Monday, December 1, 2014

Setting the Table is my Favorite Part

My favorite part of any dinner party is setting the table, which is funny because we never made a big deal of it growing up. Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas when mom brought out her china. She has a floral print, platinum band pattern that is beautiful, I always looked forward to holidays with this china and couldn't wait for my own. When I was looking to buy my second house, having a formal dining room was number one on the list, a non-negotiable. I could not wait to have a large dining room table and a china cabinet full of china - all kinds. My first set of china was gifted to me by my Aunt Lanita and my Grandmother - it was my Grandmother's china and is a beautiful soft pink floral pattern that I use for Easter. After finally having a dining room of my own I started buying Christmas china - the Lenox Holly pattern. While both are beautiful, neither was fitting for Thanksgiving, and since Tommy Thompson and I were hosting Thanksgiving at our house, Thanksgiving china was needed. Such a holiday could not be served on everyday plates - right?

I think setting the table for a party sets the tone for the entire meal (next to the invitation, I'll save my love of invites, envelopes and mail for a later post). A half-hazard table setting says you can't bother with the details of the table, what did you not bother with for the meal? Presentation is everything with food - just like judging a book by it's cover, if the meal doesn't look appetizing you won't eat it. There are so many ways to dress up a table for little to no expense and the added bonus is they make guests feel special. Not to mention the traditions they help create and pass down (I'm coming after your china mom).

World Market had exactly what I was looking for for turkey day, I just couldn't justify spending the money. Until I remembered that I had a bar stool still in it's box from 10th and Wash that needed to be returned... perfect! I waited until the plates were 20% off ($6.99 to $5.60) then returned the bar stool and got all 12 turkey plates, two table runners, a few odds and ends for the big meal and only paid 20 cents. It felt like I stole them. Since the plates were only 8" they needed a large plate underneath. Enter IKEA. I found 11" orange plates that matched the orange on the turkey plates perfectly and the contrast from the cream to the orange highlighted the scalloped edge of the smaller plates beautifully. The Fargrik plates (they must have a lot of fun naming items at IKEA) were $2.49 each but... I found the same plates in the clearance section for $1.99 each (hey, every bit counts) so my new Thanksgiving china cost me all of $24.00 plus tax.

The plates mixed with old fashioned juice glasses and gold silverware created the perfect mix of fancy and farmhouse - but I needed more gold (who doesn't???), and I needed place cards. I found a tutorial on Pinterest to make the quintessential Thanksgiving piece - the wishbone. I bought crayola air dry clay and molded 12 wishbones, cutting a small slit for them in the top to hold the place card. After letting them dry overnight I spray painted them gold and voila - individual wish bone place cards and more gold. Pinterest win. (tutorial here)

Now for the Pinterest fail... the menu cards. I am a firm believer that formal dinners require cloth napkins, and IKEA has the perfect napkin for fancy farmhouse. At 79 cents the Tekla towel  is cheap enough to stock up on and they bonus as dish towels after their first use as napkins since I loathe ironing. I found a tutorial on Pinterest on using Citrasolve to transfer paper printed images to cloth and was beyond excited to not just have menu cards at Thanksgiving but cloth menu cards. I printed the menu, followed all the instructions and as I lifted the paper from the napkin... nothing. I felt like Clark Griswold after the entire family came out and gave him a drum roll to light the house and... nothing. Add in the fact that Tommy Thompson was sitting at the table in anticipation of yet another silly Pinterest project... and it failed. I sent the menu to my mother to print thinking her ink would be the correct type, nothing. I would not give up. I sent the menu to our local Kinko's and had it printed on the two printers they had. The first (which was now my third attempt) garnered nothing and the fourth, my last try, yielded a faint and impossible to read menu. Pinterest fail. (tutorial here) Side note: I believe that had the napkin fabric been a tighter weave and had I not been printing a small font the image would've transferred through the copies made at the self-serve printer at Kinko's. 

