Posts in Literary Event
Literary Dinner | This One Summer
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support.

This One Summer remains, hands down, one of my favorite graphic novels, and I finally convinced Rikki to read it! The story focuses on the friendship of two girls at their annual summer vacation spot as they come of age. The story mixes in family drama, the awkwardness of being on the cusp of the teenage years, friendship, growing pains, and the complexity of inner life. Some panels are heart-stopping in their elegant blending of text and art to create something meaningful. I especially love how the concept of memory was handled, but it captured so many hard to define emotions so, so beautifully. It embodies my favorite moods of bittersweet and nostalgia, and I haven't ever seen this level of layering in a graphic novel, which makes it extra special. Okay, enough gushing. On to the dinner!

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The novel is set at a vaguely rural lake house, and most of the outside scenes are of beaches, family BBQ's, swimming, and the girls walking through the forest. Because the setting is so natural and un-fussy, we simply cut some of Rikki's dappled willow in her yard, stuck the branches in mason jars, and lined them up along the length of the table. We love how they look floral, but aren't.

Also, the collection of pebbles play a big role visually and thematically in the book, so rocks on the table were a must. Candlelight was another must, as many scenes include candles, or outside fires, so we wanted to represent that on the table. Place settings were kept intentionally neutral, highlighted with striped paper napkins to match the aesthetic of the novel. 

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Junk food is central to the novel. The girls visit a convenience store, where a lot of the plot is set in motion, to buy snacks for their horror-movie binging. We played with our usual format of charcuterie boards, but instead of fancy ingredients, used junk food and our favorite camping foods. We honestly love the juxtaposition of the elegant and the fun, and this appetizer board was a hit with our kids. 

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Of course there was wine! All the adults in the novel are pretty much constantly imbibing wine or beer, and we loved the label on this one for our dinner with it's plants and bugs; so fitting. We think a chilled rosé is the perfect summer wine, don't you agree?

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As we discussed the novel, we brought out more fun food. Honoring the recurring BBQ's in the novel and the fact that pizza is a perennial favorite of teens everywhere, we broke out the pizza stone and baked ourselves some deliciousness. Rikki made the pizza dough from scratch, nailed simple sophisticated toppings, and got the perfect amount of bubble and char on the crust. It was just absolutely delicious and fitting. 

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S'mores were specifically focused on in one of my favorite scenes, and so while we were finishing dinner, we got a fire started, then broke out the supplies (and Twizzlers, which are repeatedly mentioned) and toasted some marshmallows. It was my 4.5 year old's first time making them and he was completely delighted. Everyone was relaxed and happy, finishing off drinks, casually chatting, and helping the kids assemble their s'mores. It was truly a perfect reflection of the book's overarching theme of family. 

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It gets dark pretty late around here, but when the sky began to deepen, it also deepened the beauty of our tablescape. It was a fitting end to the night; the dramatic backdrop enhancing the effects of the warmth of good conversation with friends and nostalgic food.

Another beautiful summer night talking books and enjoying good company. These are the days. 

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Browsers Cookbook Book Club | Spring 2018 Edition
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

For the first time in nearly a year we were able to attend this together (you can see that one right over here) and it was just as amazing as ever. 

If you aren't familiar, our favorite local bookstore, Browsers, in Olympia, WA, hosts a quarterly cookbook book club, and we were welcomed in to attend and style the event. The concept is simple: once a season they pick a cookbook, and members make a dish and bring it to share. A dinner party ensues as everyone sits down to enjoy a meal and conversation together in the loft space above the bookstore. It's such a great idea, and proves books don't have to be high literature to be a connecting force. This was their spring event, and members were to cook from either Delancey or A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. 

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For this event we wanted to keep the vibe springy and cozy, while still maintaining a modern aesthetic to match the feel of Wizenberg's books, and to reflect the season. We cut up some bunches of eucalptus from Trader Joe's and wove them around various candles in a color palette of sage, rose gold, and white. We also evenly spaced flower arrangements from Fleurae along the length of the table for a good dose riotous springtime color. The table was set, the wine was opened, and all that was left was to wait for guests to arrive. 

