1. I’d been saving this NY Times interactive piece about “The Art of the Dinner Party,” forgot about it, and then just found it again. The opening essay by Gabrielle Hamilton, talking about dinner parties of her youth, is perfection:

…Over the next five years I persisted in spending my school money on brisket and whole sea bass and bone-in fresh ham, and my weekends sketching table arrangements, clomping through fields collecting grasses and branches to be laid artfully down the centers of tables for dinner parties at which, unfailingly, three people I invited and accounted for said they would come and then didn’t. Or someone I did invite showed up, late, with three people I didn’t invite.

…But there were always, also, a couple of guests who knew exactly what to do. Who never arrived too early but allowed you a 10-minute breather just past the hour they were expected. Who never just plopped their paper cone of bodega flowers on the kitchen prep table in the middle of your work but instinctively scanned the cabinets for a vase and arranged the gerbera daisies then and there. They found the trash and put the wrapping in it, leaving your counters clean and your nascent friendship secured for eternity.

2. Advice from Lisa Congden: