Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Still Life With Cupcakes

Time in the kitchen is time to be savored.

Few things are more satisfying than baking winter white cupcakes on a cold morning.

I pulled out my 20-year old Kitchen Aid...

...and began to play. First, the dainty liners

...it's always fun to dance a little while pouring the batter.

I chose a simple white cake recipe, spiffed up with pearl dragees, Royal icing, and filigreed paper wrappers.

I love the textures--the hard edges of paper with the slick, round dragees

the soft, curvy icing...

Really, baking is so much more than mixing ingredients.

It's life-affirming.

Just one sniff for Mister...

One cupcake for me....

...and one for you.

The cupcake wraps are made by Paper Orchid
The colors and styles are out of this world!
I bought mine here:
Information about the dragees and cupcake liners can be found here:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tablescapes Winner Announced

Dr. Gollum did the honors this morning. Pat at Back Porch Musings, you've just won a copy of Tablescapes. Congratulations.

And thanks so much to everyone who participated! Wish you all could have won a copy. In the future, I will be having other drawings.

I'm way behind on answering email--I'm in a tricky stage of the book and rarely come up for air.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Contest: Win a Copy of Tablescapes by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman

I am working on a new book, and sometimes I get lost and distracted. Lightbulbs burn out and we run out of toilet paper. The time will flit by, and when I come up for air, it's 11 PM, and I've forgotten to call the people I love, or to visit my favorite blogs.

I talked to my older son this morning; and I'm getting ready to call my mother right now; But I also want to send virtual hugs to all who read my blog and take the time to leave notes.

But I think a book drawing would be even better than a virtual hug, so I'm holding a drawing for a copy of Tablescapes, by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. Please drop your name in the hat...or should I say tureen? At my house, you'd be more likely to find a pottery soup container than a proper hat.

Kimberly's book inspired me in so many ways--even the cover was inspirational, and I pulled out some of my blue-and-white pretties.

The drawing will be held Monday.
Until then,
Happy Tablescaping and/or Happy Blogging!
Photo credit from cover and pages 78-79 and 130-131: Scott Womack Photography 2008

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tablescapes: An Interview With Author Kimberly Schlegel Whitman

Of all the books about tablescapes, my absolute favorite is Tablescapes: Setting the Table With Style by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, published by Gibbs-Smith. Not only is the book filled pages of beautiful tablesettings, Kimberly explains such things as "Why Do We Set the Table?" and "How to be a Great Guest." The settings include tablescapes for 100 guest, baby showers, family dinners, suppers on the lawn and the beach, and holiday tablescapes.

Scattered throughout the book are tips about napkins, etiquette, and creative seating arrangements. And the tablesettings range from formal to casual, with whimsical touches on every page.

The author, Kimberly Whitman, is known around the world for the elegant style that she brings to any event.

In her beautifully written introduction, Kimberly sums up the reasons that tablescapes continue to fascinate us, and why they are so much more than an arrangement of china and flatware:

"Setting the table can be a family activity that enriches our daily lives. The time and care put into setting a table for family or guests is an expression of love."

Come away with me, and let's take a peek at the book. First, let's look at the "Love Bird Engagement Dinner"

"When love is in the air," Kimberly wrote, "those around always want to celebrate."

This was a sit-down dinner for 80. The theme was drawn from the tablecloth fabric--pastel blue birds. Since the bride collected antique bird figurines, Kimberly knew she'd found a theme. Tiny nests with speckled eggs were used as place card holders, and antique birdcages formed the centerpiece, along with blue-and-cream floral arrangements--and smaller vases held red roses. Round, rattan chargers enhanced the natural theme.

Kimberly loves blue-and-white china, so when she was planning "Baby Shower in Blue and Pink," she started with a Porthault tablecloth. Since the luncheon was in Kimberly's dining room, she set the table with her blue-and-white china, layering the patterns. Asian jars were filled with roses and arranged into clusters. The china pattern is "Tobacco Leaf," by Mottehedah. The blue charger is also made by Mottehedah.

