Monday, November 1, 2010

Tulips, Magnolias, and Cupcakes! For Halloween?

It seemed that I wouldn't have a tablescape post for you this week. The irony would have been that the tables were set. For a dinner party. A real one -- with food and drink, as opposed to the virtual ones I often set for Affordable Accoutrements with colored water for "wine" and photographs taken throughout the day in a variety of lighting conditions.

An hour before guests were due to arrive -- just enough time to shower and dress, put the appetizers in the oven, and move the food to the kitchen island "buffet."

But first ... I spent five minutes snapping photographs.

I stacked white ironstone plates at the end. They're the swirl pattern -- mostly Johnson Bros. "Regency" (UK), with some Myott Staffordshire "Old Chelsea" (UK) and Sheffield "Bone White" (USA). The shades of white vary slightly, but I think they work well enough together to use this way.

The vintage glasses are among my favorites - Libbey/Rock Sharpe 3005.

I took a tip from Martha of
Lines From Linderhof and opted to have guests use the same glasses for both cocktail hour and dinner. Otherwise the "welcome" wine glasses end up on the tables, mingled with the dinner wine glasses (and, even if they don't, it involves additional glasses to wash afterward).

Since it was to be a relatively casual meal, I used ironstone that can go in the dishwasher and vintage aluminum serving pieces, rather than silver. Aluminum's easy to clean and doesn't have to be polished. Don't put it in the dishwasher though! It can cause discoloration that's difficult (if not impossible) to remove.

I made spice cupcakes with caramel icing. My mother always made them for Halloween when I was a child, topping each one with a single piece of candy corn. She served her spice cupcakes to three generations of trick-or-treaters.

Naturally, after the holiday became a really scary one (because of threats/media hysteria concerning the dangers of unwrapped candy and homemade treats), the cupcakes became her "reserve stock," offered only to relatives and friends. She always asked the parents first. Many of the young parents also gladly accepted one for themselves, remembering them fondly from their own childhoods.

Hers tasted better than mine (and definitely looked better!), but this is the general idea.

No pictures by candlelight this week. By the time I lit candles, the guests had arrived!

I did use one silver piece -- a vintage punch bowl served as a wine cooler. The beer went into a large ice-filled Wexford glass punch bowl. I supplied plenty of pilsner glasses in a variety of sizes (I'm not a beer person, but I do like the shape of the glasses).

Most of the wine for the evening came from Crown Winery, a beautiful West Tennessee winery (the only one in Tennessee that's solar-powered). Their website is HERE.

There's a table for four set in the kitchen.

I considered using chargers, but decided to keep it really simple. Just a water glass, flatware, a lotus-folded napkin, and that iconic Halloween treat, candy corn.

I hid the gas cooktop under three sheets of foamcore board (after switching off the electric lighter at the breaker box) and covered it with a cloth. It provided space to put a floral arrangement (and eliminated time I'd have spent scrubbing it!).

A table for eight is set in the sunroom. The original plan had called for dining on the deck, and there are candles in hurricanes on the tables ... but it turned out to be too chilly for that.

I kept the tables uncluttered. The flatware is "Remembrance" by 1847 Rogers Bros. The restaurant napkins are from a local charity thrift shop.

The flowers are arranged in vintage aluminum containers ...

The centerpieces include evergreens (mostly Southern Magnolia leaves), with tulips scattered throughout for color. I added a single garden rose (perhaps the last perfect one of the season) to the centerpiece in the dining room. The tulips came from Kroger's floral department. Total cost was under $5.

Even though I used round containers for the flower arrangements, I gave the ones on the rectangular tables an oblong feel by extending the greenery on two sides.

The iced beverage glasses are Imperial's "Cape Cod" pattern. There was iced tea available, but only one person requested tea -- water for everyone else.

Since it was Halloween Eve, there was (wrapped) candy available. Several trick-or-treaters stopped by, even though the city had officially declared the following evening to be the night for ghosts and goblins to make their appointed rounds. I always select candy I'll enjoy eating if there's any left over (OK, I've also learned to hide some in advance ... just to be certain not to run out of my favorites).

