Monday, July 21, 2014

A Romantic Summer Table

When I needed inspiration for a romantic table for two, I didn't have to look further than the fabulously talented, Linda, of More Fun Less Laundry and herSomething Old, Something New: Borrowing from a Master table.  She, in turn, was inspired by another terrific designer and tablescaper, Delores, of Vignette Design and her “Romantic Candlelight Dinner.”  But, oh, my!  These ladies are so talented!  Am I being too presumptuous in trying to copy their beautiful designs?

Let me show you what I mean.  Here's Delores' original design:

Vignette Design

Isn't this just beautiful?  But, wait!  Here's Linda's interpretation, inspired by Delores' design:

More Fun Less Laundry

Fabulous, isn't it?  Linda took Delores' Valentine vision and gave it a Christmas twist to celebrate her daughter's engagement and holiday homecoming.  What a lovely way to celebrate such a romantic occassion!  Ah, love!

I owe a huge debt, not only to Linda and Delores, but to so many other wonderful tablescapers who generously share their ideas and wisdom and inspire me with their amazing talent . . .

However, it's all well and good to want to copy a design . . . but then comes the hard work - and the challenges . . . like the red chargers . . . I'm sad to say I don't have any . . . a travesty, to be sure, one that needs to be remedied very soon!

So, if red is not going to be the inspiration . . . perhaps then it has to come from the beautiful salad plate . . .  I love these pink floral dishes - Chintz Rose by Johnson Brothers . . .


I also have rattan chargers that match the napkin rings, and our everyday Traditions dinner plates from Williams-Sonoma are very similar to the ones Delores used . . .


It so happens that I have some lovely linens from Horchow that I've yet to use . . .


I fell in love with the lacy pattern and its heart-shaped edging . . .


It looks so frothy . . . One can easily imagine Anne of Austria giving a handkerchief trimmed like this to the dashing Duke of Buckingham as a token of her love . . . although it might have been more difficult to replace (after all, lacemaking takes so long!) than the diamond necklace she gave him instead, and which almost cost young M. D'Artagnan his life . . .I'm referring, of course, to The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas . . .


If you need a good novel filled with interesting characters, handsome musketeers, a queen in distress, and plenty of court intrigue, this book is for you!  It's also a wonderful study of the manners of the court of Louis XIII . . .  I've read it in both, English . . .


and Spanish . . .


I wish I was more fluent in French to be able to read it in its original language . . .

And, believe me, just because there are many movies adapted from this novel, none of them comes close to capturing its essence, the intricacies of its plot, the sense of humor of the author, its . . . je ne sais quoi . . . 

Oh, my, I've digressed!  Don't ever get me started on M. Dumas!  I can become quite tedious!  So, back to tablescaping.  Linens . . . Check . . .


Napkin rings . . . check!  I have the same ones that Linda uses . . . I decided to leave the little button exposed, instead of tucking it underneath, like Linda did . . .


Linda's silverware is just beautiful, but the Monticello by Reed and Barton has a similar “feel” although it's stainless steel, not sterling.  The thread pattern delightfully forms a heart shape at the heel . . .


Delores considered roses and candlelight as being absolutely essential to her design . . . This table needed delicate pink roses to match the salad plates, and mercury glass vases, so I contacted Robert, of Robert's Floral Design Studio in Chicago - my florist and friend - I've known him since high school and he's been doing arrangements for me since Lee and I got married . . .


For a quiet dinner at home, I'd normally go to my local grocery store to buy the roses, and then spend an enjoyable half hour arranging them myself, but I've been out of town attending my son's graduation from Basic Combat Training in South Carolina . . . and the table really needed to be ready today!  So Robert received an SOS - Save Our Sanity - and he came to the rescue!


Do you see the hearts in the vases?  Even the Galax Green leaves are heart-shaped!  This was totally Robert's doing, who uncannily seems to anticipate my every wish . . .


I pulled out the stash of mercury glass votives . . .


The glasses were an easy choice:  My mother's crystal goblets . . .


The table was set with both, water goblets and champagne glasses . . .


Of course, a rose was tucked into each of the napkin rings . . .


Which was actually a very tight fit . . . Delores’ napkin rings would have worked better!


And now the table is set . . .


Ready for a summer romantic celebration . . . such as an anniversary, perhaps . . .

 
What do you think . . . ?  Does it pass muster . . . ?
 

When darkness arrived, we lit the candles . . .  It was important that the mood be just right . . .


Roses scented the air . . .


Candlelight cast a soft glow on the table . . .


The champagne was poured . . .


“Unchained Melody” played in the background . . . 


 And my husband and I quietly - and romantically - celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary . . .

Joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  Stop by for inspiration!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Family Day at Fort Jackson

The day before graduation from Basic Combat Training is declared “Family Day.”  Families and new soldiers are reunited and granted an on-base pass for most of the day.  Fort Jackson is quite large, encompassing 52,000 acres and even has a movie theatre and bowling alley!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First came a brief, but poignant ceremony, at Hilton Field.  There was an invocation by the chaplain, the Star-Spangled Banner was played, and then . . .


The Army proceeded to demonstrate a tactical maneuver in which they kill some terrorists trying to set off a bomb and then secure the area.  I don't have a single photo of this, since I was in a state of shock.  I'm sure the Army meant to impress the parents and reassure us of the very thorough training that the soldiers were receiving, but all I kept thinking was how very real, and how very scary war is, and how my child could potentially end up in a similar situation.

Then they set off a series of colorful smoke bombs . . .


More and more smoke, louder and louder . . .


And then, the soldiers began emerging from the smoke!


It was quite a show, but I didn't take any of these pictures either.  I was still in shock.  I'm very happy that my husband grabbed my camera and started shooting - pictures that is . . . not bombs . . .


Afterwards, the families were instructed to go out on the field and find their soldier.  Well, that was an order that was gladly obeyed by all!


Here's our soldier . . .


And here was one more shock for mom:  My son is happy!  He likes what he's doing and has a sense of purpose I had never seen in him before.  Now, if only the world would behave itself for the next four years . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tea Bread Tuesday: Lemon Poppy Seed Bread with Lemon Glaze

I am devoted to Mr. Lime, I really am . . . and it seems disloyal to go flirting with his sunny cousin, Mr. Lemon, at the first sign of trouble.  Alas, Mr. Lime is making himself very dear this summer, what with the terrible crop we've had . . . bad winter!  So when life gives you lemons . . . we must make the best of it . . .  I'm such a tramp!  But a bread like this one can make you re-think your loyalties . . . It . . . is . . . DELICIOUS!  So moist, so lemony . . . and the hint of almonds doesn't hurt one bit!  You must try it!  This might be the beginning of a beautiful ménage à trois . . .


Here's the recipe:

For the bread:
1½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
¾ cup of half and half
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (1 large lemon = approx. 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest)

For the glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Grease and flour a 9” x 5” loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds.  With electric mixer, add the wet ingredients, one at a time, until they have all been incorporated.  Beat for one additional minute.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick.

While bread is baking, prepare the glaze.  In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  When the bread is done, let cool in the pan for a few minutes, but while still hot invert into a wire rack, and then back into a serving tray.  Brush glaze immediately over the warm bread, on top and on the sides.  Use all the glaze, the bread will absorb most of it.  For best taste, make it the night before and the bread will be ever so moist and flavorful!  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

House Remodeling, House Guests and Worrying About David

The title of this post sums up the last two months at our house.  No sooner had David left for Basic Combat Training, we launched into a few house updates, including new siding for the exterior . . .

 
Here's a picture of the old one . . .
  
 
We are such wild people, going from light grey to white!


We also got rid of the "builder special" lights and got pretty new ones!


We were trying to get it all done before our guests arrived!  I hadn't seen my cousin Robert and his wife, Ely, since their wedding in 1970!  We had kept in touch over the years by phone and Christmas cards.  The visit was wonderful!  It was as though we did this all the time!


We played tourists on Lake Michigan.  Here they are with Navy Pier behind them, and the beautiful Chicago skyline . . .


And here's a picture of my son, David, "borrowed" from the FB page for their battalion (he's the one on the far left).  Boot Camp ain't what it used to be.  Imagine!  They have a Facebook page!  He looks well, but it seems I've found a new hobby:  Worrying about David.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Dinner with the bunnies

With my son, David, leaving to go into the Army in two weeks time, my head is too full of worry to leave room for a great deal of creativity.

Still, it was Easter, and we were together!  Two great things for which to be grateful!  So with this little pep talk to myself I went to the basement and started pulling things from the boxes.  There's Peter Rabbit!  Did I ever finish reading all the Beatrix Potter stories to David?


No wait, that's not Peter Rabbit.  And that egg belongs to John!


What am I doing?  They are too old for bunny ears, aren't they? 
 
 
What if they were a manly brown . . . ?
 
 
Perhaps if I used some tactical diversion . . . like carrot cupcakes . . .

 
 Topped with violas from the garden, which are completely edible . . .


And some lemon parfaits . . .

 
With lots of jelly beans tucked among the flowers . . .  They may be men now, but they still love sweets!

 
Brown eggs and woven mats evoke a garden setting anybunny would enjoy . . .

 
And an easy guy-pleasing menu of Baked Honey Ham, Rosemary Potatoes and Green Beans - An easy-peasy meal that left us plenty of time for playing board games! 

I hope the kids remember this dinner.  I hope they remember the bunny ears . . . I hope they remember how much we laughed.  May the Risen Christ bless us and watch over us all!  Alleluia!