Category Archives: Tablescapes

Color Inspiration for Holiday Entertaining

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays and the traditional color schemes for  entertaining this time of year: black and orange for Halloween; gold, cooper, brown for Thanksgiving; and red and forest green for Christmas.  This year I want to incorporate something new, something more trendy so I looked at the 2012 fall fashion colors.  The Pantone Fall 2012 Colors include a bright shade of purple (the fashion trade refers to it as rhapsody, sugar plum, and gothic grape).  I like a little darker shade — more plum and mulberry is more my style.  I’m going to mix up the color wheel by combining olympian blue with ultramarine green (really the shade of billiard tables) together in what I hope turns out to be a smoky teal green.  I’ll add a touch of rose smoke and flashy pink flambe’ for fun, and I’ve found my color scheme for entertaining this season.

As I dream of fall parties, the perfect holiday table for me will be set with a  tablecloth in an almost rose smoke color called Acorn Contour (from BBJ Linens) around $33.00.  Next I’ll add pink flambe’ handmade fabric runners.  Each mat will drape across the table and serve as individual placements (so you’ll only need one runner for every two guests.)  Pick up fabric at a discount online, at Hobby Lobby or any fabric store and make these simple runners yourself.

For an over-the-top tablescape, I’ve chosen Biltmore Inspirations’ Lotus Leaf Platters to serve as the charger plates for each place setting.  Because these platters are so big, bold and beautiful, I won’t be removing them before serving dinner, even though etiquette books dictate otherwise.  Each gorgeous platter measures 12″L x 18″W x 2.5″H and retails for $69.98/each.  With six to eight of these on the table, this will make a dramatic statement.

Lotus Leaf Tableware

On top of each charger, guests will find a brightly colored braided fuchsia placemat with wavy design. Each mat measures 15″ in diameter.  Found online at Gifted Solution (4 for $16.00).

For serving dishes, I’ve incorporated Biltmore Inspiration’s Pisgah Baking Dishes.  The color of these dishes resemble the soft smoky teal-green Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina, the corporate home to both the Biltmore Estate and  it’s newest division, Biltmore Inspirations.  The single large baking dish measures 11.25″Dia. x 2.75″H and serves  as the dinner plate ($35.98).  The smaller baking dish 10″ Dia x. 2.25″ will be used for any first courses ($45.98 set of two that includes a 8.5″Dia x 2″H dish).  Perfect for serving soup or salad.

Pisgah Baking Dishes

Pisgah Baking Dishes

Each of the Pisgah Baking Dishes are separated by an eggplant colored linen napkin that measures 21″ x 21″ at $10.00/each.  This one’s called malbec from Linoto.   A great color for dabbing those Cabernet wine stains off your lips between courses.

I envision the table to be decorated with similar colored fresh farmer’s market produce.  Purple cabbage, purple potatoes, dark kale, Chinese eggplant, asparagus, and leafy green Brussels sprouts should be ideal.

Other decorative centerpiece details include Biltmore’s new Pisgah Canisters ($59.98 for set of two).  Same beautiful blue-green color as the baking dishes.  The large measures 4.5″Dia x 13.125″H, and medium 5″Dia x 8.625″H).

Pisgah Canisters & Pedestal Dish

Biltmore’s Pisgah Canisters & Pedestal Dish

French Market Buckets

Biltmore’s French Market Buckets

Centered on the table are Biltmore’s French Market Flower Buckets $99.98 set of two (large 8″Dia. at top x 6″ Dia. at bottom x 18″ H. and medium 7″Dia. at top x 4.5″ Dia at bottom x 14″H) filled with silk hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, and other favorite flowers and greenery.

A pair of Biltmore’s Courtyard Lanterns (large 5.75″W x 5.75″D x 13″H $42.98 and small 4″W x 3.5″D x 8″H set of two for $32.98) holding mulberry colored pillar candles completes the tablescape.

