Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Before There Was "Tablescaping"

I was looking for a recipe recently in what is known at my house as "The Cookbook" and it occurred to me. I've been tablescaping a long time...long before I had ever heard the term. Back in 1985 when I was a mere twelve years old (just checking to see if you are reading :), I co-edited a cookbook for a local charitable organization in my old hometown. Three of us headed a large committee that worked tirelessly for a year and a half to produce a first class cookbook that has since sold close to 100,000 copies...and we did it on a wing and a prayer.

There was not a professional among us stagers. Nobody had ever heard of food styling. The photographer was a professional--the same couple who had done all of our wedding pictures and baby portraits. But we had a town rich in beauty, heritage, good cooks, and elegant hostesses. This is one of the first photos we took against the backdrop of the Mississippi River. I apologize for the quality of the photos. They are photos of photos. Pictures are long since lost.

I don't think there was any such thing as "faux food". Photographing food in heat before the aspic melted or the icing slid off the cake was a challenge! All the cooking was done by our committee. Garnishes, dishes, and accessories were painstakingly planned and gathered.

This was one of my favorite my favorite shoots. While the cotton farmer was more than willing to let us photograph in his field, he could not afford to stop the harvest. The cotton pickers in the background are just business going on as usual.

Beautiful antebellum homes were the sites for some of our photo shoots. You've seen this china before on my table. It's my Rosalinde by Haviland--breakfast for two in one of the grand private homes that has been lovingly restored.

This one is called "After the Theatre Encore" and was taken in another beautiful home said to be inhabited by the ghost of a former resident. We waited for the swishing of petticoats and the smell of a strange perfume, but we were alone on this particular day.

I suppose this is one of my personal favorites--partly because it's dessert and partly because my grandmother's cake plate has a prominent spot. You've seen it before here. It continues to be the focal point for lots of special occasions at my house. I think this is tablescaping, don't you?...even if it's in a cotton field or the bank of a river. Susan at Between Naps on the Porch is graciously hosting Tablescape Thursday. Click the button to visit her and a list of talented tablescapers.

And just in case you're hungry now, here is the recipe for maple parfait pictured in the crystal goblet above . Michael at Designs by Gollum is hosting Foodie Friday. She's just a click away on my sidebar. Thanks to Susan and Michael!

Maple Parfait

Heat 1/2 cup pure maple syrup. Pour over two beaten egg yolks. Combine and cook in a double boiler for fifteen minutes. Cool and fold in the two egg whites which have been stiffly beaten. Fold in 1/2 pint of heavy cream which has been whipped. Fold in one cup of chopped pecans. Pour into parfait glasses and chill.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SHhhhh.....Sometimes We Break the Law

I live in a beautiful community and the reason for that is, in part, we have rules and laws--lots of them. We have rules about parking, rules about grass length, rules about businesses, lots of rules about signage. And recently, I heard that we have a law about the number of pets you can own...uh oh. Kelee over at Katillac Shack is having a Pet Parade on Wednesday. For each link $3 will be donated to care for needy pets. I thought it was a good time to introduce you to the furry part of the family.

Meet Shelby. We are trying on our Halloween costumes a little early--just to make sure they fit. Shelby likes treats and is prone to put on a few pounds. Shelby is a Maltese. Beloved gave her to me for Valentine's Day one year after I lost my fourteen year old fox terrier. I had said I thought I might like what he calls a "fifi" dog--a prissy little lap dog. Shelby is in no way a "fifi". She is happiest when she is dirty and running through fields. She thinks she is a hunting dog. She is, however, fiercely loyal-- a real one-person dog. I, however, am NOT that person. She is strictly Beloved's dog--no ifs ands, or buts. I do love her. When Beloved goes out of town, I am very conscientious about taking her on long walks. I make sure that she is suitably outfitted for the weather. See?