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We have to admire the complete transformation this space has undergone since the last time we were here. The bookstore did some major renovations and reimagined the entire loft space as well as the retail space directly below it to update their safety standards and to modernize the look. Those months of construction were well worth the time, because it is absolutely stunning now; we can hardly believe it's the same space!

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With the arrival of all sixteen guests bearing various bowls and platters of delicious things, the evening really got started. Everyone was invited to load up their plates and sit down for good food and even better conversation. Every time we've attended, we've noticed there is always this warm, buzzing energy as people connect and laugh together. It always feels like a whole table full of friends even though most people were meeting each other for the first time. We were especially excited to get to meet our instagram friend Krysta in real life!

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It took hours for the conversation to wind down and the food to disappear from the tables. Half empty bottles of wine and guttering candles were strewn along the table as everyone filtered out and another wonderful event came to a close. Thank you, Browser's for hosting this event and allowing us to take part in it!

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VENDORS

Styling | The Ardent Biblio

Venue | Browsers 

Flowers | Fleurae

Pottery | Mariella Luz

Literary Dinner | Platters & Boards
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*this book was gifted to us by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but we loved it so much we decided to dinner party it! Also, some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support.

We love our elaborate literary dinner parties, but sometimes the best evenings are spent with something we put together on a whim. We often decide to have dinner together on a weeknight where we throw together a casual meal and let the kids play while we watch TV, chat, and relax with a drink. Simple, effective, and fun for everyone. 

Recently, we were gifted a review copy of Platters and Boards by the publisher, and as I sifted through it at my kitchen table one afternoon, I was completely inspired by how effortlessly we could pull together a weeknight meal from it. We had already agreed to meet for dinner the next night, so we decided to give it a shot.

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Luckily, it ended up being a gorgeous evening, so we decided to soak up the nice weather and set up outside. My trusty white tablecloth was draped over my patio table, a summery table runner brought in some texture, and flowering succulents placed in colorful vases added interest. Some scattered candles, plants, and pretty objects pulled from various corners of my house, plus my favorite drink tray helped fill in our casual decor with minimal effort.

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Drinks are always on the menu for our weeknight dinners together, and a warm evening called for my all time favorite summer cocktail: Moscow Mules. Three ingredients mixed in pretty copper mugs yields the most simple and refreshing concoction. The trick is plenty of lime and a spicy brand of ginger beer, especially if you're going to mix it on the stiff side. Trust me, when it comes to this cocktail, there's nothing worse than a watery one.

 

Michaela's Moscow Mules

  • 2 oz vodka
  • half a lime
  • ginger beer 
  • ice

Fill copper mugs with ice. Add vodka, squeeze in lime, and top with ginger beer to taste. Give it a stir, and cheers!

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For dinner, we pulled together a few platters and boards (hah, get it!) to cover the major food groups and keep it interesting. We made the white bean hummus dip from the cookbook and paired it with tons of our favorite fresh veggies, topped the book's recipe for crostini with our beloved Trader Joe's bruschetta (find it in the fresh section!), and loaded a big cutting board with plenty of meats, cheeses, olives, fruits, caprese skewers, truffled potato chips, marinated artichoke hearts, and spicy pickled vegetables. Pretty much the tastiest motley of all our favorite things. 

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Table laden and fresh drinks in hand, we sat down to just relax, snack, and talk. We set the kids up on a picnic blanket on the deck and let them load up plates with whatever caught their eye. We could hear them giggling and playing games amongst themselves while we took turns entertaining the baby and flipping through the cookbook, earmarking recipes we'd like to try for future dinners this summer.

We've been friends for 7 years now, and our conversations winds and flows from what we've been reading, to that adorable thing our kids said the other day, to general life stuff. One of the best things about dinner parties remains that they bring us together in a real way. A pretty setting and good food to enjoy with your best friend and suddenly you forget your phone and your hard day, and just relax into the moment. There's just a particular brand of magic that comes with these literary dinners, whether they're on the simpler side or more elaborate, and that's why we love to do them. 

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Really though, this style of eating completely suits warmer weather when the idea of turning on the oven sounds like torture. It lets you pull whatever you have in your fridge and build a meal with minimal prep or effort, and the results are frankly just straight up fun to eat.

