Category Archives: Table Settings

Easy Art Deco Tablescapes and Decor

Once I had settled on the Art Deco theme for the MVMT dinner, I set to work pulling everything together. As with any event, there were many things to consider and details to organize. I started searching the internet and creating an event binder which organized my inspiration pictures, color and fabric swatches and vendor contacts, pricing, scheduling, etc.

All the details. All together.

The first item of business was to find a good caterer. No, I did not cook dinner for 175 people, I do know my limits and sometimes I even pay attention to them. I thought about it though. But not this time. For this big of a crowd, I needed professionals and I needed them fast as I had only about three weeks to put the dinner together. I promise to tell you more about the food and the caterer in a later post but for now, we’re talking tablescapes and décor.

As far as creating the look, feeling and ambiance of the evening, I knew what I wanted and I knew the individual tablescapes would be key. I wanted bold rich color and for the room to glow with soft amber light. When the dinner guests arrived, I wanted them to walk into a setting they didn’t expect and to find an elegant atmosphere that was still very relaxed and welcoming. After all, this dinner was all about making them feel special and appreciated and setting the mood for celebrating the incredible things God has in store for our church.

So I had my plan and knew what I wanted to achieve. Now, the biggest challenge. Budget. If you know anything about a caterer, you know they had just gotten most of it. Which stands to reason as the food really is of primary importance at a dinner party. So, it was time to get creative with the remaining plans for the event.

Thankfully, I am not easily intimidated by budget. In fact, quite the opposite. Working on a tight budget is half the fun. Finding creative ways to stretch every dollar is a great challenge. And knowing that you are being a good steward of the money entrusted to you is very rewarding.

You can, without doubt, pull together an incredible event on a very small budget. It just takes a little planning and ingenuity and a complete and absolute unwillingness to pay anyone to do anything you can do yourself. Know your limits (and pay attention to them) but believe in yourself a little and roll up your sleeves and do it yourself!

If you’ll indulge me a bit, I’d love to show you what I did …

Tablescapes and Décor on a budget.

MVMT-Dinner-Centerpieces

There were really only three major elements to the tablescapes, but each was very important to the overall style and mood of the event; table runners, floral arrangements and lighting.

Table Runners

The table runners were my biggest opportunity to pull in a gorgeous Art Deco pattern. Fabric is so often “the answer” to the question “how do I make a statement?” My color palette of tomato red, tan/gold, black and lush green was determined in part by the room the dinner would be served in but also by the atmosphere/vibe I imagined and was looking to create.

The church already had black table cloths and using what you already have is rule number one in maximizing a budget. The reds and golds would come into play in the fabric for the runners and the flowers and the green element would be from the palms that I would use in both the centerpiece arrangements as well as in pots around the room.

MVMT Dinner Table Runner

I looked at a lot of table runners on line and this was one of my absolute favorites. The color is perfect and I love the pattern but at $33 each, the price is fair but just didn’t fit into my budget. After all, I needed 24. This gorgeous runner is from Eva Babika’s Bedazzle Design Esty shop.

After a whole lot of looking, I started thinking I really should just dust off my sewing machine and make my own. Did I have time? Did I really have a choice? I began looking for fabric first at Hobby Lobby and then online.

I found what I was looking for at FabricGuru for only $8.95/yard. The perfect colors and pattern. Yes, I would indeed be dusting off the sewing machine and turning my dining room table into a textile factory.

Making-Table-Runners

Thankfully, my mom was in town and able to lend a hand. I really don’t know what I would do without her. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time! She might consider that a curse but in my case, I see it as quite the blessing.

In stead of paying $33 for each runner or settling on much lower quality runners that might squeeeeeeze into my budget, I ended up with exactly what I wanted, customized to the exact size I needed. If you are thinking, “great but I can’t sew”. I promise you, you can sew a straight line. Watch a tutorial on line or have a friend or family member give you a quick lesson and borrow a machine if you have to. You can do it!

Mom-Helping-Too

Or you can just call your mom. That always works for me.

The perfect Art Deco period flowers – Lilies and Palms

Asiatic-Lily-and-Palm-Arran

The floral centerpieces were another important part of the table and had to be both beautiful and budget friendly.

Carnations

This was my original inspiration photo. I found it online while searching “red carnation arrangements” and unfortunately cannot now find a proper source to credit. Whoever they are, they are very talented and I thank them for the inspiration!

Working with a tight budget, I thought carnations might be the way to go. I know they have an “inexpensive” and therefore somewhat undesirable reputation but I think they get a bad wrap. They are beautiful and when done in a tight full arrangement like this with the two tones of red, they are stunning. And yes, cost effective.

