Life Happens

Life happens.

That’s the only reason I have for explaining our absence over the last couple of weeks.  With an uncharacteristically string of warm, summer-like days here in the Pacific Northwest, the place has just sort of come alive.  This happens every year when we get a break from the grey and rain, and my sister-in-law always describes it like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Glenda (the Good Witch) tells all of the Munchkins to come out of hiding.  The sunshine is like our magic wand that encourages us out of our winter hiding places into the daylight.  We blink, like moles do when they see sunlight.  And then we start to party.

The resulting atmosphere is everything that I want this blog to be about.  Impromptu gatherings.  Happy hours.  Dinner parties.  We had a friend show up one afternoon with a bottle of champagne and about 3 pounds of fresh shrimp, ready to peel and eat.  This came about from a text I sent him to say “Hi.”  We spent one evening celebrating a 50th birthday and another celebrating a 75th birthday.  One was fairly well planned and the other slightly spontaneous but both wonderfully convivial.  We’ve had friends to dinner several times.  We hosted a happy hour on our new boat.  And this was all just in the last two weeks.

As I write this, we’re cruising home on our boat.  What started as a quick trip (where we were going to meet several other boaters to celebrate that 75th birthday I mentioned) turned into a weeklong adventure with barely a plan and no checklist to speak of.  Quite a feat for a planner like me.  What I got in exchange for my spontaneity was day after day of adventure and discovery and friendship with the friends we followed throughout the San Juan Islands.  We provisioned as we went.  Without any plan, each night dinner consisted of what we had on hand and brought to the table to be shared.  In practice and in experience, it was an adventure that unfolded in front of me.

Easy Summer Meal

Playing Hooky

Each day (as I neglected all of my responsibilities back home, like this blog, the quickly spreading weeds in the yard and a mailbox full of mail) I pushed away the feelings of guilt and negligence and thought, “Life Happens.”  And, what a wonderful reward it can be when I just sit back and let it.

While this menu may be a little late (we had planned to post this before Memorial Day), it provides a good, easy summer meal.  Whatever your backyard looks like, I hope this encourages you to fire up the grill, invite some friends or neighbors over, and let the wonder of community unfold.  (We’ve found that a good cocktail, or three, helps things along if needed.)

This easy summer menu is a good example of how, if you have a few good and simple recipes at your disposal, you can be ready to entertain, or participate in a gathering, with very little notice.  This salad is new to my recipe file.  After a friend brought it to that 50th birthday party I mentioned, she graciously shared the recipe with me.  It’s a keeper.  You can make it ahead of time and just toss it right before serving.  The recipe was originally from Sunset Magazine, was slightly adjusted by my friend and then barely tweaked when I made it.

Summer Menu

Watermelon Martini

Bourbon-Marinated Flank Steak

Orzo and Vegetable Salad

Lemon Tart

Happy Entertaining!

Watermelon Martini

Summer Table Setting  Flank Steak

Orzo and Vegetable Salad

Lemon Tart

Mother’s Day Brunch

Here’s what is going down this week.  It’s Mother’s Day.  You volunteered to host the family for brunch.  You haven’t even bought a card, much less started to plan the brunch.  And, you’ve started to panic.

Don’t worry.  You’ve got this.

Mother’s Day Brunch Menu


French Toast

Bacon or sausage patties

Layered Fruit Salad

Shortbread Cookies

Here’s how to make it all happen.

Two days before:

  • Make a shopping list and do your grocery shopping (don’t forget that card!).  When you get home, leave the bread for the French toast sitting out.  Day old bread works best for the recipe.
  • Make the ice ring.
  • Make the topping for the layered fruit salad.
  • Chill the champagne.
  • Make the shortbread cookie dough.

The day before:

  • Roll out and bake the cookies.
  • Prepare and slice the fruit.  (If you’re using bananas, don’t slice them until you prepare the salad.)  Alternatively, give yourself a real break and buy the ready-to-go fruit at the grocery store.
  • Cut or buy the flowers you want to use on your table.  Arrange them in the vase.  Or, here’s another idea.  Just call a florist and have flowers delivered.  You can use them on your table and then give them to your mom.
  • Set the table.
  • Vacuum the pet hair off the furniture.
  • Prepare the French toast.  Cover and let it sit overnight in your refrigerator.

