Thursday, December 30, 2010

Easy New Year's Eve Party Ideas

Real Simple keeps it super simple with great New Year's Eve party ideas

Plan Games:
Make light of New Year’s resolutions by turning them into a guessing game. Give partygoers cards (download the New Year Playing Cards) and have guests finish the sentences with hopeful wishes―or tongue-in-cheek witticisms. Gather the cards, read them aloud randomly, then let the gang try to figure out who wrote what.
Print cards with these fill-in-the-blanks: "The bad habit I want to kick this year is ―――." "The good deed I want to do this year is ―――." "The person I want to be more like this year is ―――." "The skill I want to learn this year is ―――."

Snacks: Let guests nibble on hearty little bites, as well as tidbits from gourmet markets, such as Bella Cucina Artichoke Lemon Pesto, Food Should Taste Good Olive Tortilla Chips, Sahale Soledad Almonds, and Tillen Farms Pickled Crispy Carrots.
Drinks: For a refreshing alternative to Champagne, try Prosecco or nonalcoholic Twelve, a fizzy blend of fruit and herbal tea (
Dessert: Chocolate Bar Fondue with fruit and pound cake for dipping, in a fondue pot.
Favors: Give guests parting gifts of good fortune. Pack up black-eyed peas (which bring good luck, according to southern tradition) in a box or cellophane bag and a recipe.

And more....... check our Real Simple

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wrap It Up With Friends

From Real Simple
Here is a fun gathering to visit and get your Holiday presents wrapped!

The Party at a Glance
How it works: You provide wrapping supplies and food. Ask each guest to bring some presents to wrap and one roll of paper so you have a variety.

Whom to invite: Three to five friends. It’s the perfect time to catch up―and escape nosy family members. Invitation or e-mail? E-mail. Or, even better, Evite. Try Real Simple’s new customizable Free Evite Party Invitations from Real Simple (it’s free).

What to serve: Red Pepper Frittata Squares and Oven Fries With Garlic Aioli are satisfying and need little hands-on time. You can pull them together the night of the party. Find out how to get it all done.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is such and easy recipe to make and it is a real crowd pleasure:

1 18.5-ounce box yellow cake mix (plus the ingredients called for in the package directions)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
2 8-ounce bars cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
24 pieces candy corn

Heat oven to 350° F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Prepare the cake mix as directed but with the following change: Add the pumpkin pie spice and substitute the can of pumpkin puree for the water called for in the package directions.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Spread on the cupcakes and top each with a piece of candy corn.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Candy Challenge

Real Simple Weekly Eblast had this to say about which Halloween Candy was better to eat. Check it out and test your knowledge.

Which Halloween Candy Is Healthier? By Kate Rope
Halloween can be scary if you’re trying to eat wisely. See if you can pick the better choice of paired-up treats in our Halloween Candy Challenge.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Labor Day Travel

Manners or the lack there of has been in the new a lot, so we decided to post different ways to rekindle the use of good manners.
With Labor Day arriving this weekend, many people travel to take advantage of the long weekend.

This is a blog posting from Lisa Gache from Beverly Hills Manners, who notes some valid points regarding travel:

