Friends Bearing Presents

Presents! I love presents! Particularly the unexpected kind — the kind that somebody gives you just because & for no reason, the kind that make you feel special because somebody thought of you and went to the trouble to do something for you. Such as that wonderful little box of “Pocket Espresso To Go.” A friend and her husband, who are enthusiastic travelers, found these adorable little packets of espresso AND chocolate in Italy and brought one back for me. I especially am tickled with the coffee pitcher on the package — it seems so … Italian! I also received a trio of some of my favorite things when I helped host a wedding shower for a friend’s daughter. Are hostess gifts a Southern thing? It’s times like this when my native non-Southerness comes out because I always forget about hostess gifts and then when I receive one I’m thrilled and surprised and then of course I mentally run through all the times I should have given hostess gifts and I wonder, “Did I?” Anyway, our mother-of-the-bride friend is a gracious native Southerner and ALWAYS does the correct thing. She knows that we all are crazy about her 1) hand-knitted dish cloths, 2) homemade plum-fig jam and 2) seasoning mix made from her own dried herbs, so that’s what she gave us when we hosted a shower for her daughter. How did I end up with such sweet and thoughtful friends? (Reminder to self: Give people more presents.)

When Life Gives You Parties, Make Mimosas

We aren’t bragging or anything — well, I obviously am, although the rest of this group is much better behaved —  but a group of friends and I have pretty much perfected party-hostessing. Seems as if every year one of our children is getting married or getting engaged or graduating or having a baby, and naturally each of these occasions calls for a celebration. We can plan a party at the drop of a (wide-brimmed, ribbon-decorated white straw) hat and check off half of our to-do lists before the men in our lives — who, even after all these years, still do not understand the difference between “tea” and “brunch” — can ask “Tell me again why you pay so much for flowers when the side of the road is full of them?” Take, for example, the bridal shower a few weeks ago that we hosted in an old bank in the once-thriving and now-quiet Sweetwater business district of Florence, Ala. Recently the space had been a restaurant and the owner now rents it for events. We originally thought “rustic,” “vintage” and “weathered” were appropriate decor themes to coordinate with the exposed brick walls, tin ceilings and original woodwork. However, a professional we consulted — we’re always up for a second opinion — suggested we go sleek, sophisticated and girly instead for a visually intriguing contrast. And she was correct. The light and airy silver “bamboo” chairs paired with snowy white linens and stunningly tall tropical-flower centerpieces were the perfect touches. Add a steady supply of mimosas, good times and good friends and you’ve got a party. I told you we are good!

What Your Table Should Wear for Spring Parties

After being inspired by these completely cool table coverings at Nellie Mae, in Tuscumbia, Ala., I am immediately ditching all the matching and carefully pressed contents of my linen closet shelf drawer and going for joyously eclectic creativity. I mean, how sweet are these? I love the ethereal layering of the neutral-toned tablecloths on the left and then the cheerful fabric garlands, rosettes, bows and flowers decorating the one on the right with the netting underskirt. I think these would be perfect for a bridal shower or even an informal outdoors wedding — you know, those oh-so-fun weddings that are really just parties in disguise, where the bride wears cowboy boots and everybody’s kids are running around and there’s beer and barbecue for all (except the kids, of course). On the other hand, I’ll always love the simple elegance of crisp white napkins paired with Grandmother’s linen tablecloth. And the retro fun of colorful vintage table squares that demand place settings of Fiesta ware. Of course, the way Husband JP and I usually eat is out. Or on the couch watching basketball. But I just like to know that I COULD set a nice table if I were inclined to.

Jana & Claire: Do Not Read This Post. Look Away! Thank You.

My house was blooming the other night when friends who are co-hosting a bridal shower for the daughter of another BFF came over to make tissue-paper flowers for the decor. These colorful blossoms have been popping up everywhere recently — I see them in store windows and displays. They’re even Martha-Stewart-approved, and she has a video tutorial on how to make them. But we tapped in to our many-decades-ago high-school memories of decorating homecoming floats and transforming gyms into dance floors and didn’t even need Martha’s help. You just layer sheets of tissue paper, pleat as if you’re making a fan, fold in half and scrunch up the center and secure with a pipe cleaner. Then, it’s on the fun part of separating the layers and shaking them out into a flower. We got better with each attempt and soon were experimenting with different colors and sizes. We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do with them now, but they sure are impressive! This is easy enough for even awkward, uncoordinated and clumsy non-crafty folks like me to attempt and yet creative enough for talented crafters, like my friend on the left in the photo above, to be inspired. You see, after our flower-making marathon, she went home and stayed up until 2 a.m. making corsages out of fabric and netting, using the same tissue-paper principle. I, on the other hand,  drank more wine and went to bed.

P.S. I warned Jana & Claire, the mother of the bride-to-be and the bride-to-be herself, not to look at this post, but they probably did and now are hoping that my flowers somehow don’t make it to the shower in favor of the gorgeous ones everybody else created.  But I’m redeeming myself by bringing coffee and herb-cheese biscuits, so maybe that will help.