Category Archives: Setting the Table

Our Christmas Dinner

Columbia County, New York I Friday, 27 December 2019

This year, I decided to make a nice Christmas dinner, just for Thing 2 and me.

Last month, for Thanksgiving, we were invited to my friend Patti’s house. I thought about taking my delicious Cranberry-Orange Relish, but when I discovered at least four of her family members have nut allergies, I decided against it. I brought a Swedish Apple Pie, instead.

We had a wonderful time. There were a ton of people there, because Patti has a lot of kids, and all three of her siblings and their families were there. The turkey was moist and the mashed potatoes were garlicky. One of her daughters is an excellent gravy maker and also made a delicious sweet potato puree. Another daughter made a cauliflower casserole I really enjoyed.

Thing 2 is friends with yet a different one of her daughters, so he had kids to hang out with. Everything was so comfortable and we enjoyed being there.

But since I hadn’t cooked for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make an extra nice meal for Christmas Day. I decided to roast a whole chicken. A turkey is just too big for the two of us, and a turkey breast is missing the drumsticks, which are Thing 2’s favorite. So a five-pound chicken was perfect, seasoned with lemon pepper, paprika, and Real Salt. (Santa brought some spices in my Christmas stocking!)

I decided to make all the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, too. I didn’t feel quite up to making mashed potatoes from scratch, so I used Idahoan instant potatoes, which I like quite well. And I’ve never been one to make stuffing from scratch, so I used Bell’s stuffing mix.

Instead of sweet potatoes, I decided to bake a butternut squash. It’s the same color and general idea as a sweet potato, and tastes delicious slathered with butter and sprinkled with brown sugar. And of course, I made the Cranberry-Orange Relish! Both of these side dishes brighten up the plate so much.

I set the table carefully with my Homer Laughlin Eggshell Georgian Cashmere plates which I’d purchased from Goodwill in 2018 with some gift money.

And then came the best part of all. I now have a complete set of Oneida Evening Star silver plate, so I was able to set the table with it for the very first time!

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy eating with good silverware. My Evening Star is perfectly weighted, glows softly under candlelight, and feels as smooth as silk. Truly a delight to eat with!

I poured some Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider and Thing 2 and I toasted to family and good food. I was so thankful to be sitting across a lovely table from my gorgeous child, eating delicious food, using sparkling silverware and softly gleaming china.

It was the perfect end to our Christmas Day…


Pretty Place Settings for One

Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 5 April 2018

Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves, and we break down, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes we’re busy just surviving from one day to the next, or busy taking care of our sick children, struggling spouses, aging parents, or friends who are having problems, and we forget to pay attention to ourselves.

I remember one time, quite a few years ago now, when I was up late at night with problems. (I don’t remember specifically what they were anymore.) I knew the morning was gonna be dreadfully rough and disappointing, so I decided to just stop for a minute and take care of myself.

I picked out some of my favorite and prettiest dishes, and set the table for one, planning out my breakfast. I don’t remember exactly what I ate, but I know a broiled grapefruit was involved. Fancy!

The day seemed so much more hopeful when I woke up, staggered out to the dining room, sleep deprived, and saw that pretty place setting, just waiting for me to fill it up. And gobble it down!

So here’s what I suggest, and hope you’ll give it a try.

Take some time the night before your own birthday, and set the table to a T. If you get up before everyone else, make it just for one. If you normally eat breakfast together as a family, then set it nicely for everyone.

It’s amazing how much more happily and smoothly your morning will go when you do this.

There are those other types of mornings, too. The mornings during a really rough week with moody teenagers, or a scary doctor’s appointment, a planned surgery for your spouse, after a painful breakup, or when you’re feeling desolate and disappointed about the hand life has played you.

These are the times when it’s most critical to take care of your own spirit and needs. Plan a breakfast of your favorite foods, and set the table like you would for company.

You’re worth it.



EMMA CHRISTINA: The Things I Carried

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 19 October 2017

The oval, cut-glass bowl on the top left came from Goodwill in Greenport, NY. The gorgeous cut-glass dish on the top right belonged to my father’s mother, my Grandma Emma Christina. She gave it to my mother, Carol, and now, finally, it’s been passed down to me!

The two pretty dishes on the bottom came from Deseret Industries, a thrift store in Utah. The rectangle tray, on the left, is pressed glass. The oval fanlight or sunburst on the right is cut glass.

When you’re traveling cross country by airplane, like I did earlier this month, you have to decide what to put in your carry-on luggage, and what to check.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the airlines lose your checked luggage. Sometimes it turns up hours or days later. But sometimes, it’s never found again. In December of 1995, my garment bag, containing all my favorite dresses, it disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. Thank goodness I learned this lesson early in life, and only with clothes!

So, when I was flying on this trip, I carried with me my white Herschel backpack, the one I got on a fantastic sale at Urban Outfitters, which used to be by my work in downtown Salt Lake City. I paid $20 for a bag which was $75 normally.

Can we talk about pockets? “Because you know how a bear feels about pockets!”

One of the things I loved about my new backpack was all the pockets, right down to a fleece-lined pouch in the very top, perfect for sunglasses and reading glasses, a fleece-lined laptop slot, and all kinds of other little zippered and tabbed pockets, plus a key clip. It’s lined with red-and-white stripes, a signature of the Herschel brand.

