This year most of Bryan’s family will be out of town for Easter. Since we have a small house and a relatively small dining room, hosting smaller groups is ideal for us. While I love packing everybody into the dining room (we’ve had as many as 14 for brunch), I also love to have the extra room to properly set the table. So, we decided to have an early Easter with just our family and a few friends. (Look for the menu and recipes to be posted on the blog). This table was inspired by several key elements, including “real” Easter eggs – green, blue and pinkish brown eggs from Araucana chickens, daffodils (my favorite spring flowers), and Cream of Sorrel soup. Each place setting has its own egg, in an egg cup with some freshly cut grass – I thought about using the eggs as placecards, but 1. I hate assigned seating, 2. I didn’t want to ruin the natural beauty of the eggs by writing on them.
Sorrel soup was the impetus for the small cabbage shaped bowls. Sorrel comes up early in the spring and sorrel soup is a delicacy that is not readily available. Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of sorrel to make the soup. I really wanted to serve sorrel soup for Easter, but knew that I would only be able to offer each guest a small amount. So as to not look skimpy, I went out in search of pretty “little” bowls. I found these small bowls (they’d be great for dips as well) a tPier I Imports. I love daffodils – they just speak Spring, but I needed a splash of color, so the purple hyacinths were perfect. When I think of Easter, baskets, and eggs, I think of grass. Wheat grass is available live at specialty grocery stores – I was lucky enough to find the wheat grass at Meijer. Not only is it cool as a decorative element for an Easter table, you can feed it to your pets (Humphrey loves grass) or put it in a smoothie.
Spring brings so much beauty and inspiration that there’s no reason not to enjoy a beautiful Easter or Passover table.
While I never tire of eating at the dining room table which was custom designed and handmade for me by Bryan, it is nice to mix it up every once in while. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of Braised Lamb, Pureed Potatoes (Sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold Potatoes) and Broccoli Rabe (not my favorite). Look for Braised Lamb recipe to be posted soon.I’m glad we made use of the fireplace, Spring seems to have arrived and fireplace season may have come to an end.
I bought the two Angel’s Tears plants a couple of weeks ago when I was just hoping for the arrival of Spring. They did the trick and brought some immediate Spring to the dining room. I was ready to buy some pretty yellow tulips the other day when I spotted the delicate, whimsical Feverfew (in the center); a few stems worked beautifully in an antique jar.
I could hardly believe that Summer Solstice had come and gone and we had yet to have dinner in the garden. Bryan and I enjoy our postage stamp back yard; it’s like having a couple of extra rooms in the summer time. We did some renovating this year, so it seems that we’ve been busy working in the yard, but not enjoying it as much as we usually do. So, the time had come. We enjoyed a meal of Pan Seared Pork Tenderloin with a Red Currant Glaze and Fried Sage Leaves, Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Green Onions, Sauteed red Swiss chard, and grilled Ciabatta bread. We enjoyed one of my favorite bottles of wine entitled “Sofa King Bueno” from an obscure, but fantastic winery named Chronic Cellars. The lightning bugs were out in full force, but the mosquitos were not, the sound of the fishpond waterfall served as nice backdrop, and Etta James was playing on the outdoor speakers. We enjoyed the last of our wine on the porch, and I was sorry to have to have to return to the indoors.
This was Fourth of July Dinner for twelve ( well, actually 16, but the kids ate in the other room). We had such a great random group of people that it really put our “bench seating” to the test. It worked out magnificently. I did use paper napkins, simply because I don’t own red and blue cloth napkins, and I wanted the table to be festive. The hydrangeas in the center of the two flower arrangements were, unfortunately, dyed. I didn’t realize this until I got them home and saw that the leaves had a blue tint. I abhor dyed flowers, but was caught off guard, so I had to work with them – they were the perfect color. Our meal included jalapeno pork poppers, deviled eggs, classic potato salad, Caprese salad with fresh arugula and lettuce, three bean salad, broccoli rice casserole, barbequed ribs and chicken, grilled beef kabobs, and grilled sweet Italian sausage. We finished it off with strawberry shortcake (my Summer Berry Pie for the Fourth of July was eaten during the day). The thunderstorms put a hamper on our festivities, but we made the best of it and enjoyed a great dinner.
