Gathering | Summer

Entertaining outside is one of our favorite things to do in the warmer months, usually at the beginning of summer or late in the season.  A few years back, we hosted a Dinner on the Dock.  (You may remember seeing our post about it back then.)  The concept was simple and fell back on the traditional idea of a potluck supper.  We asked friends to bring a certain dish and we would set the table and provide the drinks. After a few beverages, we would all sit down together for a "family meal".  

This idea is not a new one, however it sometimes hard with our busy schedules to gather and sit together. Actually at a set table.  But we found that when you do, you enjoy lively conversations and the people that surround you.  You may sit next to someone you didn't know very well and enjoy their company.  You may hear the peepers and crickets that come out after the sun goes down and bask in the warmth of the summer air.  You may even find yourself enjoying the evening and wishing it wouldn't end.  Our guests still reminisce about the event. And we promise, if you try this idea, it will be worth it.

If you decide to host one for yourself, send us the photos as we would love to share your experience.

Gathering | Sit and Connect

As warmer weather is upon us, gathering for a summer dinner seems easier as the days are longer and allow more time to linger with friends and family.  The food even seems to taste better as it usually is what was fresh at the farmer's market.  Simple flowers from your blooming garden make for beautiful centerpieces and the assortment of dinner napkins you have, that don't necessarily match, make for an eclectic setting.  So sit back and enjoy your company.

The Entertainer | No Place Like Home | Mother's Day

From Kate, part of our creative team:
 
Ever since I could remember, my mom, Lynn, has always made our home feel so welcoming. From having my friends over for play dates to hosting dinner parties for their friends, my mom does it all.
 
My mom learned her tools of the trade from her mother, Janice. Janice was also quite the entertainer during her time. She always enjoyed having her children and grandchildren over for big holiday meals. The house was always clean and decorated so beautifully. Janice made every person that stepped through the front door feel like family. She passed down that love of family, incredible recipes, and the joy of hosting to my mom.
 
Even when she’s not hosting a large crowd, my mom is always on top of everything. As she prepares dinner every evening, she is also calling friends, sending out emails, throwing laundry in the washer, watching the news, feeding the cats and doing it all with a flair!
 
At the end of March, my boyfriend popped the question at our favorite hammock spot near Lake Raleigh. My mom was ecstatic, needless to say. Within a week of being engaged, she lined up the church and the venue, wrote out her guest list, and set up an appointment for wedding dress shopping. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s had a secret Pinterest board she’s been working on for a while.
 
One of my mom’s favorite movies is the Wizard of Oz. We even have our own Toto!  What resonates with mom, besides the great costumes, music and technicolor dreamland, is that home is where your heart is. And she has put her heart into our home.  As I contemplate my life ahead, I hope that the home I make will be the place just over the rainbow where I gather with my family and friends just as my mother and her mother have done before.
 

The Entertainer | Golightly + Gather | Mother's Day

From Este, our pinterest guru and favorite hostess, next to Lea-Lea of course!

My Mom, the fabulous Lea-Lea, has always been the hostess who is the most-ess.  She threw birthday parties that were the talk of the school, hosted cocktail bashes that could go on all night, and headed up charity galas that were must attend events with a capitol "E".  She wowed... life sized skeletons at Halloween!  She innovated... first mom to bake cakes in ice cream cones!  She enjoyed... first in conga line!  

Lea-Lea is an artist.  Combine her creative spirit with a debutante past and toss in an eye for detail and a joie de vivre and you have the actual Holly Golightly that Lula Mae Barnes could only pretend to be!

A hostess like Lea-Lea is a rare bird and should be appreciated as such.  I love to entertain, but don't have that perfect storm of skills (or boundless energy) that she does.  I can hit many of the high notes because she taught me well.  Here are some of her tricks of the trade that she so graciously shares with anyone brave enough to ask, "how do you do it?"

