Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Isn't this centerpiece lovely? It was a gift from my youngest son's girlfriend. Her aunt makes them to sell at craft shows. It is so Victorian and so "Christmasie"! It inspired me to wash the Christmas China and set the table! I have to confess though, our "real" Christmas Dinner was an all day buffet with over twenty guests who had to use foam plates. I would like to have a wonderful sit-down dinner with everyone, but I have not figured out the logistics of how to find enough room!
I started collecting my Phaltzgraff Christmas Heritage in the 1980's. I was at May Company after Christmas and it was 70% off! I bought a four placesetting set.  After that I was shopping every December 26, visiting the outlet store, shopping from the catalog!
I have lots of pieces! Unfortunately they have discontinued the pattern, so now I can only search at garage sales, flea markets and ebay.

Don't you love the poinsetta napkin with the bedazzled ring? I found them at Kmart on December 27. Fifty percent off! I went back today and got more napkin rings.

The angels came from Kmart, too. I really don't neeeed anymore Christmas, but I could not resist!

The gingerbread men placemats were a Kmart purchase before the holidays. I wanted to do a gingerbread table, but never had the time. Don't worry - they were already on sale!

They used to offer a Christmas bell each year in the Christmas Heritage pattern. The tree is one of the bells. I had hoped to eventually have one for each placesetting.
Santa is another of my bells. I had four of them, but there was an incident inside the china cabinet and now I am down to three. :(
The snowman salt and pepper shakers came from Family Dollar. To your left is a basket filled with candies. The basket was brandnew in an unopened box at a flea market. It cost almost nothing!
A better look at the placesetting with the goblet added.

My niece stopped by Ohio from Mississippi and said she would love to dine at this table. I told her it was just for fancy today.
I think I finally have a nice shot of the goblet. They are really very pretty and were a gift long ago from my sister-in-law.

A special table for my grandson. He love his own candle that really flickered. He said "It's cold, gramma mimi!"

Linking with all the lovely tablescapes at

And with Seasonal Sundays at

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Graham Cracker House Tutorial

You know, if I ever thought it would last this long, I would have written it on my calendar the first year I tried this project. It was many years ago. I am thinking less than 26 years, but more than 22 years ago. That is when I began making graham cracker houses for children to decorate.

With five children in seven years, the only way I could keep up with housework, laundry, cleaning, Sunday School and crafts was by not sleeping on Thursday night. I would put the kids to bed, start a marathon laundry and cleaning session and, around 1 a.m. or so, start crafting. I began teaching our 1st grade Sunday School class in 1985 (and continued until 2004 when I was bumped up, without my knowledge or consent to 7th & 8th graders) and was also my oldest daughter's brownie leader. I would assemble a village for the girl scouts and make a dozen or so extra for my children and my sunday school class.  
Step One: separate graham crackers into squares.
Spread frosting on one edge
When the American Girl Dolls debuted, I was employed a library assistant at our local library and had to include the houses in our Samantha Christmas tea. I think that year I made 25-30 houses per session. I can't remember if there were two or four sessions . . . I would hate to imagine how many houses I have built over the years. If I could magically add them together and wrinkle my nose to make them lifesize, there would be no homeless. (Wouldn't that be magical and wonderful?)
Step Two: spread frosting on opposite edge

Step Three: Attach an unfrosted cracker for a side wall
Step Four: repeat on other side for the opposite side all.
Step Five: add a cracker buttered as in Step Three as your fourth wall.

Step Six - butter two edges for your  "attic floor"
Crackers are not perfectly square, you will see how this fits on top!

Many years ago, but less than 22 years, we began a service project called "Make It , Bake It, Take It" for the youth of our church. On the first Sunday of December, those in grades 1 and up gather to make a craft and bake cookies and take them to the seniors in our parish. I make my houses so the kids have something to decorate and take home to enjoy. 
Step Seven: Butter the "open" sides of your attic floor
I have learned, over the years, the do's and don't's of graham cracker construction. I began mixing my frosting with raw egg whites, changed to meringue powder when I found that was unhealthy, changed back when I found my recipe more sturdy. Don't worry, I have educated the children in the hazards of raw eggs. They all know it is egg cement and cannot be eaten! As a matter of fact, I overheard one of the children this year explaining to his mother that we can't eat the frosting because it has "rotten eggs" in it. I did not correct him!

