Entertaining

8
Mar

What?!

Emily is 11 months old today, which means I am in full birthday planning mode (not to mention freakout mode because how could my baby already be on the verge of one year???).  Of course I will have all of the details for the party after it happens, but here is a sneak peak…

Peter Rabbit

Birthday Wreath

Flower Ball

I still have a lot of details to figure out, and I have to keep my perfectionist side in check because your baby only turns one once and it would be easy to get stressed out while trying to make it perfect.

Happy last month of your first year Emily!

Emily 11 months

Category : Baby | Entertaining | Blog
1
Apr

Look out Martha!

My sister threw me the most amazing baby shower!  She always claims that she is not good at putting these things together, but she far surpassed anything I have ever seen.  Take a look…

The idea of hanging gifts on the clothes line was so cute.

Clothes Line

Check out the mint chocolate owls she spent hours making…

Chocolate Owls

And this amazing “Welcome Baby” sign.  She wanted to use the baby’s name, but we aren’t revealing that until the baby arrives.

Welcome Baby

We had amazing food catered by Pain Quotidien

Food

Sandwiches

…and of course a photo booth since that is my husband’s business…

Photo Booth

My sister put out a scrap book for everyone to put the photos from the booth in with messages.  She also put out paper and an owl bank for people to write down wishes for the baby and insert them into the bank.  Another great idea she had was to have people bring a book for the baby instead of a card (which is how I got so many books for my front facing bookcase).

We played one game at the shower, which was great.  My sister found an old book about pregnancy and we had to fill in the blank for excerpts from the book.  Here are a few samples:

  • During the first half of pregnancy, an ____  _____, without stays, may contribute to your comfort, especially if you have been accustomed to wearing on.  Answer: elastic girdle
  • The most important consideration in regard to the expectant mother’s wardrobe is that it should be ____.  Answer: attractive
  • What should the expectant mother pack in her hospital bag? Cologne, cosmetics, manicure set, your favorite talcom powder

As you can see, the answers were pretty interesting and everyone enjoyed the game.

Overall, the shower was amazing and lots of fun!

Category : Baby | Entertaining | Blog
25
Dec

Family, Friends and Food!

The holidays filled our house with family, friends and food.  It was such a nice way to open up our house to the people we care about, and made us feel very lucky to have such a wonderful home. There was a lot of hustle and bustle getting ready – cooking, cleaning, decorating…  Here is an overview of what was happening at our house.  We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and wish everyone a happy new year!

The Tree Comes Home

The Tree Comes Home

The Tree Gets Decorated

The Tree Gets Decorated

Cookies Get Baked

Cookies Get Baked

Candles Are Placed...Everywhere

Candles Are Placed...Everywhere

Decorations Cover Every Surface

Decorations Cover Every Surface

Food Gets Set Out

Food Gets Set Out

Drinks Get Chilled

Drinks Get Chilled

Yum...Cookies!

Yum...Cookies!

...cupcakes, and more!

...cupcakes, and more!

Category : Entertaining | Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog
27
Apr
Shower Time!

Afternoon Tea

Naturally as someone who loves to plan parties, I was all about the prospective baby shower when I found out my sister was pregnant.  I wanted to do something small, intimate, and classy (with a few stupid games thrown in for fun).  I am a huge fan of afternoon tea (a brilliant concept – let’s all take a break in the afternoon to relax, eat, and drink tea.  What could be better? It is an afternoon snack perfected!), so i knew right away that the general concept for the shower would be an afternoon tea in my home (that part saves a lot of dough).  Being a list maker to my core, I started with a checklist of everything needed to plan the shower:
Baby Shower Checklist

Color Scheme
My sister is having a girl, but is not into girlie girl pink so I chose to go with a neutral green and yellow palate.  I used this palate with the table setting and linens, the balloons, and other various accents like prize bags and favor bags.

Theme
Themes can get really cheesy really fast – not that that is a bad thing, but like I said, this was going to be a classy afternoon tea, so I went with a mild sprinkling of rubber duckies (rubber duck to top the diaper cake, little duck stickers to seal the favor bags, and little duck chocolate candies).

