July 4 Reprise: Table Ideas for the Holiday

One of my favorite things about working for a coupon company was writing this blog post for our company blog about setting a great table for Fourth of July. Sharing here…

Setting the Stage for Fourth of July

crate-barrel-vinca-dinnerwareThinking about how to decorate for the Fourth of the July holiday? One of the best ways to bring it all together is to put your attention right where the focus is – not just on the food, but right there on the table itself! Whether you’re decorating the patio table or dining room table, getting a little bit fancy can make a big splash and make your guests feel welcome.

It’s one of the easiest ways to set the tone and mood for your get together and makes everyone feel special. And you’ll be sure to get that, “Wow! Everything looks great!”

Refresh It
Think about adding a little refresher to your refreshment area. You might need to add a few new pieces to put some zing into your existing repertoire. Stores such as JCPenney, Kohl’s, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond have some great new everyday china patterns that can make your table pop.

Changing it up doesn’t mean you have to buy a whole new set – you can just add dinner plates or salad plates. So do something a little different! Get some red or blue plates and mix it up with your standard white set, like this Threshold Aztec dinnerware:


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A festive tablecloth in checks, stripes or stars can make all the difference to your table, and works well with a solid pattern of white, red or blue china. A fun tablecloth can be as low as $15 and you can use it for Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Patriot’s Day and Veterans’ Day.

Or look for placemats to add that color. Getting solids is less intimidating, and you will have them for Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Might Not Be in the Stars
And don’t just limit yourself to the traditional stars and stripes. Aside from patriotic, you can also take your theme nautical, coastal, or just plain old summer fun – with watermelons!

Check out Pinterest for ideas and inspiration on these themes. Sandra Lee always does great tablescapes. And here’s mine for Fourth of July:


Or look for inspiration on blogs. Two of my favorite table setting blogs (yes, there are hundreds of blogs that feature table settings!) are The Tablescaper and Between Naps on the Porch. They both bring endless possibilities to the table.

Do It Outdoors
If you have a pool or patio, there are some great plastic or Melamine dishes that look great and are non-breakable. I’ve found some great ones at Joss and Main and Pier 1 Imports, to name a few.

Take a look at  these fun and abstract Vinca Melamine plates:


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Or Martha Stewart star-spangled Melamine collection:


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Find Some Goodies for $1

Find some inspiration at the dollar store. You’ll be pretty amazed at the cool things you can find.

I found sleek blue wine glasses recently that are now some of my favorites. They look great, and if they break – hah! They’re only a dollar. Also look for stemless wine glasses – they are actually elegant, on-trend and convenient for outdoor use as well. I saw them at a friend’s house and was shocked to learn where she had found them. They can be used as wine glasses or for other beverages.


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Also look for bandanas, which can be used as napkins for a festive flair. Pick up some tissue paper or scrapbook paper and get the kids to help you make crafts – banners, pompom flowers and flags.

Poppin’ Tags
Don’t be afraid to stop by your local thrift store. Salvation Army and Goodwill are local ones I really like, and there are a lot of thrift stores that support local charities that have great stuff too.

If you don’t have a set of white china that you want to mix-and-match, thrift stores are a great place to easily find eight dinner plates at a super low price.

In addition to off brands or sets from big box stores, I’ve found Mikasa, Pfaltzgraff, Ikea, Johnson and Brothers and even Lenox and Spode.

Bring on the Paper
Now I know there are many of you who will have a yard filled with kids running around, or who still say you will absolutely not “do china” and will only stick to paper plates. Here are some fun options: Sandra Lee has a new line of paper products at Publix supermarkets in the Southeastern states; or have some summer fun with this pattern with ants themed red-checked design.


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Whatever you do, make it festive and fun!

Marsha Strickhouser is the Public Relations Manager at Valpak, and shares the latest news about the company on Valpak.com and on Twitter at @marshas19.


Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market impressive in both fare and decor

Farm Table Kitchen, located inside Locale Market at SunDial in St. Petersburg, FL.

I went for a business lunch recently and my  associate  suggested Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market. I had heard about the market but I must have been sleeping under a rock for two years,  because I didn’t know about Farmtable Kitchen.

The concept was started by well-known and award-winning chef Michael Mina, who also owns Boca KitchenBar Market.

“This new American restaurant featuring farm-to-table cuisine that focuses on fresh, seasonal, regionally sourced and house-made products,” according to Tampa Metro Magazine.

