A Mid-Summer Night's Dinner


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...

sit back...

enjoy your family, friends, food...

and the moment!


Lori W. :

Jill, we have a lot of things in common - I too love to entertain and do some of the same things you do before everyone is set to arrive. I wish we lived closer as I know I would love to be invited to sit out on your patio and drink a glass of wine with you.

The Pink Chick :

Great entertaining tips! Your deck looks beautiful!

Miss Jody :

What a wonderful post. I'll remember all this.:)
Beautiful deck, ideas, and pictures.
THank you!

Tracey :

love this and all your tips! I remember when your hubby was building that deck! It looks great and I love the furniture!

I'm with you on the cloth napkins, and I am a sucker for all kinds of napkin rings, linen, and dishes too!

5th Belle Avenue :

LOVE your deck! And mmmm, I love insalata caprese.

Unknown :

Thanks for the entertaining tips! If I had a deck I would name it too...LOL...my car is named Lucille...I'm not crazy, I just like to name things...

And I like your blog!

Hope you have an awesome day!☺

Melissa :

Looks wonderful...wishing I could've been there. Thanks for the tips :-)

Jillian's Bella Rosa Antiques :

Ahhhhhhhhhh .... sounds wonderful. When are we all coming over? :0)

Thanks for the tips. I actually do some of those...except for the getting dressed so early. I'm usually dashing off to get dressed at the last minute.

You deck looks so inviting.

Pink in a sea of blue :

I always set my table a day ahead, too (if inside)...for the same reason! I also have a ton of napkin rings and linens. My favorite napkin rings are simple mini grapevine wreaths I found- not even meant to be napkin rings. Your deck looks so inviting.

Tina Leigh :

I love the tomatoes & feta!

Tricia :

I have been behind on reading and blogging and it was so fun to read your summer blog tonight! I wouuld love to have a nice glass of wine on your deck! Hope your having a great summer!!

Marilyn *Pink Martinis and Pearls* :

I try so hard to do your #1 and #2. I leave both to the last minute because I am always preparing something that takes too long or decorating. I wish table setting was more my thing but because I don't particularly enjoy it and would rather be hanging lights or stars from the ceiling, I always put it off almost until my guests are here and I am embarrassed to say, sometimes not until they are here to help. I know better but it helps to see it in print of how it will help my nerves. :)

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