Tuesday, January 28, 2014

6 Tips for Hosting a great Superbowl Party!

In case you hadn't heard, the Superbowl is rapidly approaching. Although our Carolina Panthers didn't make it, watching the Superbowl is the perfect excuse to eat and drink with friends. Mr. Fo and I have thrown quite a few Superbowl bashes in our day and for this reason I think I'm qualified to offer a few tips on how to throw a Superbowl party.  

1) Food: This should really have its own post. Between the cheese, dips, wings and football shaped treats, Superbowl food is an institution. Here are a few of my favorite things when it comes to Superbowl food:

In the Cheese Category:

Combining my 2 favorite foods, pasta and cheese - these Mac and Cheese Bites are amazing. I have made these before (without ham, because I don't think it's necessary) and they are a party pleaser. 

Winning the Award for Dips:

Not into onions in your dip? These individual 7 layer dips spooned into low martini glasses should do the trick.

And finally, football shaped treats:

The simplest football-themed dessert is the classic football brownie. We've all seen it and with store bought brownies and frosting, anyone could whip up these sweet treats! Don't let those iced laces scare you away either since I know that even those without a steady pipping hand could ice on those laces pretty respectably. That said, here are a few variations on the classic football brownie:

Spiked Football Brownies - Add a little bourbon to your brownies for celebrating when your team wins or drowning your sorrows if they lose!

Another twist on the classic brownie? These Mason Jar Brownie treats are a real showstopper and a great take home dessert!

These pop in your mouth Brownie Bar Bites with chocolate footballs on top are simply adorbs. 

2) Decorations: This is not the time for a fancy tablescape, overdone florals or tons of sparkles. It's football, so think sporty and casual. If you must create a tablescape (Ahem, talking about myself) you can't go wrong with a football field table. Here's one I did a few years ago using astroturf I picked up from Home Depot. You can see the full party post HERE.

If you can't find astroturf, brown craft paper will also do the trick:

3) Big TV: This is a pretty obvious one, but I thought I'd throw it in there. Whether you are watching the game for the commercials or the football, you can't watch the big game with bunny ears. I'm talking to you Mom (her TV is ridonk small). 

4) Booze: I happen to think that this is a key ingredient to any party, but especially for the Superbowl. Despite the Superbowl being on a school night (whose idea was that??), Superbowl is a drinking event. The main ingredient - Beer! Luckily for me, I happen to thoroughly enjoy beer (not as much as wine, but close). With the wide variety of beers available form around the country (and the world!) find beers that match up with the teams city. I did this at my Superbowl party a few years ago:

5) Comfortable dress code: Men should rejoice as this is one of the few times where a jersey is an acceptable thing to wear outside of the house. For the ladies, please don't be that girl that shows up to the Superbowl party in heels. Heels + Buffalo Wings don't mix. 

6) Activities for kids: If you're like me and everyone in your life is having babies, you might want to have some activities for them so you can watch the game in relative peace without kids saying "I'm booooored." (Side note, I think I coined the phrase "I'm booooored" when I was a child.) My personal favorite activity for kids is to stick them in another room with the latest Disney movie, but if you're looking for something more creative check out these ideas:

Set up a craft table and let the kids create! 

If the kiddos are old enough to watch the game, this Bingo game will be fun for them and even the adults! 

Here's a article with a slew of ideas to keep kids occupied during the big game - http://www.parentmap.com/article/super-bowl-activities-for-kids

Finally, there's always the good old fashioned outdoors. Bundle up your kiddos and send them outside to make their own football memories! 

I hope these tips help you throw the Superbowl party of your dreams. Remember, just put out a little cheese and beer and have a larger than average sized TV and I promise everyone will have a good time! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter Soups To Warm Your Bones

I don't know about you, but when it starts getting cold, I want to curl up with a bowl of hot soup. Paired with a piece of crusty bread and an extra large glass of Cabernet, I'm instantly warmed!

I also love soup because even though it's delicious, lots of soup recipes are pretty healthy which makes up for that extra layer of blubber everyone gains during the colder months.  Another benefit? Soups can be made in the crockpot which means you come home from your day and dinner is DONEZO! 

Here are a few fave recipes that I've made and a couple that are on my to-do list. 

It's no secret that my two favorite Food Network ladies are Giada and Barefoot, and they both have healthy winter soups that I've made and loved! 

Turkey, Kale and Brown Rice Soup by Giada - This is a really healthy soup and also forces me to eat kale. Unlike the rest of the world, I just don't like kale. I tried to force Mr. Fo and I to jump on the bandwagon a few years ago, and we both decided we are not kale people. Personally, I prefer spinach to the bitter kale taste. But in this soup you don't really taste the bitterness so I can get the kale superpowers everyone claims it has. And I'm eating a trendy vegetable. Yay!

