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party planning

ENTERTAINING EVERYDAY entertaining

The Costco Challenge: The Making of a Stylish Cocktail Party on a Budget

stylish canapes costco challenge

stylish canapes costco challenge

This article from Town & Country is the proof that you do not need to spend a fortune to entertain in style 20 guests. Event planner David Monn bought at Costco the food he needed to make stylish canapés.

menu costco shopping list

David Monn spent $10.40 per guest. His cocktail party menu was comprehensive with 8 savoury hors d’oeuvres and 2 sweet treats. You get a nice mix of meat and seafood for that price. I’m impressed!

menu costco

I plan to make his Norwegian Smoked Salmon filled with scallion cream cheese and tied with a string of chive. Who will not love a Brie and apple on bruschetta topped with caramelized walnuts?

Get the details on the April 2012 issue of Town & Country magazine. Go to Zinio for a digital version delivered to the device of your choice.

SOURCING:
+  photos by Juliana Sohn – Courtesy of Town & Country magazine

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY decorations

4 Easy Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

easter eggs sweet paul spring decoration

easter eggs sweet paul spring decoration

A symbol of the spring season and, of course, Easter, decorated eggs are one of the most affordable ways to add a touch of spring to your home. Think of eggs as a blank canvas begging for a little customization and colour.

With so many innovative craft supplies available, we rounded-up a few of the freshest (and easiest!) ideas to modernize this annual tradition. It’s a fun project the whole family can get into – kids will love creating and adults will be reminded of Easter celebrations gone by.

If you love a pretty spring palette, choose two or three hues to decorate all of your eggs as Sweet Paul did for Good Housekeeping magazine. Use painter’s tape and elastic bands to mask off stripes of different sizes while dyeing, then add artful scrapbooking stickers to embellish eggs.

For a more natural look, use blue food colouring to create a true-to-life shade of robin’s egg blue and steep tea bags for a sepia tone. Dip an old toothbrush into brown craft paint and dab on egg shells to create a speckled effect. This variation would look wonderful as part of a rustic table setting.

easter eggs martha stewart chalkboard monogram

Keep things contemporary with graphic patterns and bold colours, as shown on MarthaStewart.com. The trick here is to pair unlikely shades and layer them on the same egg.

More proof that it will be some time before chalkboard paint has overstayed its welcome: chalkboard easter eggs. These would be wonderful as place cards at a casual Easter brunch, especially at the kid’s table.

Check out the “Sourcing” section for instructions on how to re-create these (super easy) techniques. Plus, stay tuned as we share more Easter ideas in the coming weeks!

SOURCING:
+ Speckled Eggs from Southern Living
+ Pretty Purple Eggs from Good Housekeeeping
+ Scrambled Lines and Letters Eggs from Martha Stewart
+ Chalkboard Eggs from Style At Home

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Party Idea

Gruyere grilled cheese with Prosciutto, Arugula and Tomato

Gruyere grilled cheese with Prosciutto, Arugula and Tomato

If you are looking for alternatives to the Make Your Own Pizza party, Martha Stewart suggested on Oprah that you throw a Grilled Cheese party for grown ups. I think it is a great idea! Everybody loves grilled cheese sandwiches.

Like most comfort food, the grilled cheese sandwiches has raised to new heights lately. The key is to upgrade the basic ingredients. I prepare my upscale grilled cheese with a port wine infused aged cheddar and a French baguette. It’s divine! I adapted the recipe from Pullman, an excellent wine and tapas restaurant in Montreal. Other recipes that are worth a try are:

How to Throw a Grilled Cheese Party

idea for a grilled cheese station for a casual party

The preparation is easy. Make sure to get a nice cheese selection, bake or buy at your local bakery several bread types, and serve many condiments from charcuterie to cut vegetables, cut fruits, fresh herbs and green leaves. Beside aged cheddar, look for delicious Gruyère, Emmental, Fontina and Jarlsberg cheeses. If you host a party for a large group, set up two stations. This way, everyone has easy access to the food.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are best cooked at low heat since it gives time for the cheese to melt. Therefore, you can use table burners to provide a cooking surface to more people. The idea is to allow your guests to eat together.

One last thing, prepare in advance a soup and a couple of salads to be your side dishes. Tell me, what is your favorite grilled cheese sandwich recipe?

SOURCING:
+ How to Make Your Own Grilled Cheese Bar by Martha Stewart on Oprah

ENTERTAINING PAPER goods

New Stamp Sets by Yellow Owl Workshop

badminton stamp set by yellow owl workshop

badminton stamp set by yellow owl workshop

Stamps are ideal to create unique invitations and place cards. Looking at the latest collection of Yellow Owl Workshop gave me the urge to host a BBQ with old-fashioned outdoor activities, to host a tea party with my girlfriends or if you are really romantic, you could invite the love of your life for a weekend in Paris or in the Big Apple.

paris stamp set by yellow owl workshop

Experiment by creating several scenes on regular sheets of paper cut the same size of your good paper. Buy a few extra of the good paper. You can complement the scene with your own drawing or a big text. I suggest that you buy several colors of ink to give you a chance to try different palette.

tea party stamp set by yellow owl workshop

SOURCING:
+ Yellow Owl Workshop Stamp Set starts at $11.50 USD

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY decorations

Easter Egg Painting

bob's artistic blowing technique for painting easter eggs

kim\'s painted and decorated easter eggs

Have a look at the beautiful Easter eggs we painted and decorated yesterday at a party organized by my friend Bettina Forget. I will share the food later.

bob\'s artistic blowing technique for painting easter eggs

We had fun painting and decorating our Easter eggs. As you can see, we created many styles from the Fabergé eggs to fun character. The winning technique goes to the fabulously blowing technique of Bob. His eggs are so artistic.

easter egg painting :: faberge inspired easter eggs

If you celebrate Easter, I wish you a Happy Easter!

