Category Archives: Hostess

The Word is Bird

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving prep is underway at our house. The tables soon will be full with family, extended family, and neighbors. For the first time, I’m cooking the bird.

I’m a wee bit anxious. (Okay, it is 5 am and I’m blogging after spending an hour reading recipe reviews and turkey-cooking hacks. Apparently mayonnaise seems to be the way to go.)

Also this week, I started a new job. After nearly five years in state government, I decided to take a position with a health plan. I’m thankfully still working in public health, but with a new ID badge and set of coworkers. I’m hoping this place will be a lot more organised and professional than my last job. The early signs are good, as I haven’t had to wait two weeks for my new ID badge (yes, this is something I’ve experienced before). Apparently they order it online, presumably via a company like InstantCard ( and it’s shipped the same day. Thumbs up so far. This week’s big project includes promoting HIV and TB testing among a specific population. In other words: MY JAM. Walking in the door of the new building yesterday felt much like the first day of school-nervous excitement, and also after two weeks off, a bit of, “Oh, man. This means no afternoon naps, right?”

There will be no afternoon naps until, perhaps, Thanksgiving. In putting together the menu, and asking everyone to pitch in this and that, I’m most excited to make Orangette’s cranberry compote. I’ve made this before and like she describes, it really is a show stopper. This recipe reminded me how much I enjoy her blog, too.

The other tradition we’ll honor is a large bowl of black olives in a nod to my Grandmother Maxine. She hated olives, but knew her grandchildren loved them, and therefore always had a ready supply. We stuck them on our fingers and waggled them like fools until we were all well into adulthood. Like so many things, Thanksgiving always makes me think of Grandma Max. I miss everything about that woman, down to the way her house smelled when we’d arrive for the holiday. As I remember it, it was a mixture of coffee, all spice, turkey, and Ivory soap.

If the timing goes right, and I drink enough coffee this weekend while prepping pies and setting up guest rooms, I hope to run in our community turkey trot Thursday morning. Put one turkey in the oven, take the other out for a spandex-clad shuffle around the neighborhood. What could be better?

Wishing you and yours an excellent holiday.



Dinner Partaaaay

PB Party

Our friend Sagar came over last weekend for dinner. He is quite the foodie, and is intimidating to cook for. (The type of foodie who spent six months working on a croissant recipe until it was perfected.)

So… I over thought this. We ended up grilling steaks, with carmelized onions and mushrooms. We roasted sprouts and asparagus, made some pesto with basil from the garden and made bread. The bread was a multi-day process, but it was well worth it.

April 2016

April 2016

April 2016

April 2016

April 2016

April 2016

April 2016

Also, there was chocolate whiskey cake. And it was a bit dry, but I loved it.

April 2016

Add the rest of that whiskey to the party, and it became a partaaaay. We did end up drinking quite a bit of whiskey, but I couldn’t help myself. It was delicious! Plus, he had some engraved whiskey glasses that had never been used before so it would have been rude not to use them. It felt really good drinking whiskey from a proper whiskey glass, like a true gentleman, compared to just an ordinary tumbler. I think every time we spend time together now, we’ll have a little whiskey and reminisce about the great night we had. It was fun to spend time with Sagar and his pup, Voo. I can’t wait to do it again sometime.

Nelson and Voo


Side of turkey, hold the resentment

Thanksgiving 2014

A girlfriend sent an email this week detailing the reasons she no longer loves the holidays. And boy, did those reasons resonate. Namely, she feels like no matter how much she does, someone will be disappointed.  Someone will think she hasn’t done enough. She’ll end up having her turkey with a side of guilt and resentment.

And — this may also resonate for many of you — she described how she worries about each gift for their families and children, making sure they are just right and wrapped and ready and her husband is responsible solely for her. The division of labor during the holidays is often completely off kilter.

It makes me crazy to watch women migrate toward the kitchen after a big family meal, while the men* head to the couch. Like these are our normal, engrained transitory patterns.

Women: Kitchen! Men: Football.

I’m calling bullshit.

Ladies, put down that wine glass, wipe the mascara off from beneath your tired, beautiful eyes, raise your right hand and repeat after me:

“I love Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, it was all about the time off, the extra time under the covers to read, sitting in my grandma’s lap, eating pie and running around afterward with a belly so full I thought I was going to perpetually fall forward. This year, I’m taking that innocent, happiness back. I’m going to spend the extra time with friends and family. I’m going to ignore my phone and the dirty dishes and instead play. I’m going to ask for help. I’m going to accept compliments. I’m going to hit the snooze button. I’m going to take long walks and pour another glass of whatever is my fancy and feel zero guilt. I’m going to realize that come January 1, there will still be chores to do and calories to burn and there will likely be someone in my life who isn’t happy no matter what I did or didn’t do. But, I won’t have this holiday season again to spend with those I love.

As such, I will not beat myself up, compare myself to others, try to put on my “skinny pants” or worry about that one damn gray hair that will not go away no matter how many times I try to pluck it. I will pull out my fanciest stretchy pants, hug my family a little more and sit my own butt on the couch when I feel like it. I will not feel compelled to watch football just because it is on. I will not allow cell phones at my dinner table. I will create a line of happy soldiers to help with the dishes and trash and foot rubs.

Amen and Amen.”


*Dear men: this is my family to a Thanksgiving T. This may not be YOU. Please do not send me angry email. I love you.


Guests are Sleeping Banana Bread

Sue's visit

  •  1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  •  ½ cup almond flour
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  •  dash of cinnamon
  •  dash of vanilla
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 cup butter – or ¼ cup butter, 1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  •  2/3 cup brown sugar
  •  2 eggs, beaten
  •  2 cups mashed overripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar. Add dry ingredients, adding bananas last. Pour into a greased casserole or bread pan. Bake 45 minutes, or until brown. If possible, pull out of the oven just as house guests are awaking. Serve with coffee, tea or a cup of milk. This bread is especially good with almond butter.

You will be cherished, no matter how hard the mattress was, or, say, how loud the neighbor’s rooster was at 3 am.



The Finny!

Finny’s visit was all things good: company, adventure, relaxation, laughter, food and plenty of nonsense. There are so few friendships that leave me as fulfilled. I couldn’t be luckier to have this girl, and all of her profane hilarity and tendencies toward shenanigans, in my life.




It was a weekend of nonstop activity + costumes: drinks at Linger, with the best view of the city’s skyline; long walks with the dogs and a hike in El Dorado state park; a baseball game in which the Rockies lost after a valiant effort; a German beer festival where Finny and Sheila both wore dirndls (post to come); a tour of a friend’s garden and bee hives (when Finny wore the crazy suit) and nonstop chatter. We could talk the paint off walls.

I’ve got several posts on deck to honor the sheer mass of photos taken; in the meantime, time to prep for another wave of great friends arriving this week. Someone must have let the secret out of the bag. Denver? Well it’s kinda heaven in the summer.


Boozy Bee

Jen, hand quilting

When Jen asked last week when we could get together, I asked “crafting or dinner?” She responded, “Both,” and promised to bring her hand quilting project. (Stunning work. Truly. If I didn’t already know the girl was southern, I would have thought she was Amish.)

Kara would just have to join us too. I haven’t seen her in ages and the girl needed a creative break from her burdensome work/intern/school schedule.

(Of course, my sewing machine was also apparently invited to the dinner table.)

Dinner with the sewing machine

The menu included pesto pasta, proscuitto and melon, roasted Italian squash, and ice cream with berries for dessert.

Pesto pasta

Proscuitto + Melon

Squash nipple

I love the grassy, fresh taste of homemade pesto. The farmer’s market this time of year is drowning in basil. I wish I’d purchased more.

Kara even managed to get some sewing in, throwing together a “pencil pouch with a pocket for post-it notes.” Try saying that three times fast with a mouth full of proscuitto, prosecco and pesto. Perfecto!

Lovely Kara

Kara's pouch

With pockets for post it notes!

Time with the girls to craft, gossip and eat well was the therapy I needed after a nutty work week. Fueled with their laughter in my ears, this week promises to be far kinder.


Tutorial: Garden Party


I said in jest a few weeks ago I was going to put together a tutorial for putting together a fun (and thrifty) garden party; I had such a sweet response, I decided to do just that, while a bit tongue-in-cheek.

I mostly got inspiration from the fact that a good friend of mine had a garden party of her own a couple of weeks ago and it was truly magnificent. With all of the visions that I had of having a dream garden party of my own, I think hers has definitely topped what I have in mind. Not only had she decided to look for a company that specialized in marquee hire in london as a temporary venue for her party, but all of the decorations that she decided to incorporate just complimented the ambiance of the marquee too, making her garden party the best one that I think I’ve ever been to.

If anything, I learned that a lot of planning would have gone into this, which is why I’m going to do my best here to try and explain how to pull off the garden party of your dreams (just like my friend did).

One month from your selected date:

Find invitations that make you want to throw a party. These did it for me. Then figure out how many folks you can invite. For my small home, 20 is about my capacity. (We did have to do the plate/fork wash and shuffle a couple times with some 23 friends and one little one in attendance.) I made my list, realizing there were far more I’d love to invite and will have to do this again. Then I headed off to the craft store with a coupon in hand to buy supplies. {I’ve blogged about these invites.}


I mailed 20 of these to girlfriends, for a grand total of $28, including the cost of the stamp and new ink. A garden party with champagne to be served. The only request was they bring a hat. I knew we’d be sitting outside on the “veranda” — as the African puts it so eloquently.

Three weeks from party date:

First tomatoes

Time to prep the earth to make sure you actually have a garden to be celebrating. I capitalized on a $1 sale at the local nursery on marigolds. {Blogged}


Some 60 were planted. I also encouraged the tomatoes to grow in leaps and bounds by deep watering and sweet talking. I’m not kidding about the talking. (Who cares what these guys say?) Plants do better and are more fruitful when you whisper sweet words to them. Call me the tomato whisperer. I’m okay with it. It’s also a good idea to make any necessary home repairs at this time, including a new garden gate. I’ve spent about $100 on the garden this year in supplies. Matty made the gate on his own dime. Also, we are so lucky that we decided to buy brand new garden furniture last year from a company similar to Remarkable Furniture, it just adds that special bit of glamour and relaxation that every party needs!

Two weeks from party time:


pile of new-to-me linens

If you’re ordering fresh produce for the day, now is the time to place your order, beverages too. You can also order wine online so no need to go to a supermarket. It can take a weight off your shoulders having supplies, like wine, delivered right to your front door. You can order at any time of the day and spend however long you want browsing the online selections and you don’t have to worry about transporting it from the shop to your home.

Take a bit of time to make sure you’ve got enough of the basics: glasses, napkins, table cloths, plates, chairs. I did not. So, I hit up the local thrift store and scored some vintage finds. And then I went to friends and asked to borrow cake plates, chairs and tables. This worked out nicely. I spent $61 buying household goods for the party, including new silverware and two platters from Ikea. I thought about getting myself a few sun loungers, so my guests can relax and enjoy their surroundings, I checked out some really nice sun loungers for sale to see which ones best suited the theme of my garden party without having to spend too much. It’s nearly time!

One week from party time:


Menu time! This is by far my favorite planning piece of the puzzle. I put together a menu mainly from the current issue of Cooking Light Magazine. This included:

Blackberry lime punch
White wine
Diet coke

Roasted fingerling potatoes and artichokes
Green chile egg casserole
Smoked salmon deviled eggs
Parmesan rolls

Ginger chocolate banana bread
Coconut cake
Chocolate chip cookies
Fruit salad
Let them eat cake

Double check with friends who’ve offered to bring items to the party. Meg brought the green chile egg casseroles, which were nothing short of amazing. Amanda and Juliann brought mimosa supplies. Tina brought cake plates and gifted me that amazing Easter centerpiece. (LOVE!) Shanlee and Rebecca brought tables and chairs. Also, send a reminder email to friends who you haven’t heard from.

Go to the market with a detailed list. Consider asking a friend to call that morning to see what else you need. (I did a 6 am run to the store, still in my jammies, for ice, fruit and a few other spices I needed and had forgotten.)

Day before:

Prep as much as possible, including getting the veranda, bathrooms and floors cleaned. Water the garden. Get the cake, cookies and bread in the oven. Bring out all the linens and dishes. Make sure everything is clean and as ironed as you fancy. Freeze fruit and water in a bundt pan to make a pretty ice cube for your punch bowl.

Fruit to freeze for bundt ice cube

Frozen fruit for punch

Have a glass of wine before calling it a night and remind yourself it doesn’t really matter if everything falls apart overnight. Your friends like pizza. They are awesome that way.

Day of:


Deviled Eggs




Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

Parm herb bread

Parm herb bread

Banana ginger choco bread

Choco/oatmeal cookies

Choco/oatmeal cookies

The table is nearly set

Don’t do as I did and sleep in. Yes, I was at the grocery by 6, but I could have been up by 5 and not gotten everything done. I raced like a maniac to get the final cooking done and then juggled when two friends called that morning to say they were bringing guests. I’ve always operated with a “the more the merrier” attitude, but I did need to find more seats, plates, etc. Coincidentally, two friends who’d RSVP’d didn’t show. So everything jived.




Set an alarm for 1 hour before you expect your first guest. Make a commitment to get out of the kitchen at this point and go take care of yourself. I often give myself too little time to curl, prep and primp and then feel miserable even though everything else looks great. I was relieved I’d had the time to put on jewelry and a dress by the time the first guests arrived.

A few things I was very happy about:

  • I was able to cut fresh flowers from the garden for the party.
  • Matt helped cook the bacon and cut the pineapple for the fruit salad. He was such great help!
  • There was enough food, with cookies and cake going home to husbands and boyfriends.
  • New friends and old friends mixed and mingled and having this many people I love in my home made me giddy with delight.