Imagine That: November Projects

In The Studio

For all my US-based readers, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Non-US readers? I hope you had a happy Thursday. We’ve gotten into such a groove with the Thanksgiving prep over the years that it’s become quite relaxing to host my family for dinner each year and I really do think it was our best turkey yet (for more on how we do our turkey, check out this vintage post all the way from 2010! Todd’s Turkey).

I have a lot to be thankful for this year with the new job, new friends being made here in Thomasville, and I recently got the all-clear on a health issue that’s been hanging over my head for the last two months (more on that another time, perhaps). Todd and I celebrated 10 years together at the beginning of the month, too, and my heart couldn’t be more full of love. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to create projects for Imagine/Tsukineko and share them with not just my own readers but theirs as well!

Another thing I’m not only grateful for but excited to get to do is that I’m going to Creativation in January! I’ve wanted to go to this trade show for as long as I’ve known it existed (which has been a good long while considering how long I’ve been knocking around the craft world in one way or another) and this fall I just decided I was going to make it happen. And, yes, I’ll be hanging out quite a bit at the Imagine booth, so if you’ll be there please stop by and say hello! Until then I’m counting the days and happily removing links from my paper chain!

And now here we are in Christmas build-up with the end of the year hurtling towards us. Last year we had a very quiet Christmas just the three of us (Todd, Duncan, and I) with minimal fuss. We barely even did presents, as well, concentrating on stockings instead, and it was glorious. Of course, if you’re in the mood to give a simple gift to friends, teachers, coworkers, etc., consumables are the way to go, and a little bit of pretty packaging goes a long way to make a simple gift seem like so much more.

Warmest wishes to you all and a Happy Holiday season!

Giving Thanks for the Little Things

Everyday Adventures

I’ve had a reason to stop at the grocery store each night on the way home, there are two pans of cornbread chilling out on the counter for dressing, and pies and cranberry sauce made. Yup, it’s Thanksgiving!

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always Mom’s favorite holiday. When we still made an annual pilgrimage back home to Louisiana, it’d be for Thanksgiving more often than not.

She preferred it over Christmas and I can see why. Leaving aside the pressures on a single mother to come up with presents and a tree and all the other things that go with the typical idea of Christmas, Thanksgiving is about food, and family, and taking a moment to be grateful for what you have, not wishing for what’s next. Those big dinners at Paw-Paw’s house were full to bursting with people, with tables and counters piled high with food. You grabbed a plate, piled it high, and found someplace, any place, to sit and eat.

Many years we kids ended up on the porch steps.

As much as I look back at those trips with a certain nostalgia or fondness, I admit to wanting, if not the full Norman-Rockwell experience, at least something closer to what I saw in the media, or even what I experienced at Sunday dinners at friends’ homes.

Which is to say, everyone seated around one table, food being passed from person to person. And everything that goes with it.

Seems silly, really, in the grand scheme of things. But it’s what I wanted.

Thrifted Table and Chairs for $50 (the leaves are leaning against the wall near the window)

Thrifted Table and Chairs for $50 (the leaves are leaning against the wall near the window)

So when we stumbled upon that dining room table and chair set for $50 at the thrift shop on the next block, I was ecstatic because this table was wide enough to hold people and their plates and still have room for serving dishes. Could seat 8 with no problem and up to 12 if we were in the mood to be cozy. Not only that, but we’d have enough chairs, between the old kitchen table and the new-to-us chairs that we wouldn’t have to bring out folding chairs or wheel in our desk chairs anymore.

Last year, getting ready for our first Thanksgiving in the Dollhouse, I was already looking forward to it when at work, the Friday before, one of the guys in the back came up and said I had several big boxes and did I want to bring my car into the alley for them to load ’em up.

They filled my trunk, the back seat, and even one in the front--it was like moving again!

They filled my trunk, the back seat, and even one in the front–it was like moving again!

Realizing what it must be, I looked at Mom across the office and uttered, rather indelicately,

Did she ship the f-ing china and silver?!


Years back, Aunt M polled the nieces and nephews to see what of her Mom’s things we wanted. She wasn’t planning to wait until the reading of the will to disperse them, instead she was going to downsize in “5 years” (I later found out that was a rolling deadline) when she retired and parcel everything out, then. I requested the china and silver if they weren’t already spoken for.

See, when I was much younger, between ages 3 and 5 or so, we lived with my grandmother on my dad’s side and that house is the site of my earliest memories, including the Thanksgiving I was still in my high chair, at the corner of the formal dining room table, and I asked my uncle in the next seat for another roll as I’d eaten mine. That’s when he explained that I was supposed to save my roll as a pusher (to get food onto my fork) and then eat the roll last.

I don’t know if that’s common advice, but I remember that. And I remember the table set with the china and silver (though I couldn’t exactly remember the patterns). It didn’t matter what they looked like, it was a part of my childhood and I wanted it if it was available.

So in those seven massive boxes, packed in a mountain of bubble wrap and packing peanuts, was Maw Maw Hoover’s service for 12, plus serving dishes. Aunt M was flying in for the holiday in a few days (so I didn’t expect the dishes until a trip she drove down because, really, that’s a lot to ship) and wanted to surprise me.


Noritake Ardis china and Chantilly silver

Noritake Ardis china and Chantilly silver

Todd and I spent a good while digging out all the pieces, checking them for damage to assure my aunt that everything came through fine. Dinner, salad, and dessert plates, coffee cups and saucers and even demitasse cups and saucers all fine and accounted for. I was like a kid in a candy store!

Finally, a family dinner done "right."

Finally, a family dinner done “right.”