Biltmore’s Courtyard Lanterns

Ideally, guests this season will include precious little friends wearing matching velvet dresses and jackets and deep eggplant colored bows in their hair like this one.

The finished table setting should bring lots of ooh’s and ah’s to this year’s festivities.  What do you think?

Autumn-Inspired Tablesetting from Biltmore Inspirations

Festive Tablescape from Biltmore Inspirations

Biltmore products can be ordered at my website.

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Filed under Decorating, Holiday, Party, Tablescapes

Countdown to Christmas – Tips for Hosting & Cooking for a Large Crowd

With Christmas only a few days away, many of you will be hosting a large number of family and friends this weekend.  I’m sharing some last minutes tips on how best to prepare for the large crowd that you’ll be entertaining.

The first step is to plan your menu(s) ahead.  It’s not to late to consider each and every meal that you’ll be hosting. Write the menus  down on paper, allowing you to see at-a-glance how well each item goes together, if it is a balanced and colorful menu, and giving you an overview of how much time you’ll need for the preparation.  Start with the arrival date of your first guests. Consider the type of meal or snack you’ll serve when you guests first arrive.  Then, plan your holiday feast, and any breakfasts or lunches for those guests who are staying longer than the main meal.  Think seasonal items when creating your menu, which you’ll find most readily available and less expensive at this time of year.  Consider items that can be cooked ahead, stored or reheated easily to make your hosting job go smoothly.

Next, gather together all of the recipes and make a detailed shopping list.  Be certain to check your pantry and refrigerator for items you already have on hand.  When I am shopping for a large quantity of groceries, I take the time to put my grocery list in order separating out the produce, meats,  canned goods,  dairy, bakery, etc.  This makes the grocery shopping process go much quicker once I enter the store.

If you have guests bringing dishes,  suggest a specific recipe or two (or at the very least, be specific about the item such as a “green bean side dish”) in order to ensure that your entire menu will complement well with the potluck items.

Consider the seating arrangements and whether or not you have enough tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins, candles, china, glassware and cutlery.  If not, consider borrowing items from a friend or relative?  Make arrangements for a family member to help out by picking up and finding a storage space in your garage for these items a few days in advance until you need them.

Decide where to stack the dirty dishes before the party starts.  Try to keep the mess in one area of your kitchen. If the party is formal, you may wish to hire extra help for serving and/or washing the dishes.  For less formal parties, ask students and older children, or even your guests, to pitch in with specific instructions on what they need to do.  Make certain you have plenty of trash bags and dish towels for cleaning up after the meals.

Arrange to have your home cleaned in advance of the celebration.  This eases your mind and allows you to focus on the meal preparation and your hosting duties.

Purchase your alcoholic beverages in advance, getting advice from the retail store liquor expert or sommelier on what best suits the type of menu you are serving.  Ensure that you have plenty of extra ice and refrigerator space, or coolers for chilling beverages in advance.

Cooking in quantity does not necessarily mean quadrupling your recipes.  Review the recipes carefully, and if necessary, cook in smaller batches and freeze or set aside in advance.  A general rule is keep your recipe quantities for preparation of servings at no more than 12, and repeat the cooking process if you need larger quantities.  Most casserole dishes or saucepans will work best at these amounts.

Ensure that you have enough oven space, or stove top burners.  If not, consider using your neighbor’s kitchen, or borrowing a portable convection oven, electric oven, or incorporate your grill for a portion of the meal.

Set up a specific area for the bar, keeping glassware and bottles well out of reach of scampering children and pets.  Incorporate wine and beer openers, straws or stirrers, ice containers, and garnishes (lemons, limes, etc.) if using.

Consider parking and if your street has enough space for the guests you are expecting. As a courtesy to your neighbors, you may want to give them notice that there will be extra traffic on your street during your festivities.

Allow plenty of extra time for reheating and cooking the meals.  Have a written plan in advance of what serving dishes and serving utensils you will use.  Set these aside so that when the food is ready, your dishes and utensils will be close at hand.

