May 18th, 2009 |

Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off to summer.  With temperatures finally rising here in the midwest – this weekend is the perfect time to host a Memorial Day BBQ!

Food for BBQ’s has to be one of the easiest – and everyone has their favorite summer dishes – so throw some burgers on the grill, toss up a fresh salad and shuck some fresh corn on the cob.  Today, let’s focus on how to set a festive table for your weekend of patriotic parties!

It looks like the weather is going to hold up – so plan to host your party outside on the patio.  Dust off that patio furniture, and freshen up the space with some new chair cushions and throw pillows.  These red, white and blue stripe cushions from Pottery Barn are perfect for our Memorial Day BBQ!

Hang paper lanterns from under your umbrella – it will add some color by day, and a nice glow at night to any table!  Flowers would be lovely on the adults table – but if you are hosting a party with some tiny guests, give them their own festive centerpiece – fill Chinese take out containers with tons of red, white and blue candy!

Combine patriotic colors and patterns for your placesetting – I love this idea of tying a tin star around your napkin – so festive!  If you are looking for some disposible party supplies, go check out my favorite resource, Plum Party Supplies.  The patriotic supplies below -  grosgrain ribbon paper goods, flag party crackers, and red acyrlic tumblers – would be great for any summer party!

memorial-day-bbq-supplies-small

Images: placesetting, lanterns and candy centerpiece (bhg.com), patriotic beverage tub (inmagine.com), patio table (potterybarn.com), party supplies (plumparty.com)

May 16th, 2009 |

A Birthday Celebration with an Asian Flair

Asian Flair Birthday Party

Looking to throw a birthday party with a festive theme?

Try using an Asian theme…complete with paper lanterns, chopsticks and fortune cookies!

Set the stage for your celebration by setting up one long table and hanging paper lanterns above it to define the space.  Use shades of red, orange and pink, with accents of gold to set your table.  Try tying wooden chopsticks to your napkins with a simple ribbon.  There are two options for placecards – and I can’t decide which is my favorite!  You could do a classic paper card with Asian script on it – or you could use these darling silver fortune cookies from Beau-Coup.

asian-flair-fortune-cookiesAn Asian dinner would not be complete without noodles!  Set up a noodle bar complete with sliced veggies, crushed peanuts and different sauces.  As a compliment, serve lemongrass shrimp skewers, Asian braised short ribs, and for dessert – create custom fortune cookies!

Make sure to create an inviting seating area for your guests to relax after dinner,  sip on Sake and at night you can light fireworks (if the season’s right and you have someone willing to control the activity). Decorate the area with bamboo mats, and vases full of bamboo shoots, and more paper lanterns.

As a favor for your guests, package items in a Chinese food take-out boxes instead of traditional gift bags. Stuff them with  fortune cookies, inexpensive paper fans, Chinese yo-yos and pocket-size Chinese checkers.

Images: table setting (flickr.com), chopstick napkins (socialcouture.com), Chinese take-out box favors (amorologyweddings.com), placecards (weddingchannel.com), noodle buffet (angelayeung.com)

May 15th, 2009 |

Domestic Diva Bridal Shower

Hosting a bridal shower for a bride-to-be that considers herself the next “Martha Stewart”!?  Host a Domestic Diva shower!

Invite your guests to an afternoon of culinary activities!  Send a festive invitation, like this one from Wedding Paper Divas, and include a recipe card and instructions for every guest to bring their favorite recipe to share with the bride.

Focus your decorations around kitchen untensils – I absolutely love this silverware chandelier, and how easy to add some spoons, spatulas and whisks into your flower arrangements?!

Instead of your typical bridal shower games, challenge your guests to a cookie bake off.  Have sugar cookies already baked (you could do basic circles, but it would be really cute if you did bride and grooms!), and have bowls of colored royal icing and tons of sprinkles ready before your guests arrive.  Have your guest of honor judge the final submissions – and don’t forget to provide some celephane bags for your guests to bring the cookies home with them.

I have the perfect party favor for this shower!  This adorable set of four measuring cups has clever and romantic phrases (A heap of love, A spoonful of affection, A dash of tenderness, A pinch of joy) are engraved on the handle of each measuring spoon. The traditional measurements (1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon) are engraved on the back side of the handle.  Perfect for the happy couple and for guests to remember their special day!

