Posts Tagged ‘Table decorations’

If you read my previous post on Sabzeh, you might be interested in the history behind this celebration. A very detailed explanation of the celebration as experienced in Persia (Iran) is found in a great cookbook, entitled New Food Of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, by Najmieh Batmanglij. You can find this on pages 403-408 in the 2008 edition. This is a beautiful book with enticing photos of the prepared food AND ancient Persian art. The book jacket describes the book as “a treasure of 250 classical and regional Iranian recipes. 120 color photographs of food intertwined with Persian miniatures and illustrations together with descriptions of ancient and modern ceremonies make New Food of Life not just a collection of excellent recipes but also an introduction to Persian art and culture.”

The book is lovely and interesting enough to be a coffee table book, especially for foodies, travelers and art historians.

I didn’t buy the book for any of those reasons though. I bought it to explore a cuisine I could cook for my husband who is allergic to wheat. Very few of the recipes use wheat; there is much more use of rice. So if you or a family member have issues with wheat, you might explore Persian cuisine. I’m sure there are other good cookbooks out there. I’m just familiar with this one and it is available in Barnes and Noble  stores. The author does a good job of addressing the issue of specialty ingredients. Compared to Indian cuisine, I think the Persian recipes call for fewer exotic ingredients. Still, you will need access to a middle Eastern grocery store for some of the ingredients. Helpfully, the author includes a list of specialty stores by state and city in the back of the book. The one I explored in Houston, Phoenicia Supermarket on Westheimer, was a true delight to visit. They supply ingredients for many middle eastern cuisines as well as cooking supplies, books, carryout, and a dining area.  It’s a great place to explore.

Naw Ruz being March 21, I wish you Happy Naw Ruz!


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Nothing adds grace and beauty to your home more than fresh cut flowers. One way to expand the versatility of a glass vase  is  to camouflage the water reservoir with dry or organic materials, adding more color and texture to the display.   The two floral displays pictured here look very different and could be used with different motifs. Forsquare vase with beanssquare vase 003 example, the arrangement on the right, which adds  a sandy color to the vase, is actually filled with dried beans.  This look would coordinate well with a seashore motif, picking up the color of the sand, or a rock garden motif, with the beans taking on the look of pebbles. This look is also much lighter and more summery than the second arrangement where the fill material in the vase is fresh cranberries. The cranberries coordinate with the color of the flowers rather than contrast with it. This arrangement would obviously be very appropriate on a Thanksgiving dinner table, but would also work well any time your color scheme included pinks and purples.

Other filler ideas for the vase include:

1) jelly beans at Easter. Layer different colors of jelly beans inside the vase. (Thanks to Vi Quan for suggesting candy: how about M&Ms!)

2) colored sands, such as they use in sand art.

3) pebbles.

4) marbles.

5) buttons.

6) beads, sequins.

7) cornmeal, grits, rice.

The substances you could use are almost endless. They just have to be small enough to fill in the voids in the  vase. Please let me know of other ideas you have.

It may not be obvious from the photograph, but there is no water in the vase around the beans or the cranberries. Clearly there would be substances that you wouldn’t want to submerge in water, such as jellybeans. So how do we accomplish this look? Find a water tight cylinder that will fit within the vase. It’s diameter must be small enough to allow you to fill in around it with the fill material. It’s height should be tall enough to hold enough water for the flowers and tall enough that when the vase is full with the fill material, the fill material doesn’t spill over into the water receptacle. Look around your home for economical solutions for this, such as prescription bottles or spice jars. Larger vases can take larger water receptacles. Because the water receptacle will be small in comparison to the overall size of the vase, it will probably be necessary to refill the water more often.

Just a side note: notice the shape of this vase. The broad square base has a distinct advantage in that you can transport this arrangement on the floorboard of your car and not worry about it tipping over.   That’s a real plus if you like to take flower arrangements to meetings or friends’  homes.

This technique can also solve the problem of short flowers and a tall vase.  Fill the  bottom of the tall vase with the fill material. Set your water receptacle on top of the fill material. Fill in the rest of the way to the top of the vase. No one will be able to see that the stems of your flowers do not go all the way to the bottom of the base.

Finally, this technique can also be used to make individual place setting arrangements, using for example, canning jars as the vase, with pill bottles as the water receptacle.

Enjoy using novel fill materials to create floral arrangements that are sure to inspire and delight your guests.

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For your next party’s table decorations,   make a centerpiece that is edible, beautiful, useful, and child friendly. Let’s make an apple candlestick. Picture a glossy red apple placed on a tray or serving platter, with a pristine white taper candle inserted at the core of the apple. This is so easy to do.

First, decide what platter or tray you will be placing the candlestick on. Consider using a mirrored tray. That would enhance the color of the apple and the sparkle of the flame. If using a colored serving piece, consider whether what you want to use might clash with the typical colors of apples and perhaps re-evaluate your choice. Greens and earth tones or neutrals might be the best choice.

Next, consider any other theme that you are using for  your party or event. For example, for the Fourth of July, you’d probably want 3 pure red apples, with 3 candles–one red, one white, and one blue.  If it were a fall party, you might choose a multicolored apple to play up the fall colors.

If you want to involve your children in this project, let them go with you to buy the apples. Let them select an apple and place it on a flat surface to see if the apple will sit squarely and evenly on the platter.

Why  not purchase 3 apples. Arrangements of items in odd numbers is always more visually appealing.

Next  get your candles and make sure they are dripless. You’ll want to be able to eat the apples after the party.

In order to be able to insert the candle into the apple, you are going to need an apple corer. Set the washed apple on a cutting board, preferably on a surface lower than the typical kitchen counter. You are going to want to be able to press down with the corer at a straight angle to the base of the apple, and sometimes having your work surface too high makes that difficult. If the apple doesn’t sit exactly square on the cutting board, take a sharp knife and make a cut across the blossom end of the apple (the bottom) very close to the end of the apple. You only want to cut off enough to allow it to sit squarely.

Once each apple has been cored, insert the candles from the stem end of the apple to the blossom end. The fit will be snug but not difficult to insert. If your kids are helping, this is something they could do.

Finally, assemble your centerpiece on your serving piece, platter or mirrored tray. Add other elements to bring out your theme.

Light your candles and enjoy your guests applauding your cleverness. If your kids helped, let them take credit for making such a beautiful display.

The next day, after your party,  you can eat the apples or bake them. If baking them, bake them in a muffin pan or wrap the bottom of the apple with aluminum foil. Normally when baking apples, you don’t core them all the way through and the sweet filling can’t flow out. With these apples, however, we cored them all the way through so the filling would just run out if you didn’t take one of those precautions.

There is something so appealing (pun intended!) about a centerpiece made from nature’s bounty. You can enjoy it all the more because it is “green” and you can recycle it later.

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