I put my theory to the test when I posted the above photo on Facebook and posed the simple question tacky or gorgeous? The overwhelming response was gorgeous and tacky only when dipped in neon colors not found in nature. I would have to agree.

Unfortunately, my actual “test run” didn’t give me the results I was looking for and while beautiful, the carnation arrangement just didn’t say “Art Deco” to me. My instinct and my heart were with Asiatic Lilies so I hit the internet looking for the best deal I could find.

Burnt-Orange-Asiatic-Lily

That deal came from fiftyflowers.com – 50 stems for about $130.00. Each stem has 3 to five flowers on it so I crossed my fingers and whispered a little prayer that 50 would be enough. The really great part about fiftyflowers.com is not just the bargain but their customer service is fantastic! Shortly after I placed my order (as in within 15 minutes), a representative called to confirm it and give me helpful tips on unpacking the lilies and keeping them fresh. I truly appreciate good customer service and that was a nice touch.

Burnt-Orange-Asiatic-Lilies

One thing to keep in mind about Asiatic lilies is that you need to have them delivered about four days prior to your event so they have time to open. I really enjoyed the big pot of lilies on my kitchen table. Waiting for them to open was almost like Christmas.

One more thing about fiftyflowers.com, my first order of lilies had some shipping issues and fifty flowers called to let me know they would be arriving a day late. I expressed my concern as to whether or not they would be fresh with an extra day in transit and they assured me the lilies should be fine. Within a half an hour someone called back and said they had gone ahead and sent a second shipment of lilies just to ensure the quality and freshness and that if the first order should show up, to consider them a gift.

Consider them a gift.

Seriously, who does things like that anymore? Fiftyflowers.com does and now has my business for life. The first order did show up the day before the event and incredibly enough were still in pretty good shape. They were also just a bit darker than the second order and the variation in the two colors turned out beautifully. Fiftyflowers.com, I am impressed and very thankful to you.

So I had my lilies, now what to put them in? The arrangement needed to be low in order for dinner guests to see over them and converse easily but full and lush to give the dramatic effect I was looking for. I also really had it stuck in my head that they should be in some sort of bowl or urn like the inspiration picture above. Here’s what I ended up going with …

Floral Urn

While there is nothing I love more than a silver bowl, in this case with the red, black and tan color scheme, I really needed gold. But just the right gold, subtle and not garish. I found what I wanted online at Wholesale Flowers and Supplies. I loved the decorative points in the design which look somewhat Egyptian inspired to me and ancient Egyptian design was very influential in the Art Deco movement. Perfect.

When the urns arrived, I excitedly tore into the box, eager to see what they looked like; somewhat reminiscent of the dad in A Christmas Story when his “major award” arrived. With great anticipation, I pulled one out and it looked … well, garish. Yes, just like A Christmas Story. Very, very garish. But the size shape and design were perfect, and they weren’t actually tiny fishnet leg lamps (if you have never seen A Christmas Story, you REALLY must), so all was not lost.

Painting-Floral-UrnsAnd my love affair with spray paint continues. The bright gold, slightly tacky plastic urns were quickly transformed into the subtle elegant vessels I was envisioning with just a few sprays of “Champagne Mist”.

From now on when someone asks me what my favorite color is, the answer will always be and emphatic “Champagne Mist”.

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Okay, so it was more than just a few sprays. Twenty four urns = A LOT of sprays.

So the urns were beautiful and ready to go. I had the lilies but what about the palm fronds? I could have ordered them with the lilies but as it turns out, I didn’t need to. Thankfully, a refreshing swim a few days earlier led to a big money saving epiphany. You see, in Arizona, pools are pretty much always surrounded by palms.

My pool is surrounded by palms.

One afternoon, while floating peacefully surrounded by palms, the thought came to me … I don’t have to order palms, I have all the fronds I want right here, I can trim until my hearts content and save a ton of money. Oh, how I love a good budget stretching epiphany.

Pygmy Date Palms have the perfect fronds for flower arrangements. Rule #1, use what you have! So, the morning of the event I went out with my hand pruners and cut about 60 fronds. And then I sat on the back patio in the morning breeze and trimmed and shaped each of them, all the while basking in my own genius.

Asiatic-Lily-&-Palm-Arrange

On the day of the event, my friend and right hand woman Linda and I stood in the church kitchen with a big pot of lilies and a big pot of palm fronds and made a whole bunch of flower arrangements and a big mess. I put a small plastic solo cup inside each urn so the flowers were kept tighter in a smaller container. It worked great and I was absolutely thrilled with the end result. And yes, I did clean up my mess.

