Giveaway: Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English

July 9, 2014

handmade gatherings cover

I have long been of the believe that when it comes to entertaining, people break down into just two groups. There are the dinner party people and potluck people. The dinner party folk like to have a certain amount of control over the menu and flow of the evening, whereas potluck people are fully content to put out a stack of plates and just see what happens.

handmade gatherings interior

However, with her new book, Handmade Gatherings, Ashley English offers up a middle way. With 16 seasonal gatherings, including recipes and crafts, these festive events give the dinner party people some structure while encouraging them to involve their guests in the process. For the potluck people among us, the book serves as encouragement to up the game ever so slightly.

handmade gatherings cake walk

Ashley opens the book with a little peek into her own entertaining history and then offers some insight about how to communicate with your guests, how to pick a location, and how to plan so that no one goes hungry (always have a back-up plan!). She also offers useful instruction on how to be a good guest, including a most helpful reminder to bring a serving utensil with your dish.

handmade gatherings canning

Because the parties are seasonally grounded, you’ll find things like egg-centric events, canning afternoons, ice cream socials, and even cookie swaps. The recipes, activities, and crafts are delicious, engaging, and fun (and manage never to cross the line into overly cutesy territory).

handmade gatherings morocco

What I find so nice about this book is that it is written so that every reader can take what they need from it. Some folks will recreate Ashley’s parties down to the very last dish, while others will use it for the inspiration it has to offer. I do like an entertaining book that adapts to the reader.

handmade gatherings spine

Thanks to Ashley and the team at Roost Books, I have one copy of Handmade Gatherings to give away. Here’s how to enter!

  • Leave a comment on this post and share a tale of a favorite party or potluck
  • Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, July 13, 2014
  • Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  • One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review and photography purposes. All opinions remain entirely my own. 

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314 thoughts on "Giveaway: Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English"

  • I love hosting dinner parties where my guests don’t need to think about a thing… except maybe a bottle of wine! I make myself a list of prep to do throughout the week, prepare a big antipasto board for when friends arrive and usually pull a giant roast and seasonal sides of salads and veggies out as we gather around the table. I shop local and always make a point to try out some new recipes that have come to me in a dream.

  • I need this book…I’m a dinner party girl and need control…yet I get terrible anxiety about the event!

  • All of my childhood I went to my Dads company picnic, which was a big potluck of amazing foods from all of the people at his work. It was so much fun and one of my favorite memories. It is where I developed my love for pickled beets and eggs

  • I have never been to a potluck, nor have I hosted one. However, I can image it in the house that I am dreaming of purchasing. A relaxing afternoon with a handful of friends, taking about nothing in particular and everything in-between. It would definitely be centered around food and drinks and wane on into the evening where a fire pit would be lit and more drinks would be shared. Fairy lights and lets be real, something to keep the mosquitos away.


  • I am learning to love the casual and almost accidental gatherings where expectations are low and laughter is high and conversation flows. I love pot luck with our friends and the one Thanksgiving we spent with friends where we all brought our must haves and did not worry if anything was missing. It was was wonderful and no stress. We were all rested at the end of the day!

  • Just celebrated my twins one year old birthday. There were so many people to thank that had helped out this last year. It was a thank you party as well as bday celebration. It was a fantastic feeling making food, hand stamped invitations, and individual onesies-there hasn’t been much time for such things this past year. Adults and babies had a blast.

  • I always take care of the same house over Christmas and host a huge Christmas Party there (with permission!) They are mostly a potluck and always a huge success!

  • I love picnic food! My favorite is seven layer salad. The first time I made it though I used an opaque bowl which kind of defeated the purpose

  • I’m in a book club that also in a dinner club. The meal is structured around the book being discussed. We have had some very interesting dishes. Penguin shaped cupcakes for a book about the South Pole. Lemon cakes and direwolf bread for Game of Thrones. Champagain cocktails for The Great Gatsby. It is a potluck with the host supplying the main dish.

  • I always get to do the cooking, planning and decorating for all the events in our family. I love doing it but sure could use new ideas with this book.

