Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Celebrating Mom’s 89th Birthday Gatsby Style

While recuperating from my most recent spine surgery, I planned a 1920s/Gatsby-style ladies luncheon to celebrate my Mom’s 89th birthday. (Doesn’t she look beautiful??? Don’t tell me this chick “Ain’t Misbehavin'”!!!) A grand luncheon in her honor has become sort of a tradition (when I’m healthy!) since her 2011 retirement from the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a delightful challenge to come up with a theme that both she and her guests will enjoy. (Check out 88 Years & 88 Keys, Celebrating 85 Years of Fabulous, Pretty In Pink, Grazin’ in the Grass.) This year’s inspiration came from a flapper bar towel my friend/neighbor, Barbara, gifted me while I was convalescing. Mom was born in the March preceding the start of the Great Depression in 1929, and I thought it would be a fun idea to travel back in time to explore the good things about that (infamous) year!
(This post is super photo heavy, but I pay close attention to the “cat’s particulars” aka details and want to share each and every nuance with you!)

 

Setting the mood from the very start was an important part of the planning. The invitations I created on my desktop had the familiar art deco design representative of the 1920s. Along with the invitations was an insert suggesting accessories to help the ladies get “all dolled up” for the occasion. Notice the flapper lady I put in the return address corner and the Lena Horne stamps!!!

 

A pair of “V.I.P. Entrance” signs in 1920s black and gold art deco style flanked the doorway, greeting guests as they approached the porch. Music from the decadent era rang out as it would outside a bustling nightclub, courtesy of a Google Mini.

 

The computer-generated, sequin-backed sign on the front door welcomes guests to the fictional “Gold Sequin” speakeasy.

 

My friend/neighbor, Jane, was such a sexy, gracious (and convincing!) “cigarette girl” hawking bubble gum cigars and candy cigarettes I ordered from the Blair Candy Co.

 

Our modest entry hall sets the tone for thumbing our noses to Prohibition with the oversized champagne flutes! They’re filled with tiny crystals. (Crystals…Cristál…the champagne…get it?) On the walls are cute Rosanna cocktail plates I bought a few years ago for cocktail parties that were first used for “Hooray for Vodka!” back in 2013! (Smaller plates of this same design were used to serve the birthday cake!)

 

The primary bar with specialty drinks (potent Mary Pickfords and chocolate martinis that were really a couple of “quilts”!) was set up in the library, although guests were invited to get whatever they may want from any of the other 3 bars on the main floor.  (Tip: Make up pitchers of these drinks and then just have the bartender shake small portions with ice to serve!) The bar was covered with a gold crinkle taffeta tablecloth and black sequin table runner from YourChairCovers.com. The towel that inspired this theme reads “You can’t regret what you don’t remember” and jokingly refers to the temporary amnesia caused by one of the meds I was taking, prominently hangs in the front. We borrowed cocktail artwork from the basement decor to further lend to the bar atmosphere. The ostrich feather trimmed lamp (’cause that’s how I roll!) is borrowed from my dressing room, and the glass of brandy and “burning” cigarette (both fake) further lent to the speakeasy theme. The two booze hounds  in the above pics…just pitiful!!! 🙂

 

We transformed the family room into a 1920s era fine dining establishment complete with a 1920s music playlist in the background. It didn’t take long for me to know what linens I’d use from my stash. The palette of the Gatsby era was gold, black & white. I layered floor-length (90″x132″ for 6’x30″ folding tables) black linens from LinenTablecloth.com with gold sequin runners from YourChairCovers.com. The chairs clean up nicely with gold stretch leather-look covers (no longer available where I bought them, but I’ve seen them at TableclothsFactory.com) with black spandex sashes and sparkly gold slips (YourChairCovers.com).

 

I ordered 100 white ostrich feathers to create these lush (and surprisingly easy!) centerpieces. The glass tower vases are filled with odd-sized bulk “pearls” from Hobby Lobby and topped with a beautiful dangling bobeche affixed with a bit of Cling® Floral Adhesive to avoid catastrophe. The extended centerpiece is filled in with gold mercury glass votives with LED tealights, black  ceramic pieces (again, borrowed from my dressing room), and cabaret lamps created with crystal candlesticks, bobeches, and white silk shades.

 

The place setting decision was remarkably simple. As a restaurant might use, I opted for all white from the ceramic charger to the B. Smith luncheon plate to the Pier 1 “White Poppy” salad bowl. The “Graham” matte gold flatware is from Target, and the Longchamps stemware is accompanied by individual bottles of non-alcoholic Martinelli’s sparkling cider for the toast. Faux pearl napkin rings cinch simply folded black napkins. The menus layered in white, black, and gold sequin-covered cardstock from Hobby Lobby were created on my desktop using Microsoft® Word. (That sequin cardstock is no joke to cut!!!) The pearl embellishment on the menus came from a pair of summer sandals I broke! The meal served included the Louisville, Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich, a late night/early morning diner staple back in the 1920s to soak up the liquor enjoy after a night out of unabandoned carousing. Water and lemonade bottles were placed on both sides of the dining table.

 

Other special touches around this room included another ostrich feather lamp I created using a crystal candlestick, an abundance of paper rosettes (Michaels) mixed with oversized champagne glasses of crystals and pearls, and an extra tall martini glass (Hobby Lobby) that I placed in a large flat glass bowl to give it girth. Final touch: notice a muted television in the background playing “The Great Gatsby” movie!!!

