Fall Themed Centerpiece

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Yup, it’s that time of year. Nature is doing her thing. Leaves are turning those awesome vibrant hues. Acorns and pinecones are dropping like bombs. Squirrels are busy squirreling away treats. And us mere mortals are coming to terms with the summer really being over. But there’s always a silver lining.

Autumn brings a crisp freshness to our world. A cleansing of nature as leaves fall and regenerate new buds. And the opportunity to wear those chunky sweaters breathes new life into our fashion repertoire. The change of season also ushers in the occasion to freshen up your decor. In my house, beauty is brought inside.
Cue the Fall Themed Centerpiece.

Sure, you can create a floral arrangement, upright and traditional. Or, you can climb outside the box (or that large vase) and go horizontal. I don’t mean wrestling around with your significant other in the fallen leaves. Although, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. I mean, take your florals and fashion them into a landscape that meanders through a forest-like scene. One that creates several visual points of interest.

The best part of this type of centerpiece is that you can design it with whatever you have, and do it inexpensively. I grabbed yellow and crimson mums (from my favorite floral spot Dahlia NYC) to mimic the colors of the leaves, plus some eucalyptus leaves. All the other items I grabbed from our garden (rosed hued hydrangea, pine cones) or around the house. The entire arrangement cost me $20.

Burst of yellow pom pom mums, crimson mums, eucalyptus leaves and hydrangea are the stars.

Burst of yellow pom pom mums, crimson mums, eucalyptus leaves and hydrangea are the stars.

Long wooden trays or boards are perfect. But you can use a ceramic platter or whatever else suits your fancy.

Long wooden trays or boards are perfect. But you can use a ceramic platter or whatever else suits your fancy.

Going horizontal meant finding a main ‘vessel’ that would serve as the base since I was ditching the usual tall, large vase. I searched for something a tad out of the ordinary. A few choices popped up, including a long ceramic platter, but I settled on a wooden tray for a few reasons. One, it was the largest and I felt I needed the space. Two, it’s easy to carry since it is a tray. Three, I like the feeling of the earthiness of the wood. But use whatever you have. Oval, or round, rectangle or square. It doesn’t make a difference. The only important aspect of this kind of arrangement is to go low and long. Landscape, not portrait. I then gathered up some small vases, cups, shallow bowls, pumpkins and water phials (tubes with rubber caps to hold water for single stems).

The helpers to this arrangement. It’s key to gather up your tools.

The helpers to this arrangement. It’s key to gather up your tools.

Next, I lined the tray with parchment paper to protect the wood. And moved onto laying the groundwork… literally. Instead of using the eucalyptus leaves in a large spray like I usually love doing (Eucalyptus Burst), I spread them down to create a bed, as if it were a forest and the leaves fell to the ground.

I love this wooden tray, so it was important to me that I make sure it was protected.

I love this wooden tray, so it was important to me that I make sure it was protected.

Since these stems will be lying down, do not fill the water phials to the top, as then the water will slip out.

Since these stems will be lying down, do not fill the water phials to the top, as then the water will slip out.

Fill the tray, leaving spaces, or making spaces for the vases.

Fill the tray, leaving spaces, or making spaces for the vases.

From there, I nestled vessels of differing heights to hold the flowers. All the while, visualizing how to spread out the color.

I loved how the color of this sake cup blended right in.

I loved how the color of this sake cup blended right in.

Slightly taller, heart-shaped glass vase seemed appropriate and perfect to give some height to this horizontal piece.

Slightly taller, heart-shaped glass vase seemed appropriate and perfect to give some height to this horizontal piece.

Then I added the pumpkins and squash to the scene.

Yellowy, green pumpkin added a nice pop of color amongst the green leaves.

Yellowy, green pumpkin added a nice pop of color amongst the green leaves.

Filling the space with a butternut squash adds to the bounty.

Filling the space with a butternut squash adds to the bounty.

It was then time to fill the vases with flowers. I started by cutting the stems of the crimson mums short so they could fill up the shallow bowl.

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I continued to fill in and see what looked good and worked in each vase, thinking about spreading the color around the arrangement, as well as adding contrasting colors next to each other.

See how both the yellow pumpkin and the crimson mums are accentuated by being placed next to one another?

