December 5th ~ Entertaining

Ahem…remember when I said in the opening Blog about not sweating it if your schedule of Advent activities gets thrown out of kilter?  Ours just did, for the barn was open last night for a fundraising event for the Scholarship Fund Program of our alma matter, Catholic University. Our original Advent day activity was going to be Evergreen Day but there was no time for evergreens after school so the kids went without, (I think they will be fine)! I switched my topic to Entertaining since that was the focus of my day yesterday and will be the focus of your day at some place and time during this month. 
I thought I would start off with the table which I think is where you should always start when planning a gathering. There are a number of questions you should ask yourself that will get things going for you.
1. How many people are you having and will it be a sit down or a buffet?
2. Based on that info, where will you be eating? What kind of table do you have and do you need to bring in any additional seating?
3. Is there a theme or a color scheme that you would like to use? That can be based upon what kind of dish ware, linens and the like that  you already own. Will you be using paper or plastic?
4. What linens do you have that you can use? Do they work with your color scheme? Based on your color scheme or theme start pulling things out of your cabinets that might work as a centerpiece. I always start that way and work my way out.
In this instance, the party was being held in the barn. The large area, high ceilings and long table allow for large and dramatic centerpieces. They actually have to be or they would get lost in the cavernous space. One thing I love to use are  lamp shade frames that you can tower and make into tiers of different levels of interest.

Here I placed one large lamp shade on the table and then added a square tray on top with a smaller sized lampshade and then another rectangular tray to form the top tier. I then cut greens and placed them on the tray along with silver balls and a reindeer or two. As you can see I did not use a table cloth on this table because I love the bare wood of the old farm table. I use paper runners that cover just the center and give it a pop. That is how I came up with the color scheme of the silver/ grey/ white and green with a natural base.
Given the largeness of the centerpiece, I felt that it needed flanking materials that were equal in size. I pulled two of the outside urns and filled them with assorted cut greens and snow covered branches (fake). You can spray your own with white paint and then either a can of fake snow or glitter spray. Add a few pine cones here and there and you are all set.
This is the table in full but it was set up for a previous party and some of the objects sold. Everything in our displays are for sale so they change on a day to day basis. (Except for the lamp shade bases which I have not been able to find more of so if anyone has a source…please let me know!)
I LOVE to cook and come up with menus, but when hosting these events, there is only so much you can do so…here comes in my caterer friend Loraine. Her cooking is to die for and we work really well together as a team with staging and presentation. She will let me incorporate my crazy ideas of using chairs and lamp shades as food presentation pieces.
My point in showing you this chair set up is that you can use anything you have on hand if you think outside the box!
I like to print the menu on something if it is going to be a large gathering. This prevents numerous questions of what each dish is. Chalkboards are great for this and so are these Cake Vintage Place mats that have a blank section on them where you can write out the menu. A customer bought a pad of them and had a calligrapher write out her menu on them for her wedding.
Now onto the presentation of the food. Here Loraine lined individual square glass cups with a lettuce leaf and then topped each one with a dollop of cocktail sauce and a dollop of Salsa Verte (a green salsa). Yum! We lined our large square wooden trays with Cake Papers and that made a great serving area for the individual shrimp cups. 
Mini Fillet Croutes topped with sauces line a wicker round tray. I love to use various shaped serving platters, be they wicker, wood, glass or ceramic. It is okay to mix them up!
Here Thai Crab lettuce wraps are served upon an antique silver platter.
Cheese is always a staple. This is a Chevre topped with local honey.
Another great component of a great buffet is differences in height. It makes a much more interesting buffet table if you can elevate some of the food items so they are all not on the same plane. I used a tin stand that I sat upon a wooden try so I could have two levels of the same food item.
Don’t forget about the beverages! Loraine made some killer eggnog, spiked of course, and we served it in a glass bowl that was nestled in ice that was held by an antique copper bucket.
Glassware was stacked in old wooden crates. They make great carrying vessels!
All of this was set upon a bar with a green recycled glass canister and a jar of candy canes to give it a little festive air.
We got these cute little tin buckets with a chalkboard tag in this year that I used to house coffee creamers and little prepackaged biscotti. We also planted some paper white bulbs in them and they are doing very nicely.
Top your evening set up off with lit candles. They add so much ambience! I know that this was a set up for a large gathering but you can easily adapt some of these ideas to use into a smaller gathering. I will be posting later this month some smaller gathering set ups and our Theme Thursday Event on December 19th in the Barn will be chock full of last minute table decor ideas that you might be able to use if you are hosting any festivity over the Christmas and New Year Season.
Happy entertaining one and all!
Meg

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