 

My sister makes fun fortune cookies for all occasions, these with art deco-style fabric. While the take-home fortune cookies were a demure little thank you to the guests, I asked her to create some funny, slightly suggestive ones for us to play the fortune cookie game “In Bed”. Ever heard of it? Each guest opens their cookie and reads the fortune aloud followed by the words “in bed.” As the pictures show, this game got lots of laughs!!!

 

Check out this cake created by my longtime friend, Patrick Snuffer. I provided him with an almost childlike sketch using various elements I’d seen around the Internet, and voilà! A delicious art deco cake with a black ostrich feather! To the left of the cake are the mini martini glasses in which ice cream (choice of 4!!!) was served. The miniature gold spoons are from Michaels.

 

The candy bar in the dining room was one of my favorite elements to create! I researched candies and gums that were popular in the 1920s and then went on the hunt. The result: a favor bar laden with 22 flavor treats served up in various size martini and pilsner glasses!!! Guests scooped up what they wanted into favor bags with black, gold and/or white twist ties displayed in my Limoges swan salt & pepper cellars. The table is covered in another gold crinkle taffeta cloth with a black sequin runner. The gold painted manzanita “trees” just seemed to work with the decor, especially dressed in large hanging crystals. My generous neighbor provided the sequined dress for the dress form, and I finished it off with a few ostrich feathers, a feather boa, and all the remaining pearl necklaces from my jewelry collection!

 

The dining room was “fun central” with the candy bar AND a “photo booth” where guests could take selfies or have their photo taken. We simply took the existing artwork off the wall and replaced it with oversized gold and black paper rosettes (Michaels). I hung a huge paper rosette over the mirror and draped it with crystal garland. The photo prop table beneath was laden with vintage accessories (thanks, Dee!) and fake cocktails. (Notice I was a good girl and stayed in little black flats instead of the gorgeous T-strap heels I really wanted to wear!) Fun/Silly pics of guests at the photo booth and around the house are at the very end of the post. Such fun!!!

 

Without question this was one of the most fun birthday parties I’ve ever put together in my Mom’s honor!!! My sister, Berishia, and I both love our Mom so much, and we are blessed to have had her in our lives for all these years.

 

MOST DEFINITELY MISBEHAVIN’!!!

 

Special, HUGE thanks to: my friend/neighbor, Jane, for being the best cigarette girl a flapper could ask for; my friend/neighbor, Barbara, for mixing up those insanely potent drinks, whipping up a mean Mornay sauce for the Kentucky Hot Browns, and helping out so much in the kitchen; Barbara’s helpful husband, Lynn, for graciously taking time away from college basketball to take our group photo; my dear friend, Patrick, for creating such an extraordinary cake; my cousin, Dee, for all the props she contributed for the photo booth and for doing such a fabulous job on Mom’s makeup; my sister, Berishia, for the fortune cookies; my best friend of nearly 55 years, Sheri, for her precision serving skills and so many great photos despite the overcast skies, and; my husband, Ramon, for all the photos he took, his bartending prowess, being such an all-round good sport, and PAYING FOR THIS!!! 😉

Now…on to the fun guest pics with captions chock full of 1920s Flapper/ Gangster Slang. (The Flapper Slang Guide, Slang of the 1920s, Molls & Dolls Slang Dictionary) Enjoy!

My cousin, Dee, and I always take pictures of us rough housing. Here we are trying to put each other in a “deep sleep.” A whole new meaning to “clutching your pearls”!!! Somebody call the “coppers”!

Wow! Here’s a real “sheba”! Barbara was the ultimate flapper girl, ready to have a great time in her sparkly black dress!

Mom and her forever baby sister, Vivienne, who I call Aunt Bean Bean Dancing Machine!

Here’s a couple of “swell dames”: Mom and friend/LINK sister, Shirley Thaw.

Mom and friend/LIncoln High School classmate from the Class of 1946/”canary”, Geneva Price

Mom and friend/Delta sorority sister, Dr. Susan Wilson. Check out those “gams”!

Mom and friend, Amy Heithoff-Dominguez, lookin’ like “the cat’s meow”!

Mom and friend/Delta sorority sister/education colleague, Dr. Marjorie Williams. That’s some “dish”!

Mom and friend/LINK sister, Barbara Graham, in her “glad rags” looking “air tight.”

Mom and my good friend & neighbor, Barbara Alsup. Quite the “billboard” that Barbara!

Mom and her friend/neighbor/fellow church member, Virginia Jones, who looks like a real “floorflusher”!

Mom and her niece/my arch nemesis cousin, Dee Evans, who’s had a little too much “giggle water.”

“Jeepers Creepers”! It’s Mom and her longtime family friend from the neighborhood (Leeds) where they grew up, Kimberly Randolph!

Mom and her son-in-law/my husband, the very dapper Dr. Ramon Nichols. Hubba hubba…what a “sheik”!!!

Well, look who stopped by to say hello and have her picture taken with the birthday girl! It’s little Ava Rutherford with her own flapper boa!!!

Ramon and me. Gosh, he looked so handsome in that outfit!!!!!!!!!!!! A real “brooksy” in those snazzy “dog kennels”!!! Me…post-op flat shoes! 😦

These “dolls” came ready to party! Barbara Graham (in a coat I really wanted to steal!) and Amy Heithoff-Dominguez (with a handbag to die for!)

Our resident bootlegger, Bob Rutherford, had to come check on his moll, Jane, and have a cigar!

Mom looked like the queen she is!

 

What a “babe”! Mom wears a 1920s-inspired gown designed and created by her granddaughter/my niece, Yvonne Chamberlain, for her to wear to the Governor’s Ball about 10 years ago. She still looks fabulous in it!!!