Step Eight: Butter only one side of roof section one
We used to decorate with candy but there were many roof or total collapses due to the weight of the decorations. I could not convince the kids that "less is more", so I had to put on my thinking cap. I added stick pretzels to create log cabins and even spent hours cutting gum drops into smaller pieces to try to get it right. 

Step Nine: Insert "unbuttered" side of roof section into the frosted groove.
Insert a plain graham cracker in the opposite groove and lean into the buttered top!
A light bulb dawned one year when I spotted the mini colored marshmellows in the store! Unfortunately, Aldi's doesn't carry the colored ones and, since I finance this project on my own, I had to come up with an even better plan.
Hint: Assemble to the point of the attic floor, let dry before adding the roof sections.
This year's event had over 45 participants, plus adults. What a wonderful day of friendship, fellowship, food and fun. I made almost 50 houses for the kids to decorate. For this year, I decided to use cereal. Why didn't I think of this before? Brightly colored, light weight and inexpensive! 
Hint: Butter one section with frosting at a time.
Decorate and move on to another section

The kids always enjoy decorating the houses year after year. I hear some families "shellac" them and keep them as a Christmas Village!

My "Rotten Egg Frosting" Recipe (for decorating use only, not edible)
1 bag of powdered sugar
3-5 egg whites
Mix with an electric mixer
If it is too thick, add water by the tablespoon and remix.


It is a lot of work and a lot of time management, buying the materials, building the houses, setting up for the kids, frantically calling my dear husband to drop off what I accidentally left behind; but the kids really enjoy the "home building" and that makes it worth the effort! 

A tablescape? Well, I am going to have to go with this photo. With an entire housing development under construction on the tabletop, this is the only scape that appeared!

Linking with that most gracious hostess who features such elegant and inspiring table (!) Susan at Between Naps on the Porch: 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Dinner Party

I am getting a little overwhelmed right now with my work, personal, church, and friend committments and relationships. That is also making me crazy trying to schedule in some family time! Add trying to blog into that muddled mess and you might understand why I missed blogging last week.

I did choose my winners in my giveaway. Since I was a day late AND since I had SO many kind comments, I decided to give away TWO sets of the Susan Branch Calendars! I scientifically wrote down every name on my follower list and put them in a tupperware bowl and had my husband chose a name, while he muttered "what" and "why". Then we repeated the process for everyone who posted a comment. Our winners are Rainey from The Project Table and Teri from At Home with Teri. Congratulations Ladies!

I am posted pictures from my Halloween party in 2008. We had to skip 2009 since I was missing a kitchen; walls and all.

We still have trick or treat in my neighborhood on the Thursday evening before Halloween. You can't conflict with high school football or weekend sports/church activities in my town!
 I don't get home from work until about 20 minutes before the race for candy is on - so I need quick and easy dishes that can be ready for serving before the doorbell rings.  You might notice the large bowls of chips that I served with two spider web dips. One glass pie pan has a bottom layer with sour cream mixed with taco dip, topped with a circle of salsa. Put about 1 tablespoon of sour cream in a sandwich zip lock bag, clip one bottom corner and trace separate circles on the salsa circle, small in the middle and gradually getting larger and larger. Start in the middle and draw lines outward to the edge with a knife. This will form your spider web! The second pie plate is cream cheese topped with guacamole and a sour cream spider web.

