Think White

“Think white,” said a blog friend Kathleen, who challenged her readers to come up with a fall tablescape done in white plus one color.  Now for me that is hard since most everything I have is about color.

white tablescapeI thought I’d be passing on her challenge until I saw these pattypan squash on a roadside table.  Not only did they get my attention because of their size, but they are, yep, white!  They are the beginning of inspiration, and I happily left dollars in the jar funded by honesty. 

white tablescapeThe pattypans need company, so off to my favorite farm stand, Beth’s.  There I found white pumpkins, eggplant and acorn squash.  How perfect!

white tablescapeI collected a few twigs thinking they somehow would work into the naturalness of the setting that is taking shape in my head. 

white tablescapeNow for the dishes.  No all white here,

white tablescapebut perhaps Kathleen won’t mind if I cheat a little and hide the pattern with a clever napkin fold.

 white tablescapeThe black napkin actually provides a better background than the plate for the white pumpkin .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA With the addition of glitzy and spooky black stems just gotten from TJ Maxx and black handled flatware from Maine’s favorite department store, Reny’s, the table is coming together.

white tablescapeAll done except for finding some white votives.  The table is simple, the style that best suits us, but I must confess to it having been more of a challenge than one might think.

white tablescapeWalking past it later in the day, I love how the late afternoon sun makes the white come alive with a golden radiance.  I am looking forward to having tonight’s dinner here, but I doubt that it will be all white!  

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Company’s Coming

When folks come to visit, I like to have the first night’s dinner well underway when they arrive so they can settle in and relax after what has probably been a long day of travel.  Maine is not the easiest place to get to!

tablescapeAlready on the breakfast room table are these wonderful antique beer bottles, but instead of being filled with beer, they hold a stem or two of near season’s end hydrangeas.  I love how the bloom changes from white to green as it matures.

tablescapeDinner is a casual affair, so I’m going for comfort with simple black square plates from Ikea  on these placemats of many colors.  I love the flared top of the placemat which creates just enough space for a glass.

tablescapeHmmm, there are salad plates to match the larger ones, but now seems a good time to use the black and white ones scored at Goodwill last week.  I’m beginning to like shopping there for new treasures!

wine bottle holderThe wine bottle holder is one that I brought back from a spring trip to Vietnam, and it is a definite conversation piece as everyone is intrigued by how it stays balanced!

tablescapeAdded to the mix are the much used King’s Crown thumbprint glasses and flatware from TJ Maxx, another of my favorite shopping haunts.

Now, it’s to the kitchen to start dinner which features very fresh scallops.  I promise you this dish is what we call a real moaner as moans of appreciation replace words at the table!

scallops/mushroom couscous risottoCarmelized Scallops with Mushroom Couscous Risotto

Couscous

2 T. olive oil

2 T. finely diced yellow onion

1 t. minced garlic

1 c. Israeli couscous (I like the tricolored)

1 1/4 c. water

2 t. sea salt

In a 3-4 quart saucepan, saute onions in olive oil over medium high heat.  When they start to brown, add garlic, stir for 1 minute, then add water, couscous and sea salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir gently.

Mushroom Risotto

1 T. unsalted butter

4 T. diced yellow onion

4 t. minced garlic

2 c. oyster mushrooms cut in 1/2″ pieces

1 c. heavy cream

prepared couscous

2 T. chopped parsley

2 T. chopped chives

Preheat large saute pan over medium high heat.  Melt butter and saute onions, garlic and mushrooms until they start to brown around the edges.   Add cream and salt.  Bring to a boil, add couscous, breaking up any clumps.  Cook until most of the cream has soaked into the mixture.  Gently fold in herbs and adjust salt and pepper.

Scallops

1 T. canola oil

1 1/2 lbs.  sea scallops

1/2 c. sweet Vermouth

1 c. heavy cream

Preheat saute pan over high heat.  When hot, add oil and immediately add scallops with a flat side down.  Sear only one side until you see a light brown caramelization coming up the sides.  Remove from heat and add vermouth.  Gently remove scallops from pan to a room temperature casserole dish.  Add cream to pan and return to high heat.  Bring to a boil, then immediately pour over scallops and let rest for 2-3 minutes to finish cooking scallops.

