Tuesday, September 29, 2009

{hostess of the week}: haile mccollum

I am really excited to introduce you to Haile McCollum, owner of the brilliant company Fontaine Maury. If you've seen FM products, you will not be surprised by the style Haile brings to her table. Enjoy!

From Haile: The photo is from Parker's birthday party (he's 5) we were going to have the party outside, but it rained. My kitchen table was not big enough, so we did it in the formal dining room. To dress it down some I tossed on 3 vintage table cloths.

The table: A very formal dining room table that my grandmother bought in Aberdeen, Scotland. She told me that if I married the right person I could have her dining room table! So funny. She did not live to see me married, and my aunt got her table, but I did find this table all crated up in her storage shed (that I cleaned out, it was a big task!) My Aunts let me have to table, so I guess she knows I married the right person!

The chairs: 14 in the dining room given to me by my Aunts to go with the table- but I hate the covering! I keep saying I'm going to print my own on Spoonflower, I just can't seem to get it done.

Lighting: A very modern polished silver fixture from Circa lighting

Favorite table decor: Candles! My husband and I light them almost every night.

Last time I entertained, I served: Pork tenderloin, french rolls a barefoot contessa salad with butternut squash in it. Have to confess, someone else brought the salad!

How many people? 10 grown ups who did not behave like grownups! Stayed until 12:30am!

Last minute or planned in advance? Planned, it was a 41st birthday party for my best friend.

Go-to recipe when in a hurry: White Bean Chicken Chili, so easy! It came off a Progresso can.

Favorite cookbook: I really like the Joy of Cooking for basics, I go to epicurious for more out of the box ideas.

Invitations: printed, hand-written or e-mailed? Usually printed, but sometimes called, and sometimes even texted or facebooked!

Best entertaining tip: If you are at ease, your guests will be too. And don't worry, it's only a party!

When I'm not entertaining, I am: Working on any number of projects for Fontaine Maury and cooking for 2 boys who are the perfect ages, 5 and 2 and my husband. I actually make 2 dinners every night! We have not merged dinner time, but I feel it coming.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

{hostess of the week}: carol cochran

hen and barley press founding partner Carolyn Streett was supposed to be this week's featured hostess, but we're fairly swamped right now AND this fabulous entry from my dear friend Carol came in, so this week's hostess is Carol!

Carol is an amazing cook and hostess. My family and I visited Carol and her family this weekend, and in the time it would take me to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Carol had whipped up tortillas FROM SCRATCH, with yummy beans and rice to go on top. This is a lady who knows her way around the kitchen. But, what I love about Carol and you will gather from her responses, is that she is a great hostess because her greatest pleasure comes from bringing people together and serving them good food. If the house happens to be sparkling clean and the table decorated, all the better, but those things not being the case does not stop Carol from entertaining, and that is why everyone loves a party at Carol's house. Carol is also the most heartfelt do-gooder I know, so many times her entertaining also does double duty as a fundraiser of some kind. Carol lives give, invite, gather to the fullest!

From Carol:

1) Table:
Long old thing (maybe 10' by 4'?). Not round (which I would love), but at least it accommodates a whole team (e.g., basketball, swim) at once.

2) Chairs:
2 benches, 4 kitchen chairs, and as many of our old wooden folding patio chairs from our time in Vietnam as are still functional (maybe 6?) when needed.

3) Lighting:

Hanging black wrought iron chandelier with CFL bulbs, o' course (but warm white ones!). The window & kitchen are also framed with white twinkle lights (LCD -- we like festive but also know we're overconsuming -- oh, the waffling between guilt and celebration!). Yes, it brings to mind folks who never take their Christmas lights down for some. For me, it brings to mind celebration and good times.

4) Favorite table decor:
We love decorating with flowers or greens from the garden in the months when we can (we live in Wisconsin, after all). If we're having a more "formal" (in quotes because we're never TOO formal) dinner we like to add whatever fun or themed things are around to the table -- ribbon napkin holders, candles, water in some presentation and any knick-knacks that fit the theme.

5) Last time you entertained, you served:
Sausages & burgers (again, we're in Wisconsin!)

6) How many people were there?
About 70

7) Last minute or planned in advance?
Planned in advance

8) Go-to recipe when in a hurry:
Salmon linguini with lemon

9) Favorite cookbook:
Any of the "The Beautiful Cookbooks" (e.g., China: The Beautiful Cookbook)

10) Invitations: printed, hand-written or e-mailed?
Usually printed (even if just from my own computer -- though I would love to be organized enough to invite everyone on Hen & Barley Press gear).