Asiatic-Lily-&-Palm-Art-Dec

While I would have like to have a peacock feather or two in the arrangements, that was just not in the budget. And, unfortunately I don’t have any peacocks roaming around the hacienda supplying me with free feathers. Okay, that really isn’t so unfortunate. Actually, I’m pretty ok with it.

Asiati-Lily-Arrangement

My bonus lily score meant that I was able to make a few larger arrangements for the gelato bar and the literature table and happily I was able to incorporate a few feathers into those.

Asiatic-Lily-Arrangement-2

I found these tan peacock feathers at Hobby Lobby, along with the gorgeous black vase.

Potted-Palms

The only thing left in the “foliage/floral” category were the potted palms. Potted palms are found everywhere in Art Deco design and were an absolute must for this event. Besides, I LOVE palms! The church already had the iron candle holders and lots of LED candles and they were perfect arranged with the potted palms.

Potted-Palms-2

I found these gorgeous Cats Paw Palms (indoor palms) at Home Depot for only about $13.00 each which was a lot less than we could have even rented them for. After the event was over we gave them out to any staff member that wanted one and I have a few strays at home now too. The plastic pots also came from Home Depot and had the perfect geometric circle pattern in a gold washed bronze finish. They were also a huge bargain and looked fantastic.

The only down side? I had to visit four different Home Depots to find enough and turn my van into a jungle which my boys thought was awesome! So really, it wasn’t actually even a down side.

Candles and Printed Menus

Open flame was a no-no so I found some fantastic silver LED votive candles with a very amber colored flickering flame. They were 50% off at Michaels along with glass votive holders so after visiting three Michael’s to find enough, I was able to put six candles on each table which gave the room the gorgeous warm “glow” I was looking for.

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I know it is hard to tell from the picture so you are just going to have to trust me on this.

Last, a printed Menu on each side of the table runner.

Remember the inspiration photo?

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 4

And here is my much simpler version …

Art-Deco-Styled-Printed-Men

I did the layout on Microsoft Word (because it is what I know) and printed them out on cardstock at home. Easy and I.N.E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E.

I really could not be happier with how everything turned out and want to encourage you not to be afraid to “do it yourself” too for your next party or even a major event.

Do you have a wedding, company dinner, birthday party coming up?

Do some leg work, search the internet and Pinterest for ideas, come up with a theme, hunt for bargains, get organized and get going! The satisfaction of “creating” is truly it’s own reward. And stretching your budget aint so bad either!

In the next couple of posts I will share dessert with you and how the whole event turned out. Please be sure to visit again soon. If you have any entertaining tips or tricks to share, leave a comment for me as I would love to hear about them!

Oh, and don’t forget to watch A Christmas Story.

And call your mom and thank her for all she does for you.

 

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Bringing the Beach to Arizona and the Women of Mission

I know that this is a long post but we have some catching up to do. You may have noticed that there has been little more than the chirping of crickets happening here at Welcome Company lately.

If you did notice, thank you!

I appreciate you stopping by and visiting and I’m sorry the hospitality has been a bit lacking. I promise to make it up to you and that I do have a good reason, actually a couple of good reasons, that I am so excited to share with you.

I told you a while back that I was asked to step into the role of Event Coordinator for the Women’s Ministry of our church. I shared with you one of the first events I did for our Summer Spiritual Growth Speaking series; A Very Vintage Event – there were actually four evenings in the series but I didn’t bring my camera to the first two (I know, lesson learned) and had to leave town unexpectedly just before the last when my sweet Uncle passed away. A shout out to my friend Shally who covered for me and got everything set up beautifully; no one even knew I was gone.

But I did get to share one with you and I am thankful for that as it was such an incredible evening.

I have been very occupied with events this past month as Women’s Ministry just had one of our biggest this past Thursday evening. We call it the KNOW Event.  Our church is experiencing a phenomenal amount of growth and the KNOW event is geared toward welcoming new women into our ministry and getting them in the “KNOW” and plugged in where they can best serve and be served. We have a KNOW event twice a year and also love to welcome back women who have been with us previously and are interested in finding out what will be going on in Women’s Ministry, details about the Fall Retreat and what bible studies will be offered.

When I began thinking and praying about the KNOW event, I felt God leading me to consider in particular the new women we would be welcoming; whether brand new to our church or new to women’s ministry. We are a big church. And while we are a welcoming big church that truly feels like a small one, there are a lot of people and that can be intimidating for many.

And the honest truth is, women are often intimidating to other women.

Each of us comes with our own story, our own set of hurts, past experiences, uncertainties and hopes and it is hard to walk into a room full of other women for the very first time with all of that dragging behind us. Maybe even walking in knowing not another soul, setting aside our apprehension to find where we belong. Hoping we will be welcomed. Hoping we will fit in.