Most importantly, give yourself permission to relax an hour  before the party so that you will enjoy the celebration as much as your guests will!

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Filed under Food, Holiday, Party, Tablescapes

Biltmore Bliss Under $24 – Biggest Sale of the Season

Biltmore Inspirations Stocking Stuffers

Today we received some exciting news!  Biltmore Inspirations announced it was offering 29 of its perfect stocking stuffer products for special sale prices, all less than $24 (plus tax and shipping.)   If you are shopping for the holidays, you’ll find a number of fabulous finds priced from $5.98 to $23.49.  Everything from my favorite red damask appetizer plates (4 for $19.99, regularly $39.99), to two jars of Red Cherry Pomegranate Spread ($9.99, regularly $19.98.)

Check out these two pages of blissful gift ideas.  Please note that all food items arrive in sets of two.

Food Stocking Stuffers

It’s easy to order.  Click on this link and go shopping!  SHOP NOW!  

All orders placed by December 12 are guaranteed to arrive before Christmas.  Offer valid through December 31, 2011.

Happy Shopping!

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Filed under Food, Holiday, Hostess Gifts, Tablescapes

Ideas for Autumn Centerpieces

It’s Fall and the weather in Phoenix is beginning to cool down.  Once the temperature drops to the 80’s, I get inspired to begin decorating for Halloween and the Fall season. Here’s five fun ideas I’ve discovered that you may be inspired to replicate in your home.  Any of these creations can be incorporated as a centerpiece, or as part of a holiday-inspired vignette on your mantel, side table, or kitchen island.

Photo from Martha Stewart Living

1.  This easy to create idea comes from Martha Stewart.  Scoop out a medium to large-sized orange or white pumpkin.  In this photo, she used a white one to create a vase to function as a centerpiece on her festive table.  It is filled with a bundle of fresh flowers including roses, daffodils, ranunculuses, calla lilies, tulips and berries. The flowers are in Autumn’s best colors: orange, shades of peach and yellow. Surrounding the large pumpkin vase, she placed a number of smaller pumpkins in assorted sizes, along with small votive candles.  This elegant idea is perfect for both Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations.

Photo from Better Homes & Gardens

2.  A fun Chartreuse green centerpiece is made up of just picked Granny Smith apples, nestled next to a large green pillar candle, all arranged in a giant glass bowl.  This clever idea comes from Better Homes & Garden.  The same concept could be created with red apples and a red candle for Christmas decorating.

Photo from Better Homes & Gardens

3.  It doesn’t get any easier than this!   This large pumpkin is trimmed out with a twirling branch from a bittersweet vine.  Dried fruit, nuts and seeds can be scattered below.  Another great idea from Better Homes & Gardens.

Photo from Better Homes & Gardens

4.  In this photo, Better Homes & Gardens fills a rusty antique urn with dried corn stalks and sprigs of wheat to create the base.  It is simply topped off with a bright orange pumpkin.

5.  Lastly, a simple pumpkin is hallowed out and filled with assorted fall leaves to create a very simple, yet festive idea.  Can’t you see several sizes of these centered on your dining room table?

Adding a few inspired designs to your table at this time of year invites the fun, Autumn holidays into your home.

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Filed under Decorating, Flowers, Holiday, Rooms, Tablescapes

Keeping Flowers Fresh

Fresh blooms are a festive way to brighten up your home when entertaining.  The coffee table, kitchen island and your dining table will all benefit by a vase full of beautiful and colorful flowers.

When purchasing cut flowers from a farmers market, florist, grocery or neighborhood nursery, always look over the green foliage and make certain that it doesn’t look wilted.  You want the stems to be firm and not limp.  If they lack strength or structure, then the flowers are already beginning to deteriorate and you should look for a fresher bunch.

Select the type of vase you plan to use.  Anything from a crystal heirloom container to a metal bucket, or perhaps this ornate Brocade Vase from Biltmore Inspirations ($48.98), will make a lovely centerpiece.

