpieces using white and pale green flowers.

The Johnson Bros "Fish" pattern, like their "Birds" pattern, has slightly oval plates.
This mid-century transferware is so fun and can be easily found in antiques malls, shows, and on eBay.  One can dress it up or down, use it by the pool or in the dining room.  If it had been a planned-ahead dinner, I'd have brought out themed items like ceramic fish and real shells to mix into the tablescape.  Use your imagination.  Look around your home for items you can add to the table.  And most of all, have fun tablescaping!

Easter Egg Hunt Lunch 2014

Easter Lunch

We had twenty-eight guests this year for our family and friends Egg Hunt lunch on the Saturday before Easter.  Twenty-three were in the dining room and the five oldest kids were upstairs at their own table.  The tablescape began with white hem-stitched cloths from Williams-Sonoma.  We have an outlet mall only five miles away where I can get great deals on linens.
The Kids' Table
The Main Centerpiece 
While we were in Round Top for their biannual antiques fair I bought lots of succulents, mossy plants, and a strawberry to use in galvanized containers for the three centerpieces I had in mind for the dining room table.  Outside of Coles Antiques in Warrenton, I found two large round tubs and what I think is a baby bath tub, or small wash tub, to hold the plants.  

I was afraid, once complete, the tubs would be too heavy to move so I assembled them right on the table which was already set.  To keep the cloths from getting dirty, I put newsprint paper under them while I was working.  I filled the tubs 2/3 full with crumbled up paper and styrofoam peanuts and then set the plants, still in their nursery pots, on top of the filler.
I added orchid plants and small tropicals inexpensively bought at Home Depot plus a log and branches from our yard.
I got the galvanized watering can and ceramic rabbit in Warrenton during the Antiques fair.
Another found piece was painted cast iron made to look like Lily of the Valley.  For a centerpiece such as this, I like to mix soft and hard - orchids and cast iron, fern and succulents, moss and metal.
I planted two baby palms in a hotelware silverplate sugar bowl and
set it in one of the round tubs on top of the moss along with a couple of rocks I picked up by our road.  Even if you don't live out in the country, take a drive and pick up items along the roadside.  You can easily make a whole centerpiece from found plants, dried grasses, pebbles, bird nests, wild flowers, seed pods, rocks, moss, sticks, leaves, etc.  This is a fun activity to do with your kids or Grand children.
The little ceramic bunnies were a new find that I got at the antiques fair in the big tent near Zapp Hall.
After getting everything in and arranged to my liking, I filled in all around with the moss, another inexpensive purchase from Home Depot.  It took about 8 bags full for these three centerpieces.  The last thing I added was a few "Coscorones," or confetti eggs, in each.

I bought 28 beautiful small succulents and planted them in tiny galvanized buckets to put at each place setting for the place cards to lean on and to be a take-home gift.  It took a while to stand at the display and pick out that many individually but that's the only way to get the best and prettiest and if the guests are worth inviting to your home, they're worth the time it takes to make things as attractive as possible. 

 I bought the little buckets from a catalog years ago even though, at the time, I had no specific use in mind.  I have a "party closet" where I put things like this that I love because I know I will eventually use them.

Away from the succulents and back to the table setting now.  The flatware I used was "White Orchid," a vintage silverplate produced by Oneida in 1953.  I thought it was a nice pattern for spring and also fit in with the centerpiece flowers.
 I have both the normal dinner knife and fork and the "grill" size knife and fork, which is I generally reserve for lunches but if I need to use both I generally give the ladies the grill size.
I used a vintage plain white linen napkin with a silk Magnolia blossom napkin ring. 
Since I did not have enough iced teas in either pattern, I mixed depression glass pink and green ones and clear ones from the same era, though thought more elegant at the time.  The pink and green, even without etching, are more expensive now than the clear crystal.  The pink and green, in any pattern, are always on my "look for" list whenever we're out antiquing.
I mixed two Lenox china patterns, "Aurora," and "Lenox Rose."  This got started when I was out antiquing and bought what I thought was plates in my Mother's pattern but when I got home I realized they were quite different.  
 The "Aurora" below was my Mother's pattern.  Now I collect both and mix them.

At the top of each setting I placed a little salt dish and spoon and filled them with salt and pepper.  Each salt dish is different.  I have a set of 12 "Grande Baroque" salt spoons, several in a silverplate Lily of the Valley pattern, and the rest are all different so, as usual, I just mix them up.

I used a salad plate for the "bitties" (youngest kids) with a salad fork and teaspoon, and a sippy cup for them to take home. 
Even the youngest should have a pretty place setting!  Though there have been a few spills and forks on the floor, I've never had them break anything.
I had this beautiful vintage quilt for sale at the spring Warrenton show last year, but thought better of it, knowing I'd regret it if it sold, so I took it home.  I used it on the buffet table this year.
I wonder at the talent it took to make this quilt!  Such beautiful hem-stitching, lace and embroidery.  And I love the lemon yellow and gray-blue color scheme.

Flatware used for serving included the master butter knife, large tablespoon, buffet spoon, and meat fork.
I use this "tree" in the same urn over and over.  It started out brown, with leaves clipped to it with clothes pins at Thanksgiving several years ago and I called it the "Grateful" tree because everyone took a leaf and wrote on it what they were grateful for.  I also used it at Christmas with hanging vases and red roses.  
This time it was hung with felt Easter ornaments that I bought from a lovely lady at Cole's Antiques in Warrenton.
The "tree" is a branch from our yard.  The urn is full of sand with moss and river rocks on top.
A complete place setting on the big kids' table was very similar to the dining table except for the color scheme of the linens.
The dining room table complete and ready for guests.
For dessert, Sue "C" Cakes made me a replica of my 100' X 100' garden complete with veggies, hens, English bathtub, yellow brick walkway, and an Easter Bunny hiding eggs.
The Easter Bunny and me in the front yard.


Baked Ham with Orange Glaze
Herbed Leg of Lamb
Au Gratin Potatoes
Asparagus with David's Orange Hollandaise
Deviled Eggs
Southern Ambrosia
Wheat Rolls
Strawberry Cake with Celery-Green Citrusy Filling
All the Easter Candy You Can Eat!