My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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Entries in Entertaining (4)


Autumn Outdoor Dining with Tips for Weeknight Entertaining

Between business trips and personal travel I haven't spent a lot of time at home this summer and haven't had a chance to enjoy our backyard as much as I would have liked. With winter on the horizon I decided to capitalize on the beautiful fall weather and a light work week to do a little backyard entertaining on a Thursday night at the end of September.

When you work full time, entertaining on a weeknight can be a bit of a challenge but with a little bit of planning it is totally doable and a fun way to break up the work week.

When I get home the first thing I always do is set the table. I like to arrange everything, including my serving dishes, and save the cooking for right before my guests arrive to make sure the food is hot. I love this flour sack linen table cloth because it has a little texture to it and I don't need to iron it. A navy runner grounds the center of the table and a few ceramic pumpkins on the ends are a festive seasonal nod.

For the place settings I love to mix and match for a casual look. I used a plain white dinner plate with a handmade butter plate that I bought in Seto along with a small blue and white bowl that I purchased in Tokyo. For a fall look I used my yellow linen napkins. Cloth napkins always look fantastic and to make it easier on myself I always fold and lightly iron them right after I wash them so I have them ready to pull out of my linen cabinet for entertaining.

For flowers, I always pick up something from the grocery store when I shop for the dinner party ingredients. Here I combined two grocery store bouquets, one of greenery and one of sunflowers, in a blue enamel ware pitcher.

I also couldn't resist picking up some mini white pumpkins from the grocery store which I tucked into the blue and white bowls at each place setting.

With the table set, I started cooking. Menu planning is important for weeknight entertaining in order to be sure that you can prepare everything quickly and easily and not stress yourself out. My go to weeknight entertaining menu is a pasta dish with a salad and a baguette.

To make the meal seasonal, I made Martha Stewart's Orecchiette with Butternut Squash and Sage using some sage from my garden. It is easy to make, looks beautiful and tastes like autumn which made it a perfect dish for the evening.

For the salad I used a base of baby kale topped with dried cranberries, goat cheese and pecans and paired with a pomegranate basalmic vinaigrette dressing. If I entertain on the weekend I like to make everything from scratch because I love to cook, but for a weeknight I take a few shortcuts to make it easier on myself. As an example, for this meal I bought already cubed butternut squash from the produce section for the pasta and pre-washed baby kale mix for the salad plus I bought the salad dressing instead of making it. All combined those three shortcuts probably took out 45 minutes of prep time for me and made the meal doable after work.

Little touches always finish off the table for me. I like to put out water in a carafe or pitcher with sliced up lemons and decant my salad dressing into a cute little carafe or dish. It only takes about five extra minutes but it makes the table look more festive and put together.

I also love to have an herbed compound butter to go with the bread. They are easy to make and a great way to use up extra herbs from your garden or cooking. I like to prepare them and keep them in the freezer to pull out when needed.

By keeping a limited menu and doing a few small things that had a nice visual impact I was able to be ready for my guests in about an hour and a half with a beautiful and delicious table of food. With everything finished before my guests arrived I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening with them. Cheers!


Backyard Celebration Party

Since Frank and I had a tiny wedding this summer with only sixteen people we decided that it would be fun for us to have a casual barbecue in our backyard to celebrate our marriage with some of our local friends. We hosted the party this past Saturday after the Michigan vs. Akron football game.

Since Frank was busy with preparing for the tailgate before the game (he made a bunch of delicious pizzas with his Pizza Kettle) I worked on doing some party set up on game day before heading to the tailgate later and then left the game at half time to finish getting things ready. The game was pretty ugly with Michigan barely pulling out a win so I was actually glad to have an excuse to head home.

Last time I shared about our backyard on the blog we only had the cuddle set under our new pergola. Since then we added a dining table that I found on Amazon as well as a set of eight outdoor wicker chairs that I got at an end of season sale at Meijer. This provides us with a nice permanent outdoor dining area that we made use of for the party.

For some decoration I dressed up the pergola by hanging a bunch of paper lanterns in different sizes and colors. I used fishing line to tie the lanterns to the pergola in random spots and slightly different heights. I thought it added a festive touch to the yard.

We were expecting a lot of guests so we set up two pop up tents and some additional seating in addition to our permanent backyard furniture. 

I used two white table cloths to cover a few of Frank's tailgating tables and set out white Terje folding chairs from Ikea. In the center of each table I laid out red Marit table runners. For center pieces I put out red metal bins with yellow mums flanked by lanterns. Both the red bins and lanterns were from the Target One Spot purchased last year. The lanterns were a light brown but I spray painted them oil rubbed bronze. Now that the party is over I plan to plant the mums in my front garden beds.

I also did a little decorating with the seating area on the patio behind the house setting out another table runner and more mums.