  • Had a dinner for six planned.. Salad, Calazoni, Strawberry Pie.. As time approached, each couple canceled.. We prepared platters, and “gifted” our neighbors.. It actually turned out for the best.. One neighbor recently home from hospital.. Another recently found out her husband suffered with cancer..

  • I love the seasonal approach to entertaining, not just the holidays. This book would be inspiration for my get togethers.

  • Yep. Always fun. The free-for-all of a pot luck can be so amusing if you happen to end up with multiples of one food – say all baked beans or all salads. Those would be the most memorable, except that it has never happened at any I’ve attended.

    Every group seems to have at least one member who obsesses over “planning” a pot luck to make certain that the “right” number of things arrive. Invariably, after all that planning, things are still out of balance, much to the disappointment of whoever planned what, by definition, requires no planning at all. The happy compromise is to give the obsessive planner the task of arranging an entre, bread, and drinks while everyone else just brings side dishes.

  • I love potluck get-togethers that are themed — they are my favorite kinds of parties where everyone brings something, and we have a great time together.

  • We just celebrated my grandson’s birthday in Cambridge Vermont with a potluck taco dinner at his home. It was a great format for a group having a wide range of food intolerances and allergies. We all had a lot of fun and it was nice to kick back and give up some control (I am more of a dinner party person by nature)
    Would love to read the book.
    Love your blog

  • We did a pot-luck, friend Thanksgiving a few years back. That was fun….though I had to forgive the person in charge of bringing potatoes for bringing boxed au graten… that was Thanksgiving blasphemy!

  • Lovely Giveaway! In my Native american tradition we have what we call “Ghost Suppers” This is a potluck where after a loved one has left this world, one year later we call a Ghost Supper for everyone who knew and loved this cherished person to bring one food that your loved one enjoyed. As you enter the line for your potuck food you normally take a small amount of everything to honor this person. This potluck Ghost supper is always filled with fun, laughter and lots of good sharing stories. You can imagine what this feast will hold in good eats!

  • This summer, some friends and I brought basic serving and preparing utensils to a park near the beach, including a knife, cutting board, charcoal grill, and empty cooler. Then we walked to the market and bought what looked good for our picnic! It was a nice middle ground to having control versus going with whatever happened.

    I would love this book for more ideas!

  • I like to think that I have a pretty casual take on the whole “dinner party” portion, but I really struggle with letting people help out. Even casual requires a bit of menu control. Can’t wait to read up on how best to balance…

  • I and my college girlfriends get together twice a year for a weekend of visiting, crafting and cooking. For the cooking, we all take turns sharing our most recently-discovered delicious recipes we’ve been cooking for our families.

  • With 3 young children, I have been unable to host gatherings so far, but dream of doing so! I would love a book to look to for seasonal inspiration and planning tips!

  • I took a spinach and strawberry salad to a church potluck. The pastor teased me that it was just like a garden, having to pick through the greens to get the strawberries.

  • Every Fall I host a Wine and Cheese party and I make so many amazing appetizers to serve to my guests. I love using my fresh and dried herbs in different recipes and the compliments fly! Makes me so proud when people ask for recipes…that’s How I know it’s a hit! Everyone brings a bottle of wine for others to taste test and enjoy and the party is always a hit πŸ™‚

  • potluck….folks showed up with take out pizza to homemade chicken dish to broccoli to a jar of dip. supper was interesting and lots of fun!

  • My grandparents used to throw enormous potlucks in the 70’s at what was then their camp (now their home.) It wasn’t unusual for fifty people to show up, all bearing food, drink, fireworks, and other various rural party gear. I can barely remember the very last one in the very early 80’s – I wasn’t quite in kindergarten yet, but I still have vivid memories of the camp being stuffed full of people (they hit a hundred and stopped counting πŸ™‚ with a roast pig on a rotisserie outside and every table overflowing with game dishes and salads and endless coolers of soda and beer. There were outdoor games and skeet shooting and a big campfire to sit around and fireworks. It was magical.
    Someday when we own a little land my husband and I would like to do the same. Although I’m not sure we even know that many people πŸ™‚

  • This past Superbowl was pretty great. Went all in with non-packaged foods; favorites were the soft pretzels, followed closely by the slow cooked buffalo chicken sandwiches (homecooked everything: rolls, chicken, coleslaw, and ranch).

