Family gatherings in the dining room

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I have felt a certain pressure to be the hostess with the mostest. I inherited that from my mum. I was her sous chef and assistant decorator for many splashy meals and parties, and it set the table (groan) for my own standards. Her Sunday dinners were legendary and she was so adept at whatever she tried. I did strive to follow in her footsteps, but I think simplicity and tradition are where I found my groove.

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My dinner party menus these days are exclusively old, tried and true dishes. Simple and comforting food that I’ve made dozens of times. I love old family favourites where the recipe is either in your head or scratched onto a scrap of paper in a loved one’s handwriting. These recipes will be handed down for generations.

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I am hugely sentimental about family china and cutlery. I have umpteen teacups from my grandmothers and I could never part with them. I have my mother’s china and silver cutlery and serving dishes that have seen many celebrations and family meals in their 70+ years of use. I mix and match patterns, old with new, plain with fancy.

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The china set I used for this past Thanksgiving is one that I’ve owned for 20+ years but it had some age to it prior to it arriving in a local antiques shop. I’ve yet to be able to find out its production date, but it is Bavaria Tirschenreuth and the pattern is called The Newton 4391.

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I have two “go to” table dressings. It is either simple placemats which nicely show off the lovely warm wood of our dining table or classic white linen table cloths and napkins. I love to add flowers. I utilize my own garden flowers, when I can. For Christmas, I pick a theme and a feature flower and then carry that theme all over the house.

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I always love a separate dining room. I like the kitchen and living room to be somewhere else so that I can really amp up the atmosphere around the table and the meal. I am happy to devote a good chunk of square footage to my dining room. (also note: I am a messy cook and flail around the kitchen a lot when preparing. It isn’t pretty!)

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This last, slightly blurry photo is of a meal we shared with our Italian hosts in their dining room, while staying in Tuscany for my 50th birthday in 2005 (special blog post about that trip in my travel section xx) White linens and classic china, set beneath a gorgeous Murano glass chandelier. I will never forget how Italians celebrate a meal and create an occasion around every little thing. It could a freshly picked tomato from the garden, or an eight course gourmet meal, it is deserving of a sense of occasion. Here’s to many more happy family meals xo.

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