Autumn, my favorite time of year! While my favorite Autumnal parties are, of course, Halloween Parties…I do love any event that has a Fall theme. This year I was lucky enough to have three events with a Fall theme! A company BBQ for 120 people, a family gathering for 20, and a small Thanksgiving for four.
Trip to the Pumpkin Farm!
As far as I’m concerned, the start to all great Autumn events begins with a trip to the pumpkin farm. For the past few years, just as the leaves are starting to turn, we journey to a local farm and fill up the car with pumpkins and gourds of all sizes and colors.
My favorites are the ones with the long, dried up, curly stems still attached…gives them character! I love the variety of colors, shapes and textures…green, white, yellow, and all shades of orange.
Well supplied after my trip to the farm, I was ready to figure out what to do for our company BBQ lunch. We set up a tent in the parking lot behind our building and fed a steady stream of employees from 11am to 1pm. I wanted to add a little decoration that still left most of the table available for people to sit and I had a tight budget for a large space, so I created four centerpieces spread out over two long tables.
Each centerpiece had a metal pail in the center with a potted mum. Surrounding the pail were five different varieties and sizes of pumpkins, gourds, and squash. Between them, I placed fake berries to fill in the holes
One long table was covered in brown paper tablecovers and the other long table was covered in red. Down the middle of each long table I ran a burlap runner.
For the food we did the standard BBQ fare of hot dogs and burgers, but I added in hot apple cider that we kept warm in crock pots and, of course, plenty of apple and pumpkin pie.
Squirrels!!!! (shakes fist in air)
Let me start by saying that I love all animals, I really, really do. BUT, every year, EVERY YEAR, it’s me vs. squirrel when it comes to the outside pumpkins. I make a nice little display on the porch with pumpkins and mums then BLAM! Within 24hrs the squirrels have attacked. It’s starts with just a little nibble, but by the end of the season, it’s like a pumpkin crime scene out there! I have tried various squirrel proofing techniques, I have yet to find one that works. So the battle continues…maybe I’ll win next year…maybe.
Here is my little “friend” eating my pumpkin while LOOKING AT ME through our door, taunting me…
Door Wreath Project:
I wanted to add a Fall wreath to the front door, but wanted a project I could finish in an afternoon, so I made a simple berry wreath!
Materials (all found at your local craft store):
- Natural grapevine wreath
- 10-12 picks of berries in Autumn colors
- Floral wire
- Wire cutter
- Wide wire ribbon
- Wreath door hanger
At equal intervals, I inserted the picks of berries into the wreath, then bent the stem to be flat with with back of the wreath. Do not attach to the wreath or try to bend the stems into position at this point, we’ll get to that after step two….
- Bend the tops of the stems flat to the top of the wreath flowing in a circular pattern around the wreath.
- Use floral wire to attach the stems to the wreath by making a long U shape (make it longer than you think you will need, this serves a double purpose) and pushing it through to the back of the wreath.
- Once pulled through, secure the stem by tightening the wire on the back of the wreath. Do not trim the wire at this point.
- Use the excess wire from securing the top of the stem to secure the bottom stems. Bend stems to follow the curve of the wreath, and secure with wire.
- You may need to add extra wire at this point, but first take advantage of the wire that is already being used from the previous step. Waste not, want not!
- Now that the stems are secure, you can start to arrange the individual berries.
- Spread them out to make a full wreath, but keep them flowing in the same general circular direction.
- Attach your ribbon. Initially, I made a long loop, tied a knot, then tied the bow leaving a long tail.
- A few days later I decided I didn’t like the long loop look and trimmed it down to just wrap around the wreath with a small loop behind the bow…but the only photos I have are of the long loop.
- Trim the tails of the bow and arrange the ribbon into the pattern you like!
- I love wire ribbon because you can give it a flowing look that won’t fall out!
Tada! Afternoon door wreath project complete!
Family Autumn Gathering:
We were lucky enough to have numerous members of different branches of our family in town for the same weekend, so why not make it a party! The dynamic was a bit unique as far as planning the food and drink. We had a guest age range of one to seventy-one, one person who was running an actual marathon the next day, and people would be arriving at various intervals throughout the evening.
So, my challenge was to plan a menu that was:
- Kid friendly
- Acceptable for someone running a marathon the next morning
- That could sit out for a little while in buffet form
- Include some Fall food flavors
- Make enough for 20 people
I chose my menu, but unfortunately I was rushing around on party day and forgot to take photos of the finished dishes. Instead, I’ve included links to the recipes I used so you can see their photos!
- Cheese Tray (Bleu, Brie, Robusto, fig spread, mustard seed green olives, sliced baguette)
- Veggie Tray (using green and red peppers open on top and scooped out to hold dip)
- Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers
- Autumn Chopped Salad
- Roasted Butternut Squash, Onion, Red Potatoes with Fresh Herbs (I altered the recipe by substituting Sweet and Purple Potatoes for Red)
- Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs (in crockpot)
- Pigs in a Blanket with mustard and ketchup dipping sauce
- Penne Pasta with tomato sauce and shredded parmesan
- Apple Crisp
- Monster Cookies (for the kiddos)
- Caramel Apple Spice Cider (we provided extra “spice” for anyone that wanted to spike their cider)
Once I picked my menu, I needed to figure out how I was going to fit all that food on one table. What I’ve been doing for years, that always makes things sooooo much easier the day of the party, is doing a table pre-set and plan. I lay out the table with all the serving dishes I plan to use and either print out photos of each dish or write the name of the dish on a piece of paper and mark where each item is going to go.
Once I figured out where everything was going to go, I started to add the table decorations (in the little extra space I had).
I wrapped burlap garland around the table (careful to not get it too close to the heat of the crock pot), then added some small pumpkins and gourds along with stems of fake berries (matching the door wreath? Why yes they are!) between the wood wine boxes and the serving dishes.
Between the wooden wine boxes, I placed a cake stand on a square vase to provide the stand for my mum centerpiece.
- Remove the top of a craft pumpkin
- Inside of the craft pumpkin place a flower vase (the same height as the top of the pumpkin).
- Fill the vase halfway with water and add flowers.
- Around the base of the flowers/top of the pumpkin wrap a wire ribbon and tie a bow.
- Arrange bow tails to flow to base of pumpkin.
So here we have it! The dessert and cider table was in the kitchen, with the bar. I used paper and plastic in gold which matched my Fall color scheme and was a cinch to clean up! I wish I had some better pictures of the finished table, but in my rush to get all the food out and greeting guests, these two photos were all I were able to take! Next time!
Thanksgiving for Four:
We decided to do a small Thanksgiving this year with friends and it was a blast! We all helped with the cooking, there was zero pressure, and lots of wine and good food. Perfect! We even had a little Thanksgiving snow making the day absolutely perfect.
Because there were only going to be four of us, we decided to do a large chicken instead of a turkey…and it was delicious!
Here’s our menu (I remembered pictures this time!):
Did I mention this was a no pressure kind of a day? Here we are, on our second glass of wine, waiting for the chicken to be done. Yes, we are sitting on the floor in jeans and socks, and having the best time ever!
Time to eat! I reused many of the same items for the Thanksgiving table that I used in the family gathering table. The berries, burlap, brown tablecloth, and red napkins were all used before. I added gold chargers under the plates and a candle in the center, the food took up the rest of the space!
At the end of the day, we had happy bellies, lots of leftovers, and happy memories.
Whew! This was quite a post! Probably tried to fit too much into one post, but because many of the items were used for multiple events, it just made sense. Hope you all enjoyed it and I’ll see you next time!