Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Touch of Reflection

Hello all! I seriously cannot wrap my head around the idea that 2009 is nearing its colossal end. What a year it has many wonderful (and not so wonderful) things have happened this year.

Ever since I was a wee one I have been infatuated with the idea of "Where were you when...?". I remember asking my momma this same question countless times while I was in school. Where were you when Kennedy was shot, when Dr King was marching, when Elvis made his '72 comeback, the Beatles were on The Ed Sullivan Show, when Woodstock happened...the list goes on and on. My mother always had the most amazing stories. She seemed so much larger than life and I couldn't wait to grow up so I could see the world too.

The other day this thought crossed my mind and I was feeling like maybe my life wasn't turning out the way I thought it would. I had always thought that I'd be, I don't know, bigger somehow. That my life would have some sort of impact...that I'd change the world. After a long convo with my Mom, I realized something. I'm still young, and yet, my life has been full of incredible moments. These moments give me my story to tell. They've shaped me along the way and given me my "Where were you when...?" So, after much thought I decided to take the things that impacted my life the most over the last decade and put them into a list (a list to which I am subjecting you)

10. High School Graduation in 2000. (Just a baby, but off to see the world.)
9. First Day of College. (Like the first day of high school, but somehow I felt bolder.)
8. The fall of The Towers on September 11, 2001. (What a day in America that was. This is the day I realized that the world isn't always a safe place.)
7. My first off-campus apartment. (My friend and I got a four bedroom house. I had the time of my life living there.)
6. The announcement of the invasion of Iraq. ( A war should never be easy to start.)
5. My first {out of high school} love. (He was my best friend and he broke my heart)
4. The musical my junior year of college. (I conquered my fear of singing in front of people during the run of Into the Woods.)
3. College graduation. (I got my diploma in the mail and I felt the world open up to me.)
2. The last man-friend I had before The Hubbs. (No one taught me more about toxic relationships than he did.)
1. Meeting, marrying and planning a future with the love of my life. (This one is self explanatory, I think.)

There you have it. My personal Top 10. Cheesy I know, but for me necessary. Have a deliciously wonderful New Year's Eve and lets make 2010 one for the books!

Photo Credit: Heroes of Capitalism

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unique Hostess Gift Ideas

Well, the Holiday season is in full swing and what a season it is! This time of year is always full of love, laughter and an unmistakable air of frivolity. What, in my opinion, is the best way to celebrate this festive season? With a fabulous holiday party, of course! I will be attending several this year and hosting one of my own very soon. We will be traveling to la casa de MIL on Christmas Eve for a traditional family get together and returning on Christmas Day for a cocktail party. While telling my Mom about all of this, she said to me, "I hope you remember to bring a little something for The Hubbs' Mom." To which I replied, "Of course I did, I've purchased a darling set of wine charms."

This got me thinking about hostess gifts. I love the idea of them, but in execution it can be tricky to come up with. I try ever so diligently to bring each host/hostess something unique and in keeping with their unique personalities and tastes. But, I must admit, that even I sometimes fall into a bit of a gift giving rut. Especially after a long week at work. My point? Well, this morning during my daily blog crawl I came upon this great little post. Click here for Delish's take on unique hostess gift ideas. I'm warning you, some of these are a little pricey, but I'm sure with a little thought and ingenuity, a suitable, more budget friendly counterpart could be achieved.

Enjoy the article!

Photo Credit: Exotic Green Garden dot com

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Treats and the Trimming of Trees

Squee! I can't believe the Holiday season is already upon us. I love this time of year. The Christmas Classics start popping up on TV and carols are everywhere! I am a Christmas nut (no, I don't have 25 sweaters bejeweled and covered with snowmen or Christmas light bulb earrings). My favorite Christmas Carol album is by Mario Lanza (opera star and heartthrob of the early 20th century).

Tomorrow, my little 9 to 5 is kicking off the festivities with a Tree Trimming Party. Another engagement will keep me from attending, but not from contributing. I will be making something wonderful and I thought I'd share the recipe with you. Maybe I can help spice up your holiday party!

Asian-Inspired Salmon Lollipuffs

You'll need:
One pound either frozen or fresh salmon fillet, cut into even cubes (about 1")
Pinch lemon juice
3-4 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
One package Puff Pastry sheets
1/3 c. Sweet Chili Sauce (Found at any speciality grocer or Asian market)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the salmon into a medium bowl. Add lemon juice (2-3 Tbsp) and half of the teriyaki sauce. Toss to coat evenly.

Unfold pastry onto lightly floured surface. Cut each sheet into 1/2" wide strips (about 16 in all). Cut the strips in half crosswise to make 64 strips. Place two strips in an "X" patten in the baking sheet (feel free to line the baking sheet with wax paper, I do). Place salmon cube in the middle of each "X". Fold the ends of the pastry in to cover the filling and press to seal. Flip the pastries over so that the seam side is down.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Pour the sweet chili sauce into a small bowl. Serve the pastries on wooden food skewers and arrange on a platter.

For fun, try filling a decorative glass vessel with table salt and put the lollipuffs on long bamboo skewers. This will create a chic, edible centerpiece.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New {Blog} Love

Hello my lovelies! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I am working on my holiday gift guides and it is taking me FOREVER! In the meantime I wanted to share with you a few new things I've found here in MKE.

I was doing my daily blog crawl and I happened upon a link. As usual, I followed it and this is what I found! I love that she has her own blog as well as the website. And what a cute blog it is, too. Lot's of great inspiration. Anyway, Sweetness By Alice is located in Milwaukee and her cakes are chic, whimsical and above all, beautiful!

Haute Apple Pie, a popular Milwaukee blog is on my radar in a big way! I love blogs that are a super special treasure trove of ideas and this one certainly fits the bill. The three wonderful ladies who write for the blog have a really wonderful way with words and are incredibly creative. I am so LOVING this blog right now! I encourage you to check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Over the Barrel

Hey all! I have just received my new Crate & Barrel catalog. It's wonderful {contented sigh}. Today as I was flipping through the 'log I really got in the mood for a little holiday cheer. And for me, this means a holiday party. So, in light of that, I've pulled my Top 10 from the issue and arranged them below. I hope this gets you thinking about your own holiday party ideas.

