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EVERYDAY entertaining


Movie Night Party and More Great Party Ideas from Ready Made

Hosting a recurrent party theme is a stress-free way to entertain. It is easier and cheaper to devise a great concept since many things we will reuse from one party to the next. You can still astonish your guests by adding a detail each time.

The February/March 2009 issue of Ready Made presents 5 cool and fun recurrent party themes with variations on the theme.

movie night party inspired by Ready made magazine

If you enjoy playing the mixologist, go for the Spirit tasting party. Make it trendier by adding food and cocktail pairing.

The membership movie card makes the attendance more special. Design your own card to tailor the type of movies you will be watching. The host punches the card for each movie they attend.

Instead of going for take out food at the movie night party, serve homemade pizza. It tastes so much fresher. A few people can be assigned each time to the task of making the pizza. It is one way for everyone to chip in. The moviegoers can even vote for their favorite pizza recipes.

Making Popcorn on the Stove

From the pictures, they do not own a popcorn machine. They simply master the art of popping the corn on the stove. And serve it with herbs and spices. If you never made popcorn the old-fashioned way, watch this video that illustrates the classic technique but makes me to have a bigger bowl at the end.

To get the basis on how to plan these parties, consult Ready Made Magazine.

+ Ready Made Magazine
+ pizza with spicy salami, courgette, basil, tomato and mozzarella recipe by Jamie Oliver
+ Movie Theater Retro Popcorn Scoop Boxes – $14.95 to $18.95 USD for a case of 100
+ Let’s Start the Show invite on evite


How Women Want their Super Bowl Buffet Table

super bowl menu :: recipes by  martha stewart

I attended several Super Bowls events; all organized by guys. So style was not invited. I feel bad that I did not make a mood board this year. As a substitute, let’s look at what propose the women magazines.

Bookmark my post since you can recycle the ideas for a football theme birthday party for your man, your brother or a little boy.

Martha Stewart’s Super Bowl Menu

I like the menu ideas. It is cute, easy to serve and practical because you can prepare stuff in advance.

+ Mini-hamburgers embedded with pickle slice before broiling – they are so cute
+ Grasshopper Cake – your can tailor the cake decoration to the theme
+ Li’l Smoky Cheese Ball. Or if wish to serve an assortment go with cheese balls done in three ways
+ Seven-Layer Bean Dip – I will definitely remember this dip recipe for a cocktail party

Real Simple’s Tips on How to Host a Football Party

how to host a football party by real simple

+ Serve beers inspired by the names, the mascots, or the hometowns of the competing teams. Stock bottles of Iron City Beer for the Pittsburgh Steelers and drink the Beermann’s Rip Roarin’ Red Ale in honors of the Arizona Cardinals.
+ Tips on how to serve a Chili for a Crowd from Martha Stewart. Recipe of her chili con carne dish
+ Instead of serving chips, plan a potato bar. Why not make your own potato wedges before the game?
+ For decorations, my favorite is inserting pennants and mini footballs in potted wheatgrass. Use vases or colored glasses.
+ Hang on the wall a series of Chalkboard Contact Paper where you draw classic football game plays. Leave some empty for your guests to fill. If you wish to create your own tablecloth, paint the field with white paint on a green felt piece of fabric. Draw the field to fit the surface of your table. You can add toy football players to complete the look.

Food for Thought

I am leaving you with a question. I wonder whether or not the men like that we add style to their Super Bowl home party? Or is it only girls watching the game together who use these cool party decors?

About five several years ago, a Martha-type girlfriend created a theme for the Super Bowl party. She brought cute buffet table decorations. Sadly, I did not know her at the time. I know the story because the guys were not all in favors of the feminine touch invading their manly annual event. Like I said, it was a few years ago.

Do you bring a female touch into this typically male celebration? How do you celebrate Super Bowls at home?

+ Check out my 2008 Super Bowl mood board for more ideas on how to host a football theme event


Little shopping at The Grove

Today, we visited The Grove in LA. It is a superb outdoor shopping mall. We had lunch on the terrace of Morels. It is a French steakhouse and bistro. I ate a quiche lorraine.

Impromptu Cocktail Party Menu

cheese menu

Morels’ cheese menu looks interesting. Reproduce their cheese ordering sheet would be easy. You need a board, a prong steel fastener and to design a cute menu.