Even a “croaker” has to get his nutrition!

A couple of snappy “sips”: My “tomato” cousin, Dee Evans, and the flapper with the sexy “stilts”, Susan Wilson.

This is the look of PURE JOY!!! I absolutely adore this picture!!!

This outfit is absolutely the “duck’s quack”!!!

I’m so proud of my Mom!!!

A trio of real “lookers”: Barbara Alsup, me, and Sheri Grant

Check out these “kittens”: Barbara Graham, Shirley Thaw, Susan Wilson, and Dee Evans

Ripe and ready “hoppers”: Shirley Thaw, Susan Wilson, Dee Evans

I’m joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday this week. Check her out for a wealth of Spring and Easter ideas!

My friend, Debbie, at Debbee’s Buzz has another wonderful theme party you might like. Check out this fabulous Alice In Wonderland invitation!!!

Better Late Than Never, Pt. 3 – Christmas 2016 in the Family Room

As we count down to Christmas 2017, here is the 3rd of 4 separate posts revealing my 2016 Christmas decor in the family room and basement level. Yes…that late. Poor, pitiful, pathetic, tired ol’ me is just getting around to it! (If you missed them, you can see installments 1 and 2 here and here.)

Say goodbye to this furniture because it’s the last time you’ll see it! We bought reclining leather seating this past summer that is kinder to my spine. Hooray!

 

 

 

 

 

Our fireplace is the focal point of the room despite my husband’s insistence on having a television the size of Montana in the family room. In 2016 I decorated it with lots of faux greenery with sprigs of fresh stuck in here and there, pine cones, red ornaments and berries. Black iron candlesticks with black candles flank the wreath on the mantel, while tall black lanterns rest on the hearth.

 

 

 

 

I embellished a lot of the existing decor with faux greenery and red berries. Deer sheds (antlers) placed in or around white ironstone bowls with berry embellishment gives the bookshelves a festive, outdoorsy look. A white ironstone platter from Home Goods is lightly adorned with Christmas greenery, pine cones and berries. Something as simple as plopping a sprig of bright berries and a bit of evergreen into a tiny vase changes the whole look of the shelf with the candlesticks. (That’s my hubby’s Air Force graduation photo. He was such a little cutie…looked like a 12-year-old!)

 

 

I like to give the family room a fun look that reflects our casual, relaxed lifestyle as a fun-loving couple. Another set of plush animals rests on a miniature park bench beside the hearth. (Other plush animals were beneath the tree in the library as seen here.) Check out how protective he is of her…like Ramon is with me! A lighthearted Mr. & Mrs. Claus lumbar pillow is tossed on the sofa.

 

 

Thought I’d better throw this in. We pushed aside the furniture and had dinner for 12 in here one night. I was not feeling well (still recovering from 2 back-to-back major surgeries) but had to do something quick and easy to install and dismantle. Plain black full-length tablecloths with my beloved 222 Fifth “Holiday Wishes” dishes covered in cardinals, pine cones and poinsettias, black napkins cinched with jingle bell napkin rings, gold flatware, and English crackers that we had a ball with after dinner. The centerpiece of gold vases topped with oversized red ornaments, miniature Christmas trees, and black wrought iron candlesticks to match those on the mantel was anchored by a length of flannel plaid ribbon.

 

Through the family room door and down the basement stairs is a table with a trio of decorated miniature trees that reflect back in the mirrors above. (I wish these photos were better. This was really just so pretty at night!!!) Standing among the trees is a pair of Father Christmas figurines and gold reindeer.

 

A red painted wood open shadow box from Home Goods holds a menagerie of Christmas-related items including miniature antlers, pine cones, a metal wreath, and jingle bells. (Sorry…the lighting absolutely sucks down here in this basement, and no amount of editing can fix it!)

 

We have this weird ledge that runs the length of the south wall beneath the basement windows that really serves no practical purpose. I decided to spruce it up by creating this scene with Santa in a golden sleigh with reindeer moored in a snowy thicket. In hindsight, I should have raised each reindeer on graduated clear acrylic risers to simulate flight. Oh well…next time!

The final chapter of our 2016 Christmas decor will roll out in a couple of days. After that, nothing but 2017…I promise!!!

If you’d like to find more inspiration on this site for your Christmas decorating, type in “Christmas” in the category drop-down box on the sidebar to the right.

I’ll be joining Susan and the rest of the gang for Tablescape Thursday again this week. Drop on by to get inspired by some very talented tablescapers and designers!!!

 

New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!

My niece bought me this fun placard a few years ago to celebrate my favorite libation.

INSPIRATION: My niece, Yvonne, bought me this fun placard a few years ago to celebrate my favorite party libation.

New Year’s Eve 2013 is just 2 days away, and I say, “Good riddance to you, 2013!” This year SUCKED for me in so many ways! My Dad got sick and passed away, I had surgery that has required many months of painful & tedious rehab…it just plain SUCKED!!! So I’m ready to party and kiss this year goodbye. Martini, anyone?
(Click on any photo to enhance/enlarge it and see details up close.)

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Full dining room - lights dimmed

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Full dining roomI wanted to include a photo of the room in natural daylight and one with the lights dimmed so that you get an idea of the lighting effects. A contemporary dinner/cocktail party like this is really easy to do, and the expense was kept to a minimum by using things I already had and shopping thrift stores.

