Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Parisian Chic Luncheon

Oui Oui...Bonjour...Salad Nicoise...Baguette...this about all the French I know! For shame, I have never been to grand Par-eeee. One day though, I will be there and I'll know a lot more French.

Since I've never been to Paris, I figured why not throw a Parisian Chic baby shower luncheon for my fab sister in law Drew? You know, the one with my cutie pie niece, Brooke? They're having another baby girl! Cue my excitement!! Drew, in her typical humble fashion, wanted just a simple lunch since she's already got baby clothes and STUFF galore for baby #2. In typical Jackie "over the top" fashion, I tried to do a full blown shower but it was to no avail. I'm still happy though because I got to throw her a  fabulously chic luncheon to celebrate the new bebe. 

The real reason for the French flair was because we held the shower at the darling French restaurant, Cafe Monte.  The cafe is full of French food, French music and of course, French pastries. It's an absolutely adorable restaurant and I've said several times, "This would be the cutest place for a shower!" BOOM. It happened. And it was just as cute as I imagined :) 

We had a small crowd of intimate guests who are close to Drew. I went to my go-to invite gal Jess from Party Box and chose this chic invite to set the tone. I picked up an Eiffel Tower stamp from Paper Source (aka my weakness) and stamped the outside of the envelopes...side note, how fun is stamping? I'm a little obsessed. There's a stamp for everything. And if there isn't, you can make your own custom stamp. It's absolutely stamp-tastic. 

I continued my stamp-happy ways with the place cards. I added a "Le" in front of everyone's name too, because I thought it sounded French and fancy. (Thanks to Kristen for taking the pics since I pulled a rookie move and had zero memory card in my camera. Der Jackie.)

I collected many an Eiffel Tower to create a "row" of towers in the center of the table. They were from Hobby Lobby, Target and Sur La Table. They were excellent purchases, I must say. I added white roses to give the dark table some brightness. 


I added sprigs of dried lavender to each place setting. Again, it seemed French...

The signature cocktail was a pomegranate Mimosa (virgin Shirley Temple for the mama to be!) with striped straws and straw flags from Party Box. 

For party favors, we hit the jackpot at Pottery Barn which apparently has gone Eiffel Tower-obsessed this holiday season with a plethora of Parisian ornaments featuring the grand structure. I set the ornaments at each place setting with a sticker from the fab Party Box.  Tres chic, no?

How sparkly is this ornament?! It looks magnifique on my tree!

For a sweet ending to the evening, I had one of my favorite independent bakers, Jen Panaro, make these gorgeous cupcakes. I sent her the invitation and she matched the colors exactly! Everyone loved these adorable treats! How could you not... 

What you don't see in these photos is the mini-Paris trivia quiz with mind boggling questions like: "Is French toast REALLY French?" The answer: "It's unclear." 
Seriously, I couldn't get a straight answer so I gave up.

Here are some pics of the glowing mom and myself... Among other reasons, Drew is probably really sick of being preggers because I always touch her baby belly... it's getting weird.

It definitely got weird in the creepy moment below captured for all time...I look slightly crazy and possessed... just trying to bond with my new niece perhaps? What a weirdo. Even Drew looks scared. 

I'm so excited to welcome my new little niece into the world and see what kind of big sister Brookie will be! It can't get here soon enough, right Drew?! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Alley and Mark's Wedding Photos are here!

Happy Friday! You might remember Alley and Mark's beautiful wedding I previewed back in October.   The fabulous Dianne Personett of Dianne Personett Photography has the photos and they are stunning! 

I adore this ring shot perched on the cupcakes with the named flags. Also, how beautiful is Alley's ring?! Mark did quite a job on this one, and I have to admit, I've tried this sparkler on many times. (Isn't Alley sweet to let me try it on? If it was me I would never let it off my finger!)
 It's even prettier in person!

Speaking of beautiful, how great is her dress!

And how handsome is this couple!


I loved the rustic florals done by Pink Petunia.

Check out the groomsmen's fancy socks! 

And the fabulous wine crate cupcake display that showed off Got What it Cakes work just perfectly! 

Mark and Alley got away through a sea of fall leaves!

...and hopped on a golf cart to drive away into a happy life!

So now you've seen some elegance, how about some cuteness? Holiday Tea Cuteness, to be exact! My mom, mother in law, sister in law and precious niece Brooke enjoyed holiday tea at Ballantyne Hotel yesterday. Complete with a plethora of tea flavors, finger sandwiches and tiered trays of petit desserts, the holiday tea was a great way to celebrate the holidays! I'd check out the local fancy schmancy hotels in your area to see if they offer it. It's a great time out with the ladies!

Ballantyne gave a beautiful presentation and quite a selection. You know I tried every variety. They were mini, so you can have as many as you want. That's the rule.

Brooke had her apple juice in a teacup and really got the hang of it!

How cute is her gingerbread dress? She's the picture of holiday cheer in front of that beautiful tree, is she not?

Here we are cheesin' it up. I love her Dorothy red shoes!

I hope you have a great weekend!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Turkey...and risotto...Holy Yum.