 

Images: centerpiece, baking supplies (inmagine.com), invitations (weddingpaperdivas.com), measuring cup favor (beau-coup.com), blueberry tarts (hostessblog.com)

May 13th, 2009 |

Two Little Fish: A Baby Shower for Twins!

Fish Baby Shower

fish-baby-shower-invitation

A new baby joining the family is a great reason to have a party – but two babies?!  That’s cause for a huge celebration!

Our Mom-to-be is having the dream duo – a little boy and a little girl!  Since we have to go with a fairly gender neutral theme and the party is going to take place this summer, I though goldfish were the perfect theme!  This invitation from Tiny Prints is perfect – it creates a great color palette and has 2 little fish on it!

With a color palette of bold brights – orange, blue, yellow and green – and an accent of fish here and there – this party is sure to please our guest of honor.  Start by decorating your space with colorful lanterns – I love the square shape of these from organize.com.  If you are looking to carry your goldfish theme through even further, check out these goldfish lanterns (they would be super cute for a child’s birthday party, too).

For our tables, choose “happy flowers” such as dalias, gerber daisies, or sunflowers to create your centerpieces.  Use a round, clear vase and fill with 3 goldfish – your guests will love it!  Set your table with blue, orange and white dishes.  I love the ones pictured above, but if you are looking to re-create this look with some disposable paper goods – check out Plum Party Supplies for the great products below (blue scallop placemats, orange ruffle edge plates, and orange and blue vase gems).  I absolutely love the goldfish glasses pictured above from Crate & Barrel – perfect for the baby shower – but also great to use all summer long!Fish Baby Shower Party Supplies

Serve a colorful meal of healthy food – try stuffed peppers and a cherry tomato fava bean salad.  Serving wine or a champagne punch is always fun, but remember to include a non-alcoholic drink for your guest of honor!  I love these orange Izze sparkling juice bottles.  They are available in all different flavors (and colors to match your party theme) at Whole Foods Market and Target.

Looking for a creative party favor?  I love these golfish in a bag soaps!  Perfect for our theme!

Images: goldfish centerpiece (midwestliving.com), orange Izze drinks and placesetting (hostesswiththemostess.com)

May 12th, 2009 |

Sips & Dips: A Cocktail Party

sips-dipsI fell in love with this invitation from Tiny Prints – Sips & Dips – what a perfect theme for my next cocktail party!

I’m having some old friends over to catch up, and I want to put together a party that is casual but chic.  A few great cocktails, some tasty appetizers and maybe a few delicious desserts – add in some creative presentation and I’ve got myself a party!

There are a few key components for creating a visually appealing appetizer spread.  Let’s take a look at a few ideas:
Sips & Dips

To give it a modern look, I’m going to use all-white serving dishes. The food really stands out, and it will give my table a uniformed look.

Instead of just throwing the food on a plate, I’m going to neatly place the individual pieces of food in tidy rows on their trays maintaining an equal distance between them. This works especially for things like mini pizzas, tiny quiches, small crab cakes, and individual desserts.

A couple of more ideas I like to remember: you can also add some some interest to your plates by adding another element or pop of color under your food.  For example, arrange pot stickers on a bed of green beans (see photo above).  Try thinking outside the box when it comes to the serving pieces you use – instead of arranging a veggie platter the traditional way with the dip in the middle of a pile of vegetables, try using small esspresso cups to serve your dips, and place the veggies standing up in glasses – place all on a tray for a colorful presentation.

Hmmm….now all I need to do is figure out what I’m serving!?!

Images: sips & dips invitation (tinyprints.com), martini’s (socialdesign.com), outdoor patio (cocomale.com), orange tulips (aboutdetailsdetails.com), appetizers (brides.com)

May 11th, 2009 |

A Memorial Day Pool Party

Memorial Day is truly the start of summer and is typically celebrated by neighborhood BBQ’s – what could be better than a backyard of freshly cut grass, newly planted flowers and the smell of the grill?!

A Memorial Day Pool Party!