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Full tableI started this martini dinnertime tablescape with a 90″ x 132″ black tablecloth from LinenTablecloth.com. Black IS the new black, and it’s bringin’ sexy back stronger than ever! 😉

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Multiple place settings

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Single place settingI played up the blue in the dishes by introducing a square French blue acrylic charger topped with a juxtaposed black one. The black dinner plates are topped with a salad plate and appetizer plate purchased at a crazy rock bottom price at a local thrift store. (I think this will put a big smile on Jamala’s (Vintage 4YourHome.com) face because she is a super thrifter!) Each plate depicts a portly waiter serving up a different vodka-based cocktail.

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Plate, flatware collageThe contemporary styling of the J.A. Henckels “Bellaserra” flatware is perfect for this setting. The squared off handle complements the straight lines of the double chargers.

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Stemware, mini martinis, napkin collageA flight of three miniature martini glasses from Crate & Barrel are at each place setting. I like to serve a different vodka-based drink at different intervals of the meal. A water glass is at each place setting because let’s face it…you can only drink so much vodka before your face is in the plate!!! 🙂 The black napkins are simply folded and laced through a French blue squared napkin ring that matches the charger. (Click HERE and scroll down to “And the Winner Is…!” to see another tablescape with a vodka flight.)

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Full centerpieceThe centerpiece is what really brings the drama to this tablescape. For New Year’s Eve, it’s imperative that you include something that has lots of sparkle and light like the Times Square ball! I started the centerpiece with an inexpensive ($3 or $4) black framed door mirror from Old Time Pottery. Mirrors are a GREAT way to stir up drama on your table! (Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for other dramatic centerpieces on this site using large mirrors.)

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Centerpiece bowls of ice collageThe square bowls used here, believe it or not, are just black acrylic planters that you can pick up at any floral shop for a couple of bucks. I’ve even seen them in the garden department at Walmart! I chose them for the shape and color. Each bowl is filled with acrylic ice chips lit from beneath with tiny blue LED lights. (If you opt to use real ice, be sure your LEDs are waterproof!)

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: LED lightsThese are the LED lights used in the centerpiece. You can buy them just about anyplace like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, or any floral or home accessories shop.

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Centerpiece double-decker glass votive holdersThese cool double-decker glass votive holders were purchased on clearance at Pier 1 a few years ago. I like the way they reflect in the mirror beneath!

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Full buffetIt ain’t a party unless you’ve got a swanky DIY bar goin’ on!!!

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Martini canvas art

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Canvas collageI borrowed these canvases from our lower level bar area & just propped them up on the buffet to hide the mirror on the wall. Adding fun art as a backdrop on your buffet is a little more of that drama I alluded to earlier. (Tip: Shop your house for accessories that can kick your tablescape up a notch.)

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Shot glasses in ice with lemon wedgesHow’s THIS for drama? Same concept as what’s going on with the table centerpiece, but this time REAL ice is used to keep shot glasses teeth chattering cold for vodka shots!

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Mini martini shooters collageSince I bought a whole case of the mini martini glasses, I thought it prudent to use them for serving hors d’oeuvres, too. The mini spoons are from Bed, Bath & Beyond. They also make great dessert vessels!

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Martini ice bucket with lemon collageI have had this oversized martini glass for as long as I can remember. Since I would never dream of drinking a martini this large 😉 , it works nicely as an ice bucket. The silver scoop is a nice addition to fancy it up. Waterproof LEDs add a little zing.


Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Appetizer plates, caviar collage

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Martini fixin's

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Shakers, bowl of lemons, Martini & Rossi bottle collageI like to have at least 2 or 3 different brands of vodka on hand to suit guests’ tastes. Caviar is a perfect pairing with ice cold vodka. Hop on Google or Bing to see what other foods to serve with vodka-based drinks for both your cocktail hour and dinner. 

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Vintage tea cart

Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One, New Year’s Eve Tablescape – Hooray for Vodka!: Tea cart collageOur vintage tea cart is used here as a secondary bar. Have you tried that Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka?!??!?! T-A-S-T-Y!!! My son’s girlfriend makes something called an Orange Creamsicle. Basically just mix it with good orange soda (Orange Crush seems to be the best because it’s super fizzy) and top with whipped cream. I’ve also seen recipes that call for mixing the vodka with orange juice and lemon-lime soda. DEE-licious! But careful…that bad boy will sneak up on you and bring you to your knees if you’re not careful! 🙂

I wish you all a SAFE and very Happy New Year!!! Thank you for hangin’ out and – perhaps more important – hangin’ in there with me this past year! 2013 sucked a whole lot less because of you!
🙂 🙂 🙂

Other tablescapes on this site great for ringing in the New Year:
“Life Is a Cabaret”
“Fete Noir et Gris”
“Fire & Ice”
“Ringing In the New Year”
“White Hot”

“Little Black Dress”
“Happy Birthday, Barf!”
“Roses in October”

In loving memory of my Dad, James B. “Jim” Wilson, 12/9/23 – 6/12/13. Not a vodka drinker, but one helluva guy…and I miss him.

I’m linking to Cuisine Kathleen’s “Let’s Dish!” and Susan’s “Tablescape Thursday” this week, and I invite you to come along for the ride!

A Little Pomp IS the Circumstance Graduation Buffet

Before we know it, the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” will fill the air on college campuses and in commencement halls across the land. The hard work that goes into earning a degree deserves a celebration that stands out in the crowd. I’m not trying to put my nose all up in the air, but if you want to go beyond the crepe paper streamers and cardboard mortar boards, here’s an idea for a graduation buffet cum laude that your graduate and their guests may favor. I created this as a demonstration table for my Spring 2012 “Art of Tablescaping” students to consider.
(Click on any photo to enhance/enlarge.)

