Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome October Table Setting

Ahhhh, October, my favorite month of the year. A magical, mystical month with so many things to enjoy, from cooler weather, to trees bursting with color, to, well, my birthday. I celebrate a milestone this year. I won't tell you which milestone, but I will say it's been a long trip.
This week's table reflects the seasonal changes that fall brings. Earthy colors, seasonal produce, and a more subdued setting. This was such an easy table to do. Yes, I did buy a few new things during a recent shopping excursion, but largely it is a simple redo of this table, and yet looks completely different.
The runner is the same. The new items are here. (I can see these placemats being used for a lot of holidays due to their neutral color and striped design -- be mindful of this when shopping for linens. I picture bright red or lime green napkins with them for Christmas.)
The centerpiece from the last table was dismantled and piled with fresh seasonal produce courtesy of Melissa's. (I'll be dicing, roasting, and caramelizing that Butterkin squash this weekend, and making a quince and apple crisp for dessert.) You can read more about the easy centerpiece here.
I used my favorite round wicker placemats, topped with the incredibly useful white nubby-edged plates. 
Then, yet again, I added these plates from 222 Fifth. Honestly, I think this set of plates was one of the best purchases I ever made. I use them again and again. 

Only the edge of these plates will show during dinner because the salad will be served on these wonderful Williams-Sonoma plates featuring William Hogarth drawings. (I bought these for Mr. O-P years ago because, as professor emeritus of 18th-century British literature and history, this was right up his alley. We love this set and use them all of the time.) When the salad course is finished, the black polka dotted plates will be removed along with the Hogarth plates and no one will be the wiser. 
The individual candle holders give the table a lovely glow when the lights are turned down. 
The yellow flatware, a gift from my mother years ago, adds a nice touch of color. The crows, a gift to myself.

These wonderful nubby glasses were supplied by the good people at Uncommon Goods (along with another fun item that you'll see later in the week).  They are stemless wine glasses, but can be used for water, iced tea, exotic cocktails, Agua Frescas, or, if you must, wine. I love these so much, they are such fun. How can you not enjoy a beverage served in one of these?
The napkin fold is called Bowtie.  Easy and fun, it allows use of napkin rings, so I'll be using these a lot this fall. You can get the instructions for this simple fold here.

Runner - Pottery Barn
Glasses – Uncommon Goods
Napkins - Pier One
Round wicker placemats - Pier One
Striped placemats and key napkin rings - The White Hare
White Plates - Old Time Pottery
Flatware - Noritake
Polka Dot winter scene plates - 222 Fifth
Hogarth plates - Williams-Sonoma
Crows – Antique Farmhouse

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Whopping Malted Milk Ball Brownies

There are brownies, and there are brownies, and, for the most part I can take them or leave them. That is until I flipped through the pages of a remarkable book by Connie Weis, Extreme Brownies, 50 Recipes for the Most Over the Top Treats Ever. Fifty. Over the top. And she is not kidding. This book can turn even the most disinterested brownie eater into one filled with passion. Get the mop ready, because turning the pages of this book, chock full of jump-off-the-page color photos, is going to make you drool, and turn you into a brownie chef extraordinaire.As a lover of malted milk balls, I was thrilled to see the recipe for Whopping Malted Milk Ball Brownies with their malted milk ball glaze, malted milk ball garnish, and milk chocolate drizzle.  One taste and I was in absolute heaven. Malted Milk Balls not your thing?  How about Peanut Butter Cup Brownies loaded with chunks of peanut butter cups in every bite? The book is as addicting as the brownies.  Even non-chocolate lovers (Is there such a thing?) will find something to love here.There are a baker's dozen recipes for Blondies -- think Caramel Crispie, White Chocolate Raspberry, and Lemon Mascarpone, to name but a few.  Weis, a confirmed chocoholic, asserts that extreme doesn't equal difficult, and she is right. The instructions are ample, clear, and concise, allowing even the novice cook to whip up a beautiful batch of eye-popping brownies. If brownies studded with extra ingredients does not appeal, try the PMS Brownies. This simple recipe yields a dense, sinfully chocolate brownie that will have your eyes rolling back into your head with pleasure.If you've ever had the experience of following a recipe exactly as written and still coming out with less than satisfactory results, the problem may lie in your choice of ingredients. Weis discusses ingredients at the beginning of the book, even going so far as to list brand names; I really appreciated that. There is a section on equipment necessary for creating the perfect brownie, as well as detailed steps on how to remove the uncut brownies from the pan in one slab to allow for bakery shop perfection when slicing, packaging, and shipping. This book is brownie perfection. 
Here is a sneak peek with this recipe for the Whopping Malted Milk Ball Brownies. Making these is a two-day project unless you start early. I didn't, and as they require 7-8 hours of refrigeration, made them over the course of a couple of days. They are a bit of work, but look how beautiful they are.  And the taste? Wonderful!  More like a decadent slice of dense cake, I plated these and served them with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. People were begging for more. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

The 5-Minute Centerpiece

I'm not gonna lie, I have a lot of dishes. I’ve had a passion for setting a pretty table ever since college when all I had was a card table with a bum leg, four mismatched place settings, and a piece of cloth.  I managed to turn it into an attractive setting, and with that I was off and running. I would gladly take other people's cast offs, single plates, anything I could find.  I loved the challenge of being able to create order out of chaos, I still do. So, I guess you could say that having a lot of dishes is my one indulgence. And because I indulge myself, I also tend to have a bit of a storage problem.  So, in the spirit of minimalizing (to a degree), I have been thinning out my supply of decorative pieces.  This can sometimes present a bit of a problem when putting a centerpiece together. Solutions for the present are often born from problems of the past.

A number of years ago, during a move, when I lost track of almost every Christmas decoration that I owned, I had no other choice but to get creative with organics - pine rope, cranberries, greenery, etc. Honestly, it was the most peaceful season ever because shopping for decorations in the produce department is just all kinds of easy. It also makes clean up a breeze, and the best part is that there is nothing to store. In addition, doing this kind of decorating every year means that you'll have something fresh and new each season and won't be pulling out the same old dusty pieces, wondering if they have another year of life in them (The answer is 
This fall centerpiece is an example of what I like to think of as organic decorating. The base is the same one that I used last week (and was actually a part of a floral piece that had seen better days years ago, so it was disassembled for parts).  I kept the moss in the bottom, and just piled up some organic seasonal produce from Melissa's. I love the pumpkin-shaped Butterkin squash with its pale color. The two of them provide a nice neutral background for baby pomegranates, quinces, and both real and faux grapes. I had a couple Alstroemeria left over from an arrangement, so tucked them in with the produce. Isn’t it lovely?
The next time you are wondering about what kind of centerpiece to use for your table, linger in the produce section of your local market and see what you can find. Pile things up in a bowl and sit back and wait for the compliments.  
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Napkin Folding 101 - Bowtie

Yesterday I showed you the goodies that I bought on a recent shopping excursion, and here you see two of them in use in this darling Bowtie Napkin Fold. I love dressing up tables with pretty folds, but often lament the fact that I never get to use any of the rings in my ever-growing collection.  Thanks to this fold, found in what I consider to be the definitive book on napkin folding, Top 100 Step-by-Step Napkin Folds by Denise Vivaldo (more about that later in the week), I can have a pretty fold and use my napkin rings too.

 I’m going to give you a sneak peek of the book here with the pages illustrating this cute fold.  Come back later in the week for more photos and information that will have you champing at the bit to add this book to your collection. 

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