Nell Hill’s has brought so many great things into my life, including some of the best friends a girl could ever hope for. Among those is my dear friend Marsee. If you’ve been into the store, you might have seen Marsee zipping about like a hummingbird, creating amazing displays. If you’ve seen my books or read my blog or followed my social media, you have gotten to peek inside her impeccably decorated homes. Marsee’s friendship has influenced the way I decorate, how I entertain, and, most of all, how I see the people I love: treasures to be honored and celebrated.
Among those people I treasure is Marsee’s mom, Betty Lou, who is a robust 90-year-old marvel. When Marsee told me her parents were moving and her mom was feeling a bit blue about all the work and hassle moving entails, I had an idea. I would throw a luncheon for her mom and a few of her friends at my cottage, to get her away from the boxes and mess for a bit and recharge her batteries with the power of friendship.
I go in phases when it comes to entertaining. For weeks, I’ll host a flurry of events at my home. Then, I’ll become a hermit for a while. Right now, I’m in hostess mania, so I couldn’t wait to have Betty Lou and her bunch for lunch. Fittingly, the whole event came together through a collaboration of some of my dearest friends, from the florals to the food.
We picked an afternoon right before Thanksgiving. That seemed the perfect time to stop and give thanks for the wonderful women in my life, who span the spectrum from 20-something to well into their 90s. My life is much the richer because I have friends of all ages. My older friends have so many pearls of wisdom to share; they have seen so much in their lifetimes and have grown wise.
Normally when I entertain, it’s a photo finish. I have the decor up, table set, food ready seconds before my guests arrive. I’m tired of that heart-pounding, adrenaline-laced feeling. So I prepared my home the night before. In addition to setting the table, I added a few welcoming touches to my fireplace mantel.
Years ago, I did grand treatments in my dining room, hanging branches from the chandelier and other feats. While I didn’t want to go that far, I did want a showy statement on the table. Shana, a neighbor of mine who is a florist, stopped by to style grand bouquets, made with real oak tree branches and bittersweet. I sat and ate pizza out of the delivery box while I marveled at the way she manipulated these big branches until they looked perfect.
The table’s center was the perfect place for this beautiful old scale I found at a little antique store a while back. I put some mini pumpkin gourds on the scales for fun. Then, I finished the look with bouquets of fresh flowers.
Marsee has taught me the fine art of making every guest at your table feel special. It’s the little touches that make all the difference. Like setting the table with your best china and crystal, welcoming each guest to her seat with a personalized place card and menu, having the guest of honor’s favorite music playing in the background. This kind of pampering makes you feel a bit like royalty.
Whenever I entertain and want the food to be out-of-this-world delicious, I turn to my friend Tracy, who is a professional chef. Tracy pulled together a divine menu that was as delicious as it was beautiful to behold. I wanted to use the sweet gold handled bowls that go with my antique china, so Tracy built a menu that included tomato basil soup and marinated figs on bruschetta.
The afternoon ended with this sweet treat. But the sweetest moment of all was lingering with these ladies after lunch, hearing their stories, laughing and relaxing in the comfort of good friends. We all left that afternoon with our batteries recharged, feeling loved and excited to take on life.
When can you do the same? Gather a few friends at your home soon, whether for a meal or just a glass of wine. When we pause and celebrate friendship, our lives are blessed.
This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com
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