Rubber Duck Chocolates

Tea, Teapots, and Teacups

Obviously the tea and the teaware are the most important items at an afternoon tea, so this was not a decision to be taken lightly.  I enjoy tea, but I would not consider myself a tea snob, so I was thinking about quality, but also about looks when making this decision.  I was debating between several different options for the tea.  There was Upton Tea Imports. They have an unbelievably large selection of tea (overwhelmingly large).  I love their tropical chai spice tea (thanks to the recommendation of a friend), and they have great sample size bags, which is great if you have no idea what you want.  The sample bags also make great gifts, but for this I decided that loose tea would be too messy since I wanted to offer people different teas to accompany different foods.  Another option was Adagio Teas.  They had really nice options, but in the end Tea Forte won for design.  I love the little leaf that comes out of their teabags:
Tea Forte Teabags
I also liked their teaware options, and they offered a bulk purchasing option that made their price the best.  I decided it would be unique and fun if everyone got their own pot of tea at the table instead of just a cup of tea, and Tea Forte’s Solstice option was perfect. I wanted to go with white teapots and teacups because white dishes are easier to mix and match, they provide a blank backdrop for the food and beverages, and with tea, I think it is nice to be able to not only enjoy the flavor of what you are drinking, but also the color.  I also liked the modern twist that the Solstice offered with its square handles, bottoms, lids, and saucers.  I continued the square theme by using square plates for the food.  I was so happy when the teapots arrived and I tested them out for the first time. They poured beautifully with no dripping (good for my white linen tablecloth)!  This is not an easy thing to accomplish.  I used little white bowls to serve the jam, clotted cream, lemon curd, honey, and sugar, and I got raw sugar for the tea because it has a more interesting look than white sugar.

Table Linens and Decor

I knew I wanted something in light green or yellow to go with the color scheme, and I ended up getting a great deal for a table runner at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  It was sitting, unwrapped with no tag in the clearance bin.  I took it to the register to find out how much it was, and the cashier called over the manager.  He said, “Let’s play the price is right” and the cashier said, “$3.99″ and I am thinking that is ridiculously cheap, and then the magical words came out of the manager’s mouth” Sounds good to me.”  Score!  $3.99 for a table runner.  That was the deal of the day.  Overall it was a good shopping day because I had just come from Michael’s where I got all the craft supplies for the shower and I had a coupon for 25% off my entire purchase there. Under the table runner, I put down a white tablecloth (I loved this tablecloth when I bought it – I got a great deal on it at the Crate and Barrel Outlet), but have been too scare to use it since it is white linen.  I decided that I needed to take the plunge sometime, so I just went for it with the afternoon tea.

Tea Table

To add a pop of color I placed 3 small square glass vases filled with bright green glass stones and yellow miniature carnations down the middle of the table.  Whenever I have people over for food that involves sitting at the table, I like to make small, short flower arrangements so they don’t get in the way of people talking or eating.

Each guest also got a menu previewing the upcoming meal and listing the tea choices.

Menu

Music

I put together a compilation of children’s songs to play throughout the shower.  Of course the mix included “Rubber Ducky” to go with my theme. :)  The music played softly in the background, with occasional excitement from the guests when they recognized songs from their childhoods. Once the shower ended, I gave the cd to my sister to take home for the baby.

Games

This was a small shower so I tried to keep the games to a minimum.  I included a game with baby trivia, like “How heavy was the heaviest baby ever born?” Answer: 23 lbs. 12 oz.  Yikes!

I also included a game where guests had to right down the baby name for each adult animal.  I never knew there was a difference between a hare and a rabbit until I found this game (in case I have you wondering now, check out this website: http://www.orcca.on.ca/~elena/useful/bunnies.html).  I also learned a lot of new baby animal names. For example, did you know that a baby ant is an antling and a baby raccoon is a kit?  This was a very educational baby shower! ;-)

I also had guests try to guess the number of diapers that were in the diaper cake.  Guesses ranged from 60 to 120. Who knew that my sister is some kind of math genius and actually calculated based on the number of diapers on the outside and was only off by 2 diapers – the answer was 72 and she guessed 74.