The day of:

  • Frost the cookies with the chocolate and refrigerate until the chocolate is set.
  • Assemble the fruit salad.
  • Cook the bacon/sausage and place in the oven to keep warm.
  • Cook the French toast.
  • Warm the syrup.

This will surely remind Mom why you’re her favorite.

Happy Mother’s Day, and Happy Entertaining!

Mother's Day Placesetting

Family Photo  Placesetting

Lilac Bouquet

French Toast

Layered Fruit Salad

Ice Ring Bottle Mold  Tea and Shortbread Cookie

Shortbread Cookies


Cinco de Mayo Party

One doesn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to know what Cinco de Mayo means.  Although, truthfully, I wonder how many people actually know what we’re celebrating on the 5th of May.  (Here’s your quick history lesson for the day.  Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.)

What I find interesting, though, is that Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico.  Americans, on the other hand, have embraced this holiday and, thanks to their good friend Jose Cuervo, occasionally wake up on Seis de Mayo with a bit of a hangover.

Cinco de Mayo Buffet

It’s safe to say that Jon and I are big fans of all things Mexican, including Cinco de Mayo.  (As a nod to our affection for it all, we named our cat Maggie Rita.  We thought Margarita was just a little too obvious and flagrant of a banner for a little animal to bear.)  But the food.  The decorations.  The tequila.  What’s not to like?  And, because so many of our friends are always game for a margarita and a fiesta, this is just one of those holidays that gives us a good reason to have a party.

Here’s what we served:

Cinco de Mayo Party Menu

Top Shelf Margaritas

Tangerine Margaritas

Homemade Guacamole and Chips

7 – Layer Dip

Jalapeño Popcorn

Beef Taquitos

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Margarita Cookies

Some of our party notables for any Cinco de Mayo host or hostess:

  • Everything was set up ahead of time on the buffet, which allowed us to relax and enjoy the party.
  • The margaritas were mixed ahead of time and served in pitchers, so all of the food and beverages were self-serve.
  • I didn’t want to bother with plates or forks, so we prepared the guacamole and 7-layer dip in self-serve cups.  Plenty of chips were provided for scooping the dips out of the cups.  (And no need to be concerned about that nasty “double-dipping” issue!)
  • The beef taquitos turned out to be great for dredging the last bites of bean dip from the bottoms of the 7-layer dip cups.
  • Mexican sodas were provided as a non-alcholic option.
  • Beer was iced in a bucket and provided for anyone who didn’t want to drink margaritas.
  • While both kinds of cookies we served were sugar cookies, the margarita cookie has lime zest in it, is rolled in a sugar and salt mixture, and then frosted with a tequila glaze (these recipes from Smitten Kitchen and McCormick were my inspiration).
  • An empty salsa can made for a perfect vase for the flowers.

We used our tried and true guacamole and margarita recipes.  But I don’t think I had made 7 – Layer Dip since the early post-college years.  I consulted Google and liked The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for the bean layer.  Ironically, many of the recipes I found actually had 8 or 9 layers, so I just decided what I wanted for the layers and went from there.  (Click here for the recipe and how-to.)

Musica del Sol - Williams-SonomaFor music, we kicked off the party with our Musica del Sol CD that we picked up at Williams-Sonoma many years ago.  It’s a high-energy compilation of a dozen latino-inspired tunes that never fails to kick things off and set the mood for a margarita-themed happy hour. Then we turned music duty over to Pandora’s Tropical 2015 Radio, a station Jon found while browsing their latino genres.  Viva la musica!

Need some more ideas for your own Cinco de Mayo party?  Check out our board on Pinterest.

Happy (Cinco de Mayo) Entertaining!

Cinco de Mayo Decorations

Flowers in Salsa Can  Margaritas

Guacamole in Martini Glass

7 Layer Dip

Jalpeno Popcorn  Jarritos

Beef Taquitos

Cinco de Mayo Appetizers

Cinco de Mayo Cookies

Beer on Ice  Chili Pepper Cookies

Margaritas Are Served  Cinco de Mayo Snacks

Easter Brunch Menu

Here comes Peter Cottontail…

While I know the the true meaning of Easter isn’t the egg hunts or the candy-filled baskets, I have to admit I find all the cute bunny stuff a little hard to resist.

Easter MorningEaster is such a happy holiday.  And a perfect time to get together with family and friends to celebrate.  And, as much as I enjoy the holiday as an adult, I have to admit I miss the days when Easter was also the holiday when I got a brand new pair of patent leather shoes and a new hat.  Now that was reason to celebrate!

