Ring in the New Year, 2010!

New Year's Eve is one of my family's favorite holidays! We spend it with my husband's sister's family; she has 2 kids about the same age as my girls so everyone plays really well together. We alternate hosting but the formula is always the same - take-out dinner from Outback, followed by lots of playing and then, dessert and a toast to the New Year. Last year, we added a sleepover - and the kids are super excited to do it again this year!
While I'm not hosting the festivities this year, I know that quite a few of you are so I have some ideas to share with you. Whether your celebration is adults-only or family-friendly, I have an idea or two to make it posh in a pinch!
Above is a photo of my table decor last year. Using candles, I created a "Countdown" design. I bought 5" round [unscented] candles from Target. I wrapped scrapbooking paper around them (gift wrap will work, too) and tied with gift wrap garland (ribbon will work, too). I used silvery-glittered chipboard numbers and letters (from Michaels). To give the candles a little height, I turned my candlestick holder over but you could also put the candles on a [decorated] cake stand. To enhance the sparkle, I have a twinkly LED light table runner. Further, I wrapped the napkin and flatware with a piece of the garland and inserted a colorful noisemaker. The result was absolutely festive. The kids had a great time blowing out the candles as we counted down to the New Year!

I came across 3 neat ideas for entertaining guests - 1) Bubble Jump and 2) New Year's Favors on marthastewart.com; and 3) New Year's Playing Cards on realsimple.com. I can't wait to watch my girls "POP" the bubbles!
If you're interested in more bubbles, foodandWine.com has a great Champagne guide.

Many toasts of New Year's Eve are best wishes for health and happiness, which is fine, but I came across a toast that made me chuckle; perhaps you will, too.
Raise your glass. Let the old year pass.
Just don't drink so much you fall on your a**.

Auld Lang Syne
This song is sung at the stroke of midnight every year yet do you know the words? Rather than humming this year, I thought I'd learn the words. Here's the chorus:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and days of auld lang syne.

However you celebrate the beginning of a new year, may it be fun and festive and surrounded by family and friends! Happy New Years! Happy 2010!


Surprise 50th Birthday Party

Now that the surprise is over, I can finally share with you a super fun event that I helped plan earlier this month - a surprise birthday party for my good friend, Erin. It was a milestone occasion so her husband, Brian, wanted something memorable but not too over the top. Erin and Brian enjoy good wine and food so I recommended the Wine Tasting Room at Trummer's on Main in Clifton. Ryan Francis and Victoria Trummer were delightful to work with; they prepared a wonderful menu and narrowed down the [significantly long] wine list to a few recommendations. The result was fantastic! On a cold, snowy night (Blizzard of '09), a small group of close friends celebrated Erin's big day with:
Hors d'oeuvre
Warm Mushroom Beignets
Pumpkin Soup (my favorite!) or Oxtail Ravioli
Angus Beef Rib Steak, Nantucket Flounder-grilled or Butter Roasted Chicken
Chocolate Cream or Seasonal Fruits
Wine Service
Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc
Peay Vineyards, Les Titans, Estate, Syrah

If you're planning a milestone birthday party in the near future and want to keep it simple, I highly recommend a dinner party at a local restaurant. After settling on a menu and wine list, there is no set up or clean up fuss - just fun! Further, to keep the invitation simple, create a design in Word (or graphic application if you have one), print on white card stock, add a few simple rubber stamp designs and mail in a matching envelope. A simply planned event is possible for a memorable occasion!


From my dinner table to yours, Merry Christmas!

This morning, I was playing around with table decor. My menu was in limbo and I still had groceries to buy but I was anxious to decorate the table, my favorite thing to do when hosting a party. Like many of you, I've come across so many great holiday ideas this year (what a creative world we live in!) and remembered two table decor ideas. One idea was a "mitten" place setting (via marthastewart.com), perfect for any winter holiday/Winter Wonderland theme. The other idea was a "bow" place setting, as if wrapping up your china like a Christmas gift (via Next Door with Katie Brown). So, in a pinch, I tried both ideas out this morning and I thought I would share them with you; see photos above.

Using my girls new snow accessories, I created a snow man place setting, which is quite adorable, as well as a colorful hat place setting with a "chair sash" made from a matching scarf, which is quite festive, too!

For the bow place setting, I had red wired ribbon on hand; it looks pretty though I'm positive other people (like my mother) can do a much better job at making a bow. To enhance the look, you could also use an ornament tied to the ribbon. To complete my 'posh in a pinch' Christmas tablescape, I clipped holly and pinetree branches from my yard and put them in a glass bowl with Christmas ornaments (red glass balls and a sparkly snowflake).
These place setting ideas can be used for other dinner parties, too. As I mentioned, the mitten concept would work for any winter party and the bow place setting would be ideal for any "gift" occasion like birthdays and anniversaries.
However, you dress your table, may it be 'posh' (preferably in a pinch) and above all, enjoy your meal in the company of family and friends! Merry Christmas to you.


1950's Romance at the Torpedo Factory, Alexandria VA

By day, it's difficult to imagine the Torpedo Factory as a venue for a beautiful wedding reception; it has a raw, industrial interior. But at night, if you add a little atmospheric lighting it's like magic; the atrium glows with warmth and charm.

