On Sunday night my husband and I had a group of friends over--travel companions who traveled together to England and Germany last October to cruise the Thames and visit friends in Wiesbaden. On our boats the guys kept a few bottles of single malt on hand for happy hour tasting. That was the reason for this party: a single malt tasting/cruising reunion. I've been so busy lately I kept everything simple and chose an Englishy menu comprised of easy-to-make do-ahead dishes that had minimum last minute prep to give me maximum time with my guests.
If your table is small like mine and space is relatively limited, I have a few party tricks that give the illusion of more space: it's as simple as keeping the decorations simple. I never have enough room on my dining table for a grand floral display--not if I want to fit on my dishes too. I lined up six green pears down the center of the table, popped a few sprigs of fresh herbs on the buffet, a single stem of green heleborus on the bar, and a tiny potted orchid on the hors d'oeuvres table. To extend the simplified look, I used a maximum of white and limited my colors to only one, green; this gave the impression of more space. Candle light can also seem to add space: small, nondescript glass votives added romantic dots of light without taking over. No one element "steals the stage" but instead, the simple elements combined to create an elegant backdrop for our guests to shine!
Single Malt Tasting
This is a subject of which I know absolutely nothing about. But just because most distilled liquors taste like poison to me doesn't mean that the guys and a few of the girls didn't have a good old time tasting the whiskies. If this sounds like fun to you too, I found this Beginner's Guide to Single Malt Tasting.
The Thames Cruise
I loved this trip. For our group of nine, we rented two boats from Le Boat, one with 3beds/3baths and one with 2beds/2 baths. Both had tiny galley kitchens and living room/dining room spaces inside with an open deck with seating up top. We traveled for 7 days from Benson to Chertsey, about 150 miles total. We piloted and crewed our own boats and went through about 30 locks. Most locks had a lock keeper to guide us through, but often enough they were unmanned so we had to get through some locks on our own. I have to laugh at the memories but we did manage to get through each lock while locals cheered the clueless Americans on. Each night we picked a cozy spot on the riverside to moor and walked to the nearby village for pub visits and dinner. The next morning, off we went--and a top speed of 6 mph meant a leisurely, pleasant float to view some of the prettiest scenery on the planet. During the day we would make several stops to sight-see and grab a bite. We met so many nice people, ate lots of good food, and enjoyed the loveliest fall weather England has to offer--the sun was shining every day and not one drop of rain--we felt like we hadn't left California except everything was bright green! Boating on the Thames on a Le Boat with good friends was a great way to visit England. See the photos below.
|We are all dog lovers, so we were all fond of this little guy who kept a careful eye on us during one lock passage.|
|Manning the boats through a lock.|
|The locks were very pretty and each had their own personality.|
|The boats had bikes which was nice.|
|I loved being at the front of the boat.|
|Another pretty lock.|
|Happy hour wearing our matching floral leggings. The week before we left, one of the girls found these at TJ Max and bought one pair for each. We were quite dazzling, don't you think? They are quite comfy and now I use them as jammies.|
|We moored our boats next to each other so we could visit back and forth. Here is a wine transfer taking place.|
|Two nights we cooked dinner on the boat. Very brave.|
|We all had a good time. It was a great trip.|