To serve place a serving of “risotto” in the center of a bowl or rimmed plate.  Place scallops around the risotto and pour 3-4 T. of sauce over the scallops.  Garnish with parsley and chives.  Makes 4 servings.

This dish is just as good as it looks and is quite easy to prepare.  Using couscous for the risotto takes the pain out of making it and yields a surefire success.  As with any seafood dish, the real key is having good and fresh seafood.  To complete this dinner, all you need is a green salad and some crusty bread to “sop” up the sauce.  No one will leave the table unhappy!

By the way, this recipe is inspired by one in a beautiful cookbook Fresh From Maine.

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Sprucing Up

The granddaughters are 10 and 12, old enough now not to draw on the walls with magic marker or put dirty feet and hands all over them, so it seems a good time to spruce up their room a bit.

Art

Twelve Days of Christmas by Rachel Griffin

New coats of paint go a long way to freshen up their room,  and the colors in this wonderful piece of fiber art are the inspiration.

bedroom decorSome things, like these pieces from an antique shop, will stay the same

bedroom decorand work great as an over the bed detail.  They are also a handy place to keep favorite books and stuffed animals which still slip into bed at night.

girls roomThe little washstand from Anthropologie serves as a lamp table

girls roomand new pillows and quilts from TJ Maxx suggest bird sounds and the color of blooming things that are just outside the windows.

girls room

 This old pine bureau seemed a great complement for the pieces over the beds.  Originally,  I thought to paint it  but have decided to leave as is.  What do you think?

girls roomFor all the little extras that are often left on the floor, maybe the bench with pull out drawers will be an incentive for neatness.  We’ll see how that goes.

girls roomThe sun comes shining brightly into this room in the early morning and while these curtains won’t darken the room, they do soften the light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdditionally, hanging them was a nice little project for the hubby and was done without too much fuss and only one dropped screw!

girls roomAll finished, the same space has a new look that was accomplished with little effort.  Now, all we need is the girls to come liven it up.

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A Final Tweak

IMG_2190Over the last few weeks, our table has gone from this

holiday tablescapeto this

holiday tableto this with just a slight tweak.

holiday tableIt only took a minute to replace the runner with yards of muslin that make the trees look like they are sitting on snow and the crystal bells with Santas and snow globes.

holiday tableFavorite Spode Christmas dishes come to the table

holiday tableand sit on a perfectly matching placemat which I found this summer at TJ Maxx.  I knew they would come in handy!

holiday tableSoup bowls in green atop napkins in holiday plaid add a touch of color and delightful little crackers a touch of fun.

holiday tableSilver is shining, glasses are sparkling, and I’m off to the kitchen to prepare the next meal which will have gingerbread soufflé as a most special dessert.  

SantaAnd look who just happened to stop in.  Do you think Santa would like a glass of eggnog or maybe a taste of soufflé?  Come back tomorrow and join us.  I’ll even share the recipe.

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A Taste of Thai

I like Thai food, and thanks to a Thai exchange student, I learned that it wasn’t so hard to prepare once the most used ingredients were on hand.  Thinking it would be fun for our gourmet group to try something new, I decided on a Thai evening.

In our group, the hostess plans the menu and assigns a dish to each of the other three couples.  That way we share recipes and experience making an unfamiliar dish.  Best of all, it means the host couple doesn’t have to do all the work.

My favorite part of hostessing is setting the table.  I’m not sure how a family table in Thailand would be set, so I invented one using what could be found around the house and adding a few items from the Hong Kong market.  It started with this figure which came some years ago from a vendor at the International Quilt Festival, an annual Houston event.

She is mixed with “lucky” bamboo and saki cups to create a centerpiece that if not Thai is at least related to that part of the world!

Simple white dishes from TJ Maxx’s Palm collection rest on  colorful placemats from World Market.  The floral design remind me of delicate pen and ink drawings from China or Japan.

My very first handwoven napkins from years ago are tied with jute to hold chop sticks in place.

Finally, blue and white bowls with an Oriental theme

and an eclectic array of wine glasses that are not at all Thai were added to complete the tablescape.

All that’s missing are the friends who will gather for laughter and fun.

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The Raven Cometh

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, 
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this, and nothing more.”
The Raven
Edgar Alan Poe
What was the raven looking for when the door opened and he flew in, landing on the table?

Was he attracted to the Pottery Barn runner adorned with one of my handwoven runners?

