Five Entertaining Tips That I Use all of the time

Five Entertaining Tips That I Use all of the time

Those that know me well know that I LOVE to entertain.  There is something about the whole party planning process that is so satisfying, yet therapeutic for me.  I’m not sure if entertaining allows me to explore my creative side, or if it brings me back to my event planning days in the business world.  But whatever it may be, I mostly enjoy seeing the final product come together and seeing those I love having a good time.  It’s a win-win in my book.

As I thought back to the many dinners and parties I’ve together in the past, there seemed to be common threads among them all.  Because of that, I decided to share my process of how I pull everything together from start to finish.  Also – for this post, I went back into my archives and selected a few of my favorite meals so please excuse the bad lighting on the older pics!

My Top 5 Tips for Entertaining:

1. Plan the menu in advance with simple meals. Usually a week or two before the party, I begin to brainstorm my file of recipes or Pinterest to pull together a menu that fits the crowd that is coming over.  I never serve anything too time consuming to make, I choose dishes I can make in advance, and the menu will always have an appetizer course, a main dish and a dessert.

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2.  Create personalized menus using pretty scrapbooking paper from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. This is the fun part and has come to be expected among my family.  Once the menu is created and is printed using a graphics package (even Word), use scrapbooking paper to finish the look.

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3. Pull together the menu with chargers, placemats, cloth or pretty paper napkins, and candles.  I love to shop my home for all of these items and find it a challenge to see how many different combinations I can make using existing goods.  If it’s a large crowd or one with lots of kids, I will stop in Home Goods or TJ Maxx to see what their paper napkin supply looks like.  And I always use this gold cocktail napkin holder with pretty napkins for apps and dessert.

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4. Pull it together with a floral arrangement from a discount florist and possibly a favor.  This is my favorite part…the flowers!  The morning of the party (or day before) I head to my discount flower place to see what’s in stock.  Since it’s never the same from week to week, I love the challenge of collecting the flowers that would best compliment my table.  I also like to use items such as mini pumpkins or smaller vases of flowers on the table to add depth and dimension.  Then, once the party is over, I send them home with the guests as favors.

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5. Make as much of the meal ahead of time as possible.  There’s nothing worse than cooking in the kitchen while entertaining, especially after the wine has been flowing.  I try my hardest to have everything done and ready prior to the arrival of my guests.  This includes large pans being washed and put away.  It makes my life so much easier!  Plus, J usually does the dishes, so he appreciates it too. 🙂

Here are a few past parties that I pulled from my archives!  Enjoy!  xo

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Kitchen chairs in progress

Kitchen chairs in progress

Slowly, but surely I’m working on little projects around the house.  J has a pretty, square table with eight chairs in the space that separates the new living room with the kitchen itself.  For a while I’ve been searching for the perfect upholstery fabric that would tie the two spaces together, and I settled on Ballard Design’s Sunbrella fabric by the yard in Zadie Mink.  I LOVE it!

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The chairs were originally done in this red, cream and sage stripe, but I wanted something a little more dramatic, yet neutral.

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So far, my helper and I have three done…five to go.  I can’t wait until they are finished and so far, I am loving the look!  Once the upholstering is complete, I plan on spraying a coat or two of ScotchGuard on the cushions for extra protection against food and spills.

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I think my helper is the BEST!  🙂

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Stay tuned for the final product! xo

A birthday celebration for our dads

A birthday celebration for our dads

Last night we hosted a birthday dinner party for our dads.  They are two very special people in our lives, so they deserved nothing but the best.

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My dad has always been an important part of my life.  He was the reason behind my entrance into running, he is always there to lend a helping hand with my DIY projects, and damn, does he hang a mean gallery wall!  My dad also is there for my daughter.  He willingly drives her to school every morning so she can get to choir practice on time and I can’t thank him enough for that!

Joe’s dad is a saint.  He is the pillar of their family and is an active caretaker for Joe’s mom and grandmother.  I’m not sure how he does it all, but we are all very thankful for all he does.  He is kind and welcoming and considerate always.

