I love trying to squeeze in an informal party during the fall season before the holiday season kicks in. This party is simple and easy to put together and can easily be tacked onto another event, say, during a college football game on TV or after a morning soccer game. Here’s how I threw this party together:
Put the word out
through paper invites
(using craft paper, pumpkin stamp, washi tape, and handwriting)
or e-mail, text and phone
make sure everyone brings something for the meal (more on that later) and each child brings a pumpkin to paint
Decide on an easy menu
Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup, and Chili is a very simple menu
While the grilled cheese is hard to prepare way ahead schedule, the bread can still be sliced, buttered, and sprinkled with herbs beforehand.
The soup can simmer in a pot until ready to serve. In a large gathering like this, I like to use Campbell’s soup and add dried basil and onion powder.
The chili can easily be made ahead of time. When we threw this party, I just wanted to do grilled cheese and tomato soup, but my very astute husband pointed out that would in no way satisfy 25 people, especially the men.Ask each family to bring the sides for the chili, like cheese, sour cream, and chips. Other families can contribute by bringing drinks and dessert.
Make Buffet-Style as Smooth as Possible
I used my dining room table to set up the food. I protected it with a tablecloth and then in the center, laid down art paper stamped with pumpkins since the food was pretty messy. I also set up a mirror-image buffet so the line could go down both sides at once. Keep the main larger dishes in the center (chili, soup, grilled cheese), duplicate the extras like chips and sour cream, and duplicate the plates, bowls, and utensils. Also, at the end of the line, put the utensils and extra napkins, so it is one less thing to balance while filling the plate.
Other ways to keep things easy? Wrap the utensils in a napkin and secure with a sticker, like a pumpkin or fall leaf, instead of tied with ribbon or twine. This makes it easier for little hands to take apart. Also, using divided trays, like cafeteria trays, make it easier to carry multiple bowls at once. I picked my trays up at a garage sale, but they can be found on Amazon.com.
Set the Scene
Pick up two or three bouquets of fall color flowers at the grocery store and place them in a bunch of mason jars or vintage bottles the night before. The vases of flowers can be lined up down the center of the table.
I borrowed folding tables from friends and my church, so I had a hodgepodge group that I lined up end to end to form a long table. To create a coheasive look, I used vintage sheets I had on hand (one per table) as tablecloths. Even though the sheets were all different, it helped that the backgrounds were neutral. I borrowed from all over my house and managed to come up with mismatched chairs that completed a homey, vintage look.
Paint the Pumpkins
Finally, set up another folding table outside, set up acrylic paints, brushes, and old t-shirts and paint the pumpkins!