  • Love to have a backyard cookout when my tomatoes start to ripen. So I can impress with a big platter of sliced tom’s and mozzarella with homemade pesto. Yes, pride, pride, pride!

  • I love planned potlucks (so that we don’t have 17 plates of brownies…) and like best to host them. I enjoy making a welcoming space and seeing to the details that make everyone comfortable.

  • My favorite festivity to date was a large event I hosted the year we bought our house. It was definitely a potluck – everyone brought something – and we scattered throughout my home and backyard eating, socializing, playing music, singing and laughing our heads off until the late hours of the evening.

    I am doing as much seasonal eating I can this year. I would love this book to learn more on being a seasonal eating hostess!

  • I have potlucks and people email what they are planning to bring – they way we get a variety. This book would be helpful for added ideas.

  • I throw Fall & Winter Soup Gatherings at my home……love them!! It’s an open invite to all my peeps and their friends…come, visit, eat soup! It’s been wonderful & I have met the best of people over a bowl of soup!! xoxo

  • This is just the kind of book that I enjoy sitting down and looking at! My back yard was just a barren patch of weeds last year but I’ve been working hard this spring and summer to make it the kind of place where I can have gatherings of friends over. This is the first year I can actually have a back yard party and it looks like the book would be a great inspiration! (ps. I also just started canning this year).

  • What a beautiful book! We do have lots of family gatherings and those are usually at my house, but I would love for us to entertain more often than we do, and this sounds like a perfect gateway to achieve that goal.

  • My co-workers and I have potlucks about once a month. It’s a fun way to get together and talk about other things than work. πŸ™‚ I hope I win this book, I love trying out new ideas.

  • My most memorable dinner party was one of the first that I threw for some good friends. We were going to eat ribs but I managed to char them beyond recognition. We ate salad and cookies instead. Thankfully I’ve improved since then

  • I remember a potluck in which ingredients were scarce and everyone brought something different made out of potatoes. It was fun and a great expression of creativity with the common spud. πŸ™‚

  • A few friends and myself hiked up to the top of a mountain on my birthday a few years ago, and we packed in a bunch of gourmet food that we prepared. It was wonderful to have all these beautiful plates of french inspired food custom with peach bellinis using fresh peaches from our area!

  • I just hosted a first time family reunion this July 4th. I could have used this book for suggestions. We all love to cook. And we all can and dehydrate our foods

  • I don’t have a favorite memory because I’m not good at thus type of thing. it looks like a beautiful. book full if ideas. maybe I will win and pick up tips on making memorable party moments.

  • Hospitality and having people over for dinner has been a big part of our family’s ministry in the body of Christ and in our homeschooling network growing up. There is really no substitute for having people into your home and eating with them when you are getting to know someone. Whether it is making something for church lunch, having a new family over for the first time, or celebrating the Fourth in our backyard with our cousins as we do every year, fellowshipping around the table brings back countless fun, crazy, and all around wonderful memories. πŸ™‚

  • Some of my favorite gathering memories revolve around the birthday parties I would put together for my two sons when they were young. We’d make snacks, gift bags and plan games for the kids. It was so much fun and all the moms would tell us how much their kids loved coming to our parties. This is just the kind of book I would love!

  • I enjoy doing a good many of our family gatherings. I’m afraid, though, that I fall into the more controlling hostess type! My favorite gathering ever was Mothers’ Day about twenty years ago at our cottage in Homewood. I rented two long tables and those fabulous white folding wooden chairs. Both our parents were there, and even one pair of my husband’s grandparents. Our little garden was in full bloom and I asked my oldest son to shop the house and garden and create a whole tablescape of low vases and object d’ art. He did an amazing job and it was a very memorable day. My parents are both gone now, and so are my husband’s grandparents, so I look back on those photographs often lately.

  • I did a baby shower for a friend in April and worked so hard. My favorite part was that I transformed my chandler into a cloud with tissue paper poofs and then sewed pink and blue hearts with clear thread to make rain drops. Then I put flowers in silver baby cups and empty glass baby food jars. My theme was “April Showers bring June Babies”.