Do you do that? ;)

Hope you had a Happy Halloween! Please join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday!


  1. This was a wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing all of your excellent ideas and the brilliant pictures. I am going to adapt some of your ideas for my annual Christmas eve party.

    Glad you had a good time on the Halloween weekend.

    Best wishes,

  2. Very gorgeous post like always yours :)... I specially like the table set in the sun room, neither very casual nor very formal... love your flowers very much. And the table mats are so fab that I want them badly :) very beautiful Bill.
    Can you please spare a bit of your time to give a look on my new post at

  3. Oh, how pretty. Love the pink tulips and the vintage aluminum pieces. And the last rose of the season is always the prettiest, is it not? I used to have this rose called, "Perfume Delight" that smelled wonderful and always bloomed one last time around November 1st.

    The cupcake story is a nice reminder of Halloween past. It's hard to believe that our parents let us go out at night, up to strangers homes, unsupervised and then eat all the candy we want without looking and checking the candy out. Makes me laugh just to think about it.

  4. Dear Bill,
    All I will say is that you have some VERY lucky friends! Beautiful....just beautiful.

  5. Hi Bill,
    that looks like a fabulous party. The muffin are a nice tribute to your childhood. And I am sure everybody had fun. I love the crystal at the table and this wonderful burgundy napkins. Did you serve red wine?
    Greetings, Johanna

  6. What a wonderful party! I want to be a guest!!!! It is fun to resurrect childhood memories of Halloween and those cupcakes are the perfect remembrance! It's a shame that we don't get those homemade treats anymore and have to settle for wrapped candy bars!

    I love everything you did on each of the tables and the layout in the kitchen. What a neat idea to hide the stove!

  7. Now this is a table I would be feel comfortable setting- easy, casual, and yet- lovely. I have 4 sets of white dishes that I often use together. And I use my kitchen island as a buffet, too. All that I have to to do is to remove the protruding knobs from the Jenn-Aire. Loved hearing that you turned off the circuit breaker for the stove, just to be safe! I bet your friends got to enjoy a great party and some fine treats,too. :-) Sue

  8. Lovely arrangements for your party. Me being nosey would of loved to see what else you served besides the cup cakes and candy!! Jackie in Surrey, UK.

  9. Oh Bill-
    this is just amazing.
    It is so much fun to see that we have some of the same pieces of hammered aluminum.
    If bloggers got together we could host a dinner at the White House- we have so many wonderful things to share!

    Enjoyed visiting-as always,

    White Spray Paint

  10. I LOVE hammered aluminum and have collected it for several years! I also love how you decorated the island. My family is large (24), so I almost always serve from our bar to keep things neat and orderly. Your tables are lovely and I like the colors you used. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I always come away from your posts with an idea I can make for myself. I have a rather large kitchen island (no cooktop) but the idea of elevating the centerpiece makes it more outstanding. I have lighting overhead but even slightly elevated will achieve the same effect. I am charmed by the magnolia leaves. SO southern to my New Jersey eyes. Thank you for always photographing your tables so beautifully.

  12. Real dinners are a challenge to photograph aren't they. I set my Thanksgiving table in the morning, while still dark out (morning blue hour) and then tried to take pictures. Of course my batteries were dead and I was not going to be able to take the pictures that night with a house full of company.
    It was a real race to get some batteries charged before it was too light for the candlelight pictures.
    I like the casual feel of this setting Bill. It is nice to serve in the other room and keep the table clear.

  13. That was lovely Bill. Smart idea to cover the cooktop! Love the idea of serving beer out of a punch bowl. Your kitchen is wonderful. I love buffet style meals. My husbands family is so large that is all we serve when we have a family party.

  14. Now Bill, I really am enjoying seeing real, for-people table settings of yours -- they are not only beautiful, but USABLE too -- enough space for both people and their food, and maybe an errant elbow or two.

    Loads of practical advice and inspiration to take away from this post -- like using aluminum servers instead of silver! -- and covering the cooktop to save cleaning time and make more counter space.

    that's a gorgeous kitchen you have, you know.