My favorite neighbors have had their backyard under construction for the last few months to put in the most spectacular pool!  After all of the planning, working with contractors, and preparations – they deserve a party to celebrate the opening of their pool!
MD Pool Party (small)

There are so many different components that go into outdoor entertaining – decorating, food, drinks and of course, the little details that will set their party apart any old BBQ.

Let’s start with creating the outdoor party space.  You want to create a few different areas – one for eating, one for socializing and one for lounging by the pool.  Make sure to define these spaces by using elements such as umbrellas, an outdoor rug, a series of chairs that are arranged to be conducive for conversation.  Try to carry one color story throughout the whole outdoor area, and use accents such as lanterns and throw pillows to accessorize.  Take a look at my post on decorating with lanterns for inspiration….not only do they add style by day, but the reflection of the candles in the pool at night will add an instant glow to the party!

Since the pool party is going to be Memorial Day weekend, it makes choosing a color story or theme very simple!  A Memorial Day party invites certain expectations – guests expect that they will be celebrating outside, will be eating all-American fare, and will definitely be seeing a flag or two as decoration.  Flags are a symbol of our patriotism, but let’s surprise your guests with how we use them to decorate.

Speaking of cocktails – no pool party would be complete without Margaritas!  With so many different variations out there – it’s hard to choose which ones to serve.  Check out this post for ideas….if you are looking for a quick but yummy mix, Crate & Barrel has a variety of flavors and rimming salts!  Seeing as though you will be outside and near the pool, you are going to want to stay away from using glass or anything breakable.  There is an abundance of acrylic glasses and  silverware, and melamine dishes currently on the market at all different price points.  Seeing as though you may need to buy in bulk – check out target for these great margarita glasses.

md-pool-party-margarita-small

Now, onto the food!  Platters of snacks are definitely important – but for the main course, serve up a pan-roasted corn salad with tomatoes and feta, and barbecued chicken.  For dessert, serve mini-berry parfaits – done in small glasses, they are easy to eat and still carry on a conversation – and by using blueberries and raspberries, they look oh, so festive!

Well, the components are all there – great food, tasty drinks, a stunning atmosphere and good friends to celebrate the new pool!  Enjoy!

md-pool-party-food-smallImages: table with pool and umbrella (wshome.com), lounge chair (potterybarn.com), drinks (emilywongdesign.com)

May 7th, 2009 |

Farmer’s Market Dinner Party

Farmer's Market Dinner Party (small)

With the arrival of spring finally here, I am so enjoying cooking with the  light, fresh flavors of the new season. Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries – oh, the list could go on and on!   My favorite source for peak-of-season produce? The local farmers’ market.   Not only do I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, many markets also offer locally produced breads, cheeses, other specialty foods……not to mention gorgeous flowers!  When I’m planning a Spring or Summer dinner party – it’s one stop shopping – I can pick up my ingredients and supplies for my centerpiece all in one place!

To help make your farmers’ market shopping more pleasurable, here are a few tips from Williams Sonoma:

Bring plenty of small bills plus shopping bags or baskets. Arrive early for the best selection—and to avoid the crowds. Before you buy, stroll through the market to see what’s available and to compare prices and quality. Many farmers encourage customers to taste before buying. And be sure to talk with the growers. They’re happy to introduce you to new and unusual ingredients and to offer cooking suggestions.

Farmer’s Market’s are a great place to gather fresh ingredients – but there is a way to make it even easier on yourself to eat locally and seasonally, all the while supporting farmers and taking advantage of the abundance of each season: by subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  Local Harvest is a CSA program that offers subscriptions all over the country.  Each week, you’ll get a box brimming with that week’s harvest.  No requests – you will get what is in season at that time and the selection varies from region to region and from farm to farm.  But if you like to experiment and love to try new things – this could be a great program for you!

Now that my local Farmer’s Market has begun, I have decided to host a dinner party in the garden using all fresh produce.  When you’re cooking from the farmers’ market, keep preparations simple so the garden-fresh flavors can shine.  I am going to serve a salad of mixed greens and toasted baguette slices topped with warm goat cheese, and fish fillets with asparagus and orange.  For dessert, something lemony…  stay tuned for ideas!