1. Mr. Boston's Holiday Cocktails ($15.95)
2. Beaded Bow Napkin Rings. ($2.95 each or $9.95 for a set of four)
3. Clio Martini Glasses ($9.95 each)
4. Star Cookie Cutters (Set of four, $4.95)
5. Holiday Cardinal (Love this! Check the website for prices of the pieces)
6. Star Tree Topper ($24.95)
7. Ruffle Foil Chargers ($4.95 each or $14.95 for a set of four)
8. Reindeer Wine Gift Tags (set of four, $4.95)
9. Ornament Centerpiece ($34.95)
10. Sugared Fruit Ornaments ($35.70, set of six)

There you have it! I hope you take the time to check out the Crate & Barrel website for more fabulous Christmas decorating ideas!

I know it's sort of late but.....

I finally finished sorting through the piles of pictures I took of the Halloween Party! Despite the less than stellar lighting, I was able to clean a few up and put them together. I hope you enjoy them!

I had a great time planning and executing this little party and all the guests had a lot of fun. My only regret is that I didn't get any pictures of the food station. The food was great, if I do say so myself. I wish you could've seen the cake. It was a delectable double chocolate cinnamon cake with a fresh raspberry buttercream filling. Mmm!

Friday, November 20, 2009

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I might give up some of my favorite recipes for the Harvest occasion. I'd like to start with a cake so yummy no one will ever guess how easy it is to make. Pumpkin Spice cake with a light Honey/Cream Cheese Frosting.

*Quick Tip: Try to come up with fun, festive names for some of your signature dishes. I think it adds a touch of whimsy to any Holiday tradition.

You'll Need:

For the cake:
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
2 1/2 c. cake flour
2 TBSP baking soda
1/2 Tsp. salt
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice (I like to make my own with: cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger)
2 large eggs (1/2 c. egg substitute)
1 1/2 c. sugar (or 3/4 c baking sugar substitute)
1 can solid pack pumpkin puree (Martha Stewart and my Mom say to use neither pumpkin pie filling NOR fresh pumpkin puree- I'd listen if I were you.)

For the Frosting:
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat), softened
1/4 c. Honey

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9" baking pan with baking spray
  2. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a secondary bowl whisk eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Gently add in dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix until smooth.
  3. Turn batter into the 9" pan you've prepared. Bake until the toothpick test comes out clean (a few crumbs will be attached), approx. 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake on a rack, approx. 30-40 minutes. Level the bottom of the cake with knife or cake leveler. Turn cake upright onto stand or serving platter.
  4. Honey Frosting: whisk butter, cream cheese, and honey until evenly combined and smooth.
  5. Frost that cooled cake and serve!
Enjoy the recipe. I also found a similar recipe here. It's a good one, too. Happy Baking!

Image from Martha Stewart dot com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allison's Got a Brand New Blog!

The very talented Milwaukee artist and my good friend, Allison C. Beilke has a new blog. On it, you'll be able to see a cross-section of her work as well as lots of other Allison related news. It's a baby blog, so there will be a lot of updates to come within the next few weeks.

I suggest checkin' it out. It's a good way to contact her for information on commissioned work, including wedding and party invitations. She's brill!

You can find the link here.

The Totally Wonderful, Very Big Surprise!

Paper Source has done it! Finally, get this, a home letterpress machine! Isn't it a honey? It's a table top unit that allows you to craft your own beautiful letterpress creations. A-woo hoo! I have been waiting for something like this for ages and now it's finally here, like my wildest party planning dream come true! *Sigh*

Retailing for $149.99, this little beauty won't break the bank either. Also available for purchase on the Paper Source website, are letterpress inks and plates. Check them out here. Oh, what I could do with this...letterpress place cards at my next soiree, anyone?

Think of it! You could now bring letterpress into the realm of DIY. All that style at my fingertips! I die!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Harvest Inspiration

I am IN LOVE with this harvest tablescape from Martha Stewart. Hats off to you Martha! Click here for her how to.

Don't Forget!

Hey everyone! Don't forget the Holiday Open House at Broadway Paper tomorrow! I'm really excited to attend this event. I plan to get lots of party ideas. Hopefully, I will have a chance to scoop up the best wrapping paper (I'm kind of a wrapping paper fiend). Not to mention my very good friends Kate Funk and ac will be there at 1pm to join in the fun....

Tomorrow is a BIG day and I can't wait! Check out the BWP blog here, here, here and here for {some of} the details (I don't want to give away the farm!)!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Attention Cream City Hostesses!

Hey there everyone! Happy Monday! What a weekend! I have so much to share with many of my posts in the "someday" category are now finished and ready to roll out for you. But first, I think I owe it to you to share some news....

Broadway Paper is having a Holiday Open House! I cannot possibly tell you how excited I am to attend this wonderful event. "The BWP" (as we affectionately call it) is one of my favorite places in Milwaukee. I go there for virtually all of my paper needs. They have it all. My favorite thing? The wonderfully diverse section of gift wrap, for sure. Read the post by the lovely new owner, Miss Kate Strzok for details.

I'll be there! Will you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Preview

Hello everyone! It's been a whirlwind the last couple weeks. I survived unscathed! I wanted to give you a preview of last Saturday's Halloween party. Everything was a dream. The food was exquisite (yes, I do menu design), the decor to die for, but the company was by far, the best part of the evening.

This is the incredible bouquet that served as the crown jewel of the decor. It's is absolutely incredible! It was designed by my good friends at Urban Sense (the new website will be up and running soon). These are the same guys who did the florals for our wedding! I love them! (I'd give you more on them, but that's for another post!)

Swoon! The picture hardly does it justice. I was able to get it from some other angles and I'll get them up soon, along with the rest of the event!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Little Halloween Giveaway

Well, the big soiree is only four-ish days away and boy am I excited! I thought I'd start the week off with a little giveaway...

This year, the same Allison that designed the wonderful invites also provided me with favor tags and cupcake toppers. The emblem, you'll notice matches the skull on the invites. We removed the glasses from the design, because I really didn't want to get too matchy-matchy or cutesy.

The toppers are 1" round and the favor tags are 2" round. The toppers were super easy and I was able to crank out 100 of them in no time at all! You'll find the instructions for both below. Try printing them on ivory or light gray paper for best results. I used a metallic ivory text weight paper for mine and they turned out beautifully!

1. Cupcake Toppers

2. Favor Tags

To make the toppers: 1. Cut out the topper, using a 1.5" round paper punch. Put like colors together, in pairs. 2. Put permanent adhesive tape on the back of one of the toppers. 3. Position head of skewer (I used bamboo) in the center of the topper. You'll end up with something that looks like a lollipop. 4. Cover stick with second topper and press to bond.
These are also perfect for use in hors' d oeuvres.

