Paper, Plastic or China?

I absolutely adored the beautiful heirloom spring tablescape my friend Anita of Picnic Life Foodie created in collaboration with her Instagram followers. Anita has a way of making heirloom China look fresh, so I called her some advice. 

It’s trendy to breathe new life into old dishes through accessories, said Anita, who told me about a recent article she had read in Better Homes & Gardens magazine. The article recommends starting by identifying the colors portrayed on your China and then looking for chargers, napkins, glassware and other accessories like candles that complement the designs on your China. 

Oh, what fun! Rather than building my tablescape off the plates, I decided to build it around a Willow Tree® wooden nativity set that I had been given as a gift years ago but had yet to take out of the boxes. The colors of this nativity set are muted, so it didn’t feel right to use my brightly-colored Christopher Radko-designed Christmas plates. 

“If only I had Linda’s China!” I thought. Her beautiful mint green China would provide a touch of color while keeping the “peaceful and calming” feel of the nativity. My mother-in-law was gracious enough to lend me the China plates and cups, which I learned were her grandmother’s, for a special event I was hosting at my church. (Side bar: Each year ladies in my church host Advent by Candlelight, which includes dessert around a beautifully decorated table followed by a program to prepare one’s heart as we wait for the coming of the Christ child.)

Because Christ was born in a rustic stable, I decided that wooden chargers would fit the setting. While shopping at Hobby Lobby, I found plastic plates designed with evergreen boughs and pinecones – and they were on sale. (Even better!) This layered look was a move in the right direction, but I needed more. 

It was time to once again phone a friend. “Hello, Anita!” She was gracious enough to look at my photos of a tablescape in progress. She suggested adding an “airy evergreen garland” around my Willow Tree figures. She said it also might be fun to give it a pop of cranberry with fringed cotton napkins, rolled, tied with jute and placed atop the plates. 

Some quick “research” on Pinterest piqued my interest in adding another natural element to my table. I believe a glass trifle dish, which I already have in my cupboard, with fresh oranges will add another touch of color without being too distracting. After all, oranges complement cranberries. Now to find some candles of varying heights…

My tablescape is a work in progress, but I love how it melds together family heirlooms and traditions with modern day ease. You could easily replace the top China plate with a pretty holiday paper plate to achieve a festive look that is kid friendly. 

Speaking of kids, one of my daughter’s favorite holiday traditions is baking gingerbread cookies with my mom. Here’s a link to the Iowa Food & Family Project’s article that features my mom’s recipe. Follow @foodnfamily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for holiday party ideas. Be sure to check out the beautiful (and free) “Fresh Pickings” magazine, too.