Crafts & How-Tos

how-to-plan-kate-spade-party

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love a theme. (Symptom of being an overplanner.) I typically plan one themed (or at least more elaborate) party a year, and since it had been over a year since my Mad Men housewarming, I was due for another.

The party would be to introduce a few of my girl friends. A while back, my friends Ashli and Nikki started a little tradition of planning “glam girls’ nights in” where we could introduce women from our different social circles that we thought would get along. I had said I wanted to host the next one, and then I set about working on the girliest party theme possible: a Kate Spade theme.

Here’s how I decorated, what we ate, what we wore, and how we celebrated.

How I decorated:
The first question my husband asked when I told him the party theme? “What the heck is a Kate Spade party?” Essentially, the theme was lots of color, stripes, and polka dots. In the invitation, I asked all the girls to incorporate stripes or polka dots into their outfits. (More on that later.)

invite

I got my invitations on Etsy from Olive & Star — because a fancy party needs a fancy invite. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail?

My apartment is already pretty colorful, so the rest of the decor was simple. I created a rainbow canopy with crepe paper streamers, had a few balloons in the entryway for when people walked in, and created a photo wall in the kitchen using polka dot wrapping paper and some leftover streamers.

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kate-spade-decor

I also made a few Kate Spade quote prints in Photoshop to decorate the food table, bar, and bathroom. You can download the PDFs for these at the bottom of the post.

What we ate:

veggie-rolls

Veggie Rolls, cheese and crackers, and spicy crab dip made up the appetizers.

Veggie Rolls
Ingredients:
Carrots
Red and yellow bell peppers
Cucumbers
Goat cheese

Directions:
1. Chop carrots and bell peppers into matchstick slices. Set aside.

2. Thinly slice cucumbers into long strips. Spread with 1/2 Tablespoon of goat cheese.

3. Place carrot and pepper slices into cucumbers, roll up, and pin into place with a toothpick.

Spicy Crab Dip
Ingredients:
4 cans crab meat
4 T light mayo
2 tsp chili powder
1 T hot sauce

Combine ingredients and chill until ready to serve.

For dinner, I boiled tortellini and served with a marinara (store bought…I’m only a pretend housewife, remember?) and a kale pesto.

tortellini

Kale Pesto
Ingredients:
4-5 cups kale, washed
1/2 cup pine nuts
4-5 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

My friend Cyndy also brought a salad.

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cake

“Naked” Funfetti Layer Cake
The highlight of the food, though, was the dessert. I want to preface this with one fact: I am not a baker. Baking is chemistry, meaning you can’t really improvise that much, and that stresses me out. I almost always mess up things I bake, and even when I don’t, there’s ALWAYS a moment during the process when I am convinced I’ve ruined the whole thing.

Like I said – stress.

I always manage to forget these things when I entertain, however, and decided that I was going to bake a cake.

Not just any cake. A layer cake. Because that’s simple.

I baked a funfetti cake from a box, but I did a few substitutions to make it taste better: add milk instead of water, butter instead of oil, and an extra egg. The buttercream I made using this recipe.

Word to the wise: Just because you’re making a “naked” cake doesn’t mean you don’t need LOADS of icing. I should have at least tripled that recipe to have had enough.

After baking the layers and trimming them to be level (another tip: freeze the layers overnight after baking to make them easier to trim/stack), I started stacking. A few spoonfuls of sprinkles and a confetti topper later, we were in business.

The drink I’m calling the PopFizzClink in honor of our hashtag. Here’s how to make it:

drink

PopFizzClink Cocktail
Ingredients:
1 oz St. Germaine
1 oz pomegranate juice
Champagne or Prosecco

Combine St. Germaine and pomegranate juice in a champagne flute and fill the rest of the way with bubbly. When making in large batches, I recommend mixing the St. Germaine and pomegranate (in equal parts) in a large pitcher to chill beforehand. Then you pour a bit in each glass and top with champagne/prosecco.

What we wore:

kate-spade-guests
Have I mentioned how much I love friends that commit to a theme? These girls did not disappoint.

Everyone incorporated stripes or polka dots, plus there was plenty of color to add to the evening. Plus, I finally got to wear the tulle skirt I’ve had in my closet for months. (Because one day I decided I needed it, okay?)

Even Bogey got in on the action. (Because you know I would not have a party without Bogart.)

