Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oscar Party Decorations!

Hosting an Oscar party this year? I have to admit, I have never A) hosted an Oscar party or B) even attended an Oscar Party! I think it's because I like to watch the Oscars in the privacy of my own home so I can critique the stars' looks and call my mom incessantly to compare thoughts on dresses and speeches.

The dresses and speeches are really what makes the Oscar viewing process fun...especially if you SHAMEFULLY haven't seen any of the movies in contention...ahem, I'm talking about myself, ahem.

If I was hosting an Oscar party, I would use some of these fabulous ideas.

Food Network has some amazing ideas...

This is my FAVORITE idea....envelope napkins for an Oscar dinner party...

Easy cupcake can make them say whatever you like!

Starfruit champagne accoutrement anyone?

I LOVE this next in a movie popcorn container! I bet you could get some of these from your local movie theater. 

You can buy these plates and popcorn containers at Party City. I love the chalkboard clapboard plates! 
*Note: You can also get plastic popcorn containers from the dollar bin at Tarjay.

Or go with a black and gold theme and use these star plates and napkins from Party City as well.

to go along with your star confetti...

...and if you want to be really hard core, you can also welcome your guests with a red carpet, also from Party City.

For something sweet, bake Red Carpet Cupcakes with a traditional red velvet cupcake recipe. I have made this Martha Stewart recipe before and it was great!

Use any of these tips to throw an Oscar Party in style. Or, if you are just at home in your pjs, glass of wine in hand, gabbing about Oscar fashion with your mom? I'm right there with you!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Bean Party!

To celebrate my niece's birthday, my sister-in-law (Drew) and brother in-law (Michael) threw a fun, whimsical "Bean Party." Why Bean, you ask? Well, when little miss brookie was an infant, they swaddled her like a bean burrito. Hence, the name Bean. Brooke probably thinks her name is Bean, considering how often she gets called it!

Bean, Brooke, Brookie or B- it doesn't matter what you call her! She is the most precious little doll ever! Let's check out her adorable Bean party, shall we?

Drew asked me to do a party package for this party to get her going on some ideas...I sent her a package that had everything bean! The cutest type of bean by far was Jelly Beans, and that provided a bright and colorful backdrop to the party! I want to give all the credit for the adorable-ness to Drewbie who was super creative and threw a fabulous party for her daughter. You go girl.

To kick off the party right, Drew used my favorite party gal, Jess from Party Box Design. Jess designed invites and matching stickers for this jelly bean party! The invitation is below, and you will see the matching stickers in the rest of the pictures....Jess worked her magic again with this one, it's perfect for a little girl's birthday party! Check out her party supplies at her WEBSITE and follow her on her BLOG!

Drew totally got her craft on and painted these letters for the front door sign - a great way to welcome guests to all the bean festivities!

More painting and crafting with some Brooke letters on the mantel...I love how the letters are stacked up on children's books! So precious!

Did you notice the jelly bean wreath above the "Brooke" letters? Oh yes, that is made from real jelly beans painstakingly placed by Drew herself with a hot glue gun. Seriously...a girl after my own heart! 
Find the wreath tutorial HERE.

Drew filled vases with jelly beans and flowers (real and tissue paper) for great pops of color. Party Box stickers were also used to decorate the vases, as were "1s" cut out of pretty scrapbook paper.

Let's talk about food! In my party package, I gave Drew some bean themed appetizer ideas such as Edamame, Bean Bruschetta and Bean Dip. They all ended up in "Bean Corner."  How cute!

Cute jelly bean cupcakes were a hit with kids and adults.

Drew also used the Party Box stickers as custom wine bottle labels...

...and on the adorable favors - mason jars filled with jelly beans and tied with ribbon.

And finally, prepare for extreme cuteness - time for some Bean pics as she tears into her birthday cupcake with all the guests watching. She didn't seem to mind the attention...she must get that from her Aunt Jackie ;)

Here's Brookie in the middle of all her presents ...she's such a lucky little girl! In fact, she already looks bored by the new gifts....or maybe she is just overwhelmed as she watches her house quickly turn into a day care/FAO Shwartz.

And a full outfit shot - check out this cuteness that Brooke's great grandmother gave her to wear for her party! 

