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Monday, October 31, 2011

A Preview

I've mentioned before that I'm working on a table setting for my women's club's Christmas Idea House. 
It's an annual event held in one of the towns on the east side of Phoenix and all of the proceeds go to local charities. Marty over at A Stroll Through Life is having a cloche party, so I thought I'd share the centerpiece of my tablescape.
 Rather than use the traditional red and greens of Christmas I chose as a color scheme black, white and turquoise. Pretty bold!

 The entire tablescape including dishes, silverware, crystal,
 table linens and centerpiece will be raffled off.

This is just a sneak peek of the table. Check back later to see the entire table setting! 

For more info about the Christmas Idea House go to

I'll be partying with
Open House Party
Wow Us Wednesdays
A Cloche Party!
Tuesday's Treasures

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pimpernel Placemats

Today's post is about something very British, Pimpernel placemats. They are those hard cork backed mats that are literally art for your table. On our first trip to Great Britain we realized that virtually everyone used them, restaurants, Bed and Breakfasts, Inns, and private homes. 

 Here's a little background I snagged from the internet:

"Pimpernel placemats are widely recognized for their high quality and design. Pimpernel Placemats hold a high and well-regarded reputation. They have been produced in England for over 70 years. They have an original and unique style of design and manufacture and they are the most beautifully decorative and rustic style placemats available.
Pimpernel Placemats: The Process
The process behind the creation of Pimpernel placemats is profoundly impressive. The placemats are created by using a cork base that consists of a Eucalyptus wood core. The wood is specially treated and grown through an environmentally friendly process. The top layer of Pimpernel placemats features a beautiful art print that has been specially treated onto the placemat and is scuff and scratch resistant.
The artwork is exceptionally stunning and beautiful. Pimpernel placemats are so exquisite that you wont want to just stop with the placemats. The sets often include coasters, and other accessories. "
 So of course I had to start using them too!

 I've had this set of 4 large hunt motif mats for over 20 years. I bought them for $5 at an estate sale and they've gotten pretty beat up over the years. While the mats are very durable they are NOT indestructible! You can set something warm on them but they are not intended to be a trivet for HOT things, As you can see I learned this the hard way when I placed a casserole dish straight out of the oven on this mat. See those scorch marks?Ouch! I keep this mat under my laptop now to protect my desk.

 This awesome Tall Ships set I bought just this past week , also at an estate sale for $3!  So you can see with a little hunting you can find them VERY reasonably priced.

 I keep lots of sets of coasters all over the house. While gathering them up for the photo shoot I discovered I'm missing a few. Hmm, under the couch cushions?

 I had to have a Christmas set made to go with my Spode Christmas Tree plates!

 I keep this set on my kitchen table most of the time for our every day use.

 The mats are easy to clean, just wipe with a damp cloth. But don't immerse in water or you may get some water marks around the edges. I learned that the hard way too!

 I do use my Pimpernel mats often. Since there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of designs you can find some to match any decor or dishes. Here I've used them in a "lodge" themed dinner party.

I'm taking a couple of sets into my shop this week. They would make a great 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kid Cuisine Tricks and Treats

Yesterday was Halloween cooking class at my house. We made some fun foods to get in to the Halloween spirit!
 These spider web cookies were made by a 10 year old. Nice job!

 Mummy sandwiches ready to go into the broiler.

 Someone dubbed these ugly creations Noodle dogs. The trick is to insert dried spaghetti into hot dog pieces and then boil them. The kids loved them!

 Yummy pumpkin muffins.

Thanks kids, see you at Christmas!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Silver Trays

Last week I posted about tole trays, this week it's all about silver! I love the elegance a silver tray gives to a room or tablescape. Silver trays come in all sizes, shapes and patterns from wildly ornate to simple, clean and contemporary. And yes, I'm talking silver plate, not sterling which only royalty can afford! (The clerk at Goodwill this week tried to tell me the piece I was buying for $3 was pure silver. Well, I guess it could happen!)

Chances are you can find trays at any thrift or antique store but there are a few things you should consider before buying. I only buy trays that seem heavy and have a nice weight to them . Some are very flimsy, almost a "disposable" feel . Of course, if you are repurposing for a craft project, by all means go for the lighter stuff.