To make the tags: Simply punch out tags using a 2" round paper punch. Use a 1/8" hole punch to create a hole at the top of the tag. Run ribbon or cord of your choice through the hole and tie the ends. Affix to package or favor. Try using them without the hole for a chic alternative to a hanging tag.

I just loved these both so much I couldn't help but share them with you. I hope you enjoy them and Happy Halloween from Renegade Soiree!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Carving Up Some Fun!

In the spirit of the spookiest month of the year, I thought I'd give up a few of my favorite tips and topics. Starting with Pumpkin carving! These two little beauties I found while browsing through the Martha Stewart Living website. The got me thinking about what I look for and what I try to accomplish when carving pumpkins. I came up with a few tips to share with you.

1. Search for the perfect pumpkin. For me, picking out the pumpkin in the best part of the process. I always take my time (too much time, if you ask The Hubbs). Look for fresh ones with sturdy stems, flat bottoms and no bruises. Beyond that, the possibilities are as limitless as the sky!

2. Cut out the lid. Always cut at an angle as this will prevent the lid from falling in when you replace it. Boning knives, fillet knives and other smooth blades seem to be best suited for the job.

3. Remove all the goop. Yes, goop. It's a technical term. You could go out and purchase an expensive, specialized tool to do this, but for me, an ice cream scoop does the trick. You'll want to try to thin the inner wall of the carving area. For best results, don't go any thinner than about 1 1/4". This will make it easier to pierce the shell.

4. Steady the 'kin when you begin carving. I like to sit with the pumpkin in my lap, with the face gazing up at me. Do not cut at a slant, up and down slices have the prettiest results. For intricate designs, try a small saw. You can find pumpkin carving kits all over the place. Target, Walmart, Williams-Sonoma, you name it. Martha Stewart also has a great article on her website about household items that can be used to create the perfect pumpkin. (that's what my Mom always did and we had the best pumpkins ever!)

5. Perserve your pumpkin. Rub petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the cut edges to seal in moisture and slow shriveling. If your pumpkin starts to shrivel anyway, try putting the pumpkin face down in ice water for up to eight hours.

6. Safety first. If you like to leave the lid on while candles are lit, simply cut a small "chimney" in the lid to allow the heat to escape. First, allow the candle to burn for awhile with the top on, then cut a small hole where the lid has blackened. Always use flickering LED lights in pumpkin where children and pets are likely to get at them. Small fingers and paws can be easily injured. If using real candles, never leave them burning unsupervised.

The most important tip I can give you? Have fun! Pumpkin carving is something best done with friends and family. It was always a big tradition in my family (pumpkins, cider, toasted pumpkin seeds and monster movies on AMC). Someday, I hope to create joyful, lasting memories with my children ( I also want to be the Mom who makes the best school lunches and chocolate chip cookies).

Need some ideas to get you started? Martha Stewart has it all. Truly inspiring!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Inspiration

Loving this! I found this in the Pottery Barn Party Planning Section of my last catalog. I love the PB, I really do. Just imagine this table in shades of yellow and deep orange. Squee! I love fall and I love Harvest Parties. My favorite part about this setting, is that besides the flowers, these are all things you'd likely have around your house. I know I have an inordinate amount of decorative glass sitting around. Enjoy!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tips for Hosting the Perfect Halloween Party!

It's getting to be that time of year again, when ghouls, ghosts and goblins run amok in the streets! What better way to celebrate than with a swanky, chic party! That's what I'm doing and I thought I'd share with you some of my tips and tricks.

1. Send out Invitations. Send your invites at least two weeks in advance of the party. This gives people time to clear their schedules and gear up. Be sure your invites are clear. Make sure to include directions, costume policies and time frames. I feel as though I've been talking about ours incessantly, but if you'd like an example, you can find one here.

2. Have a Plan B. This is especially important for outdoor parties. Fall is notorious for being finicky and you don't want to get caught in inclement weather.

3. Get Lots of Pictures! Take pictures as your guests first arrive. Have a couple disposable cameras available for guests to capture your party through their eyes. Consider taking Polaroids and giving them to your guests as they leave. It makes for a cute, classy reminder of the fun!

4. Don't Underestimate Scary Food. Try giving goodies a scary makeover. Some of my favorites include; blood-like punch and candies dressed up like eyeballs. A friend of mine made little cake fingers with red velvet cake. Just don't agonize over the menu. It will take some of the fun out of the process. Try a mixture of new things and your signature dishes.

5. Decorate with Friends. Have a couple of your closest friends over early to help with the decorations. It's a big time saver and it's fun to get a bunch of creative minds working together. If you're working against the clock, set a kitchen timer to help keep you focused. Also, try making as much of the decor as you can. Handmade touches make the party unmistakably yours. It's also a great way to save a little green.

6. Try a Signature Drink. A fun drink with a festive name is a great way to keep party costs down. Turn your favorite cocktails into mysterious concoctions with custom labels that say things like, "Poison", Witches' Brew" and "XXX". Get creative with your glass ware, too. Test tubes and the racks that hold 'em are usually fairly inexpensive and always a great addition to the playful atmosphere.

7. Have Fun! Commit to your theme if you have one and go all out! Hosting in a pair or group? Think of a creative group costume and build it together. It will build excitement for the party and afford you an extra excuse to get together with your besties. Scheming, after all is best done with good friends! Need some ideas to get you started? Characters from Clue, The Addams Family, Sesame Street, ABBA, Sin City, just about any 80's movie ever, Family Guy..etc.

Well, there you have it. I hope this helps you to have a truly wonderful Halloween Extravaganza (I don't get to use that word nearly enough in my everyday life!)

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart Halloween Central

Saturday, September 26, 2009

{Adventures In Cupcaking}

Hey everyone.

We all know how I feel about cupcakes. For those of you that don't, I'll let you in on the secret. I LOVE them! Making them, decorating them, presenting them, everything. Below are some pictures from my recent foray into cupcakes. These I made for a work party to welcome the new intern class. They seemed to be a big hit...only one left at the end of the gathering. I can't help but be a tiny bit proud and dare I say smug about it. Here you go!

Vanilla/Lavender and Chili Chocolate with Lemon. Yum! I've always been a big fan of Chocolate and Chili. Vanilla and Lavender just sort of happened. Another favorite flavor combo of mine. I was really very happy with the way the frosting turned out. I love making my own frosting and I was really happy with this.