A family tradition is that we celebrate everyone’s birthday with a nice homecooked meal chosen by the birthday person. As much as I love to set an elegant table, I think it’s important to match the setting to the meal. This poses a challenge when one of the kids chooses homemade chicken tenders for their birthday dinner. In this case, we were celebrating Hannah’s birthday. She’s not technically family, but she lives across the street and is my daughter’s best friend, so she might as well be family. Lizzie suggested that I make Hannah a birthday dinner, and Hannah chose my Chicken Tortilla Soup (which I decided to serve with simple cheese quesadillas). I wanted to set a pretty pink and green table, but it just didn’t really fit with the Mexican theme. So, I ended up using my random brightly colored plates (which I found at the Dollar Store) and some paper napkins that had similar colors. I had a beautiful bouquet of bright pink gladiolas which didn’t quite match, but I was just going to go with them, but Hannah’s parents showed up with a beautiful bunch of bright red gerber daisies which were perfect! I wasn’t thrilled with the look of the white bowls, but it was either white or black, and black just didn’t seem to be the right choice for a girl’s sweet sixteen birthday dinner. We all enjoyed a nice evening thanks to Hannah!
As we near Thanksgiving 2012, I thought it was a good time to post a picture of last year’s Thanksgiving table. Of course this means I will have to come up with a new tablescape this year; although, I’m I love the bittersweet and now have my own secret source on campus. For those of you who are particularly astute, you likely noticed that this is Thanksgiving for two. Yes, Bryan and I cooked a whole Thanksgiving meal (including a 22 lb. turkey) for ourselves. I love Thanksgiving, and I would have to say that I love it even more when there is zero family drama! This year we will again celebrate the holiday on Friday (we are clearly not shoppers), and we will have all three kids, so it may not be as quiet, but it should be great.
It’s late March here in Michigan and we are desperately awaiting the arrival of Spring. Easter is only about two weeks away, so I’ve decided to break out all of my spring pastel dishes. This dinner was a birthday celebration for a my former sister-in-law and my former mother-in-law (it’s a little more complicated than that, but not worthy of discussion). On the menu was Simple Spring Salad with Pear, Grilled Shallots, and Gorgonzola medallions, Chicken Piccata, Pasta with Traditional Marinara Sauce, Mini Banana Cream Pies for dessert.
This year I hosted Friendsgiving the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I did this several years ago and my Friendsgiving friend convinced me that I must do it again! I loved not having the pressure of cooking on a day when most stores were closed or had run out of things. I was expecting 26 guests and had seating for 19 and the kids (7 -10 of them) were going to just make do in the family room. I always find some starting point of inspiration for my tables – for the main table it was crab apples. I spotted them in bunches at the Farmer’s Market and couldn’t resist. I just put them in a vase (actually it was an ice cream sundae glass). I also did a couple of bunches of tulips and put some of the crab apples which had fallen from the stems into the vases of the tulips. I mixed and matched side plates and chargers, but used (as I typically do) all white dinner plates. I only have a photo of one of the other tables – the one in front of the fireplace. I went with a green theme for that table. The picture window table had some heirloom pumpkins/gourds and had festive orange and mustard colored side plates with coordinating napkins. I always have so much fun decorating the table for a crowd, and this table earned plenty of compliments. Next year I’ll save myself some money and when I’m out walking the dog, I’ll scout out a good supply for crab apples.
Immediately after Thanksgiving, I pull out the Spode Christmas Tree China. It was a gift from my parents (my step-mom was the Spode Royal Worcester sales rep in Chicago) years ago, and I cherish it. It’s great because it’s beautiful, festive, but casual – that last part is important because I think people feel intimidated by china that is too formal. I always want people to feel welcome rather than intimidated. We don’t usually sit-down for Christmas dinner – we have more of an open house, so buffet works better, but we had a nice holiday Sunday dinner just before Christmas and this was the table. I did use paper napkins, but had it been Christmas or Christmas eve, I probably would have busted out the linens. In addition to the Christmas Tree China, I have some lovely retro green glasses that really only get used this time of year. I didn’t go crazy on flowers; just one simple arrangement (for the Christmas buffet I switched it up and used evergreens, red winterberries and white tulips and used red candles). This dinner was only set for 10, so I was able to use chargers at each place setting – while I can fit as many as 12 at the table, I can’t usually do so with full-sized chargers. Overall, it was a great dinner and I think everyone enjoyed the festive but comfortable atmosphere.
We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a day early as part of our Sunday Family dinner. We had the traditional Boiled Irish Dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage and a fabulous Luck of the Irish Brownie Sundae for dessert. The table was pretty simple, but, of course, included lucky shamrocks – they’re hard to see in the picture. I accented those with simple daisies which had a pretty greenish center.