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Summer Entertaining: The Last Hurrahs

In these waning days of the last full month of summer, don’t you feel an urgency to grab the moments that will disappear with the shorter days of sunlight that are soon to come… the more leisurely dinners outside, the cookouts, the gatherings with a disappearance of their usual hurriedness because the kids have school the next day. I know that we do and every moment that we can get in in this last month of the “last hurrahs”, we hurrah! The calendar seems to be full with trying to get to the places that we put on our “To visit this summer list” and have yet to get to. We eat outside whenever we can. We try to finish all of the projects that we had outlined for the summer months and we count down the days until the seasons change, yet again, and we turn more inwards in our activities. Often we feel a sense of urgency that we need to “do it all” in the remaining days… everything that we had put on our Summer to-do list.

I love to entertain, did you ever surmise that through this little blog? I also love to cook… a lot. The road block that I seem to hit quite often in these two loves of mine, is time. I know that I have posted pretty food dishes and recipes on our Life’s Patina social media account and they are mine and are the result of an afternoon or an evening of preparing food, typically on the weekend. That is probably why we host many a family gathering here… it gives me an excuse to cook and try new recipes and ways to present them. However, if you hit up my kitchen on a regular week night after work, take it from me, there would be no pretty, photographable food to be found in the kitchen. Food and dinner yes, but certainly not worthy of a photo. Actually, as I write this post, it is late on a Wednesday night and I just finished a piece of pizza while tucked into bed, computer in my lap after making a trip to Target and unpacking all of the groceries I picked up there (and all the other misc stuff that one often ends up with in their cart on a Target run.) So let’s get off the guilt trip that looking at many of the gorgeous photos of perfectly styled food on instagram, Facebook, websites, etc lead us on. Most of those dishes took many hours to prepare and more to style them to appear that way in the photograph. Trust me, the photos that I take of my food dishes do not compare to the gorgeous ones that you see above and are about to see throughout this post.

You see, in the past few months, we have been working on a new website for Life’s Patina (another task on my “have to finish by the end of this summer” list) so we finally have bitten the bullet and had a professional photographer come do a couple of photo shoots to try and capture and highlight the design and aesthetic that is Life’s Patina. We decided to work with Koi Fly Creative for they had shot our “Story of Life’s Patina” video for us a couple of years back and we were beyond thrilled with the results. So, we scheduled some dates for one of their very talented photographers to come on out and do a stylized shoot. I gathered up a bunch of my favorite objects and “styled” the photos that you are about to see. Leslie from Koi Fly was not only phenomenally fun to work with, not to mention her just as fun founder of the company, Stacy Grant, on this late afternoon summer day but they both made this first for us, incredibly relaxed and easy! AND we think that they made everything beautiful with their skill set and eye. Come on now… they even made this bowl of cherries make you want to reach into the photo to grab a handful!

Leslie and Stacey had asked us to set up the areas that we wanted to highlight and focus in on at this shoot. Since it was the summer, I really wanted to highlight not only the barn, where we have our sales but parts of our little farm here where we find so much beauty so that we could share it with you. In deciding what to photograph, I thought it would be pretty to share a scene of entertaining out by the pool for we so often do this. In reviewing the photos of the scenes in this shoot, the thought came to me of what my topic would be for this post. Above, I mentioned that we are trying to basically hold onto these last days of summer and all that comes with it. This gave me the idea, that you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen making an elaborate marinade for your cookout, beautiful fresh tossed salads and all the rest of it that goes with entertaining and inviting friends or family over to enjoy these languishing evenings.

Even though this was a scheduled work event, time was still a hot commodity, just like it is with personal and family plans and I ended up shopping for the ingredients the night before with a one-hour food shopping trip to Trader Joes and Wegmans and then another half-hour the next morning pulling out all of the dishes, linens and other styling items that I thought might work with this scene and another fifteen minutes running around with my scissors cutting flower material. My point in saying this is that you do not have to sweat the details with entertaining, with making your hosting friends or family a little more special. I think that so often, because of all of the pictures of “perfect” that we see, we think our attempts will be less than perfect and we cannot measure up… so we don’t try. Yes, the photos that you see here are beautiful, because of the talent in the photographers who captured it. They so elevated the little gathering that I put together that day but the preparation behind it was very simple and the time to prepare it the day of, even more so.

Fo simplicities sake, I had decided to put together a simple antipasto board and two desserts to shoot along with the flowers. Let me tell you that we had a blast devouring it all, after the shoot, for we finished right around dusk and we sat at that very table that you see, Maggie, who assisted in the shoot, Stacy and Leslie… along with a good bottle of wine and downed all of the simple ingredients.

Thinking back on that evening made me realize that again, you don’t need that elaborate meal, just some easy to make items that when put together with people you enjoy gathering with, makes for a memorable evening. The best thing as well is that I have a little secret about the desserts, the pie is a pre-made one from Trader Joes and we highly recommend it! And…

the other yummy looking dessert is a recipe that I tasted the night before at the Trader Joe’s tasting counter which was a Cherry Dump Cake and it was DELICIOUS! Seriously, it was the easiest baked good that I have ever made and one of the most scrumptious. All of the three ingredients for the dump cake are from Trader Joe’s and here is the recipe:

1 Box Vanilla cake and baking mix
1 jar Morello cherries
1 stick of butter 

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan or an 11 x 7 pan. Pour 1 jar of cherries into bottom of pan and spread evenly. Pour contents of the dry vanilla cake mix over the cherries. Distribute 1/4” slices of butter over the cake mix and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 mins or until golden brown and gooey! 

Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you will have your guests coming back for more… or for at least the recipe!

The point in sharing these gorgeous photos is to not only share with you the talent of Koi- Fly Productions and it’s stellar photographer, Leslie, but to let you know that you can and you should grab these remaining summer days and give them your last hurrah! It can be simple, with few ingredients, a couple of extra touches such as a linen tablecloth, napkins and some flowers or greenery… always flowers… store bought or fresh picked…it matters not!

Oh… and a bottle or two of whatever refreshment you see fit to set before you! And no… this is not a paid advertisement for Trader Joe’s but they truly have some of the best food finds and our favorites anywhere! Love me some Trader Joe’s!

I hope you are sincerely grabbing onto these final days of summer living with both hands!

xoxo ~ Meg

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  1. Cheryl scerba-cummings says:

    Graat articke!

  2. Nancy Moffitt says:

    Beautiful! Made my afternoon.

  3. Lynne L Brown says:

    I was just sitting here pondering the menu for my daughter’s 30th birthday at our lake house. I want to be able to enjoy her guests and not be busy in the kitchen! Your beautiful photos helped me visualize something simple and delicious! I always love a good Trader Joe’s hack!

    • Meg Veno says:

      Hi Lynne!
      Exactly… we all love to create a delicious menu for our guests… sometimes spending the day in the kitchen ahead of time is just what we want and sometimes it is not! I am glad that you took from this post what you needed and I hope that her Birthday celebration is everything you envision it to be. Happy celebrations Lynne!