Setting the Table in Austin

setting the table

Yep, they’re here. The holidays.

We got the first cold snap already (did you lose any plants last week?) and we’re seeing Christmas lights go up all over Austin. (I spied my first lit-up house of the season on a cliff in Rough Hollow last week.)

Time to think about Thanksgiving next week, my personal favorite holiday. It’s the one I never get a humbug over. I can make a thanksgiving dinner practically blindfolded I’ve done it so many times, and I never get sick of the process after all these years.

I love the tradition of going outside for a spell, and clearing my nose palate, just so I can open the door and smell Thanksgiving dinner cooking as if I haven’t been the one cooking it. (Do you do that? You should.)

The house is clean – at least the downstairs – and guests are welcome. We start setting the table first thing in the morning and we eat around 3:30.

How do you decide which is more important, the food or the table? One could argue for either.

I’ve never understood folks who have dinner with paper plates and plastic, um, cutlery. I admit to being appalled when a boyfriend invited me to his family dinner, and I was handed a paper plate. That’s just wrong. Gratitude means pulling out the china at least once a year, or at least some proper dinner plates.

With that, let’s dive into what makes a pretty table. All items in the following trove are available right here in Austin, so have at it.

King Austin Floral
First you need some flora. The flower shops are full of pre-made centerpieces now. If you’re looking for something you can’t duplicate at home, order it now. King Florist puts together a bountiful tabletop arrangement. Add a couple of candles and you’re good to go.

spartan tableEven the most Spartan Thanksgiving table needs something fresh, as this table proves. While it looks a little scary to me, a la “Nightmare Before Christmas” (must be the backdrop), it proves you can enliven any table with an accent piece as simple as a fresh pear. Can’t you just picture Jack Skellington waving with a flourish, “Ta-da!”

antlersIn Austin, in the fall, nature’s bounty includes antlers, which can look cool and ironically appropriate, even as you gorge on turkey. No hunters in your family? Just order them from Austin Antlers. Here, a place setting idea (including antlers) courtesy of Austin chefs Mary Catherine and Drew Curren.

mason jars and greeneryYou can set an awesome table on any budget. Just use what you have growing in your yard or pick up some fresh greens and gourds at the HEB. Plunk them in a Ball jar and let the candlelight work its magic.

sauce boat to die forOk, now that you have the organic elements covered, make sure you offset it with something that glints, like this lovely, curvaceous sauceboat. Really, could there be anything prettier?

spicy squash bisqueThe idea could very well be to match the table with the food. No other dinner is as naturally suited for this as Thanksgiving. All the spices, flavors and roasty, toasty colors just seem to match the fall palette. Notice how well Maggie Perkins’ squash bisque offsets the wood and china pattern? Just do that, and your guests will remark how impressive your table looks.

Micheal Aram Salt and Pepper shakersNot cooking? No problem. If you’re a guest somewhere, be sure to bring a nice gift for the host to ensure future invitations (some ideas here), or simply make reservations. thanksLast, and first, give thanks. Go looking for it, and you’ll see a thousand opportunities to be thankful in Austin, today and every day. When that feeling of gratitude rises, go ahead and snap a picture for the kids. For every picture entered in this contest, a local business will donate $5 to a local children’s charity.


1. Rough Hollow

2. King Florist

3. Spartan table on Design Sponge (but look at that pear!)

4. Austin Antlers

5. Currens’ fall table on Southern Living

6. Get some fresh greens from the backyard, just like this blogger at athoughtfulplaceblog

7. Crate and Barrel sauce boat

8. Spicy Squash Bisque

9. Michael Aram salt and pepper shakers

10. Hostess gift ideas on Pinterest

11. Lakeway Resort and Spa serves Thanksgiving Dinner

12. Keep Austin Thankful

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