Sunday, January 31, 2016

Simple Farmhouse Entertaining... (I'm Learning)

I'll admit it. 

Behind a smile, I have often been a frazzled host.

The timing of what's on the stovetop, in the oven, on the table.

Our precious children, running fast through the house, 
catapulting  onto the couches, asking how much longer.

And me, wondering how I ever thought I could pull this off.

It sounded so lovely three weeks ago.

But then again, I may have overshot the centerpiece. 

I probably didn't need to spend an afternoon putting together an arrangement that we could hardly see our guests through. A centerpiece so large that it necessitated  a separate serving table for food.

(I wish I was kidding.)

And perhaps I didn't need to have favors for our adult friends?

So I thought that this time, I would try to keep things simple. A more relaxed evening, where a loaf of rustic bread and a small candle were the centerpiece.

Instead of flowers, I clipped some greenery and branches from the yard to add some nature to our dining room mantel. 

I simplified the menu, serving a combination of homemade and store-bought foods.

I made this salmon recipe (our favorite!), mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. I bought rosemary bread (served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), a salad mix and Costco apple pie (served a la mode with a drizzle of caramel).

And you know what?

I noticed more laughter... from both our guests and myself. The evening seemed more natural, less orchestrated. 

I once read that a French woman likes to take a bath before hosting guests, so that she is ready and relaxed for the evening. 

I'm not quite there. So while you won't find me soaking thirty minutes before company arrives, I do love the idea of a relaxed evening, where the focus is on the guests, relationships and conversation.

On the other hand, I still want to make a meal with family or friends memorable. Sometimes special touches - like pretty flowers or a thoughtful favor - do help show our guests that they are well-loved and thought about.

I guess it's a balance... that I'm learning as I go. We've been blessed by friends and family who have opened their doors and hearts to us. Especially in today's fast-paced, technological culture, being invited into someone's home is a heart-warming experience - no matter how simple or grand.

Do you have any entertaining tips that have helped you along the way? Do you embrace simple entertaining, or do you have a "go big or go home" mentality? What works best for you?



  1. I don't entertain, so I don't have any advice. I'd say keep it simple.

  2. I never worry about a centerpiece. I always have the food as the centerpiece. The only advice I have is always have the dishes ready. I set the table in the dining room but I have the dessert dishes, cups, saucers and silverware in the kitchen waiting. I also take all my serving pieces that I will use ready. The dishwasher is always empty so I can hide dishes in there. And the best advice - relax and enjoy your guests.

    1. All GREAT tips! Thank you and hope your week is off to a great start...

  3. Your table & dining room look gorgeous and inviting!!! I learned to cook & entertain from my Italian grandmother, who made it look so easy and stress free. She always made the whole meal from scratch except the dessert-that came from the Italian bakery. To her, the meal and seeing how her family and guests together enjoying that meal was all that was needed. And she was right. I do not once remember having a centerpiece other than the food (i.e. the antipasto)-there was not room for one with all the food and plates!!! LOL I do not entertain too often, although I wish I did, but when I do I make an oven meal that allows me time to enjoy it with my guests and if I need to I will buy the appetizer and/or dessert to make things that much simpler. But I do like a small, pretty centerpiece that is simple yet elegant, like your loaf of rustic bread!! It's all about you and the atmosphere you create, so good for you for finding that balance!!!

    1. Thank you so much! I love hearing about your Italian grandmother. What great memories and I love how she enjoyed watching her family enjoy the fruit of her labor. My mother is the same way - cooks and bakes from scratch. We leave the table happy and 5 lbs heavier. Ha!

  4. It's really entertainingly beautiful here, you need no advice from me my dear, and I would sit at your lovely table and break bread with you in a heart beat.
    My only advice is I love to send out invites, a theme card, or a wrapped box containing the theme.
    And I always keep it simple to not intimidate my casual guest in wanting to follow suit.
    Sometimes the most simple meal can be grand in presentation.....A table set in tone on tone neutrals to whites always make the meal the focus.
    This is what I see here with you, beautiful presentation.


    1. And I would love to have you Dore! I love your creative invite idea. What a treat it must be - as I'm sure your artistry and thoughtful attention to detail makes for a wonderfully relaxed and memorable time. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. That sounds like a wonderful meal you served! I usually do some sort of centerpiece, but I make sure that it's low and doesn't intrude on seeing each other. We usually serve buffet style, so food isn't used as a centerpiece on my table. I like the bread idea though! It makes me think of a restaurant.

    1. Hi Kelly ~ yes, sometimes it makes more sense to serve buffet style. You are right about a low centerpiece... I've learned that one the hard way. :)

  6. Keeping it simple is always a good idea............making it beautiful is a good thing
    too.......I try to set the table a day or 2 before or at least practice how I will set
    the table in advance, which makes it quicker. Get all the bugs worked out early like
    that. Lasagna is always a good dish, cause then all you need is a salad and bread and
    dessert, and nothing wrong with purchasing a good idea. Sometimes you just can't do it all and keep your sanity. Also having at least 30 mins
    before guests arrive to put your feet up and just relax and breathe is rejuvenating for when they arrive.
    Also love your faux fireplace and the way you have styled it.......looks great!

    Blessings, Nellie

  7. Low centerpiece of candles or a votive with just one flower clipped from garden is what I usually use. I also like to put a couple of water pitchers with lemon slices and blueberries on table for pop of color. I set table a day ahead and we usually serve buffet style.

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