A little menu list I made and some little placards. I forgot to bring the ones I had previously made with me to work, so I had to whip these up at my desk, 10 minutes before I had to take the cakes down to the picnic...I think it came out rather nicely.

A look at the cakes all together. I really ended up liking the peach and yellow frosting....these little cakes were easy to make and a big hit with the co-workers. A little fun on our 5th Floor oasis.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Little Update for your Friday Afternoon!

Hey there! Sorry about the silence, I've been knee deep in the planning pool. Here is the final draft of the invites for the cocktail party I'm hosting in October. Inspired by horror movie posters of the 50's and 60's, I think these little darlings will be a perfect introduction to the atmosphere of the party. I'm rather proud of them! Another big thank you to Allison C. Beilke for her help with these. They are exactly what I wanted.

Loving them! They're going to go in the Waste Not "Beet" A7 envelopes. I'll think they'll be super cute when paired with the custom envelope liners I'm working on. Squee! They're off to the printer Saturday morning and hopefully I'll have them in the mail October 1st.

Now I'm working on little serving skewers and title cards for the hors d' oeuvres. Pictures as the project progresses.

A note about wording: Address the who, what, when, where, why of your party up front. I wanted to be cutesy, but I needed people to know they'd be fed, celebrating The Hubbs' b-day and that costumes were encouraged.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Planning My Tushie Off!

Hey there, everybody. I just realized I haven't blogged in a few days. Boo me. I have just been up to my bottom in planning. I'm working on a super fab Halloween party with a campy-chic B Horror movie theme. It's also a birthday party for The Hubbs. It's coming together beautifully.

Here's the first draft of the invites. I love them! My friend Allison did them. You'll remember her from designing the banner for this blog and for Holy Matrimony!. She also designed our entire wedding suite from save the dates to escort cards. 17 pieces in all. She's brilliant and here is the post I did about her. You can check out her Etsy shop here and her website here. What do you think!
All the copy needs to be dropped in (hence the unclear half sentences), but that's why its a first draft. The envelopes are shown in "Beet" and come from Paper Source. I love this store! I really wish we had one here in MKE. *sigh* Enjoy! I'll get pictures up of the final draft when the copy is in.

Thanks, Allison!

The design belongs to Allison. No copying or stealing...I don't want to see this end up anywhere. Thanks!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Daily {Dose of} Inspiration

Well, September is underway and today I am feeling a little fall-ish and Halloween-y and I chose today's inspiration based on that. Enjoy!

This reminds me, I'd better get planning...

Photo Credit: Country Living dot com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Little Inspiration

I stumbled across this picture while cultivating ideas for a party I'm hosting in a month or so. Wow. The Golden Age of Hollywood has been one of the constant inspirations in my life. Stunning. And her shoes?! I die!

I know it's silly to get wrapped up in nostalgia, but oh, how I used to wish I could be her. My No. 2 favorite movie of all time is "A Song Is Born" (1948). Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo and just about every musical star in America at that time including Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong. My Mom and I used to watch AMC (American Movie Classics) all the time when I was younger and my daydreams used to be full of beautiful women in long flowing dresses, handsome men (Cary Grant, anyone?!), "dressing" for dinner and big band music (Benny Goodman and the Andrews Sisters are two of my favorites).

This photo brought it all back to me now. *Sigh*

I think I'll make "A Little Inspiration" a daily happening...but maybe without all my blathering. I might also have a bonus one for today. I'm feeling inspired.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Hello, lovelies!

I hope you've all been well. I am back in the saddle, so to speak, and couldn't be happier! Have I got news for you, and how.

Stay tuned for highlights from my recent trip to the Big Apple (aka Honeymoon-a-go-go), new party planning tips and tricks, as well as what I like to call the "Parties in a Pinch"series.

And away we go!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New {Invitation} Love!

Oh. My. Blog. How wonderful are these?!

And these?! I die!

These two lovelies are just the tip of the style iceberg over at Paper Olive Stationery. Based in Los Angeles, Paper Olive specializes in custom invitation couture. After having a bit of trouble finding a suitable custom design for her upcoming nuptials, Marleine Pacilio took matters into her own hands. Since it's launch in 2007, this little design dynamo has been featured in several premier wedding magazines and blogs (check out the press here).

Paper Olive Stationery is no one-trick pony, let me assure you. You can look to them for help with your at home cards, personal stationery, holiday cards, and party invitations. How do you get started?! Visit the website, browse the gallery, set up a consultation...and viola! You're all set!
Ooh and there's a blog, too.

The best part?! They offer a variety of print styles! There's an option for everyone! This page will give you all the details. Love. This. It's so important in the early stages of event planning to see what you're getting into up front. This way, no hearts sink when the "perfect" invitation can't be had because it's a Budget Buster.

So check out my new love Paper Olive Stationery! Playful, chic and affordable? Three of my favorite things...

Ooh. Follow the blog too. I am. You won't regret it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A New Look for Holy Matrimony!

My brilliant designer friend has generously put together some banners for me. I love them all so much, I'm having trouble deciding. I thought show them to you and see what you think...I'm sooo excited! A BIG thank you to Miss Allison C. Beilke. Check out her etsy shop here and her website here. She has some really great stuff, I encourage you all to check it out!

Also, stay tuned so you can give the new banner (when I finally choose one) a look-see!

Allison is also working on some ideas for the Soiree as well! I'm excited to see what she comes up with. We're thinking something a little more sassy...soon I'll be able to show them to you!

All designs are copyrighted. Please don't be a jerk. They belong to Allison, so don't steal them!.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Little Help, Please...

Hey everyone! I just wanted to share with you one of my FAVORITE sites on party planning. I find a lot of inspiration there and I think you will too.

First the link: Totally Tabletops

Now, a little background...

The brains behind this fab Seattle event and rental company is Miss Sheena S. Kalso. Entrenched in the party biz for the last 5 years, this West Coast powerhouse was growing weary of the generic limitations of party rentals. She decided to rectify the problem and offer Seattleites flirty, fun and fabulous dinnerware options. Growing as one of the premier event companies in Seattle, Totally Tabletops is a perfect 10 in my book.

The Mission Statement:

Totally Tabletops is dedicated to thoughtful service and providing inspired products, making beautiful style and design accessible to all who share in the passion of entertaining and the belief that when people gather, memories are made.

What a beautiful statement. Ah, me! What a great place to go for all your party needs. If only we had something like this here in the Cream City.

