Friday, November 29, 2013

A Thanksgiving Tablescape With Rural Scenes

For this year's Thanksgiving table, I changed my mind at the last minute and put aside the traditional Thanksgiving turkey plates.

 I opted instead to set the table with one of my favorite patterns, Rural Scenes by A. J. Wilkinson.

Besides the charming scene at the center of the plate, I am smitten by the brown border of farm implements, invoking a feeling of harvest time.

 I layered the plates over a beautiful shade of green charger and used formal, traditional matching silver.

 Plaid fringed napkins from April Cornell keep things casual.

For the centerpiece, I used white pumpkins, dried heirloom hydrangeas, antlers, moss and copper votives.

The candles are lit!
All the colors from the plate are carried through and become more apparent with the glow from the copper votives.

 I've been collecting these plates for several years now, finding them at antique malls, eBay and Replacements.

I love using the crystal wine hocks that were passed down from my Mother-in-law!

Several years ago, I used these same plates for a tablescape...

... but I think they are perfect as the quintessential Thanksgiving plate!

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

State of Grace

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because for one day, we can all agree that to be in a state of grace and gratitude transcends all races, creeds and beliefs.
We celebrate this day with our loved ones--family and friends, but also include those that have no family or place to go and break bread with.

We gather for a chance to be thankful for all that we have, to acknowledge our appreciation for each other and our good fortune, however big or small.
Which brings me to grace.
You know, grace before we devour all that turkey and trimmings!

 You see, I believe that grace isn't a little prayer you chant before a meal, but a way to live.
It just so happens that this year, I'm in charge of grace.
And I'm thinking a lot about it and how I want to say it.

Just as I'm cooking a meal that accommodates those who are vegetarian, gluten or lactose intolerant, I also am aware that my words should resonate with a common theme, however we believe--that of gratitude for all those at our table, be it Christian, Jewish, Humanist etc., I want to say something meaningful that we can all agree on.
This is my prayer:

    "For what we are about to receive
    let us be truly thankful
    …to those who planted the crops
    …to those who cultivated the fields
    …to those who gathered the harvest.
    For what we are about to receive
    let us be truly thankful
    to those who prepared it and those who served it.
    In this festivity let us remember too
    those who have no festivity
    those who cannot share this plenty
    those whose lives are more affected than our own
    by war, oppression and exploitation
    those who are hungry, sick and cold
    In sharing in this meal
    let us be truly thankful
    for the good things we have
    for the warm hospitality
    and for this good company."

 May your Thanksgiving be absolutely wonderful, and may your day be filled with a state of grace and gratitude.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Do You Suffer From Norman Rockwell Syndrome?

 Do you suffer from "Norman Rockwell Syndrome?"
You know, the image in your head of the perfect holiday that you try to create, only to fall short because you either lack culinary skills, a proper dining table, your dishes and silverware are mis-matched and you have no idea how to pull it all together!

Although I'm culinary challenged, Thanksgiving dinner is the one meal that I always say I can cook with my eyes closed!  However I have lots of help these days from my husband who loves to cook and two children who are chefs, so I can concentrate on the important stuff like how it all looks, and facilitating the presentation.
Here are a few tips to help pull your holiday together without the stress of "Norman Rockwell Syndrome."

The Table:

Don't let mis-matched dishes or silverware deter you.
I think mixing up patterns actually makes for a more interesting table.
And gone are the days of white tablecloths that our grandmothers used.
Simple and casual is better and easier too.  (No ironing involved!)

A fun, seasonal decoration, mini pumpkins not only say Thanksgiving, but can be used as name tags.
Just get out your magic marker!

For the centerpiece, think low and long like this succulent arrangement I made a few years ago.
Just add candles!

Carving out a pumpkin and filling it with a grocery store bouquet is a wow factor.
Believe me, it looks hard, but it's so easy to do.
See how to here.

Or a simple centerpiece can be made using little potted culinary herbs.
The good news is you can use them to brine your bird!

The Food:

Brining the turkey overnight in a salt water bath draws water into the cells so that it stays moist when cooked.
I know this looks complicated, and it is totally optional, but I've found that it does add to the juiciness and flavor of the turkey.  Recipe here.