When Frank got back from the game he fired up the grill and made hot dogs and hamburgers. I had found red fast food baskets which I lined with red checked wax paper to serve them up.

In addition to the burgers and hot dogs I set up a table next to the grill with other food and some drinks.

I put out condiments in small carafes which I placed atop pillar candle holders that I found on sale at Target and spray painted silver. I also had small bags of Cracker Jacks that I set out in a silver mesh bin. I popped some pop corn and put it out on the table in red and white stripped popcorn boxes.

The night before I made a few salads for the party including rosemary potato salad, pasta salad with feta, oregano, bell peppers, tomatoes and olives and a salad of spring greens with pecans, bleu cheese, dried cranberries and raspberries.

I also made buttermilk chocolate cupcakes that I iced with buttercream frosting and topped with sprinkles and maraschino cherries.

For drinks I had sangria in a pretty drink dispenser that Frank and I got as a wedding gift as well as some flavored sparkling lemonades and cokes on ice. To keep the sangria cold I cut up orange slices that I had frozen the night before. For fun I set out red polka dots and red striped straws with the glasses.

The barbecue was a lot of fun and we ended up having over sixty guests. It was so nice to hang out with everyone and finally break in our new side patio and pergola with a party.


Simple Autumn Appetizer Party

Last fall I hosted a simple appetizer party for my friend's birthday at my home that I thought I would share the recipes. With a vegetarian guest I kept my menu selections vegetarian with autumnal ingredients.

Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
This is a go-to recipe for me when I am entertaining. Simply coat a wheel of brie with apricot preserves and wrap in puff pastry, tucking the ends under the brie. With the scraps of leftover pastry I cut out some vines and leaves and attached them to decorate the top with a bit of water. I brushed the puff pastry with an egg wash (an egg white whisked with 1 Tbsp water) to make it glisten and baked it at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. To serve it I topped the brie with some pomegranate seeds to add a little color. 

Frozen Puff Pastry Tips: Make sure that the pastry is fully thawed and at room temperature before you roll it out. Also, to prevent needing to use flour to keep it from sticking when rolling it out, try rolling it on parchment paper.

Fig and Gruyere Palmiers
This is another simple recipe using puff pastry. I rolled out a sheet of puff pastry into a large rectangle and sprinkled it with a cup of shredded gruyere cheese. I rolled up each of the sides toward the middle and then cut the resulting roll into 1/4" slices, placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet. I melted 1/2 cup of fig preserves and then brushed it on top of the palmiers. I baked them for 12 minutes at 400 degrees and served them warm from the oven.

Endive with Caramelized Pears and Blue Cheese
I used this recipe (originally in December 2006 Cooking Light) to make this endive appetizer. In the past I have also substituted pecans for the walnuts which has worked quite well. I really like the recipe and love the sweet and savory aspects that it combines.

Butternut Squash Spread
This spread was slightly adapted from this recipe (originally in September 2007 Cooking Light) with me omitting the pumpkin seeds (just didn't have any) and halving the amount of garlic. I served the spread in a small bowl with a few sage leaves for garnish. This spread has a little kick to it which I really quite enjoy.

To set my table I put out an orange table runner that I have from Ikea and topped it with some red leaf felt placemats that I picked up from HomeGoods. I placed my appetizers on the table along with a bowl of baguette slices to go with the brie and squash spread. For drinks I served hot apple cider with sticks of cinnamon.

It was a fun little celebration and everyone loved the food. These simple recipes meant that I spent minimal time in the kitchen but still had a beautiful spread for my guests to enjoy.

Do you have a favorite fall entertaining recipe? What do you like to serve?


DIY Monogrammed Cocktail Picks

Tomorrow I am attending a wedding and me being me, I just finished up making the gift today. Nothing like waiting until the last minute!

For the bride's wedding shower gift I had purchased some bar related items from the couple's wedding registry and then made white and navy drink coasters to go along. I thought it would be fun to coordinate the shower gift with the wedding gift so I bought a set of martini glasses that they had registered for and then made these navy monogrammed cocktail picks for them.

To make the cocktail picks I started by purchasing some plain, inexpensive stainless steel cocktail picks to use as my base. I cut eight small equal size pieces from some navy clay and then rolled each piece into a ball between my palms. I pushed a cocktail pick into each ball and then reshaped them to make them into flat discs. I finished them off by stamping an initial into them and then baking them in the oven per the clay manufacturer's instructions.

The cocktail picks were easy to make, but it did take me awhile to be able to stamp the clay in the center evenly. I had several at the beginning that were off kilter and that I had to reform and restamp. If you are going to try this at home, make sure to use a clay that is safe around food.

I think the picks turned out cute and I hope that the soon to be Mr. & Mrs. H enjoy them!