Crafts & How-Tos

I’ve mentioned my (wedding planner) friend Cynthia a few times on my blog. She’s an incredibly talented event planner, and everything she puts together seems to go off without a hitch.

The adorable Cynthia!

The adorable Cynthia!

This is never more clear than at her annual tea party. This was the first year I was able to attend, and Cynthia asked if I wanted to share the details on my blog. Y’all know I love a party, so I happily obliged. Here’s what we ate (and drank), how she decorated, and what we wore.

The Details

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Like me, Cynthia appreciates the value of a paper invitation. A couple of weeks before her fete, she sent out these sweet invites. Each invitee was instructed to wear their “prettiest dress and loveliest hat.”

For decor, Cynthia created rustic-style centerpieces out of a variety of colorful flowers. The shabby chic theme continued with the place settings, which she created by combining about four different sets of china.

My contribution to the party was a game I dubbed “Tea (and Questions) for Two.” On slips of paper, I printed a variety of “getting to know you” questions. One person would draw a question that they would have to answer, and then they would pick someone else at the party they didn’t know as well to answer the question as well. Then the selected person would draw a new question that she would answer, and then she would pick a new person to answer, too. It was a simple, fun way to learn a little someone about every other person at the party.

The Food

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I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the food. We started with a strawberry, spinach, and feta salad, followed by three kinds of tea sandwiches (cucumber, smoked salmon, and chicken salad), lemon squares, Greek and black-and-white cookies, and, of course, scones. Here’s the recipe Cynthia used to create the scones:

Blueberry Scones (adapted from Robert Irvine’s eat!)

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Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, cold and cut in pats
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 egg, beaten
zest of an orange

Directions
Step one: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step two: In a large bowl, blend the butter pats with the flour, sugar, grown sugar, salt, orange zest, and baking powder by hand until the butter has been combined.

Step three: Add blueberries and mix well. Don’t crush all the berries!

Step four: In a second bowl, blend the cream, half-and-half, and egg with a whisk. Stir in flour mixture until dough comes together.

Step five: Remove scone dough from bowl and knead on floured counter, rolling 5-6 times. Do not overblend, or the dough will be too tough. Divide into 12 triangular shaped portions and arrange on a cookie sheet.

Step six: Bake until the tops are slightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Step seven: Serve with jame and clotted cream, flavored mascarpone, or creme fraiche. (We had the creme fraiche, and I can HIGHLY recommend it.)

The signature drink was (obviously) tea.

The Style

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I tell you what — you tell these girls to bring out their tea party best, and they will not disappoint. Cynthia even brought a selection of extra hats for anyone who didn’t have one on hand. I wore a floral dress from Forever 21 (a million years ago…but you can find a similar style here or here), a double strand of vintage pearls (okay, okay, they were just beads), and the world’s cutest hat from Fascinators First on Etsy. If you need a hat or fascinator, I can highly recommend her — the hats look exactly the same as in the picture, and shop owner Rita is willing to customize just about anything.

Over all, everyone had a lovely time at the party, and it’s always a great way to get to know a new group of gals. Thanks again for planning, Cynthia!

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Photos by Monica Vasquez — Contact me for her info!

Last weekend, I did something I’ve never had the gumption to do before: I did a bit of dumpster diving.

Well, technically there was no diving. Or even a dumpster. But I did spot a GIANT gold picture frame where they put our building’s garbage (in the alley behind the building) and take it home with me.

It’s in almost perfect condition (it still had the cardboard corner protectors on it!), and there weren’t any bugs or weird smells on it. (I swear, I inspected that thing like a hawk.) And it’s GIANT. Roughly 2×3 feet.

I think it could be the perfect solution to the blank space above my dresser (that continues to mock me every.single.day it remains blank). Now I just need to decide how I want to style it.

So far, I’ve come up with five different options — but I want opinions. Here’s what I’m thinking:

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Leave it blank (and possibly hang lights on it)
Apparently this is a trend? I don’t hate the look, and I do have a bunch of string lights from my parents’ party I could hang up. But it still feels…blank to me. Maybe the secret is having a whole bunch. I do have one other gold frame…but I’m not sure that’s enough.

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Create a chalkboard with paint
I like this idea because the repurposing possibilities are endless, and it could be created in an afternoon. Plus, it could be fun to switch up the quote for different season/events/etc.

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DIY (Cross-stitch) Painting
I’ve also been toying with the idea of painting something abstract-ish. I’m not actually that artistic, but I could definitely create something like this faux cross-stitch design. Remember when I made this adorable actual cross stitch? Maybe something like that, or a bigger, more abstract version like in this photo.

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Song lyric as art
Another alternative to a traditional painting that I can still DIY is this song lyric mural (that I discovered when the lovely Kayla pinned it!). I could do the lyrics of our first dance song, or find a poem I like, or anything, I suppose. Sort of a more permanent version of the chalkboard quote.

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Professionally commissioned Bogey portrait
I think I’m kidding. But also…kind of not? I mean, that’s kind of adorable. And maybe it could be awesome and hilarious? What are our thoughts?

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So, what do you think? Haaaaaaalp me.

How to Plan an Anniversary Party

My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. By any standard, that’s an accomplishment. My parents always had the kind of marriage that made me want to get married, too, so it was important to me to help them celebrate this milestone. I planned a party in my mom’s home state of Ohio for the whole family. Here are all the details of where and how we partied.

The Location

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Their anniversary was in June, but the soonest I could get everyone together was August (close enough, right?). The party was in my aunt’s backyard (my mom’s sister), which turned out to be more than perfect. Not only is her backyard beautiful with giant trees and a huge hydrangea tree that created the perfect backdrop for photos, she also has a huge deck where we could put the tables. And, obviously, it was more budget friendly than renting a room at a restaurant — and it gave us a lot more freedom to customize the space.