Even without menu cards this year's Thanksgiving table setting was by far my favorite. Maybe it was the plates but I think it was more to do with the beautiful home I share with Tommy Thompson and the Little One and how much I have to be thankful for this year.

We woke up bright and early to get the turkey in the roaster then enjoyed mimosas and quick breads with my mom, daddy Jack and Chris then ten of us celebrated daddy Paul's birthday over turkey dinner and chocolate bacon cake. I hope you had a fabulous thanksgiving as well!

Never mind the paper plates for dessert... ;)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30th Birthday in Thay-Land Part II

I am so thankful for this blog as it is forcing me to remember and document this awesome life I have!

The middle part of Thailand took us to the West Coast. We flew from Bangkok to Krabi on Bangkok Air. This is the most fabulous little boutique airline ever! Their rates were affordable, the short flights were incredible (8 hour bus ride... I think not) and the food was awesome. Airline in the states could learn a thing or two...
Only in Thailand is it permitted to carry-on your super soaker
After my first week in Bangkok filled with late nights and more water being thrown at me than a trip to Water World my head was congested. Add to it an airplane ride and I was miserable. I couldn't get my ears to pop on the plane to the point of tears. Note to self, never travel without Sudafed. We arrived into Krabi late at night and found a cheap hotel before catching a boat to Koh Lanta the next day. Still in tears from the pain I went to bed and the guys enjoyed Thai karaoke in the hotel lounge. That night was one of the worst thunder storms I've ever been in - I could have sworn a Hurricane was coming. I'm sill sad I missed that experience...

The next morning on Adam's 30th birthday Joe grabbed some things from 7-11 (which are all over Thailand) for my ears - one of which was a Thai nose inhaler. If you know me you know I HATE putting things in my nose, even when sick but I was desperate enough to try it. It burned - didn't work.

The boat ride to Koh Lanta was fabulous. There are no rules in Thailand about sitting in certain areas of the boat so we all sat around the edge with our feet hanging over - something that would never be allowed in the states but what an incredible feeling! I sat next a young lady from New Zealand, Anna. She was backpacking Asia and Europe for nine months with a girlfriend but they had decided to tour parts of Thailand on their own for a week. We instantly hit it off and spent the entire boat ride laughing and sun bathing.

We didn't have a hotel reserved since we wanted to get to the island and tour around before finding one, just as Anna did. The road went along the beach and for the first time I felt like I was seeing the real Thailand. Beautiful colors, plants, crazy drivers, dirt roads, animals everywhere and the ocean. I.Love.The.Ocean. We stopped at a few hotels before finding one on the beach that we all liked. Instead of hotel rooms they offered cottages, steps from the water. Air-Con (as opposed to air conditioning) was a top priority and this place had it. Cottages each had two beds so it made sense for us to rent two, Anna and I sharing one. For a brief moment I thought to myself  'What the hell am I doing sharing a room with a complete stranger I met a few hours ago! What if she murders me in my sleep? What if she takes something?' I was feeling brave after being with backpacker Joe and thought I had gotten ahead of myself, I'm glad I trusted my instinct and stayed because Anna turned out to be a fabulous friend!

Immediately after dropping our bags we ran to the water - and ran right back out. Joe was so anxious to get in the water he ran head first not seeing the signs saying not to do so and crashed  into a rock. With blood gushing from his head the hotel got us some towels and a Tuk Tuk  to head for the hospital. The ride was gorgeous. We traveled further south down the island alongside the beach and up into the tree crammed hills. I was sad for Joe's injury but glad we were able to have this little tour of the island.

The hospital was something else. We waited outside next to crying kids and elderly people. When it was Joe's turn he had to leave his shoes outside - as did everyone, even the doctors. While waiting for him to get stitches I took pictures of the lizards climbing in and out of the hospital. We made it back to Adam and Anna for the first of many amazing sunsets.

