One Last Time

As you may know, I spend roughly half the year in Rockport, Maine, and half in Houston. This is the time of year when we start thinking about the return to Texas, and this is done with some regret. It is always hard to leave friends with whom we enjoy so many good summer times. This week we have shared meals, a last one at our house so I could use up whatever edibles were left.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASetting the table is always the first thing that happens when folks are coming for dinner. Ordinarily that is the easy part, but this one had me going in all different directions. I wanted to use the pumpkins and gourds that have been part of every table for the last month. To change them up a bit, they were worked in around a piece gotten some years ago from TJ Maxx.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was the easy part. For some reason I couldn’t decide where to go from there. I tried this and that and finally decided to let the centerpiece be the star of this last table.
Playing off the colors in the runner, black plates were used on brown placemats. That’s pretty subtle for me!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there, I added the harlequin patterned plates that are favorites.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor whatever reason, they just didn’t strike me right so it was back to the cabinet for more black. Additional color would have to come from the salad that would be served on them.
I liked the coppery tone of the flatware with the darker ones, but having it lay alongside the plate didn’t satisfy me. Are you beginning to feel my struggle?
Ultimately, copper and silver were combined and after several arrangements contained in a napkin.

There’s nothing left to do but add a mix of stemware
pa194660.jpgand sweet little cordials for the remainder of the puffball soup that had been in the freezer.

After so many tries, it was time to walk away and be satisfied with the result.
pa194675.jpgConsidering the changes, it’s a good thing I started early preparing the table otherwise dinner may never have happened. Later in the day the sun hit just right on the pumpkins and gourds, and I knew it had been the right decision to let them be the star. Now if I can just figure out how to get them to Houston…….


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Tablescape Thursday

Same But Different

It’s no secret that I like setting tables, but that doesn’t mean every one has to be completely different. It’s not unusual for me to leave a centerpiece in place for days, and with a few simple changes give a table an entirely different look.

This time of year I’m crazy about using pumpkin and gourds. Last week’s table showed them mixed with twigs for a natural fall look.

This time around, a couple of pumpkins were removed, a black raven and candles added.

The candle holders are in my trusty green bottles which blend right in. I’m chuckling as I remember how the candle holders came to be. A friend’s husband came home with an antique Bingo set so she decided to have a Bingo party. Everyone brought a white elephant gift that went into a basket of prizes for lucky winners. When it came my time to choose, I took the candle holders from a guy who seemed very happy to have a chance at another prize!

Back to the table. It was simple to add yellow plates that picked up the tone in the runner and the gourds and patterned napkins in the same fall colors.

The napkin fold couldn’t be easier….quarter, fold on the diagonal, turn back the corners.

pa044451.jpgFor fun, I put a little cauldron with a miniature fake pomegranate on the plate and called the table setting done.

Next day, late afternoon sun gave the centerpiece a dramatic glow which set me to thinking about the next change.  Suggestions?

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Tablescape Thursday

Nothing to It!

Funny how sometimes there’s nothing to setting a table.  That is quite true of this one.  It started with a linen table runner I hadn’t used in some time.  

What drew me to it is the bird image as  I do have a thing for birds and bird houses!

It was a no brainer to add a bird house from the collection on the porch and  a little birdie that just happened to be sitting on the counter waiting to be used for something.

With so many flowers blooming in the yard, it was very easy to run out and clip a few to add a touch of color.  For me, there is no better way to arrange flowers than to stick a stem or two or three in bottles that are then grouped on the table.  

With the bird on the runner being stamped in black, there was no better choice for dishes than the black Ikea plates.  

Finishing off the table is a favorite simple napkin fold that works perfectly as a pouch for the flatware.

You know, it just doesn’t take much to make a simple dinner at home something special.  

And dinner was simple.  It was an Against the Grain pizza with pesto and mozzarella to which was added pears, bacon, pine nuts and blue cheese. 

Out of the oven, it was topped with arugula which made a salad unnecessary.  By the way, if you haven’t tried Against the Grain pizza, look for it in your frozen food section.  It is quite good, and as an extra bonus, it’s gluten free.

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How It Started

When the gourmet group heard we were going to Sicily for another Foodie Adventure, a request was made for a Sicilian meal when we next hosted.   Lucky I was warned because that made me pay attention to tables and accessories when we were there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt a market I found a cloth which started the thought process.

I was very attracted to ceramic heads which were a reflection of the Moorish influence in Sicily.    I finally yielded to temptation and purchased two small ones that I knew would work into whatever tablescape would eventually evolve.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the time came to put a table together, I brought out the chianti bottles which have been used  many times over the years.  Now I know chianti is Tuscan, but I figured as long as I kept the Italian thing going, it would be OK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe same thing applies to the handpainted plates which were gotten in Ravello some years ago. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I looked at the table, it dawned on me that citrus was everywhere in southern Sicily, so I went outside, cut a few stems of holly fern and arranged whatever oranges, lemons and grapefruit were in the refrigerator on the table.  They actually play off some of the images on the cloth which is proving to be quite an effective inspiration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA dish towel doubling as a napkin and folded into a pocket for flatware

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand an orange atop the salad plate completes a table that turns out to be very reflective of sunny Sicily.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd to think it all started with a request for a Sicilian dinner which I’ll share next time.