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The theme of the table started with the blue and green printed ikat paper I found at Michael’s.  It was a good starting point for the rest of the scape.  I went to my favorite flower place and the combination of green, white and blue flowers pulled it all together.  I also loved how the touch of pink in the miniature roses softened the more masculine genre, and the fun tulips added a whimsical touch.  The smaller vases were sent home with the ladies as a thank you for coming favor.  Plus, they all love flowers too!

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I’m always a sucker for cloth napkins and these were a Home Goods find.  The blue chargers were from an after Christmas sale a few years ago.  Each were a quarter!  I don’t use them often, but they mixed in perfectly here.  Tip: White dinner plates go with everything, and food always pops on the white background.

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It was a fun night.  Lot’s of good food, great conversation, and lots of wine!  xo

 

 

Alice in Wonderland Cast Party

It’s been two weeks since my daughter’s play ended, but I thought I would share a few snapshots of the cast party that followed the four performances that weekend.  The cast party is something that I get involved in as a parent because my schedule doesn’t often allow for me to go to after school rehearsals.  For this year, I went with the Queen of Hearts/red roses/black and white theme.

The students were welcomed with the favor table.  I bought black and white fabric and used it throughout the rooms as a base.  Super fun fact:  The stage parents actually laid black and white vinyl tiles on the stage as a temporary floor and it was amazing!  So I thought this fabric would be the perfect touch.

The tables were set with black tablecloths and the fabric.  I used my own gold chargers and sprinkled red hearts which were found before Valentine’s Day at the dollar store.  I made the centerpieces using playing cards taped inside, and bundled faux red roses, also from the dollar store.  To add height, I ordered mylar balloons.  Thanks to my mom, this was a chore getting them out of the store and into the hall!!

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We had two additional tables set up – one where the kids could write wishes for all of the 8th graders and the other where kids wrote notes to the director and assistant director.  I created the signs using wrapping paper that I already had and Lisa ordered the journals from Etsy.

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My talented friend, Lisa, coordinated most of the party, but her definite claim to fame were her cupcakes.  Look at them!  She made them look like the “Painting the Roses Red” scene from the play!!

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To distinguish the favor table, I used my letter board and placed it on a vintage gold easel found at a flea market a few years ago.  That easel gets more use that I ever thought!

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For favors, each child received an organza bag with their names on it.  Inside was a printed tag from Etsy with a vintage key attached.  The bag also included their personalized note from the director.  Each cast member also got to take a poster signed by everyone in the play.

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Overall, it was a fun night for the kids.  Next year’s show wasn’t announced yet, but I know each child went home with a smile on their face.  And I went home and got into my robe and enjoyed a nice glass of red!

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J’s Family Room – Gold Etagere Bookshelves

J’s Family Room – Gold Etagere Bookshelves

When a room comes together exactly the way I want, I am a happy girl.  I am finally adding the finishing touches to J’s family room refresh, and once all is installed…I will be photographing and sharing the whole space!!!

Bottom line, there is a corner of the room that needed something.  I debated back and forth between a credenza/bar cart or bookshelves, and in the end, the shelves won.  I’ve always been a fan of the pretty gold etagere shelves, and since there is gold in the room, I thought they would look great.

After some searching, I decided to go with this piece from Wayfair.  It came with good reviews and was a great price compared to others on the market.  Since this corner isn’t heavily used or touched, I didn’t think we needed to spend a fortune so this one fit the bill.  Plus, this one came with five shelves rather than four.

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My plan is to mix in some natural elements to balance out the gold, with touches of black.  I also want to incorporate some colors taken from the gallery wall.  I’ve been activity collecting “items” from Home Goods, as well as shopping our homes, and am so excited to put it all together to make that corner of the space extra special!

Here’s a sneak peak of the room and gallery wall during the holidays.

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As I said, once the room is complete, I will be sharing the complete reveal.  By the way, if you missed my vision boards for the powder room, check them out here! xo

Updated Powder Room Vision Boards

Updated Powder Room Vision Boards

If you remember, back in the fall I was thinking about doing a powder room refresh for J, but I wasn’t totally feeling any of the wallpaper samples/vision boards that I put together.  The samples hung in the bathroom for months and after looking at them daily, I just couldn’t make a decision.  I’ve learned over time that maybe I needed to wait and choose something that I really loved.

