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Love this table setting where Oprah chooses some of her Favorite Things for 2012? It was created by Tammy Carmona, owner of fine porcelain dishware company Carmona New York & Co, and veteran caterer and event planner. (And for all you Twihards out there, she also designed the set—down to the flowers and the dishes—for Edward and Bella’s wedding scene in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1.) Here, she reveals her secrets for creating a beautiful table—and throwing a great holiday party.
Holiday entertaining can be stressful. What do I need to know before I begin?
Know your theme, food selection, amount of people attending and other items you want to have on display such as flowers or candles. If it’s a holiday like Christmas and the red and green theme doesn’t work, have no fear—go with an elegant brushed gold and white instead.
What sort of dishware should I use?
Look at your menu as a starting point. Our dinnerware styles range from traditional to modern and funky; our challenge is to match each food with the best dish by size, shape and placement. Remember: You want the presentation to create excitement.
How do I make sure I don’t get stuck in the kitchen while my guests are mingling?
Keep it simple by limiting the number of dishes, so guests don’t get overwhelmed. Be prepared by placing good-sized portions on your serving dishes. When it comes to sweets, go for mini-desserts, which look less messy.
Any other tips?
Use flowers and candles to add to the ambiance—the lighting adds to a festive look. Also, consider personalized napkins, which are a beautiful finishing touch.
The neighborhood of Hough, in Cleveland, is full of empty lots and boarded-up houses—just about the last place you'd expect to see a vineyard. But that's what you'll find at the corner of East 66th and Hough Avenue: 14 rows of third-year vines. The Traminette and Frontenac grapes to be harvested this fall will soon be bottled under the label Chateâu Hough.
This microappellation is the brainchild of 69-year-old Mansfield Frazier, who claims no enological expertise besides enthusiasm. ("I'm an expert at opening the bottle," he says.) Three years ago, when Cleveland chose to put $500,000 in federal money toward vacant land reuse, Frazier was one of the first residents to apply for a grant. But instead of proposing an urban farm or community orchard, he submitted an application to grow grapes for wine.
Frazier, a longtime activist and Hough resident, knew a vineyard would yield more profit than a garden. Wine grapes have a high dollar yield per acre; Frazier estimates that each of his 289 vines could generate ten $10 bottles of wine per year: "You can't get that off of bell peppers!" Since the mission is to create long-term jobs for Hough residents—many of whom, like Frazier himself, are ex-cons—the more profit the better. The city awarded the project $18,000—one of the largest grants given.
Frazier also hopes to open a winery in the historic firehouse down the street, and to build a biocellar—a deconstructed house that retains its basement and is capped with a solar roof, functioning as a subterranean greenhouse. If he can raise enough money to convert the old Victorian next to the vineyard into a biocellar, he'll train his crew to grow crops like shiitake mushrooms.
He has won the support of U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge, who has—thanks to his efforts—introduced a bill that would fund biocellars and urban viticulture projects. Whatever the future holds, Frazier is pleased to have come this far. "People drive by the vineyard and say, 'My son helped you build this!'" he says. "They have a real sense of pride in this project."
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're obsessing over the romantic new novel:
By Alex Capus
When "a small grey figure wearing a bright red foulard" disrupts the funeral for respected Parisian civil servant Léon Le Gall—father of three, grandfather of 12, great-grandfather of four—at the venerable Notre Dame Cathedral, a family secret unravels. Seventy-four years prior, in the spring of 1918, while cycling to his new job in the village of Deauville, Léon had spontaneously raced a gap-toothed girl on a rusty, squeaky bike. Despite her damaged equipment, the girl in question, a certain young Louise Janvier, soundly beat him. Thus began a bewitchment—and an unrequited, lifelong love story. A near-fatal explosion during World War I separated the two, and years passed until they found one another again, only to be separated by World War II, not to mention spouses, children and assorted other complications, including one with a delicate box of tartes aux fraises. Interestingly enough, it's not the anxiety of how these two will ever be reunited—you somehow just know they will—but the eccentric charm of the novel itself that keeps you tearing through the pages. Capus' light, playful touch makes everything feel as if touched by an invisible French-speaking Mary Poppins, whether he's poking fun at a busybody landlord eating calf liver with onion or spinning up a description of Louise's polka-dot blouse. What results is a winsome bonbon of a novel in which "The End" feels like an unexpected and unfairly realistic awakening.
Happy Friday! Here's some of the things that made our week:
Beluga whale tries to teach himself to speak [via BBC]
Fascinating study on why children hide by covering their eyes [via BPS Research Digest]
Dad makes Halloween costume for wheelchair bound son [via The Huffington Post]
"There's a fierce inventiveness to Detroit," says artist Kate Daughdrill. "People here take ownership of a problem and work to find solutions." In order to help Detroiters keep doing just that, Daughdrill and a friend cofounded Detroit Soup, a philanthropic supper club. Each month four local groups present ideas to diners who pay $5 to attend; the crowd then discusses the ideas over soup, salad, bread, and pie, and decides which project will receive the evening's proceeds.
Since 2010 Detroit Soup has raised from $700 to $1,000 per dinner for more than 20 community projects—like a bicycle education workshop, or the design and manufacture of a coat for the homeless that converts to a sleeping bag—and the typical number of diners has grown from 20 to 200. "Right now Detroit feels like an underdog," says Amy Kaherl (below), Detroit Soup's current coordinator. "Someone needs to care for it, and that someone could be any one of us."