A Winter Dinner Party January 18, 2016 I love sitting down to dinners around the table with family & friends. There’s nothing that makes people feel celebrated quite like a home-cooked meal. As much as I love hosting & gathering around the table, it doesn’t get to happen as often as I’d like. The hustle and bustle of life keeps us all constantly moving, and I know I’m not the only one who sees the importance in taking the time to share a meal, so I want to get back to the basics- sit down and slow down. This is the heart behind my new table series: Gatherings. I want you to share in my excitement when planning your next party, instead of feeling intimidated by the pressure. From the invitations down to the importance of a set table, I’m going to touch on everything to help you let the nerves fall to the wayside, while also aiming to inspire your table. The most fun is had when your guests feel celebrated and comfortable, so let’s start from the beginning. Your first challenge: make your guest list and set a date, because we’re doing this. Together. Over the past couple of years, my greenhouse has been one of my main sources of inspiration. I love that I have a sweet place to relax and spend time doing one of my favorite things: gardening. With all of the fresh herbs I have growing out there, I thought it would be fun to bring the garden in for a little herb-inspired ‘garden to table’ dinner party. To compliment all of the natural elements from the greenhouse, I decided to incorporate soft pinks into the party’s color scheme. A friend of mine designed this blush watercolor invitation to match the feel of the party. You can use this invitation for your gathering by saving and printing it here. To make the invitation original, and to incorporate another little piece of my garden, I simply glued a sprig of thyme to each one. This is my favorite detail of these invites, because I know it’ll be delivered with a sweet smell and a little extra in presentation. I decided to make the place cards functional by using the white paper bread sacks from the craft store, and regular watercolor paint to brush my guests’ names on them. To keep a good mix of natural elements and textures for this setting, I incorporated sprigs of herbs underneath the bread and placed them on these wooden cutting boards from my store, Magnolia Market, for the place setting chargers. The baguettes (Store bought! Don’t feel like you have to do everything homemade!) and various dipping sauces served as the perfect appetizer to get the party started. The dipping sauces for the appetizers included whipped butter with coarse sea salt and ground thyme, marinated feta, and hummus. These tasty additions were store bought and I simply placed them in smaller white ramekins. To add height, I used antique brass candle holders with white candles, and added seeded eucalyptus to my chandelier. Tip: anything hanging from the ceiling – like the greenery on the chandelier – adds an extra layer to the table, and gives the “wow factor” every time. This is way easier than it looks – just weave any stem of greenery through your light fixture. Use some wire, if needed, to secure it. I also chose readily available winter ingredients for my recipes and florals, such as lemons, herbs, hearty filler greenery, garden roses, hypericum berries and ranunculus. My vision for the table was to create a simple “runner” of florals down the center that looked natural and offered a lot of texture. This creates an elaborate centerpiece with little effort – simply lay out greenery, such as seeded eucalyptus, and add in small bunches of ranunculus and garden roses for pops of color. The key to this is to make sure the table doesn’t get so cluttered that you lose the place settings and other key details. The recipes I used for this gathering were options that I knew were going to be simple and dependable. Tip: when hosting, use recipes you know are fool-proof. For this winter gathering I chose a lemon thyme chicken with herbed garlic potatoes. I always think it’s fun to send my guests home with a small, hassle free take-away gift. When choosing your ‘party favor’, try to tie in your party theme if you have one. For my party, that would be herbs, so I chose apple rosemary jam. I bought these jam jars from the craft store, and the apple jam from my local market. It’s okay to cheat it a little, so use the storebought stuff. It’s just as good and saves you hours of prep. I added one small sprig of rosemary to the bottom of the jar, scooped the jam over it, and tied on this printable that matched my invitations on the outside. When entertaining I always focus my time and energy on celebrating my friends, so that I don’t even have time to feel pressure. Remember that hosting a dinner party isn’t about perfect centerpieces, it’s about enjoying and gathering with the ones you love. I hope you enjoyed my very first post of my table series. Be sure to tag me on Instagram if you try any of these ideas out at your own gathering.