Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Christmas Eve Birthday Dinner

With a Winter Woods Theme
In October, while walking down the aisles at Marburger Farms, a must-see area of the Warrenton-Round Top Texas antiques fair, I saw this deer and knew I had to have it.  I was on my way to see a dealer friend so when I passed my husband in the aisle I said, "There's a paper rmache deer at so & so booth, please go get it before it sells.  I want to use it on the table for your birthday dinner." When we met up again and I asked if he found the deer.  He laughed and said, "Yes, but...  It's NOT paper mache!"  I said, "What is it?" and he answered, "Concrete!"  Needless to say, it was quite a chore to get it to the table and slide it to the center without doing any damage to the table.  But, it did look wonderful!

For my winter table because we were hosting 24 guests, I needed to use two sets of white dishes.  I put them on white linen hem-stitched cloths.

Napkins were matching white linen with a gold "B" monogram and a twisted silver-colored metal napkin ring.  For a winter theme, I like mixing gold and silver.

Place cards were a simple white tent-fold on which I used a silver pen to write each guest's name.
On the back side, each had a different question that we took turns answering.  It's a fun way to get to know each other better and can be bought, as these were, or handmade with your own questions.
Balloon red wine glasses and water goblets were both our Waterford Lismore pattern.
At the bottom, was a silver plastic charger from Hobby Lobby.  They come in lots of colors and are very inexpensive but add a level of formality to a table setting.  The flatware is an antique silverplate called "Charter Oak."  It seems so elegant and winterish with its leaf motif.
A completed place setting.  (A test for you compulsive people - what's different?)
The beginning of the tablescape was a vintage concrete deer with peeling paint that probably sat out in the weather in a Texas front yard for many years.
Logs from our yard, some with moss still attached, were next and two feather Pottery Barn owls sat watch over the table.
Mercury glass candle holders and evergreen trees, some old and some new, were worked in along with sparkly pine cones, and silver pine branch garland.
There were also silver wire trees and lots of glass candlesticks with silver and off white tapers.
Groups of real pine cones, spray painted silver, filled in vacant spots.
The buffet table was covered with another white linen base cloth and had a vintage cutwork cloth on top.  Two more owls on logs, silver pine branch garland and pine cones decorated it.  The galvanized bucket would hold ice and bottles of white wine.
An inexpensive pitcher picked up at a gift shop in Boerne, Texas, where we go Christmas shopping every year the weekend after Thanksgiving, worked into my winter deer motif well.

White serving bowls and platters were mix-and-match.  These are new but I also use a lot of antique white ironstone which can be found fairly inexpensively in Warrenton and Round Top.
White and silver with touches of gold, a table fit for my Prince's birthday!

and an Informal Christmas Morning Brunch

Midmorning, while opening gifts, we stop for brunch.  To save on time (and stress), I almost always use the same tablescape I set up for my husband's birthday dinner, but changing dishes to look Christmasy.  This year I used lipstick red chargers and my Lenox "Holiday" dishes.

I made all the napkins years ago using store-bought solid red cotton napkins appliqued with various shaped evergreen trees that I cut out of flannel quilt fabrics in Christmas colors and then blanket stitched around the edges.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!
Wishing you a happy, healthy 2015!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Thanksgiving in Texas

This year was one of our smallest Thanksgivings ever.  Just worked out that way.  But...  It was still a big deal and worthy of the same planning, prepping, cooking, and entertaining!
The finished table.