FAMILY KIDS party

How to Select a Theme for a First Birthday

first birthday toys

A few readers asked me lately for help on designing a first birthday party. I wrote a quick guide on how to plan a baby’s first birthday party.

1. Consider the Venue

Is it an indoor or outdoor event? How much space do you have? The format of the party may influence the party theme.

2. Party for the Parents

A first birthday party is not designed for your baby. It is an event when the parents, the grand parents, the family members and your friends commemorate the first year of your newborn.

Plan activities and incorporate in your décor elements that summarize the lifetime of your baby. Create a tree of pictures or hang them on a clothesline. Play a slideshow with no music or low level music on the big TV screen.

3. Areas to Play

Plan a few areas for the kids to play. Setup the area where both the guest mothers and their babies will be comfortable. You may wish to put cushions on the floor for the guest mothers to sit down.

4. Time and Duration

Plan for a 2-hour party; during the time your baby does not usually sleep. Realistically, the party will occupy your time at least 3 hours counting the people arrival and departure.

Serve a light meal and a cake. Plan a kid menu if young kids will attend. Since the party is short, prepare your platters in advance. Opt for sandwiches, country pates, cheeses or another types of cold tapas that you prepare ahead. Do not adventure in serving any hot appetizers when you have babies around.

Set up a self-serve drink station. Make sure to put plenty of glasses, drinks and napkins at your station.

5. Hire a Babysitter

Since you are the hostess, you need to take care of your guests. This means that you may require an extra hand to take care of your baby.

6. Ideas for Party Themes

At this early age, I prefer a unisex theme. You can play on geometrical forms or things that stimulate the senses of your baby right now. Think about what intrigues your baby at her or his stage. I like to use mobiles over the buffet table instead of centerpieces.

You can use a toy chime as the inspiration. Animal circus, big play blocks or pounding bench can fashion the building block of your party theme. Repeat the colors and the shapes of the toy to complete your design.

SOURCING:
+ Tiny Love DNU Baby’s Wind Chimes Kick Toy $9.95 USD
+ Melissa & Doug Pounding Bench $9.99 USD
+ Baby Einstein Octoplush $12.99 USD

FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

My 2008 Posts in Review: April

I do not know if it is spring that inspired me but green living made my headlines often in April 2008

raw food and eco-friendly party tips :: reusable shopping bags

+ To celebrate Earth Day, I gave you my tips on how to host an Eco-Chic Dinner Party. Raw food was on the menu.

+ I listed my favorite Reusable Ultra Compact Shopping Bags. After months of usage, the Flip & Tumble is still my favorite for its ease of use. The Envirosax gained places. Its large size, compared to the Flip and Tumble, comes handy.

 gourmet and fresh organic baby food :: cake decorations

+ Better eating habits are part of the overall green living movement. The Ready to Serve Gourmet Baby Food by French maker Menus Bébé illustrates parent concerns for healthier baby food. In the US, pomme bébé produces small batches of fresh organic baby food. Get directions to pomme bébé in Newport Beach, California.

+ April coincided with my 500th post. I featured the stunning and artistic cake creations of I Dream of Cake, a cake maker located in San Francisco to commemorate this event.

ENTERTAINING EVERYDAY entertaining

How to Host a Stress Free Gourmet Dinner?

gourmet meal december 2007Unless you hire a chef at home, hosting a gourmet dinner involves a lot of work. Every year before Christmas, we gather one group of friends for a gourmet meal.

The formula

On last Christmas, we tried something new. Seven couples were participating to the event.

Each couple was responsible for cooking, plating, serving and cleaning up a full course. This includes selecting and buying the accompanying alcohol drink. A random draw determines which course was assigned to us.

The menu started with a welcome cocktail and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a cold first course, a warm first course, the entrée, the “trou normand” (granite with a dash of alcohol) before the cheese platter and concluded with the dessert. As you can see, the plates were well-presented. Everything tasted delicious.

No one knew in advance the menu except that it should feel like Christmas. We informed the host of our planned menu who was in charge of coordinating the event program.

My opinion

This formula works pretty well. The hosts gave us clear instructions in advance. The hosts planned for a 15-minute delay between each service. Searching my memory, I estimate the waiting time between services to be closer to 30 minutes on average. But giving us a shorter delay assured that the amount of cooking left was minimal. So it was a good move by the hosts.

This dinner was a team effort. Both men and women worked on this. For my part, my husband and I selected our recipes together. He cooked with me. For a stylish casual gathering, I encourage you to try out this formula. Everyone had the time to enjoy the evening, including the hosts.