  • We love hosting pot lucks for all our neighbors. We supply the main course (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc) and everyone brings their favorite side dish. I’m not sure how these potlucks always land at our place but we love it. <3

  • My sister and I planned her nieces wedding shower, from decorations to food. It was a lot of work but turned out great! Definitely not potluck, but super fun to do, at least once in awhile. I think potlucks are a bit more fun, we tend to do that for Thanksgiving with guests bringing the sides and desserts.

  • The biggest potlucks i remember as a child were always the ones on Derby Day. I’m from Louisville, KY, so Derby is a huge deal, and most of the city is either at the track or at one of the massive number of parties going on in every neighborhood around the city. Part of the tradition for most derby parties is a potluck, so every year my parents and i would spend the morning making several of our go to party meals, and then we’d drive to where ever the party was being held, and i would be stuck in the back seat my lap piled with at least two dishes. They were always something i really liked to eat, since i was a picky eater as a child, so when i was small that drive was a special type of torture, 15-30 minutes of staring intently at a food i wasnt allowed to touch.

  • Master Gardener potlucks are especially delightful because the table is often laden with the gardeners’ own produce.

  • A friend of mine asked a favor of me one day, actually the day of her daughter’s wedding rehearsal. She called me about 2 in the afternoon and asked me to fix dinner for the event – nothing had yet been purchased, no plates or flatware and no food, so nothing was cooked yet. We brainstormed and decided on spaghetti and salad, for the menu, to feed 20 people.
    I had to finish my work day and get what I could, where I worked. Then drove to closer to where they lived (about an hour from me) and then hit the grocery store for the rest. In the end, I fixed lots of spaghetti and sauce, both with and without meat and garlic bread.
    In the end, we left for rehearsal only 5 minutes late, as we almost forgot to grab the garlic bread. Everyone had a good time and was well fed, especially since there were 2 folks in the wedding party that really didn’t like spaghetti, but evidently mine was pretty good, as both went back for 2nd and 3rd helpings. The day’s groom still hasn’t figured out what my secret ingredient was, but that’s ok.

  • I recently put together a Rainbow party for my grand daughter’s birthday. We had rainbow frosting on rainbow cupcakes, rainbow decorations everywhere, and the girls had crafts to choose from using paints and stickers. We all had lots of fun.

  • About a month ago we hosted a potluck barbecue with 30 people, 14 of whom were motorcyclists from New Zealand! The bikers were riding from California to the East Coast, and than driving back. We invited them to stop at our place since we live within a bus ride of NYC. Our friends were dying to meet them as well.

    Our theme was American picnic. We supplied burgers, hot dogs and chicken and veggie sausage, deviled eggs and home canned applesauce. Our friends brought salads, baked beans and a shoo-fly cake for dessert.

    Everyone had a wonderful time and we all made new friends!

  • I seem to go from one extreme to the other. At times, I like to control an entire event. Other times, potluck just seems more fun. I look forward to learning how to approach entertaining from the middle. The review alone makes me think I’d love to entertain from the middle from now on.

  • Family gatherings with everyone bringing a dish or two are my favorite. It helps if you come from a family of really good cooks!

  • There’s nothing better than gathering all your friends and loved ones around for a good potluck. My favorite potluck memories are of my grandfather’s cooking…he always made a wonderful dill dip served in a rye bread bowl, and even though he’s no longer with us, it’s still the most requested item for our family to bring.

  • A group of fun friends recently had a Tropical themed Progressive Potluck Party! It was really amazing….all 5 homes were within 8 blocks of each other so we could ride our bikes or walk between houses! The food, drinks and conversation were wonderful. It’s great to have friends who really are “foodies”, we always have a great time and enjoy what Lassen County has to offer!

  • Our best party was over the 4th of July weekend…we hosted our daughters engagement party and it was by far the best party we’ve had. It was very casual chic…under the stars, cocktails, appetizers, and desserts…people lingers until after midnight.