Brocade Vase from Biltmore Inspirations

When you are ready to arrange the flowers, ensure that the vase is clean by rinsing the container with soapy, warm water before using.  Fill the vase halfway with clear, cool water.  Using a scissors, trim away any excess or damaged foliage from each single stem.  Keep the best-looking leaves that are the closest to the neck of the flower, plucking away all of the remaining leaves.  Also, you do not want any leaves resting below the water line in the vase because this will cause the water to become cloudy very quickly.

Using a pair of sharp clippers, make a 45-degree angle cut to each flower stem, clipping off at least two inches from the base to remove any damaged or dried stems.  Cutting at this angle ensures that the maximum amount of water will enter the straw like tube of the stem, resulting in more water going directly to the flower head.  If your plant has a woody stem, cut an additional inch-long cut up the center of the stem to allow more water to be absorbed.

Check the water every other day, and replace as needed.  The stems are only alive as long as they are drinking water.  If the water becomes cloudy, replace it immediately.  You should also check the stems after a few days and if they seem mushy, cut off the deteriorated section, and return the flowers to fresh water.

If some of the stems start fading away, trim those off too.  Be certain not to keep the vase of flowers near a heat source, or windows with southern exposure as this hastens their decline.  Incorporating these ideas should allow your flowers to last about one week, keeping them aromatic and beautiful for all to enjoy.

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Chic Shelf Paper Makes Trendy Placemats

"Wild" Shelf Paper from Scentennials

I discovered a fun, easy and inexpensive way to change the decorating theme of a dining table.   Decorate with handmade placemats by using shelf paper.  They come in a variety of styles, colors and designs, and they can be cut-to-fit, depending upon the size of your table, dishes and place settings.   You can typically find boxed shelf paper on sale at discount department stores, like Ross, Home Goods or TJ Maxx or from Scentennials.  Each piece of paper makes a large oversized (16.5″ x 22″) placemat when unrolled.  The animal print designs above come in sets of six for $14.50 a box.

If the scented paper seems overpowering, consider this alternative from Chic Shelf Paper.  With hundreds of designs to choose from, and available in cut-to-order sizes, think how your white or black dinnerware would work with this Damask selection.

Distressed Damask in Black

Or, bright pink placemats with white tableware.

Bright Pink Fruits

Or, chocolate-colored plates on a fleur-de-lis design on ivory cream background.

Fleur-de-lis in Chocolate & Ivory Cream

Prices begin at $2.50 per square foot, or $4.00 for a cut-to-order custom size.

Consider showing off your creativity and trendy decorating style by incorporating a set of handmade paper placemats when hosting your next dinner party.

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Filed under Dining, Tablescapes

Cloth Napkins Not Just for Dressy Occasions

Photo Compliments of Biltmore Inspirations

I have never been a fan of paper napkins for dining, with the occasional exception being for picnic use.  In Arizona, where we enjoy many meals and barbeques outdoors, my tastes still lean towards a crisp spray-starched ironed cloth napkin.  They just look and feel nicer.  Cotton or linen napkins are not just for dressy occasions nor as scary as you may think.  They are less expensive in the long run because they can be used again and again.  You can find many colors, styles and prices to choose.  I suggest having an array of options in your collection to match with the theme of your party.

Wash cloth napkins in warm water using your washer’s gentle cycle, then tumble until damp dry.  A shot of spray starch and a quick steam iron on both sides results in a ready-to-go set once folded and stacked in your linen cupboard.

This Damask embroidered napkin set from Biltmore Inspirations is one of my favorites.  From the Breakfast Room Collection, the set of four, cream-colored, cloth napkins boast a damask red emblem and provide an elegant look to any table.  20″ square. Cost: $34.98 for the set.

Even though maintaining your cloth napkins are a bit more work, I believe the result is worth the extra effort and your guests will think so too.

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Filed under Dining, Holiday, Tablescapes