Festive Fall Table

Last year, Daddy bought Mama a set of each color (at the time: red, cobalt, green, yellow, orange) of Mainstays dishes.

At the time, this color was not available… But, this is the kind we purchased – Mainstays 16-Piece Round Dinnerware Set ($26.88). Click on the image to see it at Walmart.com.

So, this year, I was able to set a festive, fall-colored table using all but the cobalt.

It is so simple, affordable, and festive. We paired them with alternating green and gold napkins (avoiding setting the gold by the yellow, or the green by the green…). On the table, we have a white (off-white would work great) brocade table cloth, covered with an off-white lace cloth. A centerpiece of a few varying-sized pumpkins – some white, some orange – makes for an excellent fall table.

 

 

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Review Some Feasting Basics

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about family get-togethers, gift-giving, and feasting. Here are a few basics you might want to review with the family prior to the holidays:

For children (Yes, trust me, they can do this! It just might take a little practice.):

  • Remain seated at the table until you have been excused. Ask to be excused if necessary.
  • Never complain about any of the food (this goes for adults, too, of course). Instead, be gracious and try everything.
  • Be considerate by remaining quiet, or carrying on pleasant (“inside voice”!) conversation when appropriate. No rowdy behavior at the table!
This is a favorite Norman Rockwell painting that I edited just a bit to show a little of what I'm talking about...

This is a favorite Norman Rockwell painting that I edited just a bit to show a little of what I’m talking about…

For everyone:

  • Your napkin goes in your lap.
  • The salt and pepper always travel as a pair. If one is asked for, both are passed.
  • Be aware of your elbows. Family gatherings often mean tight seating arrangements, so try not to invade your neighbor’s personal space even when cutting into that steak…
  • Always thank the host, the hostess, and compliment the cooks. This makes for positive, uplifting conversation.
  • Wait to start eating until everyone has been served.
  • Try to keep the conversation appropriate to mealtimes (e.g. Avoid disturbing/gross topics, etc.).
  • Being an adult does not win you the right to complain about the food, or be inconsiderate by appearing “picky”. Please don’t ever make a big deal about foods you won’t eat. Be gracious and try everything. It’s simply not that hard.
  • If you or a loved one has food allergies/sensitivities, now is not the time to make a fuss over it. In fact, the topic does not even have to come up at the table. If you’ve brought special food, allow it to be enjoyed, but not as a focal point. It’s just not all about you. It’s about a feast, family time, enjoying the blessings that God has given us.

Casual Fellowship + Food

We enjoyed some fun, relaxing, casual fellowship with dear friends this past weekend. It was a great opportunity to catch up, regroup, and (as always…) eat some amazing food (it’s a great strength of ours). 🙂

This is something like (if not exactly the recipe) we had the other night. Puff pastry, apple butter, cheddar cheese… So good! Click the image to find the recipe.

Often, a good rule-of-thumb when hosting guests, or bringing food to an event, is not to try new recipes. Go to your tried-and-true stash, and work from that. However, when you’re as close with your guests as we are to these friends, it’s actually the perfect time for creativity. So, we did a mixture of both. Here are some things you would have found in the kitchen:

  • White Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Dip + Ritz Crackers
  • Red Current Jelly in Mascarpone + Rosemary Crackers
  • Double Chocolate Cookies (I don’t know what they were, but they were life changing. LOL)
  • White Castles (Hey, they’re quick, easy, ready-to-go, and strangely delicious once in awhile.)
  • Puff Pastry, Filled with Apple Butter and Cheddar Cheese (Delicious.)
  • Salsa + Fresh Cilantro and Chips

Most of these foods you can keep on hand for those last-minute get-togethers. Keep a box of good crackers stashed away, a block of cream cheese in the fridge drawer, and a couple of topping/mix-ins options (pepper jelly is a good one…), and you’re good to go!

What do you like to do for delicious finger foods?

