My father-in-law is visiting us, so last night we invited cousins over for a family dinner on the deck.
Some people name their yachts or their race horses. Since we don't have either of those, we decided to name our deck.
When we plan dinner parties outside, my husband usually grills and I make a few simple sides.
This time I made baked beans and pasta salad using what I had on hand.... elbow macaroni, slivered carrots, fresh radishes, celery hearts, red and yellow bell pepper, black olives and dried cranberries.
One of my favorites is fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market drizzled with olive oil, a few dashes of sea salt, fresh basil from our spice pot and some feta cheese.
Over the years, I've accumulated quite a stash of table linens and decor. I have a chest in my keeping room with one deep drawer dedicated exclusively to cloth napkins so I always have some ready to pull out. I actually find pressing napkins relaxing and fun since they're small and don't have any of the nooks and crannies that can be so frustrating.
One thing I was missing, though, when it came time to set the table, was napkin rings. I know I have lots, but could not for the life of me find them. They are probably some place very logical, but they were not with the napkins, so go figure. So I grabbed some ribbon and used that instead.
My husband and I entertain a lot and I have five things I try to do every time so I am an unharried hostess when guests arrive. I know they seem simple and logical, but often times they are pushed to the last minute and can make or break a party:
1. I get myself dressed at least two hours before guests are set to arrive. Freshen up your lipstick or lipgloss when the first guest rings the doorbell and you'll be the hostess-with-the-mostess.
2. Set the table as far in advance as you can, even the night before. I often do it after the kids are in bed. I can be a little more creative without some little person clinging to my leg.
3. Limit side dishes to three. More than that is just not necessary. (Unless it's Thanksgiving, of course. Then 10 or 15 is good.)
4. Set out drinks and appetizers so your guests feel welcome right from the start. I've tried hundreds of appetizers it seems, and the most popular with our friends and family are: spinach dip and white corn chips, a tray of asiago and smoked cheddar cheese with dates and almonds, and hummus with crackers.
5. Always keep ingredients for a go-to dessert on hand (I love Ghiardelli Ultimate Fudge Brownie Mix) as well as frozen brown n' serve rolls of some sort. If you get in a pinch and need fillers, both of these are tasty and easy!
Then grab yourself a glass of wine...
enjoy your family, friends, food...
and the moment!