Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Christmas!

Hello Everyone,

It's difficult to believe that Christmas is almost here! After all the planning, preparation, and (of course) shopping, it's time to begin cooking, baking, and (naturally!) setting what most of us hope will be our most beautiful tables of the year!

Snow flurries are predicted on Christmas Day in West Tennessee. I hope there's no accumulation on highways to impact travelers, but I do love to see snow falling at Christmastime. It just seems to bring back the holiday magic we felt as children. Just a few days ago, I awoke to find a dusting of snow on the front lawn.

Here's a picture taken from the porch:

Last week, I showed you the faux evergreens I made with real Christmas tree trimmings (free) from Lowe's. I just inserted a few branches into the urns where the Kimberly ferns had finally expired from the cold. I think the snow really enhanced the effect.

Wait, before we go in let me show you how I decorated the mailbox today using more of the evergreen trimmings. Pretend you don't see the sprig of holly that's falling over to the side! Looking across the street is a wonderful house inspired by a grand old home in Natchez, Mississippi. The original is called Edgewood. This house is at least a hundred years younger, but it captures the feel of an historic home. It also has a large fenced back yard (about an acre) and a tree house, an in-ground pool, and hot tub. The owners have purchased a larger house and this one will be on the market soon.
As Mr. Rogers used to say, "Won't you be my neighbor?" It's a special home, and it needs a family that will treasure and nurture it.

OK, come on in, and I'll show you the dining room ...

I set the table earlier this morning. Since this is partially a fantasy setting, I've already poured the faux (colored water) wine and have the coffee pot and cups on the table. The coffee would be served after dinner, with dessert, and that's when I'd bring in the cups.

You can see the colorful painting, with white daisies on a blue table in the background ...

The salad plates are Lenox Holiday (introduced in 1974). These were half-price last week at Belk. I paired them with vintage Lenox plates, cups, and saucers. The stemware is Fostoria Holly (1942-80), one of my favorite patterns. It's an obvious choice for the holidays, but I use it throughout the year. It's such a stylized design that I see it as a crisp, simplified laurel pattern.

I rolled the napkins and tied white wired ribbon around silverplated rings. To make them look more festive, I clipped button covers onto the ribbons. The clips were new in the package at a local estate sale and very inexpensive.

I decided a tablecloth was in order today, but selected an easy-care one. I like the neutral color, and I particularly like the fact that I didn't have to iron it!

See anything different? Yes, the artwork has changed ...

It seems to me that an angel might be a good choice to watch over us during Christmas dinner.

The coffee pot, serving pieces, and bread plates are all various Haviland patterns. The wonderful thing about using gold-trimmed, cream-colored dishes is that they all play well together.

I placed a runner across the table. Why across, rather than down the length of the table? I'm not sure. I tried it the other way and liked this better. They're our tables; we can set them as we like, right? ;)

I've recycled some dried roses many of you have seen before. I gave them a light spray of metallic gold paint, letting some of the brown show through. I also gave a dusting of gold paint to the zebra grass plumes. Some of the greenery is from Lowe's. I also added boxwood I trimmed from hedges near the back door (new growth that had sprouted since the last time they were clipped). I inserted everything in dry floral foam (the kind you use for silk/dried arrangements) and used a vintage milk glass compute as a container.

I placed my favorite Mikasa salt and pepper shakers in a thrifted sleigh ...

The silverplated flatware is a 1955 pattern, South Seas by Oneida.

Some of you might have read last week's post. I showed you a "new" set of Heinrich/H&C china (from Goodwill) and said I'd be using it for Christmas dinner. In case you were wondering where it is today, it's on a second table I set in the sunroom.

Almost everything on this table could have been used to serve guests in the 1950s/early 60s.

The laminated chargers are new-ish (another Belk purchase), but the china, crystal, and flatware are all vintage.

More evergreens with hydrangeas from the garden (summer before last).

I sprayed the dried hydrangeas gold, along with a few pieces of "money plant" and some "faux naturals" from older arrangements. The ones that look like berries are beads on wired stems that can be bent in various directions. This centerpiece is also arranged in vintage milk glass.

The flatware just missed the 50s; It's Leilani by 1847 Rogers Brothers, introduced in 1961.

I like the way the tips of the handles curve inward toward the plate.

The stemware is Linda by Tiffin (1960-73). I guess I should quit calling this a 50s table!

I think the stems are elegant, but the overall lines are clean and crisp -- a nice balance.

The china pattern is Golden Harvest, but I'm not sure when it was introduced. I now know the pattern was available in Germany during the Korean War (so, by or prior to the early 1950s).

