Our At Home for the Holidays Guest Blogger Series is coming to an end. It is almost Christmas, after all! As a final farewell, we thought tips on Christmas dinner tabletop arranging were in order. And to do the honors, we bring you none other than our friend, acclaimed author, blogger and lifestyle personality, Tracy Porter.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guest series. Don’t forget to leave a comment on your favorite guest posts (browse here) for a chance to win a year-long subscription to At Home in Arkansas magazine. And from all of us at At Home in Arkansas… Happy Holidays!
For many of us, a love affair with the holidays goes back to childhood. Nostalgia has her warm embrace on our heartstrings and is forever pulling them about.
I will always hold fond memories of the all the merriment associated with the weeks and days leading up to our celebrations, especially when it comes to the details! I grew up in a family who loves entertaining, and while leg of lamb and escargot will always stir my culinary senses, I find pure poetry this time of year in other elements of entertaining as well. Colors, Â textures and magical trimmings combined with nature’s gifts tucked about the table and bar make me giddy. Indeed, itâs the little details and thoughts that make entertaining enchanting and ever intriguing!
One can get utterly overwhelmed by some of the larger tasks that come along with the holidays, so my remedy is to sneak away and flirt with the elegant embellishments that make festive times and memories so very unique! If you are willing to indulge in my theory of merriment making, soon youâll find yourself craving moments to layer in the little sumptuous touches that will make your holidays the most delicious and spirited yet!
If you set a table this time of year, there are many small touches that can add holiday magic. Consider a placecard an alluring element! If putting guests names on the table feels too formal try this idea with poetic words instead, such as conversation starters or small toasts. I love a placecard that is handmade, or attatched to an ornament or tiny sparkling mirror…something charming that you are able make ahead of time and set aside. I donât have loads of time to get too fancy or over the top but I love the idea of making a few goodies for the table like this!
Napkins are another detail that I adore. I have no problem zipping off to the fabric store and buying some gorgeous yardage, cutting it into large oversized napkins, and simply adding an elegant luscious ribbon. (Indeed you read that right: I donât fuss with the edges…more artful in my bookâ¦do what you will.) I think a fearless pattern, texture and mix of colors on a holiday table is jovial and exuberant! If there is ever a time to make your table setting irresistible the holidays are it!!
A bar is essential at the holidays! Find a spot to set one up that is accessible to your guests and stocked! Donât forget a few bits of holiday added here and there. I always adorn the top of our ice bucket with ribbon and berries. I may not get to polishing her, but I always give her a party dress! I love a mix of glassware for serving drinks and I always keep my eyes peeled for small vintage glasses to add to my bar repertoire.
Nature is always my âgo-to girlâ for entertaining. I find that mixing in greens and berries along with whatever else I dig up from my holiday boxes makes the most beautiful statement. You simply cannot go wrong when you combine a bit of nature and candle light. If you donât keep a stash of holiday goods to dig through then a simple and elegant mix of branches and greenery down the center of your table will feel festive and effortlessly divine.
In case you missed them:
We are thrilled to introduce Tracy Porter, an exciting addition to the At Home in Arkansas blog team! Tracy is a lifestyle, home and fashion designer, author and photographer. Her publication appearances include O, Better Homes & Gardens and InStyle, she’s appeared on Oprah, E! and HGTV, and her eclectic designs in home and fashion are sold in thousands of retail stores and boutiques around the world, including Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.
We had the pleasure of meeting Tracy at the recent Design Bloggers Conference in Los Angeles, and she charmed us with her warmth and kindness. Her monthly column, about all things entertaining, will showcase her unique style, inspiring At Home’s readers to live life to the fullest.
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post for her $250 giveaway!
With summer nearly here, entertaining becomes more top of brain than ever! But…I get it entirelyâ¦having people over can overwhelm even the most seasoned entertainer! All of our days are terribly busy, we seem to easily fill them with activities, events and running about…throw in a wagon full of kids + pets and the idea of friends for dinner can seem utterly daunting!
However, it CAN be easy (sigh of relief). It takes a bit of planning, and some winging it…and in my book thatâs how you get to easy. I have a handful of tipsâ¦that I hope inspire your next gathering to feel fabulous in mind and spirit
I keep a basket full of folded cloth napkins in a range of colors and prints… Ok, I keep several of them, truth be told! It is just so easy to have them handy, right in your kitchen or pantry all the time, and one less thing to be running around after when company comes!
