Raise your hand if:
- You can make a decent meal
- You have great friends who like to eat dinner
If your hand is raised, you should throw a dinner party. Don’t be nervous, I will help you.
Dinner parties are a great way to celebrate your friendships and give a generous showing of love to the people in your life. And let’s be clear, it is generous of you—parties take time and effort and some money. But it’s worth it! I love creating an evening event as a special treat for me and my tribe.
Whether you have to move your couch into the bedroom to make space in your tiny apartment or everyone has to sit on the floor around the coffee table because you don’t have enough chairs, nothing should stop you from throwing this dinner party. In this first edition of the Hosting 101 series, I’m giving you the top ten tips for How to Throw Your First (wildly successful) Dinner Party.
Am I the only one who gets annoyed by whole-food plant-based recipes that require you to slave away in the kitchen for a day and a half? It’s a little disappointing when I click on a vibrant, fresh-looking dish only to discover that I’ve never heard of 6 of the ingredients, plus I have to own a fancy high-powered dehydrating machine and grow my own nutritional yeast in order to make it. I still have no idea what nutritional yeast really is, no matter how many times I Google it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so cool that people are figuring out how to make those complicated and beautiful things. And there are some simple techniques that make a big impact: I definitely see the beauty in using creamed cauliflower to give your alfredo sauce a boost – that’s a clever step that adds extra veggies to a favorite meal. But sometimes I think we make eating healthy way too complicated. Isn’t there anything delicious that we can just chop up, broil, and enjoy? Today I’m sharing one of the go-to meals that we eat at our house. It will you make you feel good after you eat it and you won’t have to boil a coconut or puree a pound of tree nuts in the process.
The 8th grade science fair was a pivotal moment in the development of my character. Are you ready for a story? Because I have to tell you about how my science teacher Mr. Lambert with his towering height and stern lectures inspired me the first week of school to Do My Best in class and at home that I might truly dominate in the fair at the end of the year. I thought I was so clever: I decided to recreate Pavlov’s experiment with mice. (Eww, is she seriously talking about mice right before she shares a recipe? Just go with it, you guys, I have a point, I swear.) Put a chunk of cheese at the end of a maze, place the mice at the starting line, ring a bell, stopwatch time their race, record the data, WIN THE FAIR. Perfect plan, no? Well, those stinkin’ mice never ran the maze, never searched for the cheese. They just sniffed around. And I never remembered to do it everyday. Weeks went by. Then I finally buckled down to record another race, only to find that my two little furry friends were missing from their cage! My mom was not too happy about their disappearance, as you can imagine.
Fast forward to the night before the science fair: I have a huge posterboard and markers strewn across the kitchen table, I’m panicking at the late hour, and I’m bemoaning the lack of data to prove my hypothesis-I didn’t even have the mice to display at my exhibit! My dad comes home and asks me what’s wrong, I beg him to help me make up some data so that I can make my project look amazing the next day.
And I’ll always remember the look he gave me. Reader (hi, guys, if you’re still with me here), my dad demanded that I show honest work or no work at all. “If you cheat on this project, what will you cheat on next?” he asked. He drew a line on a piece of paper and labeled it LIFE. Then he made a little inch long section and labeled it School. And then he made a tiny, tiny dot in the middle of that section. “That’s all eighth grade is, Jessica. No matter how awful tomorrow is, it will be a a very small moment of your life. But the choices you make now will determine who you become.”