There you have it. Totally Tabletops is totally brill and is a great place to go for inspiration, ideas and suggestions! Check out the blog or the website and I guarantee you won't be disappointed...I never am. Enjoy!

How To: Custom Color Chalkboard Paint

I am LOVING this right now! I stumbled upon a recipe for chalkboard paint. I know there are plenty of paint brands manufacturing this stuff right now and it's available online (like, here, here and here to name a few) but I like to do things myself. How else am I going to get exactly what I want?

You'll need:

flat finish latex paint (in any shade)
unsanded tile grout
Paint stirrer
paint roller
painter's tape
150 grain sandpaper

1. Combine 1 cup paint with 2 TBSP grout in a separate container. Use the paint stirrer to break up the clumps and distribute grout evenly.

2. Using the tape, outline area to be painted. Working in small sections apply paint with roller. Cover area with more than one coat to ensure even coverage. Let dry.

3. Smooth over the area with sandpaper and remove dust.

4. Rub the side of a piece of chalk over the entire surface. Remove residue with a slightly damp sponge.

I've been raring to make a grocery list/message center in my kitchen. I think it would be super cute! Functional too, but mostly really adorable! I'm thinking lemon yellow! Hopefully, I'll have pictures soon!

Photo credit: HudsonPaint dot com

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Joy of a {Cup}Cake!

Wonderful article on Martha Stewart Weddings about cupcakes! I know they're becoming a bit over done, but I love them just the same. Read all about the wonderful designs, score a few new recipes and display tips here. I'm going to try the first ones this weekend. I'm pretty good with the meringue. The rosettes might be a bit of a challenge but I am sooo addicted to them right now.

Have fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love, love, LOVE these! Here they are at Paper Source (one of my FAVORITE paper stores on the planet!). Perfect for any party (including a Tiki BBQ). Check out the website or the blog for great ideas for a myriad of occasions!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

{Etsy Sweets}

I have found a brilliant new shop! I love to make cupcakes. I do. I can't help it. They're whimsical, fun and oh, so lovely! Let me tell you about Layer Cake Shop in Chicago! Their etsy shop is literally where I intend to spend the bulk of my next check..... The most exciting thing (I think) is that everything is so unbelievably affordable. It's really encouraging that these crafty ladies have created a place for amateur and expert bakers alike. Their shop is inviting, stylish and oh so much fun to look at. I feel so lucky that I've found them. I just wish it had been sooner. My kitchen {not to mention my wallet} would be much better off. But enough of my blathering. Hows about I let the product speak for itself, hmmm?....

1. The Happy Hula Cupcake Kit. Um, hello? This is about the cutest darn thing I have ever seen. Chock full o' surprises, this kit has 67 items, including 24 cupcake toppers (a mixture of hula dancers, palm trees, hula musicians and more), 24 cake liners, sugars, sprinkles and bakery labels. All this fun for only, get this $12.00! You're practically stealing this! Go here for full details. You can also check out this dynamic duo at their website.(here you can find the cutest freaking cookie cutters ever)

2. Plastic Rose Cupcake Toppers. For a paltry $3.50 you get a set of 12 1.75 x .75 inch cupcake picks. $3.50?! You heard right folks. I couldn't believe it either. You'll find them in yellow, red, pink and blue.
3. Blue Swirl Cupcake Liners. These might be my favorite thing in the shop. I am constantly in search of decorative cupcake liners. I think the right ones can put the finishing touch on any batch of cupcakes. I also tend to be all about the details. I love showing my guests I've gone the extra mile and put some of my self into what I'm creating. These liners are standard cupcake size and come in a variety of color combinations. A stack of 45 will cost you $5.50 (plus shipping, of course).
4. Pink Decorative Sanding Sugar. I love love LOVE this. Sanding Sugar doesn't melt in the heat so feel free to add a little sparkle before or after baking. This 4 ounce package will brighten multiple batches of cookies or cupcakes and will cost you a mere $2.00. Available in a wide variety of fabulous colors.
5. Vintage Car Cupcake Toppers. So cute! They come in a set of four and each car measures approximately 2.5" in length. Perfect for lots of events. I saw these and my gears started turning. Oh, my what I could do with these! $3.25 for the set.
Once again, this is just the tip of the iceberg from the brilliant Layer Cake Shop located in Chicago. Do yourself a favor and get to either their etsy shop or brand new website tout de suite!
Photo credit: All photos are property of Layer Cake Shop. Please, be a button and don't steal!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Kitty Culprit

Look at this face. See how adorable? How sweet?

Well. Don't be fooled. This is the face of a destruction hurricane. A naughty tornado, if you will.

This is the face of a four legged paper shredder. And a camera moistener. This tiny creature single-handedly created a lake on my antique coffee table (ice cubes in glasses are her Kryptonite). Of course this must have been after she got a hold of my invitations and reduced them to confetti.

I will rebuild the how-to for your enjoyment tomorrow....

The camera is fine...

This is the face of a kitty who's grounded.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Grilling Me Softly Part Three: Broquets of Wisdom

Hello Everyone! Welcome to the final installment of Grilling Me Softly.

Summer to me means one thing. Cookouts. But, the perfect cookout can be elusive. From marinade to plate, grilling can be tough. So I decided to talk to the best darn griller I know this side of the Mason-Dixon line. My Dad. I asked him to share his top ten grilling secrets with us in hopes that we all can enjoy the perfect cookout.

Here's what he had to say:

