Vintage Modern Hostessing: a Last Hurrah

Before the leaves entirely blanket the lawn and the water in the bird feeder freezes is perfect timing for a seasonal last hurrah.

As do all my gatherings, this party begins with a DIY invitation.

From a cache of black and white snapshots, this indelible image, which I’ve been saving for just the right occasion.

Man balancing Woman www


Scanned and uploaded to picmonkey for labelingParty Invite acrobatic couple cover words www


plus the addition of party particulars





 vintage-woman-on-phone-psd-graphic PARTY RSVP :


and the invitation is ready for delivery to guests. Mailing of the sort that requires an envelope and a stamp is my preferred method because it’s fun to receive an invitation for an event a few weeks out.

Yes, I’m that hostess – the one who plans and prepares in advance, so she can enjoy the party, too. PARTY_recipes vintage setup 0114 ea desserts


Inquiries from well-mannered invitees as to what they might bring are always lovely but never accepted. Your status is guest and that’s that, because I love creating the ambience and menu too much to share.


This party for 15 was an extended cocktail hour with a food buffet to encourage eating while imbibing.

PARTY_Recipes Vintage Setup 0113_ea table www


Homemade Dips: Pimento Cheese and White Bean & Artichoke served with cut up celery and healthy, handcrafted pita chips. (Tip: Make dips, slice celery  2-3 days ahead & refrigerate; chips stay crisp in a plastic bag)

Salad: Beets, Mandarin Slices, Feta and baby lettuce, scantily drizzled with dressing and served in punchbowl cups (TIP: Wear disposable vinyl gloves to toss salad and fill the cups; a silver sugar bowl holds cocktail forks)

PARTY Recipes setup 0122 lazy susan cups www

Creamy Tomato Soup prepared a day earlier and refrigerated. Gently reheat and serve in pitchers for pouring into a hodgepodge of cups. On the side, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish to sprinkle over the soup. (TIP: No spoons necessary)

PARTY Recipes setup 0118 soup serving www

Roasted Potatoes prepared 2 days ahead. Serve warmed. (TIP: Fondue forks make for easy spearing; available at restaurant supply stores)

Angel Biscuits by HamBob, virtually foolproof, made a week earlier and frozen.

PARTY Recipes setup Biscuits one pan good pic 0108 www


Two sizes – bite and heartier – split and slathered with a mustard horseradish sauce and filled with thinly sliced tenderloin or roasted turkey breast. (TIP: Bake meats and freeze, defrosting a day before the party)

PARTY Recipes setup Biscuits one buttered 0112 www

Desserts:  Pineapple Upside Down and Pear Cakes (TIP: Bake a day in advance for tastier flavors)PARTY Recipes setup 0124 pineapple upsidedown closer www


Setting up ahead of time, as much as a day even, is the best buffer to hostess stress-out. Plus, this is my favorite part – preparing the party landscape.

Sifting through my vintage collections of domestica, I really enjoy selecting and fluffing cloths, smoothing wrinkles, stacking mismatched napkins and plates, counting utensils, and checking glasses for spots. Early preparation lets me look things over, reconsider, rearrange, and finally, let it go as the best I can do.

With the holiday season fast approaching, this posting and photos are meant to encourage and inspire the Vintage Modern hostess within all of us. Yes, she’s there…deeper for some, but available to be resurrected and don that cute party dress.

xx EllynAnne

Tie One On…Give from the heart…Then give thanks.


Keeping Cool in the Heat of Entertaining

I adore entertaining, and from where I perch, the heat is still on and the dry evenings of a waning summer are perfect for hostessing a gathering. Seeking any excuse to issue an invite, the serendipitous arrival last week-end of out-of-town family provided the perfect occasion to throw a party.

Executing a dinner party for 14 can test the most capable hostess, but over the years, I gleaned that the trick to all entertaining is advance preparation of everything. And staying true to this particularity avoids the last-minute insanity that leads straight to Hostess Meltdown. Having been there, I never want a return trip.

This party was such fun, I enjoyed it as much as our guests. If you’ve been thinking of doing a party but not certain you have the know-how, the steps to keeping your cool in the heat of entertaining are not complicated and as you’ll see, are easily adaptable to all manner of occasions. So tie one on…an apron, of course (!) and get to entertaining.