We started the night on the patio where we had arranged cocktail tables and a drink table. On the deck, we arranged two long tables for dinner and hung string lights for a bit more ambiance.

The Flowers

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To save money, I arranged my own flowers for the party. My friend Cynthia is an event planner, and from her I learned not only how to arrange flowers, but also about the company Global Rose, which will deliver fresh bulk flowers (for incredibly reasonable prices — free shipping!) almost anywhere. I ordered 50 peachy-pink roses, 10 white hydrangeas, and bulk greens to fill in the arrangements. That gave me enough flowers to create eight mason jar centerpieces and two smaller arrangements for the drink table. The flowers arrived in perfect condition and held up beautifully for days. I recommend having your flowers delivered at least a day in advance so the roses have time to open up a bit more. (Note: Hydrangeas aren’t as hardy, so don’t order them too far in advance and keep them in water constantly so they won’t wilt.)

The Stationery

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I designed the menus in Photoshop and printed them on Kraft paper. For the gold “menu” at the top, I printed the original text in a light brown and then traced over it with a gold marker. I used the same marker to hand-write the place cards on Kraft paper tags.

To display the place cards, I made holders out of wine corks (I always save them). To create the holders, you’ll want to steam the corks for 4-5 minutes before using an exacto knife (or a bread knife if you realize you don’t have an exacto knife…that happens to some people). To keep the corks from rolling, I super glued a metal washer to the bottom of each one.

To finish off the tables, I printed black and white photos of my parents over the years and displayed them in simple white frames along with glass lanterns with candles.

The Food

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The food came from a local caterer, BOSS Corporate Catering. And, you guys? My only regret is that this company is in Ohio and I can’t use them anytime I want to have a party in New York. The food was so good, and Crystal, the owner, went above and beyond, helping us move the food into our chafing dishes and arrange it for the party. She was also extremely responsive and accommodating during the planning process, which took a lot of stress off of me. We had Sicilian skewers and goat cheese bruschetta for appetizers, then dinner was chicken marsala, penne alfredo, zucchini and summer squash, strawberry arugula salad, and fresh dinner rolls with honey butter. Dessert was a lemon berry mascarpone cake and a chocolate espresso cake.

The Drink

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The signature cocktail of the evening was an Elderflower Blush.

Ingredients:
Fresh strawberries
Fresh basil
Gin
Elderflower Liqueur
Seltzer
Prosecco or champagne

To make by the glass, muddle strawberries and basil in a glass and add 1 oz gin and 1 oz elderflower. Top with equal parts of the bubbly stuff. (We made ours for a group, so Joey muddled the strawberries and basil in drink dispenser and added equal parts gin and elderflower and about two cups of seltzer. We filled the glasses half full with this concoction and then topped up each with Prosecco.) Garnish with a strawberry and basil leaf.

The night came together beautifully. It was so great to spend time with my family that I don’t see that often, and my sister took the loveliest photos of us all. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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Sources:
Photography by Figment Art Photo
Food by BOSS Corporate Catering
Flowers from GlobalRose.com
Glass lanterns from World Market
Paper and frames from Michaels
String lights from Target
Rentals from Sun Rental

So…notice anything new? The blog got an update!

(If you are not actually on my site right now, you might not be able to tell. You should hop on over on a desktop when you can. Because design work is really hard for me, guys.)

I’ve been meaning to give the ol’ girl a little makeover for a while, but this week I finally got around to it. Not too shabby, eh? I also learned how to crop circles and overlay patterns in Photoshop. It was a big week.

Speaking of little updates, have we discussed my book collection? I love owning loads of books. One day, I hope to have a library or at least a giant wall of them somewhere in my home, but for now, I settle for two little shelves in the living room.

The problem? My book collection is often busting at the seams — and my sweet little shelves can only do so much.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few ways to incorporate the books into the rest of our apartment’s decor. This solves the problem of the shelves being too crowded, and provides me completely free decor ideas. Win-win!

Here are my four favorite ways to decorate with books:

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Anyone who has been in my apartment knows that I am extremely efficient with the amount of space we have. Our apartment is by no means large (heyyyy, NYC real estate…), but we’ve made the most of what we have. A perfect example? Our kitchen cabinets. For whatever reason (cough…they’re cheap…cough), our building owners didn’t built our kitchen cabinets up to the ceiling. That means there’s about two feet of dead space above the cabinets. Dead. As. A. Doornail.

Rather than mourn the lost cabinet space forever, though, I instead choose to look at the tops of the cabinets as a long-lost display shelf. I use it to store my dutch oven, the crock pot, cake stands, and, of course, all of our cookbooks. The best part? The books add a bit of color to an otherwise bland (and dead) spot.

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It has to be said: Our desk is really hard to photograph well. I feel like it looks nice in person, but it always comes across a little shabby in photos. But the point is, a few weeks ago I was on a mission to make our desk look a little more deliberate and involved in the rest of our decor. One way to do that (that was TOTALLY free)? Adding a few of our most colorful books to prop up our desk light.

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Another great place for a colorful stack of books? Our coffee table. When we first moved to our apartment, I was totally bummed out that we couldn’t paint. As a result, though, I’ve found a bunch of other ways to bring color into this totally blank slate. (Besides, given how fickle I can be with decor, it’s probably better that I couldn’t commit to one color in the beginning.)

A few of my favorite hardbacked books make a great focal point for the room. Bonus: My bookshelves are starting to look at lot less jam-packed.

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And finally, we mix a little nerdiness with a little bit of girlie-girl by using a stack of books to display perfume on our dresser. (And because I love a theme, obviously I tried to pick a few of my girliest books for this pile.)

How do you store your books?

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.)

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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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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.

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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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“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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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?