Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Entries in party ideas (2)

Tuesday
Dec132011

8 Holiday Party Planning Tips

I woke  up this morning to an open window in my living room. Apparently a certain someone who I live with thinks its cool to have open windows in 30 degree weather. Now I'm wrapped in a robe and blanket with frozen fingers. Brrrrr!

Anyhow, thanks for your giveaway entries yesterday! If you haven't entered yet but like cookies and sweet treats, head over to yesterday's post to enter to win a box of homemade holiday goodies! The giveaway is open until tomorrow evening and goods will ship out on Monday.

Meanwhile, I'm now in full-on holiday mode! To prove it, I even painted my nails in Essie's Loophole last night... a sweet silvery color that's perfect for the season. And in addition to enjoying our Christmas tree every evening, we are also hosting a little dinner party on Friday evening with both sets of parents. I'm excited to have them over to not only see our Christmas tree, but to also see our newly renovated apartment! No one has seen the place since we installed lighting or painted the whole thing.

I'm also mildly stressed out since I work all day on Friday and have my office holiday party on Thursday (which means there will be absolutely no work done at home that evening). Luckily, I started planning well in advance and am feeling ok about the situation. Here are my tips for smooth holiday party planning!

My Holiday {or Anytime} Party Planning Tips:
1. Take stock of who is attending, any food allergies or aversions.
For example, my parents do not really eat carbs and I know that my mother-in-law doesn’t like asparagus. I take all of these points into consideration before planning what I will make. Though I may still serve dishes with carbs (most likely) and possibly roasted vegetables (which may include asparagus), I will be sure to have plenty of other dishes and options so that everyone has plenty to enjoy. With this in mind, I start to brainstorm.



2. Think about timing before the party and when you will be cooking for the party.
If you are hosting on a Friday evening after work (as I will be), then try to pick dishes that can be made in advance (like the night before or very early morning of) and seamlessly reheated or baked off before serving. There’s nothing I hate more than cooking after guests have arrived. I simply want to throw dishes in the oven and wait for them to heat while I’m enjoying the party with my friends and family. Same goes for planning appetizers.

3. Figure out how ‘heavy’ you want to go with the appetizer portion.
If you are hosting a cocktail party, then I’d go for some heartier, more filling appetizers, like shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, a tart cut into bite-sized pieces, small lettuce wraps or tea sandwiches. If you are hosting dinner, I’d keep the appetizer portion light. I feel terrible when someone prepares a huge, beautiful dinner but I’m too stuffed from appetizers to enjoy it.



4. Decide on cocktails.
I think it’s just as important as the food to have a stocked bar. I do not believe in breaking the bank when it comes to alcohol. If you have a few guests whom you know only drink a particular cocktail, then go ahead and have that on hand (for example, I know my Dad really only drinks rum & Coke, so I will be sure to have that for him). Otherwise, I think it’s 100% ok to simply have some wine, beer and a signature cocktail. My favorite is Prosecco (Italian champagne) or sparkling white wine with cranberry-pomegranate juice. I serve it in a white wine glass and garnish with fresh cranberries. It’s easy, inexpensive and completely sophisticated and festive. Oh and make sure to have soda on hand for non-drinkers.

5. Pick your dessert(s).

Again, I don't think you have to go crazy with a veritable Viennese table here. Pick one or two desserts (like my frosted eggnog sugar cookies, which is what I will be serving! or a cake or pie) and that's all that is necessary. For a bigger party, you can request that some guests bring desserts. Also, make sure to load up your coffee maker and tea pot before guests arrive so you can simply turn it on when it comes serving time.



5. Make a detailed list.
I create my menu (including beverages) and then make a shopping list right next to it so that I don’t miss a beat. We’ve all been in the spot where you’re mid-way through a dish and have to run out to pick up that last ingredient. I hate that! A detailed list will get you most of the way.