    And I don't believe that your mother's cupcakes tasted any better than yours --- except that your memory of them is better! We exalt our childhood memories, we all do it, till nothing we can do comes close to the perfection of a childhood delight.

    Happy November!

  15. Bill such a nice buffet set up. I love the serving area with the cloth and covering the cook top was brilliant! Casual but elegant as always.

  16. Hi Dear Bill! I'm just coming back from a blogging break and see that I missed your party! :)
    OH, what lucky friends to have been treated to such a beautiful setting. Love hearing all of your how tos. Now I really enjoed the little peeps into your kitchen too! You'll have to give a complete tour sometimes. Everything looks wonderful and yes, I always save me some of the candy I love to eat for after the trick or treaters go away! :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  17. This one was a terrific post...I loved it! What a great idea for setting the buffet table in the kintchen, I could probably try that one day. Your glasses are beautiful! I like the aluminum wear and the idea for glasses you used for beer, which I myself never learned to like, but some men like it with a casual lunch. Thank you again for your wonderful ideas. XO

  18. Bill, it's a treat to see any of your tables, but love the idea that you shared a real party setting. The idea of covering the cooktop is very clever. It looks fantastic with that gorgeous textile and the beautiful flowers. The cupcakes sound delicious. Spice, caramel, and candy corn all make me want to rush to the kitchen and start baking. LOL I fondly remember receiving homemade goodies at Halloween when I was a child growing up in a small community. Popcorn balls were my favorites! ;-)
    Thanks for sharing your party settings. As always your photographs are stellar! ~ sarah

  19. Bill,
    Wonderful post. I remember the homemade treats. Sad commentary. I have some aluminum that I will be use in a post soon.

    We are back in Florida and I am surrounded by styrofoam peanuts. And, yes, I always had a secret stash of milky ways in the freezer!


  20. HI Bill! What a wonderful party this must have been! I, too, loved seeing a lITLLE of your kitchen! More...please!! I don't have an island and hope that SOMEDAY (before I DIE) I hope to have one! I love seeing your hammered aluminum pieces cause I remember one from my Grandmothers house. I also remember that one of my grade school teachers would invite us into her house and serve us candy, cupcakes and cider! It was WONDERFUL and something I looked forward to every year! Unfortunately we only got 5 trick or treaters this year, I was so disappointed. I have a TON of candy left over and read that dentists are collecting it to send to our soldiers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have a wonderful week and thank you for sharing this wonderful setting. YOur pictures are SO clear and brilliant. XO, Pinky

  21. Really great post! Thanks for sharing. What a bright and lovely kitchen buffet!


  22. Bill,
    Great idea to use your stove top space...It looks to turn off the power.
    Nice napkin folding.
    Have a wonderful week.

  23. i learned more in this post than you can imagine.. great idea using punch bowls to ice down drinks.. and turn the breaker off, over up the stove.. my goodness.. life can be so easy (well you make it look that way).. thanks for inspiring us once again! Absolutely stunning.

  24. How smart you were to cover up the cooking surface & thus "eliminated time I'd have spent scrubbing it!" I'll have to try that for Dec. 16 when my entire tennis team is coming over for a Holiday Luncheon!

    We have the exact same granite here in the kitchen!!! :D

    Those water glasses with the square base are just wonderful & the entire table looks very welcoming. I like the little bags of candy set in the middle of the lotus folded napkins. Great way to designate the place while the plates were stacked elsewhere.

    That sure is a lot of people to entertain at once! I tell DH when it gets to over 12, I'm calling a caterer!!!!!

    Have a great week, Bill & thanks again for some great buffet ideas.

  25. Wow, thanks for sharing your party with us! It looks so nice! I wish I could have seen what FOOD you had in there - I love hearing about food. LOL! And the best was that you made your Mom's cupcakes. What a touching story and I am sure it brought back so many happy memories. And yeah, why is it that no matter what we do, our Moms always made it the best? Glad you had such a nice weekend and a nice party.
    Best regards,

  26. Such a pretty buffet setting. All are served buffet style here, due to lack of space, and young Grands.
    I do remember homemade treats we got when we went trick or treating, No one worried about us, out after dark and we survived. No way would I let the young ones out by them self now days. Things and changed and not always for the good. :(
    Always enjoy your posts. Hope you are having a great week.