Winter Minestrone - Barefoot Contessa doesn't disappoint with this Winter Minestrone Soup that involves very little chopping but a whole lot of flavor. The soup uses my favorite winter vegetable, butternut squash. I can't stress enough, for all that is good and holy- buy the pre chopped butternut squash. Saving a buck is not worth cutting off your finger by attempting to chop a butternut squash yourself. This Minestrone and the above Turkey and Kale both make a ton, so you can eat this for days or freeze it for later. 

Sweet Potato Kale Corn Chowder -Another of my favorite seasonal veggies is the sweet potato, which makes an appearance in this yummy looking chowder. 

Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup - I am making this ASAP. I actually love cauliflower and try to trick Mr. Fo with Cauliflower Mash all the time. If you add enough cheese and butter to it, it can really mimic mashed 'taters - I highly recommend it. This soup is right my cauliflower-loving heart!
Also - I pronounce it "Coll-eeeee-flower." Apparently it's "Coll-a-flower." Tomato, Tomaaato.  

Beef and Barley - If you're looking for something a little heartier, this beef and barley soup is perfect. Barley is another trendy food and everyone loves some beef! 

Zuppa de Orzo - This orzo soup has bacon and shredded chicken breast in it and is a complete meal in a bowl. Yum!!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Soup - Here we go again with that Butternut Squash! This creamy soup uses greek yogurt to keep it light. I love the presentation below, who knew soup could be so beautiful! 

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese - This is a classic that everyone loves. The recipe comes from Cooking Light so it cuts down on calories but not on flavor! This is the ultimate comfort food in a soup. 

I hope you make one of these soups to warm up your house this winter! I'm off to set up for a winter wedding this weekend! Hope you have a great weekend and stay warm!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Liz & Derek's Fall Wedding

I closed out 2013 with a bang with Liz & Derek's late Fall wedding. They are such a fun couple and I loved working with them! As usual, the Charlotte Trolley Museum did not disappoint as a reception site. We also had the wedding ceremony at the Trolley Museum and with a team of people including my fabulous assistant, we flipped this space over in no time and the wedding guests were none the wiser. Teamwork baby! 

These photos from the fabulous Tricia Coyne show how much fun Liz & Derek had on their big day. 

The bright flowers were perfect for fall. It was a crisp, beautiful day - one of those fall days you dream about!

This photo with the rings is one of my favorites! The Welcome to Charlotte backdrop is perfect!

I love the colors in this cheery photo. The yellow color is simply glowing.

Liz & Derek's bridal party was so much fun. They even made some time to "exercise" by hopping on the community share bikes during photos. There's always time to sweat it out, right?

The toasts had everyone laughing - not an easy task!

And of course posed for pics in the Trolley - everyone loves the Trolley! 

The cake toppers were modeled after Liz & Derek's cats. My favorite part was how the girl cat had the same bouquet as the bride! 

This is a beautiful black and white photo - I love the dreamy look of the veil.

The fall trees were even beautiful in black and white!

Liz & Derek had a blast dancing the night away under a ceiling of lights.

One of the best parts of working with a couple for so many months is getting to know them and making new friends. Liz is absolutely awesome and Derek and my husband are both beer nerds so I see a Beer Tasting double date happening very soon! Congratulations and much luck and happiness to this fun-loving couple! 

Thanks to the vendors who helped pull this all together:

Ceremony/Reception Venue: Charlotte Trolley Museum
DJ/Audio Entertainment: Drew Parham, Audio To Go Entertainment
Cake Specialist: Cheesecakes Etc.
Beverage: Salud Beer Shop

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Holiday Recap

First and foremost, Happy New Year! I can't believe it's 2014...I feel like we should be riding in flying cars and taking pills for meals - Jetson style. At the very least they should be taking all the calories out of food by now, right?

Anyways, it's been a week+ since I've been in blogging land, but after a lot of relaxing and enjoying the company of family, friends and books (and binge watching TV shows) I'm ready to come back to the land of the living. Blog living, that is.

I thought I'd give you a summary of what's I've been doing over the course of the most wonderful time of the year. I always love to see how other people spend their days, so hopefully you'll humor me and take a peek into mine?

It's hard to summarize a few weeks of jam-packed time, so I will pick a few things and just go with it. Sometimes random tangents are best, don't you think?

Chocolate Cake:

So once upon a time before I got married, I spent all my holidays with my family and my best friends family. Kalle and her fam would always bring this amazing chocolate cake that I somehow thought was a long lost recipe from her family archives. It turns out that I totally made that up because it's actually a recipe for Beatty's Chocolate Cake cooked up by my fave barefoot chef, Barefoot Contessa. Old family recipe or not, this chocolate cake is easy to make, rich and delicious. Man I love me some Barefoot. I made this cake twice in the course of a week. Totally normal. I don't get obsessed with things at al.