1. Coat racks with Pam or vegetable oil if you are using a gas grill. Make sure the racks are clean. If you have a gas grill, put foil under the burners to catch most of the grease and grime. Get beer.
2. If cooking vegetables and meats, plan the cooking so that everything is done together. Let meat warm up to room temperature for about 30-45 minutes before cooking. Marinade your meat ahead of time. Using cedar planks, or mesquite, hickory or fruitwood chips adds a unique flavor.
3. Preheat the grill appropriately for whatever you are cooking. If you are using charcoal, make sure that the coals are all evenly heated. Barbecuing is slower (200 - 250 degrees) than grilling. Cooking slow works best in both situations. Different types of meat and different thicknesses require different cooking times. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. Use the center of the meat for the most accurate reading. Leaner cuts of meat have more flavor, but get tough if cooked past medium.The sirloin, New York, round and flank fit this description. The most marbled cut is a rib eye, which comes from the same piece of meat as prime rib. it remains a good steak even when well done. Tenderloin is the most tender, but not necessarily the most flavorful. Always use tongs; don't stab the meat. (We Nebraskans know our beef. Go Big Red!)
4. Be patient. Pay attention to the food without being overly fussy. Do not keep turning the meat over and over again. Get more beer.
5. Skewers work great for grilling vegetables such as zucchini or squash. Kabobs are usually cut into chunks a little over an inch thick and need about 12 minutes while turning often
6. Asparagus, corn on the cob or potato chunks do really well in foil. (Throw in a little rosemary, pepper and sea salt. Sprinkle with a little EVOO and you've got yourself some flavor!)
7. When cooking peppers, cook them slowly and watch that they don't burn.
8. Make sure fish is fresh. Always thaw frozen fish overnight in the refrigerator. Small whole fish will need about 7 minutes on each side. Large whole fish need about 15 minutes on each side. Salmon fillets will need about 6-8 minutes per side. Trout fillets may only need 4 minutes per side. Cook fish on an oiled grill skin side down for the first part of the cooking time, to keep it from burning and drying out. (As you know, fresh fish should not smell "fishy" at all. If it does, walk away. I try to purchase and grill my fresh fish in the same day. This will ensure freshness and flavor.)
9. Turn off the grill.
10. Get more beer and enjoy! (This one is The Hubbs' favorite! For me, a white wine spritzer will do perfectly.)

Well, there you have it. Straight from the Husker's mouth. Now get out there and enjoy this beautiful weather! Thanks Dad!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Grilling Me Softly: Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of Grilling Me Softly. If you'll remember, I'm giving up some of my favorite recipes in the name of the upcoming holiday. So lets get started....

Side Dishes

Corn on the Cob Ala My Mom in Nebraska

You'll Need:
1-2 Fresh Corn Cob per person
Cracked Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Aluminum Foil

1. Grease grill grates and start grill and set to medium high heat.

2. Divide aluminum foil into rectangles slightly larger in size than the corn. Place corn in foil. Season with olive oil, rosemary, black pepper, sea salt and rosemary to taste.

3. Wrap foil around corn cobs, twist ends and place on grill. Turn occasionally to avoid overcooking. Grill about 10 minutes. Unwrap, arrange on platter and serve.

Summer Tomato Salad

You'll Need

1/4c white wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped, chile pepper (serrano, thai, or jalapeno)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
4-6 large tomatoes of varying colors
1c thinly sliced yellow onion

1. In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, salt and green chile. Toss with with onion and set aside for 5 minutes in order for the flavors to blend. Add tomatoes and combine thoroughly. Set aside 15 minutes before serving.


Drunken Angel Fruit Salad

You'll Need:

1c diced: pineapple, mango, papaya
1c sliced: strawberries, mandarin oranges, banana
1c. whole: raspberries, blueberries
1c. sugar (or 1/2c Splenda)
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Spiced Rum to taste (for me, 3 tbsp.)

1. Combine fruit in large serving bowl. Add sugar and rum to fruit and combine thoroughly. Set aside in fridge 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Chocolate Honey-Pies

You'll Need

3/4c all purpose flour
1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (sadly, I never use butter, only margarine for me...)
2/3c sugar
1 large egg (I substitute 2 egg whites)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 pint strawberry ice cream, slightly softened

1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a electric mixer, mix sugar and butter until light. Add egg and vanilla until evenly mixed. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Mix in chocolate chips by hand.

3. Spoon dough onto baking sheets, be sure to space them far apart. Spread dough out into rounds. Bake, switching sheets from bottom to top halfway through. Edges of the rounds should be firm, not hard (about 15-20 minutes). Transfer to racks to cool completely.

4. Assemble sandwiches: Spoon some ice cream onto the flat side of half the rounds. Cover with the remaining rounds. Press gently to form the sandwich. Freeze until firm, approximately 1-2 hours.

Drinks....(everyone's favorite course, I think)

Rum Punch

You'll Need:

1 1/2c light rum
3c orange juice
3c pineapple juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tbsp cranberry juice
2 tbsp grenadine
ice cubes
lime, sliced for garnish

1. In a large pitcher combine rum with the juices and grenadine. Stir until well thoroughly blended. Divide mixture between ice filled glasses. Garnish lime and serve.

Classic Limeade

You'll Need:

3 cups freshly squeezed lime juiced (about 25 limes)
2 cups superfine sugar
4 cups cold water
4 cups ice cubes
2 limes sliced for garnish

1. Into large pitcher, strain citrus juice, mix with the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the water and stir again until combined (I suggest testing a spoonful, you may need more sweetener). Add ice to fill and a few lime slices.

Well, there you have it! My favorite summer menu! I hope you can enjoy the recipes I shared with you all.

Have a festive and SAFE holiday weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grilling Me Softly

Well, the holiday weekend is nearly upon us and what better way to celebrate than with a BBQ? I love throwing summertime parties but unfortunately, this year time is working against us. With our honeymoon rapidly approaching, The Hubbs and I just don't have a ton of extra money to spend on a big, Independence Day party. Boo.

Instead, to quench my insatiable thirst for grilling and all its trappings, I've decided to include some of my favorite cookout recipes. If I can't use them, I might as well share. Enjoy!

Starters....or Appi-teasers if you like cutesy a play on words like I do!


You'll Need:

1/4c. chopped scallions (if the scallions in your area are questionable, you can substitute green onions)
2 tsp. sodium-free soy sauce (the hard stuff is fine, I just usually err on the side of health)
2 1/2 tsp. grated, peeled ginger (you can use the packaged ginger if you wish...)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c teriyaki marinade (the thicker the better)
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (feel free to omit this if you like, I really don't like the added oil)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1 1/2 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey (my favorite!)
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
one egg white

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine egg white, scallions, ginger, oil, garlic, and pepper. Whisk until properly blended. Add meat and mix with your hands until combined. Shape into approx 30 1 1/2" balls (I use a large melon baller to guarantee uniform size)

3. Spray a large skillet, wok or, meatball grill basket. Add half the meatballs and saute approx 5 minutes, or until evenly browned on all sides. Brown remaining meatballs.

4. Arrange meatballs evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the teriyaki sauce. Bake 20 minutes or until cooked through and evenly glazed.

