Just the Two of Us

For the first time in several weeks, it’s just the hubby and me at home.  That means some relaxed moments on the porch enjoying the sunset over Rockport Harbor.  The days are getting shorter now, and the colors are deepening as summer begins to wane.

When it’s just the two of us, life is pretty simple.  Breakfast is a bowl of cereal or a smoothie or this time of year a blueberry muffin to go with coffee.  Lunch is whatever, maybe a sandwich, maybe hummus with crackers and cheese.  Nothing fancy for sure.

When it comes to dinner, it’s still simple, but a bit more effort goes into making it more than a stand up meal.  Always, there are flowers gathered from the garden or from the side of the road.

Whatever dishes are used are meant to complement the runner or placemats that are on the table.  This night they were from Dollar Tree which is a great place for picking up new pieces inexpensively.  No tears are shed when a plate gets broken!

It was a piece of cake to finish this table by adding accessories that repeated the colors in both the plates and the cloth.

As silly as my kids think it is, I always use cloth napkins.  Maybe it’s my contribution to saving trees and reducing what goes to the landfill!  Besides, it’s so easy to tuck them into a napkin ring which makes their presentation a bit more special.

So, that’s the table.  Now, what about dinner?  More often than not, we have seafood which is local and fresh. 

One of our favorites is scallops, likely to have been brought in from the sea that day.  They are at their best when seared quickly on each side to preserve their sweet goodness.  This night they were served over corn risotto with a simple green salad on the side.  It doesn’t get better than that!

So, there you have it, just the two of us enjoying a relaxed night at home with a few touches that make it seem a little special.

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Some Things Aren’t Planned

ProvenceSome years ago, a daughter and I had one of those impulsive moments when we decided there was no better time to go to Provence than a couple of days later.  Excuse for such a whim was the need to exchange a pair of shoes which had been purchased months before.  Good enough, right?

As luck would have it, rather than the moderate winter weather we expected, it turned bitter cold and started snowing.  The result was like what happens in Houston when a few snowflakes fall. Traffic came to a screeching halt, 18 wheelers where slipping and sliding all over the road and what should have been a 45 minute drive was turning into an all day trip filled with tension.

As we inched along, I spied a sign reading FAIENCE with an arrow pointing to a nearby building.  That was all it took to get me off the road as at that point any diversion would be a welcome relief.

Of course, the shop was closed thanks to the inclement weather, but spying two desperate looking women parked in his driveway, the owner took pity and came out of his warm home to open his very cold workshop.

Oh, how the day did brighten as we wandered among his colorful and unique creations.

Whether out of gratitude or because I really liked his work I came away with four dinner plates and four salad plates no two of which were alike.  Not until we were underway again did I think about the challenge of getting them home without breakage.  So it is that every time the table is set with these dishes, each of which is undamaged, memories come flooding back of an impromptu adventure that had more than a few surprises.  

Oh, did we exchange the shoes? Let’s put it this way…..we tried!

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Mixing It Up

Until recently I never thought of using these vases on the table, but once they landed there they’ve inspired several settings.  The colors lend themselves to many options and it’s so easy to refresh the flowers.This time around a table runner with some of my favorite colors is the background.

With these pieces on the table, it was easy to add others for a simple at home dinner with friends. Perfect color matches are in these dishes from Target. 

Though I often mix and match, this time I’m sticking with the coordinating salad plates and adding a napkin that introduces a variation in pattern but is true to the color way.

That’s all there is to it.  In less than 10 minutes, the table is set made easy by what was already there.  That is why I rarely leave a table top bare, and it doesn’t bother me at all if the same pieces are used multiple times. It’s fun to see how many different looks can be created from the same elements.

This dinner was preceded by a busy day, and that’s when a slow cooker comes in real handy.  Not only does it provide the freedom needed to do other things, it fills the house with tantalizing aroma.  For sure that was the case with these Asian Style Short Ribs that you just might want to try.

Asian Style Short Ribs

6 lbs. short ribs

salt and ground pepper

3/4 t. 5 spice powder

1/4 c. each hoisin sauce and ketchup

2 T. rice vinegar

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. fish sauce

1 T. honey

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 T. minced fresh ginger

5 cloves mince garlic

Season the ribs with salt, pepper and 5 spice powder.  Brown on all sides in a multipurpose cooker or broil until nicely browned.

Mix together remaining ingredients and place all in the cooker being sure to coat the ribs well with the hoisin mix.  Cover and cook on the low setting for about 6 hours or until the meat is very tender.  If the ribs are boneless, cooking time will be less.

For serving, place the ribs in a bowl or on a plate and moisten with some of the cooking liquid.  Garnish with Italian parsley or cilantro and chopped roasted peanuts or cashews.

Serves 6

I can assure you there will be no leftovers!

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Flowers As Art

Beautiful floral arrangements are works of art, particularly when they are created to meet a challenge such as that demanded by Florescence, an annual themed flower show in Houston. For two days the entries are displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts where huge crowds marvel at the astonishing creativity. 

 With so many of you interested in tablescapes, how could I not share these with you!  The arrangements  were to depict a dining experience at an exotic destination on a functional table for two. You may not find every element of the tablescape to be practical, but there is inspiration on each for our at home tables.

This is a very formal table with layers of textiles complementing the gold accents on the stemware and china.