Our Mission style dining room table was way too heavy to move, so I left in place for this demonstration. Students were asked to pretend the table was positioned lengthwise in the room as shown in the 2nd photo.

I started with a black full-length tablecloth to resemble the black of traditional academic robes. Of course, you will want to consider what colors are most fitting for your graduate’s special day.

The head of the buffet table has forks nestled side-by-side in a cotton napkin and placed on a silver tray. The butterflies – seen throughout the room – bring spots of color and speak to the Spring season. The initialed napkins, which remind me of the traditional “hood” worn over the gown, are simply stairstepped on either side in front of the Arcoroc “Seabreeze” glass plates. The napkins can be purchased with any letter from A-Z at Bed Bath & Beyond. Separating the eating utensils from the food is a barrage of silver candlesticks arranged at different heights. Peering down the length of a buffet table through candlelight can be quite the dramatic look!

I know a lot of people have moved away from traditional chafers in favor of electric warming trays (I own a couple myself that I just love!), but I still like the regal drama and uniformity of multiple chafers all lined up for a more formal look.

Grapes are piled high in an oil-rubbed bronze urn centered on a huge oval tray. A variety of hors d’oeuvres are placed on the tray beneath it. This is one little trick that can make your buffet look a bit more sumptuous AND be used as a space-saving idea as it places food both high and low.

Breadsticks are presented in small urns set atop miniature silver cake plateaus.

Try using “edible space fillers” like the melon wedges on silver beaded-edge plateaus shown here. This adds color, texture and sometimes fragrance (as in that of cut fruit) to the table while filling in those bare spots. I like for a buffet table to be teeming with food and have that Louis XIV Court at Versailles look about it!

The surface behind the buffet table is used as a beverage center. A large, untamed centerpiece in an urn like the one used for grapes on the table fills space and plays nicely off the glitzy pieces around it.

The glasses of mock champagne pictured here have a cherry added for flavor and color which create a sensational presentation. (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or sliced fruits like peaches or apricots work well also, and infuse the champagne with fabulous fresh flavor!) Coffee is served from a large silver urn.

Celebrating a graduation is a fun and happy occasion, so deep-six a bit of the pomp and use something near the front door or in the food area that adds a little whimsy. Here, our faithful butler, Geoffrey, is all decked out in his freshly starched lab coat and mortar board as he celebrates a pharmacy school graduation. (This idea actually came from our next-door-neighbors last Spring when their daughter graduated from St. Louis College of Pharmacy. I asked if they minded if I recreated the look that greeted guests who came to their home to celebrate.)  On this evening, the only Rx for my students was to have a great time in class!

I am joining Cuisine Kathleen again this week for the next installment of “Let’s Dish!” which will be up for all to see after 6:00 p.m. CDT on Wednesday. Join us for all things dish-related!

Happy Birthday, Barf!

You know how kids pick at each other and give each other a lot of grief, but then grow out of it in later years? All that applies to my sister and me…except the growing out of it part. I lovingly bestowed the nickname “Barf” on my big sister about 40 years ago, and it just kinda stuck. Barf this, Barf that, Barf the other….regardless of the name on her birth certificate, to me she is simply “Barf.”

Barf and her sweet friend, DeEtta, visited Kansas City a little over a week ago on their way to Columbia, Mo. Barf is an October baby and was on her way to an annual October babies celebration with other family & friends.  Because she was turning 100 or 150 or something like that on this birthday, she was pooped out from all the driving. So we held a jazzed up little “come-as-you-are” birthday dinner party at our house.

Everyone was dressed comfortably and casually, but I wanted to do something kind of swanky for the table. Barf and DeEtta had already traveled quite a distance from Minnesota and still had another two hours to drive after dinner to get to Columbia. I wanted the table to be something she would enjoy but that would also be easy to put together since I was feeling particularly lazy. So I went with spiffed up basic black.

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Silver metal chargers and Noritake “Spectrum” china are my “go to” pieces that take a lot of guesswork out of the whole thing.

IMG_2718WMBlack napkins folded into a neat little square with an orchid bloom for a shot of color.

The menu card has a photo of Barf at 6 months old. Wasn’t she a cutie patootie? (Speaking of patooties, I tried to cover hers a little here with my watermark! :-)) Creating these menus was my favorite part of the whole set-up!

I went with J.A. Henckels “Bellaserra” flatware…just because. 🙂

IMG_2732WMAnother great “go to” is my Mikasa “Jamestown Platinum” stemware. I love it for its timeless beauty, its incredible versatility, and the way it feels in my hand. It’s perfect!

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I bought these cool triple-decker bling mirrors a while back at Hobby Lobby. Yes…Hobby Lobby! They’re very sturdy and reflect a lot of light. While they are meant to be hung on a wall, I decided they would make much better centerpiece trays. The neatly lined votive candles and 25″ metal case candles (much safer taper if you don’t want candlewax everywhere!!!) double back in the mirrors. My Dad was quite intrigued with the design.

Mirrored cylinders hold a mix of bright green cymbidium orchids, dusty miller (rescued from the back yard before the frost got to it!), and raw coffee bean clusters.

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I wanted something lush for a buffet piece that leaned toward fall without screaming it out loud. “Peacock White” flowering kale had both just the right color and texture I wanted mixed with the dusty miller, cymbidium orchids, and raw coffee beans. This heavy 4-light silver epergne (also seen here filled with mounds of baby’s breath at the “Princess Pink Birthday Party“) is a great buffet or centerpiece item, and it has a removable bowl for easy arranging and cleaning.