See how both the yellow pumpkin and the crimson mums are accentuated by being placed next to one another?

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I noticed that there was a corner that seemed empty, so I added another shallow bowl for an additional burst of color. You see, you don’t have to have it all planned out exactly. You can add, subtract, modify as you go.

The idea is to create something that feels right to you. Move things around until it pleases your eye and your heart.

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I stepped back to inspect landscape and its little scenes within itself. I decided to tuck in the last two hydrangea flowers and have them cozy themselves into the eucalyptus base, as if they might had fallen down. Plus, it created more depth and visual interest.

Use the water phial to hydrate the hydrangea. Then tuck it in wherever feels right.

Use the water phial to hydrate the hydrangea. Then tuck it in wherever feels right.

The final touch was to slip a few pinecones right up front.

I think it turned out pretty cool. Loads of color. Little pockets of visual charm in every corner. Highs and lows, Pops of bright yellow contrasted by deep crimson hues. Abundance and bounty.

What I really enjoyed about this arrangement was that it had tiny vignettes within the main piece. Different points of interest within one big floral display.

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Lots of love everywhere.

Lots of love everywhere.

A bounty of autumn.

A bounty of autumn.

Use what you have. But most importantly, use your imagination and heart.

Let the leaves fall where they may. And may they fall beautifully, spreading the love across your autumn table.

 
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Blush Roses - A Display of Order & Whimsy

I haven’t been traveling into the city lately. Much to my sadness, since the urban jungle definitely energizes me. Things to do. People to see. You know, the pulse. The visual impact. The pace. The unusual. The swirl of life.
So, no city, no train, no Grand Central, no flower buying from Dahlia.
Woe is me.

But wait, no need to fret, if my schedule isn’t cooperating just check on others' availability. “Hello, hubby? What are your plans for today?”

Such was my fortune this past week, when JuanCarlos’ meetings took him into the city. Yeah, hurray for me! I didn’t give him any specifics. No flower type. No color preference. I just shouted out from the car as I dropped him off “Get me flowers!…” Please.

And so he obliged. He has good taste, so I knew his choices would be solid. He is a designer after all, so he had that in his favor. With no flower type in mind, he gazed at his options and as usual sunflowers first caught his eye. He adores their big yellow faces. Yet he knew I would want more than just sunflowers to work with. It was the soft color of the roses that lured him in. Soon after he grabbed some green by the way of Kale cabbage stalks and a pop of purply blue from Salvia.

Lucky me. When I saw his choices, I blushed with glee. They gave me a sense of calm and excitement simultaneously. I was lured in, too.

Kale Cabbage stems, Salvia, Roses, patiently waiting their purpose.

Kale Cabbage stems, Salvia, Roses, patiently waiting their purpose.

Now looking at these, even JC admitted, that the natural approach would be to leave their stems long and just nicely arrange them in a large, tall vase. But I saw something different. I saw a sense of order with a dash of whimsy. I realize that maybe I get more dreamy about things than most. They are just flowers, right?

To me they are so much more. They are nature. They are beauty. They are colors and shapes and fragrances that touch my senses. I love catching their grace as I walk by them. I get such joy when I see them stand proudly showing off their natural allure and arranged in ways that showcase their special attributes. So for me, it’s not just flowers. And that especially goes for roses. I dreamed of something a bit different for these pale whispers. We have all seen roses in one big bunch a million times. Of course, they look gorgeous like that. They’re roses. Duh, gorgeous.

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I immediately went for my metal rectangular low vessel and knew it would be a good fit.

Using frogs, those spiky plates that help flowers stay exactly where you want them, I placed the cabbage stems in an orderly row that be the center point of the arrangement.

I have three different types, and used all three for this arrangement due to the long length of the vessel.

I have three different types, and used all three for this arrangement due to the long length of the vessel.

Like little baby cabbage heads.

Like little baby cabbage heads.

The ‘stay where I put you’ stand.

The ‘stay where I put you’ stand.

Standing tall and sturdy.

Standing tall and sturdy.

Once I placed the cabbage stalks into the vessel, I found the right height for the roses so their tops hit just above the bottom of the cabbage leaves. Then using that as a guide, I cut all the rest of the roses to the same length. Next, I began lining up the roses around them like a moat around a castle. Thus, building on that theme of ‘order’ I had in mind.

