Simply Delicious Nameplaces

By Kelly Stott

I have always thought that Thanksgiving is the perfect time of the year to give a party. The bustle of the summer is over, but the rush of Christmas has not begun. By late November, my family's life has settled into a routine after the start of the new school year, and I find myself wanting to do something for my friends and family. Whether large or small, I want the parties that I host this time of the year to make my guests feel extra special. It's a chance for me to show each of them how much they mean to me.

One of the ways I make my guests feel welcome is by setting a beautiful table. Warm colors and varied textures in the appointments can make the simplest of meals a memorable occasion. Along with the dishes, linens, and centerpiece, I like to include place cards. While some may object to the formality they lend to an affair, they are still the best way to get people to sit where you want them to and there is no need for them to be the rigid little slips of paper we expect. Only your imagination limits your ability to create an interesting place card that contributes to the over-all effect of the table.

A gingerbread man or woman make a whimsical and fun place card for a party where many of the guests don't know each other. I bake gingerbread figures and decorate them with a special characteristics - a bow tie on one for my Uncle Harry, a ball cap on another for my friend who loves the Yankees. Not only do my guests enjoy looking for their "gingerbread selves" they have had a chance to become acquainted with each other.

One year I decided my Thanksgiving dinner would have a southwestern theme. So along with our bowls of tortilla soup and jicama salad, I made cornbread muffins in decorative tins and piped my guests names on them with a puree of roasted red bell pepper thickened with cornstarch. These edible place cards didn't last long, but my family enjoyed guessing how the icing was made.

Still some years are busier than others. A new job or a new baby can be time consuming, but it doesn't mean that my table settings have to be any less beautiful or creative. When I'm in a pinch for time, I carve out the inside of a decorative pumpkin, plop in a votive candle, and write my guests' names on the outside of the pumpkin with a waterproof pen. With a few other gourds grouped on the table, I've taken care of both place card and centerpiece.

Entertaining friends and family can be one of the most satisfying things we do during the holiday season. Whether a buffet or a formal dinner, place cards add an air of festivity to the table and help make your guests feel special.