Candles and a small floral on the china cabinet.

L to R: Mom, Me, Daddy, DeEtta, and the Birthday Girl…Barf!!!

I’ve done a lot of teasing here (as always, because what are sisters for? ;-)), but I really do love my sister. She’s a very warm, kind, giving person with a heart as big as all outdoors.  Yes, she’s weird and goofy…but she’s mine.
Happy Birthday, Barf! 🙂

Note: This would make a great New Year’s Eve tablescape, too!!!

Other tablescapes on this site using a mirror centerpiece include:
Shake, Rattle, & Roll ‘Em!
Happy Birthday, Barf!
Hooray For Vodka!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Contemporary Christmas – Fire & Ice
Roses In October
Princess Pink Birthday Dinner

As is always my distinct pleasure, I am joining Susan and the other talented tablescapers from around the world for Tablescape Thursday this week. Won’t you come along?

Serpents & Skullduggery

Halloween is a week away!

I will admit it: Halloween is not my favorite. As a kid I wondered why we had to go from door-to-door like street urchins. Why couldn’t all the neighbors just toss all their candy into a huge cauldron in the center of the subdivision and let kids take turns dipping it out? Walking from door to miserable door, enduring the snarky “And what are you dressed as?” remarks, shivering in the inevitable cold because I didn’t want to wear a coat that covered my costume, being frightened half out of my wits (which explains a lot!) by older bullies who thought it was funny to make little kids pee their pants…ugh! To make Halloween that much crazier, my parents would “inspect” our candy before we got to eat it. “Inspect.” Yeah…right. Whatever.

Having said that, I put together a table just the same for your Halloween pleasure/fright. Whatever. I’m going to the store to grab a couple of bags of candy to “inspect” while you look at the pictures!

IMG_2863WMA full-length black linen creates the appearance of a ghostly “floating” tabletop design.

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IMG_2818WMThe use of clear glass and black tabletop accessories further lends to the ethereal “floating” effect. You can pick up clear glass dishes at places like Bed Bath & Beyond or Old Time Pottery. The black stemware used here is just $1 a stem at the Dollar Tree store. Gotta love that place! Lots of bang for the buck…especially in this economy!!!

 IMG_2879WMThe close placement of the flatware creates a “chain link fortress” around the table.

Yes…I used the names of some close blogger pals like Vernice at We Three Dogs & Me for place cards. If I have to suffer through this, I’m taking you guys with me! I found the fun little skull place card holders at TJ Maxx.

The dinner menu, of course, has to be pretty nauseating to be effective! The design on the end of the Hampton Silversmith’s black “San Remo” flatware works well with its almost Gothic look.

I have a couple of wrought iron “trees” that come in handy for various centerpieces, and Halloween seems a pretty likely opportunity. The tree holds 20 votives in its “branches.” To give it a spooky look, I added clumps of Spanish moss, lots of skulls from Michaels craft store, and a 6-ft. python slithering from top to bottom. I bought this tree wholesale several years ago, so I can’t tell you where to buy one. Curly willow branches, manzanita branches, or any type of small tree would work just as well, though, to achieve the look.

Lots of delicacies under glass from Dollar Tree including “finger sandwiches” on white with a bit of herbed mayo. Hmmm…this food looks a bit undercooked! The glass covered pedestals are from Hobby Lobby and Marshalls. (Dollar Tree and Deal$ – owned by the same company – are both GREAT resources for fun, affordable props!)

Votive candles lined up along the deck ledge with a skeleton here and there provide a little more ambience.

A look from below.

As if on cue as I finished up, a huge black cat darted from under the deck, across the yard, over the fence and into the neighbor’s yard. Oh, crud. The bully made me pee my pants…again!

Other Halloween tablescapes on this site:
Ravenous Raven Graveyard Feast
Hollywood Fright Night

I’ll be joining my spooky pals at Susan’s Tablescape Thursdays again this week, so please stop by to see how much they enjoy decorating for Halloween!

Little Black Dress

I’m back this week and feeling pretty good now. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to drop me a note of encouragement during my illness. I felt very much loved! And my husband extends his thanks for your patience with him as well. I’m afraid to ask just what that means! 😉

Congratulations once again to the winner of the Mikasa “Daylight” Giveaway, Marlis Bennett of Creative Journeys!!! All the entries were beautiful and creative, and it pained me deeply that only one person could win. But since those were the contest rules, Marlis was awarded the grand prize and I tip my hat to her. Enjoy, Marlis!

This week’s tablescape is in response to Angela who requested help via Facebook with designing a sleek, sophisticated, uncluttered and inexpensive tablescape for entertaining a prospective client. Tall order, Angela! All that and inexpensive??!?!! Well, here ya go…my interpretation of what that might look like.
(Photos taken in low light for dramatic film noir effect!)

IMG_0620WMI considered what I wear when I’m looking to convey sleek sophistication, and nothing fills that bill like a little black dress! So the table is dressed in a sultry black linen.

Accessories? I usually put on either pearls or understated diamonds and finish off the look with a dramatic slick of juicy red lipstick. There’s my inspiration for this black and red tablescape!

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img_0618wm.jpgSleek silver chargers are topped with an inexpensive crystal clear dinner and salad plate (the diamonds) from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Simple and cost effective clear water and wine glasses keep pace with the simplicity of the place setting. (I buy these in bulk from Old Time Pottery and Pier 1.) A simply folded black napkin rests on top of the stack to quietly bring the drama of the black closer to the surface of the tablescape.