If you’re hosting the celebration this year, here is a great Easter brunch menu.  There are several things you can do a day or two ahead of time to make Easter morning more relaxed (and give you time to go look for some of those colored eggs left behind by the Easter bunny).

A day or two before Easter:

  • Do all of your grocery shopping, including buying any flowers you want to use on your table.
  • Prepare the crust for the quiche and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the quiche.
  • Make the topping for the layered fruit salad.
  • Prepare and slice the fruit. (If you’re using bananas, don’t slice them until you prepare the salad.)  Alternatively, give yourself a real break and buy the ready-to-go fruit at the grocery store.
  • Set the table.
  • Chill the champagne.
  • You can even make the scones the day before. They’ll keep well in an airtight container.
  • Listen to your mother’s voice in your head and clean your guest bathroom.

Easter Brunch Menu


Layered Fruit Salad

Glazed Scones

Fresh Orange Juice

Champagne (to make mimosas)

For our table, at each place setting I used Grandma’s teacups.  These teacups have a very special history in the family.  Every year, Grandma and a group of her friends would get together to celebrate each other’s birthdays.  For their birthday each year, they would receive a teacup from the group.  I’m not sure how many teacups Grandma accumulated, but I’m guessing she had over 30 of them.  We now are the proud owners of several of them, as are other grandchildren.  I was so happy to find a way to celebrate spring and honor Grandma on our Easter table.

Happy Entertaining!

Easter Teacups

Quiche  Layered Fruit Salad

Scones  Easter Place Setting

Chocolate Chick in Teacup

Easter Table Setting

What’s For Dinner: Comfort Food

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a gazillion times.  There’s a reason that they call it comfort food.

But comfort food gets a bad rap.  You’re supposed to avoid it if you’re on a diet.  It’s “simple” and therefore somehow unsophisticated or uncivilized and as such should only be part of private meals with trusted loved ones, not shared at a dinner party.  And it seems to always be the food of shame, that which you consume in mass quantities in a dark kitchen when your life has gone to s**t.

Really?  How on earth did something as wonderful as macaroni and cheese end up with a reputation like that?  And when did the concept of Sunday chicken dinners get lost?  Why can’t comfort, and the related happiness that comes from it, be the right thing always?

In one of our earliest blogs, I wrote, “Your party is your gift to your guests.”  And I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with a big ol’ gift of comfort, all wrapped up and served from the heart.

Casual Table SettingSo now that we’ve all agreed it’s completely acceptable to serve comfort food at a dinner party, you need to decide about the table where all of this comfort will be shared.  Unless you plan to eat on folding trays in front of the TV (perhaps a little too comfortable?), a nicely laid table is part of this.  I think this is one of those areas where people feel the pressure to be perfect.  And, I’ll admit, when it comes to table settings, sometimes I want to make a big fuss.  Go all out.  Set the kind of table you’d see in a magazine or on Pinterest.  As I say, sometimes, as in not very often.  More often, I just want my table to look inviting.  And like I gave it at least a moment’s thought, so my guests know I care.  I want the table to be comfortable and casual and say, “Sit here. Linger awhile.  At least I cared enough to put napkins on the table.”

I have an assortment of dishes and glasses that I’ve managed to accumulate.  With the exception of our wedding china, none of it is very expensive.  Perhaps my favorite dishes are the collection of restaurant ware plates that were purchased, one-by-one, over several years.  This all means that a lot of my dishes and glassware don’t match.  If you, too, have collections of dishes that don’t are mis-matched, here’s the rule for creating a well-designed table:  Something has to match.  If you are using a collection of mismatched glassware (a look I love), then your plates should match.  If your plates aren’t all the same, then make sure your flatware and linens match.  Your mismatched items should be the shining exception.  If nothing matches, it may just come off as a jumbled, hodgepodge of a mess.  And where’s the comfort in that?

Place Card  Casual Tableware

What’s For Dinner: Comfort Food


Manhattan Cocktail

Roasted Chicken

Mashed Potatoes


Lemon Tart

Serve with a nice light red wine, like a Pinot Noir, or a crisp white wine like a Viognier.

Manhattan  Roasted Chicken

Really Good Mashed Potatoes

Casual Placesetting

Lemon Tart

Happy Entertaining!

