We had some friends over for an outdoor dinner on the Sunday of the Labour Day long-weekend, just past.
Aside from the small dinner for four we had on our deck on Canada Day (described in this post), it had been a full two years since we'd shared our deck with company, and it was definitely time!
Last summer we didn't end up eating out there a single time. In fact, we didn't even set out the furniture in any semblance of a comfortable arrangement. That was because Eddie, our dear much-loved cat of 15+ years, had died on June 9th. He loved it so much out there and the space is so intensely steeped in memories of him, that we couldn't bring ourselves to sit outside without him. The plants and herbs we'd purchased just before he passed, sat there on the ground for weeks, outgrowing their tiny seedling containers, before I could halfheartedly transplant them into bigger pots. I barely went out back to water them, but, as viewed through the kitchen window, I could see that the flowers still grew and bloomed, in spite of there being nobody to admire them.
But, of course, time heals and, while we were shockingly saddened by the loss of our pet, and still a week does not go by that we don't say something like "You-know-who would have loved this", we got back to using our outdoor space this summer.
Sorry, that was a much more depressing beginning to a discussion about a happy get-together than I'd intended, but I can't pretend that we don't wish that he'd been there to enjoy it with us. He so loved it when people came over.
I've mentioned before that we used to regularly host a big annual "come-one, come-all" party, but after realizing that, while we appreciated seeing so many friends all at one gathering, those ended up being quite stressful and were more work than they were fun, plus we never seemed to have had a chance to really visit with people. And the neighbours (understandably) complained about the noise. So, after giving it much thought, we stopped having them. Nowadays, we prefer to have more frequent dinner parties for 10 or 14 people, (including us) -- that's 10 when we're inside, based on the size of the table, and 14 when we're outside and guest are eating from plates on their laps.
Here's how our recent gathering went ...
By the way, you can't tell by the pictures, but it was quite hot out. So much for Labour Day denoting the end of summer weather. That is never the case here in Toronto, actually, and we can expect heat for a few weeks yet. Bring it on!
↑ For new visitors, this is me. (and welcome!) I found the garland, which is handmade from vintage cotton, on ebay. ↑
↑ ... and this is Nick. ↑
↑ I wish I'd heard what had just been said as I snapped this one! ↑
↑ Here's one of my favourite thrift-store finds of all time! It's a "West Bend Hot Cold Penguin Server", introduced by the American company in 1950s, which we use as an ice-bucket. You can read about that thrifting score in this post, if you'd like. The vintage tablecloth was also found at the thrift store, and previously written about here. These were on the bar-table, which also contained a pitcher of this Ice-tea and Rum Punch, as well as wine, beer, etc. ↑
↑ Also, high of the list of thrifted favourites is this cotton tablecloth, described in detail in this post. Appetizers were "Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip" from this recipe and "Olive and Mozarella Savoury Mini Muffins with Marinara Dipping Sauce" (recipe coming soon), in addition to two kinds of hummus and assorted veggies that Matthew and Andrea II brought. ↑
↑ pssst ... don't tell Leslie there are olives in those! ;) The colourful foliage plant is a "Coleus", which was only two inches tall when purchased. They came 4 seedlings to a cell, so I put three in this large terracotta pot, and brought one inside and potted in a smallish planter, where it is doing very well. I first tried this plant last year, when it flourished in our "sad garden", and I aim to get some every year from now on. ↑
↑ Speaking about plants, this was my first time trying a "New Guinea Impatiens" (on the left) and second time with an annual Vinca (right). They both did really well and will be regulars in our summertime pot garden. ↑
↑ Also, while on the subject, the 30-ish year old hibiscus tree which grows beside our home and is two stories tall, was glorious this year. It's been blooming since the end of July and there have been thousands of flowers! I've seen people stop on the street to admire it. I can take no credit for it and, rather, thank a stranger from the past for this gift. The pot of pink impatiens on the ground did nicely too. I include those every year, as they can really be relied upon.↑
↑ The main course was a smorgasbord of food barbecued by Nick, and a variety of delicious salads prepared by our friends. Condiments included Nick's homemade pickles and hot peppers. Shout-out to Sanagan's in Kensington Market, where we got the ground beef for the hamburgers and the all-beef hot dogs. There were also grilled veggies, to be served on baguette, with Provolone and Sriracha Mayonnaise, for the vegetarians. ↑
↑ There's our bbq -- it's a charcoal grill made by Weber. We got it the summer after we were married, so have had it for 17 years. It still looks almost brand new but the vents underneath, which turn to allow you to control the heat, have been bent out of shape for years though, so we can stand to replace it. Note: that's an old wok on the bottom, to capture any ashes that go overboard. Ours is the 18" model, but Nick is now asking for a bigger one, so next year we plan to donate this one (aka leave it at the end of the driveway with a "take me I'm free" sign) and get the 22" one. We're going to spring for the model with the master-touch controls, which features more convenient temperature control and an enclosed a pot underneath to capture the ashes. ↑
↑ Andrea made dessert, following her family's recipe for plum cake. It was perfect! ↑
↑ More of those Annual Vinca, in a pot by the path. ↑
↑ Some of you might remember Stu. He was one of Eddie's best friends. Seriously, he used to sit out with him, as though he was sitting with his brother. It was hilarious. See that in action in this post. Stu finally got the paint job he's needed for quite some time, thanks to Nick. ↑
Thank you for reading and thank you to our lovely friends for coming to our party!
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