Dockside Dinner Party

This week I was going through a bunch of photos, and reorganized some folders, and in the process, came across the folder from the party that graces the cover of this series, and realized that it was never shared on here. This gorgeous evening was a styled event that was done as a piece for The YouAre Project summer edition of their print magazine, and is one of my favorite parties to date! So, without further ado, here's a Summer Dockside Dinner Party. Enjoy! (Photographed by Alyssa Shrock Photography)


Mantra Monday

We're coming into the last week in January (what?!), and all month long we've been talking about what inspires us. Each Monday I've been sharing a quote that's encouraging me (and you too, hopefully) to make 2014 absolutely amazing!! Need to catch up on a week? Find the previous Mondays linked HERE, HERE & HERE
Don't we just love to be busy? I tend to be a person that thrives on a schedule that's full of events, appointments and things to accomplish, but have you stopped to evaluate what exactly you're doing on a daily basis? Recently, I took some time to look at my daily habits, schedule and routine, and did a little tweaking. You see, we often think, "oh, if only I could be so-and-so, or have the life that this person does, or have an extra hour/day/week in this year.. then I could live the way I wanted to." Here's the deal, if we don't examine & adjust our daily living, how will we ever change to get to the life we want? John Maxwell, a well renown teacher on leadership, once said, "the secret to success is hidden in your daily routine." It's often times the little things done over and over, that in turn become the big achievements later. 

This past weekend, my pastor spoke about how we need to trade idle time for purposed time, and that means we need to evaluate what we're doing. Busyness without productivity gets us nothing but frustration, so let's set some goals, look at what needs to be done to get there, and arrange our habits accordingly. The question listed above is something I've begun to ask myself on a daily basis, and I encourage you to do so also. What things are you doing today to get you to where you want to be tomorrow? If it's not benefiting your future and turns into "idle time", consider using your time in a different way. When preparedness meets opportunity, that's when we see success. Here's to a productive, dream-filled, goal-oriented, incredible 2014! Get out there and make things happen! 


Fête Friday

It's Fête Friday! We're talking recipes and menu planning this week.
Last week we talked all about how to plan out your menu, what things to pick up vs. making yourself, and speaking of making things in the kitchen, it seems only natural to share a few fun recipes that I've enjoyed for past celebrations! 

I happened upon this amazing recipe (and I mean seriously delish!) for a peach cake on Pinterest this summer, and when planning a summer soiree to celebrate my favorite season and birthday, it seemed only appropriate to use this luscious fruit. Not only was the cake moist and light, but the subtle sweetness of peaches mixed into the batter, coupled with the delightful whipped frosting made for a perfect combination of flavors that enchanted every guest! You'll certainly want to bookmark this one! It's easily tweaked to add any kind of fruit for flavor, hello possibilities!

Two of my favorite (and oh so simple) appetizers were my go-to for a sparkling NYE celebration. Most apps are high in calories, overly filling, and easy to feel guilty about later. Satisfy your guests with something sweet, savory and waistline-friendly (score!) that they'll talk about all night long! 

This comes together so simply, yet packs a lot of flavor. Thinly slice your pears, and sprinkle a handful of crumbled goat's cheese and a handful of dried cranberries on each piece. Finish with a drizzle of honey (if desired), and serve! You'll want to double or even triple this recipe depending on the size of your guest list. 
This tasty crostini is flavorful, rich, and a staple in my entertaining arsenal. It comes together with a few simple ingredients that you can quickly assemble into a savory snack. Begin by slicing up your french baguette into bite size slices (I tend to make these kind of thick because who can resist a big, warm slice of a great baguette??) and spread with hummus. There's many varieties of hummus flavors, but the roasted red pepper, lemon, or even plain tend to be great choices. Chop your celery and green onion (some grocery stores have this combination pre-chopped, if so, save time and pick that up!) and garnish each slice with a generous handful. (Note: you can also add a few chopped green or black olives to each slice) Drizzle with olive oil, and top with freshly cracked black pepper & salt for some extra flavor! This is an excellent addition to a cheese plate, or served alone, but make sure to prepare're going to want to go back for seconds! 

What are your favorite party foods?
Have a favorite recipe? I'd love to hear it (or get a link to it!). 
Leave me a note in the comments below, or email it my way! 

