Archive | October, 2015

Back to Basics: Entertaining Gear

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Do you feel like you don’t know where to start when it comes to entertaining or hosting people at your house?  Do you feel like you don’t have the necessary equipment to have a small party or even just a couple people over for dinner?  Well, no need to fret, today I’m going to be giving you the low down on the basics, because “the basics strengthen your foundation.”  One of the simplest ways to have a solid foundation is to have the right equipment to actually entertain.

I’ve put together a list of some basic entertaining gear I think you would need to serve any size of group you’ll be hosting.  With these few items you can go from hostess in distress to entertaining goddess!

Some of the most versatile serving pieces you can own are platters.  These rectangle platters from Crate & Barrel are perfect for any kind of entertaining.  Make a cheese tray with them, pile a salad on top, line cupcakes on them, the possibilities are endless.  Another bonus is that they are flat so stacking them in your cabinet will be a breeze.

This oval platter is another great option.  I like that it’s round so it would give a little variation to the look of your table when used with the rectangle platters above.  The oval platter is made even better by having handles.  Handles on a platter are like pockets on a dress; it just instantly makes it so much cooler.  The handles would be great for taking the platter straight from the oven to table or if you’ve prepared a dish ahead of time, straight from the refrigerator to the table.  How pretty would your Thanksgiving turkey look on this bad boy?

One major reason I love using white dishes and serving ware is because they are timeless.  I can use them everyday and for every occasion or season.  I don’t have to worry about storing a bunch of different colored, theme, or season specific dishes, I can just use the same dishes for everything.

Serving bowls are another staple at my gatherings.  Again, super versatile; salads, chips, dips, side dishes, or filled with flowers for a centerpiece.  I love these from Bed, Bath, and Beyond because they all match but you get a variety of sizes, and you can probably get them cheaper with one of the MANY coupons that BBB sends out. #bonus!

I kind of fell in love with this metal bowl from West Elm when I saw it.  I know it’s not my typical white, but I just love the way it looks.  It doesn’t hurt to mix up the materials that you serve with either.

Adding height to a table or serving things at different levels is a must and one way to do that is by using cake stands.  Not only could you use this Target cake stand for a cake, but you could use it to prop up a centerpiece, or use it to hold plates for a buffet table, or serve this delicious baked brie recipe on it.

Another great way to add height and variation to your serving ware is to use tiered stands.  They are so reminiscent of tea parties and eating finger sandwiches, but they work for so many other things as well.  Make a tiered charcuterie station with cheeses, crackers, meats, and grapes or use the three tiers to hold the fixings for s’mores (chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers).  I love that the tiers get smaller as they go up so there are no issues reaching everything on every level.

For beverages, I love using drink dispensers.  For one, they look so much better than just using bottles or cans and there’s less to recycle by using one of these.  You can also make a big batch of whatever you’re serving and pretty much forget about it because you probably aren’t going to run out.  I have a very similar dispenser to the one here and love it.  This one from Crate & Barrel is made of thick glass and the spigot is a sturdy metal unlike some cheaper models that have plastic spigots.  I use mine all the time and haven’t had any issues with it leaking.  Putting the dispenser on the stand makes placing your cup under it easier.  If you have room to store it, I highly recommend getting two.  That way you can always serve your guests water, but then use the other for a fun drink like sangria, lemonade, tea, or a cocktail.  Another awesome way to use these dispensers is to fill them with a salad or side dish.  I know it sounds weird, but hear me out, if you’re having an outdoor gathering the dispenser has a lid to keep bugs and flies away, and the glass allows your guests to see what’s inside.  Just make sure the spigot is in the off position and turn it so it’s not showing.

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Now that you have all the basic serving ware to host, how do your guests keep their pretty little hands gunk free?  White napkins of course.  These have been the best napkins that I’ve found and I continue to use them over and over again.  I always have a stack of white napkins on hand for any event; because they are so neutral they go with every party I host.  If you have a Costco membership you can find them there or purchase them from Amazon and get them in two days (if you’re a Prime member).

Hopefully you feel a little better having some great foundation pieces to make entertaining and serving any size group easier.  This would also make a great starting point for a wedding registry.  Feel free to share this post with anyone you know that may be getting married soon.

I would love to make this a regular series on the blog.  I can talk about basic party decor, planning tools, and things you would need to host guests.  Would you like to see some of those topics?  And another equally important but frivolous question, do you share my sentiment on dresses with pockets?  They are so much cooler, right?