Here it was for Christmas in all its chocolate glory: 

And then here it is again for New Years Eve with a champagne buttercream frosting (and some NYE sparkle):

Christmas was spent at my sister in-laws house and she set a beautiful white and silver table with greenery. The food was comforting and the laughs were plentiful. It was a great day.

For New Years Eve we had a low key celebration at an awesome local restaurant (Beef and Bottle) followed by the aforementioned cake, extra dry champagne (which gave me a ginormous headache the next day-a telltale sign I'm getting old) and a rousing edition of the cringe worthy card game Cards Against Humanity. Also, can we talk about how fabulous these stemless champagne flutes are? I picked up these bad boys at World Market for literally next to nothing. Here's a secret - when a wine glass or flute is stemless, you're less likely to spill it. Score! 


Speaking of sweet things, my mom and I spent one December morning making some yummy cookies. I highly suggest making either of these delicious cookies ANY time of year!

Oatmeal Carmelitas (these make large cookie bars and are EXCELLENT!)

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies (these are super light and I guarantee you can't eat just one - Danger!)

Other  noteworthy celebrations:

In what's become a yearly tradition, we put our pinkies up and headed out for Holiday Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel. This year we had a male join our all-ladies afternoon, my brother Matthew. What can I say, he just loves the little sandwiches.

My little niece Brookie has grown so much! There she is on the left at last years tea. So maybe this makes me want to cry a little...don't judge. 

I also hosted a mini girls gift exchange. It was super casual and fun. I provided cocktails including this festive Sparkling Pear Prosecco drink with cranberries:

And some yummy bites (including Martha's red velvet cupcakes which are always a winner - my favorite red velvet recipe):

Pat Conroy and other books:

In addition to the massive headache following an evening of champagne, another sign I'm getting old is how much time Mr. Fo and I spent reading over the break. We would have days where we'd get out of bed, sit on the couch and read until Noon without even turning on the TV. It was simply glorious. I spent time re-discovering my love for Pat Conroy with his latest work of art:

My mom found out that I'd never read Prince of Tides so I got that in my stocking and read it as well. What a beautiful book. If you're looking for something a little lighter, I read this next book in a day. It's a quick read, perfect for a plane ride or beach if you're planning to leave this frigid weather I keep hearing about:


If you are in the Carolinas you know how heartbreaking it can be to be a Carolina Panthers fan. Until this year that is. The Panthers have roared to victory this season, making it to the 2nd week of the playoffs with a stellar record and some heart-pounding last second wins! 
I hope they beat the 49ers San Fran butts this weekend.

Here I am with my little cutie pie niece Claire Bear, both of us sporting our Panther gear:

Our friend Matty (aka the biggest Panthers fan known to man) got me this fabulous "Ice Up Son" t-shirt:

You can check out the source of the "Ice Up Son" quote by watching this You Tube video. I love Steve Smith.

We tailgated for one of the big games this season in true Italian style - Sausage Pizza and a delicious Pinot Noir aptly named "Al Dente." Who needs chilli when you've got pizza and wine??

Resolutions and such: 

Since the New Year started, I've been thinking about the upcoming year of course. I've got a wedding in less than 2 weeks so I need to get my game face on! I've also been thinking about the dreaded New Years resolutions... mine consist of making myself lift weights in addition to just sweating it out on my runs. Does anyone else HATE lifting weights? It's hard and boring, pretty much the worst combination ever. Ugh. It's good for your metabolism or something which I guess means I can eat more - always a plus.

Of course I have other resolutions, here are just a few:  Be more organized, be less anxious, stop worrying about everything, be better at meal planning, be cleaner. Oh, and blog more. Seems manageable, right? (HAHA!) Hopefully I can just stick with the weight lifting and call that one a success for 2014.

Instead of accomplishing this ridiculous list of resolutions, I've just been binge-watching Scandal instead. I highly recommend this for a guilty pleasure to rival all guilty pleasures. 
And I'll take Olivia Pope's coat collection please. 

Did I mention my little trip in February? Oh I didn't? My bad. We're heading to a little place called:


The big island, to be exact. To be precise, we'll be spending 8 glorious days in Kona.

The trip has seemed so far away but as soon as the clock struck midnight and it officially became 2014, I've got Hawaii on my mind! I have to say that I'm a little overwhelmed with the planning and frankly have no idea where to eat (most important question obvi) or what to do. Has anyone been to Kona and if so, what do we HAVE to do while we're there? I may just get so overwhelmed that we just lay on the beach all day and drink. That would be terrible, wouldn't it?

So there you have it! A wonderful holiday season with an amazing trip to look forward to. It's not a bad life I lead. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR and good luck on those resolutions...gotta go lift me some weights and meal plan.