The book encourages riffing on their ideas with your own tastes and gives practical tips for how to build an attractive, balanced board, which was honestly the most useful section for me. It also does a wonderful job showcasing how easily boards can be adapted to any kind of meal, which I hadn't really considered before. Like a brunch board? Um, yes please. 

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As usual, we completely lost track of time, and before we knew it my strings of solar lights winked on, and the evening was growing darker. Our kids ran and chased in the gathering dusk, and our candles burned lower as we reluctantly cleared up and headed back inside to say our goodbyes. Dinners like this will probably become a staple around here; it was honestly just too easy and enjoyable to not repeat!

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Have you ever considered doing a dinner party in this style? Would you? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Literary Dinner | My Kitchen Year

This was another of Anne's recommendations to us on our episode of What Should I Read Next! In My Kitchen Year, Reichl chronicles her experiences in the year following the demise of Gourmet magazine, of which she was the editor. This cookbook/memoir is a good mix of accessible and aspirational; she makes you want to pay attention to and connect more fully with food in your everyday life without being intimidating. There's also a strong focus on seasons, farmer's markets, and using seasonal produce to produce phenomenal food. Soooooo of course the first place we went was our local farmer's market! 

We make a habit of having a kid-free morning together on the weekends while our husbands are home, so we met up early at a coffee shop around the corner from the market to get some caffeine, breakfast, and quiet time to pour over the book. An hour later we had some solid inspiration for what we might make for our dinner, and the market was officially open. 

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The rhubarb was too beautiful to pass up! Reichl's recipe for compote looked easy enough and would be the perfect sweet-tart topping for fresh vanilla ice cream, so of course we picked up a pound of it.

The next day it was time to put our produce into action and pull off a seasonal spring dinner for our families. In typical PNW fashion, the weather careened wildly between misty rain and brilliant sunshine, and though we were hoping for a warm, rich golden hour, what we actually got was a mild, but cloudy evening. 

Reichl talks a lot about adding simple touches to elevate a meal's setting, and of staying true to your own style and not making anything stressful. Taking her advice, we simply pulled Rikki's picnic table over to her garden, and topped it with some basic flower arrangements and candles I had on hand. The milk bottle vases are from a local farm and previously contained half-and-half, while the addition of a few rose gold accents created a cohesive feel. A basket of fresh produce, simple dinner plates, some striped napkins, and a few blankets dropped on the benches to add some cozy finished everything off.

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What's a spring meal without some fresh drinks? We muddled fresh mint and blueberries in a cocktail glass then topped it with vodka and sparkling lemonade to cheers the changing of the season. Easy, effective, and wonderfully refreshing to sip on while we prepped food and chatted about the book. 

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We used recipes directly from the book and kept things simple: grilled chicken dunked in vinaigrette, roasted potatoes, perfectly al dente asparagus, and a salad topped with hard boiled eggs from Rikki's chickens. Everything went into serving bowls and found it's way out onto the table. 

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We popped open the prettiest bottle of rosé, passed the food around, and set the kids up next to us on a picnic blanket while they giggled and played games amongst themselves. The adults gathered at the table and settled in to enjoy the meal, pulling blankets onto laps as the evening cooled and darkened, while the conversation never slowed. 

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As expected, the rhubarb was indeed the perfect tangy, not-too-sweet topping for the rich sweetness of vanilla ice cream (thanks, Ruth!). Even the kids devoured it, to our surprise! By the time the candles were guttering out, it was bedtime for our little ones, and we reluctantly cleared up and parted ways. A definite success for our first outdoor meal of the season!

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Thank you Anne, for this phenomenal recommendation, we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Literary Dinner | Persuasion
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*Some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

Since we live a bit farther apart now (seriously we were so spoiled living 4 minutes from each other all those years!), our routine has been thrown off-kilter, so we've been slowly setting into a new normal. We're back to getting together weekly, and with winter hanging on by a thread, we're slowly coming out of our hibernation and feeling our moods lifting and motivation returning. On the final day of spring break, we gathered up our little ones as the sun broke through, and agreed we could attempt an impromptu afternoon tea for our buddy read of Jane Austen's Persuasion

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Persuasion was one of the books that Anne recommended to us on our episode of What Should I Read Next, and we have been waiting for a while to bring it to life. Between a new baby, weather, and holidays, the timing never seemed to quite align. On a mild spring day last week, we were deep in conversation about books, the blog, and life, when somehow we ended up discussing Persuasion again. As the conversation started to gain steam we suddenly stopped, looked at each other, and thought...do we want to do an afternoon tea for Persuasion? Right now? Could we do it, we wondered? "Maybe-- let's try," we said! After all, what's the worst that could happen?