What we did:
Since the evening was going to be about introducing people who didn’t know each other, I planned a few games to keep things interesting. (I didn’t want to do too many because I know some people hate party games…just enough to get everyone talking.)

Aren’t You Cute?
For this game, I gave each girl five polka dot stickers at the beginning of the party. Whenever they heard someone use the word “cute,” they were allowed to steal a sticker from them. But if they said it, whoever caught them could steal a sticker from them. The goal was to have the most stickers by the end of the evening.

Meet My Fabulous New Friend
To introduce everyone, I paired the ladies off with someone they didn’t know with questionaires. They would interview their partner, and then “introduce” them to the rest of the group. I stole this idea from Ashli and Nikki’s party because it was such a funny way to hear hilarious stories and get to know each other beyond the basics. Questions included things like “what is your job,” “what is your most embarrassing moment,” “what is your favorite place you have traveled to,” and more.

There Will Be A Quiz
While everyone was introducing their new friends, I wrote down random facts each person revealed. After we had all “met,” I told everyone we were starting a new game where they had to be the first one to identify who had said the things I had written down. Whoever remembered the most (and the fastest) won a prize.

Put a Bow On It
We didn’t end up playing this game, but I think it’s always good to have a back-up in case things start to slow down. The plan was to pair everyone off again and give each team of two a piece of ribbon. They would then have to race to tie their ribbon into a bow first — but each person could only use one of their hands. Teamwork!

At the end of the party, I also sent each girl home with a little goody bag with a face mask, compact mirror, nail polish, and a Ring Pop.

treat-bags

The party turned out exactly how I hoped. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I had fun learning new things about everyone. Plus: cake and tutus. What more do I need?

Thanks again to the girls for playing along! And a HUGE thank-you to Monica for taking most of these pictures (if you want to hire a photographer in the NYC area, let me know and I can pass along her info).

#popfizzclink!

 

Free Downloadable Kate Spade PDFs
Eat Cake for Breakfast
But first, champagne
Cocktail in her hand, confetti in her hair
She is anything but ordinary.
Coral lipstick
Dressing up begins at age five…
#PopFizzClink
She is a voracious reader…

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The vacation posts continue! If you’re already over it, never you worry — this is the last one.

The title of this post should technically be “How to: Spend 12 hours in an airport (without losing your mind), but that seemed like kind of a long title for a blog post. Anywho.

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, our return flight included a 12-hour layover in the Moscow airport. I’m not sure what it is about me, international flights, and ridiculously long layovers, but apparently it’s my thing. And when you throw a little Russian into the mix, things only get more interesting.

All I can say is that the flights we booked were about $400 cheaper than everything else we looked at. Yes, we were aware of the long layover when we booked, but at the time we thought we could maybe turn it into a day-trip into Moscow. Fast-forward a few months later when we realized that you need a visa to enter and exit the city, a tedious (and kind of expensive) process we ultimately decided to skip.

What that meant is that we were now faced with an almost half-day stay in the airport. Clearly, something would need to be done.

Fortunately, my bizarre life is your gain! Here are my four tips for surviving a (really) long layover.

sleepinairport

1. Master the art of sleeping in an airport.
Airports are a notoriously difficult place to catch some shut-eye. It doesn’t help that pretty much every single bench has immovable metal arm rests between the seats, making it impossible to stretch out comfortably. We actually saw one family who had brought some sort of fold-up air mattress to counteract this — effective, but possibly overkill. And there was no way I could fit something like that in my carry-on.

Since we had arrived at the airport around 3 a.m., we started by grabbing a bit of breakfast and surveying the lay of the land. In our quick lap around the airport, Diana and I determined the two best techniques for sleeping on an airport bench. The first is the Upright Fetal Position, demonstrated by me above. You need two seats and a pillow. The second is the Origami Technique. We actually stole this idea from a few other passengers. It helps if you have three seats. All you have to do is hinge your body around the first arm rest and slide your feet through the second. It also helps to put your bag between your knees so there’s less pressure on your hip. We both slept for about four hours with these techniques. (Joey genteelly guarded us and then slept at a table later.)

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2. Spend a thousand dollars on snacks.
Obviously I’m kidding. The above receipt is in rubles. But now is definitely the time to treat yourself a bit. Spring for the large bottle of water (international flights are drying, yo), get a few snacks, and try to pretend like this is still part of your vacation.

