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.
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.
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.)
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, but you can buy them here). 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 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 signature cocktail of the evening was an Elderflower Blush.
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!
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
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.)
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.
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, cheese and crackers, and spicy crab dip made up the appetizers.
Red and yellow bell peppers
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
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.
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.
“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:
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:
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.
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).
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.
Dressing up begins at age five…
She is a voracious reader…
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.
Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Scones
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
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.
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:
Truffle Avocado & Ricotta Toast
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
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.
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
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
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.
What’s your favorite lazy-day breakfast recipe?
I feel obligated to tell you that I don’t make much of an effort to “eat clean” in my every day life.
I fully recognize the benefits, but try not to be one of those all-or-nothing types when it comes to diet, exercise, or pretty much anything else. Plus, I just really like cheese and wine and ice cream. I don’t consider this a character flaw.
That being said, I do try to make healthy choices where I can. And as a lifetime owner of one of the biggest sweet tooths (sweet teeth? Grammar.) on the planet, I’m always excited when I find a more nutritious version of my favorite desserts for the every day.
Because as much as I’d like to, I can’t eat cheese and wine and ice cream every day.
One of my ALL-TIME favorite foods? Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
(Is it just me, or did you mouth start watering when I said that? Just me? Okay, moving on.)
But, again, I can’t just eat chocolate chip cookies every day if I want to be able to fit in my clothes every day. It’s a choice. A very, very difficult choice at times. And I’ve tried those “healthy cookie dough dips” on Pinterest that are made from chickpeas and sweetener. They are NOT delicious. They do not solve my problem.
Which is why I was SO EXCITED when I spotted this pin on Pinterest:
Bananas? Oats? Chocolate chips and peanut butter??? I love ALL those things. And this recipe could even be considered (GASP) clean??? (I think? I guess peanut butter and chocolate probably aren’t technically clean, right? Well, save your judgement until I tell you more about those ingredients.)
As if by fate, I also received an email from Kallari Chocolate asking if I wanted to sample their product. Kallari is a cacao grower that makes gourmet chocolate in Ecuador using biodiverse cacao groves. They use organic heirloom cacao, gourmet recipes (no emulsifiers, artificial flavors and half the sugar), and minimal processing to provide a chocolate experience unique from other chocolate chips for baking.
Plus, they retain most of their farms in primary and secondary rainforest, with an average of 1.5 acres of cacao planted per family, less than 2% of our total territory. This allows them to earn a living and provide for our families without sacrificing natural resources or forgetting our cultural traditions. (They also have a Kickstarter if you’d like to help support this honorable initiative.)(SUPPORT THE EARTH-FRIENDLY CHOCOLATE, PEOPLE.)
So a couple of nights ago, I decided to finally make the cookies. I went to click on the link from the pin, and LO AND BEHOLD, the recipe it linked to was nothing like the recipe in the pin caption. It linked to this.
Pinterest, this is why you are annoying. THIS.
The actual recipe called for a bunch of ingredients I didn’t have, and wasn’t even baked like a real cookie.
Though I was a bit more apprehensive, I decided to just go with what was written in the caption. Worst case scenario, I figured the globs of “cookie dough” would just bake down into a granola bar-type consistency. I could still eat that. (Obviously my standards are SUPER high, right?)
So I combined:
2 bananas, peeled
1 cup quick oats
1 heaping spoonful of natural peanut butter
1 bar Kallari dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
I mashed everything together with a potato masher and baked 1 T rounds on a parchment lined baking pan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
When they came out, they looked nothing like the original pin (BECAUSE THE RECIPE WAS TOTALLY DIFFERENT), but they DID somewhat resemble chocolate chip cookies. Sort of.
The actual consistency was a little mushier than real cookies, but the oats gave the “cookies” enough chewy texture to satisfy the craving. The chocolate I used wasn’t particularly sweet because of the high cocoa content, but it wasn’t at all bitter either, and the bananas and peanut butter added sweetness.
All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this accidental recipe. Even better, it’s practically a health food! COOKIES FOR HEALTH.
What’s your favorite healthy dessert that tastes like a not-healthy dessert? Lord knows I’m always in the market.