Mantra Monday

Happy Mantra Monday! All through January we're talking about what inspires us, and I'm sharing a few of the "mantras" that are encouraging me to make this year amazing! Need to catch up on the last few? Click Here and Here!
The moment I came across this list of things to pursue in the new year, I knew it needed to be shared with you also! What a great way to live...choosing to add memories, not things, and finding beauty in simplicity. Living in the moment is also mentioned, and that's something that's been on my mind throughout the last few months, as schedules get busy, and being the planning type, I oftentimes find myself thinking about the upcoming events, the to-do lists, and the details that need to be figured out, and in all of this, it's easy to forget to enjoy the present. It's often said that each moment is a gift, that's why it's called the present, but how often have you found yourself in the same situation as me, forgetting to live in the moment? We tend to have this mentality that there is some admirable quality in being busy, and it's better to be running from this to that, cramming our schedules until they are a blurred mess of appointments and events. Somehow we've gotten to the point where free time is looked down upon as laziness, and a moment enjoyed is a moment wasted; however, I think it would do us some good as a people to take time to cut the harried running around, and the constant stream of social media and to just take a moment to live. Leave your phone behind, shut off the radio, and be present. Invest in some time to think, be with friends and texting or Instagram, be with family, get connected to others in real life, treat yourself to a bit of time to actually enjoy life. This is what it means to live. Take a deep breath, and realize the fact that you're on this earth to make a difference, not a schedule. When we stop the glorification of "busy", we start to see the beauty in simplicity, we start to live in the moment, we strive for contentment, and begin to dream bigger. This week, give yourself a bit of time to enjoy the moment and dream. Forget the schedules for a moment, and live! Happy Monday!


Fête Friday

Every Friday for the next few weeks, we're talking entertaining and event planning! Whether you're interested in event design, or you've been recruited to help a best friend with wedding planning, or perhaps you just love parties (like me!), we'll chat about all things celebratory, and how to throw a beautiful event! We talked about finding inspiration for your fabulous party last week, and once you've got your theme, it's time to talk food, yum! I don't know about you, but I love to try out new recipes! Sometimes among the busy schedules and to-do lists, there's not enough time to craft a 4 course meal, make sure the house is clean, table is set, and the candles are lit, so what's a hostess to do? Well, let's take a look at how to put together a delicious yet time-saving and stress-free menu! 

Every good celebration should have some amazing food (and cake too, but we'll save that topic for later!) so there's a quick three-step checklist I like to refer to when choosing what to serve. 

The first thing to consider is your party's theme. Is there a traditional dish that comes out every year, a particular holiday treat you're just waiting to try, or a favorite of the guest of honor (if there is one)? If it's a certain holiday you're celebrating, it's often fun to align your menu to the day, or if you're hosting a party in celebration of someone, it's a good idea to consult with them to make sure you have their favorites on hand! Also, consider the amount of guests, as well as any food allergies you need to be aware of. Nowadays, there's plenty of meal options for people who have particular conditions, and it's good to find out ahead of time if you need to be aware of any dietary restrictions!

Next, you should think about the time of your swanky soiree. If it's a brunch, you probably are going to lean more towards a breakfast buffet, and not want a bunch of heavy hors d'oeuvres and a soup. Also, as a host, consider the amount of time you'll have to prepare. If you're waiting until the day of to get the food preparation finished, you'll want to streamline your menu, in order to get items purchased and ready in time. Timing is everything!

Finally, consider your budget. If you're investing in fabulous decor, then perhaps you'll want a simple menu, rather than a 4 course meal, or if you're hosting a tasting party, you'll want the food to be the main investment. Expensive doesn't always equal better, and often times a simple meal can be just as suitable and delicious as a costly, catered event. 

Once you've gone through the checklist, and narrowed down your choices, think about any items that you could easily save a little time by picking up. Personally, I enjoy choosing a special dessert item from a local bakery, rather than making that myself, as it not only supports local business, but also makes it easier for me to focus on other details of my party. For certain events, I have chosen to purchase the entire entree from a local gourmet market, or a particular appetizer to add to the spread. Don't feel as though you are required to slave away in the kitchen for hours, preparing the perfect meal; let's be real, most of us don't have the luxury of taking an entire day to make food (if you do, that's fantastic!), so pick up what you need, artfully arrange it in your own dishes (remember, people eat with their eyes first, so presentation is everything!), and no one will know that you didn't work all day long to cook up something fabulous. That can be our little secret! (wink, wink) 

Next week, we'll chat favorite recipes (yay!), and I might have a few stories of things that went right, as well as one or two recipes that didn't quite turn out as planned, and how to handle it!


