Holiday table setting
Everything about preparing food brings me pleasure. Plating and presenting it is like creating a painting that has color, layers and textures. It's extremely important to me that when I present my dishes they're immediately pleasing to the eye because, as I have stated many times before, I believe people eat first with their eyes. It's equally as important to me to create and set a beautiful table—the canvas if you will. It doesn't need to be extravagant or fancy to create the mood, although I have been known to go over the top on occasions.

I love it when I have a dinner party and my guests see the table for the first time. It physically changes their body language and their mood and sets the tone for the rest of the evening. (You just hope everything turns out all right in the kitchen to match the enthusiasm!)

Over the holidays, I go a little crazy, but hey, it's the holidays and there's nothing like celebrating with family and friends in a warm and inviting atmosphere. The table setting is an important part of the celebration that includes the lighting, flickering candles and music to set the mood.

One year at a Christmas Eve dinner party I held nothing back, but then I always try to outdo myself! We brought out the extra leaf extensions to make the dining table longer so it would now hold 18 people. I decided that this would be the most beautiful Christmas table ever. (I say that every year!) I went to the fabric store and bought fabric that was perfect for the kind of table I had in mind and asked my mom to sew it for me (I'm so not good at sewing).

On my table, with my shimmering new tablecloth, I filled beautiful glass bowls with big red Christmas ornaments. Twisted and snaked up and down the table were yards of threaded silver beads along with fresh garland that made the whole dining room smell like a pine forest. I had the kids run outside and gather pinecones for the table, and I used beautiful candles I found shaped as Christmas angels as place card holders. I hung beautiful red and silver decorations over everything left standing. The effect was dazzling!

When you walked into the dining room, all of your senses were assaulted! You heard lovely instrumental Christmas carols softly playing and the room smelled like Aspen at Christmastime. Twinkling lights from the angel candles flickered peeking out from the garland with many votive candles scattered across the table and the rest of the dining room. It looked like you were surrounded with twinkling stars all around! As I waited for the oohs and ahhs—and there were plenty—we all joyously gathered around the table to take our places. We sat and joined hands to give thanks.

My husband, Tony, got up to deliver a toast, as he did, he leaned on the table with both hands, all of a sudden the leg from underneath the table gave out. It tilted the table toward him, knocking over some of the angel candles and setting my tablecloth on fire! One of my guests decided to throw wine on the flames, (not a good idea!) and now my table was on fire! Everyone threw water on everything to put out the flames and to keep it from igniting elsewhere. After everyone calmed down, we all just looked at each other while Silent Night was playing and burst out laughing! I served buffet that year, so I told everyone to just grab their plates, forks and knives and we went into the living room to eat and sat by the tree near the fireplace, where fires belong!

Over the years, I've collected of all kinds of decorations and table settings that I purchase at sales after Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, blowout sales, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and any other kind of a sale during the year.

Get Cristina's tips for decorating a table
See some of her table designs