Or perhaps he was looking for the witch whose hat was left behind

or maybe hoping to find some tasty morsel tucked in the leaves and berries of this arrangement fresh from TJ Maxx.

Whatever his goal, he decided to stay for dinner at the table set with hobnail edged dishes, also from TJ Maxx.

So long as he stays where he is, keeps his squawking to a minimum

and doesn’t nibble at the gourds when I’m not looking it’s OK with me.

If the raven causes a problem, he’ll have to answer to all you scapers at Tablescape Thursday.

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Creating A Table

Turn some people loose in flowering spaces and wonderful things can happen as did recently when a visiting friend came inside with arms loaded with what she had found in my yard.

Said she, “Do you have something I can put this in?”  “Sure,” says I, “just look in the mudroom and see what you can find.”  And so began the makings of a lovely table for that night’s dinner.

She used several different  containers, ranging from pint sized sprinkler cans to small vases with interesting shape or color.  Each was filled with the garden’s brilliant colors and greenery snipped from different bushes and trees.

Thinking these arrangements sitting atop an antique crewled fabric were not enough, she looked around for more things to mix with them.

There were these adorable lunch boxes from the VanGogh Museum in Amsterdam,

a few stones from the beach and some little fake fruits from a bowl in the pantry.

She even incorporated a lulu designs necklace, a perfect complement to the hydrangeas.

By itself, this was a wonderful table, but we carried it one step further and set the table for dinner using white, floral design plates recently purchased from TJ Maxx, known around these parts as the Mother Ship.

The little girls chose multicolored napkins and, again, colors from the centerpiece were repeated or complemented.  The girls were very excited to learn an easy napkin folding trick that creates a pocket for the silverware.

Chunky glassware from the 50′s in tones of pink were perfect additions.

In our house, tablescapes are simple and add a special something to our time together around the table.  They are all the more fun when hands have joined in the preparation.

Come back tomorrow for the yummy swordfish salad that we had for dinner.

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A New Look

I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.

Henri Matisse

This centerpiece from girls’ night was too tall for a dinner gathering, but I liked some of the components and thought why not use them again.  The tablecloth and the smaller gourds stay.  More green bottles come off the shelf and are filled with new flowers that pick up the colors already there and voila, a new centerpiece that does not block anyone’s vision.

Some of you have asked about these bottles that I so frequently use.  They are  Lemonata bottles and are a perfect size to hold a few stems, and best of all, they are easily configured to create an interesting setting anywhere.

This night these Roscher hobnail dishes will be coupled with handmade pottery.

I love these bowls made for me by Nan Kilbourn-Tara because of the different design on each one.

The handblown wine glasses are  from Hungary,

and the wonderful knives, each a different color, are French designed Le Baroque.  They and the dishes are from TJ Maxx, often a wonderful resource for tableware at affordable prices.

The table is set, food is simmering.  All that is needed are family to join us for an evening at home.

Do check Thursday Tablescapes for other wonderful ideas.

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Finds for Me

Browsing antique shows may not result in treasures for me, but going to TJ Maxx in Rockland, Maine, is another story.  I don’t know what makes this particular outlet such a treasure trove, but every time I stop by I come out with a basket loaded with stuff.  Just look at the loot from the most recent visit.

Who can resist beautifully packaged soaps, gels and bubble bath from France and Italy?  Today, the shelves were filled with irresistible indulgences for bath and kitchen.

I’ve been wanting to spruce up the little girls’ room, and here’s the perfect bed set that came with comforter, sheets and shams, pillows and even a soft cuddly pink blanket.  Though a dust ruffle was not included, the comforter works just fine with the one already in place.  The girls love the new look.

If the bedding was a hit, so were the new duds which if after a few wearings look well used, it’s OK to send them away because the price was right.Hard as I try, I can never resist going to the kitchen, home goods area, and here I found just the right accessories for my soon to be finished and remodeled kitchen.  And the dishes, just what I need another set, but they will give a new look for a future tablescape!

Yep, TJ Maxx or, as a friend calls it, the Mother Ship is just the best, and it blows me away how  much can be found there.  One of the clerks told me they get a new shipment of stuff every day, so it’s well worth frequent stops.  Even my husband has started dropping in from time to time using as his excuse inexpensive golf balls to replace the many he loses on the course!

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