I invite my twentysomething kids to dinner and play with my food!
Here are my spider deviled eggs. I used to make deviled egg eyeballs by slicing green or black olives into a circle and drawing red catsup bloodstains on the yolk. I saw the spider eggs in a magazine. It takes a little more time, but is soooo cute! Just slice the whole black olive in half. Use one half for the body and slice the other half into the legs.   
Here are some "traditional" mummy dogs. Just wrap hotdogs in refrigerated crescent rolls, bake according to directions, and add mustard eyes. I try to convince myself that the sloppier, the scarier. Sometimes the rolls work great and sometimes they shrink up. . . .
Chicken Fingers! Our local butcher shop sells marinated whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. One half is the size of your hand! I take one half, trim it into a hand with four fingers and a thumb (save trimmed pieces for chicken casserole) and bake. They will shrivel up just wonderfully!
Our pizza owl began with an English muffin half. Butter with pizza sauce, add a slice of mozzarella cheese, top with two pepporoni eyes and black olive eyeballs. Make until melted. Actually, after studying the picture, I think they were supposed to be mummies and I cut the cheese in strips. I think making owls would be wayyyy easier than splicing those strips. And I think they look more like owls than mummies.
Our dessert repeats our spider web theme. I used a boxed brownie mix, baked in a foil pizza pan. Watch cooking time, it will cook a little faster than a 9x13. Use white frosting in the zip lock decorating bag to make the separate circle and draw the knife from the center to the edges to make the web.
Now that we are all adults here, we can enjoy something a little stronger than cider. I served a recipe called "Witches Blood" or "Dracula's Blood" (I really should write these things down.) It was a sweet acoholic punch with fruit juices mixed with something stronger. Strawberry margarita would work just as well! I wet the edges of the glasses before work and dipped them in a saucer of red sugar. By the time we used the glasses, the sugar was as hard a cement. I would recommend doing this just prior to serving!  Don't worry, Dad served as our designated driver.

Did you see the bat placemat? I got the pattern from a magazine called Country Handicrafts in the late 1980's. With five children under 11, I managed to cut out all eight, quilt and finish them, and add the spooky eyes by Halloween. Every year when I get them out, I marvel at myself! A completed project. Yoohoo!  I have many more pending projects, including some adorable paper counted cross stitch book marks from Mary Engelbreit's magazine the last year it was published. I am Queen of the UFOS (UnFinished Objects).

Well, a ghost from the past dinner. I am planning another dinner this year, so hopefully I will have time to take pictures and share them with you!

I am joining the fun at Tablescape Thursday hosted by Susan at:
And Foodie Friday at:
Enjoy the goodies!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spiders and Susan Branch Giveaway

It certainly is the month of October at my house! The chill of fall is here and I am shivering and drinking hot tea while I write. I happened upon some items created by one of my favorite people and thought, why not share with fellow bloggers? It's my first giveawayTo enter, please scan (or even read through) my post and leave a comment at the end. Anyone who is a new or old follower will get a second entry. I am going away on Wednesday night, right after I post this tablescape, and I will draw the winner next Tuesday, October 12 around 5:30 p.m. EST. What is the prize? Two 2011 Calendars by my favorite artist and author, Susan Branch!  If you have never met Susan, please visit her website at  This is my own giveaway; I am not affliated with Susan Branch in any way, except as a FAN! The calendars are the large 12"  (opens to 12 x 24) and the smaller 7" (opens to 7 x 14), each with their own unique, handpainted pages designed by Susan!  
I do want to apologize in advance if I am not able to visit everyone's tables this week. Since I will be out of town, I will not have access to my computer.
Now, to my tablescape. I still don't have ALL my Halloween decorations out of the attic, so this weeks table is mostly stuff I have hidden in the nooks and crannies of my hutch and china cabinet.

That shiny black table cloth is actually a large heavy duty trash bag. I thought it looked to be the size of the table - and it was! I covered it with some cottom spider web. If you want to try this - use about 1/4 or less of the standard spider web package. It is pretty tricky to stretch it out with out tree branches to anchor it!

I purchased the four black dinner plates I am using as chargers at the Dollar Tree for $1 each. I also purchased the pair of candlesticks, the glitter spiders, the skull and spider appetizers and the rocks, for a total purchase price of $10.00 spent. The spider web plates in the center were purchased several years ago and I can't remember where I got them.


I believe that I bought the candle stick holders and the test tube goblets at Hallmark when they were on the 80 percent off table. The tiered tray was an Ebay buy a few years ago (I added the crow) and the ghost candy basket with worm garnish was a Big Lots find many years ago. The adorable little man with a hat is a Pfaltzgraff outlet store find - a tiny repro of an old cookie jar.  I bought it for next to nothing at their going out of business sale. I am so sad there are no more Pfaltzgraff outlets!

I thought it would be fun to try a black and white table for my first Halloween table. Stay tuned for a new Halloween Table next week!

I will be linking to Tablescape Thursday with Susan and all those other creative tablescape artists at
And with Wendy for Spooky Monday at
And Eighteen25's First Halloween Linky Party at
And Centerpiece Wednesday with The Style Sisters at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn Leaves Table

Here is a picture of my placesetting from last week.