Here’s a collage of pics from the party, posted as possible inspiration for your own gathering. My time frame for this party’s preparation was 3 days before the event.

Summer Dinner Party Collage Final www

This dinner party included cocktails on the patio. An ironing board covered with a vintage cloth is the food station.

Ironing board covered_serving station pic www

A second serving station for the beverages was atop an old kitchen table.

Prep_serving station_old table www

A piece of plastic is beneath the cloth to protect the wood from further moisture damage.

Old Table Covered_beverage station www

An absolute must: food accompanies alcohol. Assorted plates and mismatched napkins will add to the casual setting.

Summer Dining Collage_5 6 7 www

Appetizers:  Pimento Cheese (which can be purchased or easily made in a food processor or mixer) as a spread on boxed, flavored crackers and a dip for celery sticks.

1 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese; 8 oz jar diced pimentos, drained; 8 oz cream cheese, softened, 3/4 cup mayonnaise; 1/4 tsp cayenne

Put ingredients in the bowl, beat/process until smooth. Cover. Chill until serving.

Speared Veggies – Cherry Tomatoes, mozzarella balls in marinade, basil leaves, petite cucumbers

Cut tomatoes and cheese balls in half. Tear basil leaves into pieces. Slice cucumbers. On a cocktail skewer, stack tomato, basil, cheese and dip in mozzarella marinade. Arrange on a platter with cucumbers in the center. Cover. Chill until serving.

Sit-Down for Dinner: I first set the table with a cloth, but when I stood back and looked at it, the covering emphasized how squished one setting was to the next. Plan two worked much better – using placemats and large napkins (as stand-in mats) visually opened up the space. The beverages were moved inside to the small table on the left wall.

Dining Table total room view www

Rather than a line of candlesticks, I use votives. The colorful holders are settled inside old crystal ashtrays. A primary school flash card offers a simple instructive. Print your own on colored cardstock. I never leave seating to chance – napkins are topped with a place card.

Dining Table scape_ashtrays as votive holders www

Serving buffet style eliminates the passing of platters and bowls and guests can refill plates without interrupting others.

My made-ahead menu included seasoned Turkey Loin (cooked, sliced, packaged in foil, and stored in the refrigerator) served at room temp; purchased Sauces (cranberry/raspberry chipotle and peach/mango) chilled and poured into little bowls; a Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad (a favorite potluck, this recipe is so easy. Look for it in 1950s cookbooks, as well as on the internet. I leave out the bacon and add raisins and shredded carrots.), and a Squash Casserole (double for 12+ servings)

1 large onion, cut into smallish pieces; 3/4 yellow squash sliced or chopped; 2 cups cheese blend; 8 oz can mild diced green chiles; 10 oz can cream of celery soup; optional panko crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spritz bottom and sides of a casserole with spray oil.

In a pot of boiling water, cook the onions and squash until soft. Pour into colander and allow liquid to drain. Push with side of a large spoon or spatula to really get the liquid out. Sprinkle with potato starch (or corn starch). Combine the onion, squash, cheese, green chiles, and soup in the casserole dish. Stir. (Can make ahead to this point, cover and store in refrigerator) Bake until heated through and cheese is well melted. Remove from oven, sprinkle panko on top. Return to the oven and bake until bread crumb mixture is golden.

When it comes to dessert, fruit is not dessert. Cake is dessert.

I’m all for displaying dessert on its own little table and serving it freshly cut, plate by plate. This Glazed Orange Coconut Cake is from and it is absolutely delicious. Should baking a cake push your limit, just purchase a pound cake, top with the Orange Glaze (2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup fresh orange juice: whisk together until smooth, pour over cooled cake) and accompany with fresh fruit.

Dessert Side Table set up www

The guests stayed late – always a good sign! – and the hostess stayed up even later to run Summer Dinner Party Collage_next day table scape wwwthree dishwasher loads, tidy the house and set the table for the morning’s  breakfast – a crustless quiche casserole, made two days earlier! And that’s how it’s done.

Stay cool and Entertain!


