By Sue Ann Truitt, Etiquette And Entertaining Consultant


February is the shortest month of the year, while harboring the most number of holidays. This little month still affords much cozy at-home time. It is during these occasions that new memories are made and others are remembered. “To most men, their early home is no more than a memory of their early years. The image is never marred. There is no disappointment in memory, and one’s exaggerations are always on the good side.” -George Eliot 
As I sit by the fire on one of the first cold days of this young year, I am reminiscent of my own childhood memories. Interestingly, many of these thoughts are centered on our family table… what we ate, how the food was served and the fun we enjoyed. My mother, having several college degrees in art and home economics, never wavered from exquisite presentations and delicious delicacies. Every meal was special. I can’t ever remember the homemade jam being on the table in the O.C. (original container). Whew! That is a high benchmark to try to reach. In addition, I have inherited many of the containers she had for particular uses. Now the little white pitcher with the gold handle, which always held the milk for the cereal, is on my shelf. Do I put anything but milk in the little pitcher? No, I don’t. My grandchildren now pour their milk from that little white pitcher with the gold handle. Scary as it is, we live today the memories of tomorrow.
It is my strong feeling that the table is the center of family fun and togetherness. To make the most use of the table, it must be interesting. Boredom is rooted in sameness. That is the very reason we are never bored with nature. Bring these delightfully intriguing changes into the kitchen and onto the table. To carry this out, I completely change out my kitchen five times a year. Every set of dishes, placemats, glassware and accessory pieces are rotated each winter, spring, summer, fall and holiday season. I love doing this and my family looks forward to favorite items showing up. For example, my husband loves winter because it has the best coffee mugs.
To carry out this seasonal change plan, all sets of dinnerware, etc. must be easily accessible. In the unfinished part of our basement, steel frames with thick pressed board shelves are set up. These are positioned “library stack style” enabling the items to be reached from either side of the shelves.
The winter plan focuses on snow and cold with all blue and white as well as solid white dinnerware being used. Sticks and branches are spray painted white and arranged in an antique container to bring nature inside. Soup bowls and tea pots are plentiful to warm the frigid feel of the outside. An occasional touch of red can be added for a February holiday or a snowman cookie jar retrieved from the holiday grouping to take advantage of a big snowfall sledding party.
The spring grouping finally arrives and the winter pieces are put to bed on the shelf. Out comes the yellow casual dinnerware. Bulbs and bunnies give hope for a bit of warmth. Easter accents can be added and removed after the holiday. A collected Easter egg tree is a family favorite. The eggs – some are from Eastern European travels and some are homemade, all hung with colorful ribbons on spray painted branches in moss covered containers.
Summer arrives and the dinnerware then focuses on the flowers of the season. Moving the table outside near the grill is an element in this plan. Freshly potted herbs and posies come into play during this season. Large lemonade servers stand ready for the fun to begin.
Fall brings back the yellow dinnerware but this time the added orange, brown and faded green accents are prominent. Colorful leaves and mums become pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns which morph into turkeys and cornucopia. The colors of fall are distinctly transitional.
The holiday season is the most extensive change plan. Everything is transformed from the red glasses and holiday dinnerware to the Christmas cookbooks on the kitchen shelves. The big round table which has followed us from the country to the city readies itself for the annual Christmas Eve fondue supper which we have enjoyed for so many years.
Why have I shared this with you? It is one of the ways our family enjoys togetherness around the table. “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure, where your treasure is, there is your heart and there is your happiness.” -Saint Augustine