Unique features are the unexpected use of orchids on the candlestickand the fish jumping into bowls filled with iridescent baubles.

As with the first table, a tall arrangement is the focal point.   I couldn’t help but think of sitting at either and wanting to move the arrangement to the side.

Two things, the teacup as a containerand a natural leaf secureing the napkin, are features  worth remembering.

This table is all about fun and thanks to the clever arrangement I could almost forgive its size as a centerpiece.  The use of pattern and color is consistent in every detail

right down to the elephants suspended at the layered corners.  What sets this table apart is its touches of whimsey.

Here pattern is key,and the layered textiles define the color palette used in both the flower selection and tableware.  

Overall, this is a simple table made warm and inviting by color and texture.  Did you notice that the floral arrangement is on the side?

So, there you have it, four different looks.  Keep in mind that in each case the table is secondary to the floral design. As beautiful as they are, the arrangements are a bit overstated for an at home table, but there are wonderful ideas for presentation and flower selection. Hopefully, there is something on each table that would translate to your personal style be it flower selection, color combination, the layering of cloth, the mixed textures or touches of whimsey.   I’d love to know your take away.

  i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Wait, There’s More!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor sure there is more to this New Year’s Eve table other than it being created around the centerpiece of holly trees and finials that has inspired  each of my December tables.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo, this one begins with the china that is one of the few things I have that belonged to my mother.  It is not likely what I would have picked, but it is dear to me because of the memories it evokes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t remember ever having seen her use the little salt cellars.  I found them in a cabinet after she died and have no idea of their origin, but I held on to them without thinking about how their gold trim was a perfect complement to the china.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Fostoria glasses were also Mother’s, and the soup spoons came from my  mother-in-law’s kitchen.  From her I have even fewer things than from my mother, but she left me with a heart full of love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wine glasses have a story starting with the one in the middle. Years ago I was with my parents in an antique shop in North Carolina where they were then living.  For whatever reason the glasses caught my eye and when Daddy saw me holding one and turning it this way and that he said, “Sis, if you like those, why don’t we get them?”  Done, and so began my collection of mismatched etched stemware.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the napkin rings hold their own story and remind me of the time when a daughter and I were to meet in London and go on to the Cotswolds.  At the last minute, her trip was cancelled thanks to an unexpected business decision, but I went on since my ticket was nonrefundable.  It turned out to be a wonderful solo adventure, and the napkin rings were a purchase at a small shop in the middle of nowhere filled with handmade items.  That explains the attraction!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, that’s the story of the table, and for me remembering the people and places that each piece represents makes it a great way to end the year.

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Once, Twice, Then Twice More

Holidays are for entertaining, and for me that means not reinventing the wheel for every occasion.  Knowing there would be several events here during December, it made sense to have a centerpiece that would work with whatever was going on on the table.

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This year much of my holiday decor focuses on trees, so it was a no brainer to repeat them on the dining room table.  These holly trees are my most favorite and while they are great stand alone pieces, I added a collection of finials for a bit of shine.  With nothing more than this, the table is ready to be filled with finger foods for an upcoming meeting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToo,  several casual meals for family and friends are planned during the month, and for each the table will take on a different look.  A brunch will feature Spode Christmas dishes set on a matching placemat that I happened to spot at TJ Maxx.  Though I swore not to buy anything new, how could I leave such a perfect accessory behind!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways a table  with the Spode pieces comes together very quickly and invites adding fun complements like the candy striped flatware that gets used again and again during December.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor a dinner with friends, the Bella Ceramica pottery is featured.  While some things stay the same, different napkins and chargers give the table a whole new look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor Christmas dinner, the setting  is a tribute to my mother whose china and Fostoria grace the table.  I am so glad to have these remembrances of her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor seated meals, there is one change to the centerpiece.  The tallest tree is removed and replaced with a slender finial so that no one has to crane their neck to look at a person sitting opposite.

So, there you have it, four occasions satisfied with a single centerpiece. Thinking ahead about how your table will be used during the holidays and finding a common thread makes the rest quite easy plus it saves considerable time.  The bonus is that when the table is not set, it still looks attractive.

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Burlap and Candy Canes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI so look forward to the arrival of December as it means once more having a Christmas table every day for a month.  The seasonal dishes stay in the cabinet all year so it is their time to shine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor years this very fun set of pottery by Bella Ceramica has been my favorite.  Every piece has either a smiling Santa or a Christmas tree, each of which appeals to me because of its slightly irregular design.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey lend themselves to adding fun accents like this flatware and to using traditional reds and greens as well as their variations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor napkins, Santa’s smiling face is the perfect way to hold them in place.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I especially like about these dishes is they work well with a variety of looks.  Here they are paired with burlap and an antique wooden mold for something of an old timey feel.  Thanks to inspiration from the flatware, candy canes with candles to match are part of the centerpiece.  When the kids are here what do you bet the candy canes will disappear?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot all meals will be at the big table.  Lucky for us in Houston, there are still nights when the hubby and I can eat on the porch, and the Christmas pottery works as well outside as in.   Nothing could be simpler than this table with the main attraction being a quilt made oh so many years ago by my grandmother and great aunt. I can close my eyes and see them sitting in front of the fireplace that heated the room stitching and watching The Guiding Light!  They probably never gave thought to the notion that one of their quilts someday would be on my table rather than a bed or that it would be so special to me.  It is such memory that makes the Christmas season so special.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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