11) Best entertaining tip:
Don't you EVER feel like you can't have people
over until your house is cleaned, in full repair, remodeled, etc. People want and even need to gather these days, and we do it less and less -- we're busy, and, oddly, we're hung up on having the perfectly appointed home. I think Martha Stewart has a lot to answer for -- somehow we've reached a state where we're all competing for the perfect home and perfect party. ??? Isn't the whole idea of gathering and celebrating supposed to be stress relief and an escape from the competition -- gathering with friends you know accept you (or should)? And yet now we're going to stress ourselves out -- and then stress our guests out by making them feel they can't measure up to THIS gathering. Craziness. I have received a whole series of backhanded compliments which I treasure from people enjoying themselves at our house. For a small sampling: "I've always told [Husband] that we couldn't have a dinner party because our house wasn't big enough, but I realized after you had us over that if you can do it, anyone can." And, "I always feel like we can't have people over until everything is spotless. But I was sitting in your bathroom realizing that nothing has to be spotless, people just have to be there." (How's that for -- er -- flattery?) And one friend famously stated, upon entering our home for the first time: "I love your house. It is the antithesis of sterile!"

If you have folks over when you've spent your time with your family and preparing food for your friends, they will enjoy themselves, relax, and have a good time. (The ones who are concerned about the spider webs in the bathroom or checking to see if your laundry is folded are ones you don't mind not providing with a great time!) In today's society, setting people at ease and making them feel like you have taken care to prepare something just for them is an almost magical gift. It allows them to relax -- really relax -- and enjoy. A little tip: inviting them on H&BP stationery might actually impress upon them the care and preparation you are taking -- and they might even rsvp to let you know whether or not they can make it! (Non-rsvp-ers are a pet peeve of mine.)

12) When you're not entertaining, what are you doing, professionally and/or personally?
Being the belay person for my family -- Tim (awesome husband), Tatum (16), and Catriona (15). Staying on the ground to try to enable them to soar. Volunteering various places in an effort to thank the universe for our good health and good luck. And just starting to figure out what course I might want to chart for the next stage of my life.

Below is a shot of Carol's table as it usually looks, full of happy, smiling people eating great food:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to our {new} regular programming

give, invite, gather inspiration: {hostess of the week}

We're excited to introduce our regular feature. Each week a new hostess (or host, come on, boys!) will be featured and answer our Q & A, providing inspiration, tips, ideas and perhaps a dose of reality about all things giving, inviting and gathering. We'd love to feature you, too! Just e-mail Jenny or Carolyn with your answers to the Q & A below, and please include a photo of the table where you entertain most often.

To get the ball rolling, I've interviewed myself. Sorry for the tiny photo, it's from my phone! Next week Carolyn will be featured, and then...stay tuned... we've asked many of our talented friends to join in.

The table: Table with one leaf from IKEA, seats up to 8.

The chairs: From IKEA and very comfortable as long as you're under 6' tall...which my husband is not

Lighting: Pendant with drum shade from Restoration Hardware. It gives off very nice, soft light.

Favorite table decor:
None usually, but if I have some flowers, I put them in orange juice glasses down the middle of the table with some votives interspersed.

Last time I entertained, I served: Indian food: a dal, chicken vindaloo and raita

How many people? 15, 8 adults and 7 children

Last minute or planned in advance? Last minute. We called a few friends and then a few more stopped by, and next thing we knew, we had a party! I love that kind of spontaneity.

Go-to recipe when in a hurry: Spicy Grilled Greek Chicken with Yogurt Sauce and Pitas. The recipe is from "Wine Bar Food" another favorite cookbook (see below).

Favorite cookbook: It goes in spurts, I have a new favorite every week. Right now, I am using Hot Sour, Salty Sweet a lot, as I am hung up on Thai food.

Invitations: printed, hand-written or e-mailed? When I plan far enough in advance, printed invitations from hen and barley, of course, but usually I am pulling things together last minute, so phone!

Best entertaining tip: Don't feel like everything has to be prepped before people arrive--people like to help and it gives everyone something to do if conversation is slow.

When I'm not entertaining, I am: Running hen and barley press, running around after Henry, Charlie and Teddy, and reading.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We're moving!

Hello, everyone! It's been a while...I hope you are all still out there. The big news here is that we're restructuring our operations and next week will be moving into some new space, all under one roof here in Chicago. We're excited, but all the preparations for this move have obviously resulted in no blog posts for a long time!

Our offices will be closed next week, re-opening on September 16, so we can get everything moved and organized. Any orders placed next week will be filled promptly on or after September 16.

Moving is hassle, but one thing I love about it is that it forces us to really clean house. In honor of this, we're having a little moving sale through October 31 for our dear retailers: 15% off all boxed and bulk imprintable invitations and notecards, and $10 off our Completely Custom display. Now is the time to stock up on some of our darling designs like the one you see above. And, if you live in the Chicago North Shore area, stay tuned because we're going to be hosting an open house/fall clean up sale in October, and there will be some great deals!!

Thanks for your patience and we promise to be back with a new blog schedule by the end of September.