Using my first rose to guide me for all the rest.

Using my first rose to guide me for all the rest.

Different heights create more dimension.

Different heights create more dimension.

Onto the whimsy. By placing the Salvia in and around the entire arrangement, peeking out they created a weeping, breezy feeling, softening the hard lines of all the ‘order’. Plus, added a contrasting color punch.

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Little note; when I cut the Salvia to size, the bottom part of the stems still had greens. I used those to fill in the spaces and create volume.

Nothing wasted.

Everything gained.

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I love this sweet arrangement. Ordered whimsy. I know I am showing a ton of different shots but I can’t seem to get enough of all the pretty angles.

Although I placed it on our dining room, I created the arrangement in the kitchen. All the while I kept getting glimpses of the giant golden LOVE sign my dear friend, Dominique, gave me.

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See the faint lines of love in the background?

See the faint lines of love in the background?

Clearly, love shows up often in my home.

Clearly, love shows up often in my home.

I couldn’t help but think of her as I made this pretty in pink beauty and giving thanks to her friendship, her thoughtfulness and feeling blessed to have her in my life. She definitely represents order and whimsy. She gets stuff done and has fun doing it. Top that with a cosmic giggle as I rejoice on sharing this post precisely now, since tomorrow, September 15th, is her birthday. Here’s to blushing with joy on all the goodness you bring to the world, and to my life… with golden LOVE. Happy Birthday, Dominique!

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Sunday Blues - of the Soothing, Swooning Kind

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So the story goes... I needed to go to IKEA.  You must be wondering why, since I don’t need another napkin or tablecloth, dish or candle, or anything for that matter.  But alas, we did need a new patio table. Pause a moment, to digest the thought that we are replacing our 17 year old IKEA teak table with the exact same table. Not only proving the enduring quality of some of IKEA’s items, but lo and behold, the table's solid quaility has kept it on their selling list after all these years.  Since we loved it so much, why mess with a good thing.  And that was what steered my vehicle to IKEA.

The brand, spanking new  IKEA table . And it was the very last one standing in the aisle. I totally lucked out.

The brand, spanking new IKEA table. And it was the very last one standing in the aisle. I totally lucked out.

Now, I'm sure many of you have wandered through IKEA and know that there is only one route... the one they force you to take through the entire store.  Naturally, on my search for the table, I picked up a few other items along the way.  It’s one of those stores where you say, “oh, this is only $5, and that is only $3”. But by the time all your items roll down the conveyor belt into the big blue plastic IKEA bag you just purchased (again) to carry home your 'stuff', it is too late and the complete and utter sticker price shock of the final total hits, and hits hard.  Every dollar truly does add up, my friends. It’s a brilliant tactic.  Price a bunch of stuff low, creating a false 'inexpensive'  buying experience and then when the customer hasn't realized it they just spent a fortune in your store.  There is a sucker born every day, and I was born again on that day.

In filing up of my big blue bag, I happened upon blue and white dish towels. Why? you ask. Didn't I just say I don't need another thing?  Well, because I am drawn to simple, pretty things.  I can’t tell explain exactly why, but I absolutely adore the stark contrast of blue against white. Like a vision of some Greek village. It makes my knees buckle.  So I bought two packs. I wasn’t sure if I would make pillows out of them.  Use them as actual dish towels? Incorporate them into one of my apron designs?  I just had to have them.  It’s a sickness, I fully recognize that.  Who gets swoony over dish towels?  Apparently... ME.

I did none of the above with them. Instead they came to the rescue in another way. We were hosting a BBQ this past Sunday and since I was feeling quite under the weather I didn't have a tablecloth plan.  Literally 1 hour before the guests arrived I still had decided what the table would look like. These dish towels would now become napkins that would grace my outdoor table-scape.  I guess my hubby knew that blue and white swoons me because when I asked him to pick me up flowers in the city at Dahlia, what did he choose? Blue and Whites.  It was fate.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

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As I unrolled the dish towels, I realized each one was a different graphic design, and if even possible, I loved them that much more. So my need for high contrast, plus my obsession with not being matchy-matchy was thoroughly satisfied. A cornflower blue tablecloth tossed down, white dishes stacked up in order of food served, topped with blue and white IKEA dishtowels twisted once pluse florals to repeat the theme... I’d say Sunday afternoon blues are feeling just fine.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe. LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

Zucchini Crudo

Zucchini Crudo

Cucumber/Smoked Trout rounds are easy.  Chop the trout into small pieces, mix with sour cream, using a scoop dollop onto a slice of cucumber and top with more sour cream.