I love the idea of setting up an outdoor dining room – use your table as the central focus, place some throw pillows on the chairs, hang a light fixture or lanterns from the trees above the table to define the space.  Set up a bar on a garden work bench, and enhance with bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Create some ambiance by decorating the space with lanterns.  A few ideas for setting the table – use cotton linens and create a loose centerpiece of seasonal blooms and fruit (have a bunch of grapes overflowing, or a few baby artichokes or lemons placed into the arrangement).  Use woven charger plates to add a natural feel to the table, and enhance your napkin with a raffia tie and fresh vegetable such as a radish or carrots.

This Famer’s Market dinner party is a recipe for success – great, healthy food, a stunning setting and good friends!  What could be better?!

Images: radish napkin (bhg.com), goat cheese salad (williams-sonoma.com), white ceramic and woven dishes, outdoor bar (potterybarn.com), garden table (artfool.com)

May 5th, 2009 |

Napkin of the Week: Daisy Embellishment

daisy-embellishmentThis is a festive way to dress up any Spring table….lovely for Mother’s Day or a Bridal Shower!

Cut a white ribbon into a 14-inch piece. Using silk daisies, trim stems close to the flower’s head. Lightly mark the halfway point on ribbon. Working from center, adhere two daisies on either side.

To create fan with your napkin, start from the bottom and fold napkin accordion style. Tie at the middle with daisy chain.

Image and instructions via Parents.com

May 4th, 2009 |

Spa Day Party at Home

With everyone concerned about the economy these days, people are cutting back on luxuries such as Spa treatments, yoga classes, and weekly mani/pedi’s.  It is such a shame….because everyone needs a little pampering now and again!  Take matters into your own hands, and invite your friends over for a Spa Day at home.

Spa Party at Home (small)

An ideal party for Mother’s Day, a bridal shower or to celebrate a special birthday….a Spa Day at home gives you and your friends a chance to spend the day together pampering yourselves.

First, decide on what “treatments” or activities you will have available:

  • Try calling a local nail salon to see if they have 2 manicurists that could come to your party to give manicures and pedicures.  If you can schedule your party for a time when the salon is closed…chances are the technicians would be happy to come make a little extra money!
  • Facial masks are an absolutely must!  Check out this do-it-yourself skin-brightening mask from Martha Stewart.  Made with 3 simple ingredients – it’s sure to leave your skin with a rosy, healthy glow!
  • Call a local massage therapy school to see if they have any students that might want to come over to practice their skills.
  • BYOM – Have your guests bring their own yoga mats and do a group yoga class out on your lawn.

Set up different lounging areas in your home so people can relax throughout the day – place big, bright colored pillows on the floor for people to sit on.  The use of scented candles, black stones, vases with a single bloom of orchids, and pitchers of water will help your guests feel more like they are at a Spa retreat.  Don’t forget to put out some healthy treats – trays of crudites, fresh fruit and fruit smoothies are sure to keep everyone energized.

Images: facial masks, seating area (inmagine.com), foot soak (rachelraymag.com), crudites tray (southernliving.com)

May 1st, 2009 |

Friday Night: Pasta Party with Friends

Pasta Party (small)

I don’t know about you….but it’s been kind of a boring week!  One day it’s nice, the next day it looks like it could snow again.  I decided we needed a little excitement as we moved into the weekend.

Invite friends over for a Pasta Party – all you need is some good wine, some fresh pasta and a few good recipes to give your guests a lovely evening!

Fresh pasta is much lighter and tender in texture than dried pasta.  If you have the time – it makes a huge difference in your recipes.  Click here for tips on making fresh pasta from Williams Sonoma.  I think you should serve a buffet of 3-4 different pastas, so that people can taste a few.  Serve up a light salad, some fresh bread – oh, and don’t forget to have fresh parmesan to grate on top of the pastas!

Here are some of my favorite pasta recipes – hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Buon Appetito!  Bon Appetit!  (Enjoy your Pasta Party!)

Images: pastas (williams-sonoma.com), pasta prep (matthewmeadstyle.com), fresh pasta (angelayeung.com)

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