The final game involved hearing a bunch of stories about my sister when she was a baby and people had to guess which ones were true.  I got the false stories from other people I knew, which was great because they included things like a 2 year old screaming for beer in a restaurant and taking one bite out of every piece of fruit in a bowl before her parent’s had a dinner party (I’m sure that was a fun surprise).

Prizes

I tried to do nice prizes for the guests.  They included various gifts from Bath and Body Works like their stackable line of fragrances, lotions, and soaps…

Bath and Body Works Prize

as well as body butters from The Body Shop (thanks to a fabulous Groupon!).  All of the prizes were wrapped in identical yellow bags with cute baby tissue paper, and guests were allowed to pick a bag when they won a game.

Party Favors

The party favors consisted of little green bags filled with bath balls from Me!Bath, and sealed with little yellow ducky stickers.

Party Favors

Diaper Cake

Okay, so this is at the cheesier end of the baby shower spectrum, but a secret part of me loves this because it can end up looking very nice, it is very useful for the mom-to-be, and it can double as decoration and a game.   For those who do not know what a diaper cake is ( I was only aware of the concept because it was featured on the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda has her baby shower), it is a cake-looking structure made from diapers that are rolled up and placed in tiers and tied together with ribbons to form a cake.  A picture is probably better than a description, so here is my first attempt (and probably last) at a diaper cake:

Diaper Cake

Finally, The Food!

Pictures speak louder than words when it comes to food…

First Course: Sandwiches

Honey Infused Goat Cheese, Watercress, and Pear on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Honey Infused Goat Cheese, Watercress, and Pear on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I also served egg salad on whole grain bread, and vegetable cream cheese and cucumber on miniature rye bread.  I couldn’t bring myself to serve butter and cucumber sandwiches, but I also did not want to completely get rid of that option since it is found at so many afternoon teas, so I opted to replace the butter with vegetable cream cheese.
Second Course: Scones

Apricot Almond Scones
Apricot Almond Scones
Third Course: Dessert

Miniature Cheesecakes

Miniature Cheesecakes

Miniature Strawberry Cupcakes

Miniature Strawberry Cupcakes

Making Ducky Chocolates

Making Ducky Chocolates

Putting together this tea party for my sister was so much fun.  Everyone had a really good time, and it was great to spend some time with my sister before this baby rocks her world.  I can’t wait to be an aunt, and have tea parties with my niece and all of her stuffed animals.

Category : Entertaining | Food and Drink | Blog
24
Nov

Getting ready to host our first Thanksgiving!

What better holiday could there be for a domestic diva?  It combines, baking, cooking, and decorating(the table) all in one holiday.  Not to mention lots of friends and family.  This year, since we now have a house, we decided to host thanksgiving.  We are keeping it somewhat small (8 people), which is nice for a number of reasons.  First, it will be more intimate, second, it is less stressful, and third, our table seats up to 8 people.

First, the most important part…the food!  Here is the menu I have put together with the help of some family members:

thanksgiving menu

You may be wondering what Texas Smoked Turkey is doing in DC.  The New York Times recently published an article, “A Spicy, Smoky Holiday Turkey” which was in turn read by my husband’s grandmother, who then decided we needed a Texas bird of our own, so she ordered one and it arrived on our doorstep yesterday.  I opened the box and felt like I was opening the door to the smokehouse as the aroma wafted out.  The bird is now sitting in our fridge, and I can’t wait to try it tomorrow.

Category : Entertaining | Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog
19
Dec

Another One Turns 30!