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

InterMezzo
Steamed Mussels with ciabatta

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.


First course
Pasta with fresh herbs & garlic, grated Parmigiano Reggiano & Roasted Tomatoes

Main Course
Grilled Iberíco Pork Shoulder & End Loin  
Grilled Langostinos
Corn on the Cob
Nectarine/Corn Arugula Salad

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs. The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at  Despaña SoHo .

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs. The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at Despaña SoHo.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Dessert
Peach Cobbler
Honey Dew
Cheese/Fruit Plate
S'Mores

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

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It was a wonderful day filled with LOVE. 
Food made with LOVE.
New  friends and old friends full of LOVE.
And blues that make you the other 's' word -  swoon

 

The new white marble LOVE addition to my collection was gifted to me with love by Angelica. You can never have too much.

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila   Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila

Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock. Also, in blue and white.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock. Also, in blue and white. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself, giving JC a hand.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself, giving JC a hand. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign!  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign! Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Amore!!!  Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

Amore!!! Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

Eucalyptus Burst - A Floral Spray

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It's been awhile since I have presented floral ideas.  Kinda makes me sad since I love flowers and love arranging them. Anyone who knows me, knows my obsession with flowers.  Fact is, I've been traveling around and have not been to the city much, therefore haven't visited my favorite NYC floral shop, Dahlia * in Grand Central Station.  Hence the lack of floral inspiration. But I happened upon an arrangement I created awhile back that I thought I would share.  My idea, if you don't have real flowers to look at, at least look at a pretty picture.  I am stretching it a bit?? Maybe.

This is not my usual color scheme, or theory on color, which is why I wanted to share it with you.  As I have often professed, I prefer to stick with a single color theme and vary the flower types, or when mixing colors stick to two of high contrast.  This arrangement does neither.  Go figure. Yet somehow it worked. Well, at least for me.

One of the leaves I really enjoy working with is eucalyptus.  But not the one with the highly intense aroma, and inflexible stem version. I like the leafy, droopy kind. Their branches are long and bit floppy which produces a huge spray that creates a wonderful backdrop for the florals.

After choosing the eucalyptus, for some reason I then selected three very different colors of 2 different flowers. 

  • Deep Red and Yellow Alstroemeria

  • Pale Pink Lysianthus

 A very odd day for me, apparently.  

Ready, set, arrange.

Ready, set, arrange.

Often times when using eucalyptus branches I reach for a tall vase. (However, I have also arranged them in a long, low vessel to create a wide arrangement that was super dramatic.) 
Proportion is everything with flowers. This long tulip shaped vase was a wedding gift, and I adore it.  I usually add stones to lift the stems a bit. 

Decorative stones in the bottom help to lift the stems.

Decorative stones in the bottom help to lift the stems.

Tall and elegant, the wide mouth aids in creating a full boquet.

Tall and elegant, the wide mouth aids in creating a full boquet.

Once the branches are placed to create that spray, I started with the Lysianthus, placing them around knowing I would fill in with the other two flowers.

Grouping all the Lysianthus together creates a higher point of interest.

Grouping all the Lysianthus together creates a higher point of interest.

My thought was to color block since I had such varying colors.  I concentrated the pale pinks in the center, then surrounded them by the yellow Alstroemeria.  Since the deep red Alstroemeria had yellow in their centers, I surrounded the yellow flowers with the red.  

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A burst of pure joy.

A burst of pure joy.

This turned out to be an interesting color palette, and one that seems to work due in part to keeping the same colors blocked together for the most part.  I also feel the reason it works is because the massive size and spray of eucalyptus.  The key aspect of flower arranging is do what brings a smile to your face, and a sense of peace when you see them. In this episode of creating floral joy, I chose a Eucalyptus Burst.

 

* I can't stress enough how I adore the flowers and service at Dahlia.  Their prices are always reasonable and the flowers durable.  If you go to the Grand Central location, ask for Simone.  She is the best.