This is the old man of the family--Hershey. Hershey is a Boykin spaniel who adopted us. He had been bought as a gift for a two year old and it didn't work out---imagine that. So Hershey stole our hearts and came to live with us as a ball of brown curls. He is old and a little arthritic now. He has lived through three children and two puppies. He has earned a rest and and our respect.

If you visit me often, you've already met Jessie. Jessie is mine-- I am her person! She is a three year old shih tzu who takes every step I take and sleeps by my head. We are ,as my godson says "like peas and carrots"--we go together!

Jessie has decided to be a ladybug for Halloween. And up to this point, we are okay legally on the number of pets. But from here the water gets a little murky. We are frequently called upon to babysit "granddogs". You've met Hannah before.

She is the product of a broken home. A former girlfriend gave her to my oldest son several years ago--Hannah lasted; the girlfriend didn't. Hannah is the funniest dog I have ever met and absolutely a daddy's girl.

This is Cooper. You may remember that Cooper and his mom (our daughter) got married this summer. He is adjusting beautifully and adores his new dad and new last name.

And finally meet Charlie, our baby's baby and the newest member of the family. Our youngest son got Charlie, a springer spaniel, in June. When "the baby" comes home, so does Charlie. Are you counting?...are you a government official?....I hope not. Shhh....don't tell anybody....sometimes we break the law. Join Kelee and lots of other pets on parade here!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Just Ducky Baby Shower

This is the baby shower that almost wasn't. For days now the mother to be has been threatening to go into labor about a month early, one of the hostesses (me!) got sick, and the weather could not have been more uncooperative. In short, I thought the chances of this baby shower happening with success were slim and none. Fortunately, on Sunday afternoon everything turned out just ducky!

Welcome! You may remember I posted here about making a wreath using the yellow and blue theme to use on my door for the shower. I gave the wreath to our guest of honor after the shower to use at home on her door. I temporarily replaced the ferns in my urns :) with yellow mums. But come on inside...before you get wet.

Last week when Marty at A Stroll Through Life had her party, I made a "test cloche" for the shower. I used silver keepsakes from my own children (because they have left it all here!) and yellow roses in the foyer. One thing I did learn. If you plan to use live flowers in a cloche for a special event, do not cover with the cloche until right before the event is to take place. It tends to form moisture. I don't know why and don't need to know. I am not the Alton Brown of cloches or baby showers. :)

We'll stack the gifts in this antique crib. I came home with this from an estate sale a while back much to the horror of Beloved and my children. There were no hidden messages in the purchase. I have always wanted one and this one was a good price. I do hope to one day use it for more than stacking gifts :)

I arranged yellow roses in this darling wicker bassinet I bought online. The shoes belong to Sunshine's godchild and have votive holders filled with roses. I really think old scuffed high tops would have been better, but I could not locate a pair.

The shower was an all girl tea-like affair, so we served dainty finger foods, cake, and punch. The cake, which anchored one end of the table, was a precious three dimensional duck made by a local school teacher who bakes on the side.

We served punch from my grandmother's cut glass punch bowl on the other end of the table. I am happy to have any excuse to use this bowl. It was my paternal grandmother who first taught me to appreciate pretty china and crystal. She'd be glad to see it welcoming a new baby.

We served a variety of finger sandwiches--tomato basil, chicken salad, and cucumber spread. Pastry cups were filled with shrimp salad. There was a cheese tray with grapes with crystallized sugar.

We served strawberries filled with cream cheese icing.

My daughter wanted to serve the strawberries on her Annieglass cake pedestal. It was a recent wedding gift and she was anxious to use it....another generation to appreciate pretty china and crystal :).

I cut the bread for the cucumber sandwiches with a duck cookie cutter. The recipe which is always a hit with both men and women was in one of my very first posts. You can find it here.

Finally, as the guest were leaving we gave them an edible favor. I had these at a baby shower last year and have been waiting for the chance to use the idea.

The "pacifier" is made of Lifesavers and jellybeans "glued" together with icing! I found enough blue and yellow jelly beans in one bag to continue the color scheme of the shower.