Finally, check out the happy family - SO CUTE! I love them... :)

Happy Birthday Brookie! I love you :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

My cornish hen experience - Valentine's Day Dinining

Apologies for this post being a bit delayed...but you know how it goes. There aren't enough hours in the day lately - not that I'm complaining! 

Here's the thing... I love cooking a big meal. I love planning it for days  (or  even more). But as you know, cooking a big meal is typically reserved for special occasions, or in my case, Sundays. There's barely time to get food on the table, let alone make a big fancy meal every night. A gal can dream though ....

So for Valentine's Day, why would I fight the crowds and pay a gazillion dollars to go out to dinner when I love to cook a big meal...don't get me wrong, I love going out to eat. But I love cooking more. 
 Soooo.....Happy Valentine's Day to ME! 

My inspiration for this years dinner came from one of my favorites...Giada...oh Giada, to trade places with you for a day. I would love to have your gorgeous house in Cali, Italian movie star family legacy and Cordon Bleu chef training. But I digress. 

On one of my favorite days in recent memory, I watched the food network for 5 hours straight one Saturday while cleaning the house and baking. It was supremely excellent. When Giada comes on, I stop what I am doing and sit on the couch, hanging on her every word. Well, this time she was making cornish hens for a "perfect date night with Todd." (She is a little cheesy, I'll give you I will insert a "barf" here.)
Cornish hens, I think? This seems challenging and fancy. I will make these for Valentine's Day! And so I did :)

First step: Google "cornish hen" - A cornish game a hybrid chicken sold whole. Despite the name, it is not a game bird, but actually a type of domestic chicken. Though the bird is called a "hen," it can be either male or female.

So what your telling me is that a cornish hen is a fancy name for a little chicken? Okay... I can handle this.  Stu was a little concerned, but as usual, I proved to be right and the meal was delicious.

Let's proceed. 

Roasted Citrus-Herb Game Hen 

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis


  • 2 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) Cornish game hens
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest, from 2 medium oranges
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, from about 3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or currants
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature


Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Rinse the game hens and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, shallots, orange zest, lemon zest, thyme, mint, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons of the zest mixture over the skins of the game hens. Place the remainder of the zest mixture under the skin and into the cavities of the hens. Using kitchen twine, truss the legs together. Place the hens in a shallow 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Add the chicken stock, Marsala wine, lemon juice, orange juice, and cranberries. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the leg juices run clear. Remove the game hens and set aside. Place the flour in a small saucepan. Whisk in the pan juices. Bring the juices to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in the butter and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
To serve, remove the kitchen twine and place the hens on 2 serving plates. Drizzle with the citrus-herb sauce.
Cook's Note: Reserve 1/4 cup of the citrus-herb sauce for the Crouton Salad.

Let's get started:

Cornish Hens - I used to see them in the fresh meat section, but now they are only sold frozen. So I thawed them out overnight in the fridge. Note how CHEAP they are! $7.74 for 2 small chickens? Yes please. 

I chopped and zested my little heart away to create this delicious citrusy/fresh herb rub that smelled divine....I'm sure Giada just goes to the backyard to pick the oranges and lemons off her citrus trees. Whatev, I get them from the store. That's cool too. 

Rub this goodness all over your little chickens...inside, under the skin, everywhere to get that delicious flavor! NOTE: I may have cooked the chickens upside down... what do you think? Did I do it the wrong way? It turned out fine, so maybe it doesn't matter...

The next part is crucial to the dish's success....the juice. You see, the recipe has this amazing sauce that goes along with it. It's so excellent that I would make the sauce separately just to use for other dishes. It consists of chicken stock, marsala wine, orange and lemon juice and dried cranberries. Easy, right? The chickens roast in this juice, like so...

... for about 35 minutes at 425 it's not a long process to get it looking like this:

Once the chickens are cooked, take the juice and put it in a saucepan with some flour. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for about 10  minutes until it thickens up. Add butter and you have a seriously amazing sauce. It's lemony and delicious. 

One of my favorite parts of a meal are the sides. I went with the side Giada made for this meal, the Crouton Salad. I want to note that I always thought that making your own croutons was stupid because you can just buy them at the store and does it really make that much of a difference? UMMMM it totally does. Make your own croutons - totally worth the small effort!