5. Insert toothpicks, garnish with sesame seeds and arrange artfully on the platter of your choice.

Spinach Artichoke Dip (perhaps my signature starter)
Disclaimer: I have enormous issues with food and calories, but mostly fats. Namely, saturated fats. If you know me, you know that. I like, nay LOVE being the hostess with a variety of diet conscious food options at her parties. I can't help it, I'm down with the sickness, so they say. That said, this recipe is printed the way I make it, substitutions and all. If you don't go in for this sort of thing, feel free to substitute my substitutions! "Viva la resistance!"

You'll need:
2 8oz blocks of fat free or 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
1 pint fat free sour cream
2 6 oz. jars artichoke hearts, drained and chopped ( or 1 14oz. can, but jars taste better to me)
1 cup reduced fat Mozzarella cheese
1 cup reduced fat Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP fat-free plain yogurt (most recipes call for mayo, but I cannot STAND it; feel free to omit this entirely)
1 box frozen spinach, chopped, thawed and drained (make sure you don't buy the kind with the stems in it-a disaster will surely ensue)
1 large onion, finely chopped and sauteed
3 TBSP minced, roasted garlic (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
pita wedges, crudites or crostini for serving
paprika for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream. Fold cheese mixture until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and fold. Once mixed, fold in artichokes, spinach and onions until blended.

3. Add garlic, salt and pepper (to taste). Spread mixture into a lightly greased 9" glass pie plate. Spread mozzarella cheese on top and sprinkle with paprika for some color. Place into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until heated evenly. Serve with pita wedges or crudites.

Grilled Scallop Kabobs and Seasoned Potato Wedges
You'll Need
2 lbs large sea scallops
cayenne pepper
sweet potatoes, boiled (I usually figure 1 potato per person)
1 cup of your favorite glaze (my fave? Chile lime glaze, usually a crowd favorite. I make my own, but you can find it in any grocery store)
10" bamboo skewers
aluminum foil

1. Prepare your grill for direct grilling on high heat. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 10 minutes. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and slide onto skewers. Slice boiled sweet potatoes into 1 1/2" wedges.

2. Place potatoes on half of grill brush with oil. Place scallops on the other half and brush with glaze. Turn potatoes occasionally until grill marks form and knife pierces with a little resistance (about 8 minutes). Cook scallops until grill marks form (about 3-4 minutes per side). Remove potatoes from heat, season with salt and pepper (use cayenne sparingly for extra kick) and serve. Remove scallops from heat, brush again with glaze and serve.

That's a lot of information! Tune in tomorrow for part two: Sides, Desserts, and Drinks. Yum!
You're probably wondering, "What, What?! No meat recipes?". Well, maybe tomorrow. I wanted you all to have something a bit different.

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma

Monday, June 29, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Hey everyone! Again, let me apologize for being silent so long! I have been ultra busy here in the MKE. A friend of mine is getting married in August and I've been giving her some advice, I'm planning a Tiki barbecue (details of the planning will be split between my two blogs), I'm updating things at my other blog, cleaning up pictures of a Farmer's Market in Madison (our capital) and picking out some recipes to go with the pictures for a garden party idea, and planning a cupcake party (details soon...I've finished the invites!). Also, The Hubbs and I have been cleaning up our yard and planting flowers before it gets too hot.

Oh, and Summerfest is here and The Hubbs and I went on Sunday....lots of fun!

Sooo, this week? I have a new Etsy Lovin' segment for you, a how-to and a couple garden party ideas. I think it's going to be pretty great. I have a big week planned here at Renegade Soiree and I hope you'll join me!

Let's get to it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Busy Weekend

Hello all!

What a busy weekend The Hubbs and I had. On Saturday, we went to Madison to attend a Farmer's Market! It was grrreat! I have a few pictures for you....and a couple of recipes that will make any party unique.

I finally took sometime to do a bit of crafting as well. I worked on an invitation idea for our BBQ and although I am still deciding whether I like it, I decided I'll share it with you and see what you think...

Ah, me.....what a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How To: Paper Rosettes

Hey everyone! As I mentioned earlier, I am planning a cookout. It will be the first of the season for The Hubbs and I. I'm getting really excited! I had a large design block the other day while working on the invitations and I decided to stop torturing myself and work on creating some decorations. These rosettes are the first ones I've come up with. I'm not sure they'll fit in with my theme (late 50's Tiki theme! Specific-I know, but I've waited such a long time to do this...), but I LOVE paper rosettes and just had to make them!

Here's the step by step with pictures! (You'll have to excuse my dining room has weird lighting and I missed out on natural light due to rain. Boo.)

You will need:

3- 8.5 x 11 sheets of text weight paper
Double sided tape
Hole Punch
Bone Folder/Ruler

First, accordion fold each sheet of paper lengthwise. I suggest 3/4" folds. The ones shown are larger in order to be more easily visible. use your bone folder to smooth out the folds and to make sure they stay straight. If you are experiencing problems, you may try marking out the 3/4" intervals. Use pencil to hide lines and marks most easily.

Then, fold the length of accordion folds in half (end to end). The result will be resemble a fan. Use a length of double sided tape to fasten the ends together, completing the fan. Repeat with the two remaining pieces.

Connect each fan using more double-sided tape. You will see your rosette starting to form. Affix the last two ends together, completing the circle.

Finally, punch a hole, thread any length of ribbon and hang. Once you get the hang of the process, try using paper of all sizes and colors for a different aesthetic. For the best result, try to stay away from "matchy-matchy" colors and opt instead for colors that complement or coordinate with one another. In the picture below, I used a gift wrap sheet (20" x 30") for the large and three sheets of 5" x 7" for the small. The gray rosette is the regular size, using three sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper. I love the way they look together! Tres chic!

Versatility makes them perfect for a number of creative uses. Print a picture or name on a circular card and attach to the middle of the rosette. Then hang from the backs of chairs for a quick and easy seating arrangement. Embellish tables by hanging one at the two front corners. I love to hang them at different lengths from the ceiling to add a little pizazz to an indoor event. Try affixing to tree branches to spice up your next outdoor soiree.

Click here to see a few more pictures of the finished product!

Friday, June 5, 2009

What to Do, What to Do?

Hi all!

I'm not at all sure why I chose the cupcakes....other than it seemed festive, what with their shiny gold wrappers and deliciously iridescent frosting (both the cake and the frosting are homemade, thank you very much!). I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, but these were just so much fun to make so...toot toot, indeed.

I'm back in the saddle here at Renegade Soiree. It's been an interesting couple of weeks.

What have I been up to? Well....