New Year’s Eve Dinner Party

“Here’s to the bright New Year and a fond farewell to the old; Here’s to the things that are yet to come and to the memories that we hold.”  ~ Unknown

Christmas and New Year’s are joined together, simply by proximity to each other on the calendar.  But, every year, I can’t help but feel when all of the anticipation and preparation associated with Christmas is behind us, it’s time to just let our collective hair down and celebrate.  While Christmas feels a little like a holiday for the kids, New Year’s Eve is time to say, “Move over kids.  The grown-ups have a little partying to do.”

Holiday Champagne

I’m a fan of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  If you’ve had a really bad year, this is the opportunity to say good riddance to it all and hope and plan for a better year ahead.  But, if you’ve had a really good year, then you can raise your glass and say, “Let’s do it all again!”  New Year’s Eve is teeming with blank optimism, unwritten possibilities and untold stories still to be written.  We are, simply, sitting on the edge of new.

There are many ways to celebrate the ringing in of The New.  For me, as with most celebrations, I prefer to do my celebrating at home.  While the fantasy person in me dreams of wearing something fabulously glitzy to an all-out glamorous gala event, in reality I prefer to do my ringing-in wearing comfortable, nonjudgmental pants and my worn-in slippers.

We’ll be having a small dinner party with some of our friends.  This year, I have an urge to participate in the over-commercialization of New Year’s Eve.  The cheap crap from China is calling to me.  But I want tiara-style crowns, horns, and those cracker/popper things that you pull apart to find worthless surprises inside.   Forgive me.  At the moment, they are screaming “festive” to me and I’m in the mood for festive.

And, we’ll be serving Champagne.  Because if there’s ever a time to pop a bottle of the bubbly, it’s on New Year’s Eve.  Here’s what we’ll be serving for New Year’s Eve dinner:


Tangerine Martinis

Standing Prime Rib Roast with
Creamy Horseradish Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Green Bean Casserole

White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries

New Years Eve Placesetting

Table Setting  Silverware

New Years Eve Centerpiece  Cheers

New Years Eve Table Setting

Happy Entertaining!

Halloween Dinner Party

It’s true.  I’ve been known to get just a little carried away during the holidays.  I’m not biased.  I treat all holidays the same when I consider the opportunities.  While I’m really not the person that goes overboard with decorating, I do get a little “enthusiastic” when it comes to the parties and entertaining.  And, since I love to throw a dinner party, when I get to throw a party during a holiday, I’m one happy hostess.

Thanks to a little shopping last month on eBay, I was able to find some fun, vintage Halloween decorations.  I also had several things on hand, like silver candlesticks (some that belonged to my mom, others we got as wedding presents) and old, peanut butter glasses that my mother-in-law gave me.  The collection of newly purchased (even if vintage) and already-owned came together for this dinner party table.

I wanted a splash of color in the table setting but didn’t want to buy salad plates just for this party.  So, I layered paper plates between the dinner plates and soup bowls.  The spider web place mats were an inexpensive splurge to add just a hint of “spooky” to the whole affair.

Here’s the simple menu that we served:


Tangerine Martinis

Minestrone Soup

Romaine, Pear and Pecan Salad

Toasted Baguettes

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes

When considering which cocktail we should serve, I had two objectives.  First, I wanted it to look like it should be served at a Halloween dinner party.  In other words, it had to be the right color.  (Sorry all you red cocktails.  Your turn will come.)  Second, I wanted to serve it out of our antique beaker.  The beaker is one of our most treasured possessions.  It originally belonged to Jon’s grandfather, who owned a pharmacy in Seattle.  I was very committed (a delicate way of saying I was slightly obsessed) with giving the beaker a new purpose as a cocktail server.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I also really wanted to use dry ice in the cocktail to give it an appearance of a potion.

The whole thing was a smashing success.  Our amazingly talented bartender was able to make the cocktails ahead of time by mixing two batches in a shaker as he normally would, and then straining them into a plastic container and putting them in the refrigerator.  When it was time to serve the cocktails, he simply poured them into the beaker and added 3-4 small chunks of dry ice*.  And the unexpected icing on the cake cocktail was that the carbonation from the dry ice provided some effervescence to the drink.

Happy Entertaining!