In one of the boxed tidbits, Kimberly tells the history of silver eggcups.

A bouquet of hydrangeas graced the table in The "Harvest Feast" dinner. Antique pewter chargers peeked around the Gien Rambouillet china. Kimberly said, "The china depicted endangered animal species." The theme came together beautifully, adding organic materials. What I loved best was the artful mix of antique silver chalices, which feature hunting dogs, along with modern splashes. A side table holds a bowl of clementines and a cheese-and-fruit plate.

Now let's talk to Kimberly.

Gollum: First, tell us a little about yourself...did you make tablescapes as a child? Or was this a talent that developed later?

Kimberly: I was always a creative little kid but I think that my interest in setting the table started when I had my first apartment. I had just moved to New York City and my mother took me shopping to get some things for my closet sized kitchen. It was so tiny that one could not open the microwave door and the refrigerator door at the same time! I had to be very selective about what I kept so I picked charming china pieces in several different earth tone colors. Even though I was usually eating alone there, I would still set up a little spot at the table. My mother's major piece of advice was to always have flowers in the apartment. In the city, this was especially important because, in addition to providing a little bit of charm, it was a reminder that we should always stop to appreciate nature and all of the beauty that God created for our enjoyment.

Gollum: When you start to create a tablescape, do you begin with a theme or colors?

Kimberly: Either one works! Sometimes I find my inspiration in the plate or flower that I want to use. Other times it is in a theme that just seems perfect for that specific meal. Inspiration is everywhere!

Gollum: Speaking of colors...what if your dining room has an assertive color (mine is terracotta)? One of my fellow bloggers wanted to know if dishes needed to match the room--especially if they are displayed in a cabinet. What's your philosophy?

Kimberly: I think it is nice to have something that matches but a set that is complementary is nice too. I really like to switch things up obviously so I have always been careful to decorate my dining room in something quite neutral. On the other hand, as I write in the book, you don't always need to set the table in the dining room. You could set a table in your library, by a fire in your living room, outside under a big tree, or anywhere else that strikes your fancy.

Gollum: What about storage? I have been collecting dishes and crystal for decades, and I am getting ready to place them in the basement library. But what if space is limited--where to store all of those tablescaping items?

Kimberly: You are so lucky to have a great place to store your collections. It can be the biggest problem for people like us who have a passion for collecting! I have a closet that was intended for use as part of our laundry room but it happens to be quite close to the dining room so I store my china there. When I didn't have the luxury of a storage closet, I would put my china in big white plastic containers from the Container Store. I used my digital camera to take photos of the items in the box along with a label that had the box's number on it. I would then place the label on the outside of the box and store the photo both on my computer and in a photo album. When ever I needed a certain set of china or crystal, I would send my husband out to our very organized garage to retrieve it for me!

Gollum: Do you have any shopping suggestions for amateur tablescapers?

Kimberly: After you have amassed all of the basics that you need, keep your eyes out for show-stoppers. Every table needs something that will delight the eye's of the diners and create conversation. They should also think outside of the box! I have used anything from Christmas tree garland to pieces of drift wood on my tables before.

Gollum: Which tablescape (from the book) did you enjoy the most? Which was the most challenging?

Kimberly: I enjoyed the table on the beach at our summer house in Canada the most. The weather was perfect and I love spending relaxing days with my family and friends there. That is when the most wonderful memories are created. They were all a little bit challenging because I was pregnant when we were taking the photographs for the book. My belly got in the way more than once and I wasn't able to life anything heavy! I had to have a lot of helping hands around!

Gollum: Do you have any suggestions for building a tablescape--a basic tablescape? Which items are "must haves"?

Kimberly: One must really think through every step of the meal. For example, I often choose my menu around the china I want to use! I have one set that has a crescent salad plate to be placed on the side of the plate for the main course. That has an impact on the menu! I also have a set that has a beautiful plate designed for artichokes. This is another example of the china guiding the menu! I typically have the most fun selecting the place cards and monogrammed napkins. I love the little details.

