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April 24, 2021
Gathering of Neighbors
By Janie Dickson

A celebration of traditions, friendship and family.

Parties, decor, tabletops, what to wear (maybe even how to wear), styling tips and tricks- that’s what you will get from me.  Growing up like most true Southerners, we gathered often. My mother and grandmother taught me how to throw a party, how to always look appropriate, how to make a guest feel welcomed and most of all, how to create a home to share love with others-now it’s my turn to share the tradition with you.



This month, The Traditional List is “Celebrating Home”. Home is a feeling of familiarity, warmth, comfort and love.  Filled with treasures and memories, our homes are pieces of who we are hung on walls.  Our four walls are a refuge; a place to be fed both literally and figuratively.  In the last year, we have all spent more time than we ever imagined in this special place. I hope with the extra white space, your walls are stronger, prettier and more representative of you. As we slowly open up to our new normal, it’s time to share your refuge with others.

In embracing the “Celebrating Home” theme, I immediately thought to a table filled with family and friends, not overdone or fussy but focusing on what really means “home” and how we share the love of our refuge with others.

 

Rather than just texting or calling, handwrite a quick little invitation and slip the invite in your neighbors mailbox. Nothing fancy but elevating the everyday while keeping it personal all the same time.


Whenever I set a table or plan a party, the first thing I ask myself is why am I throwing this party? Who is it for? Is there something specific I want to share with others? What do I want guests to leave feeling?

Keeping the comfortable and welcoming feeling at the forefront, I envision an elevated dinner in the dining room with refined touches but causal influences. I want my guests to know I care enough about them to set the table but not to the point they feel they can’t come over in whatever they were dressed in that day (A little tip: when in doubt, Mother will tell you never to leave the house after 5 without a little lipstick). I want to create a moment that would harbor real, authentic conversation and allow people to see my real four walls.


All of those thoughts and ideas led to the following decisions for the dinner party I am dubbing “Gathering of Neighbors”: The location was in fact to be in the formal dinning room rather than the breakfast table or kitchen,  use a friend and private chef to cook the supper, pull out the family silver but opt for a more playful china, forgo a tablecloth, go with potted plants instead of fixed arrangements, and invite a guest list of truly neighbors- ones that don’t mind if you open the good bottle of wine or not but will definitely suggest Van Morrison’s Pandora playlist if no music is playing.  All choices that would keep it casual but refined, elevated but welcoming.




Table was set but not to a point that would dictate too much formality. The playful china plates stole the show while the cups matched the colors of the chair fabric more than the plate. Our napkins were in the same family as the plates but didn’t exactly replicate each other— all tying it together for a mix matched look. I went for colorful and leafy flowers that would showcase the fresh life that comes with Spring.

Knowing work schedules and our new normals don’t always allow for a dictated schedule, be sure to allow some room for guests to show up slowly. Give those that arrive early a drink and let them settle into a conversation before supper is served.

Phenomenal private chef and friend, Blake Jackson, prepared a fabulous meal. Here was his menu: Roast Pork Loin + Burnt End & Caramelized Fennel Jam, Baby Hasslebacks potatoes, Ancho Gulf Shrimp & Salsa Verde + Poblano Maque Choux + Buttermilk Sweet Cornbread. (See, I told you it was more fun to get a private chef!) 


So with that, I invite you to gather your neighbors, pour them a glass of wine and break bread together, enjoying the good life within your four walls.


TIPS:

-Before planning any party, ask yourself these questions: What kind of party do I want to throw? Who is the party for? Who is coming to the party? How do I want my guests to leave feeling?

-Run through the party out in your mind from start to finish before it happens: What do you need dish and plating wise (remember we eat with our eyes first)? Where will my guests want to have drinks? Will dessert be served at the table or would we go to the living room?

-How can I make it that much more personal, special or fitting for the theme of the party? What little touches can take things up a notch? How can I make my guests feel special?

-Every experienced hostess #1 rule: Do as much as you can ahead of time but 20 minutes (others will say more) before the soirée starts, pour yourself a drink, light the candles, turn on the music and let it go. People look to the host/hostess for the tone and if you answer the door with a smile and drink, you’ve immediately put everyone at ease.

Jane or “Janie” to her friends was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and now lives in her husband’s hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Raised playing dress up in her mom’s closet and her grandmother’s jewelry box, her passion for styling details started early. Janie will find any excuse to throw a party and never thinks twice about entertaining. Her style is whimsical and colorful but relatable and approachable.

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