For an impromptu cocktail party, create an antipasto platter. Serve your charcuterie with gherkins and small onions. Serve 2 or 3 varieties of olives, cheese and wine. You will be all set.

My new clothes and I

We explored several fashion shops. I bought a funky shirt and dress at the Spanish store Custo Barcelona. We do not have this brand in Canada. I also bought a feminine apron at Anthropologie.

Here the photos of my new clothes.



Tonight, we are craving for authentic Mexican cuisine. We will see what we can find.

+ Get directions to The Grove p 323.900.8080
189 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles, California, United States, 90036


Back to Basics of Easy Entertaining with Ina Garten

I watched Barefoot Contessa earlier today. The Perfect Dinner Party episode was on. The recipes sound tasty and inviting.

perfect dinner menu on barefoot contessa

The main course, the Bay Scallop Gratins is a recipe from her latest cookbook of her Barefoot Contessa series, a book titles Back to Basics.

If you wish to test run the book before buying it, try the Bay Scallop Gratins since the recipe is published on

Cooking Tips

Several people who did the recipes suggested to reduce the amount of salt. For all recipes, except desserts, I adjust the salt to suit my taste buds. Seasoning is a personal choice and should be viewed as guidelines not absolute. Moreover, when the recipes contain salty ingredients like pancetta or capers, it is normal to reduce the amount of added salt.

A few people notice the garlic taste. One trick I used is to cook longer your garlic at lower temperature. The more you cook garlic, the more its taste will sweeten.

For desserts, serve homemade candies with whole fresh pears.

  • Fleur De Sel Caramels – Do not attempt without a good candy thermometer. Digital thermometers are more precise. Beware that you need to adjust the amounts of sugar and water. Readers say the recipe turned out wonderfully if they 1 1/2 c. sugar. Some readers also increase the water to 1/2 c. water while others did not.
  • White Chocolate Bark was a hit with her guests on the episode. I am not a huge fan of white chocolate so I may try a marbled chocolate version. But really, without trying it I cannot be sure about how it will turns out.

Back To Basics

back to basics by ina garten

Back to Basics concentrates on the techniques she used. Plus, you get nearly a hundred new recipes. I discussed the book during the Holidays with a few girl friends. Everyone loves it!

Ina’s dinner party menu was so easy to make that I suggest you prepare it for your family this weekend.

+ For Americans: Back to Basics $21 USD
+ For Canadians: Basic to Basics $25.20 CAD


My 2008 Posts in Review: October

Halloween is on its way to exceed Christmas as the most followed holiday in the States. I got a huge jump in traffic last October simply due to Halloween. Since I wish this review to be more general, I omitted all my Halloween posts.

asparagus risotto:: how to host large dinner party at home :: slice on the go

+ I published the tastiest Asparagus risotto recipe plus the wine that we drank with it. We basically did the asparagus, mint and lemon recipe from Cook with Jamie

+ I shared my 9 Tips to Throw a Stress-Free Buffet Party for 30 to 40 Guests plus how I set up my bar station. I also tell you how to welcome your guests with icy cold sake

+ Another great idea from Martha Stewart is her Handmade Package for A Cake Slice To Go. It is cute and simple to make. You could recycle this presentation to prepare in advance your dessert servings at a big bash.

apple harvest party :: guest blogging on hostess with the mostess

+ I had the honor to be a guest blogger on Hostess with the Mostess. I develop a Modern Apple Harvest party theme for her blog. Thanks Jennifer.


A Talk with Jaime of It’s A Jaime Thing

Recall the Sunflower bridal shower with the tiki bar that I spotlighted this summer, today’s interview is with the talented blogger who designed that event.

Jaime is a happy housewife hoping to become one day a domestic goddess. When I asked her to talk about herself Jaime told me that she was very blessed to have a husband who supports her love for weddings and blogging. So you could say her day job consists of blogging full time and planning weddings and events for friends and family.  She can’t get enough of it! I can rely to that.


Let’s start with the interview about her blog and her tips for home parties.

At Home with Kim Vallee (AHWKV): When and how did you get into blogging?

Jaime: The wedding obsession started after I planned our own wedding back in 2003. After our wedding, I didn’t want to stop planning; I enjoyed it too much! I think it might be because I’ve always loved being “artsy crafty”, so our wedding just inspired me to use that love in a way to help others plan. Oh, how I do love it!