Halloween Table Decorations

Tangerine Martinis in Beaker

Halloween Table Setting

Halloween Soup Bowl on Plate

Halloween Napkin  Halloween Placesetting

Minestrone Soup

Halloween Cupcakes

*Bartender’s Note:  Here are a few key things you should know about using dry ice.  If possible, buy it the day you’ll be using it as it doesn’t keep long.  If you need to buy it the day before your event, get 4-5 pounds or more as at least half will evaporate overnight. Store it tightly wrapped in a thick towel, packed into a well-sealed ice chest; the less airspace the better.  Don’t store dry ice in your freezer (it can damage your thermostat).  When it’s time to serve your drinks, chip off a few small pieces from the block of dry ice with a hammer and chisel (or big screwdriver). Don’t touch the dry ice with bare hands (it’s so cold it will burn your skin).  Carefully drop the pieces into your pitcher; they’ll sink to the bottom where they’ll bubble for 10 minutes or so.  You can serve the cocktail while the dry ice is still bubbling; pour carefully so that a piece doesn’t end up in someone’s glass.

Goodbye, Summer

As if right on cue, the temperatures have dropped about 20 degrees today and the skies are gray.  I guess Mother Nature got the memo that this is the start of Labor Day Weekend and the unofficial end of summer.

Frankly, I don’t mind the cooler days.  Especially days like today that are cool but dry, and gray but bright.  And, these kinds of days are easier to take after we’ve had a long, wonderful stretch of real summer days.  You know I’m a big fan of summer, with her warmth and sunshine and constant urging to take a few days off and enjoy it all.  But it seems that summer, too, has gotten the memo that her annual visit is coming to an end.  We know she’ll be back, but for now it’s time for her to pack her bags and move on.  Maybe we should all throw her a going away party and have one last simple soiree in her honor.

Here is a great menu for this time of year.  It takes advantage of two of my personal favorites from the late season harvest, corn and blackberries.  We are suggesting two different dishes, each using one of them.  (Even with my fondness for corn and blackberries I wouldn’t combine them in a single dish.  Wink and smiley face.)


Shades of Taos Margaritas

Hickory Smoked Chicken

Creamed Corn Casserole

Steamed Fresh Green Beans

Blackberry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

Happy Entertaining, and goodbye summer!

Flower Arrangement

Shades of Taos Margarita

Smoking Grill

Chicken on Grill Corn on the Cob

Creamed Corn Casserole

Fresh Green Beans  Blackberry Cobbler



Summer’s Last Hurrah

I know.  Seasons change.  Four seasons and all of that.  And, I’m actually okay with living in a four-seasons world.  I’m a fan of each season and all that comes with it.  In the Pacific Northwest, summer doesn’t really get started until the first part of July.  So, I’m just fighting the wind-down of summer this year because we’ve only been at this business of sunny, warm days now for a little over a month.

I’m not being defiant.  I promise to let go when it’s time and not wear white shoes after Labor Day.  But, for now, just one last summer hurrah before we start focusing on football and pumpkins.  By my calculations, I have just a few more weeks of this summer, so I’m going to do my best to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of it before it slips away for another year.

As this season starts to wane, I think one last summer dinner party is in order.  Who’s with me on this?  Nature is still providing wonderful, seasonal food that we can serve.  I personally think blackberry cobbler is reason enough to have a party.  We’ll eat on the patio, and take advantage of a sunny afternoon.  Then we’ll light a fire in the fire pit to ward off the inevitable chill that sets in just about sunset.

Here’s one of our favorite summer dinner party menus:


Beer and wine

Barbecued Salmon

Wild Rice

Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad

Blackberry Cobbler

None of these dishes are complicated, and most of the prep can be done ahead of time so you can actually leave the kitchen and be a part of your party.  Recipes for each dish are provided, with the exception of the wild rice.  Although I’ve made wild rice from scratch, frankly, I now just use Rice-a-Roni.  I normally try to avoid packaged foods, but in this case I find it’s good and simple and not overly artificial like some food from boxes can be.  Just right for a summer dinner.

Start with a toast to the change of seasons, and thank nature for yet another reason to celebrate.

Happy Entertaining!

Mason Jar Candleholders  Flowers for the Table

Placesetting  Setting a Summer Table

Summer Tabletop  Beer on Ice

Summer Dinner Party  Pouring the Wine

Happy Birthday America!

Everyone loves a birthday party, it seems.  And when it’s the good ol’ US of A that’s having the birthday, we just can’t help but put on our party hats.