Here’s more information from the Tampa Bay Times about other locations.

I loved the space, which was airy and open and dotted with fresh flowers and vintage decorative accents.  The farm tables remind most people of the country, but to me they reminded me of a restaurant in Nice, France, which I enjoyed so much I went several times during my short trip to the town.

I would have loved to have tried the lobster roll, shrimp or crab, but unfortunately I’m allergic to shellfish.  I didn’t feel like I missed out, because my  grouper  was fresh and tender. I like that you can chose your protein and your vegetable side. I chose the avocado, and was very impressed with the taste and the amount. Being from Miami where avocados are abundant, I feel I’m somewhat of an avocado snob.

It is definitely a restaurant where you can enjoy and relax and really enjoy your time there.

Who else wants to go with me?

A welcome entrance.
Details matter.
Private dining space.


Looking through the glass into the private dining area..




An expansive bar which serves craft cocktails.



A view toward the back of the restaurant.
More details – milk bottles serve water.
Vintage touches
We enjoyed our table, which was set off to the side, private and quiet.
Vintage and modern items give interesting focus.


Silverware waiting to be served.
Lovely fresh flowers.
My grouper, which was amazingly fresh, along with salad of avocado, greens, tomatoes, onions and mint.
Lobster roll and fries.
Grouper sandwich and salad.
Farm fresh table.


Winning Wish Farms berries from #hashed Food and Wine Conference contest

Two weeks ago, I attended the Food and Wine Sunday Supper Movement Conference. On the third day we had classes at the Rosen School of Hospitality and part of the day included a #Hashed contest which involved using CK Mondavi Wines, Wish Farm Berries and Cabot Cheese.

Our groups and we were challenged to make a cocktail with the ingredients  and also taking photos of it.

We were thrilled to win the contest with our Summer wine spritzer.

In addition to getting a ticket to next year’s conference, we also received a Wish Farms Berries Prize package. Wish Farms is based in Plant City, Florida, and has been growing berries since 1922.

Wish Farms blackberries on a lilac Spode plate.

So I’ve been waiting patiently for a week or so to receive my Wish Farms berries. They are actually the berries that we usually buy at local grocery stores here in Tampa Bay.

Blueberries on a plate from Royal Tudor Merry Old England.
Strawberries on a pink Willow plate from Churchill.
When I get berries, the first thing I think is How will I present them, and which plates will they look best on? Fortunately, I have many colors.
Fresh from the fields: All three berries from Wish Farms.
Summer means berries… And a time to celebrate.
















I have several recipes I want to make…  blueberry pie, strawberry ice cream, blackberry sorbet… But I made a mulled berry Sangria first.

For two weeks since the Food and Wine Conference by Sunday Supper Movement in Orlando in May, I’ve been waiting for the prize berries. I’ve been saving recipes on Facebook… What did I make first? Mulled berry Sangria.

It’s Officially Summer as Tropical Smoothie Cafe Celebrates National Flip Flop Day June 16

Since I started working with marketing for the local Tampa Bay Tropical Smoothie Cafe team, one of my favorite times of year is mid-June.

That’s because  everyone gets rewarded for wearing flip flops! And in Florida, that’s a no-brainer.

Some flip flop gals in the St. Petersburg cafe in 2016.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe started celebrating National Flip Flop Day many years ago, and offers a free smoothie to customers on that day!

Customers wearing flip flops on June 16 from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Tropical Smoothie Café receive free, limited edition Sunshine Smoothie in 20th anniversary souvenir cup.

Here’s the press release:

Tropical Smoothie Café, the leading fast casual café concept known for its better-for-you food and smoothies with a tropical twist, is kicking off summer by celebrating National Flip Flop Day on Friday, June 16 at 16 locations across Tampa Bay, ” as well as hundreds of other cafe locations around the country.

“National Flip Flop Day creates a mini vacation from everyday life by encouraging customers to kick back and wear flip flops while enjoying a freshly made smoothie. Customers wearing flip flops into Tropical Smoothie Café between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. will receive a free, limited edition Sunshine Smoothie in a 16-ounce, 20th anniversary souvenir cup. There are no strings — or in this case — shoe laces, attached.

I decorated some of the tables in the Cafes with tropical colored plates, plants, tropical fruit and funny big sunglasses. (I must have been wearing the glasses when this photo was taken!)

