Saturday, June 12, 2010

Summer Entertaining

Long evenings, abundant fresh produce, and blooming gardens cast a spell for magical, summer gatherings.  The best dinners are always at home. Beautiful settings, invite guests to linger over food and conversation. Friends and family feel cherished with sparkling  china and silverware with lovingly arranged fresh flowers. The table can be set a couple of days ahead, leaving time for cooking and shopping. Providing ambience and good company is the primary intent for memorable get-togethers. If you aren't comfortable in the kitchen, be responsible for one or two dishes you do well, and ask your friends to bring their specialties.

Alas,  Mottahedeh has discontinued my adored tulip vases. Scattering low bouquets through out the table spices the setting, without impeding interaction.  Charles Masson, my flower guru, says in The Flowers of La Grenouille: "A bouquet of flowers is an entity; its container plays a decisive role. " Honestly, small vases are easier to arrange. 

An antique staffordshire sugar bowl makes a perfect low vase. Benji showed me how to use crisscrossed scotch tape, creating sections that support the stems. I selected flowers with an "evenness of value" using a range of orange through peach, with pink and golden hues, complimenting my interior palette. 

My oldest and dearest friend's mother was a blue ribbon winner at Garden Club of America competitions--a seriously tough crowd! Her great dictum for successful floral design was: "No tortured flowers!" I have embraced this adage, believing that arrangements should be organic and natural.  Cottage garden blooms-- roses, stock, snap dragons and ranunculus are better choices than the offensive florist factory cliche of daisies, chrysanthemums and carnations. 


Cold summer soups are a favorite of ours, so when I discovered these Italian covered bowls in the shapes of fruits and vegetables, a collection was born. Large majolica chargers are complemented by antique leaf form dishes for bread and butter. The fruit and vegetable motif is echoed on the unusual black background Italian plates, displayed in the cupboard.  The motif replays on the table with an assortment of ceramics, a few by Mary Kirk Kelly (a favorite artist of mine). Etched glasses add dimension and informality to the table. If you have an obsession, don't worry about your house "flowing.  It doesn't even need a plan--it happens. 

For minimalist table dressers, this clean setting feels more formal, designating a special occasion. We have become great fans of Paperless Post. Click this link to see our blog launch invite: (  Nudge over Mrs. John L. Strong, this elegant, virtual custom stationery website, is an event planners dream. Traditional, contemporary, location or holiday themed templates are available, with a variety of fonts for your individual message. Guests receive an e-mail with their names in calligraphy on an envelope, evoking Crane's. When you click, your unique invitation rises up to greet your friend. The tracking application indicates whether your note has been opened, commented upon or R.S.V.P'd and will automatically resend after a few days. The service is less expensive and more reliable than the U.S. Mail, conserving paper and energy. It is a perfect and special way to announce a little dinner party or charitable event. My mother might not agree, but I am delighted with it. 

My favorite thing about summer? Bring the inside out, and the outside in. If the weather is reliable I always open up an old mahogany drop leaf table on the terrace, seating eight--knee to knee. We carry out the breakfast room chairs, and include more substantial seating for the big guys.  When rain threatens our happy evening, we eat in the dining room with the doors open, savoring the ozone. In addition to the flowers, I'll carry in a few container plants, being sure to place glazed saucers beneath. 

My house is your house! Set up the bar with beverage selections and ingredients so your guests can take care of themselves. Entertaining at home is about making your friends at home. Here is a list of ingredients for my favorite parties:
  • Mixing generations encourages children to eat different foods and to interact socially. Meals are all about conversation. Remember the elderly, they love to get out and seem to have more energy and better stories than the rest of us. 
  • Combine different social groups. People love to expand their horizons--the usual suspects get old.  
  • If you hate to cook, get everybody to pitch in. Hot dogs and hamburgers are delicious. Popcorn is a worthy appetizer.
  • Do not be a lunatic about clearing and cleaning--it harries the crowd. I assign different people (especially the children) to clear the courses. 
  • Entertaining is not a performance, it is interaction, love and friendship--it is a demonstration of affection.
  • For some great menu ideas go to:  My neighbor Margaret is an accomplished chef and photographer. Also, my new blog friend Rebecca has a wonderful repertoire, traveling extensively throughout the world. I love her new post on the spice market in Istanbul!


  1. great post and fun tips thanks for the shout out


  2. What a visual delight! Lovely post. See you next time.

    Stay sweet. ♥ tlb

  3. Fantastic post! Love to hear others' thoughts on entertaining.

    Thanks so much for dropping by La Lamp Shade!


    If the Lamp Shade Fits

  4. Really like this website, this really helps and very useful.
    flower china
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  5. Gorgeous table setting! I am so in love with your Italian covered bowls. Would you mind letting me know where you found them? They look so perfect with your Mary Kirk Kelly pieces that now I want to mix them with mine too:)Hope they are still being made. Thanks!


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