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Picture of Downton Abbey Dinner - A Farewell Party

I was the little girl who would run down the hallway in a long petticoat to hear the rustle, as much as I liked to run and climb trees, I was thrilled to put on a fancy dress. I was raised on PBS series like Mystery & Masterpiece along with classic films like Laura, still my favorite movie to this day. I was raised with manners and a knowledge of etiquette most people have forgotten or snigger at these days. With all that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I am a devotee of Downton Abbey.

At first I watched alone, curled up on my couch, wine in hand. Later, my friend and fellow fan of the show, Dave (Batman from my Batgirl Instructable), started joining for Downton viewing night. I am always a bit of a hostess, people cannot come over to visit without me jumping into the kitchen to offer a beverage or whip up some food. It’s just my nature. With my friend Dave coming over on Sunday evenings to watch Downton it only seemed right to have him come over a bit earlier and have dinner. That was how Downton Dinners began.

I am not a chef; I am a fair cook with aspirations of being a better cook. (There are those who would interject here with viewpoints that estimate my abilities much higher than fair. I am my own worst critic, take that for what you will.) I began cooking when I was about 10, latchkey kid and all, I wanted to try to help my mom by making dinners. The first thing I ever made on my own was roasted chicken breast and I forgot to remove the cling wrap when I put it in the oven. Thus we had pizza that night. I don’t think I ever got all the melted plastic off the side of that casserole dish. Although my first foray into cooking was a spectacular failure, it did not deter me from trying again and succeeding. Trial and error was my cooking school. My great grandmother was an amazing cook and baker (she even supplied pies to a restaurant in their home town of Hamilton, Ohio) as well as an incredible seamstress. Somehow those amazing abilities were not handed down and I think that is a terrible loss.(but I digress)

Downton Dinners began simply, a meal among friends, casual and easy. But, as is always my way, simple and easy became boring. I began looking for a challenge, finding new recipes and new ingredients to use; new techniques to try (I do not say master; my knife skills are still pathetic despite having actual chefs show me the proper way to do it). Much as I do with my costuming, when cooking these dinners I tend to stress myself out a bit and curse a lot, but I still derive satisfaction and joy from the final product. I enjoy the happy faces or, in Dave’s case, the wide-eyed surprise look followed by an exclamation of joy over the meal.

With Downton Abbey drawing to a close I thought the only proper thing to do would be to have a farewell dinner party.

Step 1: "All life is a series of problems, which we must try and solve"

After 6 seasons and countless dinners, I knew the farewell dinner had to be an all-out feast, not just the food but the atmosphere too. I began by taking inventory of what I already had.

China: I have two entertaining sets.

  1. A service for 4 with a double ring rim in gold, a gift from my mother the Christmas after we moved into our first place.
  2. A service for 12 with a single ring rim in gold, thanks to a clearance sale some years back.
  3. I also had a few serving platters/bowls in plain white or that matched the gold rimmed sets.

Glassware:

  1. Thanks to our wedding registry, I have a set of 12 water glasses
  2. Basic wine glasses; I have 3 sets (4-6 each), they vary in size, some are vintage from my grandparents and the others are just whatever I found on sale.
  3. Champagne glasses, again thanks to our wedding, I still have about 30 basic champagne flutes from Ikea (it was cheaper than renting at the time and they have come in handy)

Silverware:

I have one set of nice silverware; it is a simple matte silver, not the usual fancy filigree work one would think of for a Downton theme party. But it is what I have so it would have to do. Later, the hubby told me we had a fancy gold set somewhere in the garage but we could not locate it. (Blast!)

Table décor:

  1. Still wrapped up in paper and in that particular blue box with the white ribbon, were a set of crystal candle sticks we received as a wedding present. These were absolutely coming out for this party. (Finally!)
  2. In addition, I had another set of smaller, art deco style crystal candle sticks that I also pulled out to use.
  3. A silver candelabra, also a wedding present, and in need of a good cleaning.
  4. 12 blown glass bud vases with arms for holding placecards. These were part of a holiday table setting from years ago and have been in my storage area ever since.

Linens:

Again, I turned to a wedding present . . . uh oh, those lovely white “hotel linens” were for the old dinner table dimensions (smaller and square). As lovely as they were the linens I had were not going to work for our newer drop leaf table. Okay, first thing on my shopping list then was to be table linens.

I went and measured my table (with the leaf in it) and added allowances for how much I wished to fall over the sides of the table. Our dining nook, seriously it’s a nook it is so small, doesn’t allow for much movement. I have to angle the table to jut into the living room space when the leaf is in so we can get everyone to sit around it. With that in mind, I chose to keep the drape of the table cloth high so there wouldn’t be a danger of sitting on and/or pulling it too much. *

*This is not at all in keeping with appropriate table etiquette but, in this instance, my finishing school personality was trumped by my practicality. Traditionally, a table cloth should hang ¾ of way to the floor.

I sourced vintage linens online (say it with me now, Yay for Ebay!) and lucked into a vintage tablecloth, in white, with a chrysanthemum border. I also got a lot of vintage napkins of varying designs, white on white like the table cloth, and I was able to mix and match making a very nice table set up. I also scored Downton Abbey cocktail napkins; they were white on white too and had the letter only DA logo I like so much on them.

With linens purchased, on a whim I did a quick search on ebay & etsy for vintage coupe champagne glasses, these are the wider bowl style glasses rather than flutes we all know so well. Did I need them? No, did I want them, yes, but only if I could find them at a good price. Ebay once again came through and I picked up a set of 6 opalescent champagne coupe glasses from the 1930’s for $20. Woo hoo! Now I had to come up with cocktails to fill the glasses.

tercero3 years ago

Very nice.

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