advice and ideas for gracious Virginia living...

Setting the Thanksgiving Table
Is it your turn to host the big meal this year? Use these guidelines to set your table so your guests are amazed... even before the food is served! First, your goal is to make the table represent Autumn and Thanksgiving. Think earth tones and autumn leaf colors: browns, beiges, golds, rusts, greens, oranges and burgundies.

• TABLECLOTHS - Some people like a traditional white or ivory tablecloth, which is formal and elegant. Others prefer a seasonal color or pattern. Consider using a table pad under your tablecloth if you need to protect the finish of your table from liquid and hot dishes. Do you need to iron your tablecloth? Here is a great trick: Place your ironing board at the end of your dining room table. Start with your tablecloth literally in a pile at your feet in front of the ironing board. As you iron a section, push it out onto the table. When you are done. your tablecloth is on your table!

• NO TABLECLOTH - Bare wood tables can be especially attractive at Thanksgiving, providing a more rustic, autumnal backdrop. Consider setting up a buffet in your kitchen to achieve this look.

• PLACEMATS, NAPKINS, CHARGERS -Using placemats and/or chargers to build a layer or two of color under your plate helps to better define each place setting, which creates a more visually appealing table. This added layer of color can also help camouflage dinnerware that perhaps isn't the best suited for the occasion. For example, let's say you have dinner plates adorned with big pink flowers. They are so much fun in the spring and summer, but now that Thanksgiving is here, what do you do? The solution is easier than you think. Use chargers, placemats and napkins to re-balance the prominent color at each place setting. The trick is to take the color you have -- in this example, pink -- and go to its darkest shade -- burgundy. So, add burgundy placemats under your pink floral dinner plates. Then, to further change the balance of color, add a charger. In this example, add antiqued silver chargers (the resin kind are fine -- very inexpensive!). Top your place settings off with a burgundy napkin and scatter a few deep burgundy autumn leaves at each place setting. Then, on to your centerpiece.

• CENTERPIECE - this term can loosely refer to one item (an arrangement of flowers), or multiple decor items lined up or arranged in the center of the table. Some people choose to have centerpieces and serve buffet style at Thanksgiving; others choose to make the turkey or other entree the centerpiece. If you are using decor for your centerpiece, balance it color wise with your place settings. To continue our example, you would want to, be sure to include some burgundy in your centerpiece to create color flow and continuity across the table. If you can't find table decor in the right colors, an inexpensive can of spray paint can be your best friend! You can spray a few small pumpkins an antique silver color very quickly. Place them on a tray, tuck some greenery, pine cones, and more burgundy leaves around them, and voila! Put a burgundy table runner, napkin, or placemat under the tray with the pumpkins. If you are using the turkey as your centerpiece, put a burgundy cloth under the turkey platter. Place two or more candlesticks on the table with burgundy candles. This, of course, is just one example. There are many ways to balance color on the table, and we are more than happy to show you how. Just bring in your dinner plate and linens, and we will be happy to help you find the right Thanksgiving look!

What Serving Pieces Should I Have For Entertaining?

What fun to have a few friends over for beverages and hors d'oeuvres, or dessert and coffee. Light and fun. But how should you serve everything? The successful host or hostess makes everything look special -- and effortless. Here is a list of basics serving pieces and essentials to have on hand. When you serve with beautiful serveware, your guests will feel very welcome!

• DRINK TRAY. This should match the style of the room you entertain in, so this might be your living room or family room. Metal, wood, patterned.... a variety of styles are available. Pick one that suits your home and your level of entertaining (casual to formal). In addition, always have cocktail napkins on hand-- seasonal, fun, colorful. You can place them in a decorative napkin holder and have them sitting on a coffee table, or you can set some on your serving tray.

• HORS D' OUEVRES TRAY. Any plate, platter or tray can be used for hors d'oeuvres. Select trays that are stylish, themed, colorful. Have two or three trays on hand in varying sizes, such as 8", 10", 15", 20". Keep your trays handy so you always have an attractive serving piece to reach for.

• CHEESE BOARD. If you like to serve cheese, a nice marble or wood board with a cheese knife is a must. A quick way to turn ordinary into extraordinary.

• SPREADERS, COCKTAIL FORKS, DEMITASSE SPOONS. Little serving utensils always come in handy, and can make even crackers and jam seem elegant!

• CHIP & DIP. This can be a special serving piece that is designed for this purpose, or you can get a little dip bowl to coordinate with one of your trays. Use for chips, pita, raw veggies.

• TIERED SERVER. These are such versatile pieces, and they are great for adding height to the food presentation. Fill the tiered servers with raw veggies, cupcakes, cookies, hors d'ouevres. This really says hospitality to your guests!

Candle Etiquette

• When using candles at your dinner table, light them just before everyone is seated and allow them to burn until everyone stands to leave the table.

• Candles burned at the table should be free of fragrance so as not to overpower the delicious aroma of the food.
• Use a candle snuffer when extinguishing a candle so you don't spray wax on the table linens or on the table.

• While it is said you should only burn candles after dark, there are other things to take into consideration. If the day is particularly dark and cloudy, or if you are in a room that is darker, candlelight will provide a nice light. However, if you just enjoy the glow that candles give off then you should light them whenever you would like.

Seasonal Cocktail Napkins

Always keep seasonal paper cocktail napkins on hand. Then, when guests drop in, you can make their visit special by offering an attractive cocktail napkin with a drink or snack. This simple gesture will make your guests feel welcome.

Lunchtime at Work

Do you pack your lunch for work? Keep a pretty placemat and attractive flatware at your workplace. They will give you a wonderful lunchtime lift! (Check our sale shelves -- discontinued flatware samples are sold at $5 per place setting.)

Setting The Eclectic Table

It is becoming more and more popular to create "eclectic" tables -- tables where plates, serveware, and accessories are drawn from a variety of sources, yet still come together to create a beautiful and unique tablescape. But how do you get there?

• Start with your dinner plates. What color scheme are your plates -- earth tones? bold summer colors? soft pastels? plain white? Work from a coordinating palette (unless you have plain white...we will get to that in a minute.) Don't match a color in your plate, blend with it.

• If you have all white or mostly white (or ivory) dinnerware, your options are endless! Focus on adding color to your table to set the mood, then adding texture to give all that white some depth.

• Add texture to your table. Rattan chargers, scattered leaves or petals, dramatic napkin rings, hard place mats... anything that brings another medium to your table.

• For your centerpiece, again think about complimenting your colors not matching. Flowers are always beautiful, but fruits and vegetables often offer more color choices and textures than flowers alone. Seeds, nuts, cones, and pods in bowls or glass vases add texture and interest. Lightly dust them with a little gold or silver spray paint if it is holiday time.

• For serveware, use a few pieces that match your dinnerware, but also bring in metal, glass or wood serveware, or a ceramic serving piece in a blending color.

• Mixing and matching is key. Mix silver with gold? Yes! Pottery with fine porcelain? Yes!

• What keeps it all from being too busy? Balance. Too busy? Remove something. Too plain? Add something. Beautiful tablescapes take time to create.

• Need some inspiration? Stop by the store and bring a few samples of your tableware. We will help you discover some great options for setting a truly beautiful, eclectic table.