 
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A Backyard Party How To

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Over here at the Perri-Casas household, we like to entertain.  We love hosting and sharing food, wine, music/dancing, and just a plain ole good time with family and friends.  When the parties are small; but a handful of folks, the preparation is easy, breezy.  But when the guest list gets bigger, so does everything else.  Including the ideas for hosting a successful event.  Top of list; effortless decor and easy, crowd-friendly dishes.  Hearty, simple to prepare, allergy-friendly, and most of all, delicious. Foods that hit all the right notes.  

Just this past weekend we hosted a pig roast. On our guest list were a handful of vegetarians and vegans. 
Yeah, you read that right.  We invited vegans to a pig roast.  According to my husband, that's completely kosher because the pig only ate vegetables thus making it vegetarian/vegan!  Oh, my Taurus husband can justify anything!

We structured the party to be about mingling, not about a formal sit down meal.  One main reason for this is that our patio, though large, really cannot comfortably seat more than 24.  Plus this style of entertaining helps with flow of both food and people, as guests go to the buffet table to partake of various treats then bump into different guests to chat with.  

My sis, Alyssa and cousin Therese (photo credit: Dori Eckert)

My sis, Alyssa and cousin Therese (photo credit: Dori Eckert)

George contemplating fire with my brother in law Peter

George contemplating fire with my brother in law Peter

My dear friend Jackie catching up with my nephew, John

My dear friend Jackie catching up with my nephew, John

Organization is essential with a party this size.  So I ALWAYS make a list.  I am famous for making lists both in my professional life and home life.  Make fun all you want but this is key to staying organized and not accidentally missing things.  Just ask JuanCarlos who forgot some items in the basement fridge.  (He said I left one item off my list: Remind JC to make his own list.)

The day before I also place out all the platters I want to use with notes of which dish will go where.  This helps for two reasons.  First; one less thing to think or worry about the day of. Two, if a guest wants to help serving up dishes, this identification system tells them what they should use. Takes all the guess work out of the equation.

As far as what to serve, my game plan was to make sure we had a wide variety of food options for everyone.  30 guests were expected.  The best way to keep it manageable was to make some dishes from scratch and mix it up with some prepared items. Here was my thinking.  Note the ones with (*) are the ones I just had to put on a plate!

Appetizers
Cheese Platters with Jams, Grapes, Cucumbers, Radishes *
Breads/Gluten free crackers *
Assortment of Tapenade & Olives *
Roasted Chick Peas * (these were store bought but here is the link to my version which I prefer)
Pickled Mushrooms * 
Marinated Artichoke Hearts *
Crostini platter with Fresh Ricotta, roasted garlic mash, Roasted Tomatoes, Mushroom 'Bolognese'

All these can be plated well ahead of time and placed out as guests arrive.  These are perfect starter offerings to let them mingle and jingle amongst themselves with a drink.

Abundant cheese platters with jams and grapes, cucumbers and radishes.

Abundant cheese platters with jams and grapes, cucumbers and radishes.

Ready made items ready to go.

Ready made items ready to go.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushroom bolognese, ricotta, crostini.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushroom bolognese, ricotta, crostini.

 
JuanCarlos at his beloved grilling station.

JuanCarlos at his beloved grilling station.

Since a whole roasted pig takes hours upon hours upon hours to make, there needs to be food in between the appetizers and the main course.  This is what I call the intermezzo eating portion of the festivities.  I know, you are thinking; more food before the meal, that is hog wild nuts.  But believe it or not, people come to our home ready to eat.  So we make sure they are well fed.  Plus it's cool because we like to experiment on them!

Intermezzo
Grilled meats served with bread & chimichurri sauce
Grilled sausage
Grilled Corn on the Cob

Farm fresh corn roasted on the grill. (Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

Farm fresh corn roasted on the grill. (Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

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Main
Potatoes with Basil/Garlic oil
3 Bean Salad
Tomato Salad
Roasted Salmon Platter
Puerco Asado

Once the roasted pig was ready, the main portion of the meal was served.  All the above items were easy to get onto the table since I prepped them earlier.  The tomatoes were sliced and assembled on a platter in the morning and refrigerated. So was the bean salad.  I boiled the potatoes the day before, cooled them down on a sheet tray and in the fridge they went.  Right before serving, I popped them in the oven just to warm them enough to absorb the basil/garlic dressing I made the day before.  The salmon was roasted earlier in the day then served at room temperature.  And that is how you get a bunch of big platters out without being taken out on a stretcher yourself.