I host a baby shower that weekend, so the salad plates were immediately put to use, then Aunt M offered to polish the silver Thanksgiving morning, saying it was usually her job as the youngest to do so, so she’d do it again. And over dinner she told us the story of why there are 13 dinner forks.

The Story of the 13 Forks

The china and silver don’t date back to when my grandparents got married, but to when their oldest daughter (20 years Aunt M’s senior) got married and was doing all the registering for gifts and selecting patterns and whatnot. Maw Maw decided she deserved some china and silver herself. She was always afraid of the silver being stolen, however, and there was a specific hiding spot in the sideboard or wherever that they stashed the silver rolls (preferred over the cases because they were easier to hide/less obvious). Paw Paw, however, was adamant that no one was going to steal the silver and shook his head at her foolishness.

Well, they came home one day and the house had been broken into. First thing Maw Maw says is “check the silver.” Paw Paw insists that it would be there, and it was… or so they thought.

I don’t remember if anything (else) was taken from the home, but it turned out that one of the silver rolls had been absconded with, the one with the dinner forks, and was subsequently replaced. Then, later on, a fork was found in the grass outside the huge double doors that were really the front doors but that no one ever used because the kitchen entrance was more convenient. Whoever had stolen the forks was in such a hurry that they must not have noticed when one fell out of its slot.

And that is why there are 13 forks for our otherwise service for 12.

Always good to have a spare, I suppose!

Not gonna lie, I was pretty happy to set our table with the family china and silver, and use the pretty serving dishes along the middle of the table as the sold table decoration (except for the runner shot with silver and gold, tying the curtains and the silver edges of the plates together). There was no need for a buffet, though we did have to remind my brothers which direction to pass the food in, and I was happy to have what I always considered a “normal” family dinner.

This year, Aunt M won’t be joining us for Thanksgiving, she’s preparing to sell her house in New Jersey and relocate to her not-as-downsized-as-originally-planned lake house in Kentucky before jetting off to Liberia to supervise another round of labwork on the Ebola vaccine trials or something to that effect. She’s a busy woman. So I’ll be the one polishing the silver while watching the Macy’s parade this year.

I realize this post might sound sort of superficial–silver, china, a dinner table–it’s not exactly earth-shattering reasons for gratitude. If we were still serving buffet style and using folding tables and our IKEA flatware I’d be just as happy to be hosting another Thanksgiving dinner for my family. At the same time, that dining room table is one of the things that actually helps me feel like a capable adult, instead of the inner clueless 18-year-old that is my usual, and looking at 40 around the corner I figure it’s about time!

So, yes, I’m grateful for my home, my family, my friends. I’m thankful that I have a job that pays the bills, and that I’m able to do what I want with my time the rest of the days and weekends. And tomorrow will likely be a little hectic at moments and on Friday we’ll plunge into the Christmas season and the headlong rush to 2016. But it’s the little things, like the $50 dining room table, that remind me of all of that and more.

5 Tips to Perfect Thank You Cards

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Most of our mail is a casual affair these days with email and text messaging taking over the day-to-day communications. While I see the practical side of things like email invitations and online RSVP cards, I just can’t help but think how cool it is to get something other than bills and junk mail in the mailbox on any given day. Thank you cards might just be the last vestige of hope when it comes to retaining the beauty that is the hand-written card, so let’s go over some best practices.

1. Thank yous are easier to write the closer to the event.

This goes along with the idea that almost anything is easier to do if we just get started–putting it off never made it any easier. While I won’t go so far as to suggest you take your thank you cards on your honeymoon (though some industrious brides have done just that), setting time aside just after your bridal shower is certainly not a bad idea. If you’ve got a few waiting-room sessions in your future (the DMV, Social Security, and other name-change offices) bring the cards along and be productive when and where you can. This might be one of the reasons etiquette dictates 2-3 months as an acceptable timeline for getting those cards out.

2. A thank you is more personal if it’s handwritten.

Which usually means that the partner with the best handwriting gets the task. While it’s fine to have a sweet sentiment printed inside the card you choose or design, make sure there’s still room for a nice note somewhere on the card.

3. To make it easier to get the cards written, keep all the supplies in one (portable) place.

Cards, envelopes, a couple of pens (in case one runs out), stamps, and any envelope seals or stickers that you’re using can easily fit into a cigar box or other small enclosure. Decorate it if it makes you feel better, but keeping your act together will make the whole process much more enjoyable.

And a happy writer is a productive writer!

4. Be formal where necessary, be familiar when possible.

When you start your card with Dear So-and-so, the way you address the giver depends on your relationship. Your husband’s boss’s wife whom you’ve only just met at the engagement part? Mrs. Bossman is probably the way to go. But that family friend that you’ve always referred to as Uncle Bob (even if there’s no blood or marriage relation in place), go ahead and start with Dear Uncle Bob, since that’s the way you’d address them in person.

5. Keep things simple, but make it personal.

A thank you note can easily be just three lines

  • The initial thank-you stating the event you saw them at and/or the gift they gave you.
  • A short sentence about how you think you’ll use the gift.
  • The repeat of thanks to close the note with sincerity.

So, really, a thank you card could read

Dear Aunt Jo,

It was wonderful of you to make the trip out to the coast for our wedding. The place setting and glassware will look lovely on our holiday table. Thank you for always being there for us kids,

With Love,

Pete and Josie

Of course, you can always include something sweet that happened at the event and anything else you want, but that depends mostly on how many cards you have to write and how much time you’re willing to spend on them.

Cash gifts require a bit more creativity, but a message like “thank you for your generous gift, it will certainly come in handy while we get settled into our new home” will certainly get the point across. If you’ve gone the honeymoon registry path, telling them about the trip is another way to word a thank-you.

Alright, now, no excuses!