|A glimpse in a drawer of my hutch, which contains almost anything I'd need for the table: serving utensils, corkscrews, taper candles, and plenty of votives and tealights.|
As I was folding linens warm out of the dryer this morning, I started thinking about how I love to layer colors, fabrics, and serving pieces on my table, reflecting the shifting seasons outside my window. My mind wandered to making everyday meals special, taking just an extra minute or two to make an ordinary occasion extraordinary. I know that statement is cliche, thrown about by hordes of Food Network stars, but it really seems like so many people rush through their meals, eating right out of the carton, right on the couch. What's wrong with using real dishes and napkins and lighting a candle or two? What's wrong with turning off the television for 20 minutes and looking into the eyes of your family and friends? I wholeheartedly believe many of us have lost the art of dining.
It all starts with setting the table. It's the tablecloth, the place mats, the runners, and the centerpieces that set the stage for your meal. Each season I use different color schemes: the pastels of Spring give way to the punchy colors of Summer; the burgundies and golds and plums of Fall transform into the reds and golds of Winter. My favorite places to find inexpensive linens are Home Goods, IKEA, and Pottery Barn (on clearance). No paper napkin or vinyl tablecloth can come close to the snap of a cloth napkin and the pretty draping of a tablecloth! I know many people are worried about the inevitable spills, drips of candle wax, and lipstick stains, but with today's easy-care fabrics, linens are nearly indestructible!
Once the foundation is made, it's time for the accessories and serving pieces. Balance and height are important on a well-dressed table, and I'm a big fan of the silver candlesticks (above) that I found on clearance at Pottery Barn. They add height, visual interest, and what I believe to be a critical element of the dining table: candlelight. Vases of flowers, votives, baskets of fruit, cake pedestals, and even small pots of herbs can make the most of a table.
|Some of the cloth napkins I use over the course of the year.|
My mother loved to say that things weren't worth having if they were not used. I keep that in mind when it comes to using my serving pieces and dishes, many of them antique, in everyday life. Why save the prettiest dishes for the holidays or a special occasion? All meals, down to the $1 box of macaroni and cheese, are elevated to a new level on good dishes. Pull out what you have and use them; don't let them collect dust in the cabinet!
It takes only seconds to light a couple of candles, turn off the TV, grab cloth napkins, and pull dishes out of the cabinet, but I swear it will make a huge difference. Conversations commence, we pay attention to one another, and we connect. It's a special and calming respite, even if only for a few minutes, from the rest of our hectic day.