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Tablescaping and Party Planning from a Pro | feat. Jim Norton

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jim Norton of, The Norton Recipe and boy was it a delight! His vivacious personality and warm heart had us bonding over coffee with the snap of a finger. In this post, I will share more on what Jim does with Hallmark’s Home & Family show and insight into his fabulous celebrity dinner parties!

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ME: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got in to tablescaping and event planning.

Jim: Oh, that’s a loaded question! I was born and raise in Sonoma County in Northern California. At the age of 20, I moved to Nashville to chase my dream of becoming a big country music star… like everyone else in Nashville.  It was fun but I ultimately choose another path. I come from a really large family and they all like to party and have a good time. I grew up around a lot of food, a lot of cocktails, and a lot of laughter. So, It’s really no wonder that I’m doing what I am today.

About fifteen years ago I really started entertaining in a big way. Usually ten guests sitting around my dining table, multiple courses, and of course a beautiful tablescape. To date, I have probably hosted over 500 dinner parties.  It’s something I really love. The stories, the laughter, and the memories that you make around a dining table, it’s the best.

Over the course of the last two years that love and passion has turned into a business. I had my own cooking show on an ABC affiliate, I am a regular guest on Hallmark Channel’s Emmy nominated hit show Home & Family, I have a monthly cooking column in At Home Magazine, and I am currently gathering all my recipes to create my first cookbook!

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ME: Who is your inspiration?

Jim: I really don’t have a single person that is my inspiration, for me my inspiration is my guests! When guests come to my home I want them to feel special. I want them to know that I have put time, effort, and thought into them being in my home, to create a memory for them. That inspires not only my cooking and menu choices but my tablescape as well.

ME: Who has been your favorite celebrity party guest?

Jim: Now, that is a hard one. We have been so lucky to have so many celebrities in our home. Of course, most recent was Priscilla Presley. She is so sweet and kind but with a little sarcastic side which is funny. Another would be our good friend, Country Music Legend, TG Sheppard and his sweet wife singer/songwriter Kelly Lang. They are both two of the kindest people you could ever meet! Jane Seymour, Montel Williams, Brenda Lee, oh my gosh. The list goes on.

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ME: What is your favorite party theme to date?

Jim: My favorite dinner party theme to date has to be a birthday dinner I did for a really good friend of ours. She loves pink so of course the table was drenched in it. I used a soft white tablecloth with pink, white, and soft green hydrangeas. I also used my “treasure hunting method” and picked up various crystal pieces from around the house that became part of my tablescape. I even filled several silver mint julep cups with pink roses. And of course, candlelight… And lots of it.

ME: Tell me about your treasure hunting method!

Jim: Yes, my treasure hunting around the house? If I went out and purchased new items to decorate my dining table for every dinner party I have, I would be broke! I always want my table to have a little bit of a different feel for each party. So, what I do is go around my home looking for pieces that I think might make for an interesting table. For example, I have a pair of porcelain urns that are usually in my foyer. I have taken those, put them on my dining table, and created a tablescape around them. I have taken statues or little knickknacks out of the bookcases in our den that I think would look good on the dining table. There are so many beautiful things around  our homes that we generally don’t think of as going on the dining table, but for a tablescape they might be great. I say get creative and think outside the box.

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ME: What if I’m not a good cook?

Jim: I think a lot of people who don’t cook think they can’t have a dinner party and that’s not so. There are so many options now. So many towns have little shops that sell premade meals. And let’s be honest, Costco even has some premade things that are very tasty.  For those of you that don’t cook, I say focus on your dining table, make it look pretty and inviting, and your guests are going to have a good time.

ME: What are some easy ways to make a dinner party over the top but affordable?

Jim: There are so many things you can do to make your table memorable and over the top. It’s as simple as the napkins. For example, say you’re having a birthday dinner. Alter napkins to look like bows.  You can find tutorials on YouTube. I guarantee you your guests will sit down and notice. Having a meal with a couple of courses? Do a menu card. You can easily print them up on your home computer and leave one at each place setting. You will be surprised, most of your guests will ask you if they can take it home. You’ve created a memory.

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ME: I hear you do cakes?

Jim:  I do make cakes, however, only for family and friends. I really do enjoy it though. I just love the detail that has to go into making a really special cake. My favorite cake to date would be a Chanel themed cake I made for a good friend of ours. The bottom cake was made into a Chanel box. I covered it in black fondant and I used white fondant to replicate the ribbon. I even made the camellia flower and label out of fondant as well. To top it off I made a Chanel stiletto with pearl detail.  I must say I was very happy with that cake.

Want to meet Jim for yourself? He will be joining Priscilla Presley in the Elegant Southern Style weekend at Graceland! Lucky for you, I have 20% off tickets if you use my promo code: ALEX20. You can even start following Jim now on Instagram to keep up with him. Hope to see you there!

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