Country Living Shows Off

In October, I visited Country Living magazine located in the Hearst building in NYC.
New York_Country Living greeting desk
Pretty exciting!
New York_Country Living visitor pass and clutch
The architecture of this building is the most stunning renovation – from the escalators moving through a series of cascading waterfall steps to the welcoming openness of walls of windows through which you can see the skyline. 
New York_Country Living lobby (Copy)  New York_Country Living atrium 1 (Copy)
While anticipating the arrival of my CL contact, Cosmopolitan’s 2011 bachelors took a break from their photo shoot – took me so long to find my camera, this is the only snap of the Pin Up Parade I managed.
New York_Country Living Cosmo bachelors
Had much better luck with this snap taken by a helpful floor steward – after weeks of communicating via email and telephone, CL editor Sara Morrow and I meet!
New York_Country Living Sara ea-4
Sara’s vision for an article on show toweling – specialty towels normally set out for guests – included my providing background to such household goods, along with a variety of toweling from my collection. Appearing in the December-January 2012 issue, the
CL cover Dec 2011
two-page article is an informative and fun read on this distinctive vintage genre.
          CL_article DEC_JAN 2012 PG 1 (Small)  CL ARTICLE DEC-JAN 2012 PG 2 (Small)
While I enjoyed providing towels for selection within the article, I’m glad I wasn’t in Sara’s position and forced to pick one over another! Rather than just put the towels away until I used them myself, I thought to share more of these showstoppers here.

We’ve always set out our “best” linens for guests, especially as  homes with multiple bathrooms were not always the norm, which meant guests would be using the main or only bathroom of the house. Knowing the bathroom was going to be used by non-family led the hostess to prepare the bathroom for her guests’ inspection with a change out of the everyday, from soaps to toweling, with specialties reserved just for company.

Of the showy specialties not included in the article is this couples’ motif set. 
Show Towels_HisHers (Small)
His and Hers, Mr. and Mrs., Yours and Mine, His and Mine were very popular transfers, and available through newspaper and magazine services, catalogues or specialty stores like five and dimes. Companies provided these transfers in bright packaging, which added to the sense that such embroidery was for fun.

This type of toweling was also a popular set for a young woman to embroider and store in a Hope Chest for her future life as a wife.

The embroidery on this towel is very fine and very beautiful, the stitches impossibly tiny and perfect. These days, handwork of this type is a dying art. It features drawn work, an ornamental needlework done by pulling threads out of the fabric; the remaining Sara #11a Monogram close up [640x480]
threads are then bound together in a variety of ways, creating decorative patterns. The monogram was then stitched to the design, which was sewn into the diamond shaped cut out. Even with a magnifying glass, it’s hard to absorb the stitches are hand done. A fine linen towel so beautifully embellished would leave many a guest searching for an alternative to mussing it. Displaying such 
Sara #8 Kitchen_Under Stripe Over Floral [640x480]     Sara #12c Undertoweling Dressed Up [640x480]
heirloom artistry upon a larger, utilitarian hand towel is one solution to the dilemma of Am I really supposed to dry my hands with that top towel or what? 

Usage Tip: To eliminate confusion about whether towels are really to be used, drape one a tad off kilter or slightly dampen one’s edge and wrinkle it a bit.

Souvenir toweling has always been a popular purchase, perhaps because it was so packable. This linen towel exhibits pulled thread with embroidery, likely bought during the 1930s, when Cuba was a popular vacation destination. I discovered “CUBA” in an old suitcase filled with stained and torn lace. I was happy to pay the seller’s asking price: $1.00.Show Towels_Cuba linen_picnik (Small)
This “peek-a-boo”  towel is titillating and a little bit naughty, which were the ground rules for such humor in the Fifties. Aprons in this peek-a-boo genre have a skirt that lifts to reveal lacy undies, which is very PG compared to this lassie’s panty-reveal! I’d venture this towel was purchased as a souvenir or as a gift for a friend, and
Sara #6 Plaid Peekaboo  Sara #6a Plaid Peekaboo_the peek
set out to amuse party guests. This example of mid-century risqué humor is a bit of social history and worthy of a higher price tag.

Children were taught to wash their hands and face with soap and water before eating. Wetting just the fingertips didn’t count and always earned one a trip back to the sink. These towels
Show Towels_childrens xstitch bunny_picnik (Small)
may have been gifts, adorably adorned so as to encourage membership in the “Clean Hands Club.”

‘Tis the season to show off our vintage holiday towels and not
Show Towels_Greetings xmas .49 (Small)
worry about value, for the fun of searching out “new” show toweling never gets old.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!