  27. I had to smile about the way you covered your cook top! What a clever idea. I have never thought of that idea. Our trick or treat kiddies came on Saturday. We had over 350 in one hour!!! So we had to close shop early!

  28. What a beautiful buffet, Bill! I love covering the cooktop the way you did here -- great idea! After seeing your beverage center, I am going to pull out my punch bowls and USE them! I also love that you carried on your mom's tradition of baking Halloween cupcakes!

  29. Bill, Blogger has been giving me fits lately. I just wrote a LONG post to you, and poof! Gone!

    Suffice it to say, I love your buffet. I wish I could have been a guest there. Your mom's cupcake recipe looks delicious, and I wish I had one right now.

    This week, I have got to single out your stemware... how gorgeous! Love it. And I also use my punch bowl for drinks at parties. Currently, it is in a place in the attic where I can't get to it, but I have always loved it because it was Mama's. I think it's Heisey. Did I spell that correctly?

    Hope you are enjoying nice fall weather, free of any stinging critters. I'm running from bees this week. ;-)

    Happy Tablescape Thursday! I was happy that you were in front of me on my dance card. LOL!


    Sheila :-)

  30. This is such a great post. I really liked the tips and inspiration for making an elegant buffet dinner. Everything looks beautiful, and I love the way you kept the table simple.

    I liked your story of your mom and the cupcakes, too. It's so special. I wish they hadn't scared us all to death about our candy. I wonder if most of it wasn't just hooey??

    Anyway, I purely enjoyed my visit here as always.

  31. Amazingly beautiful as always Bill!

  32. You put the rest of us to shame! The cooktop trick is genius! I remember my first MIL used to have some of those aluminum containers. You

  33. I always enjoy your posts. Your table is lovely. I would have loved to have been a guest at that party!

  34. Bill, Trick or Treat, May I have a cupcake to eat? They look so yummy.

    I loved your idea of covering up the stove, brilliant!!

    Thank you for helping me to identify some glassware I found at a yardsale recently. Although the design is not the one you showed, your identification allowed me to track down the pattern I bought which was another Libbey Rock Sharpe dessign. Thanks!!

  35. Beyond gorgeous!

    You may have heard by now that the beloved Visual Vamp needs our help.
    I am hosting an online auction this Friday to benefit Valorie and could use a bit of help spreading the word.
    Please stop by my blog for more details.

    Be blessed,

  36. And yet another wonderful Bill signature table done perfect..You my dear friend have it all going on...Love the flowers, china, stem ware, Oh what the heck I love it all...I hope all is well in your world my Dear Bill...those cupcakes look YUM!! Hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

  37. Very pretty! Beautiful simplicity and it is still elegant! I like the napkin fold with the candy corn on top! Nice presentation of the buffet setting on the island! I enjoyed hearing about your mother's candy corn cupcakes, sounds yummy!

    Yep, I buy the Halloween candy that I like best (and hide it! Hee-hee!) I also bought Kit-Kat, along with Payday, and Mounds bars!

    I took a couple of your Butterfingers! Thanks!


    P.S. - I also took a cupcake! (licking my lips and fingers!!)

  38. Your buffet table is so beautifully set, Bill. Love the tables too!...Christine

  39. Bill, you always make even a simple tablesetting look elegant! I have been seeing some of the aluminum seving pieces lately and have been tempted to buy. After seeing your post I may have to invest in one or two! Loved the beautiful centerpiece. You always do a lovely tablescape for us.

    Yes, I try to get plenty of trick or treat candy that I like (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!!!) so there will be extra hidden away in the drawer for me. This year my son found it and made short work of it! :-( I do the same when I prepare my family's Easter baskets.

    Hope your party was a huge success!

  40. Bill:

    Such a wonderful post! It's so great to see your home in full swing - for a real party. It is hard to snap those few photos before the guests arrive, but we appreciate it. Of course I love the rock sharpe - wish I had as much as you. Using the aluminum gave a great causal but put together fee. Mom would have been proud. Great post.

