Tag Archives: tips on table top

Flower Market or Farmer’s Market?

flowers-fresh

The best places to get the freshest flowers for your home.

I love how fresh flowers look in my home.  I have some in my foyer, some on my breakfast table and usually a few stems in the powder room and in my bathroom (of course!).  I even make sure I have a stem or two next to my bed.  Of course, if I’m entertaining, I add flowers to wherever we are having cocktails and they are ever present as part of my tablescape in the dining room.

Fresh flowers brighten any room and bring life to any space they’re in.  It’s interesting, guests mention that my home always feels welcoming but they don’t equate part of that feeling to the fresh flowers that are always present.  But, I’m here to tell you that those flowers absolutely contribute to it.

Many people think that you need to go to a florist to have fresh flowers in your home and that you have to spend a lot of money on arrangements created by professionals.  That is absolutely not the case.  You can find fresh flowers at most grocery stores but they’re usually not the freshest.  They’ll certainly do in a pinch – like if you can’t get to your local Flower Market or your local Farmer’s Market was a few days earlier and you need them ASAP.  So, don’t completely write off your grocer’s flowers if that’s what you can get to in the minute – they will do just fine.  But, with just a bit of planning you can get the freshest flowers from the flower or farmer’s market for a fraction of what it would cost you at a professional florist.  Loose flowers from your grocery store will cost less than from a florist as well.

fresh flowersTalk to the flower merchant at the farmer’s market about which flowers are in season at the minute or simply find ones that you love.  Ask which ones will stay freshest longest so you can enjoy them for a few extra days.  If I don’t have a particular color theme I’m working with I like to find unusual colors of flowers – like the Mahogany Sun Flowers in the photos – I’d never seen them.  Look at all the stems in whichever bunch you are choosing to make sure you don’t have any ‘sad’ flowers.

Be sure to recut the stems when you get home before you place them in water.  Any container that can hold water can be used for your arrangements – they don’t have to be vases.  In fact, sometimes the more unusual the container the more interesting the flowers look so canning jars, pitchers, glasses, almost anything can be the perfect ‘vase’ for your blooms.  Cut them different lengths placing the shortest ones in front and the longest towards the center.  I like them just loose.

And now that you know about where to find fresh flowers and how to have them in your home year-round you can save those visits to your local professional florist for when you absolutely must have that perfect arrangement for a special occasion.

How Many Plates do I Really Need?

plates for entertaining

4 is not a number no matter how many chairs are in your dining room!

My kitchen table seats only 3 and my dining room table has only 6 chairs.  So, how many plates do I really need?  I need a lot more than 6!  I can honestly say that I get asked that question by almost every client I have.  The answer is that everyone needs at least 10 even if you only seat 6 at your table and here’s why:

First, you will sometimes choose to use some regular plates (not serving pieces) just for serving the food that you’ve made.  Perhaps the meal is more casual and you don’t feel the need to pull out your platters and, whatever you’ve created will fit just fine on a dinner plate.  That’s why if your table is like mine and you’re serving 6 you will need more plates.

Second, you might be having a casual dinner and somehow a plate or two gets cleared into the kitchen but your guests aren’t quite finished with the meal – you need more plates!

Third, for some holidays you might add a folding table or two with folding chairs to seat 12 and you need more plates.

Or, maybe you’re serving a buffet and a guest wants a clean plate – all of a sudden you need more plates.

Then there’s always the dreaded and unexpected ‘plus one’ that wasn’t on the original guest list but someone brings to the party. You can scramble for another chair that you pull up to your table but, if you don’t have extra plates, how are they going to eat their dinner?

And, what if you’re being very careful with cleanup but a plate slips through your fingers and goes crashing to the floor?  Or, the garbage disposal decides to eat a spoon? Or any number of other mishaps and disasters that could descend on your evening?

You can see where this is headed.  The number of chairs at your table is only the start of how many plates, bowls, glasses, spoons, forks, etc. that you need to have on hand.  My rule of thumb is an additional 4 of everything.  This holds true no matter what shape or size your plates, bowls or flatware are.  Extras are always the answer.

I used to throw an annual New Year’s Eve party for all of my friends.  The last several years the number of guests grew to 100.  After I pushed back all of the furniture in my living room I squeezed in 10 tables for dinner.  But, you can imagine how many dishes etc. I had for those parties – service for 115!!!  I just never knew if someone was bringing an ‘extra’ and I always needed to be prepared.

Count your plates and be ready for anything!

In Search of the Perfect Coffee Mug

Fran Berger's coffee mugs

What are the qualities that sets one coffee mug apart from all the others?

Ever notice how we collect coffee mugs? And we all have different reasons not just for accumulating them but also for keeping them.

I have a friend who has an embarrassingly large collection of Disney mugs. A few of them are rare and pricey (for coffee mugs) on the collector market. Her favorite is a mug she got when she was a kid in the 1960s. It has a 3D raised image of the castle and the handle looks like a tree limb. She said she stopped using it when she found out that it is considered “extremely rare” and sells for $200 in auctions.

One friend collects mugs as she and her husband travel around the country and Europe. Another friend collects mugs with clever slogans and movie quotes. Her favorite is a black mug she’s been using for years that she says is an ‘original’ “Make my day” mug. You must believe her – I mean who keeps track of something like that? One coffee mug collector I know is a mathematics professor, and she has mugs that have math jokes on them. Seriously, do math jokes exist?

I admit that I have my own embarrassing collection of mugs. Well, I don’t REALLY collect them. They just seem to collect themselves as gifts and party favors, events I’ve attended, and so on. We all have them.  And, every so often, I realize I’m running out of room and I have to go through and get rid of the ones I don’t care for. So, when I noticed that I was keeping only ones that I thought were functional it got me started thinking about what makes a perfect coffee mug.

Everyone has different tastes in coffee mugs. But when you’re entertaining guests, you want to think about form and function rather than the clever design or the artwork imprinted on them. It’s important to think of the guests you’ll be entertaining – you want the mugs to be comfortable for use.

Hand size is so important. Different cups and mugs fit differently for everyone. We’ve all been to events where they serve coffee in a little cup. Some have handles that are so small that it’s hard to hold. If you can manage to slip a finger into the dainty little ‘ring’, there’s no good place to balance the weight of the cup with your thumb once it’s filled with hot coffee.  They have terrible balance!

I think that a perfect coffee mug is one that holds 8 to 16 ounces of liquid and is comfortable for the drinker. You shouldn’t have to hold the rim of the cup with your other hand just so the hot liquid won’t spill. You shouldn’t have to place your hand under it to stabilize it as you sip. It ought to comfortable holding in one hand.

If you’re looking for a set, pick one up and think about how it feels in ‘resting balance’: is it too heavy without anything in it? Is it so out of balance, even when empty, that there’s no place to put your thumb for counter-balance.  Does it feel natural enough so that when it’s full of hot liquid you won’t struggle keeping the cup upright and straight? If you want a taller mug, look for ones that fit more than one finger in the handle. Generally, a mug should also have enough balance so that it when full it won’t accidentally tip over.

Take a look at my video and you’ll see a wide variety of mugs and cups. Some with big handles, some with small ones. I have a few that don’t have any handles at all. Unless you’re a collector of novelties, you’ll want to think about function and how that mug will look and feel in your and your guests’ hands.