In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Make the Other Best Appetizer Ever and: Crowd-Sourcing a Wedding

Behold the perfect picnic appetizer!

BLT on a Stick!

But let's back up. My friend Jason proposed to my friend Ciara last week in a veeery Washington (I mean this in a good way) manner: through pulling some personal strings, he arranged an exceedingly rare tour of the Capitol dome. That is, up in the dome, next to the frescoes and the windows, and on the balconies around the dome... places most people don't get to see, unless they are a senator. Gorgeous views, rarefied air, and a romantic, on the knee, will you spend the rest of my life with me thing.

The Affianced

Ciara, thank heaven, said yes. This came at the end of a long week of planning. First there was the tour to arrange, then the ring to procure, and then, of course, a surprise (for her) cocktail picnic in the summer house on the grounds of the Capitol for a handful of close friends. That, as you might imagine, was my department. I have long dreamed of being an elf like this -- setting up something gorgeous and wonderful and public. So public that this happened in the middle of it:

A posse of Segway riders came trundling through, lululu. Very strange. Don't you like my dress? it has polka dots. Pay no attention to the foot wear. I was busy and carrying A LOT.

But back to the important part: the best hors d'oeuvre ever: BLT on a stick

1. Get yourself some slab bacon. This is not necessarily an easy task. Whole Foods didn't have it, but Canales Meats in Eastern Market did. I got a pound of unsliced bacon. Took it home, cubed it, then roasted it at about 350 for 30 minutes, till it was crisp.

2. I drained it on a paper bag, then speared an organic grape tomato, some lettuce leaves (baby lambs ear) and cube of bacon. Voila! I made an avocado mayo to go with (pureed ripe avocado, a little lemon and a bit of mayonnaise to smooth things out).

3. I laid it out on a bed of more lamb's ear lettuce. Super hit. Delicious. Make. You can do it while you're watching the Barefoot Contessa on your couch.

Let's see some more pictures, yes, before we get to crowd sourcing their wedding? Because they are getting married in August at her family's home in Rhode Island (yes, there's a sweeping green lawn, shingles and a water view). They figure just get er done so they can go to Sudan or wherever.

Happy Couple

Where the deed was done. In the background! Way up!

The Summer House, a Frederick Law Olmstead folly. Lovely and cool and a little sheltered in case the threatened rain came, which it didn't.

A view of the party

There they are again. It's like it's about THEM or something, instead of my BLTs On a Stick.

The last of my peonies and globe allium, tucked in front of the grotto (above the food, for some decorations).

In case you're wondering I also made FABULOUS dates stuffed with goat cheese and marcona almonds and wrapped in prosciutto. Sweet, salty, soft, crunchy. Yum. a great make ahead nibble.

There was also shrimp in a grapefruit, avocado and serrano salsa (homemade, of course), a smattering of pates and cheese, parmesan palmiers and plenty of champagne.

So now on to the crowd sourcing.

Ciara has NEVER even thought about a wedding, so she and Jason are forming a Tiger Team (its a State Department joke, ha) to plan it (instead of having bridesmaids and groomsmen, they have the TT.)

So: start throwing out ideas!


  • the wedding will be at the end of August in Rhode Island

  • They love love love good food

  • They (I think) want it to be more of a party than a traditional wedding, take off the garter thing (I think)

  • They don't want a nautical theme

  • The rehearsal dinner, however will likely be a crawfish boil/clambake in honor of both their roots.

  • The expect around 120 to 180 and it will be a destination wedding for most people.

Here was my first pass at ideas. You guys throw out your thoughts -- with links to helpful pictures -- in the comments please, and I'll piece them together for a separate post. Jason and Ciara are depending on you! Deploy your best ideas! They are reading!

1. They need to start somewhere -- maybe with the menu they want to serve, and let that dictate style -- or with a color palette, or a flower (sunflowers?). I'm currently pulling for black and white stripes, with sunflowers and black-eyed susans. Or maybe dahlias in orange and hot pink? That would be kind of fun and mad hattery.

2. write the seating chart on a giant chalkboard (made with chalkboard paint). I love chalkboards.

3. write the dinner menu on a chalkboard. I can't get enough chalkboards.

4. serve ginger limeade or lavender lemonade to guests during and before the wedding. It will likely be hot and they will appreciate it.

5. have paper parasols for guests. pashminas if its cool.

6. do guest photos as stop action video -- they pose for stills in front of a set back drop with props -- picture frames, vintage umbrellas, what have you -- photog strings those together at the end as a stop action movie. v cool.

7. use luminarias and lanterns everywhere

8. have a lounge seating area with a fire pit nearby for relaxing during the reception

9. have a good solid cocktail hour with lots to eat. everyone is always starving at weddings

10. convince the caterer they really want to grill dinner on site. chicken? sliced flank steak? whole sides of salmon with fresh salsas? Much better than old meat steaming away somewhere. And lots of room temperature side dishes that take advantage of local produce. great tomato salads, corn salads, grilled veggies. flavored butter (honey? strawberry?) for breads or biscuits.

11. wild flowers in mason jars
12. they are not wedded (ha) to a wedding cake so maybe a dessert table of homespun pies and cakes and cookies?

13. toss lavender blossoms instead of rice

14. have the ice cream truck come by during the reception. Open bar !

15. sparklers make for great pictures

16. they have to have kettle corn. it's a thing for her.

17. set up an old typewriter at a table with a long roll of paper in it for people to type their wedding wishes. pieces together and framed later it will make an awesome piece of meaningful art.

Your turn! Congratulations Ciara and Jason! and thank you for letting me be a wedding elf. SO FUN.


  1. Damn.
    I was all about number 11.

  2. I just saw someone serve frozen fruit bars upside down in a glass of proseco. It looked so refreshing. I think that might work at some point curing the event.

  3. Congratulations, Jason & Ciara!

    I love all Pam's ideas. A couple additional ones.

    1. Cocktail - Captain Morgan, tonic, slice of lemon or orange. So simple, so good, and with seafood, mmmmm......

    2. Vegetarians - Moosewood Celebrates has a pesto-marinated portobello veggie burger that is so criminally good it might even make Jason eat a vegetable.


  4. A signature cocktail~ i like it.
    I dig the popsicles... yes, very appropropriate in the heat.
    we're all abourt wild flowers.

    THinking caps everyone! more more more!
    suggest themses, colors, entire menus... Bill Bowersock where are you?

  5. I believe there should be a tactical sandbox for contingency planning sessions of the Tiger Team if needed on "D-Day" or "W-Day" in this case.

    The tactical sandbox can be useful for the non planners too to simply see where the firepit is, where the tables are, where the bar is, "outhouse" locations, etc. This would be similar to the diorama used in Red Dawn as the Wolverines began to increase the sophistication of their assaults, but with a wedding/party twist that is sure to impress.

    Perhaps 4'x4' with sufficient use of popsicle sticks, tree twigs and flowers to indicate important locales on the grounds.