Tablescapes is Kimberly's fourth book. I can't wait to check out her other books: The Pleasure of Your Company: Entertaining in High Style; Dog Parties; and The Wedding Workbook: a Time-Saving Guide for the Busy Bride. Kimberly's work has graced the pages of Vogue, Town and Country, Elle, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, and Four Seasons.

If you’d like to read more about tablescaping, check out Kimberly’s fabulous BLOG Kimberly Schlegel Whitman blogspot

This book is available at Gibbs-Smith Publishers

and all fine bookstores:
Booksense Indy Store Finder

Also available:


Photo credit: Scott Womack Photography 2008
Permission from publisher granted to quote (c) text by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman
Author photo (c) Bode Helm 2008

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday: The Kitchen Patio

When I read about the event at A Southern Daydreamer, I thought, "Oh, I'll be glad when spring arrives. Maybe then I'll roll up my sleeves and kick winter to the curb." Then I thought, Why wait? Why not time travel a bit, and whisk yourself back to last summer. If you'd like to participate, or enjoy a bit of fresh air by looking at other gardens, visit Susan's blog, A Southern Daydreamer.

Last summer, I did a 15 minute makeover on our kitchen patio.

First, I rolled out a sisal from Big Lots. Then I shopped the house. It was like Supermarket Sweepstakes. I swiped a mirror and splashed on a little celadon spray paint, then I ran down to the itty bitty garden and cut a few flowers.

Pillows were grabbed from the downstairs patio...

Next, I raided the kitchen--limes, berries, and pound cake. I was baking like crazy, mainly because our chickens were laying 3 dozen eggs a day.

I used a dozen eggs in this cake.

I got a little wild with the limes.

Then it was time to enjoy the view.

But no, something wasn't right...I moved the mirror, scooted the table a bit. Will that do? I thought.

No, sometimes your first impulse is best. Dusk started gathering at the edges of the farm.So I brought out a lantern.

What a perfect place to write--all I needed was a gin and tonic.

See you over at Susan's.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tablescape Tuesday: Breakfast on a Snowy Morning

Snow days cry out for a leisurely breakfast: coffee, orange juice, apple-cinnamon cake, and fruit. Since Dr. Gollum and I were the only ones up this early, and since it was snowing, I "shopped" the house and pulled together two cheery place-settings.

You've seen all of these dishes, except for the dessert plates, but the white Ironstone works its magic, and old things suddenly seem fresh.

The basic bones didn't take long.

The sun kept darting in and out of clouds, and the crystal played tricks in the shifting light.

In my mind's eye, I baked cheese grits in the figural bowls (I'll have to wait for the cooktop to dry out). Then I added salt-and-pepper shakers. Just to shake things up, I pulled out the Lenox dessert dishes. (They're actually Christmas dishes, but I use them year-round).

Here's the darling pig--and a view of the tomato salt-and-pepper shakers.

A view from above.

The dishes have two designs--"Anjou Pear with Chinaberry"

and "Lady Apple with Bittersweet."

Treble clef flatware--I love how the tight curls seem to suggest that spring will be here soon.

"Dr. G! Yo! Breakfast!"

You've gotta love a man who lets you take pictures before he has a chance to sip his morning coffee. The tureen is Fitz & Floyd. I also used it in a tea party on a previous Tablescape Tuesday.

After we cut the cake, the berries spilled down like dark pearls...

Hold that pose, Dr. G!

"Do I drop the fork while you take the picture, or what?" he asks. :-)

The sun hit the cake and washed over the berries

After Dr. G left, I pulled out my faithful (and eternally in style) silk paperwhites. By this time, Mister smelled the cake and came over to investigate.

Having a bad hair day, Mr. Mister?
Nothing a little cake won't fix.

A view of the farm, showing a dusting of snow.

Apple-cinnamon coffee cake--from the Kroger bakery. :-)

Just one more slice won't hurt.Forget that--here's half for you, half for me.

Now, let's work off those calories and take a walk around the blog. Since it's Tablescape Tuesday, we can go "Dish Spotting" with Susan at Between Naps on the Porch.