I decided on using burlap as my recurring decorative theme when I spotted this wreath in a catalog.  I knew I already had a ruffled burlap table cover so expanded from there.
I hung the wreath in front of our dining room window, over where our buffet Thanksgiving dinner would be served.
The three-tiered, ruffled burlap cloth, also a catalog purchase, fits a 6' folding table.  The folding table works well for my needs.  It provides more flat surface than most buffets and is a good serving height for adults and kids.  Since I always use cloths that go to the floor, the fact it's a folding table doesn't adversely affect the appearance of the buffet.
The first layer on the table was Williams-Sonoma tablecloths in tan and brown.  Three separate 8' tables, placed end-to-end, make up our dining table.  They were custom made with electrical outlets built in so I can use lamps or bitty lights on the table.  The only problem was how to get to the outlets with cloths on the tables.  The answer was to put a large button hole in the center of each cloth to put the plug through.  If I'm using candles instead of the lamps, I just cover up the buttonholes with tablescape items.
I keep silk flowers, garlands, and seasonal decorations, both vintage and new, in plastic tubs in my attic.  I took the fall ones to the dining room to see what I had available to use in the copper tubs I'd chosen to hold flowers this Thanksgiving.
As I narrowed it down, I unloaded the ones I planned to use onto the table that would later be the buffet.
After seeing what I already had, I took a photo of them with my phone and went off to Hobby Lobby for what I needed to fill in.  Taking photos with me is a must or I'd get there and not remember what shade of orange they were, how many hydrangeas I already had, etc.
The burlap was carried onto the table by way of burlap garland - a long piece of natural burlap, gathered onto string, and twisted for a ruffle affect.
The first flowers added to the tablescape were faux orange orchids in shiny black pots.  Although tall, the stem area was what was in the line of vision so the flowers did not block the view of the person across the table from you.
The first of my silk flowers stash to be added was a prearranged piece with fall leaves, pine cones, burlap gourds, and berries.
 I placed one at each end of the burlap garland.
Next came filling the two large copper tubs.  First, I cut large blocks of styrofoam to fit the oval shape
and then filled them with silk flowers and berries, staying in my color-way of mostly burgundy and orange, with a little tan and brown.
I made two arrangements, shaped alike and with the same kinds of flowers, but still different.
 I had two small copper buckets that I used for orange paper peonies with a sprig of berries.  Don't be afraid to cut up larger stems of flowers or berries for smaller arrangements.  It's more cost effective than buying lots of stems that are made small.  I covered the styrofoam inside the bucket with moss so it wouldn't show.
And on to the rest of the table...
I set up an extra folding table at one end of the dining room for the dishes I wanted to use.  I keep organized in a 3-ring binder that's just for Thanksgiving plans.  I have pages for the menu, recipes, photos from magazines of ideas I like, seating chart, games, to-do lists, etc.  I used the menu page to be sure I had all the dishes needed both for the table and for the buffet.
Working on the seating chart.
As a take-home gift every Thanksgiving I get each guest a Christmas ornament and hang it from the back of their chair.  If a guest is bringing someone I don't know, I get them a pretty, dated one so they can remember the occasion.
I have several different sets of turkey dishes and so that none will feel left out, I use them for my husband and myself all through November.  Dishes do have feelings you know.  For Thanksgiving Day, I used my Spode set this year.
It's new and widely available.  If you're ever in an antiques shop and wonder if a dish is old or new, your first clue is, does it say "dishwasher safe"?  Dishwashers weren't in use 50 years ago, so if they say that you know they must be somewhat new.  They are even newer if they also say "microwave safe."
For soup I used a glass container that was meant to be a votive candle holder.  Keep an open mind when in places like Hobby Lobby, Michael's, and World Market for items meant for one thing but usable for something else.  It makes your table unique and interesting.  Do be careful, if using it to eat from, that it doesn't say "Not Safe for Food" and be careful when washing painted things - they probably are not dishwasher safe.  Never use an old Mexican pottery item to eat from or to serve food in!!  The paint they used was lead-based and very dangerous, especially to children.
The table set with plates, soup bowls, and the easels that will hold the menu boards.
Our 2014 menu
This is the back of our beautiful walnut menu boards, a gift from my oldest, Sam, and his wife, Paige.  It is what you would see from the opposite side of the table.
Our napkin.  I loved these at first sight, but didn't realize the leaf would curl up and wrinkle badly when washed and have to be ironed, so I do not use them often.
Our napkin ring, a new item, is heavy metal painted shiny black.  It carried on the look of the shiny black vases the orchids were in.  Guests won't notice specific details like this, but they will get an overall impression of coordination and consistency which is pleasing to the eye.
My sterling flatware, in the Grande Baroque pattern by Wallace, was our silverware for this year.  Sometimes I set out all pieces even if I know there will be no need for the teaspoon for example, but this time I only put the dinner fork, knife, and cream soup spoon at each place setting.
Because I wasn't serving wine (only parents who were driving and children present), I used an amber glass water goblet at each place.
I made simple place cards this year on cream card stock with the name and a leaf sticker from my stash of scrapbooking supplies on each.