  • I do not have one favorite potluck or party – but the best ones are the ones when we all bring a great variety of good foods and love our time together. Cannot get any better than that !!

  • My favorite party to host is our annual BYOP (bring your own pumpkin) party. We set up tables in the garage to carve pumpkins and I always make pulled pork and chicken corn chowder in the slow cookers so I can enjoy the carving along with everyone else!

  • One of my favorite potlucks that we switch of hosting with friends is our Fantasy Football draft potluck we always make a bunch of new and old appetizers. Our almost embarrassingly simple stand-by is cream cheese and salsa. It tastes so good and everyone loves it, people are disappointed if we fail to provide it.

  • We threw a wonderful graduation party with desserts that reflected not only my son’s likes but that were reminders of his school life: little rhubarb and blueberry pies because he likes pie and pi, his favorite cream cheese chocolate chip cookies, and donuts because we always had donuts the first and last day of school. We scattered small framed photos of him that spanned his growing up years on all the tables. We had a “tree” on which the guests could hang notes of encouragement or memories of him. It was simple and delightful!

  • I had a neighbor who always made a huge pot of the most amazing baked beans for our monthly potluck dinners. I loved growing up in a small town where sharing a meal with friends and neighbors was the norm.

  • Every year our cul de sac has a party on the 4th. Food. Fireworks. Fellowship. We’re a multi-generational, multi-national street. So many wonderful foods from around the world brought to the table.

  • I love all things bread-related: my brother and his wife make an extra loaf of of bread and their incredible sourdough waffles whenever I visit. Down in Baltimore, where I live, I keep things carby by hosting pizza parties in the winter and waffle/crepe brunch throughout the year. I make the dough/batter and basic toppings like mozzarella, tomato sauce, maple syrup (and jam!), which still leaves room for friends to bring over their favorite toppings. It’s fun to do, and it doesn’t get too expensive for me or anyone else, which is great when people have different budgets.

  • One of my favorite gatherings was a women’s lunch meeting at church. All but one of the dishes brought were desserts!! So…we all had a tiny bit of salad and a lot of dessert!!

  • My favorite potluck was one my partner and I threw for Mardi Gras – in Rhode Island. Some friends drove for hours to celebrate and then a big storm came and made the party last even longer!

  • Indian food al fresco after a 10k. One lovely person stayed home to cook huge amounts of delicious food off the runners.

  • Last summer, a friend & I who both can decided it would be fun to host a canning night for our theater company. It was mostly just a chance for us to create together, but it turned into a really incredible night! Everyone helped prep fruit & pickle ingredients, and we all were able to relax after a difficult show and enjoy some jam & cheese. I’ve just returned for another summer with the company, and a few folks have asked when we’re doing it again!

  • My favorite party is a bonfire/hayride. We build a nice bonfire, roast hotdogs & marshmallows, ride the hay wagon along the country roads & stay around the fire late into the night – love it!

    We just built a screened porch onto the back of our house & I’m so looking forward to some fun suppers there with friends as the weather cools later in the year. I’d love to win the book for some new ideas!

  • I love to get together with family – especially in the summer when we can enjoy being outside and the warm weather. Usually, this means grilling vegetables and some meat! But, the best part is just being with family.

  • I recently went to a sausage making class and a woman brought cheese and crackers to share with the group. She served it with a tomato jam that was to die for. She told me the recipe was on Food In Jars. I can’t wait for the tomatoes to come in and will make it for the monthly happy hour pot luck we have at our VFW for the veterans.

  • I had sent invitations for a baby shower. I wanted the kitchen counters replaced and scheduled them for the week of the shower. THE DAY OF THE SHOWER the crew arrived. They left at 3pm. My father was visiting from the Midwest and saved the day. We whipped out a combination buffet and sit down dinner, complete with decorations in 3 hours. He saved my sanity and the shower.

  • I love when i bump into friends at the farmers market and, when the weather is nice, we pull together picnics on the spot. Everyone supplies something, and the more the merrier!

  • A group of us started a game night/pot luck tradition last year. This past December, the gang threw us a surprise engagement party at what we thought was going to be a run of the mill game night/pot luck with a secret Santa thrown in as the holidays were just around the corner. It was totally unexpected and so very thoughtful of them. Best 4-in-1 party ever.

