April 24, 2012

Lesson 4: The Importance of Table Linens

There is a running joke among my friends and their husbands concerning the amount of decorative pillows we wives put on our beds. I’m not trying to play into stereotypes, but my personal experience has shown that typically the wife wants more and more pillows, because they are pretty, and the husband is confused by the amount of money (and space) spent on something so useless.

I think I remember a Modern Family episode where Gloria and Jay have a similar argument.

I have figured out the culprit. It’s magazines. We girls get the Pottery Barn, Ballard Design, and West Elm catalogs monthly, and they serve as a constant reminder that our homes do not look the way we want them to. In these magazines, the extra bed pillows (and multiple layers of bedding) don’t look frivolous, they look comfortable and inviting. They portray a place that makes you want to jump in and snuggle up. It is only natural that we hospitable girls desire the same feeling in our homes. It’s not the pillows we want, it’s the carefree, yet calculated vibe that we desire. We want people to want to be in our homes. At this stage in the game, the pillows seem like the fastest way to accomplish this.

I was recently reading an article on a woman, who owns a small restaurant with her husband. It’s modeled after a tiny European one, with only four tables and a bar that seats three. All the food is homemade, and it honestly sounds like a wonderful place to pass the evening.

The woman irritated me a bit though. She raved about how she and her husband had lived in Italy ONE year at the beginning of their marriage and how it had changed everything for them. It was so cliché. Oh, I spent some time in Europe, and I am now totally cultured and amazing.

Forgive me for patronizing.

That being said, she made one suggestion that I’ve taken to heart. Because she and her husband both work in the restaurant, they make it a point to eat lunch together every day. They usually sit outside (reminiscent of their Italy days), and she sets the table with a table cloth, silver, wine,  and some sort of flower arrangement. They take their time eating and often have multiple courses. It sounds awesome.

It also sounds unattainable.

Who has time to carefully clip flowers, arrange a perfectly set table, and clean up the whole mess when the meal is finished, with a 2 1/2 year old running around who will probably pull the thing off anyway and will definitely spill something? Who, indeed?

Yet, at this stage in life, Mark and I are setting patterns for how our household is going to be run. Are we going to be a family that haphazardly throws together a meal every night, rushing to eat it, rushing to clean it up, and rushing to get on with the next thing? Or, are we going to make it a point to enjoy this time together as a habit, something that we consistently do?

All of this is connected. The throw pillows on the bed welcoming one in, the nicely set dinner table beckoning the family to spend time together, it is about creating a quality of life.

How can we achieve this in our own homes?

One place to start is at the dinner table! After Christmas and Easter this year, I purchased beautiful, quality tablecloths, totally marked down, to serve as the base for celebrating these seasons when they come around next year. I’ve also been slowly building up my collection of cloth napkins. How silly it sounds, but I believe they really make a table feel more special. A friend of mine exclusively uses cloth napkins and runs a load of them once a week. She claims it’s to help the environment, but we both know it’s because she thinks they’re pretty! I am currently on the search for a durable, but pretty white cotton table cloth that I’ll be able to use for all sorts of occasions. We also make it a point to use our expensive, wedding wine glasses as often as possible.

Things are things.

If the table cloth gets stained, it's a reminder of my daughter's childhood (though I'd prefer it if we could get the stain out), and if the glasses break, ah, I'd probably cry, but at least we use them!

It is difficult to make the transition from going out to the newest (or oldest) restaurant with a host of friends, enjoying a well-planned atmosphere and delicious, creative meals to staying at home eating a meal you’ve created with the same people you hang out with everyday, your family. This is where these ideas can make the transition not just more bearable, but fun. Consider a sliced lemon in a glass pitcher of water … so fast, so easy and it actually makes the water more fun!

Thus, girls… keep up the good work! I’m not saying give in to consumerism and buy every single thing you see that will make your house nicer. I’m saying, continue to think about the quality of life for your family. Consider the feeling guests receive when they enter your house. Make changes and keep things fresh.

One final piece of advice: keep the tags on the pillows until you’ve decided they actually accomplish their desired intention, creating an awesome atmosphere. Occasionally, the boys are right and they’re just excessive.

Lesson Learned: A tablecloth can actually make your home feel like the place to be and dinner with your family the event to attend.


  1. we use cloth napkins, and i love it. we do it to save money, but guests always remark about them, so they definitely make things special, too.
    all our nice glass and crystal shattered last week, so use it while you have it ;)

    1. Oh Amanda, I read that post, which was both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time! Man, what a week!

  2. Yeah! Thanks for fixing the comment box! :)

  3. i love your blog very hilarious, inspiring,and insightful to challenges i face as well! I also am trying to figure this "grown up" lifestyle out and it took having a baby for my husband and i to get a real "dining" table with four matching chairs to sit at! totally love having the ritual of dinner meals or any meal being a family gathering point to enjoy, have not embraced the linens yet, although we were gifted a great set for our wedding as i fear stains on the fancy white stuff but i do embrace the flowers at the table! also love the lemon in the glass, i challenge you to grow mint(from your garden blog!) and add that to your lemon water as well! -ps we went to junior high together in case you dont recognize the name, and so you don't think i am a weirdo blog stalker that rambled too much on your blog!

    1. Rose, hi! I thought it was you when the name popped up, you are the only Rose I know to this day! Thank you for rambling on the blog and I think I definitely need to plant some mint. You are the second person to suggest it ... but the first to suggest it in water. Yum!!!! Also, white stuff is actually kind of great, b/c there is always bleach for stains. Congratulations on the family!!!


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