I've been getting ready for a party The Hubbs and I are hosting next week. Invites and decorations and menus, oh my! I will have it all for you here, beginning with invitations and some new ideas I have. I have a how-to for you on paper rosettes! I'm finally done with all the pictures and I intend to publish for you this afternoon!

In other news, we've started the redecorating back up and I spent last week knee deep in paint samples. I am trying to turn our house into a haven! I am waaay behind on planting and have partially abandoned it for beautifying our porch.

So, hang on....the fun starts this afternoon!

Well, Here Goes!

I've announced this Blog to my readers at "Holy, Matrimony!" I hadn't done it yet. I feel like a bad blogger because the only people I've really told about my blogs are my parents and family and a friend of mine. I think it's because my family loves everything I do and will think it's great even if it sucks. Ah, a support system.

But, in all seriousness, I've been running "Holy, Matrimony!" since January and this blog came bouncing along in April and I think its time to take this public. I'm really proud of what I've been able to pull off here. I'm excited to watch these two bloglings grow up.

You want to come along for the ride? I hope you do.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gone too Long!

Hey gang, I'm sorry I've been away so long! The last couple weeks have been crazy! So much to do. The good news I have a lot to report.

I'm planning our first cookout of the season and I have lots of things to show you all!
Also, my first "Planners in Action" segment will feature a theater fundraiser-I'm excited to discuss things with you all.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Entertaining on a Dime

Well, summer is nearly upon us and if you are anything like me, summer means one thing...parties! Memorial Day, Independence Day, Tuesday-all great reasons to have a fabulous soiree. However, all of the festivity and fabulousness of summer can be tough on the wallet. Here are a few basic tips on entertaining on a shoestring budget.

I find that one of the easiest ways to set the mood is with candles. You can find candelabras just about anywhere, including flea markets, estate sales, and antique stores. Candles are always going on sale at chain stores (my faves are Target, Michael's and Pottery Barn), I wait until then to scoop up the good ones. For a sophisticated look, place the candelabra in the center of your table. Then group free standing candles of varying sizes and colors around the base and along the length of the table (I will say this works best with unscented candles-too many fragrances and become overwhelming). Beautiful!

Candles aren't your thing? Try creating rosettes using left over gift wrap and hanging pom poms using tissue paper (instructions to come....!) These two are easy to make, not to mention easy on the eyes! The point is, repurpose things you have around the house. Taking this approach is also a great way to pull a party together in minutes.

Another great way to punctuate the mood of any party is to download a festive mix of tunes onto your iPod or Mp3 player.

Mix and match your table settings. Dinner plates and glassware with complementary patterns is extremely fun and will add to the overall experience 100%. Remember what we said about engaging all the senses?

This last tip is the easiest and probably the most obvious. Plan a colorful menu. Select bright vegetables like carrots, corn and broccoli to liven up the dinner plate, especially if you are serving meat. White chili is a favorite recipe of mine and it looks beautiful in a bowl.

Most guests tend to bring wine or some other type of libation as a host gift-so use it the night of your party! I'm a huge proponent of pinot grigio and pino gris, some brands are perfectly priced for a party and pinot grigio can be used to whip up a quick and refreshing sangria. After your guests arrive, put your bartending skills to the test. Try to create interesting drinks with what you have in front of you and your guests will love brainstorming along with you; not to mention trying out the creations.

Chocolate covered strawberries are, in my opinion the perfect low-cost party dessert. They're alluring, attractive, and you can eat them with your fingers (the best part)! You can find great deals on strawberries when they are in season. Chocolate is always available in the baking section of any market and for about $15 your guests will be floored by your creativity and flair for the dramatic. Also, try using white chocolate to add some decorating pizzazz.

Live without...
When trying to save money on a party I almost always do without purchasing fresh-cut flowers. (I dream of the day I will have a garden of my own, overflowing with flowers waiting to be cut for my centerpieces...sigh) They are expensive and never last as long as you'd like. Use your imagination and decorate with what you already own. Have a theme? Use that image to inspire you to create something beautiful! I like to replace picture frames with candid photos of some of the guests attending the event.

I'd also suggest that you consider taking it easy on the upgrades. Perhaps crumbled Bleu Cheese can be used instead of pricier options such as Rouquefort. This king of cheeses, still aged in caves, can also rule your wallet. You can usually get away with using Turkish Gemlic olives instead of best selling and extremely expensive Kalamata Olives from Greece.

Likewise, perhaps some concessions can be made when choosing meat for your menu. Do you need Black Angus for your chili? Probably not. Perhaps you can swap Choice for Prime (as a corn-fed, beef snob Nebraska gal, I feel a little blasphemous even saying that). Trust me, that is the biggest meat money saver I know of. (I feel a beef post a 'comin, folks...) Also, stick to more moderately priced cuts of beef as well. The Tenderloins are a guest favorite and won't break the bank. Consider using fish in tacos, chicken in chili, pork for BBQ, or turkey burgers to liven up your menu and renovate classic party fare.

Above all, have fun! Don't fret about the little things and remember, seeing your friends and/or family members all in on place is the best reason to throw a party. Camaraderie is always in style and will always be financially friendly!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Because She's Your Mother, That's Why!

This comes to us from the ever so stylish Twig and Thistle. Seattle based print designer and all around design genius, Kathleen is the brain behind this wonderful company. The blog is amazing! This adorable little doorknocker is perfect for the busy Mom (and aren't they all?!) You can download it here. I suggest printing it on brightly colored card stock. The doorknocker will fit nicely inside a #10 envelope (my favorite #10 envelopes of all time are from Paper Source). I think this gift would be best paired with something sinful (Godiva, anyone?) for that special lady in your life to enjoy with her feet up.

Let's all take the time to remember our mothers this weekend. They've given us life, love, and their never ending support as we bumble through our lives desperately trying to become half the person they are so effortlessly. I for one don't know where I'd be without my Mom behind me 100%. So, with all they give us everyday, let's make sure we give Sunday, May 10th to them.

I love you, Mom!

Photo credit: Twig and Thistle Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flick'r it Up!

Well, everybody- I finally took the plunge. I'm on Flick'r! I really kind of love it! I thought it was going to be this giant hassle, but it was actually really fun!

Most of the pictures are aligned with my wedding planning blog, Holy Matrimony!: Life, Love and the Pursuit of the Perfect Wedding, but eventually there will be just as much party planning deliciousness located there. I intend to start with some lovely paper pinwheels.

I can't wait!

I'm not done with the surprises yet, so you'll have to stay tuned.