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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

An afternoon reception

my entry porch decorated for summer -- going for an Americana look

So I'm hosting a little shindig for my daughter's graduation. We've invited friends from church as well as friends from her university. We have no idea how many folks will show up. It could be a lot (maybe 50), or it could be just a handful. We left it as an  afternoon, open house-style reception, which is good when you don't know who or how many will come. No one is expecting a sit-down dinner. Plus, I am doing the food by myself. Both daughters will be very busy in the days leading up to the reception, so my usual spare hands won't be available.

Here's my menu, so far:

a meat and cheese platter, with split mini croissants and split mini Hawaiian rolls, plus sliced pickles and a mayo-mustard mix in a squeeze container.
an antipasti tray of cheese cubes and olive mini kabobs, rolled salami, and pepperoncini
baked (actually microwaved) brie topped with apricot preserves and chopped toasted almonds, along with crackers
hummus and pita chips
rosemary-garlic cream cheese spread and crackers
a vegetable tray of cherry tomatoes, radishes, baby carrots, broccoli florets, with dip
a platter of strawberries, with whipped cream dip
mixed nuts
mini cupcakes

blackberry lemonade

My menu needed to be all finger food, and things that could be eaten while standing. No silverware, and no worries about finding places for people to sit.

Basically, I was thinking of everything that I could make with the greatest ease. The vegetable tray will be put together by me, but with already washed and cut vegetables. I have some ranch dressing mix to make the dip.

The strawberries will be easy, just rinse, dry and set on a tray. I'll whip the cream and sweeten in the early afternoon. This sounded easier than putting together a fruit platter with cut fruit.

I thought of pre-made small sandwiches, but I think a do-it-yourself meat/cheese/bread tray will save me time, and should be easy enough for guests to help themselves. Opinions on this? The sliced meat and cheese is a good price at Cash & Carry. I can assemble a tray myself in 30 minutes or less, for half of what a meat/cheese tray from the grocery store deli charges.

The brie is a super easy thing to do, but tastes amazing and looks "gourmet."

I will buy the mini cupcakes and cookies. And the chocolates will be drugstore boxed chocolates set on a nice tray. (I think Russell Stover's is pretty good for a drugstore chocolate, and the boxes are buy one get one free at several stores right now.)

I can buy already cubed cheese at Cash & Carry, so the mini kabobs will be easy.

Having only cold beverages eliminates my need to make more or reheat coffee/tea throughout the afternoon. The blackberry lemonade will be homemade, using bottled lemon juice and frozen blackberries. The water is bottled spring water which I bought in a large dispenser, but will decant into 1-litre repurposed glass sparkling cider bottles, and chilled (looks nicer than a large plastic dispenser on the table).

Even though I'm using mostly prepared foods, my overall costs are a fraction of what it would cost to cater a reception. And I think it will all be lovely and delicious. One money-saving tip -- veggie trays are cheap, and so are crackers. Make a couple of veggie trays to set in different locations. Ditto on crackers, especially if using a less-expensive spread or dip, like homemade hummus or cream cheese spread.

I have 4 food stations planned for the house: the kitchen table, the dining room table, a side table in the living room, and the game table in the family room. This should prevent a bottleneck around the dining room table. I'll set up a beverage station on either the dining room or the kitchen table.

In addition to planning the menu I have been sprucing up the place, and removing unnecessary furniture to allow easier movement with a crowd. I finally got some art work hung, found lightbulbs for every fixture with a burned out one, rearranged some seating, and did up the front entry to the house. I've been using this reception as an excuse to get our house all gussied up for summer. What's been on your calendar lately?


  1. Oh wow, Lili, your front porch looks great and very American! Your finger foods sound really good and should serve the purpose well. I hope you all have a great time!

    1. Thank you, Belinda! And I hope that you're enjoying the beginning of summer!

  2. Sounds like you have it very well planned. You're smart to have different food stations. That's something I always struggle with--what to put where to avoid the bottle necks or sometimes people gather in a place I hadn't predicted and I have to move the food to them.

    The front porch looks great. I wonder how much furniture you will move back when this is all done. Sometimes I like the new look enough that I don't put everything back.

    1. Thank you, live and learn. That's a good point that you can't really predict where people may gather. Hmm, I wonder, too, whether I will decide we like less furniture/stuff.
      Have a great day!

  3. That's a very pretty entryway! And decorated nicely for your party!

    We haven't done open houses for college graduations but we do go out for dinner after the events of the day and it always is at our local Mexican restaurant!

    Did you other daughter graduate already or will she next year?


    1. Hi Alice,
      Thank you. Having a party is a great motivator for getting everything into shape.
      My other daughter will graduate next year. She has taken some time off this year.
      Yum, Mexican food sounds delicious right now! What a fun tradition for your family.
      Enjoy the day, Alice!

  4. Sounds like you have put a lot of thought and care into this! The menu is lovely, and your porch decor as well. Congratulations to your daughter, and to you as mom!

    1. Hi Cat,
      Thanks! I'll pass on the congratulations to my daughter. I'm proud of her hard work.
      Have a wonderful weekend, Cat!

  5. I think the menu sounds perfect, Lili! I made meat & cheese trays & Rhodes frozen rolls for my daughter's confirmation recently. I also had a tray of big leaves of Romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, etc. For the low carbers in our group, it was nice to have a lettuce leaf wrap instead of a roll for their sandwiches. So basically, I did the same thing you plan to do & it worked out well. Everyone got to choose what they wanted.
    I really like your idea of different food stations. I've seen the ladies at church to this, too. It really works!
    Praying that you & your family have a blessed time this weekend, Lili. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      That's a really great idea, with the large leaves of lettuce. It sounds like the reception after your daughter's confirmation was a success.
      Thank you, Melissa. I appreciate the prayers. Have a good weekend!

  6. I felt relaxed as soon as I looked at your front porch picture. So inviting!

    I also find that I tend to look at my home with a more critical eye when I am expecting company. Your party sounds like it will be lovely. Glad you chose a menu that would be easier on you. Smart thinking!

  7. I looks wonderful, Lili!

  8. Congratulations and best wishes to your daughter!!

    Good choice and planning with the menu and decorations. Finger foods are always so fun yet elegant, and pretty easy as far as preparations go.

    We watched our three grandsons for eleven days and finger foods was part of the menu at least for several meals. When a heavy dinner was up, we served finger foods the meal before.

    Have a nice day,


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