    - The Tablescaper

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  42. Oh my gosh, I buy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for the trick or treaters every year...and hide some for me! I love the use of the stovetop and island for serving...and the table linens to kick it up a notch. The aluminum pieces are outstanding...particularly the larger ones..they provide such a substantial tone for the tablescape. Do you share your mom's spice cake recipe? My grandmama used to make a wonderful spice cake, but we can't find her recipe. I always try ouy recipes, hoping that some day I'll be able to recreate that special taste. Thank you for sharing your lovely party with us. I'm so glad that you could grab some time to shoot some pictures. Cherry Kay

  43. Hi Bill...

    Ohh...what fun! It sounds like your dinner party was delightful! You certainly set out quite the "spread"! A lovely buffet table! I enjoyed seeing your pretty aluminum serving're right...they are much easier to maintain! Bill, you always have the most gorgeous floral centerpieces! Whenever I am coming over to see one of your tables...I just know that I'm in for a real treat!!! I loved the pink tulips! Your tables were sooo very pretty! I just loved seeing all that sparkling crystal as well!!! You have the prettiest cyrstal stemware in all of blogland, my friend! What a treat!!! By the way, I think your spice cupcakes with the caramel frosting looked scrumptious!!! Thank you so much for sharing your evening and dinner party with friends with us today!

    Warmest autumn wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  44. Oh, Bill. This is so beautiful, so pleasant. And fun with the cupcakes and sweets. The way you wrote about your mother is so lovely.

    Thanks for your wishes on my blog's first anniversary. Your encouraging words meant a lot to me.

    Happy Belated Birthday!

    Kindest regards,
    January Asia

  45. So beautiful and full of great ideas! And yes I always set aside a personal stash of candy just for myself.

    Sami G.

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  47. Ah, Bill, sweet memories of Mother's spice cake with caramel icing! I enjoyed your pre-dinner party tour. I get more ideas from tablescapes that are actually used. I also enjoyed seeing your set-up.

    BTW, what was on the menu?

  48. Bill! What a relaxing, yet elegant setting! Just love your way of combining the simple with the extraordinary! Love your idea for covering the stovetop! I use an old piece of marble to cover the sink in our island when entertaining - hadn't thought of covering the stovetop behind it!
    Wonderfully done,

  49. Bill,Bill, are the "HOST WITH THE MOST",no really you have the most beautiful dishes and know how to use 'em.

  50. Beautiful once again. Every time I see you dining room chairs I think how very pretty they are.

  51. Beautiful! I just love the idea of covering up the stove top for more room. Your setting is just beautiful and your guests must feel very special. thank you for sharing!

  52. What a beautiful setting for your guests. What fun memories too and making the same cupcakes your mother made famous.

  53. Hello Bill,Its been awhile since I visited.
    As usual everything is just so beautiful and amazing how you put it all together.Just amazing.
    To celebrate my return to blogland and the holidays I am having a give away Pop on over and put your name in the hat so to speak.
    Take care,
    XXOO Marie Antionette

  54. Fab, fab, fabulous, Bill! The cupcakes look divine, and I know they tasted great! It has been a long, long time since I've have spice cake. I'm intrigued now! :-) The setting is all incredible - as usual - and I know your guests were blown away. The glassware is just heavenly!Have a wonderful weekend!

  55. Hi Bill!
    You have shared so many wonderful ideas for entertaining...many simple ideas that I can use for the upcoming holiday parties.

    I am sure your guests had a marvelous time.
    Jane (artfully graced)

  56. Gosh, I would love your help in throwing a party, so elegant and beautiful. Great ideas and I love those arrangements with tulips and magnolia leaves. Everything is lovely! Cupcakes sound divine...

  57. So many wonderful ideas here! I love how you utilize your space to maximize the entertainment room. I always love coming here and seeing your photos. My favorite today was the sparkling glassware. You found beautiful light.

  58. I'm so glad to see you've used aluminum serving pieces. It seems to me that these gorgeous pieces have always been treated as a "poor relation". They really are fabulous and I love that you don't have to polish them. Your tables are simply elegant and I love the idea of covering the stovetop. Everything looks so beautiful!