Friday, November 13, 2009

{hostess of the week} cindy elsman

Phew! It has been crazy busy around here as the holiday orders have started coming in, so our blog went on the back burner for a bit. But we're back with a new hostess of the week, our good friend Cindy Elsman. We've spent many a late night at the Elsman's house and the reason for this, I think, is that
first and foremost the emphasis is always on everyone enjoying themselves. So, while the food is always delicious and the table nicely set, the atmosphere is always easy...not easy as in no effort went into it, but easy as in relaxed and encouraging guests to sit back and enjoy. Cindy reveals some of how she does this below, so enjoy and be inspired!

Table: A dark stained pine table that was Jim's family dining room table while he was growing up. We inherited it when we moved into our first apartment over 16 years ago. I've been wanting to replace it ever since, but it has served us well! It seats 6 comfortably. We can squeeze in 8 with extra chairs from around the house, and when we are having a big group my handy husband Jim puts a large piece of 1/4" plywood with rounded corners on top, and we can easily fit 12.

Chair: 6 ladder back chairs that came with the table.

Lighting: 5 arm wrought iron chandelier. I think it came from Home Depot?

Favorite Table decor: I usually have fresh cut or dried hydrangeas from the garden (super easy and free), then add small candle votives around the table.

Last time you entertained you served: Make your own pizzas.

How many people were there? 7 thirteen year old girls

Last minute or planned in advance? Planned. My daughter, Hannah, planned it all. She did evites, planned the menu and the girls came over and did the rest.

Go-to recipe when in a hurry: Roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato pasta.

Favorite cookbook: I love all the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. I also like the magazine Everyday Foods by Martha Stewart. Great recipes, with not a lot of ingredients.

Invitations: printed, hand-written or emailed? I would love to be a planner and use printed invitations but I usually do things last minute or a week in advance so I pick up the phone and call everyone.

Best entertaining tip: I like to serve simple, good food that doesn't take a ton of time to prepare, so I can enjoy the party too! Never make a new recipe for your guests. Try it on your family first.

When you're not entertaining, what are you doing? Running the daily obstacle course of life with my husband Jim, our three kids Hannah, Bennett and Stuart, and housebreaking our new black lab puppy Bear. When I can squeeze in time for myself, I try to get outside as much as possible, read, back and exercise.

Thanks, Cindy!

A note: we jokingly call Cindy's husband Jim "Captain Activity" because he loves to plan an activity in conjunction with a dinner or barbeque. This makes the evening so fun. He'll arrange a round of golf at the local par 3 course for kids and adults, or a few rounds of paddle tennis, and then everyone arrives at the Elsman house hungry and full of funny stories. A game of "celebrities" is a favorite after dinner activity and it is as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids. It reminds me of growing up in the 70s when everyone seemed to play charades at dinner parties. But give "Captain Activity's" ideas a try before your next gathering.

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