  • We hosted a party for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. My husband introduced all Mom’s children, their spouses and all the grandchildren except…. he forgot to introduce me! Other than that, the food was excellent, the company was great and we all had a good time. The desserts were the best – we had triple chocolate cake, pear cobbler and goodies from Mom’s homeland. And…… I made half-pints of mixed stone fruit jelly ( Melisa’s recipe) for party favors …. all 100 jars of them! Thanks, Melisa, for a great recipe and the tutorial!!

  • I love hosting tea parties–mini treats and savories, mismatched dishes, and silly hates required.

  • A tea in the garden. A few tables and chairs scattered in the shade of the fruit trees while we share last year’s bounty – some jarred, some frozen. I need feedback for this year’s “putting up” sessions. While everyone sips iced lemon verbena tea spiked with local honey, they also enjoy the current delights of a very productive garden. Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with pungent basil, miniature summer squash quiches, and roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese and the leaves of herbs that scent our hands as we stroll to our destination. Summer sorbets of strawberries, apricots, and rhubarb would complete the day, but with all the lavender recently harvested, we must have lavender and lemon thyme spiked shortbread! And the empty canning jars that will soon be filled again are perfect for serving – tea, cookies, dessert, and of course, for holding utensils, napkins and flowers, flowers, flowers!

  • When I worked for a staffing company, I would travel to different states and live there for 3 months at a time. At one hospital, there were several other travelers also working there. We decided to do a once weekly potluck with a theme (ie soups, or something orange, or favorite appetizer). It was a good way to be social in a place where you didn’t know anyone.

  • I had some lovely dinners and potlucks in my small kitchen in Quito, full of expat friends. We would often get together to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving, when we were all missing family and the traditions of home.

  • My family has a potluck with friends from church the first Sunday of every month. It is always a delightful time. My wife would love that book — she’s pretty crafty too.

  • I always said that when I got married, I wanted to be outside, I wanted to be barefoot and I wanted a potluck meal. We ended up getting married three times in three states in six weeks, with one of the wedding celebrations legally binding. We were outside and barefoot all three times and we had a potluck as part of every gathering, whether there were two of us in the wilderness in Colorado, fifteen of us in northern New Mexico or eighty plus people on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota.

  • We are definitely potluck people. For a while last year (and we need to resurrect this!) we had Sunday night suppers with all the other twentysomethings from our church. I’d make a main dish, everyone else would make or bring something random, and it was miraculously always a good time, despite the occasionally unusual mix of attendees.

  • I’m in that stage of life where it seems that everyone is getting married or having kids or graduating from grad school – and I find myself volunteering to host the celebrations for each occasion. I have Celiac disease so it’s a partially selfish act – at least I know that I can eat the food that I made, safely. Regardless of the time or work that goes into hosting these events, it’s always a great time with good people.

  • Game Days and Family Gatherings have always offered an opportunity to try something new. One time we tried a cheese display encouraging people to bring as many different cheeses as they could find. We feasted like mice.

  • I moved back to my hometown and left some really great friends, and my church, in the big town of Raleigh, NC. We had the BEST potlucks – being single for years and no one to cook for just makes me drool over home-cooking, especially when it’s so good and there’s soooo much of it! I have to give it to folks at the Pleasant Valley Grove United Methodist Church – not just the women – the men are superb cooks also! I really do miss my friends – not just the food. Now that I’m thinking about it, I need to take a trip up there and see my people. Thanks for reminding me, Ms. Marisa!

  • we do picnic potlucks where we provide an “x” amount of everything: a drink, an appetizer, an entrΓ©e, a side dish, a salad, a dessert, etc. that way everyone else who participates can just bring whatever they like, and there will always be a complete “menu”.

  • My favorite party was mostly catered by myself, it was last year’s Halloween party and I did it pirate themed. I had a ton of fun picking themed details and making chili and chicken wings and Stromboli for the guests. I did have a few friends provide desserts. My friends still talk about how much fun they had at the party!