Monthly Archives: July 2014

What I’m Loving Now: Simple and Stylish Summer Entertaining

In my last blog post I talked about the strategies my husband, Barry, and I use to keep things running smoothly and (relatively) stress-free when we host weekend guests at our home in Southampton. I thought I’d follow up by sharing some of the items that help us do that.

While “things” on their own can’t ensure a fun, memorable visit with friends, they can certainly help set a welcoming scene…and they can perform functions that help you worry a little less! I’ve found that having a few reliable, go-to pieces simplifies and streamlines the process of hosting, allowing you to enjoy your guests’ company instead of worrying about how you’ll set the table or the best way to serve snacks.

Here are several stylish items (including hyperlinks, so that you can purchase them if you wish) that have proved invaluable in my summer entertaining. I’ve received compliments on these pieces from my guests, and I hope you’ll find some of them useful as well!

Serve in style with Joseph Joseph dishes. I purchased Joseph Joseph’s Large Double Dish, Double Dish, and Triple Dish Set last year—and I’m so glad I did, because I use these attractive dishes almost every weekend. I love their fresh lime green and white color, because I use lime green and orange as my summer accent colors.

The two Double Dishes in particular are very clever because their rims have slots in which you can dispose of toothpicks, olive pits, shells from pistachios, etc. This keeps your serving area uncluttered and attractive and makes cleanup a breeze. Since the larger bowl in particular is divided into three serving compartments and includes a space for toothpicks, it’s perfect for serving small “spear-able” items like mushrooms, small shrimp, and cheese cubes. I bought the Triple Dish Set in which to serve guacamole, salsa, hummus, and chips.

Before my guests arrive, I fill up these bowls with hors d’oeuvres and set them on the counter. Having snacks ready helps welcome my guests, and I don’t have to stop and serve anything!

Cut down on cooking mess with elevated spatulas. Each spatula in Joseph Joseph’s Elevated Spatula Set includes a clever tool rest on the handle to keep the head of the spatula off the counter when you set it down. Anytime you’re cooking—but especially when you’re also entertaining guests—anything that can cut down on mess and cleanup is very welcome. And as an added bonus, the spatulas’ bright colors are fun.

Talk while you work with a hands-free headset. I absolutely love my Plantronics Cordless Headset—so much that I have one in my New York office and in our Southampton home. At home, I use it to talk on the phone while I’m cooking. (My cell phone clips right onto my waistband.) This is especially helpful when I’m prepping a meal and giving directions to arriving guests at the same time!

Dispense drinks with ease. Everyone who visits loves my Classic Glass Drink Dispenser from Pottery Barn. I bought the smaller 1.9-gallon dispenser with the white stand. The metal spigot works well and doesn’t leak. Each day I’m entertaining, I’ll fill the container with water, ice, and organic lemons and leave it, along with glasses and napkins, on my counter for my guests’ use. That way, my friends can serve themselves whenever they’re thirsty. Best of all, this drink dispenser is simply gorgeous—a classy and stylish piece of décor, rather than “just” a functional serving piece.

Sip beverages without worrying about breakage. Who says acrylic drinkware can’t look attractive and sophisticated? I love to use Crate & Barrel’s Swirl Acrylic Double Old-Fashioned Glasses and Pop Yellow Drink Glasses when serving meals outdoors, or when simply sipping something refreshing by the pool. And if the situation calls for a toast, I bring out Sur La Table’s Outdoor Champagne Flutes and Hammered-Acrylic Wine Glasses. All of these glasses are sturdy and elegant!

Set a cheerful table. When I’m entertaining in the summer, we eat a lot of meals out on the patio. I set the table with CB2’s Basketweave Placemats in either hot orange or chartreuse, and alternate CB2’s Uno Linen Napkins in orange and chartreuse (they’re huge squares, and the material is high quality that will stand up to many washes). I love the citrusy color combination—it just screams “summertime” to me. Finally, I finish off the place settings with bright white Lunea Melamine plates, dishes, bowls, platters, and/or serving trays—whatever the meals call for.

All of these items are affordable, durable, high quality, and functional. They’ve made it easier for me as a hostess to entertain my guests, and they’ve added color and style to my home. If you choose to purchase any of them, I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as Barry and I have!

 

 

Seven Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During Summertime Entertaining

As the summer unfolds, you may be planning to host houseguests for a weekend getaway. Of course you’re looking forward to spending time with friends and/or family. But you may also be just a bit concerned about how to have fun while taking care of the hundred-and-one details of entertaining others in your home. It can be difficult to maintain the balance between being a gracious host and feeling like an indentured servant.