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While we often have a solid plan as well as Michaela's arsenal of home decor to style our dinner parties with, we were at Rikki's that afternoon, so we spontaneously rifled through her eclectic mix of vintage, hand-me-down, and rustic feeling decor to pull this one off. Our goal has always been to ensure our dinner parties are an easy, achievable thing that we do and hope to inspire others to do. While sometimes we pull out all the stops, we wanted to make sure we could still pull one off without a planning process or any additional expenses. We both took off digging through Rikki's cabinets and gathered up items that matched the concept in our heads.

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This afternoon tea was based on the general feel of the novel. Unlike many of Austen's heroines who are rich, outgoing, or spunky (or all three, *ahem* Emma), Anne Elliot is decidedly less flashy. She's a much more reserved woman; she likes to read and quietly observe the various uncouth behaviors of those around her. Her intelligence and wit make her fun to follow, and though she is a quieter heroine than Austen's others, her spirit is just as fierce underneath. Anne resents her father and sister for living garishly and outside of their means, so we wanted to pull together a tea that felt much more true to what she would like: comfortable, relaxed, and homey, but still in that polished English country style that Austen's novels exude.

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From leftover birthday cake, homemade brownies from earlier in the week, and savory scones loaded with herbs from the garden we whipped up on the spot, a delicious tea party took shape. The tea pot came from Rikki's mother-in-law, the table runner used to be her grandmother's, the vintage books were her mom's, the eggs were laid by her chickens, and the greenery is all from her garden. Some linen tea towels along with pretty bowls and platters completed the scene.

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We sat together at the picnic table with our pot of tea while our kids ran around soaking in the sun, and resumed talking about all things Persuasion, books and dinner parties. Even Ms. Speckles came to pay a visit, hoping, no doubt, to find some treats!

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The whole afternoon felt so simple and fresh, and reminded us why we started doing these things in the first place. There is such a simple joy in taking a little extra care to set a beautiful scene for a long conversation with a good friend. We think Anne Elliot would approve.

Check out more of our literary dinners + events here!

Literary Dinner | Phantom of the Opera

The days are finally starting to lengthen and the sun is peeking out from the clouds more often here in the PNW, so we decided to sneak in just one more winter feeling dinner party before we switch gears towards our spring reads! Phantom of the Opera was the perfect blend of the golden glamour and sinister horror as we stand on the precipice of the season. It's a short classic, only a little over 200 pages, was published in 1911, and we read the translation by David Coward. More about the importance of translations here!

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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

Rikki had never seen any of the movies before, but I've seen the play twice and watched the movies countless times thanks to a high school obsession with it. I will say that while the plot of the movie and the book are similar, the movie is much more focused on the melodrama/romantic and the horror aspect is downplayed a bit. In the book the Phantom is much more evil, murderous, and just straight up insane. His backstory differs in the two versions as well, which was interesting.

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For this dinner, the theme was "gilded horror". We took the glittering opulence of the opera house and blended it with some darker elements to achieve that beautiful, sinister feel the book has. We've said it before and we'll say it again, we make the most of what we already own and purchased almost nothing. It's just a matter of eyeing what we have and blending them together to achieve the look and feel we're going for. Fresh flowers make a big impact, too!

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We started with a plain white table cloth, on which we set a deep red table runner (also seen in this dinner party!) and overlaid with music pages that I had spent the morning carefully burning the edges of over my sink. I only had to drop one into the basin and frantically blast it with water to put out the flames haha! It was just a thrifted music book I had picked up cheap, so I didn't mind tearing it apart and singeing it. 

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On top of that, I dug out my black Halloween cloche and placed a Phantom mask I picked up at a craft store along with a little bud vase of red roses and a mirror necklace that belongs to Rikki's daughter. Flanking that we had two enormously tall black taper candles to give some height and drama, with smaller tapers and vases of roses falling away. Glittery tea lights were scattered along with a few rose petals that fell during the flower arranging process. Our place settings were gold rimmed crystal plates set on black chargers; gold utensils and gold striped napkins in rings completed the tablescape.