Here’s the post, and here are the three vision boards originally created.

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There are a few details that I am keeping in mind with this refresh. 

Positives: J has extra tall ceilings and a nice white pedestal sink, which is staying.

Changes: Adding fun, removable wallpaper | incorporating a slight masculine touch (maybe?) | adding painted molding/wainscoting on the bottom half of the walls | adding a new mirror, lighting and accessories | possibly putting some shelves above the toilet | adding some fun art to pull it all together.

Musts: This bathroom must be durable enough to survive our combined five kids and large family. Most importantly, I want him to love it!

So to begin this process, I used my snow day to create three vision boards using samples I recently ordered from Etsy.

 

VISION ONE ~

The first vision features large gold peony wallpaper on a white background.  I’d love to paint the wainscoting a slate blue for a unique look.  I would tie it all together with gold accessories and a statement piece of art.  This particular print reminds me of all of us at the beach.  Plus, I love the colors!

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VISION TWO ~

My second vision features another large scale floral wallpaper in tones of whites and tans, with black, grey and greens.  To balance the lighter paper, I thought a darker lower half (black or dark grey) would make the white sink pop.  My plan would be to mix in some wood tones and mixed metals, namely golds and coppers.

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VISION THREE ~

My last vision is the most bold of the three, but I LOVE this paper.  I’m just not sure J will go for this one (lol).  The colors are GORGEOUS in this design…shades of pink, blush, greens, creams and black.  As you can see from the image with the chair, the flowers are extremely large, but the ceilings in the bathroom are nine feet high so I’m not worried about it.  I would probably keep with lower half white, but touches of gold and lucite tied with natural elements would finish the look.

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As always, these vision boards are a way for me to put a look together in my mind.  They are also known to change slightly as the process goes along.  So…which one(s) do you like best and why?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  xo

 

 

How I “Try” To Deal with Less than kind people

How I “Try” To Deal with Less than kind people

{I bought this simple bracelet this past weekend at the Bryant Park Holiday Market in NYC as a constant reminder that I am really all I need.}

Let’s be honest, no matter how hard we try there are always going to be people who we just don’t click with. It happens, it’s real, and for most of my life, I’ve always tried to analyze the why’s. Why isn’t this person warm and fuzzy? Why does that person consistently say mean things and criticize everything I do? What did I do to them to cause this reaction?  Why can’t we all just get along?

But over time with lots of counseling sessions and chats with friends, I am “trying” to come to the conclusion that maybe it is what it is? Maybe I DIDN’T do anything.  Maybe it is sometimes my anxiety when I tend to overthink and worry about things.   Does it really, truly matter?

Also, I’ve never been a person to say rude or smug comments to people or speak aloud what I’m thinking, so I find it very hard to wrap my brain around why this sometimes happens to me.  Is anyone else like that?

So what am I doing to deal with this?  First, I am really trying NOT to overthink and to just let things be.  J has helped me a lot with this issue and always reminds me not to read into things.  Second, in the last few years I have begun to come into my own skin and am more confident with who I am.  My circle of friends is small and my parents mean the world to me.  My mom is my best friend.  So what others say or think bothers me a little, but means less and less to me now than it did a few years ago.  I’m not saying any of this is easy, but this is an ongoing journey that I will be on for a long, long time.

 

 

Holiday Front Porch (plus the magnolia branches I lugged all around NYC)

Holiday Front Porch (plus the magnolia branches I lugged all around NYC)

This past Saturday my daughter, mom and I ventured into NYC for the day.  We do this every Christmas season, making it a point to always see the tree at Rockefeller Center.  Plus, we usually try to to find a new place each time for lunch.

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This time we went downtown for lunch and because of this, we found ourselves in the market at Union Square Park.  Located on the far corner was this little stand chock full of the best Christmas greenery I have ever seen!  I made a note to myself to spray J’s fall hydrangeas gold and use them dried for the holidays. They were selling bunches of them like crazy!  I also found these amazing magnolia branches.  I’ve admired them from afar the many lifestyle and designer bloggers that use magnolia leaves in their decor, but I can never find them around my neck of the woods.  So, since we were winding down our day, I decided to grab a bunch.  They made their way (walking) from downtown NYC to the 42nd Street parking garage without a hitch and I LOVE them!

