First, we fell in love with this jaw-droppingly gorgeous home we kept spotting all over Pinterest. Then, we developed a total girl crush on Ashley, the gal behind that amazing home and her lifestyle site, Hither & Thither, brimming with inspiring photography, design, food and travel tales, all with an undeniable focus on family. Ashley and her husband, Aron, live outside San Francisco with 3-year-old Hudson and 1-year-old Skyler, and Ashley invited us into her laid-back Cali home as she preps for an all-girls gathering. Like everything else she does, it’s low on fuss and high on style (and fun!) Click through to see how Ashley throws a dinner party and get her secrets to effortless entertaining.
*photos by Michelle Drewes
Current favorite color palette for parties:
Earthy neutrals like grey linens and walnut or olive wood mixed with white or black plates, and plenty of natural greenery. I try to push myself to add some color here and there, but I’d prefer the food stand out.
My standard host / hostess outfit:
Jeans. Always jeans. Usually with something fun up top.
Favorite entertaining tips to share:
What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?
With bigger parties, that inner junior-high voice usually peeps up at some point: “Will everyone come?” “Will they have fun?” “Will they like each other?”
But I generally find that if you greet people with some enthusiasm, and do things that show a little effort was made, people will help make the fun.
My signature entertaining dish:
My favorites dishes tend to change by the season and are, honestly, usually made by my husband, Aron. He’s the real cook around here. I bake the cookies.
Still, you can never go wrong with roast chicken and a good salad for an impromptu get together—which are often the best kind. Tonight’s greens are in an arugula salad with kumquats.
The taste I’m always craving:
Cheese. A round of Red Hawk or Mt. Tam from California’s own Cowgirl Creamery is always welcome here. (In fact, cheese could be the right answer to many of these questions.)
My must-have entertaining tool:
A cocktail to welcome friends and set the tone. I particularly like a drink that’s finished with sparkling wine—like a seasonal take on a French 75 or an Aperol Spritz—because we rarely open the bubbly stuff without a crowd.
Tonight, I served a grapefruit and blood orange champagne fizz.
What was the inspiration behind tonight’s gathering?
A winter citrus party of sorts. I invited my best girlfriends over for a Valentine’s dinner to “enjoy the fruits, so to speak.”
The entertaining rule I rarely break:
Low lights and good music. When there’s a pause in conversation (hopefully not a lull), there should be something playing in the background.
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
I usually put on Andrew Bird, Noah and the Whale, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Phosphorescent… a little bit folk, a little bit pop. I’m always happy, however, to have the selection taken over by friends (or Songza).
Always in my refrigerator:
Arugula, eggs, butter, cheese, and a bottle of white wine. And we always have peanut butter and bananas around.
What’s the main event on the menu?
My friend Emarie shared this delicious recipe with me for Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken. It’s a very forgiving, one-pot meal.
My dream dinner guests:
Friends who bring it, so to speak. Had a horrible day? Come over, and we’ll laugh about it.
The restaurant meal I’ll never forget:
We ate very well living in New York City, but perhaps the single most memorable restaurant meal would be the one Aron and I shared at Suzanne Goin’s A.O.C in Los Angeles just after we got engaged. Then again, I’m probably remembering who was across the table more than what was on it.
What did you serve for a sweet finish?
Meyer lemon upside-down cake with whipped cream.
sidenote: The kumquats, lemons, and quince blossoms all were homegrown picked from the backyard!
My entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Simple but special.
*photos by Michelle Drewes
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