Posts tagged literary dinner parties
Literary Dinner | A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol was a wonderful seasonal buddy read for us. Short and sweet, and the perfect way to get back into our literary dinners since Rikki's baby arrived. Our reading lives have been up and down the past few months, full of too many good books to choose from, and often choosing family over everything else, as the season demands. This dinner party brought both of our families together and made for a great night of conversation, simple yet delicious fare, and warm, flavorful mulled wine.

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I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, present, and the future. - Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
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As with many of our dinner parties, we went with a simple meal and set-up; the goal is to enjoy ourselves, not work all night long. Using lots of candles we had on hand, a garland of greenery (Trader Joes's for the win!) and berries cut from the backyard, we laid down a base over a lace piece Rikki had. We then sprinkled in fresh citrus, apples, cinnamon sticks, and chestnuts, which were all mentioned in the novella, and stuck a candelabra in the center.

It ended up feeling SO warm and inviting! Everyone was kind of lingering near it, because it was so pretty and cozy. The place settings were just Rikki's dishes and silverware mixed with some napkins in rings that Michaela had on hand that felt Christmassy enough. Honestly, it took us ten minutes to lay down and tweak to our satisfaction, and cost about $10. 

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But being thoroughly good-natured, and not much caring what they laughed at, so that they laughed at any rate, he encouraged them in their merriment, and passed the bottle joyously. - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
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Keeping in mind the Christmas party scene at Scrooge's nephew's house, we brought to life a scene with lots of candles, rustic, seasonal touches, and simple hearty foods. It felt really good to return to vintage Christmas staples and create a classic setting in the midst of our modern holiday. 

With two roast chickens, glazed carrots, and a beloved family dressing recipe, dinner was ready to go! It fed five adults and three kids perfectly, so we were able to sit and enjoy the meal and good conversation while we sipped warm mulled wine and relaxed together.

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We went with a homemade wonderfully spiced rum raisin cake for our dessert. The novella mentions a Victorian twelfth cake, which is a really similar concept; heavy on eggs, light on sugar, spiked with alcohol, and studded with fruits and nuts in a dense cake. 

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We toasted to the night, finished off the food and wine, and enjoyed the warm fire while visions of A Christmas Carol danced in our heads. This holiday season is often so busy, but we are so glad to have carved out time for this. It's moments like these, coming together and slowing down to appreciate a story as heartwarming as this, that made us feel like this is what the Christmas season is all about.

We hope you were able to slow down and really soak in the holiday spirit with those you love. Happy holidays!

Literary Dinner | Brideshead Revisited
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This is actually the book that got me back into classics as an adult, so I was thrilled when it was our "Banned Books" book club pick for September! After college, I had a period of time where I wasn't picking up heavier reads, but Evelyn Waugh brought me back into the welcoming fold of excellent writing and timeless stories. This book is absolutely beautiful, and one of my favorite classics. It wrestles with class, religion, complicated love, and friendships. Plus, a good bit of it is set in Oxford, making it the perfect September read with all those back to school vibes. 

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In thinking about this party, we really needed to capture the old world glamour of the novel; it's very similar to the aesthetic of Downton Abbey (if you've ever obsessively binged that show like most of us). Much of the novel revolves around the grand house, and the characters are all wealthy, to say the least. We thrifted some china, set plates on chargers, and set out candelabras and flowers. We also utilized the gardens on Rikki's "estate" for parts of our meal!

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One element we knew we needed to focus on was a drinks tray. There were only a few mentions of actual food in the novel (and often it was like an ice swan full of caviar), but ohhhhh gosh were there drinks. Servants bringing drink trays, specific drinks being ordered at bars and restaurants, drinks being sipped, wine cellars being raided....just alcohol galore. And of course it's extra important because alcoholism plays a role in the novel, as Sebastian struggles with it so deeply.

We chose to highlight the more elegant side of drinking, and take our cue from the text when servants would bring in a drink tray before dinner for the family to mix their own drinks. We found a silver tray and piled on rocks glasses, ice, a shaker, and our favorite liquors. Champagne, of course, was chilling in my vintage ice bucket, while a teapot full of flowers, a lovely stack of old books, and a globe completed the scene here. 

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Our main table was pretty straightforward. We pulled Rikki's dining table over a few feet and flung open her french doors, letting the chill of the early September evening air sweep in and refresh the house from the heat of the day. We covered it with a simple white linen tablecloth, ran blue cheesecloth down the center, and set out vintage china on chargers, wine glasses, candles, cloth napkins, more gorgeous old books, and used floral foam to make a flower arrangement at the base of one of my candelabras. A golden apple held a favorite quote from the novel that perfectly encapsulated it's ethos. A bottle of Burgundy landed on the table as well, because of course. 

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Some of the food mentioned in the book were racks of lamb leaned against a cone of mashed potatoes, fish with white sauce, and roasts. We took the old world feel of the food and plated our meal of mashed potatoes, frenched pork chops, drizzled with cream sauce, and had a side of fresh garden beans. Oh, and that bottle of Burgundy got opened and thoroughly enjoyed, too!

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Dessert, again, we pulled from old world food traditions and made a berry trifle. It was the perfect use of summer berries as a last hurrah before pumpkin everything takes over (not that we're complaining). A trifle is basically cake pieces layered with berries and cream, and it's utterly delicious. Rikki's garden provided the strawberries and she even had the perfect silver server for it. 

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As always, our dinner took about an hour to prep and set up, and we actually had some of Rikki's family members join us this time, which was wonderful to have them share the scene we created with us while we talked about the book. By the time we parted, the moon was full and the earlier evening had descended, bringing the promise of fall with it.

We can't wait to throw some fall/winter dinner parties! As most of you know, Rikki is due with a baby this month, so we aren't sure if we'll get to do a dinner party in October, but keep an eye out in November! 

Have you read Brideshead Revisited? What did you think?