Think about how different our annual celebration would be if the forefathers had signed the Declaration of Independence in, say, January.  Besides the fact that we wouldn’t know it as the Fourth of July (instead we would be painting banners that read something like “Happy Sixteenth of January!”, which clearly does not roll off the tongue quite like the Fourth of July does), we wouldn’t associate it with barbecues, lemonade, or strawberry desserts.  It’s hard to even fathom.  The only saving grace would be that, since the days are short in January, we’d be able to watch fireworks while we eat dinner.

So, as we near the Fourth of July and all the celebration that comes with it, I’m grateful for our forefathers’ forethought and consideration for getting down to the business of independence in the summer rather than the winter.

Here’s what’s on our Fourth of July menu this year:


Watermelon Martinis

Barbecued Pork Baby Back Ribs

Red Potato Salad

Baked Beans

Corn on the Cob

Strawberry/Blueberry Napolean

Watermelon Martini

Pork Baby Back Ribs  Red Potato Salad

Baked Beans  Corn on the Cob

Strawberry Napolean with Blueberries  Fourth of July Placesetting

I’ve tried cooking corn on the cob many different ways.  But this is the method that I like the best.

When it comes to preparing baked beans, I start with a good brand of canned beans (I like Bush’s, even if their commercials with the talking dog are kind of sophomoric).  I just dump the can into an oven-proof dish, cover with foil, and bake for about an hour.  I remove the foil and cook for about another 15 minutes.  I remove them from the oven and let them sit and cool slightly before serving.  Someday I’m going to make them from scratch, but right now I’m glad to have a side dish that I can serve that doesn’t take a lot of time or energy.

Need more inspiration for all things red, white and blue?  Check out our 4th of July board on Pinterest.

Happy Entertaining!

Brunch – A Good Reason to Rise and Shine

I’m not what you’d call a morning person.  And by that I mean that not by any stretch of the imagination, nor by what anyone who knows me well would say, would I be considered anything remotely close to a morning person.  I find very few things as luxurious and decadent as a slow-paced morning.  Which may be the reason I don’t often host a brunch at the house.

But I gladly got out of bed and did just that last weekend.  My oldest sister and brother-in-law came up for the day, and to allow for their drive home (a few hours), a midday meal was the most accommodating.  And I may not be a morning person but I can be rather accommodating when I try.  My youngest brother and sister-in-law came, too, and it was simply a splendid reason to get up early.

Doing a little prep the day before allowed me to sleep in an extra few minutes.  (Yea!)  I made the crust for the quiche (and refrigerated it overnight) and set the table.  Jon cut the flowers and I got them arranged in a vase.

Brunch Table Setting  Lilacs and Iris

By the time I rolled out of bed Sunday morning, my to-do list was pretty manageable.  Besides making the quiche (which is my old, stand-by recipe), and washing/cutting the romaine (which we served with a lemon dressing), my morning priority was making the scones.  And I should note that, prior to Sunday morning, I had never actually made scones from scratch before.  I was a little nervous about the whole thing, especially since I didn’t have a “Plan B” if the scones were a flop.  I did my best to carefully follow the recipe and am so happy to report that the scones turned out perfectly.

Scones on Tray

When any of the siblings are together, inevitably the conversation comes around to Mom.  She passed away many years ago, but we all still miss her every day.  So it was nice to be together, using her good silver and the antique butter pats that she gave me one year for my birthday, and remembering our mom.


And then our brunch became a tribute to all moms and the upcoming day that honors them.  Biological moms, adoptive moms, mother-in-laws, step-mothers, grandmothers, women who nurture and are motherly by nature, and those who are moms of our furry friends.  We know our world is better because of you.  To all of these moms, we wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

Brunch Menu


Orange Scones

Romaine With Lemon Dressing

Quiche  Orange Scones

Happy Entertaining!

Hosting a Ski Weekend

Oh, sure.  Our friends tell us that we’re the reason they come to visit.  But we have a sneaking suspicion that  the ski resort is really the main attraction and that our presence is sort of inconsequential to the skiing.

We love ski weekends.  Friends arrive in their big ol’ SUV’s, laden down with enough gear to make us wonder if they are staying for a month.  They move in, get settled, and we get down to the serious business of slumber partying.  These weekends give us extended time with our friends with a nice balance of go-time and down-time. 