I started blogging as a way to keep all of my creative thoughts, ideas and finding in one spot – nice and organized.  It was also a way for me to share ideas for friends and family who were getting married, as I was helping many of them plan. I never expected it to take off like it has, but I couldn’t be happier! I absolutely love blogging about weddings and entertaining. I am happy that I get to help other brides.

AHWKV: What is the concept behind your blog?  What people can expect when they read your blog?

Jaime: The tag line for my blog, It’s A Jaime Thing is, “Wedding inspiration, ideas and all things creative”. That’s exactly what it is. I try my best to update my blog at least 2- 3 times a day (sometimes more) with fresh content. I love sharing pictures and ideas that are creative and unique – things that I’ve never heard of or seen before. I also enjoy posting about cool finds from fashion to décor. My hope is to be able to help brides personalize their weddings to make it their own, rather than just like everyone else’s.

AHWKV: How often do you entertain at home?  On a personal level, what kind of party do you host?

Jaime: I recently hosted a bridal shower at our home, however I normally entertain else ware. I’m not too domestic when it comes to cooking. So I’m always joking with my best friend (who loves to cook) that she can host the dinner parties and I’ll host the cocktail parties!

When I do host parties at home, I love to keep it simple and intimate. I focus on creating a nice, comfortable atmosphere for my guests with fun décor, good music and very yummy cocktails along with finger foods. Oh, and cookies too – while I have issues when it comes to cooking, I do actually bake pretty well. Is that strange? My favorite saying is, “when you’re sad and feeling worse, just keep a cookie in your purse!”.

AHWKV: What lessons did you learn from organizing parties?

Jaime: Don’t stress. If there’s something you wanted to do but didn’t get done in time for the party, it’s ok! Nobody but you will know.

Allow yourself enough time to plan and prepare! Entertaining can get costly, but if you allow yourself enough time you can shop around for the best deals.

Make lists! There is nothing worse than remembering to buy enough cups but not enough napkins. Keep the list with you, and as you shop for your party, check the items off of the list.

For serving cocktails and food, set up a few areas where guests can fill up so that one corner of the party doesn’t get too crowded. This also helps keep the party traffic flowing.

Have everything ready before the guests arrive, so that you can enjoy the fabulous soiree you’ve created!

AHWKV: When you are doing a party in Chicago, what are the best stores for party supplies?

Jaime: Believe it or not, I love Family Dollar! You can find fabulous party supplies there if you’re on a tight budget. I also love Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics and Craft stores have loads of items you can incorporate into your event, especially if you like to think outside the box. I’m in my own personal “heaven” when I’m at a craft store. Not only do they offer a lot, but it’s a great place to go to get inspired and get your creative juices flowing.

AHWKV: Which vendors do you use when you organize a party?

Jaime: Fresh and Silk Flowers located in Carol Stream, IL. – They offer excellent prices, wonderful customer service and the most beautiful flowers that you know, coming from them, will always be fresh!

DJ Jimmy Manno with People’s Choice DJ, located in Lombard, IL. – I’ve been to so many weddings. This is by far the best DJ in the Chicagoland area! He’s professional, talented and really knows how to keep the dance floor full. When he DJ’s an event, every guest stays until the last song. Even grandma! He knows how to choose the right songs to keep everyone happy. With him as your DJ, your wedding or event will be one people will always remember as “the best!”. Did I mention DJ Jimmy Manno is extremely affordable compared to the many out there? He even works well with vendors, which is really important too.

Patrick Kramford Videography, located in West Chicago is one of my absolute favorite videographers around. He’s professional, talented and through the beauty of his work you can tell he really cares about it. When you book with him, rest assured you’ll end up with a quality video of your event – and you’ll watch it over and over as if it were a movie. He’s that good! He’s also very affordable compared to many others.

Of course you have to have a photographer? But there are too many wonderful ones to name. We were thrilled with our wedding photographer, Maureen Martini, owner of Portrait In Time Photography, out of Lombard. Again, she’s very professional, talented and affordable. We took 2 years to plan our wedding so you better believe I interviewed like a crazy bride! I found the best vendors at the best prices – we couldn’t have been happier, they all truly did a wonderful job!

AHWKV: Which are the best venues? And what is so special about these places?

Jaime: Oh goodness, there are so many around Chicagoland that it’s hard to name them all – so I’ll name just a few of my personal favorites.  Of course I have to mention the venue we married at – Avalon Banquets in Elk Grove Village, IL. The entire staff was super friendly, helpful and professional, the food was amazing, the prices were great, and they’re newly renovated. We were so happy we booked Avalon Banquets for our wedding!

