Matt thought I went totally overboard when all these wedding gifts started piling up in our then-apartment, which was maybe 700 sq feet. (We were in NY, people - we used to think that was pretty darn spacious.) Flash forward six years, and I really have been using all that stuff! To me, it's totally worth having that huge, ugly hutch in the dining space to store all my tabletop treasures.
But, if I had to cull it down and choose just a few must-have entertaining accessories ~ the things that make hosting guests as effortless, fun, and festive as it ought to be ~ these would be the top 5:
1 - Real Cocktail NapkinsThere's something about a pretty linen cocktail napkin that elevates any drink. I swear, chocolate milk can be downright sophisticated if you serve it up with a delicate little piece of hemstitched linen. Of course, I just had to have monogrammed ones when I got married....
(from Mark & Graham - a great budget-friendly source)
(from Julia B - great source if you've got plenty to spend)
but now that I'm getting older, I find myself drawn to less formal, cheekier ones like these
(from Julia B.)
And just in time for the holidays ~
(all from Biscuit Home)
Aren't those fun?
2 - An Old Fashioned Flower FrogI love those lush, old fashioned floral arrangements you see in big wide-mouth silver bowls and urns, but my flowers were forever flopping around to the sides, so my arrangements never really looked full. Enter the flower frog! Matt found one out in the barn this summer, and I discovered it really is the secret to foolproof, pretty bouquets - I don't know how I ever went without it. Using one is pretty self-explanatory, but Martha offers some helpful tips here, because doesn't she always?
Find one that fits your favorite vessel, or scoop up this perfect vase/flower frog combo from the Bunny Williams for Ballard collection - a gorgeous copper to warm up your dining table, and it's thin enough to grace most mantles too.
See that wire mesh in there? That's what will make your flowers stay exactly where you put them,
instead of flopping all out of place the way mine usually do.
And Voila! You'll have an ooo and ahh kind of centerpiece.
4 - Pretty Cheese Platters
My absolute favorite cheese platters are my cheese slate and a long, lightweight wood cutting board. I use the cutting board for rustic spreads of Parmesan, salami, and olives, and the Cheese slate for when we serve a variety of cheese. Somehow these two platters seem to work aesthetically for everything from casual pizza parties with lots of toddlers to formal dress-up holiday dinners. World Market and Crate Barrel carry pretty options of both.
5 - Oven-to-Table Casserole Dish
I'm a disaster when it comes to entertaining guests and cooking at the same time. While I have visions of myself whipping up a fancy red wine reduction while cracking guests up with some hilarious story and simultaneously making sure no one's drink dips below half-full, I can never actually manage it in reality. If I'm cooking, then I'm ignoring my guests. If I'm chatting with guests, the dinner burns. The only way I'm ever able to enjoy good company (and all that cheese!) is if dinner is in the oven and I need only pull it out when the timer dings. So having a pretty baking dish I can take straight from the oven to the table is critical for me. There's no need to plate your culinary offerings with these pretty bakeware pieces ~
(from Williams Sonoma)
(from Ballard Designs)
Whenever I serve up simple comfort foods, like pot pie or mac-n-cheese, I like to serve everyone in their own little mini baking dish - like these from Crate & Barrel. It just makes it feel a bit more fancy, even if the food isn't : )
6 - Silver Polish & White Vinegar
Ok, so I said Top 5 accessories. And no, these technically aren't even accessories. But I swear by having these two things on hand this time of year. These oldies-but-goodies are key to making the pieces I have look their best. Nothing gets rid of hard water spots on my drinking glasses and flatware like a dip in white vinegar - it makes everything sparkle like new. And while I love a little aged patina as much as the next girl, the holidays are when your silver should shine. I'm starting on my trays and picture frames now, so everything is lookin' good by the time my guests arrive. I'm trying to get Lulu in on the whole "polishing the silver is fun!", but she so far she isn't buying it : (
Hope you all have some entertaining fun coming up too!!