Accompanying the chill that rushes through the front door when summer begins to fade is a host of hearty, savory comfort foods. Everything is covered with rich cheeses left to bubble in the oven ~ decadent desserts are filled with seasonal fruit and coated with a crisp glaze; and no one is too worried about it because they are four months away from committing to any New Year's resolutions and eight months from trying on bathing suits.
But with all of the fun holidays approaching, excitement is in the air. And you want to share this warm feeling with your nearest and dearest. You have the holidays to spend with family...but your work friends are all back from their summer vacations on the coast, your mom friends are more human since school has begun, and football season is in full swing so there is always a reason to get your old friends together (unless you are Dolphins fans, that is;)
It is the perfect time to host a dinner party, to dust off your skills casually before you get hit with the holiday hustle. What's more, I've put together a few ideas to awaken your vision. Take a look...
A pop of eggplant sets the perfect mood...
That market vibe...
One Kings Lane
Line the path with a pumpkin walkway....
by Family Food Garden
Celebrate nature with clever place setting sprigs...
by Daly Digs
by The Inspired Home
Don't be afraid to add a bright fall hue...
Farm to table...
from Brine by the Bay
A simple dinner to welcome Autumn...
by A Couple Cooks
Invite the whole neighborhood, why don't you?
from Inspired by this Blog
Ready to host your own autumn get together? Here's how you get started:
Three Weeks Before
~ Select a fall color scheme. Do you want elegant or cozy? If you need to get some fresh ideas, head to TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or World Market. Sometimes spotting a pretty seasonal pillow or simple platter will spark something magical. Buy or make any decorations you need.
~ Send out the invitations (mail, hand out, text, e-mail or call.) You can find an invitation on Etsy (I am open to custom orders!!) and ask the seller for a JPEG file to text or e-mail to your dinner guests! Don't forget to include all of your details like date/time and your RSVP for a week or so before. You can even go wild and ask your guests to wear flannel shirts, football jerseys, or fancier attire to add a little fun.
~ Plan yourself a simple menu; don't go too crazy choosing several difficult recipes you have never tried before or you will get completely overwhelmed day of. If you want to serve something new, try and test it out beforehand so you can plan ahead for any last minute surprises and add plenty of make-ahead options.
Two Weeks Before
~ Select your dishes and flatware and get everything washed up and polished. Clean your linens and press them.
~ Make a party music playlist - be sure to add enough songs to keep the tunes humming for the duration of the party.
One Week Before
~ Give the house a deep clean. Tidy up daily to keep it maintained.
~ Pull out your serving dishes and label each with a post-it note for what you will be using it for. Make sure you have enough utensils for each dish and don't be afraid to mix up patterns and colors. Check TJ Maxx, thrift stores, or the Dollar Tree if you need to add a few.
~ Write out your shopping list (break into categories for items you will get from each store you need to visit.)
~ Consider planning a signature cocktail if you want to serve liquor along with beer and wine. It will save you having to deal with messy bottles and mixers and you can serve it in a pretty pitcher with creative garnishes, Important note: You will need 3 bottles of wine for every 4 guests!
~ Write out a schedule for yourself to plan out food/drink prepping & cooking. When you are pressed for time, it helps to have an outline to refer to so you don't forget to prep/cook something.
~ Plan your lighting so that you have set the mood at your dinner table. Make sure to add necessary candles or flattering light so that your guests are comfortable. Arrange your table & furniture so that guests can mingle and you can get the proper flow of the room for everyone to be comfortable.
~ Make placecards and plan out seats if you want to introduce people who may not know each other yet.
Three Days Before
~ Decorate for the party - the best part!!
~ Remove personal items from the medicine cabinet that you wouldn't want guests to see.
~ Make space in the front closet for everyone's coats/purses.
~ Go food and beverage shopping!
One Day Before
~ Purchase flowers and arrange in vases (Dollar Tree is an excellent last minute resource for vases if you want to be heavy on the blooms).
~ Set the table; lay out dishes, napkins, flatware, and place cards.
~ Prepare ahead of time as much food as you possibly can. Leave as little as you can for the day of. Put dips in serving bowls and cover with plastic, wrap, dice all garnishes and vegetables, and put in plastic bags, and cook whatever you can to reduce stress as much as possible,
~ Do a last minute spruce up of your house, wiping down counters and running the vacuum where necessary. Be sure to have extra paper towels/toilet paper on hand in case guests run out. Place fresh towels out in the bathroom for guests to use when they wash their hands.
One Hour Before
~ Empty the dishwasher.
~ Get dressed in your party clothes!
30 Minutes Before
~ Turn on the music.
~ Light the candles.
~ Open the wine.
~ Mix up the salads.
~ Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down, and prepare for an amazing night!