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Best Dressed

Tables with all the trimmings

Jennifer Oakley
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Eve Lapin, Lauren Blachman

Eve Lapin (left) and Lauren Blachman (right) tag team a large, family Thanksgiving celebration. Eve hosts, and Lauren decorates. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Dressing the Thanksgiving table can be as important as making turkey and dressing. To get our place settings ready to take center stage this month, we turned to our Buzz neighbors.

Thanksgiving for 50? No problem, for Eve and Bobby Lapin, who host their extended family. “One of Bobby’s aunts and uncles had been hosting Thanksgiving at their house for years, and as they got older, they decided to pass the torch to the next generation – plus, it had been growing,” says Eve Lapin, a Southside Place resident. “When Bobby and I took it over, we did not have room for everyone at our house, so we decided to have it at the Southside Place Clubhouse.”

That was more than a dozen years ago and the couple – she is a community volunteer, he is a partner at Lapin & Landa law firm – started hosting the event. Seeing how much work went into the day, Lauren Blachman, Bobby’s first cousin, offered to take over decorations. “Lauren really took it up a notch!” says Lapin, who keeps kosher and, with help from Bobby and some guests, cooks the feast for 50. “Lauren is really good at it, and each year the tables look better and better.”

Lauren Blachman says she enjoys getting to decorate for the holiday. “I like having an artistic outlet, and decorating for family events lets me share that passion with people I love,” says Blachman, an executive coach and leadership trainer with Kaufman Blachman Consulting. “I look on Pinterest and get different ideas to include each year.”

Blachman says Thanksgiving decor does not have to be pricey. She keeps cornucopias, candlesticks, vases and bowls on hand to start the decorations. “I use cranberries floating in water or layers of different colors of beans in glass containers,” says Blachman, who lives in Bellaire. “These are easy to execute and end up looking nice.”

She saves all the decorations. “I am very into recycling,” says Blachman, whose husband Jeremy is COO at The Allied Group. “I have a big bin of Thanksgiving-themed pieces that I store and rotate. I try to spruce it up with a few new things every year.”

Both Lapin and Blachman say that the highlight of the holiday is being thankful for family.

“One of the great things about Thanksgiving is that the kids who are away in college come home, and we all get to be together,” says Lapin. “We also always remember those whom we miss, who have passed away, especially our son Oliver, and others who can’t make it home for the holiday. We are grateful for everyone who is here.”

The Blachmans have two children, Abby, 21, and Ben, 17. The Lapins’ sons are Oliver, who passed away at age 12 from ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy); Elliott, 23, and Alec, 22.

Dana Strake

Dana Strake stands next to her “kids’ table,” set for Thanksgiving, in her Memorial home. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Thanksgiving at Dana Strake’s Memorial home is all about family, food, blessings  – and tables. Dana and husband Trey, vice chairman of Cushman and Wakefield of Texas, host the day with their own four adult children (daughter Christine Chesney, son-in-law Logan Chesney and sons G. “George IV” and Brett). That’s where the table part comes in – Strake sets a “grown up” table in the dining room and a “kids” table in the kitchen for all of the adult kids.

“I love Thanksgiving, and I love to decorate and set tables,” says Strake, a woman’s ministry facilitator. “I tend to keep the same turkeys and decorations that I have had forever – I think the kids like seeing things they had when they were young.”

Keeping it all in the family is important to Strake, who sets the tables with treasured heirlooms that have been passed down. “Our silver is a cherished collection. Each piece is monogrammed with an ‘S,’ which is an inheritance from Mr. and Mrs. George Strake, my husband’s grandparents, whom I never knew but I am so grateful to because I love it. I love to make certain dishes just so I can use the silver!” The dining-room tablecloth is from her great aunt, and water glasses are gifts from her mother-in-law, Annette Strake. The china is her mother Cecille Burr’s Minton Gold, and Strake uses her own Baccarat Capri. “The kids’ table is my Royal Crown Derby Carlton Blue, and they don’t get to use my good crystal,” says Strake, laughing.

Her tablescapes, she notes, are always evolving. “I like to use different things all the time, incorporating rustic things like deer horns with fine china, since my boys all love to hunt, and my daughter and I like the nice china and crystal,” she says. “I love using magnolia leaves, votives, fresh flowers and those mini pumpkins on the vine. I love pumpkins, especially white ones. I’m also working on needlepointing two big Indians – I’m part Chickasaw Indian – and I can’t wait to use them.”

Strake says her father cooks and carves the Thanksgiving turkey while she and daughter Christine cook and bake the rest of the meal. She says the food and the tables are a backdrop for the meaning of the day. “Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday, and I do love it, too. It is a thankfulness to God, who provides everything single thing we have: our next breath, our home, our family and our great country.”

Margaret Bravo, Mary Anne Burgher

Margaret Bravo (left) hosts an annual “Friendsgiving.” Here, she gives a party favor to neighbor Mary Anne Burgher. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Hot pink, green and gold at Thanksgiving? Absolutely, says Margaret Bravo, who uses her signature colors when dressing the table for her annual “Friendsgiving” at home in Tanglewood. It’s Thanksgiving with a colorful twist – just the right mix of melding a traditional holiday with a vibrant bent.