 

At the Table…

A favorite Norman Rockwell painting

  • Say “Grace”.
  • Have clean hands and face.
  • No Phones/Other Devices
  • No Singing/Whistling, etc. (unless singing the blessing…)
  • Pass BOTH salt and pepper when either is requested.
  • Always thank the host and cook.

What are y’all’s house rules for mealtime?

Simple Household Tip – Washing Dishes

There are many simple tasks that, if made routine, can help maintain the cleanliness and order of the home. Here’s one that immediately comes to mind:

While preparing a meal, try to take advantage of free moments to catch up on washing dishes. Granted, there will be those times when, by the time the meal is ready, the kitchen is full of dirty dishes.

Here is a set of fun washcloths from our church’s Etsy shop (all profit goes to our church building fund!). Check ’em out!

Clean the kitchen after EVERY meal.

  • Deal with the dishes (hand wash them, empty the dishwasher, and refill the dishwasher. Run it, if it’s time.)
  • Put away any small appliances (blenders, mixers, etc.) – after wiping them down, if needed.
  • Put away any ingredients and tools that may still be on the work spaces.
  • Wipe down the countertops. I do this after every time I wash the dishes, as a habit. I highly recommend it!

This doesn’t have to take long, usually. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes! And it is SO worth it. Always expecting your kitchen to be full of dirty dishes and very little free counter space is not necessary or pleasant.

Give it a try!

What are some habits and routines that help you maintain order?

Random Tip: Bacon!

Bacon is amazing. It’s wonderful, really. But, it is a MESS to cook on the stovetop. That is why, most of the time now, we cook it in the oven.

Trust me when I say that we are serious about our bacon in the Bradshaw household. So, I’m giving you good information here… not just a shortcut.

This image is thanks to the Wal-Mart website. 🙂 Yes. I did just post a picture of bacon. You’re welcome.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a large cookie sheet (or two smaller ones that can fit side-by-side in the oven) with parchment paper or foil. For cleaning ease, make sure that you cover it sufficiently, so that no grease will end up touching the cookie sheet.

Lay out the strips of bacon on the lined sheet (touching is fine…) as efficiently as necessary, in order to fit the whole pound in one batch.

Place in preheated oven, and cook 15-25 minutes, depending on how crispy you like it, and depending on the brand, etc.

All bacon cooks a little differently, so I like to always start with 15 minutes. Sometimes this is perfect. However, a couple of days ago, it took my bacon 28 minutes to finish! I’m still trying to figure that one out…

When done (or a little earlier, if necessary… You don’t really want to “boil” your bacon in its fat), drain the fat into your bacon grease container, and save for later use… in basically anything.

Ta-da! It’s so easy, and SO much cleaner! Our floors used to be coated in grease, thanks to stovetop frying. But, now it’s under control. 🙂

Random Tip: How To Become Everyone’s Favorite Person

I live on a farm, next to another farm, surrounded by woods and other farms. This means, especially in the summer, that life is busy. We ladies often stay more indoors, so we have the opportunity to provide perks for our gentlemen. Making hay, processing chickens, building new fence, recovering from floods… All of these activities often mean several local farmers join forces for more efficient work. How can you provide perks? Here are some of our traditions (VERY effective in making us everyone’s favorite people):

Second Breakfast

No need to leave this one to the hobbits. It turns out, your work crew will be hungry after the first few hours of a job. If work starts at sunrise, an 8, 9, or 10 o-clock meal will be a hit.

Water Breaks

This is a picture from one of our work days on our church property. Mealtimes are great opportunities to relax and regroup.

This is a picture from one of our work days on our church property. Mealtimes are great opportunities to relax and regroup.

Provide plenty of water. On hot days, when you show up with a cooler of ice water and/or sweet tea, you will be popular and loved. 🙂

Snacks

Between meals, a great big batch of cookies is just what you need to make. This gives you an excuse to get out and see the progress, and allows the fellas to take a quick break.