Today was my husband’s birthday.  It was also the day of one of the biggest storms in Washington, D.C.’s history.  We had a party planned, but due to the weather outside being frightful, it ended up being the 2 of us staying warm and cozy with a large cake.

cake

cake top

candles and cake

Category : Entertaining | Miscellaneous | Blog
15
Nov

Bring on the Turkey

Thursday

My coworker from Germany (Anja) and I were having lunch the other day and she mentioned that she was thinking about signing up for a cooking class for Thanksgiving.  I immediately thought, “Wouldn’t it be way more fun to not pay for a class, drink wine, and cook together.”  I told her that she could come over and cook with me to learn about making Thanksgiving dinner (never mind that I haven’t made a turkey before).  Then our other partner in crime (Sonja) who is always game for anything joined in.  Our unstoppable cooking team was formed!

Saturday 12:00 P.M.

Anja and Sonja arrived for our day of cooking and eating.  We went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients we needed.  After reading the recipe, I realized that the gravy called for 20 turkey necks!  No turkey necks – okay we’ll just improvise with the gravy.  The turkey called for lots of fresh herbs.  The store is out of everything but Tarragon – okay we’ll improvise.  We need a turkey baster.  You guessed it.  The store is out of turkey basters – we’ll improvise.  Last thing on the list – vanilla ice cream.  Here we received a very nice lecture from an older gentleman about the best ice cream to buy, but the store was out of it.  I know – you’re shocked.  We assured the nice man that we would definitely try that ice cream next time.

Saturday 1:00 P.M.

Cooking begins… We are a powerhouse of efficiency and accuracy.  Cranberry bread – check.  Pumpkin Pie – check.  Apple Pie – check.  Sonja is a measuring queen and Anja is a powerhouse of whisking!

Check out Anja’s first pie.  That’s some fancy crust-work!

Pumpkin Pie

Apple Pie

Let’s tackle the turkey!  Step 1: rinse the turkey and pat dry.  Step 2: Using your hand, loosen the skin from the breast starting at the neck.  This is where things start looking more like a horror movie.

Turkey Horror

Step 3: rub the turkey in herb butter.  Place turkey in oven.  Step 4: Baste, add butter, and add broth every 30 minutes.

Saturday 3:30 P.M.

OK, the kitchen has been cleaned up, the turkey is in the oven, the bread and pies are done, it must be time for sangria (best sangria ever – recipe coming soon) and a movie.

Saturday 4:00 P.M.

Baste, Butter, Broth.  Return to movie and sangria.

Saturday 4:30 P.M.

Baste, Butter, Broth.  Maybe drinking this much sangria without eating anything all day wasn’t such a good idea.  Oh well, let’s go look at pictures of Anja dressed as Princess Leia on the German version of Facebook.

Saturday 9:00 P.M.

After many more hours of basting, buttering, and brothing the turkey is done.

Turkey

That is one fine lookin’ bird!

Saturday 9:15 P.M.

Dinner is served and Anja carves the turkey (with scissors). Go Anja Go!

Anja Carves the Turkey

Saturday 10:00 P.M.

The food was delicious and we are stuffed.  But what about pie?

Saturday 11:30 P.M.

One movie later we are ready for pies and they are so good!

Sunday 1:00 A.M.

Food is away, kitchen is clean, Anja and Sonja depart (with goodie bags full of turkey, stuffing, and pie) and I fall into bed!  Whew!

Our pre-thanksgiving was a success.

What I am thankful for:

I am thankful for coworkers who are also such good friends and are willing to cook, eat, and drink with me for 13 hours in one day!

The Dream Team

The Dream Team


Category : Entertaining | Holidays | Blog
24
Oct

Ideas for Hosting a Halloween Party

Drinks

There are so many options now for Halloween Party drinks I don’t even know where to begin.  Click here to check out an article about it in the Wall Street Journal.

Halloween Coasters

These coasters from Pier 1 make a cute addition when serving drinks.  Another fun serving idea is to cut a pumpkin in half and scrape out the insides.  Fill with ice and chill drinks in the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Chiller

dogfish-head-punkin-ale

Pumpkin Beer is a great choice at a Halloween Party!  Dogfish Head makes one of my personal favorites.

In the mood for wine instead of beer?  Try a sangria recipe dressed up with interesting things like gummy worms frozen in ice floating in it (click here for more ideas).