My job description as I see it is simple; make each woman feel welcomed and at home. That idea is paramount to menus, design and activities but I am thankful to have a God who can work through such things to create a welcoming atmosphere for all.

God is in the details. He cares about every detail and desires for us to seek Him even in what we might consider trivial.

I felt that, I felt Him very close to me, in the planning of this event; in the mindful desire to create a welcoming, relaxed and peaceful gathering for every woman who would walk through our doors; whether for the first time or the five-hundredth.

Welcoming. Relaxed. Peaceful.

The beach. He keeps bringing me back to the beach.

Of course. After all, what is more relaxing and peaceful than the beach?

Seaside-Tablescape-2

When I think of the beach, I go east coast. I don’t know why. Maybe it is the idyllic setting in my mind as I have never been east of Tennessee (and I have only been that far east once). But when I think of the beach, I think of cozy cottages on Cape Cod, the charm of Nantucket and strolling the quaint streets of East Hampton (well, that one I’m sure is because my girl Ina lives there).

These might be romanticized notions but regardless they are what come to mind when I think of the beach and I just want to dig my toes in the warm sand and listen to the gentle waves lapping the shore line with a big glass of iced tea, a flavorful picnic basket and a few girlfriends to share it all with.

Welcoming. Relaxed. Peaceful.

So last Thursday, the beach came to Arizona and to the 250  women who came to spend the evening with us. I would love to share with you how it all came together.

The Mission Women’s Ministry KNOW Event, Fall 2013

Mission-Women-KNOWYes, it is only August but here in Arizona, some of our kids have already started back to school and the rest begin in the next few days (Hallelujah Chorus) so we call it Fall. Part of the inspiration for the beach theme was to pay one last little homage to summer.

The first thing about pulling a big event together is to be mindful of the budget. Believe it or not, I love the challenge of this. Half the fun of pulling it all together is to see just how far God can take a shoestring. I also firmly believe that if He has given me the ability and the means to do something, I absolutely cannot pay someone else to do it – this gets me into trouble sometimes, in the form of sleep deprivation, but generally works out for me.

He has given me the ability to sew a pretty good straight line (just don’t ask me to make an item of clothing) so I made my own table cloths and runners, which add so much but are just not in the budget for each new event. The standard tablecloths provided by the church are black which is a good basic look but not very beachy.

I am now about to let you in on a little budget friendly decorating secret, perhaps one of my all-time favorite … painters canvas.

Painters canvas. You know the drop cloths you find at Home Depot? Well, they make GREAT tablecloths – especially for rectangular folding tables.

Seaside-Beach-Themed-Buffet

I cut a “big” one into thirds, hemmed the unfinished edges and it covered three 6’x2′ rectangular tables perfectly. The “hallway runners” work GREAT as well.

Seaside-Themed-Event

I found this gorgeous light blue and cream chevron fabric (I am all about the chevrons right now) at Hobby Lobby and made a 12 foot runner for the buffet table.

With budget ever in mind, I made my way up the steep ladder (I’m not exaggerating, I feel like GI Joe every time I climb up there) into the overhead storage room to see what Women’s Ministry already had in storage. Twenty-three hurricanes, six glass bowls and a whole lot of LED candles came in handy for the centerpieces.

I bought the sand, shells and seaside potpourri at Michaels and the blue table runners from Target. They are a heavy but soft paper that comes in a roll and can be cut to whatever size you need. Blue mason jars (be still my heart) and an assortment of pretty white flowers from the grocery store completed our beach themed centerpieces. The potpourri had a lovely light scent that added a nice touch.

Remember that budget I talked about? Well, I usually end up happily contributing a little on my own. It is a blessing to do so and what girl doesn’t need 36 fabulous blue mason jars? Oh, I will find something to do with them.

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The buffet table centerpieces came from Costco and I added in blue hydrangea that I just couldn’t pass up.

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I don’t always use flower bouquets as a centerpiece. This time I put two arrangements offset from my centerpiece which was an aged blue lantern, white vase with beach grasses, sea glass bottles, shells and white starfish.

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Flowers are a must but don’t always need to be used as a focal point. It is fun to create a scene or vignette that fits your theme.

Beach-Boquet

These flowers played a secondary role but were still show stoppers! I love mixed bouquets and I particularly love all white flowers with just a touch of green and in this case pale blue. You can’t go wrong with a monochromatic bouquet.

With the table centerpieces in place, a zillion LED candles turned on and the buffet table ready to go (thanks to LOTS of helping hands) all that was left was to welcome in the women we are so privileged to serve.

