Large Family Tips: Setting the table

It feels like I have been away from my blog for ages…and tomorrow I leave for Seattle, so my blog will be neglected once again. Hopefully next week I’ll be back to my normal rate of posting.

I am surprised by how much I enjoy blogging. Thank you for leaving comments and emailing me – it is great to hear from people.

I feel a little sheepish writing about this because I know so many women who excel at making their homes beautiful. The young mom who coordinates my running group has a home that looks like it was lifted out of a Pottery Barn catalog, even early on a Saturday morning.

I know ladies who make amazing floral arrangements, whereas I feel like I’m doing a good job if I have a few tulips in a vase.

However, since I’ve been writing my blog, I have gotten a number of comments on how my table looks, and since I have a busy day and don’t have the mental energy to write about hefty adoption issues, I offer my simple tips on setting a pretty table.

People often think my table looks nice because there is a tablecloth on it. Truth be told, the finish on my table is bad, so I keep a cloth on it because it looks better. My table is ten feet long and tablecloths can be expensive, so I often look for them on sale at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Ross, or Target.

I have three dark-colored ones that stay nice for a few days, depending upon the menu. I shake the cloth off after dinner and, if it still looks good, it goes back on the table. If not, I flip it over and use the other side. I also put plastic placemats at Eby and Little Man’s places, which helps stretch out the number of times a tablecloth can be used.

Dishes make a big difference.

About nine years ago I realized that very few of the “everyday dishes” from my wedding were still intact. I decided to choose new dishes that would be tough enough to survive my children (six at that time) and could be easily replaced as needed. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune.

Fiestaware fit the bill since it doesn’t break easily, comes in lots of colors, and goes on sale regularly, making it downright reasonable.

The first year I asked for all white Fiestaware and got them for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day. Once I had twelve white place settings, I started gathering different colors. Now I have enough dishes that I can feed a big gathering at one time.

Sometimes we set the table all in white, but in the fall and winter we add cobalt, dark red, dark green. In the spring I break out the light yellow, light green, turquoise, poppy, and other fresh colors. Most of the time we mix it up with kids picking out favorite plates as they set the table.

I also have “fancy” glasses that we use on Sunday and for other special meals. The defining quality of a “fancy glass” is that it must have a stem; at least according to my children.

I bought iced tea glasses, which have a short stem, for barely more than $2.00 each and they add something special to the table. I also have inexpensive wine glasses that come in handy for smaller hands.

The other key to my dinner table is that we nearly always have candles. My mother always has candles on her table when she serves dinner – always. They add a touch of beauty to even the simplest meal.

My favorite candlesticks are tall, and with a taper candle, they look elegant (these are similar in height). Their height makes them look a little more special than shorter candlesticks.

I don’t live anywhere near an IKEA, but my sister lives near one in Seattle and she buys candles for me at a great price. All in all, candles make me happy.

In the spring and summer we cut flowers from our yard to make a simple centerpiece. When the lilacs bloom we fill the cut-glass bowl, which once belonged to Russ’ grandmother, with blossoms. They are too fragrant to have on the table while we eat, but they look pretty the rest of the day.

Sometimes I encourage the younger children to gather dried leaves, pine cones, or other interesting things to arrange in a basket, but honestly, I’m not very good at centerpieces. I did, however, once make a really great one using our old Fisher Price farm animals, but that was about twenty years ago.

If I can set a nice table, anybody can do it, and it doesn’t take lots of money or time, which is a very good thing.

I need to get back to packing! We have two days of various medical appointments at Children’s. We’ll meet our friends, Andrea and Kevin (and children), for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant Wednesday night.

Beza has even promised she will speak Amharic to the waitress and help order our food. She has been very hesitant to speak Amharic since she has been home. I also plan to see my parents and sisters, which will be great.

I’ll be back!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. blessedmomto7
    February 17, 2009

    TOTALLY digging the candle idea-I will wait til mine are a bit older though! Have a safe trip.

  2. Lori
    February 17, 2009

    Hi Lisa,
    Hope you have a great trip. We got back late last night from a quick visit up to see Terri. She seems to be doing well.
    Drive safely!

  3. Laurel
    February 17, 2009

    We, too, always have table cloths (different ones for each season) on the table, and candles in the centerpiece. Love it!

    I’m going to be in the Big City tomorrow … taking the kids to the zoo, which isn’t far from Children’s. Oh my … I’d LOVE to meet you. So, here’s my cell number (360-303-4986), if you think of a way to say a quick “hello”. If not, I completely understand.

    mama of 13

  4. Shonni
    February 18, 2009

    Thank you for sharing some great ideas…especially the table clothes…this would save me some work for sure!
    Have a great week.

  5. James
    February 18, 2009

    Hey its James, I decided to Google your blog and I managed to Find it. I think what you guys are doing is awesome and Keep up the good work Rusty. I would love to hear back from you and if your interested you and I could make something for the REST of the Q family, like a blog where all of our family members have an account and can get on and write story’s.

    With Love your cousin

    James R. Q

  6. Betina
    February 23, 2009

    post photos of various table settings! I never even think about maknig my table look nice, though your v-day one is amazing… maybe I should try.


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