So how to enjoy the flying experience when we are bombarded with so many negative elements that make it virtually impossible? Here are a few helpful reminders to restore safety and civility and set us soaring in the friendly skies once more.
1. Dress for yourself and your fellow passengers. I don't care if you're flying to the Caribbean or Hawaii, forget the flip flops and short shorts and put on something decent for the plane! Years ago, passengers and flight attendants would "dress" for flying. It was all very civilized. Over time, comfort became the norm and all of the sudden everyone started looking disheveled. Nowadays, it is entirely possible to appear quite chic while still being comfortable. When it comes to shoes, select something closed toe and easy to slip off at the security gate. Don't forget to wear socks. Nothing is worse than stepping barefoot on the airport flooring. Wear deodorant, but go easy on the cologne and perfume. It's a good idea to pack some lip ointment and hand creme to combat dry skin. Ladies, put a little lipstick on for goodness sake! You never know who you're going to meet on a plane.
2. Take a chill pill. If you have a severe aversion to standing or waiting in line, do not fly! Unless you hire a special airport greeter or are flying business or first, you must be patient and grin and bear the cattle calls. Getting agitated only makes matters worse. Bring a magazine or book so you can read passively while waiting to check your bags or go through security. To pass the time, you can always fill out your luggage tag. Keep your identification card handy as well as your boarding ticket. You will be asked to show proof of both repeatedly.
3. Be prepared for small annoyances. There is no way to avoid the safety ritual of walking through security. Everyone must remove their shoes and jackets and risk a pat down by a security officer. To make things easier, wear shoes and outer garments that are easily removed and quickly organize your belongings and place them in the open containers for the x-ray machine. Make sure to separate your laptop in its own container for easy viewing. Remove all jewelry and accessories that may set off the alarm.
4. Avoid confrontation. Make it easier on yourself as well as the flight attendant by not attempting to stuff your entire closet into your carry-on luggage. If you cannot lift your bag and place it in the overhead bin on your own, the flight attendant will be forced to help you and may question its size or weight, especially if they see you struggling to jam it into a small compartment. Avoid going down this road and either pack lighter, check your bag or call a delivery service like FedEx to deliver your bag door to door in advance. It's not worth getting in to an argument on this one, the airlines will always win.
5. Respect personal space. In this tube 30,000 ft. in the air, everything is exaggerated. Some people do not wish to engage and prefer keeping quietly to themselves. Be respectful towards those around you and read their signals. (a) If you are bringing your own food on to the plane, keep it simple. Do not stink up the plane with smelly cheeses or a really pungent dish. (b) If someone is reading a magazine or book, do not engage them in conversation as they may not wish to be disturbed. (c) If you are tired, rest your weary head on your own chair with your blanket and use only one armrest for your arms. (d) Make sure to use the restroom before being seated to avoid musical chairs throughout the flight. (e) Before reclining your seat abruptly, check behind you to give your fellow passenger a heads up. They will appreciate it.6. Curb the cell phone conversation. There is nothing that equally worries and annoys fellow passengers and flight attendants alike than someone who chooses to completely ignore the FAA's rule to turn off all cell phones and other electronic equipment while in-flight. The jury is still out as to whether the radio signals from these devices can interfere with flying equipment so for the safety of everyone, cut it out and follow the rules!!!7. Check yourself, not just your bags. If you are in a bad mood, take a few breaths and calm down. The airport and flying experience is hard enough without the attitude. Present a cheerful face, always be courteous saying "please" and "thank you" and be helpful and accommodating. This will smooth over any extenuating circumstance or accidental wrong-doing.

From: Lisa Gache Beverly Hills Manners Blog

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

Here are just a few crowd pleasers for your Cinco de Mayo fiesta!
Chicken Flautas
Cranberry Margarita

Let us know your tips or favorites for a Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Sugar Eggs

This is fun idea for almost all ages is brought to you by Celebrations. The sugar eggs can be incorporated into your Easter tablescape as a grouping to form a centerpiece or as a placecard for each guests, the possibilities are numerous.

Happy Sugaring!

Materials for 2 to 4 eggs:
· 3 cups granulated sugar
· 4 teaspoons water
· Red and yellow food coloring (to make pink and yellow eggs)
· Plastic eggs that are split in half lengthwise to use as molds
· Assorted colors cake decorator icing; buy tubes that come with decorator tips
· Little hard-sugar flowers and Easter shapes