Shally-at-KNOW

Sweet Shally greeting women as they came through the doors. She is also a girl who can work wonders with a sewing machine. She doesn’t know it yet but I’m going to have to do a post one of these days on the incredible things she can do with a plain old t-shirt. Be watching for that one!

But wait, I nearly forgot to tell you about the food. That is so unlike me. Here’s the spread …

Seasid-Beach-Themed-Buffet-

Picnic sandwiches, fruit – green grapes, strawberries and blueberries, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese cubes, brownies, toffee hazelnut cookies, Pirouettes, chocolate wafer cookies, chocolate chip mini-cupcakes and lemonade.

Beach-Themed-Buffet

Strawberry-&-Blueberry-Bask

I love to serve berries in “picking” baskets with a simple white napkin (I line the inside with waxed or parchment paper). They are casual but still beautiful presented and it saves a little room on the table.

Chocolate-Chip-Mini-Muffins

My 11-year-old daughter frosted the cupcakes for me and meticulously placed every single chocolate chip by hand. No kidding. I could have corrected her and told her just to sprinkle them on but she was happy and didn’t seem to mind so I let her do it her way. I love how they turned out because I know that while they aren’t perfect they were made with a lot of love and care. You can’t ask for more. I’ll share the recipe with you later this week.

Barefoot-Contessa's-Herbed-

Even for an event that is later in the evening, centered more around dessert, I think it is important to offer something savory. Many women came straight from work and I wanted there to be just a little something hearty. These Herbed Goat Cheese Tea Sandwiches did the trick. I’ll share these with you soon too – let me just tell you that I could eat the filling by the spoonful but try to be a lady and slather it all over a low carb pita instead.

So that was our day at the beach, or evening anyway. It was an absolute pleasure to pull this event together and to be blessed by a room filled with women who have a heart for Jesus and a desire for fellowship. It was a relaxed, peaceful and happy evening and I hope all felt welcome.

Jodi-&-Erin-at-KNOW

Erin and Jodi; two incredibly special women I am so thankful to serve with and would gladly spend a day at the beach with. Maybe Ina will join us and bring cookies.

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Thanks to everyone who helped me so much (you know who you are) and especially to my friend and events team helper Linda and her daughter Kimberly (I need to get a picture of those girls) who I would be completely lost without.

Thanks for visiting. I pray you have a special group of gals (maybe even 250 of them) that you could spend a day at the beach with – remember the beach is where you find it, it’s the company that truly matters!

We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God in the throng. Psalm 55:14

If you are nervous about reaching out or joining a women’s ministry group, pray and ask God for his guidance and peace and know that there are women who are genuinely waiting to welcome you.

If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

If you are in the Mesa/Gilbert area of Arizona, come and visit us at Mission Community Church or e-mail me at welcomecompany@cox.net for more information about our Women’s Ministry.

So, I told you there were two reasons for the crickets. Here’s the second …

MVMT-Dinner-3A staff/board dinner for 175. Two evenings before the KNOW event. Another beautiful evening I can’t wait to tell you all about. But for now, I’m going to find a beach somewhere and take a nap.

Blessings!

A Very Vintage Event

Before I write another word, I first have to express a very heartfelt thank you for all of the kind words, wishes, support and prayers we received after sharing Nathan’s autism diagnoses. God never leaves us alone in our journey and it is beautiful to be reminded of that. Nathan is very blessed and loved, as are we. Thank you!

Nathan-1I had to put this in because its just so darn cute! Do you ever wish you could have just one more moment with your “baby”? I love my big kid but every now and again I just really miss that baby; soft hair, chubby hands, quiet rocking, sweet snuggles … sigh.

Tangent alert. Sorry,

I know I haven’t been writing as much lately but I’ve been reminded of something recently … summers are busy.

Really busy.

Yes, there is a season to everything and summer, with all three kids at home going in three different directions, just isn’t writing season.

It isn’t just the kids that are busy though, I have also gotten busier but in a really fantastic way and I am excited to tell you about it.

A few months back I was asked by the head of our church’s Women’s Ministry to take over the events team. We are blessed to have a large church and thriving women’s ministry with many activities and events. Needless to say, it is a pretty big job. But it is also an incredible opportunity to serve the women of our church and I must say that I was very humbled and honored when Jodi asked if I would consider it. Women’s ministry has always been where my heart is and has always been where I have served. With three young kids and our focus on their needs and special needs, I have had to serve on a smaller scale but as I said before, to all things there is a season. Nathan will be starting Kindergarten this year and my plate won’t be quite as full.

God’s timing is perfect. I love that about Him.

So, after consideration and prayer, I happily accepted the job and immediately jumped into the first event or series of events as it were – the Spiritual Growth Summer Speaking Series.