Have a few âgo-toâ cocktails… and a range of pretty glassware sitting out. Everyone loves the idea of âbeing entertainedâ so when your company shows upâ¦be ready! A choice or two is niceâ¦.we make a great Meyer lemon cosmo in our house (Iâll share that recipe down the road!) thatâs always a crowd pleaser. Add to that a gorgeous martini glass…ahhhh, irresistible!
Always add flowers. It is one of my favorite things to do once most everything else is covered! (Sort of like playing!) It makes any eating and gathering experience just that much more enchanting. A little charm goes a long way. Donât spend a fortune…if you must buy flowers, go simpleâ¦all one kind. Plunk them into little vessels or teacupsâ¦and scatter them about the table. No fuss…! If your yard is abundant, then get out your nippers and have at it! Clip bits of this and that and again plunk them into lower simple vessels that you gather from around your house. I often times will just set flowers on the table in my gathering basket…never mind that they slowly wilt a bit here and there…still so lovely…nature adds beautifully to any meal!
Dim the lightsâ¦ALWAYS! I have walked into more fully lit kitchens in the evening (wanting to put on my shades) than I care to admit to. No one wants to be blasted with light…low light is calming and sensual…and it hides everything! Next, keep a stash of âready to goâ candles. Mine change often (I cannot help myself) but I keep a basket in my pantry full of candles. Right now, I am onto jam jars (with 4 little boys, we go through lots of jamâ¦too bad peanut butter jars are not cuter!). I keep a little votive in each. Sometimes I will spritz some rosemary with water and drop a small bit of it in the jarâ¦youâll catch an occasional whiff of goodness that is over the topâ¦try it!
I adore large trays, and I truly use them! I have them out on my countertops ready for action! I cannot tell you how well this works! If you like your plates, then keep them out in a nice stack on a tray. Then dig up a great vessel, fill it with useful utensils and…viola! Sounds simpleâ¦but when you see it you use it!
Zero in on your âgo-to recipes.” I love knowing that everything will (for the most part) work out when company comes. There are always surprises, but a good recipe is worth its weight in gold! My best example is chocolate sheet cake! No brainer…everyone loves it…no one ever tires of itâ¦and you can make it in a snap! I even let my kids doll up the top with little cookies and candies. No matter the occasion, this sort of thing adds magic to any gathering! So, find a way toÂ round up your top recipe picks and go to them for fearless entertaining. Even little sticky notes popping from the tops of your cookbooks (as I do) will do the trick. Just mark the ones you can count on anytime!
I keep the appetizers really simple. I just find this approach easier for all! Keep several cutting boards in various sizes on hand. Add to that a few odiferous cheeses, some pretty little knives, a mix of nosh-able crackersâ¦almonds, salami, salt and vinegar chipsâ¦use small pretty bowlsâ¦and youâll have something to set on your counter or nearby coffee table, or wherever you and your company are hanging out!
A few more thoughts…Itâs sometimes the little things that throw us off last minute, so the âdo ahead and plan listâ can also include:
~ Finding a no commercials music station (try www.pandora.com) that sets the mood with one tap of your finger!
~ Decide if you will be setting the table or going more casual family style buffet (so easy and fun for all!)
~ Choose recipes that are make ahead if at all possible…even a few hours really can help!
Most importantly, I share these ideas with you to lessen the overwhelm. I have been there, running around swabbing my forehead, shoving toys into random drawers, scoopingÂ dog hair tumble weeds off the floor. I NOW choose the EASY route. I plan a bit more, dim the lights, have a sip of my drink beforehandâ¦..and calmly, happilyâ¦await my friends and family to show up!
Cheers to you!
I am so excited about my first of many columns with At Home in Arkansas that I want to celebrate it with a wonderful giveaway for a $250 gift certificate! Besides my love of writing, and sharing inspiration for all lovely things in life, I am also a designer of delicious home and fashion goods!