I used a tube of white icing. First spread icing inside and slightly around the hole of one Lifesaver. Attach another Lifesaver perpendicular with the edge of the second Lifesaver. Allow these to dry. Then fill the center of the first Lifesaver with icing and insert the jellybean in the color of your choice. Allow to dry. I attached the curling ribbon just for more color.

The shower was a success and the guest of honor is ready any time the little one decides to make his appearance. Susan will be showing you gorgeous tables for Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch. Just click on her button to join her. On Friday click Michael's Foodie Friday button to join her at Designs by Gollum for lots of food fun! Thanks for joining us at our party!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Stroll Down Television Memory Lane

At long last, it's fall television premier time...and just in the nick of time, at least for me. I don't think I can stand one more dreary night of reruns or those awful filler shows. But I started thinking back to a time when Beloved and I had routine shows that we watched and couldn't miss...back when we were newly married, had young babies, and free entertainment was really important!

Back then our tv was a large cabinet affair in the downstairs basement family room--ughh, I still hate basements! Our Friday night routine was to put the kiddies to bed by eight and the steaks on the grill by 8:30. At 9:00 sharp we were sitting on the floor eating on the coffee table with this family.

I couldn't wait to see what mischief JR and Bobby were up to each week. I eagerly awaited the fashions of Sue Ellen and Pam. And, of course, seeing Miss Ellie was like having a visit with your own mom. They were an interesting, if dysfunctional family.

But they were not the only dysfunctional family I loved to watch! Do you remember the tv show where this matriarch held court?

Jane Wyman was the mistress of "Falcon Crest" which showed us the not so pretty underbelly of a family winery. It's hard to believe this conniving woman was ever married to that sweet mild mannered Ronald Reagan :)

On Saturday nights my favorite sound (besides the gentle snoring of sleeping children) was "da plane da plane!", followed by that deep voice of Ricardo Montelban bidding me "welcome to Fantasy Island". Of course, we also loved to travel to and each week we did.

We went to exotic places with a wonderful crew and quirky new passengers each week! But the eighties were not without serious moments and some social conscience.

I loved "Thirty-Something"! The characters seemed just a little older and much more worldly than I....not to mention their lives were a little more sophisticated and complicated! And some things I watched purely for ummm...... educational reasons.

I thought Harry Hamlin and Corbin Bernsen in "LA Law" were two of the most educational men I'd ever seen :) So this week and next, I'll be looking for some old favorites--"House","Brothers and Sisters", all the "Law and Orders", and "CSI Miami" to name a few, but I'm looking forward to a couple of new ones too.

The "Good Wife", starring Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth, is about a politician jailed in a sex and corruption scandal. Margulies, the "good wife", is forced to carry on and return to a legal career to save her family...wonder how they came up with this novel plot ? On a lighter note, "Glee" looks like it might be a winner to me. It is billed as a musical comedy with an ensemble cast.

Maybe "Fame" and "Happy Days" all rolled into one! Anyway, thanks for strolling down memory lane with me. These are "Three or More" of my old favorites. What was your favorite show of the eighties? Join Tam, our gracious hostess, at The Gypsy's Corner at for more collections and lists! Thanks Tam!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Celebrities for Dinner

I am glad to be joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday and Michael at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. As I've said before, they complement each other and I am happy to visit both! This week I was in charge of a committee to do flowers for a luncheon of about sixty women--eight tables in a lovely setting overlooking the city. Between that pig thing going around and wanderlust, I ended up as committee of one. The good news--no boring meetings to discuss strategy. The bad news--I am NOT a florist. But I do have a Costco card and I know how to use it!

The luncheon went off without a hitch and now I am left with all these flowers! So .....I invited celebrities for dinner!

I started out with these lovely cream colored dishes with scalloped edges and brown etched fleur de lis accents. They are made by Nina Campbell a London designer with a home line that I believe is offered exclusively at Steinmart. She has beautiful basic pieces with lovely details in several colors. I like the cream and brown for fall. Besides it works so well with these wooden chargers with the leaf design.