We now have the son and daughter-in-law rehearsed, decorated, wedded and celebrated and they are sunning themselves in the Dominican Republic!  And in the middle of all that - I actually set an ENTIRE Autumn Table!

We will start with the table. Bill featured a "rustic" table last week. Mine is VERY rustic. I am not sure about it's absolute beginnings, but I know it spent at least fifty years residing in the breakfast nook adjoining my gramma's kitchen. It is a maple table, built in the style of a picnic table and does have two matching benches. It sits four comfortably and was such a perfect fit in the nook, I would not be surprised to find it was made for that spot! The top is one solid piece of maple, or at least it was until about fifteen years ago when it traveled to my house. It now has a split that keeps growing, but I love every inch of it! I bought the placemats several years ago, I think at Big Lots.

My dishes are my Pfaltzgraff. Since I have no time or inclination to cook this week, and because we are still feasting on leftover beef and chicken, I have filled the plates with teeny tiny miniature gourds and pumpkins that helped decorate tables at my older daughter's wedding five years ago. I placed a few silk leaves between the layers of the plates and sprinkled the rest on the table.

The metal napkin holder with leaves was purchased several years ago on the clearance rack at our local Hallmark store.

The sunny yellow pottery creamer and sugar bowl were my grandmothers. I borrowed the chair from my Raggedy Ann dolls and the scarecrow was a bingo door prize from Thanksgiving. The only way I can get my family to play games is if I award prizes.

The candle is apple scented and I wish you could catch a whiff!

I think I might have gone a little crazy here. I am not sure if I have a creative tablescape or whether it resembles a leaf pile where children have been jumping.

I am linking to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  Please visit at  I can't wait to see all the Autumn tables! And I can't wait to start decorating for Halloween!

And with Colorado Lady at  for Vintage Thingie Thursday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Birthday

My husband and I celebrated our thirty fourth wedding anniversary at the beginning of the month. You can't be married that long without learning to respect one another's strength and weaknesses. He is calm and quiet, I am loud and crazy. He is methodical, I like to dive right in. He READS THE INSTRUCTIONS before starting a project. I assume I can figure it out from the pictures. He DOES NOT SHOP. So to help him out,I ordered some clearance Pfaltzgraff dishes for my birthday! I am sad I cannot go to the outlet store (they chose to close them, sniff, sniff). I had planned to unpack them before Mr. Merry caught sight of the quantity of boxes. Unfortunately he is home this week, working on preparations for our son's wedding. That silly UPS man dropped them off to him.

My centerpiece is a birthday gift from my co-worker and friend, Sam. She introduced me to blogs and inspires me to keep going! Thanks again, Sam.

I bought these placemats years ago and will hopefully showcase them on a fall TABLE once we get through the weekend.
For my charger, I am using a ruby red plate with a raised border. The very, very last time I visited the Pfaltzgraff outlet, they had piles of these plates. I bought quite a few to supplement my Pfaltzgraff Christmas Hertitage dishses, which were discontinued. As we keep adding family members to the Christmas table, I was wishing I had picked up many more. I was delighted to find them on the clearance site. The pattern name is Ruby.

I also ordered a set of four dinner plates and four salad plates in the green. I would have ordered more, but I am concerned about how I am going to store the ones I do have! The pattern name is Emerald, but I think the color is much richer than that.

Our top plate is a lovely golden Pfaltzgraff bread plate. When I saw these, I thought they would be perfect for a slice of pie at Thanksgiving. The pattern name is Plymouth and they came in a set of three. I ordered three sets, since most of my table is too full for pie. I unfortunately broke one plate when I dropped it while taking it out of the box. I am almost in tears. But I guess it is an excuse to order another set.

Don't you just love the wheat staff border?

I added a candle in a glass holder shaped like a jack'o lantern. I know that is rushing the season - but I love fall and I love Halloween. I can't wait to decorate my fall table and begin planning my Halloween table, too!