My role for this four week event is food and hospitality … hard to imagine, right? My goal each week is to match the hospitality table, food and design with the personality of each speaker as I know three of the four speakers personally. I know I was lead in this direction as it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the very distinct style and unique gifting of each of these women. To consider what each has brought into my life and to pray over each of them as I plan and prepare. What a blessing it has been for me. What a blessing each of these women is to me.

The first week, my friend Christina spoke on living outside of yourself, outside of your comfort zone, truly giving God every part of you. She was so inspirational and is currently spending two weeks in Africa living her words. She is a blogger and mama to six and has gone to Africa with our missions team to chronicle the team’s work and the experience. I encourage you to visit her at The Lang Gang Loves and read about the incredible things God is doing in Malawi and in the hearts of all who are blessed to serve there.

The second week, Christina’s mom Candace was our speaker. I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing bible study with this amazing woman of God. She is truly a Titus 2 woman and I have been deeply blessed by her nurturing and teaching heart. Her beautiful message of forgiveness and the freedom that comes with it was one so many of us needed to hear.

Last night, my sweet, sweet friend Kristin spoke on knowing and sharing Jesus Christ. This is a gifted and anointed woman who delivers a powerful message. Wow! I am still thinking on her words this morning.

So, three weeks into the events and it only took me two weeks and two events to realize that it might be nice to bring my camera along and share a bit of my new adventure in event planning here on my blog. I wish I could share the first two evenings with you but better late than never, right? So I’ll start with Kristin and last night’s event.

Kristin loves all things vintage, eclectic, shabby chic. I love those things too and was very excited to pull out some of my antique service pieces and my grandmother’s linens and lace.

Kristin-Table-5

For the flowers, I filled jelly jars with Kristin’s favorite hydrangeas (sorry, I said hibiscus pre-edit), pink tipped white roses (which look very old-fashioned to me), small white mums, and sprays of little purple filler flowers. A larger bouquet of the roses complemented the smaller bouquets.

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I love fresh flowers and I love mixed bouquets.

A person’s favorite flower truly says so much about them.

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I decided to do “old-fashioned” treats and decided on a menu of Red Velvet and Coconut mini-cupcakes, my grandmother’s banana bread and pecan bars served alongside a refreshing platter of watermelon and blueberries and gorgeous bowls of juicy ripe strawberries.

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Watermelon-&-Blueberries

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The small seedless watermelons are great sliced in easy to hold wedges and present beautifully surrounding a mound of sweet fresh blueberries.

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Lace. Lace. Lace. I love handmade lace and am so thankful to have the ivory tatted lace from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. It is so beautiful atop a white table-cloth.

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Antique-Linens

Or a black one.

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You can’t go wrong with a simple bowl of  fresh in-season strawberries. I knew there was a reason I couldn’t pass up that soup tureen with the missing lid on my last trip through my favorite antique store.

And now for the baked goods. I can’t eat them but I sure do love making them! I mentioned before that I wanted to serve old-fashioned treats so here’s what I came up with …

Pecan-Shortbread-Bars

Barefoot Contessa’s Pecan Bars

I make these every Christmas and can’t begin to describe to you how incredibly delicious they are. If I were going to fall off the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon, I would fall into this plate of Pecan Bars. The honey and orange zest and rich shortbread crust are what make them so special.

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As you may have read before, I love Ina (the Barefoot Contessa) and use her recipes all the time. They always come out perfectly and are certain to be crowd pleasers. Here I made her Red Velvet and Coconut cupcakes in mini-version.

And I made a lot of them.

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I also made my grandmother’s banana bread. It doesn’t get any more old-fashioned than that and you can’t go wrong with her recipes either!

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I didn’t make it into the tea sandwiches this time as I had quite a bit of frosting and richness on the table already. The simple fingers of moist delicious banana bread were perfect just as they were.

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And there you have it, a Very Vintage Event. It was a blessed and wonderful evening. I am looking forward to sharing more “events” with you but for now, I need to get going as we are having a big event at the Hacienda and I’ve got to get busy.

I told you that my boy turned nine a few weeks back, well his party is tomorrow and we’ll be gettin’ our “redneck” on with a Duck Dynasty bash. It’s gonna’ be a party, Jack!

Only in my world do we go from vintage elegance to Duck Dynasty in the same week!

Set Aside Busy for Brunch and a Deep Breath

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Christmas is just around the corner and we girls are BUSY. Have I mentioned that on top of everything else, I have a daughter with a birthday the week before Christmas? BUSY!! This time of year is hectic and our TO DO lists have never been longer. We overload, overcommit, overextend, overdo, and overwhelm … ourselves. It happens. It just does.