Two of my other favorite venues for weddings are Riverside Receptions in Geneva, IL and also Danada House in Wheaton, IL. They’re very scenic and both offer outdoor space for your event along with their gorgeous buildings. They’re lovely!

Part 2 of this interview, the city guide, is next.


The 15-minute Party Plan of Canadian House & Home

15 minute party plan by canadian house and home

I started to write a story about the importance to be prepared for stress-free entertaining when I spotted the 15-minute Party Plan on the November issue of Canadian House & Home.

Their article summarized my thoughts but they forgot to mention a well-stocked bar. What you need is to:

  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry
  2. Keep several bottles of red and white wines. If you are fancier, add a bottle of vodka, gin and scotch. My bar feels empty without sweet and dry vermouth.
  3. Assemble a mix and match of white casual chic tableware
  4. Reduce the glassware costs by owning 20-24 everyday tumblers – they can be used as wine glasses
  5. Keep an assortment of dinner napkins and cocktails napkins with a few sets of colorful table runners and neutral tablecloths

This way you will be ready for improvised parties.

So next time you pass by a fine grocery store, stock a few jars of jelly, olives, an assortment of savory cookies, dried fruits and nuts. Stash in your fridge packages of smoked salmon, pates, terrines and a few cheeses. I would add limes and lemons.

Then, whenever you have guests over, you simply need to set up the buffet table. Remember that food served in ample containers looks more luxurious. Once in a while try the unexpected. For example, clear glass flower vases transform well in food containers.

What do you keep in your pantry for unexpected events?

+ Photography by Michael Alberstat for Canadian House & Home November 2008 – rights reserved


How To Plan a Home Party Menu for 30 to 40 Guests

brie with caramelized onions :: provencal baguettes :: crudites :: kim Vallee

With Thanksgiving and the Holiday season coming soon, here are my advices on how to host a stress-free, stylish party.

We received 35 guests for my husband’s birthday party. As a bonus, I published my menu at the bottom of this post.

Nine Tips to Throw a Stress-Free Buffet Party At Home

  1. A buffet is easier to prepare and serve. Moreover, a party is more amusing when people can mingle across the room. 
  2. If you do not hire servers, you need to plan right and be well equipped in serving ware to pull it off. Do not be shy to ask for the random help of supportive guests. I got lucky that my mother assigned herself to the dishes. At the end of the night, I did not have a lot of after-party dishes to do.
  3. Ask help with cleaning the buffet table between services. If you do not own a silent butler or a crumb collector, use a clean folded fabric napkin and brushes to remove the crumbs onto a plate.
  4. Be kind to Earth and try to avoid disposable tableware. You can buy affordable tableware at discounted stores. Store them in boxes, ready to use whenever you throw a big bash. Buying standard tableware is cheaper than a few rental rounds.
  5. Unless you wish to get the funeral home look, do not crowd the space with chairs. It is not a sit-down meal. Assume that many guests will eat standing up and in rotation. I usually selected main course dishes that do not require a knife; or only a minimal use of knife.
  6. Plan a menu that can be eaten standing up with a plate and a fork. If you hire a caterer, ask for delivery 2 to 4 hours before the event to give you plenty of time to set up everything.
  7. Serve wines or pre-made cocktails. I often serve a pitcher of vodka and cranberry. On the drink station, simply place in sight the bottles or cocktail pitchers, the glasses, the ice bucket, and a corkscrew. Let the guests serve themselves.
  8. Assume that people will gather in the kitchen and next to the buffet table. Leave room for people to move around. Plan your space and food and drink stations accordingly.
  9. Whenever happens, keep smiling. You and your guests are there to have fun. If you forget to serve something, do not worry about it. Let it go and continue with the rest.

My Menu

I received compliments all night for the food. I used Chantilly’s, a tiny, local caterer that cooks food closer to home cooking.

Genovese Eggplant Tartes :: Chicken Cacciatore

I designed a 4-service meal. The first service lasted the cocktail hour. Then, I switch to the appetizers. It was followed by the main course. Last, it is the dessert.

I originally planned a green salad but I omitted to serve it as we already have plenty of food. For a casual buffet event with a main course, I typically forgo the cheese platter. I served more appetizers instead. I do it for a question of time. You see, my events typically start at 7:30-8:00 PM. By the time people finished the main course, it is often 11 PM.

