It all began with an email that read:
Sept. 9, 2010
Dearest Cookie (a.k.a. Frit),
Did you realize that the last day of Summer is this month? Well, it is. The 21st of September to be exact. And so I propose … a dress up dinner party hostessed by toi et moi (that’s “you and me” in French. I learned that the other day when I was watching my French subtitled movie from Netflix On Demand). A “Farewell to Summer” dinner party if you will.
What do you think? Invite 4 ladies, dresses required, and fancy to boot?
The reply to which, was:
Dear Cookie. Stop.
Though I am saddened to hear that summer will be departing, I think a dinner party in honor of the warm days is a splendid idea.
Sincerely. Cordially. And affectionately.
And so. A guest list was finalized, a plan was outlined, and invitations were mailed.
(Sidenote: I illustrated the banner on our invitations which you are free to download here if you would like use it in the future. Simply paste into a Word document or other editing program, type in your party info, and print.
*Remember–it’s for personal use only. Please do not sell my illustration or anything made from my illustration. Stealing makes me sad.
When the twenty-first arrived, I was beside myself with anticipation and began the day busily making final preparations … ironing the linens, polishing the silverware, gathering supplies for the centerpieces, preparing an assortment of foods. But when I went to hang the bistro lights on the patio outside, I found the bees were out in full force and I knew there was no way we would enjoy a relaxing dinner with all the buzzing in our backyard. I could foresee the swatting and cowering with a final mad dash back into the house, plates in hand, my lovely table abandoned.
And that, my friends, is why you must always have a Plan B when hostessing a party.
I moved the party inside and while the decor wasn’t what I’d originally envisioned (that is, buntings and lights hanging from the trellis to match the invitations I’d drawn) it still turned out perfectly.
I used a white tablecloth as my base, with two pinky-peach runners laid across the width of the table on each end. On top of that I placed a hand-laced square overlay that I found while on a holiday in Scotland. I also arranged an assortment of glassware around the table and placed tea-lights in each.
For the centerpieces, I bought three bouquets from the grocer: 1 dozen peach roses, 6 stems of pink snap dragons, and a handful of yellow wildflower fillers, to divide and arrange between three vases filled with water and clear glass stones. I then wrapped each vase (2 of which were mason jars) with hemp twine and tied with a loose bow.
As for place settings, I used large white dinner plates, chartreuse linen napkins with silverware to the sides (knife and spoon on the right, fork on the left … in case you wondered), beveled glass bowls for the dinner rolls, stemmed glasses for iced water and mason jars for lemonade. It was summer casual meets simple elegance.
Place cards were printed with each person’s name and various quotes about summer including …
The summer night is like a perfection of thought. ~Wallace Stevens
In summer, the song sings itself. ~William Carlos Williams
A life without love is like a year without summer. ~Swedish Proverb
Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~Henry James
Sun is shining. Weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet. ~Bob Marley
On the menu we had:
Grilled Marinated Chicken
(halved chicken breasts soaked in a mixture of olive oil, sparkling cider, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and basil for 3 hours and then grilled up on the George Foreman)
Warm Garlic String Beans
(blanch 1-pound of string beans for 2 minutes. Return to a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 4 cloves of garlic minced, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook about 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Toss in 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley and 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest. Serve warm.)
Lemon Rice Pilaf
(prepare rice and risotto as instructed on packaging but substitute 1/4 of the water with fresh lemon juice, add herbs as desired. Sprinkle with chopped parsley when served.)
(the rolls are worth the drive from anywhere, but the Butternut Squash Ravioli will put you over the edge.)
It was a light, fresh meal–a perfect etude of summer.
In attendance we had the lovely and talented Brooke, a long-time friend who immediately came to mind when we began planning. (And just so you know, you should totally download her new CD
. Tracks 3 and 6 are my faves.)
As well as the beautiful Misses Kelly and LuAnn, who drove all the way from American Fork (an hour away) to have dinner with us. Kelly was a blog reader I had never met–I drew her name from those who emailed interest in coming when I extended the invitation
to all of you readers. She brought her mother LuAnn as her guest and as soon as they walked in, they felt like old friends. They own Lu Kels
, a darling online boutique (speaking of…I’ve got my eye on the red 3-button cadet cap
. Isn’t it fantastic?!) and were so fun to meet. It was honestly a perfect group of people.
Our dear neighbor Paula was also on the guest list but had to cancel last minute due to her twin babes being sick. This was sad news for many reasons. First, Paula is down-right hilarious and fun to have around. Second, we would have loved to give her a night away from the kids. And third, Paula is an amazing violinist and we’d asked her to bring her violin to favor us with a mini concert. But no matter, we took her a plate of deliciousness later that night and kept her at the top of the list for the next dinner party.
And as for the concert, we still had plenty of entertainment. Brooke and I each sang a couple of songs and that in and of itself made my whole night. Singing around the piano with friends is balm to the soul.
I honestly had the most wonderful evening–meeting new friends, sitting with old ones, sharing food and laughter. That’s the reason I love to hostess. Nourishment in every way. I hoped our guests knew how grateful we were that they came. And if they didn’t, we gave them a jar of homemade peach jam to remind them.
(Thank you so much Brookie, Kelly, and LuAnn. You’re all so wonderful and Frit and I had the most fantastic time with you. xoxo)
And now? I’m just scheming for the next party. Can’t wait!