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Tuesday
Oct162012

HALLOWEEN Table: "Deserted DOWNTON ABBEY"

Halloween is such a theatrical holiday, don't you think? Sure, Christmas has the big tree and the carols, but Halloween is toothy pumpkins, dark vampire liars, mummy tombs, and all points in between.

Joanna of MommaCuisine.com recently invited me on her new show Momma Cuisine Live and asked me to conjure up a sophisticated Halloween tablescape. I had to look no further than my DVD player. My husband and I love PBS's Downton Abbey and have been making our way through season two (yes, we're late to the party).

Downton Abbey is set in the early 20th century and tells the story of both the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants "downstairs". The Crawleys weather life's curveballs yet Lord and Lady Grantham always manage to end their evenings with an elegant dinner...thanks in no small part to the servants' efforts!

But what if the Crawleys went mad? And what if the servants had enough of their shennanegans and simply left the estate? And furthermore, what if the Crawleys barely took any notice, and kept trying to entertain as per usual? These thoughts led me to...

Deserted Downton Abbey

Colors: Dark neutrals, tarnished silver, aged gold, and ivory (never white).
Style: Keep it antique, and slightly mis-matched. This is a great way to use incomplete sets of china. Borrow from friends or rent, as I did, from Tablescapes Event Rentals. Everything you see here, (with the exception of the flower vase and candleabra) is from Tablescapes!
Details: Crinkled placecards written in half-dry markers, bent forks as amuse-bouche servers, dripping candles, dry flowers

 

Below: Candles bend at precarious angles and drip freely. At right, these bent forks from Tablescapes are meant to be used as placecard holders, but I like them as amuse bouche forks. Placecards are crinkled and written with a half-dead marker, to add to the look of neglected elegance.


Silverware should be mis-matched, as seen here with Tablescapes' heirloom flatware collection. And did you notice that one place setting is gold-ivory, while the other is ivory-gold?

Don't polish the silver before this party! You don't want anything too bright on the table.

 

The overall look is coordinated, but not overly matchy. Note the complimentary crystal wine glasses.

 

A behind-the-scenes look! It doesn't look nearly so forboding in the daylight, does it? I recommend dark lighting and chamber music played on a scratchy record to set the mood. And feel free to dress in your moth-eaten finery!

Happy Halloween!

Monday
Oct152012

Gorgeous ANTIQUES at Randolph Street MARKET

Do you know about Randolph Street Market? Far from a flea fair, this is an indoor-outdoor urban antique market (often touted as the "Barney's of vintage") featuring 200+ carefully curated purveyors of furnishings, vintage clothing, jewelry, collectibles, etc. Randolph Street Market holds events approximately once a month, sometimes with a specific focus. For instance, October 20-21 is their Modern Vintage Jewelry & Clothing Expo.

But before you scurry off for mid-century dresses and Edwardian baubles, let me share some photos from last month's market, where I was honored to participate in Randolph Street Market's "Editors Choice for Charity". Each of us were handed five blue ribbons, a clipboard, a drink ticket (very important!), and a mission to select our five favorite pieces. Should our pieces be purchased, the charity of our choice (mine was the Junior League of Chicago) would receive a donation. And they were purchased! Thanks to all who supported us that weekend.

A few of my "blue ribbon" choices are below...

Clockwise from top left: 1960s vanity chair, reupholystered with material from a dress; 1940s painting, artist unknown; 1930s Italian painting; 1890s silver plated buffet steamer.

Upcoming Randolph Street Market dates:

MODERN VINTAGE CHICAGO
Fall Jewelry & Clothing Show
Oct 20-21

HOLIDAY MARKET
November 17-18, 2012
December 15-16, 2012

Thursday
Aug162012

Attracting BUTTERFLIES and HUMMINGBIRDS to your balcony

Late summer brings many outdoor pleasures, but two of my favorite things that turn up this time of year are butterflies and hummingbirds. Our annual big butterflies like monarchs and swallowtails typically begin to arrive in July and August. Hummingbirds have been flitting around since April, but some of their favorite flowers are blooming now.

If you have a sunny, protected spot in your yard or on your balcony, consider building your very own butterfly and hummingbird container to attract these colorful creatures. You can do a mix of annuals and perennials for a longer show.

Butterflies favor flowers high in nectar production such as verbena, milkweed and lantana. Hummingbirds are attracted to red and blue tubular blossoms where they can sip nectar with their long tongues. They love salvia, fuchsia and lobelia. You can create a mix of colors and textures to attract both species. Consider annual coleus for its big, bright, colorful leaves, but allow it to flower instead of pinching back. Mix in some perennials such as sunset hyssop, coneflower and black-eyed Susan for added nectar sources.

If you choose annual or perennial milkweed, check your leaves frequently. Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on plants in the milkweed family and you may get a caterpillar or two! Raising caterpillars and watching them transform into chrysalises then butterflies can be a magical experience, especially for your little gardeners.

 

Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.

Monday
Jul302012

Gaming AL FRESCO - a summer GAME NIGHT

I often categorize "game night" as a cold-weather activity. Make a pot of chili, throw a log on the fire, dust off the Scrabble box and voila! Game night!

Recently, though, I enjoyed an especially delightful game night on the porch of a spectacular Mackinac Island B&B. It was so pleasant that we had multiple game nights al fresco. Just us, the spirit of competition, and on one night, a particularly inquisitive little frog who roosted on the railing to watch. Our urban-dwelling hearts were charmed, and we briefly considered moving to the country.

 

No matter if you live in the sticks or in a 606xx, I encourage you to enjoy a game night on your porch (balcony, fire escape, bench on the park, etc.) sometime this week. I'm a big fan of the strategy game Risk, whereas my husband dominates at Monopoly. Add a pitcher of white wine sangria and a few domino cookies to distract your opponent from your next move.

Monday
Jun252012

Tips for making your HERB garden GROW

Herbs can liven up any meal, from breakfast to dessert. A sprinkle of chives in scrambled eggs adds a dash of bright onion flavor, while a sprig of mint in your ice cream can make it even more refreshing. If you've been reluctant to grow your own, remember that herbs are easy to grow, making them a great plant for novice gardeners.

 

How to Grow

Herb growing is a practically foolproof prospect, and the results come quickly. There are a few tips to keep in mind, however:

1) Most herbs thrive in sun, so you’ll need a space that gets at least six hours of sun.

2) You can grow herbs in pots or in the ground. If in containers, keep them evenly moist, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. If you are growing indoors, your herbs may require more water due to air conditioning’s lack of humidity.

3) In general, herbs do not require much fertilizer, if any, and if you do fertilize, it can change the flavor of the foliage. Of course there are some exceptions, so read your plants’ growing instructions.

 

 

What to Grow

Most of us are familiar with basil, rosemary and mint. This summer, why not try something new? Experiment with fresh herbs in your cooking, but remember they are much stronger fresh than dried, so a little can go a long way. Here are some perennial herbs that are staples in my garden and in our pantry.

Greek oregano: A spreading perennial, its strong woodsy flavor is ideal for Italian dishes.
Lavender: Its beautiful blooms and buds are delicious added to pound cake or frozen into ice cubes to dress up your iced tea
Sage: A classic for pork, but try stuffing a roasting chicken with sage and onions for a succulent flavor.
Summer savory: Similar to thyme, but stronger, it is excellent with poultry, pork and in pasta salad
Tarragon: Essential to classic French cooking, its anise flavor is wonderful with meaty fish, chicken salad or roasted meats.

 

Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.

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