I have a huge collection of vintage turkey and autumnal salt and pepper shakers and like to use one set for each guest.  I do this every year because the guests all seem to enjoy this tradition.  I have learned the hard way to empty them after Thanksgiving.  Don't let salt sit in them all year.  It will corrode both the paint and the pottery.

A completed place setting.
In the place setting for our Grand Nephew, I used a dessert plate (8") and included a child size Bakelite knife and fork.  I've found the children like having their own size silverware, Bakelite for the littles and "youth" size silverplate for the preteens.  It not only is easier for them to use, but also makes them feel special.
I find it helpful to label all the non-place setting dishes as I'm choosing them with Post-it notes stating what they will be used for.  I can keep track of what I still need and find appropriate flatware serving pieces for each.
For most of the serving pieces this year I used the same Spode "Turkey" pattern.

Because I needed more than one gravy boat, I also used an English transferware pattern called "Hyde" by Woods Burslem.  It's a fall favorite of mine.  Because of its color variety, the look can vary depending on the linens used with it - navy, burgundy, chocolate, etc.

I used two different covered butter dishes.  One new - a metal leaf over white stoneware, and one that I bought maybe 20 years ago - a pheasant by Fitz & Floyd.

Another new item this year was a wood trivet with little ball feet.  This and the butter dish were purchased during an early fall trip to visit my friend, Mary Lynn, in Edmund, Okla; which, by the way, is a great place to shop, in their old downtown area, for both antiques and new table items.  She and I met as Freshmen in college and have stayed friends ever since.  I don't mind admitting that it was our 50th anniversary this year!
 I used "Woodland" serving dishes, a Spode companion pattern to "Turkey", and Grande Baroque flatware.
I also use Post-its to mark where each dish will go on the serving table, setting them out ahead of time to make sure everything will fit.  Some of this organization may seem too time consuming but it's better than finding out that the table is too small for all of the side dishes the day of.
Dessert service was set up on the new hutch we have in the dining room and decorated with a china pumpkin and pheasant, antique basket with a fall leaves motif in the copper center, and a gourd candle.
Our new black hutch was custom made to fit one whole end of our dining room by Black Hat Designs. They work with customers and take orders at the Spring and Fall antiques fairs in Warrenton, Texas.  The serving area is a large single piece of beautiful walnut, used at our request to match the other wood in our home.   The top three drawers were lined with silvercloth for me to use to store my sterling and silverplate flatware.  The two cabinets on each end of the lower half have rods in them for me to hang the large tablecloths I use on our 24' table.  Lots of lights were installed in the top, and the shelves are  thick glass, to show off my china from the top to the bottom.
On the left side, I set up a silver tray to hold vintage crystal sherbet cups that would hold chocolate mousse.  This area was decorated with a Treen vase full of silk flowers, pumpkin candles, an antique paper turkey candy container, and a vintage salt shaker that had no partner.  Pies, brought by a talented cook and guest, Sandy, would be in the center.
I was pleased with my Burlap table but, of course, will do something new next year.  That's the fun part!  I do reuse - the copper pots just may turn up at Halloween full of dry ice smoke.

I don't just "tablescape" for fall and Thanksgiving, I housescape.
I started the front porch with corn stalks saved from our garden and dried.  We tied up two bundles and placed one on each side of the door.  My husband bought me bales of hay, an easy thing to locate in Texas, and I spread it out around the corn stalks and on the steps.
I couldn't buy pumpkins and gourds too far ahead because in Oct. and Nov. it is still warm in Central Texas and they will rot.  When it came time to do the porch for Thanksgiving, stores didn't have any, having sold out at Halloween.  My husband went to our local farmer's market as a last ditch effort only to find they too had none.  But...  the owner of the market, a friend, said they had lots on their front porch, were having no guests for Thanksgiving, and gave them to us.  A friend in need is a friend indeed!
I piled all of their beautiful ones, along with mums from Home Depot, on the hay and in black cast iron urns by the corn stalks.

 Turkey Gobbler Crudites
Our niece, Jodi, made this fun snack - veggies, pickles and olives in the shape of a male turkey,  for guests to munch on while I finished lunch preparations.  Serve it with your favorite dip.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  See you next time for Robert's Dec. 24th birthday dinner.