Tropical Smoothie Café inspires healthier lifestyles by serving amazing


smoothies and food with a bit of tropical fun. The limited edition Sunshine Smoothie captures the taste of summer with a vitamin C-packed combination of orange, banana, orange juice, pineapple and mango.

“Bringing the community of the Tampa Bay area together to celebrate summer and enjoy a brand new tropical smoothie is important to us,” said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café. “For the 11th year in a row, we look forward to serving over 500,000 guests who will visit one of our cafés and celebrate alongside us on National Flip Flop Day.”

The Tampa Bay community is encouraged to share their experience on social media and can use the social hashtag for National Flip Flop day, #TSCflipflop.


For more information about Tropical Smoothie Café, including menu items and more, visit TropicalSmoothieCafe.com.

Summer table in Florida starts with shells

In Florida, it’s summer! And that means, shells!

I’ve been starting to head out to the beach in the afternoon just to end the day, find treasures, chat with other beach-goers and watch the sunset.

In the past two years I’ve been visiting more beaches in Florida and really getting into shelling. Here, my giant vase of olives (middle), horse conchs (right),  jewel boxes (left), scallops (on platter) and whelks (on table).

(For more about identifying types of Florida shells, I Love Shelling is a great site.)

There are always shells on my patio – often times scattered across the table where I sort them after rinsing. So when I incorporate them into tablescapes, it’s because they are already there!


Here, I’ve added Cannonsburg cream basketweave dinner plates, Churchill salad plates,  glass bowls from Dansk.

My Butterfly Meadow Carved floats in the summer season

I was a lucky girl this past April when I randomly won an Instagram contest sponsored by Lenox, for four place settings of their newly-introduced Butterfly Meadow Carved to their everyday dinnerware line.  This is solid color pattern they’ve come out with after the popularity of their Butterfly Meadow pattern (here’s a photo of the tea set), which is white and richly decorated in pastel flowers and butterflies.

This latest Lenox pattern is available in aqua, white and grey. I thought it would be very “springy,” but here I have simply paired it with a paisley blue, grey and beige runner from Pottery Barn, and I think it has a very summer feel.

No telling what other combinations I will be able to create throughout the summer! Stay tuned!


Macy’s Instagram video: Charming Lenox and vintage china placesetting gets me

I’m absolutely in love with this tablescape setting video from Macy’s Instagram! Using Lenox’s French Perle Groove Bluebell and French Perle Violet, the video shows several other mix and match patterns with  a vintage feel to show the amazing amount of options you have while setting your table.

How can you decide which is your favorite!?

Proof that even our tabletop is coming up roses #brunchgoals 🌹🌹🌹

A post shared by Macy's (@macys) on

Around the table tribute for Memorial Day

We enter this weekend remembering those who gave everything for us, families around the country will be gathering for parades, beach days, picnics and memorial services.  And so I decorate by setting the table in the colors of our country.

Using red Fiestaware and Franciscan blue and white dishes…

…My mom’s Jim Shore Uncle Sam and Polish pottery pitcher.

Some may think setting  the table with china for a summer holiday is a bit much, but the tradition comes from my mom always setting the table, no matter what the occasion, as long as the family was gathering around the table.

My family and I took some time to recall what soldiers had done for us in the past to keep our country free. Their sacrifices take my breath away.


More than 200 ways to make a taco; here are three

At the recent Sunday Supper Movement Food and Wine Conference held in Orlando, we were treated to a lunch of an elaborate taco bar. Along with tortillas there was a display of veggies from Duda Farms with snap peas, cole slaw, sweet potato crisps, beans, quacamole and more.

Even with all those options, It seemed obvious to me how to put a taco together!

But as I returned to the table, I realized everyone else’s looked completely different. Did they see things I hadn’t? Everyone’s was completely different, and there were 200 guests!

What would you include on your taco?











Cupcakes come and go, but some you remember forever

I’ve made a lot of cupcakes in my life. Especially when my girls were little. Girl scouts, birthday parties, school events or just rainy days.

At the recent Sunday Supper Food and Wine Conference we were presented with a variety of lovely colorful cupcakes from Gigi’s baker in Orlando.

What makes these stand out? Not just that they are from a lovely bakery,   but because we chose different flavors and toppings. They were more marvelous when we had a selection. It was hard to choose.

We were able to focus on the variations, colors and toppings, pay attention to lighting and angles.    

Here are some of my first cupcake photos that I really paid attention to.

Sweet dreams!