We are thrilled to introduce Tracy Porter, an exciting addition to the At Home in Arkansas blog team! Tracy is a lifestyle, home and fashion designer, author and photographer. Her publication appearances include O, Better Homes & Gardens and InStyle, she’s appeared on Oprah, E! and HGTV, and her eclectic designs in home and fashion are sold in thousands of retail stores and boutiques around the world, including Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.
We had the pleasure of meeting Tracy at the recent Design Bloggers Conference in Los Angeles, and she charmed us with her warmth and kindness. Her monthly column, about all things entertaining, will showcase her unique style, inspiring At Home’s readers to live life to the fullest.
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post for her $250 giveaway!
With summer nearly here, entertaining becomes more top of brain than ever! But…I get it entirelyâ¦having people over can overwhelm even the most seasoned entertainer! All of our days are terribly busy, we seem to easily fill them with activities, events and running about…throw in a wagon full of kids + pets and the idea of friends for dinner can seem utterly daunting!
However, it CAN be easy (sigh of relief). It takes a bit of planning, and some winging it…and in my book thatâs how you get to easy. I have a handful of tipsâ¦that I hope inspire your next gathering to feel fabulous in mind and spirit
I keep a basket full of folded cloth napkins in a range of colors and prints… Ok, I keep several of them, truth be told! It is just so easy to have them handy, right in your kitchen or pantry all the time, and one less thing to be running around after when company comes!
Have a few âgo-toâ cocktails… and a range of pretty glassware sitting out. Everyone loves the idea of âbeing entertainedâ so when your company shows upâ¦be ready! A choice or two is niceâ¦.we make a great Meyer lemon cosmo in our house (Iâll share that recipe down the road!) thatâs always a crowd pleaser. Add to that a gorgeous martini glass…ahhhh, irresistible!
Always add flowers. It is one of my favorite things to do once most everything else is covered! (Sort of like playing!) It makes any eating and gathering experience just that much more enchanting. A little charm goes a long way. Donât spend a fortune…if you must buy flowers, go simpleâ¦all one kind. Plunk them into little vessels or teacupsâ¦and scatter them about the table. No fuss…! If your yard is abundant, then get out your nippers and have at it! Clip bits of this and that and again plunk them into lower simple vessels that you gather from around your house. I often times will just set flowers on the table in my gathering basket…never mind that they slowly wilt a bit here and there…still so lovely…nature adds beautifully to any meal!
Dim the lightsâ¦ALWAYS! I have walked into more fully lit kitchens in the evening (wanting to put on my shades) than I care to admit to. No one wants to be blasted with light…low light is calming and sensual…and it hides everything! Next, keep a stash of âready to goâ candles. Mine change often (I cannot help myself) but I keep a basket in my pantry full of candles. Right now, I am onto jam jars (with 4 little boys, we go through lots of jamâ¦too bad peanut butter jars are not cuter!). I keep a little votive in each. Sometimes I will spritz some rosemary with water and drop a small bit of it in the jarâ¦youâll catch an occasional whiff of goodness that is over the topâ¦try it!
I adore large trays, and I truly use them! I have them out on my countertops ready for action! I cannot tell you how well this works! If you like your plates, then keep them out in a nice stack on a tray. Then dig up a great vessel, fill it with useful utensils and…viola! Sounds simpleâ¦but when you see it you use it!
Zero in on your âgo-to recipes.” I love knowing that everything will (for the most part) work out when company comes. There are always surprises, but a good recipe is worth its weight in gold! My best example is chocolate sheet cake! No brainer…everyone loves it…no one ever tires of itâ¦and you can make it in a snap! I even let my kids doll up the top with little cookies and candies. No matter the occasion, this sort of thing adds magic to any gathering! So, find a way toÂ round up your top recipe picks and go to them for fearless entertaining. Even little sticky notes popping from the tops of your cookbooks (as I do) will do the trick. Just mark the ones you can count on anytime!
I keep the appetizers really simple. I just find this approach easier for all! Keep several cutting boards in various sizes on hand. Add to that a few odiferous cheeses, some pretty little knives, a mix of nosh-able crackersâ¦almonds, salami, salt and vinegar chipsâ¦use small pretty bowlsâ¦and youâll have something to set on your counter or nearby coffee table, or wherever you and your company are hanging out!
A few more thoughts…Itâs sometimes the little things that throw us off last minute, so the âdo ahead and plan listâ can also include:
~ Finding a no commercials music station (try www.pandora.com) that sets the mood with one tap of your finger!
~ Decide if you will be setting the table or going more casual family style buffet (so easy and fun for all!)
~ Choose recipes that are make ahead if at all possible…even a few hours really can help!
Most importantly, I share these ideas with you to lessen the overwhelm. I have been there, running around swabbing my forehead, shoving toys into random drawers, scoopingÂ dog hair tumble weeds off the floor. I NOW choose the EASY route. I plan a bit more, dim the lights, have a sip of my drink beforehandâ¦..and calmly, happilyâ¦await my friends and family to show up!
Cheers to you!
I am so excited about my first of many columns with At Home in Arkansas that I want to celebrate it with a wonderful giveaway for a $250 gift certificate! Besides my love of writing, and sharing inspiration for all lovely things in life, I am also a designer of delicious home and fashion goods!
Surely youâd love a shopping spree?! Well alright then! In order to enter this gem of a giveaway, all you need to do is post a comment here (by clicking on responses at the top of the post next to the date, or scrolling down underneath the current responses below) about my first columnâ¦let us know what you think! How simple is that! The giveaway will run today through May 23. The winner will be picked randomly. Please check back on May 24th to see if it is you!!
I am there to chatter every day, would love to meet you! Â Good luck & happiness to you!