-Know your strengths.  Compensate for your weaknesses.  Mom likes to dress the set.  When it comes to food, she knows that to cater is to save her bacon.  Luckily, food is my strength.  We make an outstanding team. 

-Use what you have.  You don't have to rent fancy linens or buy expensive floral arrangements to make your space come alive.  At our home, vintage quilts became tablecloths with a built in story, a collection of seashells made a creative centerpiece...

-Never apologize.  Go big or go home.  Yes, says Lea-Lea.  And know that sometimes in that hugeness things go wrong.  Never make excuses or compensate for that which you cannot control.   The chicken is over cooked.  Meh. Be gracious, tell your guest you love a tough old bird, pour him another glass of wine, and grab him by the hand to form the congo line.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.

The Pragmatist | Keeping It Real | Mother's Day

From Christina, our Director of Sales

My mom was 17 when she got married and 18 when she started having babies.  Entertaining  and making swoon-worthy, pinnable meals was not on the agenda.  It was not even in the budget.  She was still a child herself.  But, she was a practical child.  

Dinner was simple but it always happened around the table.  My sisters and I were not just called down to dinner when it was ready, we had to earn our spot at the table by helping to set the places, behave throughout dinner and then clear and clean the dishes.   By the time I was 4, I could load a dishwasher.   My mother was, and still is, a no-nonsense woman.  She is the original DIY'er.   I don't mean the craft glue and chalk paint doer.  I mean the learn to do it yourself doer.  My mother brought home the bacon and she taught us to fry it up in the pan.  

As spartan a childhood my mother, my sisters and I had, I recall our meals around the table to be the best of times.  It was when she could stop having to be the grown up in the room and we would talk about our day, laugh and fill our tummies.  

I am about to become a mother myself.  I am entering this new phase of my life with all the advantages my mother did not.  She has had a good laugh over some of the baby gear my husband and I have been hoarding in preparation.  "You are spending $200 on a piece of cloth to tie your baby to your back?  That is why you have two arms.  I could make an entire dinner with one arm and a baby on my hip."  And, while she wears her walk barefoot through the snow uphill both ways stories like a badge of honor, I am still absolutely in awe of her.  I have no idea how she managed it all at so young an age.  

What I do know is that I know how I will manage.   It is the gift she gave me.  DIY.  And I will pass it down to my child as I teach her to pass the peas politely.  

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.

 

 

The Chef de la Maison | Mama Bird | Mother's Day

From our Creative Director, Katherine Bird Poole

I am turning into my mother.  (Seen here wearing the exact same ensemble.  Not intentionally.)  Birds of a feather and all that.

And, I am quite okay with it.  

Mary Lib and I don't talk every day.  She makes a point of not being up in my business.  She does not give advice unless it is asked of her.  She is not the first person I call when something good (or bad) happens.  She is not my best girlfriend.  When I was in my 20's and early 30's, I did not come home all that often.  I was just out there living my own life.   When an acquaintance inquired if we were estranged, my mother had a good laugh.  I had a boyfriend (later to be husband) and friends better equipped to be all of those things for me.  She just needed to be my Mama.  

And she is.  And she nourishes me as such.

My parents live on a lake, so when we gather it is usually at their home with my brother and his family.  The time together is spent playing on the water, listening to music and gathering at the table and on the dock and on the screened porch to visit.  

And, we cook.  Man, do we cook.  My mother is a gifted chef.  We did not grow up eating the exotic or fancy.  It was basic 1970's + 1980's fare, but it was always home cooked and very rarely if ever came with the instructions "uncover and bake at 350 until golden brown."  She is not a food snob,  it just did not occur to her to take short cuts.  We also always sat down at the table for supper.

Mama didn't really set out to teach me or my brother to cook, it just sort of happened.  We would be there keeping her company at the bar as she prepped dinner.  We sat by as she would coat the okra in cornmeal then carefully fry it on both sides or whisk together a marinade for a tenderloin to put on the grill.   And as we watched, she would ask questions about our lives.  She never put us directly on to boil, she just waited patiently for us to simmer then the fat would rise and be skimmed off and savored. 

Now it is our own children sitting at the bar as the adults tag team in the kitchen putting together our new favorite obsessions.  The Christmas of the cassoulet, the Memorial Day of the homemade ice cream sandwiches, the great steak sandwich debacle and the time I fried the fish for tacos in grits instead of cornmeal.  We share over meals... memories, hopes, failures, dreams, fears.  We are fed.  And, we are fed.

Mary Lib is the mother that I want to be.  As my own children have firmly taken root on the other side of the baby gate, a sentimental me asked her if she missed those times when we were squeezy little babies and precocious toddlers.  Without hesitating, she said, no.  Nooooooo.  she said, "The older you get, the more I like you."  She takes pride in having raised people that she likes and likes to be with.  And that can cook.

Here are just a few nuggets from Mary Lib about raising good people.

Tell your daughter that when she walks into a room people will notice her whether she likes it or not.  Give them something to look at.  (Advice given from a mother of tall daughters to another.  Works for a child of any size or sex.)

Let your children be children as long as they need to and don't make yourself the person they come to for entertainment.  

Always know where your child is living so that you can picture them in that place when you talk to them or visit them in your mind's eye.

Do not make demands on their time at the holidays.  Let them spend Christmas at their home.  If you want to see them, you go to them.  Besides, any time you get together is a holiday and sometimes it is a lot nicer without the pressure of Easter bunnies and birthday cakes.

Let your children make their own mistakes.  Hard as it is to watch them stumble and fall, it makes your heart soar when they do get up and take flight.  And they do.

Know your kid's favorite foods and drinks (likewise grandchildren and sons and daughters in law).  A 46 year old man will still get excited to open a pantry door and see a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Love is a remembered dorito, the freedom to succeed and fail on your own terms, to stand tall, to feed and be fed.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.





The Pied Piper | Grace by Jenny | Mother's Day

The kids on my street called my mother, Grace, the 'neighborhood mom.'  When she passed away a few years ago, our dear friend, George Hudson wrote a poem I treasure.  Here is an excerpt:
  
The neighborhood mom had a family of her own, and a tribe of 15 to go along with it. 
Football, baseball, basketball, kick ball, kick the can, wiffle ball, dodge 
ball, monopoly, 21, checkers, chess. Life, Rook, Risk, 
Scrapes, and tall trees, sweet honeysuckle, and bumble bees. 
Broken arms, and broken bones, broken hearts, and broken homes, 
The neighborhood mom was there for all.

Grace would block off Northwood Road, call square dances, officiate volleyball, set off fireworks, and talk the local Pabst distributor into dropping off a KEGerator (full sized) that she would put on the back porch of our home in Asheville, North Carolina.

Katherine and I were having a good laugh about Grace recently.  (She has been pied piped by her on more than one occasion.)  She said to me, "you know, you are her, right?"  And while I have been known to rally the neighborhood troops on occasion, being "the Hen" does not allow me the time to do it as much as I would like.  I caught myself half-apologizing to my son Bobby for that very reason the other day.  He just shrugged his lanky 14 year old shoulders and said, "you try to be there" and that is enough for him.  Children are resilient, amazing sweet blessings that fill in the gaps between memorable moments with an abiding love that sustains them.  (I could stand to take a refresher course in Unconditional Love.)

"Grace" calls to mind poise and elegance.  To you, maybe.  That "Grace" gave Cary Grant the what-for and became a princess.  But to me, Grace was agility and heart.  Tall, nimble and, to be honest, something of a rabble rouser.  But always there for all. (That's Grace leading the line dance in the middle of the street in the image below.  See her?  Her tribe is watching and following.)

Grace may have led more lines dances, but my kegs are way better.  That's Sierra Nevada in this one.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.

Click the image if your mama falls under this category and we are sure to have the perfect gift for her.