A really, really good dad, right? I was honest at the fair, I received a low grade, Mr. Lambert was sorely disappointed. But the lesson stuck with me. So when I started experimenting with a new recipe idea and it allllmost went perfectly, I had to make it several times until it was worthy of sharing with you guys. I wanted to post this cookie recipe weeks and weeks ago, but I couldn’t! Not until the finished product was chewy and had the right molasses to rosemary ratio. On one of these attempts, I forgot the rosemary entirely. Got to the end of the recipe and realized, I never added the rosemary to the sugar! FACE PALM But I am happy to announce – EUREKA! – this little experiment has finally resulted in cookie perfection. I give you….Rosemary Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
Maybe you’re running around crazy with errands today. Easter is early this year and it seems like you have a million things to do. Stop by the butcher to pick up a roast and struggle with the math about number of people per pound of meat equals time in the oven. You go to Target to buy some baskets and candy for the kids, but they’re all out of baskets, so you also have to go to Walmart, which is across town. You haven’t dyed any eggs, yet, so you have no idea what you’ll hide for all the cousins who are coming to your house tomorrow. Oh! That reminds you–you’re supposed to be at the park right now for the neighborhood egg hunt and you said you’d bring a salad!
The night before I turned 26 (just a handful of years ago!), I was living in a hotel room in North Carolina for work. I was eating yet another single-serving microwave dinner and wishing the housekeeper might knock on the door so I could have some human interaction when the Birthday Blues settled in. Do you know what I’m talking about? That pensive spell of introspection on your birthday when you feel sort of shortchanged. I blame my mother – she went above and beyond to make our special days feel like real celebrations. Now as an adult, it’s disappointing when no one throws a giant parade to congratulate me for being Me. So that night, I threw a coat on over my pajamas, drove to Target, and bought an entire cart full of balloons, streamers, and sparklers. You know the scene in The Holiday when Cameron Diaz buys a load of food and drinks and the cashier says, “Someone’s having a party!” and she laughs because she’s all alone in England at Christmastime and says, “Oh, yeah!!” I lived that scene. I bought enough decorations to throw a massive party. I took them all back to my cramped hotel room and spent a few hours taping streamers to the weird artwork that they cement to the walls. I made a banner that said Happy Birthday and hung it across the window. When I woke up the next morning, all of those decorations cheered me up and even surprised me a little and I thought, “Thanks Yesterday-Jessica, for making today so great.” Sometimes, you have to do something special for yourself, so that yourself feels loved.
Easter is full of surprises. Realizing suddenly that the yard is full of cherry blossoms and blooming magnolia trees. Waking up to find a basket full of grass and candy at the foot of your bed. Searching for eggs and cracking them open to discover their hidden treasure. The searching, discovery, and delight of Eastertime so perfectly reflect how I imagine that first Easter– imagine Mary seeking Jesus only to discover He was not in the tomb, but risen in glory! And bearing the fruit of salvation for all!
I’m not suggesting that a surprise gift for a friend compares to the glorious gift of Salvation that we celebrate at Easter, but giving gifts and thinking of others are acts of love, and love always helps us remember the Savior. So let’s give someone a happy surprise this Easter! Continue reading
You’re a little dubious, I can tell. Kale soup?? Is this going to be one of those really-good-for-you meals that tastes like dirt and people pretend to like it? Stick with me, you guys–this is not a trick! This soup is fresh and creamy and a little tangy. But first, let’s get tackle some of the elephants in the room….
What’s the big deal about kale? Continue reading
Do you remember when your cousin sent you her wedding invitation and you taped the ENVELOPE to the fridge because it had gorgeous calligraphy and a row of quaint, vintage stamps? You are going to love me forever because today is the day that we all get to learn how to find and buy those lovely stamps! The stamps that make your letter stand out from the pile of junk mail. The stamps that transform a letter from mail to Art, with a capital A. Here today at Brookhaven House to spill all of her vintage stamp secrets is Sarah Pearl of Sarah Pearl Studio. I’m crazy about her Instagram feed: her beautiful calligraphy is inspiring, her witticisms are sweet. You will love her. She has created the ULTIMATE guide to finding the perfect vintage stamp for your wedding invitations, thank you cards, and love letters. And as she’s the expert, I’ll turn it over to Sarah….
Hey hey snail mail lovers! We’ve all felt the thrill of receiving a letter in the mail, but that gets amped up like “times a finitiy” in the words of my six year old when you see a letter doused with a generous helping of vintage stamps. You feel somehow transported back in time (minus the anxiety of getting back on your time machine before you do something that alters your future).