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On the counter behind the table we set up basically a solid wall of candles flickering in the window, with some flower arrangements tucked in for color and texture. I imagined the ballroom in the opera house ablaze with candlelight and golden accents for this. I literally just went and pulled out every candlestick and holder I owned that was gold or crystal to achieve this, and set a hammered gold tray of drink supplies alongside a marble cheese tray for bread and cheese. Our copies of Phantom captured between my Eiffel Tower book ends lurked in the corner. 

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We were lucky to collaborate with So Many Damn Books for the drinks portion of this dinner. Chris and Drew host one of my favorite podcasts, where they interview authors while sipping on a drink they created that was inspired by the book they're discussing. If you haven't given them a listen, check them out! They were kind enough to send us a recipe they created called "The Mask" which was the perfect smooth, potent accompaniment to our appetizers.

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For dinner, we kept in mind that the book is set in turn of the century Paris, and opted to stay with ultra classic French food. We made coq au vin and herb roasted potatoes, which we naturally paired with French wine. Dessert was opera cake and macarons, because of course! Keeping the food simple and classic made the evening flow easily, and we talked and drank way past our bedtimes. There's something so alluring about sitting around a beautifully set table with friends and bookish conversation, and it continues to be the main motivation behind throwing these literary dinner parties. 

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We were so glad to close out our winter season with this dinner party, and are already planning our first spring dinner of the season in a couple of weeks! À la prochaine, mes amis!

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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?

Literary Dinner | East of Eden

We've had our eyes on East of Eden ever since we read Tortilla Flat for a book club at the beginning of the year. It's been said about a gazillion times, but, we swear it doesn't matter what John Steinbeck writes, his work is just brilliant. It's full of depth, great prose, and populated with interesting and incredibly well developed characters. He also has a way of imparting wisdom so casually that is so understated it's striking. 

"You are one of those rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect." 
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East of Eden is a rather large novel (as you can see), and is not one you can rush. Much to our surprise, we each found ourselves in no hurry to finish the book, but rather savored it as time allowed, and stayed immersed in each part as it unfolded. There's so much involved in a multi-generational family book such as this, and it was an interesting world to be in, so taking our time really allowed us to experience the depth of the experience this book provides.

While we only pick a book to buddy read once per month, it's so exciting to draw out the details worth bringing to life from the book into a dinner party. Often, it's more the general setting than anything else we feel inspired by, but specific mentions of food, drink, or decor (like red and yellow roses) within the text always find their way into the scenes we set. We also really try to read seasonally, and managed to be spot on this time because East of Eden was so perfectly in line with the mood of late summer.

The main concept for this was "farm to table", and just to keep things on the rustic side. Jars for lemonade, simple white plates and linens, canned goods from Rikki's pantry, garden tools, vintage pyrex bowls, wire egg baskets filled with fresh produce, and a picnic table set out by the garden really helped bring that vision to life. From the florals, greenery, and drinks, to picking goodies straight from the garden, we couldn't have enjoyed this simple, rustic setup outdoors any more.

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Most of the food mentioned in the book is rustic, picnic-type fare, so we tried to stay true to that feel. We assembled a farm fresh salad alongside a platter of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles and rustic bread to assemble our own BLT sandwiches, with potato salad to round it out. We followed this with a delicious berry tart as a nod to Liza's thanksgiving pie. The blueberry lemonade was a hit with us and our kiddos both, and we couldn't get enough of it as the mid-afternoon temperatures reached an all-summer high. 

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It's really incredible to sit amongst elements of a book you just read and just allow your imagination to take you back to specific points in the novel that so often feels so real. This book was exceptionally difficult to put down, especially as the fourth and final part came to a close. We LOVED this book, and quite frankly, we would read Steinbeck's grocery lists. Discussing this book together was basically an excited tangle of how much we each enjoyed it, while we took a look into favorite characters and expressed an appreciation for how warm the whole thing was, despite the drama and heavier subject matter and subtext.

We're really looking forward to watching the movie and deciding which one of Steinbeck's novels we'll pick up next. Travels with Charley, maybe? Do you have any good recommendations?

Literary Event | Browser's Cookbook Book Club

So if you've been hanging out here with us a while, you know how much we love our literary dinner parties. We sincerely believe that creating a beautiful atmosphere enhances the enjoyment of any gathering, and we can apply this to books. We've gotten a pretty good handle on using our own spaces and creating within our own homes, so when the opportunity came to do our thing at a bigger event, we were all over it.

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Our favorite local bookstore, Browsers, in Olympia, WA, hosts a quarterly cookbook book club, and we were excited for the opportunity to attend and style the event. The concept is simple: once a season they pick a cookbook, and members make a dish from it and bring it to share. A dinner party ensues as they sit down and enjoy a meal and conversation together in the upstairs space above the bookstore. It's such a great idea, and proves books don't have to be high literature to be a connecting force. This was their summer event, and members were to cook from any of Yotam Ottolenghi's published works.

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Andrea, the bookstore owner (dream job!), and Kelli, a local food blogger work together to put on this book club. Aren't they lovely? They are some of the absolute nicest people, and amazing hostesses. We love connecting with other members of our community who are doing great things!

Before all the guests arrived, we got to talk to Andrea and Kelli. Mostly, we chatted about our mutual love of books (surprise!) and the role they play in our lives currently. While we were chatting about how much we love and enjoy socializing our lives through reading, something Kelly said especially stuck out to us , "It doesn't have to be fine literature." That we could bring so many people together over a cookbook was phenomenal. Some people were avid readers, but others simply love cooking. It was that simple. There's something for everyone and it doesn't take much to get involved, to meet new friends, and to talk about any type of book.

Our vision for decor for this event was to stay true to the vibe of the store and with the feel of summer. We chose pale green candles, an eclectic mix of candles, and a few other objects that made sense and fit in with the color palette of rose gold, light green, white, and pops of brighter oranges and pinks. These were all simply mixed along the center line of the tables; nothing fussy.

We didn't want to overwhelm the tables, just create a relaxed, slightly boho magic in the ambiance that was befitting of a summer evening gathering, while blending with the vintage-modern aesthetic of the store. We also tied up napkins with twine and tucked in our custom bookmarks and fresh sprigs of rosemary from Rikki's garden before setting them on the absolutely stunning plates that Andrea commissioned from local potter Mariella Luz. Silverware, jam jar drinking vessels, and flowers arrangements set in vintage glass jars by Fleurae completed the look.

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Soon people began to arrive, setting gorgeous platters and bowls of food onto a separate table as they came in and began to mingle. Before long, the table was crowded with a variety of dishes, with everything from watermelon salads to fritters, and desserts. After a quick circle-up and brief announcements, everyone grabbed a plate and headed to go dish up a taste of everything while the tables glowed warmly behind us.

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The tables ended up being split into two to accommodate all the guests, and people quickly claimed their seats and began to pour wine, chat, and discuss what foods they brought. Andrea also cleverly placed discussion questions in little envelopes under some of the plates, giving some structure and provoking deeper conversation at the tables. The conversation flowed seamlessly.

You know that electrifying feeling you get when you find yourself in a room full of positive buzzing energy? That was this event; it felt like just hanging out with friends at a relaxed dinner party, despite most people having just met for the first time. Also, we discovered that so many people who attended were doing such interesting things! Podcasters, writers, photographers, foodies, anesthesiologists, and more were all engaged in friendly conversation and discussing the merits of not only the cookbook, but also how food affects our lives.

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By the end of the night, we were full and happy, and feeling like we just met a roomful of new friends. That's the best kind of event, right? The kind that leaves you full in more than ways than one by the end. We left feeling really encouraged that what we're doing has a place and future in the book world; that creating beautiful social gatherings based on a shared love of books, any type of books, is worthwhile. We are absolutely planning to continue to do more events, so keep an eye out!

Would you want to attend an event like this? Let us know what you think!

 

Vendors

Venue | Browsers 

Flowers | Fleurae

Pottery | Mariella Luz

 

People + Talents

Andrea Ballard | Preheated Podcast

Jennifer Crain and Kelli Samson | Oly Appetizer

Cortney Kelley | Cortney Kelley Photography

Kelli Samson | Fresh Scratch