Ski Signs

Over the years, we’ve learned a couple of things about coming home after a day on the slopes.  One, everyone is usually in need of a snack.  And a beverage.  Pronto.  So, have those things at the ready to keep everyone from gnawing at the woodwork while the real food is prepared.  Nuts, veggies and dip, or cheese and crackers are great, easy snacks.  And, two, we’ve learned that everyone appreciates a good, home-cooked meal.  Hearty meals and comfort food are always popular, even with those that are pretty rigid about their diets on most days.  I guess what my dad used to say is true.  After a day of fresh air and playing outdoors, kids aren’t nearly as picky about what they eat. 

Here’s a first night menu from a recent weekend.  Because the pot pies and biscuits take a little prep time, I served them on the first night since I had time to prepare them during the day.  For the salad, one of my favorites is to chop up romaine, add a pear or two (that you’ve cut into chunks), dried cranberries, and pecan pieces (Fresh Gourmet has some Honey Roasted Pecan Pieces that are great in this salad).  My favorite dressing for this salad is the Lighthouse Pear Gorgonzola. Simple and a great side to this meal.

Since I had a bag of Meyer lemons in the refrigerator, and I knew one of our guests was a fan of all things lemon, I tweaked the tangerine mousse recipe slightly and made lemon mousse.  We served with a piece (or two) of dark chocolate, and everyone loved it.

We always have beer in the fridge, since many of our friends prefer beer.  And, we have plenty of both red and white wine on hand, to serve with dinner.


And here’s what our party planner looked like: 

Two Days Before:

  • Finalized the menus for the weekend and made the grocery list.
  • Cleaned the bathrooms.

Day Before:

  • Grilled the pork shoulder all day (for Sunday’s dinner.)  Put it in the oven overnight.
  • Got all the grocery shopping done.
  • Made a trip to the liquor store to buy more beer.

Day Of/ Morning:

  • Shredded the pork and refrigerated it.
  • Set the table.
  • Made the dough for the pot pies and put it in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Made the macaroni and cheese for Saturday night’s dinner.  Didn’t bake it but just refrigerated it.
  • Made the lemon mousse.

Day of/ Afternoon:

  • Made the chicken pot pies.
  • Made the biscuits and started them rising.
  • Tracked our guests’ arrival time and made sure I was out of the shower by the time they got here.
  • Set out everything we needed to make the Cosmopolitans.
  • Washed the romaine.
  • Set out butter to soften for the biscuits.

Just Before Serving:

  • Preheated the oven for the pot pies and biscuits.
  • 30 minutes before dinner, started the pot pies baking.  (If you don’t have a double oven, bake biscuits and then the pot pies, and keep the biscuits covered to keep them warm.  Just back up your start time by about 15 minutes.)
  • Put the salad together.
  • Opened bottles of wine, lit the candles and poured water.
  • Plated the pot pies, put the biscuits into a bread basket, everyone seated at the table, and dinner was served!

Snow sled   Pistachios

Chicken Potpie

Table Setting

Buttermilk Biscuit

Snowy Aspens

Girls Weekend

What do you get when you have a group of longtime friends, together for an entire weekend, away from jobs and kids and housework and every day life?  A pretty darn good time.  When you add snow, cocktails, a rousing round of Cards Against Humanity AND the knowledge that no one has any place to go for 3 days, you get one heck of a fun adult slumber party.

There were 8 of us.  Well, 9 if you include the Bartender who bravely “volunteered” to stick around for the weekend and do one of the things he does best:  Tend the bar.

I wanted a menu that provided good, warm “comfort food” for the main course and meals that easily fed a large group.  And, because this was a group of friends that hadn’t all been together for a while, I wanted food for the weekend that allowed me to do a lot of the work ahead of time so that I could spend the time with my friends rather than just in the kitchen.  This menu fit the bill for Friday night:

And here’s what our party planner looked like:

Day Before:

  • Got all the grocery shopping done
  • Started setting the table

Day Of / Morning:

  • Finished setting the table, including the friendship quotes place cards
  • Made the cake layers for Saturday night’s dessert
  • Made the broccoli cheese sauce for Saturday night’s dinner
  • Started the meat marinading for the beef stroganoff
  • Made the Tangerine Mousse

Day of / Afternoon:

  • Started the stroganoff cooking
  • Started the rolls in the bread maker
  • Took a break to help shovel the driveway so we could get the cars the last 10 yards to the house
  • Shaped the bread dough into rolls and let them rise for about 45 minutes

Just Before Serving:

  • Got a little distracted (perhaps it was the blueberry martinis) and started the noodles (for the stroganoff) a little later than I should have.  It takes a few minutes to get a big pot of water to boil.  We just used the time to open bottles of wine, light the candles and have another martini.
  • Baked the rolls for 18 minutes
  • Started the water boiling for the peas
  • Got everything into serving dishes, everyone seated at the table, and dinner was served!