 In a thrift shop or flea market most silver pieces have a bit,( if not a lot!) of tarnish on them. A little elbow grease and good silver cream should take care of that. I like good old Wright's silver cream. I do NOT like Tarnex and other similar products that remove a layer of silver. Eventually you will have no silver left and the copper or nickel underneath will begin to show through.

 Isn't this French tray fabulous? It's a reproduction, but who cares?

 This large tray weighs a full 5 1/2 pounds!

 Examine a silver piece for pitting. You can usually feel that the surface isn't smooth. This cannot be polished out as it means a bit of the silver has worn or chipped away.

 You can't see them, but this ornate tray has 4 feet underneath. I have a silver tea service that I usually set here, but right now I have an assortment of crystal pieces on display.

 This tray rests under a silver toned lamp.

When a tray has a "wall" around it , it's called a gallery. Of course, this was to keep the butler or maid from tipping the tea onto the floor! 

Don't shy away from silver pieces. Yes, they need an occasional  polish but they're worth it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hungarian Goulash

My husband had the good fortune this past Summer to travel to Eastern Europe with the choir that he performs with. The Sonoran Desert Chorale performed in Hungary, Slovenia, and Austria. Last night we had a small dinner party for a few members of the gang to reminisce and share their "thousands" of photos with each other.

 This is the Parliament building in Budapest. But then, apparently every stately building that they couldn't remember was the Parliament building!

 What does one serve at a Hungarian party? Goulash of course! I used the classic recipe from Joy of Cooking. My only difference is that I like to add carrot chunks during the last hour of cooking. I understand that traditional goulash is more soup like, but I love this "stew" version. And Scott had brought home some authentic Hungarian paprika so I hope mine was passable!

 On the side we had buttered egg noodles sprinkled with poppy seeds.

One of my favorite salads is this fruity mix. 

Assorted cheeses, crackers and breads.

 It was Scott's birthday this week and his favorite is carrot cake, so I made Martha Stewart's carrot cupcakes from her new cupcake book.

 I also made a rustic apple tart with raspberries. I think I got a little carried away with the powdered sugar!

 I kept the same tablescape from my previous post "Playing with Pumpkins" with only a few minor changes.I sold my wood chargers so I swapped for some gold ones and I recently found a set of 8 wood napkin rings for only $1!

Even though I didn't get to go on this adventure, after seeing pictures all of the gorgeous vistas, luscious food, and of course good friends to share it with I can't wait for the next tour!
The recipes:

Beef Goulash

2 lbs bottom round cut into chunks (or other stew meat)
Brown  in oil or bacon fat until the meat is well browned.
1 onion diced
1 green pepper diced
Continue to cook until vegetables are soft and onion is translucent.
1 cup beef stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 lb carrots

Turn the burner to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Add more stock if necessary  to keep from scorching. During the last hour add carrots cut into large chunks if desired. Just before serving add 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water to thicken gravy slightly. Serve over rice, noodles, or spaeztles.

Spring Greens with Fruit

I take packaged Spring mix, add some finely chopped romaine and mix in mandarin oranges, Craisins, sugared almonds, red onion, and thinly sliced crisp apples.The dressing is 1/3 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix (the dry stuff that comes in a packet.) Shake well in a jar. Easy!

Rustic Apple and Raspberry Tart

1 Pillsbury pie crust 
6 Granny Smith apples (or your favorite baking apple)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cold butter

Peel, core and thinly slice apples. Place in a large bowl and toss with sugar and spices. Carefully fold in berries so as not to crush.

On a lightly floured surface roll pie dough into a 14" circle.
Gently place inside of an 8" pie pan. Pour apple filling into crust and dot with butter. Fold up edges of pie crust around the filling leaving the center open. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool then dust with powdered sugar.

This week I'll be joining
No Minimalist Here Open House Party
Blue Cricket Show and Tell
Savvy Southern Style for Wow Us Wednesday
Tabletop Tuesday
So Very Creative
Freshman Friday Blog Party
Debbie's Newbie Party
On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable