My regular readers know all about my love of casual entertaining. I’ve posted examples of it before, and mentioned it dozens of times in passing. While putting together the occasional big fancy party can be fun (I’m talking every few years, tops), I prefer to host more laid back gatherings with close friends where we can all relax and just enjoy one another’s company.
I’m admittedly a planner even when it comes to the most casual of events, but there are times when there isn’t advance notice to allow for preparations. Thankfully, when it comes to the casual entertaining style I already enjoy, there are easy ways to put things together and create really great hang sessions, even when they’re last minute. I recently had a couple of friends who called to let me know they were in town for just a few hours while on a layover, so I pulled out a few things I had around the house for refreshments, and we ended up having the best time. Today I thought I’d share what I did, in hopes it might inspire some of you the next time you need to entertain without much notice.
You guys are well aware of my fondness for party trays (I’m pretty sure I’ve shared at least three variations of them with you over the years), and that was the first place I started. Part of the reason I’m such a fan is that you can put them together in a pinch with whatever you happen to have sitting around your house, in a way that still looks visually appealing. I sliced some oranges, cheddar cheese, and vegan jalapeño cheese, and arranged them on a wooden cutting board with olives, two types of crackers, and some almonds. In five minutes I’d created a delicious snack for my friends without having to run out and grab supplies.
Next I grabbed a couple bottles of wine from my pantry. Having great quality wines on hand is key to taking last minute gatherings up a notch, guys. One friend prefers white and the other red, so I chose a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon from one of my favorite wineries, Sequoia Grove. Both varietals work nicely with the snacks I had on hand, and each has its own unique characteristics that make it delicious. I also love that Sequoia Grove winery (which has been around since 1979) is family owned, with a tasting room that is nestled into one of the last remaining groves of the majestic Sequoia sempervirens in the area (because y’all know redwoods hold a very special place in my heart). I’m not usually a white wine person, but their Chardonnay is probably my favorite wine for summertime. It’s so, so good.
Finally, I arranged the party tray on the dining room table along with some wine glasses and small plates, some pretty napkins, a candle, and a small flowering plant from my deck (instant floral centerpiece), and voila – instant afternoon tea party for grown ups. I have two very young children and I work from home, which translates to the fact that I am a hot mess more often than not. But when it comes to last minute entertaining, I’ve learned how to make it work and, you know, at least appear to be channeling a Martha Stewart vibe. Just remember – all you need is a cute cutting board, some cheese/fruit/crackers, and a great wine like Sequoia Grove Chardonnay and/or Cabernet Sauvignon, and you’re set.
Have any other suggestions for throwing together a last minute gathering? Have you tried Sequoia Grove wines?
Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. This post is in partnership with Sequoia Grove and One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.
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It has happened again. A police officer left his K-9 partner in the car and the dog died. It’s not only tragic, it’s inexcusable. Lt. Daniel Peabody of Canton, Georgia, drove home from his post last Friday with his Belgian Malinois, Inka, in the back of his patrol car. He turned the engine off and […]
Ancient man and ancient wolves hooked up. Dogs are the artifact of that relationship.
But the 21st century is testing that relationship. As traditional communities and belief systems have fallen to the wayside, dogs have become a kind ersatz religion. Every breed has its taboo topics: Brindle in salukis and basenjis. White in German shepherds. Ridgeless ridgebacks. The length of dachshund backs.
Talk of crossbreeding results in furious invective. Talk of training methods starts unending fights. Raw feeding is a war.
And for heaven’s sake, never talk about pit bulls!
This is not a community that is designed to attract people. Only the dogs themselves and what they have to offer really keeps it going.
If you are by nature a gadfly, be prepared for ostracism.
As someone on the political left living in a conservative state, I can say that I’ve lost more friends over dog-related issues than I ever dreamed of losing in discussing politics.
I’ve become convinced that there really isn’t a place for me in these communities. It’s taken me a long time to realize it.
This is not fun anymore.
I’m moving beyond this world. I will always admire good dogs.
But I don’t think I’m a “dog person” anymore.
Funny pictures, but a serious reminder that you have to watch your dog all the time – they’re worse than toddlers at getting into stuff they’re not supposed to. Enjoy your weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!
Here in the midwest, it’s sort of a thing to spend summer weekends at a lake. Maybe it’s because we’re land-locked (at least in terms of touching an ocean; it’s kind of hard to feel land-locked in Chicagoland when massive Lake Michigan is right here), so lakes provide our only chance for beach hangs. Or maybe it’s because there are just so many freaking lakes here. But when I close my eyes and get all day-dreamy about summertime, one of the first images that pops into my head is hanging out at a lake in my bathing suit, drinking cold beer and lemonade and eating watermelon and doing all of those idealist things that define the season.
This morning, we are lake bound ourselves, for a short family trip that has become an annual event. Before we had kids, Robbie and I used to drive up to this little lake town in Wisconsin and sit on the beach, eat at the local restaurants, shop, and explore as a couple. (We even took our “babymoon” there in the fall when I was pregnant with Essley.) Then we had Essley, and for the past two summers have taken her as well. This year will be the first year we bring Emmett. For all of the collective traveling that we do and have done throughout the world, this little trip is really nothing – but it feels like everything because it is one of those summer traditions you think about all year long. And while it’s supposed to rain, like, the whole time, we’re not going to let it spoil our fun. Warm summer rain is kind of awesome anyway. (I won’t be posting about it because we’re just gonna chill and be present and stuff, man, but I’m sure I won’t be able to stop myself from sharing at least some of it on Instagram and Snapchat; I’m under @bubbyandbean for both.)
Do any of you take lake trips in the summertime? If so, where do you go?
If you’re ever in need of an escape to reset your head and find a little bit of peace in the chaos that swirls around you, I highly recommend Thailand. I have lots of stories and photos to share about the elephants I met, but today I have a different story to tell.
Although not quite intentional, when I planned this trip I realized I was returning the day before my son’s tenth birthday, which is also the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. To spend the two weeks leading up to it in a dream fugue of green hills and silent Buddhas was a serendipitous gift that I really needed, because otherwise I would be at home, reliving those long painful days.
Partway through the trip, our group left the elephant sanctuary for the day and travelled to a small offshoot, where the park personnel were working with a large group of macaques. These monkeys, over a hundred of them, had been seized from the streets of Bangkok by the Thai government and were set to be sold to a laboratory before the park founder intervened and took them in to the sanctuary with little more than two weeks’ notice.
It is, to put it mildly, a large undertaking.
When we arrived, a small cadre of volunteers was upgrading the enclosures and getting a handle on one of the first orders of business: neutering the male monkeys. This is necessary for a variety of reasons; behavioral, and the fact that as adorable as all the babies were, they didn’t need to add more to the mix.
But needless to say, the monkeys themselves were not as thrilled with the idea. They are smart. They know what the little blowdarts mean: someone gets sleepy and goes away for a bit; and they were really, really good at evading them.
Two unsuccessful hours in, as we were still watching the goings-on and waiting for someone to neuter, a small motion caught my eye. It was a bright orange butterfly.
Butterflies have long been my mother’s favorite creature; it is impossible for me to see one and not think of her. They are, and always have been, her avatar. And I, who had been studiously avoiding getting into my head on the topic, had no choice but to sit and think about her.
The butterfly eventually flitted on further into the field, slowly and lazily as if to wait for me to get the hint, so I followed.
I vaguely heard people calling after me as I wandered off, but my attention was turned elsewhere: The field this butterfly had led me to was alive.
I had never seen so many different butterflies all in one place; the green ones that looked like leaves caught on the wind; the orange one that flew like scattered flower petals; the small grey ones on the ground that sat like pebbles until, unfurling their wings, they revealed themselves to be blue.
I didn’t even notice the one on the left at first; a camouflaged creature, hiding in plain sight, watching over the three remaining orange butterflies.
When I saw it, so hidden yet just as real as the remaining three, it hit me so suddenly that my breath caught. A whisper on the wind as clear as day: She is here. She is always here, all around you, and your dad, and your sister.
I hadn’t been expecting such an obvious revelation, and certainly not in what appeared to be an empty field, but I seem to require very deliberate signs from the universe in order to pay attention.
Eventually Teri came bushwhacking to scrape me off the riverbank and let me know a monkey was ready for a neuter. I had found a riverbed where the butterflies swirled, and in that silent contemplation, I was able to get up and go back to the insanity of our lives.