Friday, June 3, 2011

Gracing The Family Table

"I'd love to hear or see pictures of the other ways you add little touches to your table."

Recently, I received this comment on a post about using cloth napkins that really inspired me to share ideas for gracing the family dinner table in such a way as to make it beautiful and lovely for everyday, not just company. It's good to dress the table up when guest are coming over, but what about our own families? How do we make the daily dinner table a place where everyone wants to gather and linger meal after meal, sharing our lives and experiences of the day? Here's a few things I like to do...

Gracing The Family Table

• Take some time to plan and gather things in one location that you can use often and rotate. You know the old say, "without a plan, you are planning to fail". Keep items near the dinner table so they are always on hand and the kids can help with setting the table. If they know what is available, you can even let them chose how to decorate it from what you've previously selected.

Photo: Country Living

• I like to use white dinner plates because I can mix and match anything that my heart desires. I can add a colorful salad plate, mix-matched linens, any color of flower, or decorate for a holiday. If you don't have a lot of money to spend on new dishes, consider selling some of what you already have and use the money to start a new supply of white. Or start hunting anything white at garage sales, flea markets, antique shops, and thrift stores. You don't have to have a single pattern, just make white your goal.

Photo: Basic Green Box

• My favorite placemat is just a plain braided and woven rush mat. It mixes and matches with anything, doesn't show stains, keeps it's shape, and is easy to clean. We've spilled a number of items on them over the years and I just put it under running water to clean and then let it air dry. I bought a stack of 20 of these so I'd have enough for a crowd, but we use them every day and they still look brand new. I purchased mine at World Market but it seems they are currently only selling them in various colors and not the natural color I have. Hopefully, that's just temporary, but you could email and ask them to carry the natural color again.

• Those who read this blog know that cloth napkins are my fun embellishment, where I add my splash of color. I like to use different fabrics and even mix and match them at times. It has taken a while for my husband to feel like he can really use the napkins because he was afraid he would get them "dirty". Using batik fabrics or busy prints can hide a lot of stains! On the occasions that we eat something messy like BBQ chicken, I whip out some paper towels so he can relax and not worry about staining the cloth napkins. (See my previous posts Dinner Napkins, Cloth Napkin Tutorial, More Dinner Napkins, and Reversible Napkin Tutorial.)

Photo Credit and Tablecloth Tutorial: Bolt Neighborhood

• Although I love tablecloths, I have found that most are not practical for everyday. However, you can find some fun vinyl or oilcloth covers that can be easily be wiped down (another reason white dinnerware is a plus!). This is often a better choice than placemats if you have toddlers and young children because a glass set on the edge of a placemat easily tips over. 

• A basket of bread makes a wonderful addition to the family meal table. It can act as a centerpiece while keeping the bread warm. Just add a cloth napkin and you have color, too!

• Fresh flowers, candles, and real fruit are not just for special occasions! Try adding one of these each day to grace your table. Silk flowers are fine, but they don't really reflect the touch of the Creator who provided the meal. 

Now I can't afford to purchase cut flowers weekly, much less daily! But when your young child brings you a small bouquet of wildflowers, place them on the table at meal time. He or she will feel as if they've brought an offering to the table that was worthy enough to share with others and your meal will be graced with a touch of nature. I keep a small collection of tiny vases for treasures such as these. The one in the photo below is only 3 inches tall and it typically sits in my windowsill above the kitchen sink. But it makes it's way to the breakfast table as a cheerful morning welcome!

I keep a large white ceramic bowl with real fruit on the table at all times. It's both beautiful and practical. And I only remove it to the kitchen counter when we're having a large meal and there isn't room. Since we eat most of our fruit at lunch, it's the perfect noontime centerpiece. I know it doesn't look very full in the picture below, but it's ever changing as the week comes and goes. 

Nothing makes my girls more excited at dinner time than to light a candle. Not sure why, but they just think it's special and beautiful. And I have to agree! Why do we save candles for only special occasions? Our ancestors used them all the time. I think I'd rather do without something else than to not have a candle to warm my heart! Although I love the scented ones, at meal time, a fragrance-free candle won't interfere with the aroma of your meal, but it will illumine smiling faces. 

Dayspring Candles

• Finally, I like to keep a stack of small Bibles near the table as well as devotional books. Nothing graces the table more than the Word of God! It serves as a reminder to partake of spiritual food as well as physical food. I once read on Ann Voskamp's blog that she has an old box that she keeps their family bibles in at the table. When I find the right one, I'm going to use it on the table as an evening centerpiece along with a candle!

I hope I've started the wheels spinning in your mind as to ways to create a beautiful table. No two tables are the same. They are as unique as the individuals who gather there. And so your table will evolve over time with the things that bring joy to you and your family. Finish it off with laughter, prayer, and good conversation and you'll be on your way to creating memories and habits that will linger on for years after the last meal has been served. 

Would you like to share how your family graces the table in beautiful ways?


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