Surely youâd love a shopping spree?! Well alright then! In order to enter this gem of a giveaway, all you need to do is post a comment here (by clicking on responses at the top of the post next to the date, or scrolling down underneath the current responses below) about my first columnâ¦let us know what you think! How simple is that! The giveaway will run today through May 23. The winner will be picked randomly. Please check back on May 24th to see if it is you!!
I am there to chatter every day, would love to meet you! Â Good luck & happiness to you!
What an absolute and utter treat it is to have Tracy Porter guesting on our blog today! For those of you who don’t know her, Tracy has written nine books on entertaining, home and inspiration for daily living; authors a blog (www.tracyporter.com/blog) with thousands of daily readers; has graced the pages of numerous publications including O, People, Family Circle, Elle, Better Homes & Gardens and Victoria; and has appeared on Oprah, E! and HGTV. Oh, and we mustn’t forget her fashion and home decor lines or her fanciful dinnerware collection, available at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s!
But to top all of it off, Tracy is a kind and wonderful person and our new friend. Read on as she shares with you, At Home’s readers, how to take time and be true to yourself–friendly lessons from Tracy to apply in every aspect of your life.
I am a firm believer that we create much of the world around us in the choices we makeâ¦we find ways to be true to our selves â¦..or not. Itâs a matter of how we inspire ourselves, or choose to decorate our homes, how we dress, Â what we eatâ¦beauty is everywhere, and itâs is a glorious choice to look her in the eye everyday and embrace her, explore herâ¦.and along the pathâ¦find your way to âyouâ and how you want to be true to yourself! I have more than a few thoughts on this topicâ¦.but Iâll put a clamp on my verbose nature and just share a handfulâ¦â¦
I find color to be one of the most inspiring temptations. I found it, and more of me â¦â¦once I truly explored the layer it would add to our home! Be brave and embrace itâ¦.soon it will be a mad love affair. Start smallâ¦a bathroom , a foyer â¦..or as you see in my own homeâ¦a hallway and doors. This little spot leading to our second floors thrills me to no end. It is dripping in gorgeousnessâ¦.. I adore how the intense color of the high gloss red doors along with the peacockian blues make me feel. Once you find your way to colorâ¦.each room in your home will hold a gasp-inducing feeling that you will swoon overâ¦trust me!
p.s. a bonus thought on colorâ¦.itâs a good âhiderââ¦.we have four young boys and let me tell you, between PBJ fingers and skateboards scuff marksâ¦I am a believer!
Explore Your Inner Bohemian
I adore dressing in a way that makes me smile. I need to feel comfortable, get dressed quickly and feel spot on in whatever I throw on!!!
I love the thought that layers in my wardrobe help me do all of this a carefree smashing way! I suppose itâs why I love designing fashionâ¦..so that women of all ages could have the Â freedom to walk into their closets and know that pretty much anything they put on would feel and look gorgeous and soulfully them! I know that my inner bohemian ( please tell me you have one?) loves this tooâ¦.after all ,pattern on pattern, layering and some highs and lows are easy to do if you just let yourself be free to exploreâ¦.!
Explore the World as a Picnic
I love food from everywhere in the world and consider myself a true food adventurer. I also happen to believe that the way in which we present our deliciousness matters as well! Truly, wouldnât you rather have your French fries in funky rolled down paper bags, and dips in a pretty little mix of hand painted bowls? Why not plunk a gorgeous exotic pillow on each chair! Consider the way you eat as much as the food you eatâ¦..your entire experience can and will changeâ¦.So, light those candles, play a game while munching, laughâ¦live and declare your passion and pleasure!
Explore Doing Less and Getting More!
I am a passionate girl, top to bottom..I dive in fingers to toes! Sometimes I dive and realize that I have taken on more than I care forâ¦..such is the humbling nature of life. My gardens became just that. I planted, and plantedâ¦then had children and realized I couldnât do it all. So, I plunked in some raised bedsâ¦â¦ created ( with the help of my dear husband and kids) a potager, a wee escapeâ¦a place to wander and grab a lovely fresh homegrown dinner and then some! Now in the evenings I can watch the boys ride bikes and skateboardâ¦.and I can take my gathering basket and glass of wine and with very low maintenance enjoy my gardens and my darlings! Consider all that you do in being true to yourselfâ¦sometimes you really can do less and get moreâ¦..of the good life that is!
Cheers and Delicious Explorations!