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Many asked what I was going to do with them, so here are a few pictures of the front planters.  The wreaths were from last year, but I filled the existing planters with greens from the tree, plus some other greens I picked up from my produce place.  The red bows from these wreaths added to the perfect final touch.

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BTW, the couches are coming in on Friday, the rug is already spread out on the floor, and everything is coming together in the family room….all in time for me to enjoy after my surgery!  Have a great week!

 

 

How I’m Trying to Keep My Holiday Stress in Check (and it’s not easy)

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The holidays.  It’s my favorite time of year.

Tree lights, Hallmark movies, festive decorations and family traditions.  I love it all!  But sometimes getting everything done and making things extra special takes a lot of work, and most definitely takes a toll on me.

However this year is a little different.  I will be getting foot surgery on December 18th and will be completely off my feet for a while.  Yes…that in itself is freaking me out!  No driving, no cooking, no nothing.  That said, my goal for the next few weeks is to have all of my presents bought and wrapped, cookies baked, decorations up and cards out all by December 16th.

To get all of this done, I thought I would share a few things I’ve been doing to take a little stress off of me in this race to the finish deadline.

Shop Early.  Honestly, I’ve been shopping since mid-October and I’m loving it!  Not only am I getting gifts I love, I am choosing things that could be personalized for that extra special touch.  Plus, I’ve been keeping an eye out and waiting for sales just because I have the time.

Set Mini Timeline Goals and Plan. Each weekend I am doing a little more to get everything done.  I’ve planned everything out and made sure that each item on my list gets the time needed to be completed.

Create a Gift Spreadsheet or Tracker.  For years I’ve been documenting my gifts on a plain Excel spreadsheet.  In the beginning of the season I type each person’ name and spread them out on the document.  Each time I purchase a gift, I add it under the person’s name.  This totally takes the guessing game out of who still needs a gift and who doesn’t.

Simple is Better.  This year my daughter gave me the ok not to put all of our decorations out.  One, it will be impossible for me to take them down in January with a cast and scooter.  And two, we will be spending most of the holidays at J’s house, so what’s the point?

Roll With It.  Easier said than done and I have glimpses of complete anxiety, but I am REALLY trying to go with the flow and enjoy every moment.  Last weekend we took an impromptu weekend trip after Thanksgiving.  Normally all of my decorations would have been up, but since I was away, it didn’t happen.  It STILL hasn’t happened and it’s driving me a little nuts.  But the time away and hours spent with J far outweigh a tree up a few days earlier.

I know these tips aren’t groundbreaking or monumental, but they are helping me manage the hustle and bustle of an already crazy month. What are you doing to make your December a little more calm and bright?

 

 

 

A Teenage Birthday Dinner

A Teenage Birthday Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving Week!  We are now officially entering into my favorite time of year.  It’s that time that runs from Thanksgiving all the way through the new year and I love every minute of it!

I know it’s been a bit since I posted, but I have been crazy busy.  Between school, finalizing the details on the family room, and getting all my shopping done before my surgery in a few weeks, I feel like I’ve been a little overwhelmed.

By the way…I did order a coffee table but I chose one that was completely different from the rest and I LOVE it!  I went with this one from World Market.  It is has a live edge on top, but it isn’t overly woodsy or rustic.  The table is long and narrow and has a very slim design.  Just what I needed.  Plus, World Market is still offering 40% all furniture.

On to the post…my daughter turned 14 a few weeks ago but we had her family party yesterday.  It was the only day that seemed to work for everyone and I’m glad we waited.  It gave me a little more time to plan.  Right now she is into pinks, blushes and golds.  We just redid her room in those same colors and I have to admit, I’m a fan too.  I started with the peachy pink napkins and the gold cacti as a jumping point and everything came together from there.

Each kid got to take home a cactus with their name on it as a favor.  Funny thing, even the boys were digging them!  As always, I created a menu of her favorite items, and the mom of a former student made these amazing cookies for everyone.  How great are they?

So take a few moments and have a look.  It weighs on the side of picture overload, but I couldn’t help it with the flowers.  They were my favorite part.  Have a great day! xo

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Note the paint samples in the background!

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