Table Setting 3

Blueberry Martinis

Deborah, Alex, and Suzette

Blueberry Martini

Marg and Debbie

Table Setting 1

Snowshoers   Table Setting 4

Old Fashioned

Table Setting 2   Tangerine Mousse 2

Group Shot

Happy Entertaining!

A day in the life of a dinner party

This is probably a good example of a menu that we planned when we were hungry.  Like grocery shopping on an empty stomach, planning a menu in said state can lead to an overly-ambitious menu.  But it was raining and cold (in July!), so I didn’t have anything better to do all afternoon but prepare for an evening with friends.  And the process of making cobbler and biscuits, combined with the smell of the roasting chicken, took me to a much warmer, cozier place.

In hindsight, I may not have done a crab dip with this dinner.  It’s a “big” appetizer.  But we had fresh crab and we just had to use it somehow.

The menu

Raspberry Martinis
Hot Crab Dip with toasted baguette and crackers
Roasted Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans
Icebox Biscuits
Blueberry Cobbler with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream

Our day of entertaining

9:10 am.  Decided on the menu.  Debated between cobbler and peach ice cream for dessert.  Given that it was only 59 degrees outside, we went with cobbler.  Measured Crisco and put it in the freezer.
10:11.  Washed the blueberries
11:15.  Jon cleaned the crab (which was caught and cooked yesterday).  Yield: A generous 2 cups (+ the flakes of crab meat all over the counter).  Prepped the green beans.
12:03.  Jon cleaned the chicken.  I stuffed and trussed it.  Washed the cutting board.
12:42.  Took the cream cheese for the dip out of the refrigerator so it could soften. 
1:12.  Peeled the potatoes and got them soaking.
1:46.  Made the dip.  Had to unwrap 4 different mysterious chunks of cheese to find the parmesan cheese.  Why don’t I ever label those things???  Washed dishes.
2:15.  Prepared the dessert.  Took me about 30 – 35 minutes.
3:07.  Set the table.
3:36.  Ran the small vacuum around.
4:05.  Cut hydrangeas for the vase.  Note to self:  Run the vacuum after disposing of the old hydrangeas.  Ran the vacuum again to get rid of the hydrangea dust.
4:23.  Off to take a shower and get dressed.  Cleaned up the cat barf on the way to the shower (the result of buying her wheat grass that day at the store to help with her hair ball issue).  Oops, forgot that the chicken needed to go in the oven at 4:30.  (Cooks for 2 hours.)  Put my bathrobe on, back to the kitchen, put the chicken in the oven.
4:48  Started the biscuits.  Good thing.  They needed to rise 45 minutes. 
5:02  Washed dishes.
5:18  Jon realized a slug/snail has left its slimy trail on one of our picture windows.  Since we were doing drinks and appetizers in that room, out he went to clean the window.
5:37  Oops.  Realized I need an oven to broil the bread.  Had to hold off baking the dessert until I’d done that.
5:45  Crab dip went into the oven.  Set the timer for 20 minutes.  Oops, realized I’d need soft butter for the mashed potatoes.  Nuked a cube to expedite the softening.
5:48  Called “uncle” on the weather and Jon built a fire.
5:52  Sliced/buttered the bread.
5:57  Jon washed the whipping cream dispenser so we could make fresh whipped cream for the cobbler.
6:05  Muddled the raspberries.  Got the bar ready.
6:10  Guests arrived fashionably on time.  Appetizers and drinks were served.  (Raspberry martinis, because we had fresh raspberries.)  Started the potatoes boiling.
6:40  Took the chicken out of the oven; basted and covered.  Drained the potatoes.  Let them sit covered on the stovetop.  Biscuits went in.  Started beans steaming.
7:00  Mashed the potatoes.  Biscuits done.  Carved the chicken.  Realized we hadn’t selected of bottle of wine.  Stood in front of the wine cooler for a few minutes trying to select a wine.  Overcooked the beans, apologized.  Cobbler came out of the oven.  And dinner was served! 
9:30 pm.  Several martinis, 2 1/2 bottles of wine later, we were tired, happy, and stuffed.
10:30  Dishes were washed, kitchen was clean and we were off to collapse in bed.

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