Good morning and Happy Monday! Even though I stayed up way too late watching episodes of my new favorite show Homeland (I'm obsessed), I woke up in a good mood ready to have a productive week! Which is better than how I felt last week in my post-DR fun coma ready to do about zero work.

Last night i made a delicious dinner, if I do say so myself. I felt like cooking a big meal for the following reasons:

1) I haven't done a whole lot of cooking lately due to general busyness. I missed it.
2) We never really had a Thanksgiving dinner in the DR. They tried and did a good job planning a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner by the pool at the resort, but they ran out of turkey in the first 20 minutes. Whoops.
3) I wanted to give myself a little holiday kick start. I think it worked as I'm ready to get my tree this week :)

For my big meal, I decided to make a turkey. Okay, okay, not a real turkey, but a bone in turkey breast with a pop up timer and everything! 6 whole lbs! It was my first time and I have to say it was easy thanks to a foolproof recipe from the always reliable Barefoot Contessa. This herb-roasted turkey breast recipe was excellent and I followed it exactly, no changes except more garlic. Always more garlic. This took about 2 hours to cook and despite the grossness of stuffing the herb paste under the skin (ew), I was a big fan. The turkey turned out moist and delicious, not a dry piece in the whole bird. Next time I would add more white wine in the pan to add a little more pan juice for the turkey, but that's my only advice. Oh, and be sure to use fresh herbs for this one, don't skimp as I usually do and use the dried herbs. It's worth it for this.
Herb paste (smells delish)

Bird's done!

One of my absolute favorite food items in the whole wide world is risotto. I just love the whole cooking process, the creaminess and the fact that you can add just about anything to it and it tastes delicious. This time I added one of my favorite fall/winter flavors this time, butternut squash. Side note, I've chopped a whole butternut squash one time and that will be the last time. I almost cut my fingers not worth it. They've got perfectly fresh diced butternut squash ready in the produce section, probably cut with a big machine to protect people's fingers. I  based my risotto of this simple recipe, and added my own touches. Big changes were more Parmesan (always more Parmesan), pinches of nutmeg and more wine right before serving. Sometimes the risotto can get gummy and dry after it's been in the pot for awhile, so the white wine moistens the rice along with giving it more flavor. And be sure to stir, stir, stir.

Saute the squash and onions in melted butter.

Add the rice and wine, and spoon in the broth a few ladles at a time.

Add your freshly grated parmesean in the last few minutes of cooking. I find the stirring process (although lengthy) relaxing, and I love seeing how puffed up and creamy the risotto gets.

Complete looks a bit colorless. Whoops.

I made a pretty salad with romaine lettuce leaves for a pop of color, and let's face it, we needed some veggies.

For the table, I did simple green and red decorations complete with M and M chocolate chip cookies as a centerpiece.


I was also excited to use my "Cheers" glasses from CB2 for the first time. Aren't they the best?

I used them with my favorite drink of choice, LaMarca Prosecco.

While I was cooking, Mr. Fo took a Sunday afternoon nap. I'm a big nap fan myself, so this was cool with me. Plus cooking time is my "me time."



We ate a lot of cookies...and gave a lot away. Side note the cookie recipe was the Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe with holiday M and Ms added for festiveness (about 1/2 the bag).

If you're looking for holiday party ideas or need some help sprucing up your holiday entertaining, give me a shout. (Secret - this is part of a bigger online consulting service I will be officially rolling out January 2013. I've been working "virtually" with clients over the past year helping with party ideas and am loving it! Phone/Emails/Skype - I do it all! More info coming! )

Let me do what I do best, search the Internet obsessively and email you a plethora of resources, ideas and bargains to make your holidays the most festive ever. Basically, online consulting is my jam.

Just ask my latest online consulting client, Patricia who said the nicest things about me below! And she became an Internet friend in the process, btw. See, you can get custom  party planning help and a new friend all rolled into one!
"Jackie was so much fun to work with and helped me pull off an amazing birthday party for my husband!  She's creative, thorough, energetic, and most importantly, available when you need her and there to calm your nerves when   you're overwhelmed and frazzled with the planning process.  Having her as a virtual consultant was like having her in person- she was absolutely wonderful!"
So, to conclude, contact me for your holiday party needs (no matter where you're located), and make risotto asap. You'll thank me! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving in the Dominican Republic (oh, and I turned 30 - NBD)

After a whirlwind trip to the Dominican with 12 besties (and my mom - my #1 bestie), a rocking 30th birthday (complete with new J. Crew boots - thanks Drew, I'm obsessed) and recovering from island time (and devilish mosquito bites that are STILL itchy) I finally feel back to normal. And ready to get some serious bloggin' on! 

If you follow this little corner of the Internet, and are my friend or family member, you know I turned 30 this week (and was a little apprehensive about it). To ease my apprehension, my thoughtful and hilarious husband Stu (aka Mr. Fo) planned a surprise birthday trip over Thanksgiving to the Dominican Republic with 12 of my favorite people! Isn't he the sweetest? And the coolest, I might add.

