What I’ve learned about entertaining

entertaining

 

Am I the only one who feels like they are still catching up after the holidays? We finally put our Christmas tree away this week and it felt so good! Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and seeing all the beautiful ornaments we’ve collected over the years but it was time to have my house back.

I took a week off in between Christmas and New Year’s – what I call “family week” – and during that time I was thinking about how much easier this Christmas Eve felt to host. This is the third year we’ve hosted and I felt like I finally was in a groove after learning from all my previous party “mistakes”. Here’s what I’ve learned to have a fun, easy, stress free and memorable party…

 

Set up beforehand, if possible. I like to have the table set up a day or two before Christmas Eve so Ryan and I don’t have to stress about taking folding chairs and folding tables in from the garage the morning of the party. This year we ran out of time and set up last minute, but it worked out because our curious almost-three year old was very curious and would have moved everything around anyway. :)

Cook some, buy the rest.  Pre-baby, I used to go crazy trying cook everything, proving to myself and my guests just how domestic I was. Ha!
Post-baby I realize how crazy I was! If you’re hosting dinner, make the meal and buy the appetizers and/or desserts. No one wants to go to a dinner party where the host is stressed, so do yourself a favor and let other people help! Plus you don’t want to be in the kitchen all night feeling like a caterer. Accept help so you can actually enjoy your guests!
If you’re hosting a big group, like I do, do a potluck. I make a ham and some roasted veggies while our families bring sides and appetizers.

Have sternos on hand to keep meals hot. Someone will always be late. No matter how organized you are with planning your meal times, someone will be late and all your food may get cold. I only have one oven, so I keep these on hand to keep the meal hot as guests arrive.

Always have a bottle of champagne in the fridge. You never know if someone will share news to celebrate! I love drinking champagne even on days where there’s nothing to celebrate but life itself, so I usually have a bottle chilling in the fridge.

Take stock of dish soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. A few years ago when we were hosting a party, we had only one roll of paper towels and one clean dish towel. Party foul. The next year I made sure all the dish towels were clean so clean-up was easier. Also, make sure all bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper so your guests don’t get embarrassed asking for it mid-party.

Set the mood. I’m a bit of a pyro, so every party I have there are tons of candles. On Christmas Eve, we try and get our neighbors involved to do luminaries, so our house had 48 candles outside alone. We may have had three times that inside on the tables!  For table settings, I like to keep it simple: lots of candles, plates all in the same or similar colors, and small flower arrangements.  I feel like the candles and the flowers elevate the mood and make guests feel special. At least that’s my intention!

Have the dishwasher empty. You’ll likely go through a lot of dishes cooking and eating, so have the dishwasher ready to do it’s job! This way you don’t have to wake up to a kitchen counter filled with dirty dishes.

OK to have dishes in the sink. Nothing is more annoying than when you go to someone’s house that appears spotless and they say “oh, don’t mind the mess” just to be polite. Do you agree?! I like to keep a few dishes in the sink: 1) because I’m lazy and hate doing dishes and 2) it makes guests feel like your home isn’t too precious and they can kick back and relax.

OK to entertain barefoot. On the same note as above, I read a tip years ago to entertain barefoot so you’re guests feel more relaxed and at home. I am typically barefoot at home anyway, so the same thing goes when I have people over.

Have ice made. If guests want a cocktail or a glass of water, they’ll need ice to keep it cold. (duh.)  One of my first parties I hosted, I forgot to make ice and I felt awful that my friends were drinking warm cocktails. Lesson learned!

Don’t go crazy buying desserts. If you’re cooking dinner, you’ll likely be too full to binge on sweets. Make/buy one or two and call it a day.

Do not mop your floors beforehand. I repeat: do not mop your floors beforehand. Ryan’s just as OCD as me, if not worse, and we would always mop before a party. As clean as you think your friends and family are, a big party tracks in a lot of dirt and stickiness from spilled drinks even if the party is mainly outside. I’ll vacuum before a party and do a very quick cleaning, but always mop the day after.

Have the garbage and recycling empty. Similar to the note about the dishwasher, have the trash ready and empty to throw things away so you don’t have to bring it out during a party.

 

Extra Curricular Activities

This summer was a busy one: newish baby, going back to work, packing, renovating, moving, unpacking, not sleeping. :) Even so, I forced myself to also do some fun things so I didn’t get burned out. I managed to get to the beach once (yay!) and celebrated two of my best friends getting married. I also explored our new town by taking walks in the local park, joined a local women’s group, started a play group with some lovely women I met after having Cole, and took some cooking classes.

I’m pretty confident in the kitchen but seeing other techniques is fun for me. (A perfectly relaxing day to me is reading design magazines while binge watching The Barefoot Contessa.) Last month I took a pasta making class and an Italian sauce making class and learned so much. I just have to find my kitchenaid mixer in the pile of boxes in the basement and buy this attachment and I’ll be making my own pasta in no time!