6. Purchase all food and liquor early.
I like to do this the weekend before, if possible. This way, you are prepped and ready to go well in advance for cooking your food. And it’s an added bonus to not have to worry about it at the last moment before you want to start cooking. Of course, if you are purchasing something like fish or meat, you will want it to be extremely fresh, so I’d leave this one thing until the day of or before to purchase.

7. Make assignments.

Everyone asks what they can bring to your gathering. So tell them! It makes it easier for your guests so they aren't guessing what you might like or want (let's face it, no one shows up empty handed anyway!), and less stressful for you to be responsible for every dish. I don't believe you have to be totally specific, but if you are light on appetizers and dessert, I think you can definitely ask guests to fill in the gaps and let them decide what they want to make.

8. Have a cocktail and/or a cookie!
Relax! It’s just your friends and family and no one expects things to be perfect. And just an added tip? They won’t be. Just make sure to enjoy yourself at your party, otherwise all your hard work is for naught. I like to mix up my own cocktail before guests arrive and take a moment to sit on the couch with my feet up. You just did a lot of work! Reward yourself and enjoy it.

So there you have it. Simple tips to keep you stress free for your holiday parties!

Questions of the Day:

How do you stay sane when it comes to party planning?

What are your favorite dishes to serve at a gathering? I haven't totally solidified my menu yet and am still on the hunt for ideas!

 

psst...don't forget to enter the homemade holiday goodies giveaway!

Thursday
Sep012011

9 Things For Your Labor Day Party

I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day. It traditionally signifies the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. I kinda love and I kinda hate this.

Regardless of my hate for change (yet excitement over cooler weather and fall flavors), I always love a great Labor Day party! Who doesn't? I'm not personally throwing a party this weekend (though I am attending a party at my parents house), but if I was, here's what I'd be sure to include!

Pick out some fun colors. I love oranges, pinks, greens and yellows. Some fall colors, summered up with a splash of pink or lime green.

Make farmer’s market centerpieces. Gather up some ripe peaches (it's the end of their season!) and place in wicker baskets on tables, or use small vases of fresh lemons and limes. I love anything low so it doesn't encroach on table conversation!



Mix up a signature cocktail. Beer and wine should be served, but keep costs down by eliminating hard liquor. Buy only what you need for a signature cocktail and display it prettily on a table, maybe even with a little printed table card/menu. I love anything summery, like pink cosmopolitans or a big bowl of sangria.

Make up a bunch of bright and filling dips and hors d’oeuvres. Again, no need to break the bank. A simple, summery bean dip, fruit salsa or pizza dip will do the trick. I've found all 3 of these to be serious crowd pleasers!

For the main meal station, I love this sweet menu board, borrowed from Style Me Pretty. I love this idea, especially for a larger scale party, where the hostess may not be available to explain what’s in each dish.


Serve easy dishes that can be made in advance and reheated, or can be simply made ahead and baked off before service. And when in doubt, there's always grilled burgers and corn! I'm fairly certain that no one will be turning that down. I love this jalapeno popper buffalo macaroni & cheese from Lauren's Latest. It looks unreal to me! Isn't that perfect for a party?

Make fun desserts. Everyone loves this part of a party, no? I suggest easy, grabbable desserts, like cake pops, fruit pops, brownies (like my pretzel crusted brownies, below) or bars (like my pineapple coconut dream bars!).

Wear something fun and casual, yet chic. Pair with sandals, a chunky necklace and sunglasses. I'm crushing on this necklace from Anthropologie. It would be enough to make a statement with plain white frock.



Leave guests with a delicious (and easy!) party favor. I adore this chocolate chip cookie favor idea from Intimate Weddings. It's wrapped in a paper CD case and stamped with a custom sticker. Classy enough for a wedding, but easy enough for a home party. Adorable.

So there you have it. Some easy ways to throw a chic Labor Day party!

Questions of the Day:

Are you hosting a party this weekend?

Are you happy to see the summer go? Or to see autumn approach? Or are you hanging on to hot days for dear life?

 

psst...head on over to The Peach and The Pit for a round up of our favorite links around the web this week! Zombie wedding photos, pretty journals, and more!