Let the croutons cool and add them to arugula. Giada also used toasted pine nuts, but I didn't. Reserve 1/4 of the sauce made with the hens and drizzle it over the crouton salad. OMG so good...the croutons absorb the delicious sauce and it goes superbly with the peppery arugula. I'm in love. 

Finally, I made some simple roasted potatoes to go along with the meal. No, the picture below is NOT of chickpeas! It's of Pee-Wee Dutch Yellow cute! I mixed olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper and tossed it all around in a ziploc. Roast on a baking sheet for about 15-20 minutes. Delicious!

Finished plate on my fabulous Valentine's Day Dollar Store table?

YUMMMMMM. A perfect presentation too...I think this would make a great dinner party meal for a small crowd. Everyone gets their own little chicken, what's more impressive than that! It's adorable...well, not so adorable for the chickens themselves, but I try not to think about that.

Overall, it was a time consuming meal to make because there is a good amount of chopping/prep work, but it's not HARD. The finished product is well worth the effort. 

Thanks Giada for another fantastic recipe! 

Happy Weekend everyone!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Bluegrass Valentine's Fling

First and foremost, HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! Or to those of you that don't care for Valentine's Day, HAPPY STUPID VALENTINE'S Day! Either way, it's an excuse to eat chocolate and drink champagne, so I think you can find a way to be a little bit happy about it! 

To make your day even sweeter, I am going to share photos from my large event this past weekend. I apologize for the non-professional photos, but hopefully I can get a hold of the professional photos in the near future. Just consider this a little preview!

The Valentine's Bluegrass Fling was a fundraiser, Charlotte Concerts, a local non-profit where I sit on the Board. 

We had to accomplish the following themes with our decor:

Valentine's Day

So...I don't normally associate bluegrass with a gala, but we came up with a great vision. We named it "Country Couture," and it involved burlap tablecloths, flirty Valentine's Day colors and elegant tables. I think we nailed it!

I LOVED the way the napkins turned out using the napkin as a plate "band." It looks clean and modern, and the pink adds a great splash of color!

Simple votives looked beautiful around the flowers.

The programs for the evening (and all invitations for the event) were fabulous and created by the firm of ZGM.  The programs were laid over the napkin bands.

Also, and I apologize for the blurry photo below - these large cards with numbers on them acted as table escort cards and as a paddle for the live auction. So those folks bidding on auction items just held up this card as their paddle! 

One of the most fabulous elements of the evening came from a local genius, David Wynn of Elizabeth House Flowers. I am not joking when I say I gasped out loud when he brought the arrangements in. I told David our vision and showed him a few pictures, and what he came up with was better then I could have imagined! Flirty hot pink hydrangeas, roses and hydrangeas looked amazing in a silver revere bowl. Fun flower fact - did you know that you can PAINT flowers? I didn't. If you can only find white hydrangeas and you need pink or if you are trying to save money and you get a cheaper color flower, you can use floral paint to paint the flowers to match your needs! I was blown away by this fact.

David also let us borrow props from his shop and created a few candle arrangements for our mantle. This was a great focal point of the room. How gorgeous is that stone fireplace with the roaring fire?

The bluegrass element of the night was the live music provided by Chatham County Line. I am not really a bluegrass person, but I absolutely loved this music. The guys were as nice as can be as well and gave me signed version of their new CD. Blushing.....Check them out here, they are incredibly fun to listen to and so musically talented. Also, I like their weathered microphone cover thingy (below) there a name for this apparatus?

A few other elements of the evening: 

Simple bathroom decor I created ...

These fabulous conversation heart cookies were the sweet favor giveaway for the night - how amazing are these cookies? They were provided by our caterer, Dean and Deluca. 

There was also a beautifully decorated outdoor terrace, with an outdoor fireplace, burlap covered cocktail tables, votives and a PHOTO BOOTH! Unfortunately, I didn't catch a picture of that, but I promise, it was fab! 

Whew...I am tired just looking at the pictures! But it was a great experience, and I learned a lot planning this gala. That's what it's all about, right?!

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day :)