Last month, from a recommendation by Fusions Cuisine, I had the pleasure of working with a couple who married in Fairfax Station and celebrated at the Torpedo Factory. About two months before the event, we met to review and finalize plans. The bride had already assembled an A-list of vendors (Fusions Cuisine, Stephanie the Baker, John Farr Lighting, Sound Nation via Entertainment Exchange, Capital Party Rentals and Room Service) and I was able to help by recommending Galleria Florist, Reston Limousine and White House Nannies.

The bride envisioned 1950's romance complete with a cocktail lounge and big band sound. The result was impressive, very 'posh'. Photos above courtesy of Freed Photography.


White House Gate Crashers ... for your Holiday Party!

I just learned from BizBash that my friends at Cast of Thousands Entertainment (www.castof1000s.com) have the best holiday party entertainment ... Tareq and Michele Salahi look-a-likes to 'crash' your holiday party! Supposedly, when asked for an invitation, Tareq Salahi shows a subpeona! I love it! [And it's great to see that more people than just the Salahi's are making money on this craziness!]
Call security, create some [timely] fun ... and make sure you take lots of photos!


Happy Hanukkah ... DIY Menorahs

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. It reminds me of the first night of Hanuakkah in 2002. My husband and I were still newly married and expecting our first baby (who just turned 7 this week!). We invited his parents over for dinner. I made a menorah using my favorite Crate & Barrel wine glasses (8 'white' plus 1 'red' for the shamash candle) and blue glass beads from Michaels (you can kind of see my menorah in the photo above). I'm not Jewish but I recall my mother-in-law being impressed by my creativity. I was inspired by a Martha Stewart article (photo above, click here to read). This year, I came across a similar article in Real Simple; it suggested unfinished candlestick holders (photo above, click here to read).
Regardless of your religious affiliation, if you're celebrating Hanukkah this year with someone special and need a quick menorah, I hope I've inspired you with these 'posh in a pinch' clever ideas. Happy, happy!


Holiday Party Entertainment - Photo Booths

Photo Booths are super popular at all types of parties; it's amazing how much fun people have taking zany photos of themselves! Plus a photo is a nice, inexpensive keepsake. You can rent photo booths or DIY for less. I found a great how-to article on the HWTM Blog. For holiday party "props", I like a string of lights or mistletoe, as shown above, but also an assortment of colorful hats, boas and glasses, especially for a festive New Year's Eve party!


Christmas Decorating Made Easier ...

I love everything about Christmas except decorating. The fuss of bringing boxes in from storage, sorting, untangling and sometimes, breaking can drive me crazy. I would really procrastinate except I have 3 little girls who swear Santa won't visit unless there's a tree. But in yesterday's mail, I came across a clever idea ... a Baroque Christmas Tree wall sticker. It looks lovely, and it's inexpensive and removable (without wall damage); perfect to use year-after-year. With this sticker, you now have time to celebrate!


More [Holiday] Entertaining Ideas

'Tis the season ... to share my homework! I've been doing a lot of research lately for a variety of parties - birthday parties for kids and adults, and holiday parties at home, at school and in the office - and I thought you might be interested in my findings.

Snacks for a children's birthday party
I need 'kid-friendly with adult-appeal' snacks for my daughter's party on Sunday afternoon. I found these simple but yummy recipes on Pillsbury.com, RealSimple.com and Hellmans.com (partnered with Bobby Flay).

(though I think I'll reduce the amount of cayenne pepper sauce)

Decor and More for a Festive Holiday Celebration
In this month's issue, I share 26 'posh' (and practical) tips, ideas and even encouragement for holiday party planning

This pretty wreath is made from cupcakes, decorated with easy-to-make white chocolate leaves. Photo from the Hello Cupcake book, which also offers fun snowmen and Nutcracker cupcake designs.

From BizBash, I came across two articles, 11 Seasonal Punches and Other Recipes from Top Mixologists and 8 Punch Bowls to Rent for Holiday Drinks. Capital Party Rental, DC Rental and Party Rental are local rental companies.
Suspended decor is in. I found this hanging chandelier idea in a 'clever uses for old things' article on Real Simple's web site. The odd ornaments hang from sheer ribbon tacked to the ceiling.

School Holiday Party

I have volunteered to bring in a treat for my daughter's classroom holiday party. In searching for recipes, I determined that I wanted something different yet easy-to-make, inexpensive and kid-friendly. I must be having a retro moment because I found another festive approach to Chex Mix - a wreath. Click here for the recipe.


Ho! Ho! Ho! Holiday Entertaining Starts This Weekend ... Are you Ready?
I've been receiving a lot of catalogs this season; have you? Of the few I've managed to read, I've found some clever items for holiday entertaining. The red cocktail shaker (left) looks super sleek with a practical design; click here for more info. The Santa and Reindeer Stemware Coasters would make any glass of wine more festive; click here for more info. And the jolly [stackable] Snowman Sugar & Cream Set is absolutely adorable, ideal for a winter coffee and dessert display; click here for more info.
If you're entertaining this month, drop me an email and tell me about one 'posh' party element that you're super excited about. In later posts, I'll share your ideas with other readers. In the interim, I wish you all successful holiday parties!