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3. Eat real food.
Airport sushi might sound a little suspect, but stick with me on this one. Airplane food is never going to be anything to write home about, so you have to take advantage of real restaurants in the airport before you go. Eating something besides prepacked nuts and candy will help you feel like a human being — even if you’ve been in a terminal for over six hours. The Moscow airport has an actual sushi restaurant, so we made use of that before boarding.

4. Wash your face.
It sounds simple, but the face wipes that Diana packed were practically a Godsend. Napping on an off combined with dry airplanes turns my face into an oil slick, and it’s hard to feel comfortable if you feel gross. Pack face wash and a toothbrush and toothpaste and make good use of them both off and on the plane.

At the end of the day, the time we spent in the airport wasn’t that bad. We landed tired, but not feeling like total zombies. Hopefully these tips can help some of you get through any heinous layovers you have in your future.

Anyone else have tips I forgot?

You guys know my friend Diana, right? (Of Burpee Thursday and Philly Half and Avocado Toast fame?)

So you know that she’s an animal when it comes to working out and has great taste in appetizers. Well, one thing you might not know is that she’s allergic to gluten. (For realsies, not just because it’s trendy.) And while I am not and am, in fact, pro-gluten in most cases, being friends with Diana has made me much more gluten-aware.

It has also exposed me to a whole new way of cooking. Because on top of being super fit and having great hair, Di can also cook like a boss.

One thing I’ve grown especially fond of? Her gluten-free dark chocolate chip scones.

Her recipe is (gently) adapted from the Chocolate Chip Scone recipe in The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. Last night, I finally tried making them myself.

The problem was, I couldn’t find almond flour. I went to two different stores and they were both out. So I substituted quinoa flour, which meant changing a few other things in the recipe. (Side note: Experimentation in baking is HARD. This is why I never bake.) I’ve included both variations below.

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Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Scones

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the almond flour, salt, and baking soda. In a second bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, agave nectar, and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined, then fold in the chocolate.

3. Form the scones (about 1/2 cup batter each) and place on baking sheet 2 inches apart. You could make the scones smaller, but you’ll probably just end up eating two anyway.

4. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes, until golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Let the scones cool before serving.

Quinoa Flour Chocolate Chip Scones

Ingredients:
3 cups quinoa flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
3 large eggs, 1 egg white
1 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate

Preparation instructions are the same as above, but heat the oven to 350°F and bake about 15-20 minutes until golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.

If I’m totally honest, I prefer the almond flour version. The quinoa flour tastes a bit like, well, quinoa. It’s still good and ridiculously hearty, but a bit rice-ier. Both options are incredibly satisfying, though, especially because the dark chocolate makes you feel like you’re eating a cookie. You could also add a tablespoon of flax for some extra fiber, dried cranberries or cherries for tartness, or chopped nuts for a crunchier texture.

Enjoy!

I knew training for a marathon was going to be time-consuming, but I’ve still been surprised how little free time I’ve had over the last month.

This is my public service announcement to my friends: If you only see me once (or less) between now and April, I still love you. I’m just running somewhere. Your best chance to see me is signing up for a cross-training class with me. (Seriously, get a Classtivity pass and we’ll book something together. We can do something not-exercise-related afterwards, I promise.)

Anyway. Another side effect? Running so much has the training hungers kicked into high gear (running torches calories, yo). And running for hours has me especially craving comfort food. But rather than simply consuming all the calories I’ve spent time burning, I like to find options that taste decadent but are still healthy.

Something I can’t get enough of lately? My friend Diana‘s Truffle Avocado & Ricotta Toast recipe.

Diana invented this recipe a few weeks ago, and it’s one of those things that sounds good, but when you actually bite into it: magic. She also gave permission for me to feature it here. (Because she’s just that good of a friend.)(And probably because she doesn’t have her own blog.) The point is, this is a great (healthy) option that still provides that comfort food punch because of the cheese and avocado — exactly what I’ve been needing lately.

Here’s what to do:

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Truffle Avocado & Ricotta Toast

Ingredients:
1-2 slices of whole wheat toast (or gluten-free bread, if you’re Diana)
1-2 T white truffle oil
3-4 T ricotta cheese
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
sea salt or flavored salt (Diana uses Lawry’s seasoned salt) to taste

Ingredients
1. Toast the bread.
2. Drizzle bread with truffle oil.
3. Top with ricotta cheese.
4. Add slices of avocado.
5. Salt to taste. Enjoy!