The Webtender has lots of drink recipes for Halloween.  Adding black vodka to a drink can make it ready for Halloween.

Black Vodka

Decorations

Witch Doormat

This doormat from Crate and Barrel makes for a fun entrance for guests!

Spider Candleholders

These spider tealight holders from Pottery Barn add a fun twist to the table.

Pumpkin Paper Lantern

Hang several of these paper lanterns from Pier 1 around the house and outside (weather permitting).

Pumpkin Doghouse

Don’t forget about the pets.  :-)  This pumpkin house from World Market makes a great spot for your dog.


Fun Party Favors

Depending on how generous you want to be you either give the following out as individual items or put several in a gift basket like the one below for your guests.

Basket

Gift Basket from Pier 1

Pumpkin Soap Dispenser

Pumpkin Soap Dispenser from Pier 1

Foaming Pumpkin Soap Dispenser

Foaming Pumpkin Soap Dispenser from Bath and Body Works

Ghost Bath Confetti

Ghost Bath Confetti from Pier 1

Bath Gel

Bath Gel from Pier 1

Halloween Loofahs

Halloween Loofahs from Pier 1

Pumpkin Loofah

Pumpkin Loofah from Bath and Body Works

Trick-or-Treating for Unicef

Pier 1 is stocking free trick-or-treating boxes to collect donations for Unicef.  Stop by and pick some up.

tot_for_unicef_05


Category : Entertaining | Blog
27
Sep

Make it Special with a Cake Stand

Layer cakes are one of my favorite things to bake because they taste so good and look so nice.  A cake stand can make all the difference in the presentation of a cake.

Cake Stands

One of my aspirations in life was to make a wedding cake.  When my father decided to get married, the perfect opportunity presented itself!  I called my dad and asked, “Would you be willing to let me make your wedding cake?”  and he said yes!

The research began.  The cake needed to taste really good and look amazing!  I needed a recipe, a cake stand, a mixer, cake decorating tools… whoa what had I gotten myself into? I found everything I needed and planned the process out carefully.  To add to the pressure of making a cake for a wedding, I found out that one of the women at my dad’s church was very skeptical and concerned that my dad would let me take on such an important part of the wedding.  Yikes!

I arrived in Nashville three days before the wedding and armed with 20 lemons, 3 dozen eggs, 5 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of butter… I began the process.

The day of the wedding arrived and all of the pieces of the cake were done.  Now all I had to do was take the pieces to the church and assemble them.

It is important to stop here and fill in a few details.

1.  It is August in Nashville, Tennessee and therefore a million degrees with 500% humidity.

2.  To save costs, the church doesn’t keep the air conditioning on when no one is there.

3.  Only one person in the church has access to turn the air conditioning on.

I arrived with my dad and my sister at the church to find that it was boiling hot.  With no time to spare and the pressure of having an amazing cake put together in an hour, I began the process while my dad frantically called the person who has access to the air conditioning.  I placed the first layer (out of 9) on the first tier of the cake stand and began spreading the buttercream frosting.  The frosting immediately began melting and sliding down the sides of the cake.  New strategy.  Frost a layer and run to the fridge.  Let it cool for 5 minutes, quickly frost the next layer and run to the fridge. I was never so happy to hear the sound of air conditioning turn on in my life.  I finally finished the rest of the cake, placed the flowers on top, and put it in the reception area.  Whew!

Much to my relief (and much to the surprise of the woman who doubted my abilities) the cake was a big hit.

I can now say that I have made a wedding cake, and I will never make another one again!  :-)

Category : Entertaining | Blog
20
Aug

Panini Party list

The other day I had some friends over for a panini dinner party.  Everybody had a great time making their own sandwich creations and throwing them on the panini grill.  The best part was not having to worry about when people would arrive and there was very little prep work involved.

Panini PartyHere is the food all laid out. 

Carmelized Onions

BasilI used Post-it Note flags wrapped around toothpicks for the labels.

 

Fruit Salad

Terra Chips

Terra chips and fruit salad made the meal complete.

Category : Entertaining | Blog