· Divide sugar into 2 large mixing bowls (1 1/2 cups of sugar in each bowl).
· Dilute red food coloring in 2 teaspoons of water and mix into sugar in one bowl. Dilute yellow food coloring in remaining 2 teaspoons of water and mix into sugar in the other bowl. Mix sugar in each bowl until thoroughly moistened and color is throughout sugar.
· Fill the plastic eggshell halves with the colored sugar. Make a top half and bottom half using the same sugar color for each egg. Pack the sugar firmly into the eggshells. Use a teaspoon to lightly scoop out the sugar in the center so the sugar layer is about a centimeter thick inside the entire eggshell mold.
· Use the tip of your finger to scrape out a dime sized amount of sugar from the narrower end of the sugar egg in the mold to create a little peephole.
· Place a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface. Gently invert the sugar-filled mold on to the wax paper, open side down. Tap the mold and carefully pull the mold away from the sugar egg half to unmold the egg. Repeat the process with remaining sugar eggs. If the sugar doesn't hold its egg shape after you pull off the mold, repeat the process from the beginning and add a tiny bit more water to the entire mixture.
· Allow sugar eggs to harden overnight or until sugar is completely dry. Keep the drying sugar eggs in a cool dark place until you are ready to use them and do not touch eggs until they are hard.
· Decorate the bottom half of the eggs first. Pipe decorator icing inside the egg to hold hard sugar flowers or Easter shapes in place. Use green icing to make grass blades or whatever color you like for a colorful scene.
· To assemble the eggs: Pipe a thick strip of decorator icing on the rim of the bottom sugar egg half and place the matching top sugar egg on top to make a whole egg. The decorator icing will hold the eggs together. Use a fancy decorator tip to finish off the outside of the egg by piping around the seam and the peephole. Add hard sugar flowers on top of the egg for a pretty touch. Allow icing to dry before handling the eggs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shamrock Story

Did you know.....

· Not only is the shamrock a St. Patrick's Day icon, it is registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization as a trademark of the Government of Ireland. For the record, the official symbol of Ireland is the Irish harp and the shamrock is the national flower.

· Many believe that the word "shamrock" was derived from the Gaelic word for the clover, "seamr√≥g."

· Since the 1990s, the Irish Taoiseach, similar to the British Prime Minister, usually visits the White House on or around St. Patrick's Day and presents a shamrock to the President of the United States. Another presentation is typically made to the Speaker of the House.

· Apparently, the shamrock was used for medicinal purposes in Victorian times, although its exact application and remedies are unclear. Contemporary herbalists have been known to use Red Clover as a treatment for coughs, skin problems, and relief of menopausal symptoms.

· While many confuse the shamrock, a 3-leaf clover, with the lucky 4-leaf clover, both can be used to "get lucky" on St. Patrick's Day. Ancient Celtics believed the number 3 to be both sacred and magical in that the 3 heart-shaped leaves on the shamrock were associated with the Triple Mothers of Celtic mythology, also known as the "Three Morgans."
And then there are the sayings, "great things come in threes," or "third time's a charm," to further the power of 3 and back up the shamrock as a symbol for luck.
Thanks to Jeanne Benedict from Celebrations.

Monday, February 15, 2010

King Cake

Fat Tuesday is tomorrow and here is a little history on the most important element to any Mardi Gras party - THE KING CAKE

Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a King Cake, also known as Twelfth Night Cake. This cake is actually a sweetened yeast bread, usually baked in a ring shape. The cake is frosted with gold, green, and purple icing representing in order, power, faith, and justice. The traditional colors on the King Cake date back to 1872. They were taken from a prominent parade group, called a krewe. Although this cake is colorful and tasty, the real fun hides within the cake.
The maker of each King Cake hides a token in the cake. The tokens used are a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby, representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut and shared, the finder of the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. The lucky recipient may also be expected to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party for the following year.
As they say in New Orleans, Laissez le bon temps rouler, or Let the good times roll!

article from:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day!

The day a little groundhog determines if we get to bear through a longer winter or celebrate an early spring. Either way, it is reason to gather and celebrate. Need an idea? Well.... how about gathering in front of the TV to watch Groundhog Day on DVD starring Bill Murray. This hilarious movie is fun for all ages.