I am linking with Susan who hosts the Greatest Tablescape Review On Earth- Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch

And with Michael who hosts the delicious Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Please visit both sites and enjoy the lovely tables and delectable foods!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God Bless American, Land That I Love

We are on Day Ten of the Wedding Day Countdown for my middle son and his lovely fiance. Every night after work the lovely couple arrives with their clipboard and check list. The preparations are leaving little time for tablescaping (even if I could just find the table), so I thought I would share a tablescape and menu I created before I had ever heard of blogs and tablescapes.  We are going back in time to January 17, 2009.  I hesitated about this post, I don't want to get all political on you, but then I realized that the beauty of being a citizen of the United States of American is that I have the freedom to vote in an election for the candidate of my choice and that, along with that choice, I have to respect the majority when they disagree with me, even if they are my family members. (or especially if they are my family members?) Anyway.  In a web search - looking for the recipes and ideas that inspired my party - I found this posting from which kinda summed up my thoughts  "The United States of America has just expanded the dreams of every child, every race, and every gender. Let's CELEBRATE everything this means. We don't have to agree on every principle, but we CAN recognize when boundaries have been broken and new heights have been acheived in our world."

I remember googling some great recipes, but the idea had come to me so late, that I decided to stick with the tried and true unhealthy snack food that my family loves. The photo above is my own creation - An All American Taco Salad Flag. I like to think of taco salad as a vegetable.

I found these cupcake toppers on a website, printed them on cardstock and taped them to toothpicks. Not only were they delicious, but my co-workers found the leftovers very humorous the next day. I found that chocolate was the key to bringing the different political parties together.
I believe that the one of the crockpots held barbeque chicken and the other meatballs. Add some chips and it is a party!
My son, an ardent Republican provided the poster of the president. He found it at Big Lots and it is still wearing it's price tag. I believe it was his olive branch. Or he was being funny. I am going with the olive branch.

I did find this recipe for the Ciroc Obama on the internet and it was the hit of the party. All my children are over 21 and we had Mr. Merry as our designated driver. Actually, we really aren't drinkers. Each lady had one drink and I still have the almost full bottles in my liquor cabinet. It did make us feel very decadent. Please notice the pink lemonade. That is what makes it a girl's drink.
We didn't actually watch the inauguration. If you remember back, it was an American Idol night. You can always watch news over and over and over on CNN and I was sure we would get all the highlights. But you can't visit over the watercooler if you aren't up on your Idol!

I will be linking on Tablescape Thursday with everyone's favorite, the hostess with the most - ess, Susan, at Between Naps on the Porch. Please visit everyone!

I also wanted to ask if anyone could explain Blog Frog to me? Is this something I signed up for? How does it work? I am clueless about this.

Thanks for visiting - I love seeing all the lovely tablescapes, china, dishes, crystal, flatware, flowers, linens and goodies you share each week! And I love your comments. See you later!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whine and Cheese

I recently posed a question to my facebook friends. What should I be when I grow up – a Lady Who Lunches or a Housewife? (I clearly omitted my interim job of the past 26 years). The suggested choice, overwhelmingly, was  "Lady Who Lunches".

This is a dilemma I face every Thursday. How can I be a Lady Who Lunches at a beautiful table when I do not have a Housewife to prepare my home? By the time I have cleared a week’s worth of clutter (and this week was a memorable stack) from the dining room table, dusted the cobwebs from the ceiling down, washed the windows or rearranged the curtains, hung up the coats on the backs of chairs and surveyed the room from various angles to see if I can even get a photo with a clear background – I have run out of time to set the table!

I was sitting at work, envisioning a tablescape them to go with this essay – aprons, a restaurant meal, a briefcase? What goes with a whine? Voila! (or as a former co-worker used to say “viola”) Anyway – Whine and Cheese!

Here is one of a set of four plates I recently picked up at Goodwill.
The back says "Johnson Bros, England".
Here is the front with some smoked cheese, cubed at the grocery store, and rosemary and garlic boxed crackers I bought on the way home from work. I forgot to take a picture SANS cheese and crackers, but if you can see enough of the pattern to identify it, please let me know! I spent an afternoon after the purchase looking at patterns on the internet and couldn't figure it out. Perhaps another example about how and why the clutter accumulates.
I am using Moscato wine – a favorite with the Olive Garden devotees that are my daughters and daughter-in-law.
Here is my Whine and Cheese Tablescape
I especially like this candlelight shot with the Little Tikes Coupe in the background!
Thank you to Susan who always inspires me with her own lovely tablescapes as well as all the other lovely tablescapes she features on Tablescape Thursday.  Please visit and see all the wonderful postings!

Miss Merry