IMG_0633WMSleek, unadorned J. A. Henckels “Bellaserra” stainless flatware finishes each place setting.

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Here’s where that slick of ruby red lipstick comes in: brightly colored tulips submerged in glass spheres, anchored with black river rock. Smaller, similarly shaped votive holders extend the candlelight from the floaters in the floral arrangements. A little river rock is added to the bottom of the votive holders for design consistency. (River rock in various colors can be purchased at craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels. The same goes for the glass spheres which can be used for myriad tabletop designs. Both are on sale for 50% off about every 6 weeks, so watch the sale ads and pick up twice as much for the price!) Flowers submerged in glass vases allows for an impressive look without the expense of the numbers needed for full bouquets.

The uncluttered design on the table continues on the buffet surface with just the bare necessities. For as much money as you save on the cool red and black tablescape, you can afford to serve a little caviar during cocktails. Nothing complements a little black dress like caviar and champagne! 😉 (My friend enjoyed this caviar – despite the availability of my well-stocked wine fridge – with a bottle of Yoo-hoo after I photographed it. I’m sorry, but no matter how hard I try I just can’t get with the whole raw fish thing! And to wash it down with a Yoo-hoo is just gross…and weird!!!)

IMG_0605WMA simply arranged vase of tulips sidles up to a mirrored charger of Mikasa’s  leggy “Sophia” tall sherbet glasses.

I picked up these cute linen cocktail napkins at Bombay Company before all the U.S. retail outlets closed. They are perfect for dabbing away the remnants of a sip and a nosh before dinner.

More tablescapes on this site using clear glass globes:
Autumn Blues

Well, Angela, this is my take on a slick black tablescape with red accents. While you are planning to use it as a spring tablescape, it would also be great for a fabulous New Year’s Eve tablescape, or any time of year with a quick change of flowers. I hope this helps to get your own table ready for the big night! Good luck to you, and please let me know how it goes!

More tablescapes on this site using tulips:
Welcome Back, Joel
Informally Formal
The Bluebird Special
Easter Floral
Peachy Keen Breakfast Tablescape

Linking to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch on Wednesday after 9:00 p.m. for Tablescape Thursday! Hope to see you there!

And the Winner is…!

As a kid growing up and then as an adult on into my 40s and 50s, I can’t remember ever missing a presentation of the Grammys. Come what may, I’d park myself squarely in front of the television set, ready to “ooh!” and “aah!” at all the luminaries in attendance. I knew every word to every song and would – a la Beatles-first-come-to-America – scream and cry with joy whenever a cutie pie took the stage. It was all so magical. And then came the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, and I was nowhere to be found. I didn’t even DVR it. What’s the point? I have no idea who 90% of the people are, I find many of the outfits abhorring, I took the antidote for “Bieber Fever” before it became an epidemic, I’m not gaga for Gaga, Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot In Here” means something completely different to a menopausal woman like me, and most of the “music” just sounds like a train wreck to my ears.

I set this vignette up with the seating at the Golden Globe Awards in mind. The guests all enjoy dinner at a beautifully set table and then remain seated there for the awards program. For an occasion such as watching The Grammys, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to set the table up near the television in the living room or family room. Guests can then remain seated at the table for the show or retreat to a nearby sofa.

 

 

I started with a black floor-length linen. A red table runner mimics the red carpet that celebrities walk prior to the broadcast. Heavy glass gold-leafed chargers anchor the place setting. My sister-in-law Zatina’s whimsical black and white dinner plates are rimmed with piano keys, and the salad plates are dotted with various musical instruments tumbling across a meandering gold staff. Gold flatware shines against the black linen.

Gold painted Christmas ornaments in the shape of musical notes are used to further “jazz up” the place setting. They stand up easily in the recesses of the napkin fold.

I borrowed a couple of ideas from a table I created for an at-home event a few years back. One of those ideas was martini tasting during the appetizer and/or salad course(s). Cristal is often served at fancy awards dinners like the Grammys, but jet-setters might enjoy something a little different like this. Since each glass only holds about 2 ounces, guests are still lucid enough to enjoy the rest of the evening!

This is another idea I recreated from an at-home event we hosted a few years back. Each guest’s menu was placed in an envelope as if its contents held the name of the winner. Upon opening the envelope to retrieve the menu, the “surprise” was little musical note confetti. I made these menus on our home computer, affixing a red strip of paper across the top of each to again resemble the red carpet.

 

Finally, the centerpiece. I wanted to do something that was easy, inexpensive, and that created an ambience fit for a star. Nothing says “ambience” like candlelight, and by simply floating candles in glass cylinders at different heights and adding a few votives, I think the mission was accomplished.

This was a fun “idea” tablescape to do! Thanks again to my sister-in-law, Zatina, who presented me with the challenge. I’ll give you your dishes back. I promise! 😉  I hope this table will serve as inspiration for future parties (Grammy night, early supper before the symphony, late dinner after a concert, musical tablescape, etc.).

Rock on, Zatina! I hope you like it!

Other Black & Red tablescapes on this site include:
Little Black Dress
Year of the Rabbit 辛卯

This week, as I proudly do every week, I am joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday. After checking out the photos from my Grammy Night table, boogie on over to Susan’s place to see the work of many talented tablescapers from around the globe.

辛卯/Year of the Rabbit

It almost didn’t happen because of the 12″ of snow Mother Nature bestowed upon us, but this was the first year that a few friends and I celebrated Chinese New Year.  It meant a lot to us to try something new! Of course, Chinese food is always best from a restaurant (at least at my house it is!), and we had plenty of it!