If brining is too much, then cook your bird the way our grandmothers did.
Just salt and pepper it, toss on some herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme (from your centerpiece!) and throw it in the oven.
Use a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh and when the temperature reads 165 degrees, pull it out.
Do not rely on that little pop-up button because by the time it pops up, your turkey is too done.
Just saying, Butterball people!

Don't feel like you have to prepare the entire meal by yourself!
Give your guests a dish that matches their skill set that they can bring, like sautéed brussel sprouts, an easy pumpkin pie--or you can make them the day before.

The less skilled can bring drinks or hors d'oeuvres.

Be sure to designate the turkey carver ahead of time too.
This is where the Norman Rockwell picture just doesn't work.
It makes for a beautiful picture carrying the turkey to the table, but it should be carved ahead of time.
In fact, I don't like serving the food on the table, but prefer setting up a buffet instead.

The Buffet:

I no longer have a buffet in my dining room, so I use the center island in the kitchen as a buffet.
Here's how it works:

I have my guests sit for grace followed by salad.
After the salad is finished, I have someone help clear their salad plates while I announce that dinner is served.  They pick up their dinner plate which sits on a charger and carry it to the buffet to serve themselves.

After dinner, dessert is brought to the table and served to the guests who wish to partake, along with coffee or tea.

This is a system that works for me.  
I find that offering grace or a toast to begin the meal followed by soup or salad, then serving the main course buffet style keeps the mess and confusion away from the table.  It helps if a guest offers to help with the clearing of dishes too!  

Just remember that the whole point of Thanksgiving dinner is to be with friends and family in a state of gratitude.  
And that's why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, even if I can never achieve that Norman Rockwell picture of perfection!  

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Flashback Friday: Talking Turkey

Turkey plates, that is.  
I wrote this post a few years ago and thought it would be fun to revisit these classic turkey plates to whet your Thanksgiving whistle!
Beginning with this wonderful, brown transferware plate by Wedgewood called "His Majesty."

Johnson Brothers has many turkey plate patterns to choose from.  This one is called "Woodland Wild Turkey."
Notice the detail around the rim.

Another version of the Johnson Brothers plate, called "Woodland Turkey."
I actually found these last year at Tuesday Morning for $5.99 each!

And my all time favorite is this plate, also by Johnson Brothers, named "Wild Turkeys."
The rim is the same as my Windsorware Harvest plates and would mix nicely.  
They are highly collectible and currently priced at $89.95 at Replacements.  

"Barnyard King," by Johnson Brothers is a really fun plate.  I'm a squirrel nut (no pun intended), so if I ever came across this in an antique store, I would definitely buy it!

Another Johnson Brothers plate, "Autumn Monarch" is splendid with the pumpkin and fall leaf border.

"Queen's Myott," by Churchill is still around.  I've seen them in the past at Marshall's
and TJ Maxx!

Spode also has quite a few patterns to choose from, both vintage and new, like this one.

Spode's "Wild Turkey" plate has a lovely dark brown, almost black rim.

The brown transferware Spode, "Celebration Turkey" plate.

And finally, these plates from Pottery Barn for you to start your instant Thanksgiving plate collection, if hunting for years in antique stores, searching for that vintage pattern isn't your thing!

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I'm very traditional and love the Thanksgiving cliche elements.  The formula that works for me is paisley or plaid, turkey plates, fall flowers, leaves and gourds, stag horn flatware and jewel tone crystal. Hey, why re-invent the wheel?

For more "turkey talk,"  please visit Nancy at for her feature on turkey platters and their history here.   She was even interviewed and featured by Romantic Homes!
Nancy also has an Etsy shop specializing in transferware.  If you are looking for turkey plates, this is THE site to visit here.

Here are a few traditional suggestions for your turkey day table:

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Are You Looking At?

"What are you looking at?"

This little squirrel must think she's Cinderella or something, waiting for the pumpkin to turn into a carriage!

As if!

No matter, she's going to the ball anyway.
Make that a banquet!
She is one happy squirrel devouring this pumpkin.
And that's what happens when you leave the pumpkins on the porch too long in this neighborhood!

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