I layered a dark green salad plate on top of the Nina Campbell. The salad plates are a Marshalls find. I like to buy salad plates or bowls. They can completely change the personality of a neutral plate. These have a raised grape and grape leaf pattern on them and are called Bordeaux made by Raymond Waites.

I recently saw this idea for individual bouquets that hold place cards. They are actually salt and pepper shakers from Walmart with the top removed . I just added a few mums and fern fronds from the yard. I use these stemmed votive holders all the time. I like the heighth on the table. Now, let's see-- that's a place for Ted and a place for Bob.

Alice will sit here. The bold plaid of the napkins have all the tablescape and flower colors--orange, gold, greens, and brown. I just pushed them down into the stemmed bronze tea glass. They may be celebrities, but they're just folks like us.

If you like old movies, by now, the names are beginning to sound vaguely familiar! Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was was a risque' movie in the late sixties when free love was just making its way to the over thirty set! I love all these actors! Honestly, those are the first four names that popped in my mind as I was making "faux place cards". But what do you serve for dessert when Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice are coming for, not that :)

There is Carol's spot with Cinnamon baked apples with dumplings! These are my grandmother's sherbet glasses. I finally got a shot where you can see a little of the beautiful etching.

Baked apples make a great guilt free fall dessert and this presentation makes it an elegant dessert as well. It will look like you went to a lot more trouble than you did and I'm all for that...even for celebrities :).

Core Rome or Golden Delicious apples. I don't all the way through to the bottom, Fill it with whatever concoction you like--brown sugar, Splenda, butter, raisins, cinnamon, etc. Next, lay a prepared pie crust out on a floured surface. (I've told you --Sister Schubert makes my rolls and the dough boy makes my crusts :) Cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 10 inches long. Criss cross two strips to form an X and place the filled apple in the middle. Pull strips up around the apple and tuck into the center. Next, using the leftover crust cut out small leaves an attach to top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You may need to cover the leaf garnish with foil at the end to prevent over browning. Garnish with a cinnamon stick stuck in the center. Serve warm. Great with whipped cream or topping.

Just a reminder about Deck the Halls on Tuesdays starting December 1. If you'd like, go ahead and take the reminder button from the sidebar. I'd be grateful if you helped me spread the word. I will be doing a full post about it next week. Gotta go--Elliot Gould needs me!

Click on the TT button to see more tablescapes and on Friday click the Foodie Friday to head over to Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Design Star......Green With Envy?

Antonio Ballatore, a forty year old set designer from LA won HGTV's Design Star competition last night. His competition was twenty six year old Dan Vickery from Oregon. I've been reading comments on the HGTV website. Whewww...I felt like I had opened a can of worms! Most of his detractors criticized the green master bedroom in the house. But do any of you remember this bedroom?

This is the master bedroom in the HGTV 2009 Dream Home--green. That color that Genevieve called "almost offensive" in a good way when Antonio used it. Even the ceiling is green.

This is the master bedroom that Antonio created for real people who share their space with a small child. He did this, a kitchen, a family room and a child's room in four days with $50,000. Oh yeah, and he threw in a bathroom for free :) The color is not the exact same as the Dream Home bedroom, but they are definitely related. This room doesn't have as many of the beautiful white accents...but again, real people will live here. I think it looks more like Real least the ones I know :)

I've been reading comments that call the color "nauseating", "painful", and "insulting". "Terrible" was probably one of the nicer descriptions. Oddly enough, I bet these are the same people in love with that "fresh green" in the Dream Home. Okay, so he's not Vern Yip. Candace Olsen called him "Design Star meets the Sopranos". I fell in love with Antonio in the white room challenge when he offered to help Lonni. I like nice guys. I like nice talented guys. I'll be watching The Antonio Project next Sunday night. Yo Antonio! Congratulations!