Nov. 17


Let’s Talk Turkey: A Veteran’s Top 5 Tips for First Timers

by Lynn Byrne

By Lynn Byrne. As I was reading my blog roll this morning, I couldn’t help be struck by how many people were fretting over hosting their first Thanksgiving.

Well, I have hosted Thanksgiving almost every year of my 22 year old marriage. Yep, I have given birth to about 19 turkey dinners (and right now I am having a Michelle Dugger-mother of 19 kids and counting moment).

So I know a thing or 2 about pulling it off.  Here are my top 5 tips, some of which you should get started on right now.  I threw in some cute tabletop photos just to keep it interesting.

1. Check your tabletop and serving supplies today! You don’t want to pull out your tablecloth next Wednesday night only to find that it has a huge stain. Been there, done that.

2. Consider party rentals.  I always rent my glassware when my guest list exceeds 10. This is a HUGE timesaver when it comes time to clean up. Just dump out the glasses and return to the rental box.  No wash, no dry, no fuss, no muss.  You need to order rentals asap.  

3. Buy a frozen Butterball or Honeysuckle turkey THIS WEEKEND.  Ok, I know this is sacrilege in the gourmet world.  You are supposed to buy a free range or organic something and brine it etc.  Been there and done that too. 

Do you want to stand at the oven all day and baste the sucker (and it still may come out dry as bone), or do you want to throw it in the oven, basically forget it until the approximate time the package label tells you it’s ready and enjoy your family and friends?  Butterball and Honeysuckle turkeys ALWAYS work-– moist and tasty, even if the gourmets among us beg to differ.  19 tries don’t lie.  

Related point.  Just don’t forget that a frozen turkey will take several days to defrost. I will buy a 22-23 pounder and put it in my fridge as soon as I get home from the store this weekend.   Again the package will tell you how long it will take for your turkey size to defrost.   Foolproof. 

4. Lists, lists, lists-–as in make them well in advance.  This holiday is certainly doable people, but even after all these years I plan like it is a war!!  

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I make a list of my menu items.  Then I make a separate list of all of the ingredients–this helps me to get a head start on food shopping.  When I get my turkey, I pick up everything else that is nonperishable.  Finally, see point 1, you should already have a list of tabletop and serving items you need.  I will be sure to buy those items this weekend too. 

5. When planning your menu, look for items that can be made, or at least prepped in advance. Over the years I have collected quite a few recipes that I can get ready ahead of time.  I am happy to share if you are interested.  Just shoot me a comment.

Finally, not really a tip, but still a word to the wise.  I know that not everyone can do it but, hosting Thanksgiving is so much more fun if you can take Wednesday off from work to devote to preparations.

Develop the attitude that prep is all part of the fun.

I do. I get in the kitchen, put on my apron and crank up my favorite tunes.  A glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.

So start your engines and get planning for the big day!  

Photos are linked to their sources.

Nov. 16


AHEAD OF HIS TIME: The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs

by Lynn Byrne

By Lynn Byrne. You are never ever going to guess what inspired the carving on the chair back of this famous piece of oak furniture by designer Charles Rohlfs, shown above. It is the exact cellular structure of oak. Yep, if you looked at oak through a microscope, that pattern is what you see. And that is exactly what designer Charles Rohlfs did. Then he magnified the pattern for this chair.

Another surprise. This chair was handmade in the early 1900s. Pretty amazing.

Rohlfs’ furniture is currently on view at the Met and will be there until January 23, 2011. Go.

I went last week and I was especially lucky because I was privy to a guided tour by the curator and author of the exhibition catalog, Joseph Cunningham. He was totally dynamic. I was mesmerized.

For example, how about this clock? Joe aptly pointed out how much the face resembled a George Nelson iconic bubble clock. Except of course it was made about 50 years earlier.

Here is the George Nelson clock. Hard to miss the similarities, no?

And fashionistas, Joe told us that fashion designer Anna Sui was inspired by Charles Rohlfs when she did her Fall 2010 collection. Joe and Anna are giving a lecture at the Met January 14, 2011 at 6:00. Mark your calendars.

Here is one of the outfits.

I don’t know which exact Rohlfs’ pieces inspired Sui, but look at this chair. The sleeves on the blouse are suggestive of the chair carving. I hope to attend that lecture–how interesting.

Rohlfs himself was inspired by architect Louis Sullivan, who was working on a building in Buffalo, NY around the tine Rohlfs made this chair. Here is a sketch from the building.

So who is Charles Rohlfs?

He is a furniture designer who worked for about a decade around the turn of the last century. Click here to read more about him.

Some say he fits within the Arts and Crafts movement. He certainly influenced Gustav Stickley. These early tables by Rohlfs were nearly copied by Stickley.

Here is a photo of a similar Stickley piece made after Rohlf made his tables.

Others point to the organic feel of his work (as seen in the chairs above), and call him more “Art Nouveau.”

Joseph Cunningham suggested at our talk that Rohlfs may have been the first in the “furntiure as art” studio movement–-working half a century earlier than George Nakashima, Wharton Escherick and Sam Maloof. (Click here to read about studio furniture.)

At any rate, it is a beautiful and fascinating exhibition.

Oh, and one last fun fact. Joseph Cunningham pointed out another object made by Rohlfs–a chafing dish that was used like today’s slow cooker! Yep, the original crock pot.


Photos not taken by me are linked to their sources.

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