So instead of chowing down on turkey and watching football, we were celebrating in the sunshine this Turkey Day. Note: This is our 2nd time away for Thanksgiving, and we just may head out of town for each Thanksgiving that follows - I highly recommend it. You won't miss the parade or the turkey at all, you have my word! 

We stayed at Excellence Resort in Punta Cana and it was muy excelente. It was beautiful and the people were the drinks flowed like whoa, so what more can you ask for? As hard as it is for me to relax (READ: VERY HARD), I managed to relax for the most part. I had a wonderful massage, copious cocktails and variety of naps soaking in the sun. Plus lots and lots of heart warming, soul enriching, belly laughter. Without further ado, here are some (READ: A LOT) of photos from our trip! Also, note that the crappy pictures were taken with my point and shoot and the good pics were taken by my friend Michael Flanagan, who photographs some of my weddings. There's no way I am responsible enough to take my good camera to the Dominican Republic. Not even at 30. Ha. 

Courtesy of Mr. Fo's expert coordination with our travel agent, he had the hotel decorate my room with some birthday balloons, which was a lovely welcome after a fairly long travel day.


When we got in it was already dark (after a slightly sketchy yet hilarious shuttle ride), so we headed to dinner and had some celebratory "Mamajuana" shots, a Dominican specialty. Mamajuana is made with red wine, rum, honey and it soaks for a long time with tree bark and herbs. It's ... interesting....but we had to try the local culture. It's what you do. 


Our days started with room service breakfast outside of our swim-up suite room, complete with a hammock and delectable french toast. French toast is so good, and I feel like I only eat it on vacation. I need to change this STAT. 



We would then move the beach. We used these same beach chairs each every day; I guess we marked our territory? Or no one wanted to be near the loud people who started drinking at 10 a.m. Their loss.


Suffice it to say, thanks to Omar, our awesome beach "attendant" we were served tropical drinks galore and even got lunch brought out to us upon request. We didn't leave the beach for a solid few hours. Why would you? A popular lunch item was the Hawaiian pizza, which tastes delectable on the beach.


Our next big decision of the day was when we would make the inevitable move to one of several pools.   Sometimes you need a change of scenery, right? At the pool we drank mudslides and el Presidente beers served right at the swim up bar - Holla! Man, the Dominicans know how to live. Side note, I don't even know if I've ever had a mudslide before, but they are simply delicious. I will be making the mudslide a vacation treat from now on.

We did a lot of horsing around in the pool.... 

Note, I do have a bathing suit on in the photo below. I promise. It just looks like I'm nekkid. 

Speaking of horsing around, one our friends did a cannon ball in 3 feet of water which resulted in the photo below. (Side note, 30 year olds get lots of ailments on vacation - we had rashes, bug bites, random swelling of body parts, and several people limping around with sprained feet. These types of things did not happen when we were in our prime during college spring break.)


After a long hard day of lounging by the beach and pool, we washed up and made ourselves presentable for dinner. I should note that my island hair is less than desirable, so I basically would do my hair to put it up 5 seconds after I walked outside. Damn humidity.

Here's my beautiful cousin Theresa and I at dinner one night! (Missed you Laur!)

Natalie and I... Nat is a recent 30-er as well! 

My mom and I....(who was a total trooper ignoring all foul language and excessive drinking. She just laughed the whole time.)

We all hit up the discoteca and danced the night away...dancing is also good for the soul.

Now let's talk about how awesome my friends are. They created these hilarious t-shirts for my birthday and surprised me with them on the beach! 

The t-shirt was complete with a photo of me giving a thumbs down. Caption reads: "Jackie is 30 and not happy about it!" Lets just say that was a hit with the peeps on the resort. They called me "La hefa (the boss - I LOVED that) and also remarked about how I wasn't "happy about it." The "it" being turning 30. Hee! I can't tell a lie, I loved the attention.

Everyone got into the "thumbs down" thing. 

My friends even brought my favorite treat from the U.S. - Trader Joe's chocolate covered almonds!

And the folks at the resort were so sweet. Roberto (the dude in charge!) had them make me a special cake :) 

Totally random, but definitely worth noting were the cute little turtles in the open air lobby. 

Here are some more random but awesome photos... 

Here's Flanagan and I hanging on the beach with our rose colored glasses from the Pinkful Wedding.

And a beach parting shot... I hope to see you soon, beautiful ocean! 

On a sappy note (because I'm getting sappy in my old age) I'm so happy that so many important people in my life could get together and celebrate birthdays and long friendships. I don't always sit back and take the time to reflect on my blessings and good fortune, but I'm really a lucky, lucky girl. Thanks to Mr. Fo for knowing what the perfect birthday gift would be! 

Now that I'm back in action, I've got TONS to blog about including:
1) A list of 30 things I've learned in my 30 years.
2) Fabulous wedding photos
3) Fun showers coming up to blog about
4) and much, much more... 

In the meantime, check out my two latest Tablespoon articles for delicious dessert ideas for the holidays! 

Happy Eating and Happy Weekend!