One of the most exciting components of this luncheon table was the red and gold brocade table linen. Why? Because I made it!!! While nothing like the highly skilled sewing talents of many of my blogger friends, this was my very first attempt at sewing under the tutelage of my (exceedingly patient!) friend and neighbor, Barbara.  Like many women my age, I took sewing in “Home Ec” class back in high school. I got a big fat D in that class. It took an entire semester for me to make an apron that wasn’t fit for use. It was the only D grade I ever got, and I frankly did not care. The class was a nightmare, and I just wanted out. Recently, though, my sadistic niece who has an undergrad degree in Fashion Design & Product Development gave me a sewing machine. After me watching it and it watching me for about 2 months, I finally decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did!

My original thought was to use a beautiful fabric set given to me by dear friends from Shanghai. After much consideration, however, I decided that set is best suited for a summer gathering with its more muted tones. This Chinese New Year celebration called for lots of red and gold which respectively symbolizes happiness and wealth. Black seemed the perfect neutral to best show off those two bold and brilliant colors.

I bought these cool red favor boxes for each place setting at Pier 1 at the end of the 2010 Christmas season. They worked perfectly with this theme! Guests opened the box to find red & gold foil-covered chocolate coins.

This 24″H black ceramic ginger jar from Home Goods – adorned with a shimmery gold tassel – makes a simple but stately centerpiece.

The buffet is topped with a Pier 1 red, fuchsia and gold bamboo runner to tie all of the separate elements together. A gold tray, also from Pier 1, holds a World Market teapot and a bowl of fortune cookies. Tradition has it that parents gift their children with brightly colored envelopes with money. For my guests, however, the envelopes contained a gift certificate to World Market.

Firecrackers are a big part of the Chinese New Year celebration. Lee’s Summit city ordinance prohibits the use of firecrackers within city limits (AND it was WAY too cold out!), so these English crackers were a fine indoor substitute! I bought them at the end of the Christmas season at…where else?…Pier 1. The red & gold colors made them perfect for this event!

Fresh fiery red grevillea, embellished with a faux gem-encrusted butterfly, shoots from a black urn. (Hint: You can purchase colored grevillea from your florist, but be careful! The color easily transfers to clothing, skin, and anything else in its path! My kitchen sink still has the slightest pink tinge going on! 😦 )

I found this graceful young lady at TJ Maxx. Behind her to add depth and height to the vignette are a pair of oversized decorative chopsticks and a simple gold platter on a black stand.

My Mother brought these silk Chinese lanterns back from China when she visited in 2000. They symbolize the Chinese New Year Festival of Lanterns that is traditionally held on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year.

Other Asian-inspired tablescapes on this site:
Bringing the Zing to Chinese Takeout

Chinese Takeout
Float Like A Butterfly
Mandarin Bling
Peaceful Peonies
Copper Zen
Blue & White 30th Birthday
Zen Garden/Mum’s the Word

Mikasa Giveaway
Diwali My Way

I am once again joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  After checking out my post, be sure to bop on over to see what the other tablescapers from around this great world of ours are up to this week!

Fete Noir et Gris

 

I was so taken with the black and white components of last week’s table! So when I volunteered to host an intimate dinner for friends who are running off to New Orleans to get married, I thought I’d use those colors again, this time infused with silvery gray. (Seriously, though…do you really “run off to get married” in your 50s? I’m in my 50s, and it would be more like “leisurely strolling off”…or “limping off.” I actually added the silvery gray to complement our hair color!) 😉  This time the colors are paired with more upscale china, stemware, flatware and other decorative accoutrement. I hope you like it!

 

 

There’s just something about decorating with black and white that renders such a profound sense of elegance! Adding touches of gray or pewter or slate seem to make it that much more so.

 

 

My sister’s classic Noritake “Whitebrook” china is always a lovely start to conveying formality and tradition. The china is set atop a double layer of chargers – one beaded silver and the other a rhinestone-studded white. Against the black of the table linen, the dishes really stand out. My favorite International Silver “Royal Danish” sterling flatware always looks great on a formal dining table.

 

When setting a formal dining table, I tend to forego fancy napkin folds and just go with something fairly staid. Adding a sheer silver organza beneath the black adds a bit of flair. The clustered dragon tear napkin rings add a bit more shine without going too far overboard.

 

These “Bella” wine stems from Z Gallerie are fast becoming a new favorite! The top color reminds me of the color of mercury in the old maximum thermometers. Very sultry!

 

Each person’s place is marked with a faux mother-of-pearl and rhinestone frame.

 

 

 

Million star gypsophila (a.k.a. “baby’s breath”) makes an airy, elegant statement in this ornately carved silver floral vessel. Baby’s breath floral arrangements are really quite striking and very easy to assemble using floral foam to keep them well-hydrated. (See this silver piece used again at “Rhapsody In Blue.)

 

I found this fabulous “Josephine” table runner in velvety soft pewter at Z Gallerie. I love the gentle scrolling.

 

 

The table’s look is finished off with a couple of “lamps” which are actually tall silver candlesticks with ornately beaded shades from….drumroll!…Old Time Pottery!!!  The shade design elements complement the place card frames. The lamps are illuminated using LED votive candles on a follower. (Tip #20)

Other tablescapes on this site using baby’s breath:
Shake, Rattle & Roll ‘Em!
Princess Pink Birthday Dinner
Ideas For Throwing A Winter Dessert Party

This would also make a great New Year’s Eve tablescape!!!

I’m teaming up again with Susan and the other tablescapers at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursdays. After perusing my photos, you’re invited to join us there!