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2015 Fall Home Tour

How was your weekend?  I thoroughly enjoyed mine mostly because my husband had a four day weekend this weekend, but also because we did so many fall activities.  We went apple picking, picnicked, and picked out our pumpkins for the year (how do you like that alliteration?).  It was a lot of fun; it only could have been better if it weren’t 90+ degrees outside, but eventually fall temperatures will get here….maybe…..I’ll believe it when I feel it.

I hope you’re prepared for a lot of fall themed photos because today’s post is a Fall Home Tour.  So, go get a cup of hot apple cider, grab a cozy blanket and enjoy!

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Welcome to our front entry!  I think this set up just screams fall.  How funny is it that our door mat is the same one that was here when we first moved into this house five years ago?  You’d think that I would have replaced it with something that represents us a little better.  I’ve looked at door mats in the past, but just haven’t found one that I love, and at this point, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

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I purchased the mums at Lowe’s and got them in colors that would coordinate with our fall wreath on the front door.  Hopefully they last through the entire season.  I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you how passionately my husband feels about knowing the difference between hay and straw; and how quickly he corrects me if I mix the two up.  We are using a straw bale that our local pumpkin patch was selling, either will work for a set up like this.  As they say though, “hay is for horses,” because hay has nutritional value for horses to eat and straw is the stalk of various grains and has minimal nutritional value.  I guess you get passionate about these things when you grow up on a farm.

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This cute little wooden box was found during a Saturday morning garage sale session.  I knew I wanted an old box like this but didn’t have a specific idea for it and this fall set up is the perfect place to use it.  My husband sprayed it with a little Thompson’s water sealant to help keep it protected.  Don’t forget to spray the inside of the box too, to protect it from potential water damage when watering the flowers inside.

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Once you enter our house you are directly in the living/family room.  I’ve added small touches throughout the room to spread the feel of fall.

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I love these mercury glass pumpkins and gourds, which I think I found at Marshall’s a couple years ago.  They add a touch of fall with quite a bit of a shine factor.  DSC_0475

We don’t have a lot of wall space in our house, which is a catch-22, because I want to hang things up, but love all of the natural light we get from the numerous windows we have.  To create a gallery wall effect without an actual wall, I use this bookshelf.  By placing our photos and treasures up and down the shelf it’s like a vertical gallery wall.

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To bring fall to the bookshelf I used pine cones and a fall scented potpourri.  We are lucky in that our neighborhood has a ton of pine trees so we get free decor anytime we take a walk outside.  I used this tutorial to make all of our collected pine cones smell like cinnamon.

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I also used some fall decor on our sofa console table.  Disregard the baseball game on the TV and the amount of cords hanging down under the table.  Here is a great way to hide cords if you need to.  This table usually holds our remote controls and coasters for drinks, and the lamps add some much needed light in the evenings.

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In case you’re wondering Bowditch is a really motivating nautical book.

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To offset the height of these fall topiaries I propped one on top of some ceramic coasters to raise it up a bit.

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If you’ve been following the blog recently these dining room pictures will seem familiar.  Check out how to make that “fake” chalkboard here.  Again, I am using free pine cones as part of the table scape.  I love the neutral and gold themed fall table.  Using natural elements like the pumpkins and pine cones makes the whole thing feel a little more authentic than faux colored leaves or decor that is too seasonally specific.

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I even brought in some touches of fall in the kitchen, again using natural elements like pumpkins and apples.

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I love the look of these IKEA open shelves.  They not only look great, but provided us with some much needed storage.  Before we put them up this wall was bare, these shelves definitely better utilize the space.  I sporadically take everything off and dust them, but they actually don’t get too dirty.

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That’s a look around our house decked out for fall, thanks for stopping by and taking a look around.  I just love this time of year, don’t you?  Have you gotten your pumpkins picked out yet?  Not to freak you out, but since it’s fall that means that Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t too far away.  Is your heart beating faster just thinking about that?  Mine is, yikes!

I’ve linked up to the Pretty Preppy Party hosted by Life on Virginia Street, 11MagnoliaLane, Being Bianca, Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss, and Southern State of Mind to show off our pretty and preppy projects.  Be sure to take a look at all the awesome projects this month.

