sea of tranquility: dinner party

It is my belief that anything done well in this world is a balancing act.

It's like magic: someone, an individual or a team, are working very hard to make it look effortless.

And nowhere is that more apparent than at the perfect dinner party.

And no one on this planet makes the more perfectly effortless dinner party than my friend Maryann Kissane.

I don't know if it's because she's half Italian, or because the other half is Irish, or because she was smart enough to marry Jim. But mainly it's because she's an extraordinary woman. She's a still waters run deep kind of woman, who thinks about food, plans ahead, makes lists. But she's flexible. She adapts. She delegates, especially when her friends like Debi and Eileen are such good cooks, too. She's got the balance just right.

Because once the guests arrived, she can listen, with that infinite grace that all women long to possess, and few can. I've never known a couple with more capacity of joy in their lives than the Kissanes.

Maryann and I met when we were 18 or 19, before this photo was taken, before she met Jim and had Julie and Ben, on a semester abroad, in Copenhagen. We travelled together, with other friends, and somewhere between Italy and Greece, we became like family.

And then they bought the mill, in Tranquility, New Jersey, spent ten years renovating it, while Jim built his architecture practice, living in the farmhouse on the property, keeping baby Ben from managing not to kill himself while helping Daddy hammer and saw (I remember once, telling Maryann a story, with Julie, who couldn't have been more than four, waiting for me to finish because she was taught it's impolite to interrupt adults, and when I was nearing the punch line, she finally blurted out, 'Mom, Ben fell in the river again.')

I met my future husband during those years, and would escape the city - New York City - jump on a bus and an hour and a bit later, be in paradise for days on end, running from the inevitable conclusion that, while not as perfect as Jim (who is, really?) he actually was my own particular knight in shining armour.

Now their kids are grown, and are in new romances of their own, and somewhere along the way, we've been sailing together and becoming close with their friends, their extended family.

And in the summer, whenever humanly possible, we convent at the Mill, on the river, and feast until the sun goes down. And then linger, long into that magic hour, over grilled meats and vegetables, baked brie with honey and nuts, freshly baked foccacia with blackberries and rosemary, strawberry salsa: whatever is abundant, and fresh.

Then when it is still dark, the fairy lights come on, and the magic begins.


julie said...

this is so nice and thoughtful. great pictures - we wish you were here this summer too!

jill said...

Oh Jules.. what can I say! You're such a delight. xo

Anonymous said...

Hi Jill!

I lived in NJ when I was seven years-old (1979-80). One of my memories from my time there is of taking a Sunday drive with my parents and seeing a mill, just like your friends. I've wondered, during your previous posts, if it is indeed the same mill. I'm sure there's more than one mill in NJ, but you never know! Such a lovely, lovely spot though. I would kill to sit in one of those chairs over the falls!

You're so fortunate to have such nice friends who go way back like this family. And what an exciting way to meet someone, traveling through Europe!

Hope you're enjoying your summer. Are you feeling the royal baby excitement over there? I think it would be funny if she birthed at home, considering the paps have been stationed outside of the hospital for days now! It would serve them right!


jill said...

Oh Leah, thank you: wish I could reply directly but you don't have a link! If you see this, email if you'd like: jill@haybooks.com

I wonder if it is the same mill. I know there are several, but this is one you could see from the road - in fact, at one point, our friends had to put up a little chain across the drive with a small sign that said 'private residence' because people would drive up, thinking it was, I don't know, a museum of some kind. You can see it from the bridge of the small road - but it's the 'main' road of that area. It's very rural - bizarrely so.

If your parents can remember, this would be almost a straight line from NYC, going west to Pennsylvania, and the Delaware Water Gap. The town is called Tranquility, NJ, and Jim kept the old black block letters of the Mill.

Previously the town was called Kennedyville, after the people who owned the mill at the time.

AHA! I found something on it - if you read this, if your parents remember.. the directions are on the bottom.

re: the royal baby excitement, I'm seeing it in the newspapers, but when I talk to friends.. no, we're not talking about it. You know what it's like: world events, usually the rest of the world is more interested than the country involved. With the exceptions probably of Egypt and Syria.

Hope you're having a lovely summer - where are you? I'm always glad to hear from you, LeahB!

Lauren@Styleseer said...

This does indeed look like paradise! Your lovely photos really captured the story of summer, good friends, good food and the magical setting.

muscletech said...

very good picture !! thank you

mtg said...

Ben and Julie are adorable. All the food in this post makes me so hungry again although I just ate :)
Come check out my latest crazy diy ;)

Delirian said...

Lovely page :)

The Foolish Aesthete said...

What a beautiful story told in pictures and words. As we get to the candlelit conclusion, we're simply left with the warmth that binds all the people in the story, friends as well as family. -- J xx

jill said...

Beautifully put, J. Maya, Lauren, D.. thank you xo

Mileide Almeida said...

amazing pictures!! *_*
pretty moments...