January 1, 2020

And We Begin Again...

It certainly isn't a surprise as another year has ticked by, but it's always a little daunting when that year launches a new decade, as well. Welcome, 2020...I hope you bring us all good tidings and cheer to last all the year long.

I have enjoyed the holiday season thus far, spending time with dear friends nearby who are as much like family as my relatives, all of whom live far away now. It doesn't bother me at all, but it's interesting that they all followed paths that took them to lives spent in places far from where all of us were born. I have never felt compelled to leave this region of eastern New York, even though I've stated here more than once that I'm not at all a fan of the winter season's cold and snow here, but, fortunately, winter is only three months of the year's 12 months, and those remaining nine months of spring, summer and fall are that part of the annual cycle that gives a certain balance and pattern to my life.

The arrival of spring after a long winter sleep for Mother Nature's trees and plants, and the warmth of summer that is rarely so oppressive for any extended period, and the glorious color display that is autumn - which I truly love best - are simply parts of life here that I would not trade for living anywhere else. That change of seasons is so worth being here and winter is the time I get to re-charge and plan for those other months. I won't say I'll never leave here in winter, because I would love to spend time somewhere warmer for a few weeks or months as I get older, but I know I wouldn't bolt until after the holidays, for sure.

And there are some fun things about winter that I like no matter where I am. Valentine's Day is such a lovely tonic, with its infusion of bright reds, its heart-warming sentiments of love and affections, and, honestly, who can resist those pretty, multi-layered vintage Victorian-style Valentine's cards that were, and still are, so pretty? I always loved those as a child, and still do. I only have one or two, but I have a few other keepsakes from the Valentine's Days of my childhood that make me smile each year when I bring them out.

My year really is defined by the seasons and the holidays that occur within them. They are reminders of days, weeks and months that keep annual traditions alive, and allow me the opportunity to exercise my creative inclinations as I set  seasonal or holiday tables for small gatherings, or toss a pretty pillow on my couch to mark a certain occasion or to change the color palette for a new season.

My approach after the holiday season is to scale back on lots of reds in January, but to keep deep, rich greens - dark forest and muted olive - and embrace the calmness of winter's natural elements - evergreen boughs and pine cones in pretty containers as reminders that spring really isn't as far off as one imagines.

As the calendar advances and I shift the decor in my home to reflect this shiny new year and season, I'll be sharing some of my favorite things starting with these four plate settings that I assembled during the holidays. They are mostly newer items from my collection except for the octagonal taupe plates that appear in each image ("Dots" by Martha Stewart Everyday with a dot-beaded edge), but they all serve as a reminder that you don't need to spend a fortunate to create an inviting table setting. I originally picked up those taupe MSE plates as part of a 20-piece service of four 5-piece place settings that I found at my local Goodwill for a song about 10 years ago.

The faux wood chargers (underplates) and the plaid charger in the last photo each came from Big Lots. They're both stylish and affordable and a reminder that you can find great, attractive and affordable things at places like Big Lots, Target and similar retailers with moderately priced items. Of course, I have found all manner at things at thrift stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army and smaller, local next-to-new nonprofits and consignsment shops - don't pass up stopping and shopping there! You'd be amazed what people donate or consign - there are many great bargains to be had!

These salad plate below with the inset quail, rabbit and deer vignettes within the red and green "plaid" border and hounds in tan within the white inner border are from Noritake's "Royal Hunt" pattern that I bought on eBay on Christmas day. I have loved that pattern for years, but never owned any as I already have plenty of Christmas dinnerware, and I didn't need more dinner plates or full sets of any dishware, but I love creating an interesting table with some of the basic pieces I already own as the base and adding just a few pieces from another pattern, like these salad/dessert plates. It's so much more affordable to buy just a few of the smaller pieces and mix and match them to compliment my existing pieces.

The plaid dinner plate in the first photo above (which has a white center not seen in that photo because it's obscured by the taupe salad plate) and the salad plate in these last two photos below are brand new from 222 Fifth's "Wexford Plaid" pattern that I found at HomeGoods in my area  right after Christmas.

I wasn't looking for plaid dishware at all, but I love traditional plaid, being a big fan of classic wool fabrics like woven plaids and tweeds, etc., so I succumbed to the charms of this pattern with its reds and olive green. I knew it would compliment my existing pieces and would work in table settings from autumn clear through the holidays, mid-winter and well into March, where it's still fairly cold and snowy here, before I start craving the freshness and lighter feeling of spring florals.

I also have several sets of flatware, one in sterling that I inherited, and several in stainless, including a service for eight of casual stainless pieces with turned, natural wood handles that would work quite nicely with these more casual, "lodge-like" settings. I have just four plates in certain patterns, but I can create a table setting for up to eight people simply by alternating them with four complimentary plates in a different pattern, which is a nice bonus of having pieces that work well together.     

So, while I'm gradually putting away my Christmas decor, I'm not abandoning the cozy, warm feeling of nesting that is evoked from these nice chargers and combinations of plates. I'm looking forward to continuing to use them during the next few months before I put "winter" away for another year.

Happy New Year to all, embrace the new year and the decade of the "20s" wherever you are, and thanks for reading!

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