Sitting at a table on the beach two small children stopped by to sell us lanterns. They asked to have pictures taken with the blonde lady - how could I resist?! We lit our lanterns and watched them float into the night away with our wish, one of my most favorite parts of the trip. Since it was Adam's birthday we walked down the beach to a bar. We found a fun place being run by an English man named Charlie. Anna and I got comfortable with Singha beers in hammocks as Charlie entertained us. Having spent a week in Bangkok with flushing toilets I was shocked to use the restroom here with no flush... just a trash can of water. Charlie had to show me how to use it... naive traveler tip.

So let this be a lesson to you if you ever travel to Asia. Number one when your Aunt Lanita tells you to take toilet paper - listen. Number two, here is how you operate the toilet:
     - Fill the bowl floating in the trash can with water, poor over the toilet seat to clean it
     - Hover - NEVER sit
     - When you're done, fill the bowl with water again and repeat until the toilet bowl empties itself

If I never have to use one of these toilets again I'm ok with it.

Two days later was my birthday. Anna and I started the day with a full body massage, manicure and pedicure on the beach - I believe each of our bills for the whole spa package was less than $25 (Why didn't I do that everyday?!?!)  The massage lasted well over and hour and felt AMAZING. They literally beat you up and you like in Thailand.  Hearing the ocean during it was so fun. We ate fried bananas for lunch with Singha's and waited for the guys to get back. They had rented scooters and took us on a tour of the island. Joe made reservations for us to have dinner at Same Same but Different, an amazing restaurant on the beach.

This was a common saying in Thailand, Same Same but Different, meaning what you're trying to say is similar to what it really is, but not. In all reality it started as a way for Thai people to poke fun at westerners but it stuck. Dinner was incredible (in fact dinner was always incredible in Thailand). On our way back to the hotel I had to buy champagne to keep with my birthday tradition. My bottle of 'cheap' champagne cost more than my massage, manicure and pedicure did but who cares, I was 29 for the second year in a row. At the hotel Joe got everyone there to join us down the road at the Rastafarian bar - instant birthday party. We sat on grass mats, drank beer and danced to Bob Marley on the beach. My idea of a perfect party.

The next morning Anna had to leave and I spent the day sleeping off my birthday in the sun. It was here that I saw something fall from a tree and heard a thud. A large green snake that fell onto the beach. I stayed as far away from that tree the rest of my time there.

Two days post birthday Adam, Joe and I grabbed a boat to Koh Phi Phi. This is a small no vehicle island known for two things - nighttime beach parties and the Tsunami. I love this island! The narrow cobblestone streets were filled with beautiful produce, fresh fish, street food art and textiles to buy. Restaurants were everywhere and the beach in the cove was spectacular. You could walk nearly a mile in the clear blue water and not get in over your waist. Dinner was at a fabulous restaurant named after the owner's young daughter that had died in the Tsunami. The owners were both British and shared with us their experience, I couldn't help but cry as they told us about the devastation the island had seen - I asked them what made them stay and re-build and not retreat home to England. It was simple for them, this was their home and the people of Thailand were their family. They owed it to the country that had embraced them to stay and rebuild and re-naming the restaurant after their daughter was the highest form of respect to pay a loved one who had passed. What a lesson of resilience and gratitude.

Between hearing about the Tsunami and saying our goodbyes to Adam on his last night we needed a pick-me-up. Enter Muai Thai Boxing. Loud, spit flying everywhere crazy boxing. Definitely a must when visiting Thailand. We enjoyed Adam's last night on the beach - and I think our late nights were catching up with the guys. Joe fell asleep in a chair on the beach and on our walk home I found both of them sleeping on the sidewalk in front of our hotel. Koh Phi Phi was fun.

After saying goodbye to Adam Joe and I walked what seemed like the length of the island with our backpacks in tow looking for our quaint hotel in the trees. For our last night on the island we wanted something quiet and peaceful.... which is what we got until the Thai boxing lessons started below. We walked back into town and ate at the same restaurant again - he and I had a habit of doing this. Don't fix what isn't broken!

My cottage on the beach with Anna


Birthday lunch