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Here is a delicious and fresh tomato sauce recipe we learned:

Prep time: 15 minuets
Cooking time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Can whole peeled italian plum tomatoes (2 p0unds)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 table spoons olive oil (not EVOO. I just realized I love this taste so much better)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • fresh basil

 

Intructions:

Warm the olive oil and add bay leaves. Add the sliced onions and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Bring the onion to caramel color then add the tomato, sugar, and simmer for 60 minutes. For best results cook at least 60 minutes. Let the sauce cool for 20 minutes and blend the sauce in a blender or run through food mill. Ass salt and fresh chopped basil and refrigerate for 24 hours. Enjoy!

Did you know there’s a difference between tomato and marinara sauce? The base of tomato sauce is sauteed onions, where marinara sauce is a based of sauteed garlic. Interesting, right?

Easy Holiday Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach

I hope you all had a nice holiday! I had a wonderful Christmas and have been taking advantage of my down time since this pregnancy is catching up to me. I had intentions of posting this recipe before Christmas, but life often gets in the way. Better late than never, right? If you’re hosting a party for New Year’s Eve these mushrooms are the perfect appetizer! My nephews literally beg me to make them which secretly makes me feel like the Barefoot Contessa. Those kids know how to butter me up!

This week I hosted my first Christmas Eve dinner with both of our families which was really fun, and if I’m being totally honest… really crazy. :) (I posted a few pictures on instagram, if you’d like to see.) We had 27 people total which is by far the biggest dinner party I’ve hosted so far. It went really smoothly and I was joking that every party I’ve had previously was just training for that night! In addition to other finger foods, I made my go-to appetizer which was a hit. I definitely recommend this recipe if you’re looking for something quick and easy to impress your guests.

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San Francisco

The last four days were spent in a city we fell in love with instantly… San Francisco. Unfortunately Ryan and I both caught a nasty cold the entire time we were here, but we made the best out of it. We stayed at this swanky hotel called The Clift designed by Philippe Stark. It was really minimal, but probably the most homey hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The ceilings were probably 12′ in the rooms, and the window treatments made it feel less like a hotel but more like your master bedroom.

We checked out each neighborhood and we were surprised how much like Manhattan the city felt like. Although it was more beautiful, clean, and friendly. ;) And all the food was so fresh! We loved walking on Pier 39, which felt like home because we always love going to boardwalks at the Jersey Shore. I also really loved Sausolito, a quaint little city right across from the Golden Gate Bridge. Ryan’s number one thing he wanted to do was see the Redwood trees. (There’s a reason why his friend calls him “Ry Dry the nature guy”..) It was unbelievable to see how BIG they are!
The last night we were there, we went to an outdoor food festival called Off the Grid. There were about 30 food trucks, a few wine trucks, and a few local brewery trucks. We ate the best tacos ever (seriously) listening to live music and drinking cocktails. The entire trip was huge inspiration for my cooking, and I can’t wait to try their pulled pork tacos. I had chipotle shrimp tacos with pico de gaillo but scarfed it down before I could take a picture. It was that good!

All in all, our trip to California was really fun. It was the perfect mix of adventure, relaxation, and romance. :)

 

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gift guide for the fabulous lady in your life

Below is a list of goodies for the lady in your life who enjoys throwing parties, enjoys the simple beautiful things in life… or for your wife named Lisa. Subtle, right? :)

 

FOR THE HOSTESS – 

slate cheese board

CB2 Cheese Cutters

A slate cheese board and cheese knives for wine and cheese parties.

 

CB2 Mini Cocktail Spreaders

Mini knives for dips and spreads.

Crate & Barrel Large Emery Taper Candleholders

Modern black and brass candle sticks for romantic dinners for two.

Casserole CarrierA casserole carrier (It’s one of those things you feel like you’ll never need, but I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve had hot plates wrapped in towels in my back seat going to friends)

 

Shrimp Scampi

Cooking lessons for two.

 

FOR THE FASHIONISTA –       

 

Oasis Beige Textured Drape Sweater

A belted sweater to keep toasty this winter.

 

Delicate Stacking Rings on Etsy

 Simple delicate stacking rings.

Marc Jacobs Classic Q Fran Bag

 Shoulder bag in the most beautiful buttery caramel leather.

 

Steve Madden Women's Vegasss Suede Flat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suede flats for running around the city.

 

Large Diamond Stud Earrings

Classic diamond stud earrings.

thanksgiving donation

Thanksgiving is a pretty big deal in our family. Every year Ryan and I go to his aunt’s house in the Poconos with about 20 other family members and spend the entire weekend together. To most people spending a weekend with their in-laws sounds like a nightmare, but to me it’s my favorite weekend throughout the entire year. Ryan’s uncle makes the most amazing breakfasts and Thanksgiving dinner is absolutely amazing! We usually just sit around all day snuggled by the fire catching up and play board games at night while drinking my Sangria. (Mental note: Share sangria recipe.) We eat leftover turkey and stuffing every day and take time to really enjoy each other’s company without life getting in the way.

Why am I going off on a rant? Well, because this is my favorite holiday I want everyone to donate $10 to help feed hungry New Yorkers through Groupon. Why shouldn’t everyone love Thanksgiving like I do?!

Rustic Thanksgiving buffet by Camille Styles

WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PROJECT!