Saturday, December 18, 2010

Home for the Holidays... with the Relatives

The Press-Enterprise

In some homes right now, there's a certain tension buzzing in the air, and it's not a good one. The sense of foreboding means only one thing: The relatives are coming to visit for the holidays.

"Plan in advance for that, emotionally and psychologically," says Maura Graber, director of The RSVP Institute of Etiquette in Ontario. "The holidays are stressful enough as it is. ... Take a look at the situation as clearly as possible and as far ahead as possible."

Preparing your home for guests involves more than just setting aside extra space in your dresser drawers. It means creating a welcoming atmosphere for your visitors while giving yourself room to breathe.

Here are some tips on readying your home, and yourself, for holiday guests.

When Visitors Step Into the House ...

"People tend to overdress for the holidays, especially in Southern California," says Graber. It's a product of regional envy. "We want that East Coast Christmas," she says. So it's a good idea to make sure there's enough room on your coat rack to accommodate the influx of clothes.
And set the mood by filling your house with relaxing scents like cinnamon, lavender and rosemary, Graber suggests. "Give people a  nice, homey kind of feeling when they walk in."

Lodgings for Travelers

Add nice trimmings to the rooms where your guests will be staying. recommends placing things such as an alarm clock, a phone, a water glass and pitcher, a good reading light and fresh flowers in a guest room. For more tips on what to have, go to

Stock up on the basics: extra food, linens, hand towels and toiletries.

And be prepared to take in a guest/long-distance driver who may be too tired to drive back. "Have an area prepared for them, to back your insistence that they stay," suggests Graber.

One Room That Needs to Be Clean

It's the medicine-cabinet cliche -- people want to see what you're hiding, and bathrooms offer interesting peeks into your home life. So it's no wonder that sprucing up the bathroom is one of the top pre-holiday renovation projects, according to The Home Depot's 2006 online survey of its customers.

For an easy mini-renovation, try replacing a faucet or an old, grimy toilet seat (save yourself some embarrassment).

Also, "take magazines and things out of the bathroom; people don't need to be reading there," says Graber.

Warring Dinner Guests

Stop the verbal fireworks before they start. Avoid talk of politics and religion at the dinner table, and think about hiding controversial reading material that might set someone off. That clash of sensibilities can be saved for another time.

And watch out for sports rivalries among family members: Make sure they don't degenerate into something less than civil.

How's the Host Doing?

Take stock of how you're doing emotionally. "Listen to your family members about how grumpy you become," says Graber. Lean on them for support.

To maintain harmony, not to mention your sanity, "you've got to enlist other family members' help, whether it be a spouse or a sister. I'm not even above bribery of children," says Graber. Delegating means fewer things for you to do, less stress, and less of a chance that you'll be pining for your workplace on your days off. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Etiquette, the Holidays & the Generosity of Strangers

From an old New Yorker Magazine
The winter holidays always seem to bring out the wonderful generosity of complete strangers online.   
(And no... I am not talking about all of you who keep asking me to be your "friend" on Yahoo and Hotmail, seeing as there are warning notices from the servers that come with your requests)
This December has been no different than those past.  In fact, I have a new friend via Ebay, all thanks to one half of a "pickle set". (More on pickle sets at a later date, in another post...) 

    After listing this presumed Albert Coles  fork (it looks like his work, but he did not mark it 150 years ago) I got a friendly email from an Ebayer who confirmed my assertion that it was indeed circa 1850s-1860s, by Albert Coles and said she would be happy to send a photo of her knife and matching fork pickle set  
(Shown below).  
Over the last several days, we have been swapping stories about our silver collections and she has generously sent me photos of  her pieces.  These are true works of art in silver!  She has also graciously allowed me to post them on this blog, in order to share them with other silver lovers and collectors.  So here I give you an anonymous Ebayer's  photos from her private collection of buckwheat cake lifters, and other silver collectibles.  Silver lovers, I hope you enjoy this holiday gift.  The  variety of buckwheat cake lifters in this collection is really something, especially compared to a cake lifter featured below in an old cookbook.    
(For those of you unfamiliar with buckwheat cakes, I have added some images from a cookbook first published in 1876.  Click on any of these for a larger view or a better read...)

Read some recipes for all sorts of 'Griddle' type cakes from 1876...


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Great Historic Places to See: 150 Years of Place Settings in the United States" Created by Eda Bierman & Maura Graber

These historically accurate place settings from 1855 to 2005, along with their accompanying stories and menus, were created by me & theme event designer, Eda Bierman. The nine "Great Historic Places to See" were shown at the 2006 "Designs for Dining" fundraiser, held yearly in Palos Verdes Estates.  You can click on any photo to zoom in to get a better look at the menus and cards.

1910's setting (above) was my favorite. Photos shown here were taken at various times throughout the day.  Though we tried to keep them from doing so, some attendees picked up a few of the cards to get a closer look, or moved pieces of the flatware after checking to see who the maker was, and for that reason not all of the setting's pieces are exactly where they should be in the photos.

That's Eda Bierman on the left & I am peeking over her shoulder, as attendees view the settings and read the menus & story cards

1855's Setting

1875's Setting

1910's Setting

1925's Setting

1940's Setting

1955's Setting

1970's Setting

1995's Setting

2005's Setting

Richly Hued Table Settings from Candace Mayeron

Mexican Flavored Cinco de Mayo table setting details by Candace Mayeron
Candace Mayeron (above) re-created her table in 2010 for a photo shoot
Valentine place setting details in setting by Candace Mayeron
A Valentine themed table from Candace Mayeron (shown standing), set for the 2010 Designs for Dining Estates St. Francis Outreach Scholarship Fund event in Palos Verdes

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Settings by Eda Bierman and Candace Mayeron

  The fan with its silk cord is a wonderful napkin holder & party favor on Eda Bierman's inspired festive Asian settings.
After about 10 years, I left all judging and sponsoring behind me at the fair. The tablescaping event had lost its appeal and luster, not to mention the air conditioned and spacious building it had been housed in for so many years prior. I judged foods, clothing and several other assorted things as well, but my heart was with the tables.

 Candace Mayeron makes a gorgeous setting for a Thanksgiving table!
These beautiful and creative settings are from two competitors I met while I was taking some photos on the last day, of the last fair I had judged for and sponsored. I had never met any of the competitors from fairs prior, though I had some email correspondence with a few of them or phone calls due to judging and scoring questions.  I had just judged cheesecakes and was leaving that hot afternoon when I stopped to get some last photos. 
Another Asian inspired setting by Eda Bierman


Figuring I would not run into any of the people who had set tables (they would be taking them down at 11:00 that night, & this was still early in the afternoon) I felt I was safely avoiding running into anyone who wanted to take me to task on the judging of the tables. A woman approached and asked me if I was a reporter. I explained that I was not, and told her who I was with regard to the tables. I was busted! She immediately said she had entered one of the Thanksgiving tables and that her friend had done an Asian table.  

Candace Mayeron at the table she recreated for me
Introductions were made all around and we got into a discussion of the event.  It was their first time entering and they wanted me to know about a fundraiser they participated in yearly in Palos Verdes Estates.(More on that event in the next few days) We exchanged email addresses and business cards and I went on my way. 
Eda Bierman's Chanukkah table
Over the years I have had the opportunity to get to know these two very creative women through the Palos Verdes events and I will be posting some videos for you to see how easily these tables can be done.  For now, here are some more photos of award winning tablescapes and the place settings for them, that Eda Beirman & Candace Mayeron created.
Candace Mayeron' created this table for the fair.  This was done without the first course in stemware, as shown in the earlier photos, so no stemware would be required on the plate, nor would the spoon to the right of the knife be necessary.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More "Theme" Tables for Dining Fun

I loved this particular table because of the rich colors.  The theme was "Storybook" and the book chosen was "Arabian Nights"Below is another view of the table.
Here is another look at the "Chicago" table, made to look like a speakeasy booth.The following photos are all of the little details that made this dining-table-as-art exceptional.  It took the "Best of Show" that particular year.
Normally a tablescaping design should not require a hand gun, but this & the purse, along with the lipstick and "to do" list, was a wonderful and humorous touch!
Sadly, this romantic "table" themed as a breakfast in bed, had to be disqualified.  I had the unfortunate task (as usual) of calling the artist who had designed it.  I loved it, and felt it was acceptable, but was overruled by the department head.  Another view is below.

More storybook themed tables from years prior...
"The Secret Garden" tea table.  One interpretation is the purple and green floral table above and another interpretation is below.

Tea tables were always very pretty, but themed tables for "Rock 'n Roll" or the Harley Davidson 50th Anniversary always brought out some fantastic work, such as those tables shown below.