Mises en bouche
  • Crudités (raw vegetables) with spinach dip
  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus served with an Assortment of Flatbreads, Breads, and Biscuits
  • Capeletti Bites – Marinated Capeletti, Peppers, & Olives in a Basil Pesto Vinaigrette on Small Skewers
  • Provençal Baguettes served sliced – Baby Baguettes Stuffed with Chevre, Sundried Tomatoes, Black Olives, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Basil Chilled
  • Gingered Shrimp & Snowpeas – Steamed Shrimp Marinated in Fresh & Pickled Ginger with Snowpeas & Water Chestnuts on Small Skewers
  • Smoked Salmon Napoleons – Miniature Rectangles of Puff Pastry Layered with Smoked Salmon, Wasabi Cream Cheese & Marinated Cucumber
  • Brie and Caramelized Onion Phyllo Flower – Round of Brie Nestled in Phyllo topped with Caramelized Onions & Fresh Herbs. Served with biscuits and bread

The Provencal baguettes and the Brie and Caramelized Onion Phyllo Flower were eaten in a flash. Everyone was talking about these two dishes.

Main Courses
  • Genovese Eggplant Tartes – Roasted eggplant, fresh basil, onions, pesto, & light mozzarella in a cheesy herbed polenta crust
  • Chicken Cacciatore with Herbed Orzo – Chunks of skin off bone in chicken simmered with tomatoes, peppers, onions, celery, & mushrooms. I served the orzo cooked in rich chicken broth and fresh herbs cold as a salad.

A stew is the perfect dish for easy entertaining. I simply reheated the chicken cacciatore on the stovetop in two Dutch ovens. When the food was hot, I deposited one Dutch oven at a time on a portable heater sitting at the buffet table.


If you have the time and you cook well, plan a meal where you can prepare things in advance. The old fashioned recipes are hip again. Do not be afraid to serve comfort food. The most important thing is that the food tastes great. With the current economic climate, I predict that people will entertain more at home. What do you think?

+ Photography by Renee of En Direct des Iles for Kim – rights reserved


The Best Way To Serve Icy Cold Sake Shooters

fun way to serve cold sake shooter

We wanted something special to greet our guests at my husband’s birthday party. We served cold sake shooters with a twist.

The anniversary cake theme was classic video games which most come from Japan. Serving sake at the start announced the end. We wanted something playful. That is when I remembered my Fred cool shooters ice mold.

I made in advance 40 ice shooters. I kept them in large freezer bags. We displayed them on ice after the first guest arrived. You have between 45 to 60 minutes before the ice shooters become unusable. It is best to keep half on the freezer, until you need them.

We served women the pink bottle sake while the men received a shot from the blue bottle. The girls enjoyed the creamy white Hakutsuru Sayuri Nigori Sake with its refreshing aroma, natural sweetness and smooth aftertaste. The guys tasted the flowery fragrant Hakutsuru Junmai Ginjo sake with silky, well-balanced smoothness.

Our cold sake shooters were a hit. With an original, easy to do setting, we created a lasting impression.

+ Fred Cool Shooters Shot Glass Mold – $7 USD
+ Can be used for a Guitar Hero – Rock Band Party


The Making of a Drink Station for a Party

how to set up a bar station

Friday night, we hosted a big bash at my house to celebrate the birthday of my wonderful husband. I will cover the party elements over a few posts.

I am starting this series with the drink station. We served a buffet style meal. We knew that our friends would prefer drinking wines. We also prepared a pitcher of vodka with cranberry juice.

How to Reproduce that Look?

I used my outdoor kitchen cart that I bought at IKEA a few years ago. It is ideal as a bar station because it has a stainless steel top. With condensation and drink spills, you need to protect the wood surfaces, if you used them. The bottom shelf is perfect to store backup party supplies or to keep nearby things that we will use later.

I made my own ice buckets using two wine boxes that I bought at the SAQ for $5 each. What a deal considering that the wood boxes are reusable. We placed a big cat litter plastic bag inside to protect against leakage and fill the boxes with ice cubes. Voilà!

If you are doing a formal event, consider the Hotel collection at Pottery Barn. It is affordable plus it comes in several formats and shapes.

+ Hotel Oversized Bucket – $189 USD at Pottery Barn
+ Hotel Champagne Bucket – $79 USD
+ Hotel Double Wine Cooler – $89 USD