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Never Too Many!

Beth's/pumpkinsNo question about it, I’m crazy about using pumpkins and gourds this time of year, and there’s no such thing as too many.

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Wherever they are used, they add such color and texture, two of my favorite things  when it comes to setting a table.

img_7671Those elements make it very easy to put everything else together,

img_7676especially during this season when the colors are so rich and warm.

img_7668As important as anything on the table is the humble napkin.    For me, it’s always the final touch that keeps any table from being ordinary and there are lots of options.  The above fold is one you might want to try.img_7662With the napkin laid flat, fold it on the diagonal.  

img_7663Fold from left to right to make a smaller triangle.  Repeat.

img_7665Fold each side accordion style, starting at the middle.

img_7666Hold the napkin tightly about 1 1/2″ from the bottom and tie with twine or ribbon.  Adjust the folds.

Folding the napkin is not difficult.  Where it gets a little sticky is holding it with one hand and tying it with the other.  That’s when an extra pair of hands come in handy!  Next time I do this fold, I’m going to add a leaf or a herb sprig or a flower or a cinnamon stick….well, you get the picture.  Napkins are just another way to express your creative self.  Have fun!

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Continuing On

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For more years than we can remember, 8 of us have gathered once each month for what we call gourmet night.  Most of the time it’s here in Houston, but we’ve also made it happen in Hackberry, Louisiana, Charleston and Rockport, Maine.  No matter where we are, it’s a fun evening of lively conversation, laughter and good eats. Best of all, it is a continuation of long time friendships.

How it works is the host couple plans the menu, generally 4 courses, and sends it to each of the other couples with their particular food assignment.  This works very well as no one has to do an inordinate amount of preparation.

IMG_5627When it’s my turn, as it was in January, I have as much fun setting a table as planning the menu.  In fact, I usually set the table several days in advance and let it help determine what should be served.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore often than not my table is inspired by whatever textile I pull from my abundant collection.  This one is a beauty from Thailand handwoven of silk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there, I look around the house to see what would work as a centerpiece, and it is always a surprise to see what captures my eye.  Very often you can be sure it has a touch of whimsy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith this being the first gourmet of the season, it seemed right to add a little glamor to the table, and I chose to use china that once belonged to my mother.  That means the table is as fancy as it’s ever going to get in this house.

Napkin folding is one of those tricks that makes a table special, and none could be easier than this one that forms a pocket for the flatware.

IMG_5618As I was finishing the table, it struck me as somewhat sophisticated which made me think the meal should be the same.  From somewhere in the recesses of my mind came an image of Beef Wellington.  Along with brie topped with a sundried tomato mixture, watercress soup, roasted fingerling potatoes and a chocolate raspberry tart it was perfect for a dinner celebrating friendship and a new year.   

29112_beef_wellingtonDon’t let the idea of Beef Wellington scare you off.  It’s not as hard as it appears.  There are many recipes, and all have some mushroom/onion/garlic mix spread on puff pastry that is wrapped around a tenderloin.  I used baby bells which are more flavorful than button mushrooms, and I also encased the beef with thin slices of pancetta which added a little mystery to the taste.  I wish I had added some chopped spinach to the mushroom mix now that I think about it.  As with any recipe, it’s always fun to experiment with your own touches.

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Tablescape Thursday

It’s My Thing

Frequently I am asked if my table is always set even when it’s just the hubby and me who are eating at home.  The answer is yes, it’s part of who I am.

tablescapeBy the time I was a young teenager it was my job to have dinner started so that it would be ready soon after my parents got home from work.  While food was simmering, I set the table, and while there was not much to work with I wanted it to look nice.  I had learned where silverware and glasses should go thanks to a lady who taught me much during those days.  Paper napkins were all we had, but even those were folded neatly.

napkinFast forward to when the hubby and I were newly wed.  We had little in the way of furniture and our dining table was a card table.  In addition to our single set of dishes, I had some cloth napkins and it was fun to fold them in different ways.  In addition to making the best of a pretty casual setting, it became important to me to prepare foods that would complement each other on the plate.  I am a fool for color and texture!

tablescapeI never thought of any of this as being creative, particularly since I didn’t view myself in that way.  The lightbulb went off when I was working temporarily for an industrial psychologist.  By leading me through a litany of questions that focused on my decisions having to do with how I lived, ate, dressed he helped me realize that much of who I am is creative.  He will never know how grateful I am for that revelation.

tablescapeSince then I have allowed myself to explore creativity, not to please anyone but to discover more about me.  It’s been a wonderful process, and I urge you to do the same by not denying your creative self.  We are all blessed with the ability to create, but sometimes it takes a long time to acknowledge the gift.  

tablescapeFor me, table settings are a way of introducing creativity to every day living.  What is yours?

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