3 Bean Salad is easy when you prep everything ahead of time so right before the party all you need to do is combine the ingredients.

3 Bean Salad is easy when you prep everything ahead of time so right before the party all you need to do is combine the ingredients.

Chick peas, cannellini & black beans, yellow pepper, red onion, English cucumber, scallions and hearts of palm.

Chick peas, cannellini & black beans, yellow pepper, red onion, English cucumber, scallions and hearts of palm.

Tossed with a simple lemon/lime mint viniagrette

Tossed with a simple lemon/lime mint viniagrette

Oven roasted Wild Caught Salmon with cucumber slices, capers, radishes and homemade 'tartar sauce' of sour cream, greek yogurt, shallots, dill.

Oven roasted Wild Caught Salmon with cucumber slices, capers, radishes and homemade 'tartar sauce' of sour cream, greek yogurt, shallots, dill.

The whole hog, roasted to perfection.

The whole hog, roasted to perfection.

Fall off the bone tender chunks of pork.

Fall off the bone tender chunks of pork.

Desserts
Gluten free chocolate cake with coconut cream/fruit
Black bottom cupcakes (Mom made these, YEAH for me)
Apple Tart
Fresh Fruit Platter * 
Goat cheese & blue cheese & honey & figs * 
Turron *

In my opinion, desserts should be just like the meal, offering a mix of items to your guests.  That is why I like offering baked sweets along with a cheese plate and fresh fruit. 

Since it was getting chilly outdoors, we moved inside for dessert. A few choices giving some variety to make everyone happy.

Since it was getting chilly outdoors, we moved inside for dessert. A few choices giving some variety to make everyone happy.

 
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But wait, the details aren't done yet. Food is the key component, but let's not forget the 2D's.  Drinks and Decor. 

Drink wise; we mostly focus on having wine but usually have a few other drink options such as Vermut, Scotch, Gin and Vodka.  We always have plenty of sparkling water, too.

Decor; an informal outdoor gathering requires nothing more than cohesion.  So let me briefly run down how I handled the tables and flowers. Can you say wing it!  (Was that brief enough?)

Normally I have a visual theme planned out but this time it was indeed a last minute pull together. Evidence that you can create something from nothing on the fly.  I didn't have time to get flowers from my favorite place Dahlia NYC so I took my scissors and went hunting in my backyard and a nearby park.  I cut hydrangeas from our big tree and some other flowers to help fill out the vases for big bursts of florals.  

I arranged one large vase for the food table and smaller ones to place on all the other tables, bringing the look together.

I arranged one large vase for the food table and smaller ones to place on all the other tables, bringing the look together.

Also, while I was raking the yard I notice there was an abundance of pine cones and thought I could use those somehow.  

Hunter gatherer.

Hunter gatherer.

Using the flowers I cut from the park plus the extra leaves from the hydrangeas, I laid them across the stone wall then nestled the pine cones on top to create a fall festive row of flora.

Tablecloths. I didn't even bother to iron.  It was an informal outdoor gathering, so I was ok with that.  I went with a blue and cream theme because I knew I had a variety of coverings that could work in tandem.  When you have several tables, do not fret over everything being matchy matchy.   Coordination is the name of the game.  Just make it all look visually cohesive. I used different patterns all within the same color scheme layering cobalt blue placemats to tie the tables together.

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There was plenty of food, good wine, dancing music and joyful guests.  The perfect party mix.  I think a good time was had by all.  I hope some of these tips can help you throw your next gathering with ease and less stress so you, too, can enjoy along with your guests.

My sister, Alyssa

My sister, Alyssa

Grill masters tossing success

Grill masters tossing success

Aleida and my mother in law Dora tearing it up to salsa music.(Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

Aleida and my mother in law Dora tearing it up to salsa music.(Photo credit: Dori Eckert)

My sister in law Dori

My sister in law Dori

My always helpful, cheerful parents.

My always helpful, cheerful parents.

JC with our dearest friends, Angelica and Marcos

JC with our dearest friends, Angelica and Marcos

CHEERS to all!