So you might be thinking..... well that sounds great, but what do I serve. Simple, you serve popcorn. There are so many varieties and flavors to serve. Go to your local party supply store and purchase popcorn holders or if you want to keep it real simple, brown bag it.

Write each guests name on each bag and have them create a concoction in their own bag.

Here is just one recipe idea for gourmet popcorn:

Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn

20 cups air-popped popcorn
2 cups salted peanuts, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Place popcorn and 1 cups peanuts in a large roasting pan, set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, corn syrup, water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until mixture reaches 260 degrees, without stirring. Add cocoa, vanilla, and baking soda, stirring to combine.

Working quickly, pour sugar mixture over popcorn mixture, stirring until popcorn is evenly coated. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Immediately spread popcorn on to parchment paper to cool. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup peanuts. Store in airtight container.

(recipe from Celebrate, Phyllis Hoffman)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Comfort Food Potluck Party

Get Comfy!

With the weather still very chilly outside, it make me want to stay home any eat things that are warm and comforting. So, how about a Comfort Food Potluck Party.

Here is a list of the Top 25 comfort foods:
• Apple Pie• Baked Beans• Banana Pudding• Beef Stew• Brisket Pot Roast• Chicken & Dumplings• Chicken Pot Pie• Chicken Soup• Chili• Chocolate Chip Cookies• Corn on the Cob• Fried Chicken• Gelatin• Green Bean Casserole• Hot Dogs• Ice Cream• Macaroni & Cheese• Mashed Potatoes• Meatloaf• Potato Salad• Pumpkin Pie• Shepherd's Pie• Spaghetti• Tomato Soup• Tuna Casserole.

Have each of your guests bring a dish from this list or have them bring their own favorite comfort food.
The list is endless as far as what type of invitation to send depending on the amount to time you have. Some suggestion are: A cutout of a bowl of chicken soup with the information about the party in the middle. Wrap up a chocolate chip cookie in a small cellophane bag with a tag tied to it with all the party details.
You can go one step further and have your guests arrive in their most comfortable clothes (sweats, flannel pants, pajamas, robes, slippers etc...)
For the table, keep it simple. Use a very warm colors to set an soothing ambiance. If it is a girls friends gathering occasion, create a spa like ambiance with lots of candlelight, soft colors of orange, yellow, light blue, soft pink etc. Fresh flowers could be a nice touch too, but don't over do it.

The whole idea of this gathering is to create a warm and cozy ambiance for your guest to enjoy while they are warming their sole with comfort food.
Send us your favorite comfort food idea or recipe!

Stay tuned to more ideas on gathering during the winter season. Visit us at for table setting and entertaining ideas.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Warm up With Hot Cocoa

The weather in Northern California has been constistently cold for weeks. So what better way to warm your body and heart with good ole hot cocoa. Here are some of the recipes we've tried and like.

Mocha Hot Cocoa: Phyllis Hoffman
3 cups milk
3 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup expresso powder
1/4 cup coffee-flavored liqueur
Garnish: Whipped cream, expresso powder, chocolate covered coffee bean.
In medium saucepan, combine milk and half-and-half. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in cocoa mix and espresso powder. Add coffee liqueur, stirring to combine. Garnish, if desired.

Fluffy Hot Chocolate:
• 8 teaspoons sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking cocoa
• 4 cups milk
• 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: In a saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Ladle into mugs.

Hot Chocolate: Barefoot Contessa
• 2 1/2 cups whole milk
• 2 cups half-and-half
• 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
• 1 tablespoon sugar • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
• 4 to 5 vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Directions : Heat the milk and half-and-half in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates. When the chocolates are melted, add the sugar, vanilla extract, and espresso and whisk vigorously. Reheat gently and serve immediately. Use a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to garnish each serving.
We hope these help ease those cold winter days. Happy sipping!