Bravo grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, and has lived in Houston for over eight years. She and husband Brian, a senior vice president with Jefferies Investment Bank, and 8-year-old son Asher, a student at River Oaks Baptist School, spend Thanksgiving with family in Rosemary Beach, Florida. But, Bravo says, something was missing. She wanted to celebrate the holiday with dear friends made in Houston. The solution is her annual Friendsgiving.

“Our friends have become family to us, and we get together to celebrate. I go all-out for the dinner, and I always have entertainment for the kids so the parents can enjoy themselves.” She loves planning the party with attention to detail, starting with a paper invitation and ending with a party gift.

She uses a mix of new with old. “I use my Waterford Crystal from when we got married and my great-grandmother’s silver, which is Gotham Buttercup with initials on it; each one is different,” says Bravo. She continues the color scheme with Herend’s Queen Victoria china and green Leontine napkins monogrammed in pink. “I love pink! I have a pink lacquered dining room. It’s cheerful and happy!” Place cards take the form of mini pumpkins, spray painted gold.

Bravo cooks the entire meal, and her printed menu is part of each place setting. Brian Bravo enjoys wine and pairs a specific wine with each course. The children have their own pumpkin-themed table set outdoors with a more kid-friendly menu. “I love Friendsgiving,” says Margaret Bravo, “and it makes me so happy.”

Elizabeth Parry

Elizabeth Koval Parry sets one of her Thanksgiving tables in the backyard to take advantage of Houston’s mild weather. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Thanksgiving is an important part of the love story between Elizabeth Koval Parry and husband Robert. When the couple were dating, back in 2012, they decided to celebrate the holiday together. “Neither of us had ever cooked Thanksgiving before,” recalls Parry. “We wrote out a timeline, and, for three days, we cooked together after work for several hours. It was very stressful with all the timing, but it was great because we worked very well together as a team.”

Fast forward to today. They are married, about to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary on Nov. 16, have a 28-month-old son Emerson and a new house in West U – and they still love to celebrate Thanksgiving. “We are thankful for our little family and carrying on traditions with our son,” says Parry, who owns Elizabeth Koval Designs and Parry Botanicals. Robert owns Trinity Physics Consulting. “When I set the table, it reminds me of family and traditions growing up.”

Mindful of having a child, Parry makes sure that, although it may be special, nothing is too precious at her table. Parry uses Elena Waterford crystal, a wedding gift from her parents, along with Lenox Montclair china and Reed & Barton’s Francis 1 silver. Emerson even has his own Francis 1 place setting, gifted from family members. Parry likes to take advantage of Houston’s mild weather and has table settings for both inside and outside.

Their Thanksgiving meal, which they still cook together, is a nod to those not with them. Parry serves cranberry sauce in her Great-Grandmother Hartman’s nesting hen and congealed lime salad in vintage molds that remind her of her Grandma Lucy.

She also incorporates new finds each holiday. “This year we have added six turkeys for each place setting. They are sparkly, beautiful turkeys with beautiful tail feathers. And, I got a Thanksgiving holiday book to fill with thoughts of gratitude. We are grateful for so many things, and Thanksgiving is about family and love.”

  • Friendsgiving meal

    Margaret Bravo serves bacon-wrapped stuffed pork tenderloin with butternut squash bread pudding and asparagus at her Friendsgiving meal. Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Baccarat Capri crystal

    Dana Strake uses her Baccarat Capri crystal against a backdrop of white linens and flowers. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • clear bottles

    Lauren Blachman gets creative with clear bottles and letters to spell out the reason for the season: “thanks.” (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Pumpkin mousse

    Pumpkin mousse with Snickerdoodle shortbread caps off Margaret Bravo’s feast. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • new turkeys and china and crystal

    Elizabeth Koval Parry likes to dress up her Thanksgiving table with a mix of new turkeys and china and crystal from family. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • miniature signs

    Lauren Blachman uses natural elements along with miniature signs to decorate for 50 people. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Friendsgiving meal
  • Baccarat Capri crystal
  • clear bottles
  • Pumpkin mousse
  • new turkeys and china and crystal
  • miniature signs

More photos

Friendsgiving meal

Margaret Bravo serves bacon-wrapped stuffed pork tenderloin with butternut squash bread pudding and asparagus at her Friendsgiving meal. Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Baccarat Capri crystal

Dana Strake uses her Baccarat Capri crystal against a backdrop of white linens and flowers. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

clear bottles

Lauren Blachman gets creative with clear bottles and letters to spell out the reason for the season: “thanks.” (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Pumpkin mousse

Pumpkin mousse with Snickerdoodle shortbread caps off Margaret Bravo’s feast. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

new turkeys and china and crystal

Elizabeth Koval Parry likes to dress up her Thanksgiving table with a mix of new turkeys and china and crystal from family. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

miniature signs

Lauren Blachman uses natural elements along with miniature signs to decorate for 50 people. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

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