I understand! My husband, Barry, and I enjoy entertaining guests in the summer at our home in Southampton. It’s important to both of us that our guests feel welcome, at home, and well taken care of. Personally, I tend to be very particular about each visit, giving much attention to detail; but there is a fine line between taking care of all the details and running yourself ragged.

And, of course, entertaining isn’t for everyone (and that’s okay!). If you don’t get genuine enjoyment out of opening your home to others, preparing for their visits, and entertaining guests, remember that you’re under no obligation to do so. There are plenty of other ways to make summertime memories with friends. (One important caveat: If you do choose to entertain, don’t do so with the expectation that others should reciprocate—doing so only sets you up for disappointment and resentment if your friends don’t share your love of entertaining.)

For those of you who are expecting guests this summer, I’d like to share a few strategies I’ve developed that will keep you from burning out, whether you’re having overnight guests or a simple luncheon or dinner party.

Consider your guest list. If you’re planning to invite several individuals at the same time, take time to consider how they might get along with each other. The last thing you want to do is invite people who have a negative history together. Individuals who have completely different (and clashing) personalities or viewpoints might not make for an enjoyable visit, either. (But don’t overthink this—you know your friends and loved ones and how they tend to behave in groups. If instinct tells you that certain people won’t work well together, follow your intuition and invite them on separate occasions.)

When Barry and I are planning on hosting multiple guests, our top priority is simply to invite people who will enjoy each other’s company. And since these are special “getaway” weekends for Barry and me as well, we don’t invite clients from business unless they also happen to be personal friends of ours. These weekends are for our enjoyment, too!

Plan your meals ahead of time. While this may seem like common sense, I can’t emphasize enough how vital planning can be in having a smooth, hiccup-free weekend. I like to check off as many things as I can before my guests arrive. For example, I typically check with guests to see if there is anything they are allergic to or don’t eat before heading out to the grocery store.

I usually make out the menu for the entire weekend about a week in advance, so I’ll know what to shop for and won’t be scrambling for meal ideas at the last minute. I typically place my order for fresh fish, chicken, or meat a few days before and schedule a pick-up for Friday morning. At this point, I’ll also pick up any last-minute items. Oh, and one more tip: I’ve found that I save a lot of time and money by growing a nice variety of herbs on the deck outside our kitchen, which ensures that we have fresh, flavorful seasonings for our salads and main dishes.

Freshen up your guest room(s). Over the course of daily life, most of us don’t spend much time in our guest bedroom(s). You may even keep the doors closed! That’s why it’s a good idea to air them out a day or two before your guests arrive. Make sure that everything is in order and that the linens are fresh. You might also want to plug in an air freshener or light an aromatic candle before your guests arrive. Personally, I’ll often put a fresh flower from our garden in my guests’ bathroom or bedroom to welcome them. I think this adds a nice touch!

Cook their first meal (and stick with what you know). If your guests have been traveling, it’s likely that they’d prefer to relax at your house, rather than get dressed up to run out shortly after arriving. That’s why Barry and I usually cook at home on Friday nights. We try out new recipes on weekends when we don’t have guests (so we don’t have any surprises!), then serve the “winners” to our friends. Barry handles the grill while I put the finishing touches on the rest of the dinner. If guests offer to help, I often ask them to set the table, put out hors d’oeuvres, or help serve drinks so that we can talk and enjoy each other’s company.

Make breakfast easy. After a good night’s sleep, you don’t want your guests to feel like they need to rush in the morning. Unless you’ve all agreed on an early morning activity ahead of time, let them know that they’re free to wake up when they want and come down for breakfast when they feel ready. For breakfast, Barry and I put out cereals, English muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee, etc. and let everyone eat what they want.

Ask your guests what they want to do. As a host, you’re the expert on your area, so you’ll probably need to take the lead in suggesting activities. But before you make any firm plans, offer several options to your guests and ask them what they want to do. Try to make the weekend about them. For instance, Barry and I usually ask our guests if they want to visit one of the special small villages like Sag Harbor or Southampton, shop and walk around, go to the beach, play tennis, or just relax and take a nap by our pool. The most important thing is that our guests feel comfortable and enjoy the weekend.

Spend a night on the town. If your guests will be with you for several days, you’ll probably want them to see all that your town has to offer. Saturday night is a great time for this. We usually take our guests out to dinner, allowing them to choose between a few favorite restaurants we like. Afterward, we might stop for an ice cream cone and walk around one of the villages. It’s such a fun way to end the evening!

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you and your guests enjoy their time at your home. The more you plan ahead and take into account individual preferences, the more likely that will be. I hope you all enjoy your summer visits, whenever and with whomever they may be!