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How To: Make a Fake Chalkboard

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DSC_0492Don’t you just love fall?  Yes, I’m one of those silly people that loves when the air starts to get a little crisp, but the days are warm, pumpkin flavor/smells, the changing of leaves, and the coziness of the season.  Fall is my favorite season, unfortunately living in southern California we don’t get the full affect of the season, but it’s still nice when the weather starts to cool off a bit.  This summer has been unusually hot, so I’m welcoming cooler temps with open arms.

Because it’s been so hot lately, I haven’t been motivated to decorate for fall, but this past weekend it wasn’t 90 degrees so I made myself get out the pine cones and pumpkins.  I wanted to change out some of our dining room art by putting up something more fall themed, so I made a “fake” chalkboard.  It’s really easy to do and it’s so versatile.

DSC_0490The biggest trick to faking a chalkboard is to use either a piece of black poster board or black foam board.  I always stock up on poster board and foam board at my local dollar store because it’s usually a dollar or less.  The only other things you’ll need to fake a chalkboard is a pencil and some chalk.

DSC_0484I always use Pinterest to get some chalkboard and lettering inspiration.  If you’re not following me on Pinterest, be sure to check out all of my boards.  Once I have a general plan of what I want to do, I mimic the design using a pencil, that way if you need to redo it you can always erase it and try again.  One tip I would offer is that if you are using a foam board be sure not to press too hard with the pencil.  Doing so will leave an indent that will be hard to get rid of if you mess up.  And if you push too hard the chalk won’t fill in the indention very well, which you’ll be able to see in some of the photos below.

DSC_0468Once you’ve got your design penciled in, just trace over it with chalk.  Be sure to try different techniques; you can make a shaded look by rubbing the chalk on it’s side.  More defined lines can be done by using the tip of the chalk.  If you want to try different kinds of chalk check out this post by Emily at Jones Design Company.

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DSC_0475Like I said, I made some fairly deep indentions with my pencil so the chalk doesn’t fill them in very well.  The good thing is that once I hung it on the wall you could barely tell, thank goodness.  Hanging it on the wall is super easy too, since it’s really light you could just tape it up or use some Command strips.

DSC_0482These “fake” chalkboards are great for so many different things.  Seasonal decor, signs, banners, menus, the list goes on and on.  The best part is that they are so easy to make you can make one for every occasion.

What would you use them for?  Are you glad cooler temps are here?  I’m looking forward to enjoying some fall festivities this weekend with a little apple picking, unfortunately it’s supposed to be in the 90’s again this weekend.  I guess fall is just taking it’s sweet time to show up this year.  Have a great weekend!

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Tablescape Tuesday: Pink and Gold 1st Birthday Celebration

In the Tablescape Tuesday series, I show you options to dress up your tables. It could be your dining room table, coffee table, gift table, or buffet table. I think putting a little extra effort into how a table looks and is designed can make your guests’ experience so much better. Hopefully every Tuesday you’ll be inspired by simple ways to make your tables beautiful.

For this week’s installment, I’ll be talking about my daughter’s first birthday food and favors table. There wasn’t a specific theme to her party but I knew that I wanted it to have a gold, pink, and coral color scheme with some crowns thrown in for good measure.

Pinterest Graphic-Pink and Gold BirthdayThere’s also a bonus at the end of the post!  I’m over at my friend Tiffany’s facebook blog The Club Mom talking fun Tuesday tips involving a baby item and champagne glasses.  Hmmmmm, wonder what it could be?!  Be sure to check out her blog and like her page for awesome funnies, fails and super deals! Follow Tiffany’s family’s obsession with shopping club warehouses for products and deals they create a need for!  Plus, Tiffany is so funny so you’ll definitely get a giggle anytime you read one of her posts. 

DSC_0439The food and cake table area resembled the theme the most so I made a large backdrop to define that area as the focal point.

For the base of the food and cake table scape I used a gold colored cloth tablecloth from Party City. They have these great tablecloths that are a really good quality, they are pretty much the same quality as renting from a party rental company, and you get to keep them afterwards. I just wish they were long enough to go all the way to the floor, but I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it to #seewhatididthere. To ump the gold sequined factor I layered a gold door way curtain on top of the table cloth.

To make the backdrop I bought really inexpensive crepe paper streamers in coordinating colors from Paper Mart online. I just taped them to the top of the pergola behind the food table.   The wide crepe paper streamers are so versatile! You could make really awesome fringed garlands with this tutorial from Oh Happy Day.