I hadn't known when the dishes were in production until Sharlotte of Ms. Sharlotte's Southern Reflections wrote and told me about her mother's china. Sharlotte posted her mother's Thanksgiving table HERE. In the post, she tells us her father purchased the Bavarian china for her mother when he was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. She says it's among her mother's most prized possessions, used for many special family dinners. And it still looks great!

Here's a closer view of the dinner plate. All the pieces have gold decoration; some include grey plants. The dinner plates and larger serving pieces feature wheat in their design. Wheat motifs were extremely popular in the 40s and 50s; it seems that all the dinnerware manufacturers produced a version of it -- from Lenox, sold in nicer shops, to the companies that made inexpensive dishes for gas stations and grocery stores to use as gifts with purchase.

Selected areas feature hand-applied gold decoration. Perhaps you can see the raised decoration in the image below:

Guests at this table will be dining near the Christmas tree.

Let there be light!

I thought a mid-century carafe ($2 on day two of a local estate sale!) would be appropriate. The rolls are faux, so we won't have to worry about them getting cold. ;)

Time to light candles in the dining room. I made a quick decoration by placing a string of 100 clear lights (white cord of course) in a Cambridge Caprice bowl. I covered the lights with Dollar Tree ornaments and voila!

I'm not sure the angel approves. She seems lost in thought, doesn't she? This was an inexpensive poster, dry-mounted on foamcore board. Then acrylic medium was brushed on to protect the surface (and to create the illusion that it's a painting).

There's a wide linen liner, and the custom frame is actually two mouldings "stacked" -- the inner one nestled in the outer. It would have been frightfully expensive to have done, but I was able to purchase it for a reasonable price when a frame shop changed displays.

More angels ... I used thrifted cream and gold Holiday figurines and objects, along with antique estate sale pieces. This is my favorite sort of table setting, with antique, vintage, and new items intermingled to create a look that I think is fresh and interesting.

Such tables evoke the timeless feeling of items collected (and perhaps inherited) over time.

Fostoria Holly is one of the few patterns that feature both a grey etching (the pointed leaves) and a polished, wheel-cut design (the "berries"). Imagine the artistry of the designers and the labor-intensive processes of skilled artisans, who molded stems; blew bowls; and etched, cut, and fire-polished this elegant glassware!

Most of the glassware on today's table came from the living estate sale of Ms. Lucille, a West Tennessee widow in her early 90s. She's gone to an assisted living facility now, and had no further need of the things she selected as a bride. I met her nieces at the sale, and they helped me wrap the fragile glassware. I wish someone in the family had wanted these glasses but, since they didn't, I'll think of Lucy whenever I use them. I saw a recent picture of her in a wheelchair holding a little dog. I believe I'll offer a toast to her on Christmas, imagining her as young and laughing, using this still-sparkling crystal for the very first time.

I'd never tried painting plumes of ornamental grasses before, but I like the effect. It's subtle --the word, gossamer, comes to mind ...

A view that includes the sitting room mantel ...

The lighted ficus tree in the corner ... I made no attempt to hide the wires (afraid of causing damage). It lost a few leaves, but I think they were the ones it was ready to discard anyway.

When my father first saw this picture, he thought I had painted a portrait of my mother as she looked in her twenties.

When I was a child, she told me about when he came to pick her up for their first date. She had long, black, wavy hair. She wore a white peasant blouse and a black skirt, with a colorful border trimmed in rick rack (which she'd added at the hem. It had shrunk when she washed it ... and she wasn't inclined to throw things away!).

She was sitting on the porch waiting for him to arrive. As he came up the steps, he looked at her, smiled, and said, "You look like an Indian princess."

Why does telling you that story bring tears to my eyes? I suppose our parents never lose their power over our hearts and emotions, particularly during the Holiday season.

The wine is chilling (I almost forgot it was water with food coloring!) .

I didn't intend to write so much, since I know it's a very busy week for everyone! I need to get busy and finish wrapping gifts! Here are a few more views of the table:

Don't ever assume it's expensive to add touches of vintage elegance to your holiday parties and meals. The silverplated bowl and tray below only cost $3 at a local estate sale (reduced from $6 on the second day of the sale). Estate sales, thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, and estate auctions can all be great sources of silverplated items. Remember that tarnish can protect the finish, but look and feel pieces carefully for rough spots that might indicate worn plating and rust. If you like the "shabby chic" look (does anyone say that anymore?), even imperfect items can be interesting.

Wishing you all the light, joy, and warmth of this magical season ...

Please join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday!

Merry Christmas!