 

 

I’ve mentioned a few times how, ever since I started working in the city again, Joey has taken on a lot of the cooking.

It’s great for me because I’m usually exhausted at the end of the day, great for him because he actually really enjoys it, and great for us because it saves money and we don’t have to wait until 10 o’clock at night to eat.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen a few examples of me braggingsharing the things Joey has made, and because my Kitchen Adventures have become few and far between, I thought it could be fun to start sharing his recipes on the blog.

I’m accepting recommendations for what we should call this segment. So far, all I’ve got is “Joe on the Range.” (Yup, this from a girl in marketing. Sigh.)

We’re kicking off with Joey’s Cinnamon Crunch Toast Waffles, the perfect choice for a day-off breakfast.

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Stop drooling.

When we found out we both had the same day off of work, I requested a lazy-day brunch of waffles. Joey set to work. Here’s how to make ‘em.

CINNAMON CRUNCH TOAST WAFFLES

Ingredients
2 cups pancake mix (Joey used Aunt Jemima)
1 cup water
1/2 cup egg nog
2 t brown sugar
1 T cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 c crushed graham crackers
1 banana, sliced
Maple syrup

Instructions
1. Turn on waffle iron. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
2. Combine pancake mix, water, egg nog, brown sugar, and 1 T cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.
3. Once waffle iron is hot, pour half cup of batter mixture and cook waffle to desired crispness.
4. Plate cooked waffle and sprinkle with crushed graham crackers and cinnamon. Top with banana slices and maple syrup if desired.
5. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite lazy-day breakfast recipe?

Similar to my annual sum-uppance, I also like to share a round-up of the top ten most-read posts of the year every December. (Last year’s winners here.) It’s usually fairly amusing — I mean, without this list, we would never have known how much people like reading about narwhals, right?

Let’s do this.

10. How to: Baby Gender Reveal Party
I loved writing this post almost as much as I loved planning my friend Megan’s baby gender reveal party, and apparently my readers have enjoyed it as well. You’ll also be happy to know that Bill and Megan had a healthy, adorable little boy that we all adore.

9. How to: Throw a Mad Men Party
So apparently I need to plan more parties? Our houseapartment-warming party was one of th most successful party I’ve ever thrown. I themed it (because I’m me), and the results were pretty fab. This post shared what I cooked, what we wore, and how I decorated.

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8. Get Your StitchFixMy post from the first time I used the service. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a follow-up about my other experiences with the company here. I actually did find something in the subsequent fix that I liked, which I have completely forgotten to blog about. But they made things up to me.

7. What Guys Should Wear for Pictures
Listen, dudes. I’m looking out for you. This will hopefully be helpful for any newly engaged folks out there.

6. How to: Nutella Hot Chocolate
Another repeat from last year. You just can’t argue with Nutella.

5. How to: Plan a Bachelorette Party in Chicago
I still think this is one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever written — and one of the best parties I’ve ever planned. I stand behind all of my recommendations, and people who attended have told me that people forward them this blog post when they come across it while Google-searching bachelorette party ideas. That’s some good SEO right there.

4. How to: Create “Disney Princess” Curls
I often joke now that my target audience is little girls between the ages of one and seven because of my cartoonishly large eyes and long blonde hair. But turns out that little joke was a great way to drum up some blog traffic. Go forth and learn how to curl your hair.

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3. So…this happened.
So…this one is weird. I mean, the post is funny. It was a funny thing that happened to me. But this post NEVER got any serious traffic until November 28th, when suddenly it exploded in popularity, getting about 5,000 page views in two days. (A sizeable amount for my little blog.) I know the traffic came from Facebook, but I have no idea why or where in the social network. If anyone knows why, I would love to have this phenomenon explained.

2. How to: Paint a Metal File Cabinet
The tale of how my father-in-law and I took a rusted out file cabinet and restored it like new. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll buy spray primer. Everyone wins.

1. How to: Skip Washing Your Hair for Six DaysIt’s like the little post that could. Thanks to a hefty dose of Pinterest traffic, this post has risen from the fourth most-read post last year to the most-read post of the year. Round of applause (and dry shampoo) for everyone!

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Thanks for another great year! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this one.