DSC_0436On the table, I made sure to use different levels to display things like plates, napkins, and the cake. To add some height I just wrapped some empty boxes with color coordinating wrapping paper. I set plates and napkins on different height cake stands, and put silver ware in color coordinating lanterns I found at Target’s dollar spot. I love the dollar spot, you can find some awesome party décor there that’s super cheap.

There are so many ways to add height to a table; empty boxes, stacked books, tiered serving trays, or crates. Get creative and look around your house for things you never would have thought could work for a party, but I bet they will.

DSC_0441 2For the favor table I used some leftover coral colored fabric I had on hand that I had previously used for my daughter’s crib skirt. Then I put the yummy mini lemon cake favors on some gold chargers that I got at Wal-Mart forever ago to corral them and wrapped them up in some cellophane bags with pink ribbon. I also used a gold picture frame to add a sign to the table welcoming guests and reminding them to take their favors with them. To go along with the crown theme, I made some lace crowns using this tutorial from girl. Inspired. It was kind of a long process to get the lace to stiffen, but they turned out so cute, and our kiddie guests loved them!

And I couldn’t resist showing you all a picture of the birthday girl loving her birthday cake!

DSC_0482What do you think of the gold and pink tablescapes? How do you add height to your tablescapes?

Don’t forget to click here to check out a fun tip using a baby item and champagne glasses over on my friend Tiffany’s facebook page.  It’s sure to help you clean up from your next celebration!

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The Good and the Bad of Cinna-Waffles

Who doesn’t love the smell of cinnamon and warm, ooey, gooey, icing on a Saturday morning?  Cinnamon rolls on Saturdays are a pretty regular thing around here, especially when we have guests.

Recently, my sister-in-law was visiting and I wanted to make our semi-regular, Saturday morning, cinnamon roll ritual a little more fun.  I thought this was a great opportunity to try something new in the waffle maker that my husband got me for Mother’s Day this year.  Thus, cinnamon roll waffles, or cinna-waffles were born!

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It’s a pretty easy to do and this waffle maker helps make the whole process a breeze.  There are only a few things you need:

  • waffle maker
  • non-stick spray
  • cinnamon rolls

I’m all for the convenience of pre-made cinnamon rolls from a can.  Don’t get me wrong, homemade cinnamon rolls are delicious, but “ain’t nobody got time for that.”  Plus, I think the pre-made ones are just as yummy.

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In order to make the cinna-waffles just spray your waffle maker with non-stick spray and plop down your cinnamon rolls.  Close the lid and wait until the timer goes off.  Open up the lid, take out the cinna-waffles, smother with icing and enjoy!

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Now confession time, these did not turn out very good in my opinion.  They were definitely edible, but they weren’t as good as cooking the cinnamon rolls in the oven.  Here are a few things that I think would make them so much better.  First, don’t leave them in the waffle maker too long, especially if you like your cinnamon rolls a little gooey.  Keep the heat setting fairly low.  I kind of forgot to check the heat setting on the waffle maker and I’m pretty sure it was too high from the last time we made waffles, so the cinna-waffles got far too done.  They ended up being a little crispy.  I would also recommend to put the icing on them pretty much right after you take them out of the waffle maker so it has time to melt.  The cinna-waffles cooled off pretty quickly and some of the icing had a hard time melting.

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There are some redeeming qualities to cooking the cinnamon rolls this way though.  With the double sided waffle maker you can cook pretty much all of the cinnamon rolls at one time, just like in the oven.  Another reason to do it this way is because the cinna-waffles become much easier to  transport.  Do you have early morning soccer/baseball/football/etc. games to go to on Saturdays?  These would be perfect for your family to munch on while on the way to the game or while sitting on the sideline.  If you want to avoid the potential mess just dunk the cinna-waffles in the icing instead of smearing it on top of them.

Clean up with the waffle maker is super easy too, just a quick wipe down with a paper towel and it’s ready to go for the next time you want to get creative.  I’m thinking about trying a few other things in the waffle maker too.  I wonder how brownie waffles would taste? Hash browns? Eggs?  Cookies?  The possibilities are endless really.

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Do you have any Saturday morning rituals?  Do you prefer homemade or pre-made cinnamon rolls?

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Celebrating everyday!