Mineral, orchid, indigo, persimmon, grass + navy. The colors of spring. Invite them in to your home for your own flight of fancy.
My neighbor Emily has enlisted me to help her put together a “grown up” gathering of friends this Thanksgiving. To catch up on our planning, read up here. The next “chunk” we needed to tackle was the menu. We pulled out some tried and true recipes, scanned our collective cookbooks and did a little pinteresting search to get our taste buds activated.
When putting together a menu, think first about yourself. What can you realistically pull off given the amount of time, ability and interest you have in the culinary arts. Emily is a busy mom of two babes. While she enjoys cooking, there is a limit to the time she can dedicate to any dish let alone a turkey and trimmings. I suggest that she delegate. I have never liked the term potluck as it leaves way too much to chance, so we come up with a very specific menu. A pre-planned menu, right down to the recipe, is perfect. It saves guests from coming up with a recipe on their own and everyone will feel that they have contributed to a wonderful meal. This is where you think about your guests when planning a menu. Beyond dietary considerations, also consider time constraints, ability and budget. Abby loves to bake, have her bring pies. Candace stresses out in the kitchen, give her a specialty cocktail. Ben travels a ton for work, don’t even bother giving him a dish and let him bring a music playlist! You get the idea…
Another great tip from our Creative Director, Katherine Poole is to outsource. Her own Thanksgiving traditions include collard greens prepared by a local bistro that specializes in Southern cuisine and homemade yeast rolls made (with love) by the women at her church for a holiday bazaar. Whatever you are serving, make it the best you can.
My neighbor Emily is finally settling into her new house and new role as mother of two very young children. She and her friends are in that stage of life where rushed meals between bottles, naps, and toddler wrangling translate to lukewarm stewed green beans and something resembling chicken. She wants to throw a Thanksgiving dinner for friends that is more "grown up" this year and sought my help. I understand exactly what she means and knew just what to do. Emily invited me over for a little tea and sympathy so we could chart out how to put this gathering together. Since she is short on time and brain space, I knew we had to approach it in manageable chunks. One overly long to-do list can exhaust and overwhelm.
First chunk, start with the fun stuff... dressing the table. Just as a bride often selects her dress first, it allows all of the other decisions to fall into place. Color palette, mood, theme, etc… Consider the china, silverware and serving pieces you want to use. For practical reasons, Emily needed to use her everyday china. (She is still collecting place settings in the fancy stuff!) She also had a great collection of creamware serving platters and trays. So, with simple white tableware, we could give the linens some flair. Emily was drawn to our pattern Garden Gate Ochre. We paired it with a solid napkin in the same color and the ruffled edge nicely set off the shape of her plates.
Next, find that inspiration piece that will add a personal touch to the table. Your grandmother’s kitsch-y turkey shaped gravy boat, a beautiful basket bought on your honeymoon, acorns and pine cones the kids’ collected on a recent hike. Emily and I quickly honed in on an assortment of antique silver-plated spoons she recently acquired. Click here to see what we ended up doing with them. She also had a set of heirloom silver candle sticks. It was all coming together. A little rustic, a little contemporary. All Emily.
My sweet friend Emily scored a gorgeous assortment of antique silver-plated spoons at a tag sale this summer. She is kind of obsessed with them and wants to display them in a shadowbox to hang in her kitchen. She pulled them out to show me when we got together to plan her Thanksgiving dinner. I suggested that before she got all crafty, why not set the table with them. I firmly believe that beautiful things should be pulled out and used! Then we had the idea that the spoons could pull double duty on her Thanksgiving table. Place card holder and place setting! A simple tag, a bit of twine and a small "found" object are all that is needed. Keep it simple. If your guest can't figure out how to access their plate, napkin and silverware or feel uncomfortable deconstructing your bedazzled place setting, you may have gone overboard. Put down the glue gun and see what we came up with for Emily!
Our photographer, Lee http://lkphotography.com/ , sneaks in gorgeous candid shots when we are photographing our linens. It's my favorite part of opening our photography galleries after we finish a shoot. She can't help herself. Runners in a crate, just in from the hauling. A stack of napkins on a chair in the corner awaiting their turn. A guest towel hanging over a chair, post ironing. The mundane become lovely and uplifted when she captures and composes. I came across these as I was preparing the introduction of our new Mallory Cottage Collection. (oops! did I just spill the beans? Available October 1.) I'll try to remember to share more as I find them. They make me happy.
Set a proper table!
Show her that all of those years of manners training (nagging?) paid off! We love this napkin fold. You can tuck a little note or homemade gift certificate right in it.
Do something fun she did with you. We are never too old for craft time. I have fond and funny memories of making potato stamps with my mother. (Some of our works could have populated a Pinterest Fails Board.)
- Cut your potato in half
- Sketch out a quick design on the face of the potato
- Use a pairing knife to cut away the sides, leaving your design raised
- Dip potato design in paint or ink and stamp away
This project aims to step the game up a notch. Cut your potato stamps into shells or flowers. Go geometric with a quatrefoil or chevron design. Stamp on a heavy piece of textured cardstock. Your local craft store will have a cool selection of papers, stationeries and tags to choose from. For this stamping, I used watered down acrylic craft paint. Make place cards for Mother’s Day brunch. Make tags for hostess gifts. Make notecards she can use to write you a thank you note for being such a thoughtful kid and bringing back such wonderful memories. You were always her favorite.
I have always been drawn to live plant arrangements. An orchid nestled in among ferns and tendrils of ivy, an earthy collection of succulents, a kitchen herb garden…. But, I never could make them look just right or live long. At our last photo shoot Katherine (our clever Creative Director) taught me the secret to success that she learned from her friend Rena, a master gardener and gifted floral arranger.
It’s all in the baggies, folks! Simply take the plants out of their containers, shake off a little excess dirt and break your roots up a bit then place in a zip top baggie. This allows you to pot up plants that require different levels of water. I find the baggies act like a terrarium and plants need less water altogether (even better). It also makes space for more plants, because you don’t have as much dirt to contend with. The best part? You can easily re-arrange the plants if they just aren't “sitting right” in the container or swap out something that doesn't quite have the stamina of the rest. Re-planting elsewhere is a breeze.
To create an arrangement that is balanced, think in threes. Three different plants. Three different shapes (large leaves, curling tendrils, tight buds). Three different heights. Three different shades (look for variegation in leaves or interesting blooms). (Of course, you can use more than three, but you have to start somewhere!). I always look for something tall and eye catching as my anchor plant. Most often I start with a plant that is blooming. The anchor plant goes in first. Next I tuck in my medium sized plants. My go-to is ferns. There are so many gorgeous, full ferns that really fill out an arrangement. Finally, I add the short plants to give the arrangement interest. Ground cover plants that cascade are perfect. Ivy works nicely, but needs watering often.
To hide all of the baggies and to give the arrangement an elegant finish, I add clumps of moss around the base of each plant. I then spray the arrangement with Green Glo leaf shine. It gives the leaves a glossy finish and removes water stains. You can find moss and Green Glo at your local craft store.