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We do all of this while desperately trying not to overlook the WHY of it all. We are celebrating the birth of Christ and the gift of salvation He lovingly and freely gave to us. We know that is what it is all about and it is important to us that in the busy-ness of it all, we slow down a bit and give ourselves time to breathe, time to reflect and time to be grateful. But how do we do it?

Prayer and personal quiet time with God is imperative to our well-being, perspective and spiritual health and is the first place to seek Him and find His peace. God loves and desires that time with us and He puts it on our hearts to need Him and to seek Him. But he has also created us to need each other and to desire connection. He loves to see us gather together in fellowship to enjoy each other’s company and share all that He has given us. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy, in fact it is so much better when it isn’t. This past Thursday, I was so blessed to have a group of women that I have spent the last few months in bible study with come to my home for brunch. Brunch is by far one of my favorite ways to open my home and welcome others. It is easy, it is low-stress and for whatever reason, it is always special. This Thursday brunch was just that, special.

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It was a time to take a breath.

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To reflect on the time we had spent together in the study of God’s word.

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To break bread together and share a meal that everyone had a part in preparing and pulling together.

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To remember and rejoice in the true gifts of the season.

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To set ourselves right and enjoy each other’s company and the company of our Savior.

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To model for our children what it means to share life and gather together in fellowship.

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To be blessed by the wisdom of a Godly woman who encouraged us to come before the Lord with reflection on the state of our hearts and minds and partake of the elements that we might be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and give thanks for the real gifts of the season.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1Corinthians 11:23-26

May we continue to remember, Lord, what it is we celebrate this joyous season and thank you for the moments we spend together in fellowship, filled with your spirit.

The Traditions of Thanksgiving Day

It is 5 a.m., Thanksgiving morning (actually, it is currently Friday afternoon – you didn’t really think I had time to write on Thanksgiving morning did you? – but I am sharing a memory so please bear with me) the house is peaceful and the joyful madness in the kitchen is about to begin. But first, a cup of coffee and a little breakfast and a moment to enjoy the quiet and the still of the early morning.

A perfect pear and the stuffing will never miss that little crust of bread. Sighhh, I wish I could have truffle butter every morning.

My quiet moment is just that, a moment. There is a lot to be done. This year I will be feeding six adults and eight kids. Not the 25 I fed last year but I love the smaller more intimate gatherings just as much. The people who are coming to spend Thanksgiving with us are special. People I love being with and am looking forward to making a meal for. Friends who have become family. Friends that we have created tradition with. As so many military families do. We started having Thanksgiving together more than 10 years ago, before any of us had children. Now, as I plan the table settings, I realize, we are officially outnumbered. My how we have grown together and how thankful I am for them.

I’ve finished my breakfast and licked any remnants of truffle butter off of the butter knife so, I guess it is time to get started. First on the agenda, stuffing. My favorite. I prep and put together many of my side dishes the day before but I always save the stuffing for Thanksgiving morning. Just one more tradition on a day of many.

I love the smells that fill the kitchen as I make the stuffing, smells from my childhood. Sausage sputtering away in a hot pan and onions and celery sauteing in a sinful amount of butter. I remember waking up to those smells in the morning as a kid and I want my kids to remember it too.

It isn’t even baked yet and it is irresistible. Just a little nibble for quality control. Ahhh, be still my heart. If you’d like to try it, you can find the recipe here, Sausage and Herb Stuffing.

Next, prepping the turkey and starting the stock.

A simmer pot of stock is a must for making gravy and warming up the turkey after it has been sliced and arranged on a serving platter. I throw the turkey neck and giblets into a pot with water, the celery ends, a few small onions and a few sprigs of fresh herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary). When I am ready to use it, I strain it and keep the broth warm on the stove top.

The turkey, the star of the show. I am a briner. Not everyone is. I say whatever works for you but I love how moist and flavorful my turkey comes out after 24 hours of bathing in a salty brine. There are a lot of brining recipes out there. I just buy a package of brining mix from World Market or Williams Sonoma and brine my turkey in a large stock pot in my extra fridge. You can put your turkey in a bringing bag and then brine in an iced cooler if you don’t have the fridge space. Works like a charm.

She isn’t much to look at yet, but she will be … or he, I’m not really sure, I didn’t check.