Anyhoo, on this trip, in my backpack, I carried:
-some old family photos
-my mother’s little dark-blue suede high school diploma
-two pieces of her wedding silverware. (The dinner knife was confiscated by TSA and I had to mail it to myself from the airport.)
-Black Beauty, my treasured Fujifilm X30 camera
-a bunch of camera cards
-a composition book (I use them to plan events.)
-my keys
-my wallet
-my journal
-an assortment of pencils, pens, and Sharpies
-some snacks
-October issues of Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living. I love me some fall magazines, I do!
-my Chromebook, which fell out of my carry-on tote and into an overhead bin, getting left behind. It had to be retrieved by a ramp attendant, panic!

But in a separate black Barnes & Noble book quote tote bag, I carried some other pieces I treasure too much to leave behind, and far too much to put in checked baggage. Three dishes: one of them pressed glass, two of them cut glass. I have a large collection of pretty, clear-glass dishes, picked up at thrift stores for 50 cents here, $1 there. (It’s all Cami’s fault! Her mother got me started on this hobby. But that’s an entirely separate blog.)

But these three are my absolute favorites, and I simply must have them on my table at Thanksgiving this year. My pickles and olives demand the best!

Last October, as I was moving to New York, I was determined to take two of these favorite, fancy-glass dishes, and placed them on the table for last-minute packing in a carry-on bag. But, after a rough all-nighter of closing out my apartment into storage and suitcases, then turning the place over to Thing 1 and his best friend, I was just too tired, too rushed, and too stressed to pack them.

They got left behind on the table, and I’ve missed them so.

This past trip west, earlier this month, I went to Thing 1’s apartment in Salt Lake City to drop off a bag of BLT fixins from our favorite sandwich shop in New York. (That’s a story for another day. Or another blog, as well. Or whatever.) I ransacked his cupboards until I found the two dishes.

They were coming with me this time.

Up at my parents’ house in northern Utah, two of The Rockets helped me pack at the end of my stay, before driving me, my father, and Thing 2 to my friend Tina’s house, to spend the night before flying back to New York. What good friends I have, truly. Anita took the task of wrapping the three dishes carefully in newspaper and plastic grocery bags.

Pretty sure she wanted the chance to admire them up close, since she likes antiques as much as I do!

I can’t wait to see them on the table this Thanksgiving, holding Cranberry-Orange Relish, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and black olives…

Welcome to Emma Christina @ My Copper Kitchen! New features will be available on an intermittent basis, whenever I inherit a cool dish owned by my paternal grandmother, Emma Christina. I will also feature newly acquired dishes from her era which I think she would have liked.

She, a lovely Swedish lady who died before I was born, she loved cooking and gathering her many children around her Craftsman table, with its four leaves.

I’m told that sometimes, when Emma Christina felt bad and life was wearing her down, she would head to the Implement and put a nickel down on a dish. Kinda like me, her youngest granddaughter, heading to a thrift store and picking up something inexpensive to buoy my spirits, something special and beautiful, all for 50 cents…

“You know how a bear feels about pockets” is a line taken from the wonderful children’s book, A Pocket for Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman. I highly recommend it, and its predecessor, Corduroy, for all the children in your life.

The first book, Corduroy, was groundbreaking in that the main character, a little girl named Lisa, she and her mother are obviously not white, probably African American or Hispanic. They live in an apartment in the city, several flights up.

Considering the white-picket-fence, blond-haired, blue-eyed Dick and Jane books (used to teach children to read in the 1930s through 1970s), Corduroy is welcomingly inclusive of ethnic children who live in large cities.

Plus, Don Freeman’s artwork, scratchy black-and-white outlines, filled in with color, is truly delightful.

I love Herschel backpacks!

Read Finding 50: The Things I Carried, at:

Read more about Grandma Emma Christina at:
A Word About Windows

Learn how to make Cranberry-Orange Relish for Thanksgiving at:

The subtitle of this blog is a derivation of the book title, a modern-day classic, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.

Setting My Table

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 22 September 2017

The other night, as I was getting ready for dinner, it occurred to me once again how much I love to set the table. That night we were having spaghetti, so it was very simple: just a bowl, fork, napkin, and glass. But still, it seemed so satisfying, making sure each piece was perfectly in place.

Several months ago, I had company over for dinner, my parents and the missionaries from church. I wasn’t sure if my dining room would work for six people, because the most I’ve had seated at this table was four, with it pushed up against the wall on one side. And since most of my dishes are in storage, I wasn’t sure how to set the table nicely, but I figured it out!

I had four basic white Corelle plates and two nice Edward Knowlton plates, antiques from 1922. I had a bunch of plain, clear glasses, and four pretty orange and cobalt blue flecked glasses, a gift from my wonderful friend, Lori.

I decided the fancy plates would be paired with the plain glasses and the plain plates would be grouped with the decorative glasses. I made sure the silverware was spot-free and shiny, my treasured Oneida Northland Musette stainless steel set I got for college graduation.

Might I brag? The centerpiece I made was simple, yet beautiful, I thought. I cut two orange lilies low in the stem and put them in clear glass spice jars, and lit three tea lights, floating them in clear votive holders. It seemed just right to me, elegant, but not overdone or distracting.

Since I had to pull the table out from the wall in order to seat six people, I was concerned the doorway would be blocked once everyone was seated, but there was actually still room to get around, so I was pleasantly surprised!

If you want to have people over for dinner, or even if it’s just a special meal for your family, don’t worry if you don’t have a huge set of fancy dinnerware. It’s fine to mix and match with what you have. Just make sure everything is sparkling clean and you take time in advance to set things up properly, without having to rush around once your guests have arrived.

Enjoy setting your table. People will appreciate your effort, how pretty it looks, and how special and loved it makes them feel.

To see some interesting, elaborate table settings, go to this blog and click on the tablescapes option in the menu bar: