If I had to choose the fantasy that I return to most often, it would be to live near the beach. There’s nothing that relaxes me like the sound of crashing waves and the scent of saltwater. I’ve heard people say that when you live at the beach, you start to take it for granted and don’t regularly enjoy all that it has to offer, but today’s inspiring Entertaining With subject, DeNai Jones, proves them wrong by mastering the art of true beach living at her gorgeous Ventura, California abode. DeNai is founder and head designer of Petunia Pickle Bottom, the company that made diaper bags chic and continues to turn out crave-worthy accessories for modern moms. We’ve long been fans of her wanderlust-inducing Instagram feed that highlights life with her husband and darling boys, so we’re thrilled to have DeNai and gang stop by to share their oceanside dinner party complete with VW van, freshly-caught sushi, and seating on the sand. (Yes, they’re that cool, and have I mentioned that I’ve developed a serious girl crush on DeNai and kind of want to be her after writing this story? But I digress…) Click through the slides for loads of summer inspiration and a couple delicious recipes, too!
*photos by Daniele Rose Photography
Signature entertaining dish.
I like to switch things up and try not to duplicate dishes from event to event. It’s more fun for me that way, and adds a lot of creativity to the process.
Standard hostess outfit.
I like to be comfortable so I can enjoy myself. You’ll usually find me in casual attire, and depending on where I’m entertaining, I’m often barefoot!
Click here to get the recipe for DeNai’s Asian Cucumber Salad!
Entertaining rule I rarely break:
I always prep and plan the food ahead of time. I like to enjoy the party and the quality time with my guests, rather than being stuck in the kitchen.
DeNai and her husband Braden prep fish for the sushi that will be the centerpiece to their dinner party meal.
My rule of thumb is to do the prep work the day before, and then the last bits to pull the meal together before my guests arrive.
DeNai shows Miller, age 7, how to pack down the rice for sushi rolls.
What scares me about entertaining.
I love entertaining, but I am always fearful of running out of food for my guests! Usually I’ll end up preparing way too much and then have a lot of leftovers that of course my boys and husband enjoy.
DeNai and Sutton, age 9.
Braden and I both share a fondness for VW vans. I grew up camping in my parent’s 1968 VW camper van, traveling and exploring our way through the U.S. and Canada. And Braden had a VW Westfalia when we first met that he took many adventures in. Together we now own a VW Syncro van. Our family’s favorite memories are ones we create when traveling or camping in our van—either exploring the open roads or gathering at the beach with friends.
*take a peek at some of the family’s adventures on DeNai’s instagram.
Tips for entertaining with kids.
- Make sure you offer options for picky eaters.
- Always serve dessert.
- Plan an activity, like corn hole, which is a fun outdoor game for children and adults to play together.
An empty stretch of beach creates the dreamiest backdrop for a long meal around the table with friends.
DeNai carries the Altogether Tote by Petunia Pickle Bottom and wears the Maya Maxi Dress by Ace & Jig as she unloads all their picnic supplies from the van.
Allison and Seth are friends of ours. They are recent van purchasers… one more to the van clan! They have the same love of the outdoors as we do and we plan to have more family adventures together in our vans.
Taste I’m always craving.
My cravings usually involve menu items that are fresh and seasonal. But then again, I always save room for a sweet dessert treat!
Braden has surfed since he was in middle school. It is a big part of his life–and he adores sharing it with our boys. Both of our boys love the ocean. If the weather is sunny—you can mostly find us at the beach.
Perfect dinner party playlist includes:
My go-to playlist is the “Early Jazz” Pandora station. It’s the best background music for mellow, no-fuss gatherings.
For this gathering, we made salmon sashimi, tuna rolls, and salmon rolls.
Always in my refrigerator.
You can almost always find spinach and arugula in my fridge. My husband and I always enjoy a good, fresh salad— sometimes we have it as a main dish by just adding on a protein, candied nuts, and shaved parmesan. The dressing is usually a simple mix of fresh squeezed orange and olive oil with just a dash of salt and pepper.
Braden completes the sushi prep just before guests find their seats around the table.
Restaurant meal I’ll never forget:
I love interactive meals, so I would have to say it was on a family trip to Kyoto, Japan. Our friends there took us to a favorite restaurant, where you create your own soup that comes in a hot pot and stays warm at the dinner table. We all sat on the floor, cooked our food in front of us, and enjoyed each other’s company.
My dream dinner guests.
My friends and family! Nothing makes me happier than being with the ones I love, especially when we’re enjoying each other’s company over a meal.
Current favorite color palette for parties.
I usually decorate for parties with neutral colors, incorporating whites and natural elements. This allows the food to really shine and the company to feel at ease.
Must-have entertaining tool.
For van camping, I love our Jetboil Flash Cooking System for smaller items and our Partner Stove for multiple pots. I should also mention that the Snow Peak Chopping Board Set is a must-have.
Click here to get the recipe for DeNai’s S’mores Hand Pies!
Entertaining style in 5 words or less.
Rustic, casual, fresh, sensory, and lots of love!
*big thanks to Daniele Rose Photography for so beautifully capturing DeNai’s gathering!