You can make yourself crazy reading all of the different ways to cook a turkey. Here’s what works for me; brining for 24 hours followed by a good rinse and pat dry, then a rub down with 2 sticks of butter combined with chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and sage (I gently lift the skin and rub it directly on the breast meat as well) and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. I tuck the wings under and fill the cavity with a quartered lemon, a quartered onion, and a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary and sage. I put a cup of stock, a cup of white wine and two chopped onions in the bottom of the roasting pan, insert a probe thermometer into the meaty part of the thigh and roast at 325 degrees until the thermometer reads 165 degrees (approximately 3 hours for a 14-16 pound turkey). I do cover the breast with foil if it is getting too brown and I baste 3 or 4 times, or once an hour-ish, during the cooking process. When the turkey comes out of the oven, I tent it with foil and let it rest while my side dishes bake and I make gravy from the pan drippings.

Now for setting the table(s). I hate to iron. I love to iron my table linens. My only explanation is that ironing table linens is easy, even relaxing, and I find it enjoyable because it has to do with food and eating. And I love anything that has to do with food and eating.

Last year, we had so many people for dinner that we had to bring our giant picnic table in from the back yard; which actually worked out great. Benches hold a lot of bottoms!

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This year, with fewer people, I could get a little more creative and decided to go tan and white with my dishes and linens. I love white dishes but enjoy using a different color salad plate to add some interest. An added bonus is that you can have variety without taking up the storage space that having multiple sets of dishes would. I am always on the lookout for beautiful and interesting salad plates.

A tradition I started a long time ago is to put an ornament at everyone’s place. For me, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas season and I want my guests to leave with something for their tree and a remembrance of the day.

This year I found these adorable wooden woven hearts (at Target – where I find so, so many things) which came in white and a beachy whitewashed wood. Lovely.

Someday, my dream of having a 20 foot (or so) long dining room table will come true but for now, I serve all of the food buffet style, because there is just too much of it to put on the table. I do, however, put the salad and a bread basket and butter plate, cranberry sauce, cheese for the salad (this year it was a delicious applewood smoked bleu cheese) and a gravy boat at each end of the table (the gravy doesn’t go on until just before we eat – but I’m sure you already knew that).

For the kid’s table, I found an adorable paper table-cloth (at Target – are you sensing a theme here) with coloring activities, word searches, tic-tac-toe, etc. so the kids had something fun to do while getting settled for dinner.

My daughter is a leftie.

Each of the kids got an ornament too. This year, sweet fabric animals for the girls and colorful dinosaurs for the boys (Target).

The tables are ready.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on – gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “parade rest”, doesn’t it?

David has donned the coat from his pirate costume and a straw hat and proclaimed himself a pilgrim.

Our guests have arrived and the kid’s table is a hit.

The turkey is done (I told you she’d be pretty) …

and carved.

The sides are out of the oven. You can find my recipes for Sausage and Herb Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes and Zesty Carrots here. And the recipe for Aunt Peggy’s Corn Casserole here. Enjoy!

It looks like the only thing left is to sit down together, say grace and enjoy the good food and great company the Lord has blessed us with.

I am thankful for …

My Lord and Savior who continues to work in me, pushing me further than I could ever go without Him. A kind and gentle husband who loves me. My children who are such a gift. Family. Friends who have become family. Health and healing. Treasured and beautiful traditions. The home that God has given us, which is so perfectly suited for welcoming company. The sweet faces that are gathered around our table; happy and healthy and loved.

Does anyone have room for dessert?

I’ll give you one guess where I found these adorable cupcakes. You got it, Target – you are paying attention! The beautifully frosted sugar cookies came from A.J.’s – a lovely specialty grocery store that we have here in Arizona.

And the pumpkin pies came from a wonderful little Pie Shop just down the street called Piefection. I can bake. I love to bake. I am not super woman. And, as Ina Garten (who I am also very thankful for) says, “no one has more fun if you make dessert yourself.”  Yes, I know that you can buy gargantuan pumpkin pies at Costco for about $5.00 and I have done that. These pies cost a little more than that and are worth it for two reasons. First, they are handmade with the best ingredients and are delicious and second, I will always support a gal who is brave enough to do what she loves and start her own pie shop. If you are in the area and want a fabulous piece of pie, here is where you can find one:

Piefection, 6731 E. Brown Rd., Suite #104, Mesa AZ, 480-218-PIES(7437), http://www.piefectionaz.com

Did someone say dessert? What timing. We’re just glad Uncle Mark made it and that Thanksgiving dinner re-heats well. The life of an airline pilot, you work a lot of holidays.

Another wonderful Thanksgiving and so much to be thankful for.

This year, I am also thankful for the people who inspired me to write and to start my own blog. I absolutely love writing it and am so thankful to those who have taken the time to read it, like and comment on my posts and support me. I appreciate you so much. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving in the company of those who mean the most to you.

Oh, I almost forgot, I am also thankful for truffle butter; very, very thankful.