Mantra Monday

It's Mantra Monday again! I'm sharing what's inspiring me for the new year all through the month of January! If you didn't catch last week's mantra, take a look here

Excuses, excuses...those things sure are pesky, aren't they? Unfortunately, they can also be very successful in keeping us from doing things that will ultimately lead to the life we want. As we have moved into this month, I've taken some time to evaluate where I want to be in the year 2014, and there's been some necessary changes that I needed to make in my life, and I must admit that excuses have kept me from making changes before, but when I decided to stop thinking of all the reasons why I shouldn't, and just started doing something, immediately the 'excuse-itis' went away, and was replaced by momentum. A good friend of mine once said, "everything you want is outside of your comfort zone", and it is absolutely true. Sometimes we make excuses because we're afraid of what needs to be done, but other times it's because we're comfortable with where we are, and change means exploring the unfamiliar. The challenge for us is to stop with the reasons, and excuses to not make those positive (and most likely uncomfortable) changes, and to stop merely talking about what we want to do, and just get started. Make that first move, it's scary, I know, but the little bit of courage to start is what will snowball into a passion, a blazing fire of momentum to get you to the life you've dreamt of. The next time you're faced with an opportunity, and you begin to make excuses, stop yourself, and just get started. Decide to just go for it. Be stronger than your excuses. Decide that you want it more than you're afraid of it. You can do this! Action is the beginning of accomplishment. I promise it's worth it in the end. 


Fête Friday

As I might have mentioned once or twice...ok, ok, actually a bunch of times, I love to host a good party! There's always a reason to celebrate, and throughout the many years of parties & events, I've found things that worked, others that didn't, and learned a thing or two about making entertaining fun, stress-free, and beautiful. After many emails from readers about where to find this, or how to make that, or even the process from paper pad to party, it seemed only natural to designate a day on here to answer questions, share ideas and inspiration, as well as some tried and true recipes, so I'm introducing Fête Friday.

What's a Fête, you ask?
noun \ˈfāt, ˈfet\
a : a large party or celebration, a lavish often outdoor entertainment
b :  a large elaborate party

A lavish party, yes please! Sounds fitting, right? We all want to throw the most fabulous of parties... ones that will be enjoyed, talked about, and remembered for all the wonderful memories, good times with friends, delicious food, and your amazing skill as a host! Enough gabbing though, let's jump right in!

So, where do we begin? Glad you asked! Whenever a celebration is to be had, the best place to start is your inspiration. Often times, we throw parties around holidays and major events, so those may have a pre-existing theme, but you might be wanting to do something a little different, so start by finding what speaks to you! Maybe that is a theme, person, a color, team, game, book, movie, an idea or even a random something that struck you as a great thing to throw a celebration about! Choose whatever inspires you, or fits the occasion, and begin with a few ideas that relate.

Here's an example: My recent Christmas party was inspired by the book, and recent film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby. The idea of hosting a 20's themed soiree seemed so enticing, and it was actually a stack of art-deco printed napkins that set me on the hunt to find pieces to emulate the glamour of that era for this year's holiday party! When I began to piece together how I wanted to throw the party, I started with a little research. Some of the scenes from the book, as well as the movie, depicted the lavish, sparkling decor of that time, so I chose my theme colors from that, black, gold and white. Next, I loved the idea that the movie brought up, which was the fact that actual parties from the 20's had this thing for animals, like zebras and lions, and so I chose to toss a few golden creatures into my table decor.
(color palette ideas!)

What helps me is to put together an inspiration board of color palettes, tablescapes, decor ideas, recipes, and other party pieces that all help to bring your theme to life. My Party Inspiration board on Pinterest is constantly being updated with ideas that will help plan my next event! (hint: you can always tell when something exciting is in the works, due to the massive amounts of themed pins on that board!!) If a particular photo inspires you, I enjoy using the ColorPalette Generator or Design Seeds for color combinations!
Pinterest is also extremely helpful when it comes to locating photos and ideas of others who may have hosted similar or related events, as well as any random ideas you might want to incorporate into your fabulous fête (been there, done that!).

So, you've narrowed down the theme, picked your colors, and now you're ready to move on to the next step, choosing your menu! Next week, we'll dive into your meal planning, when to buy vs. make, and...I may even have a few tried and true recipes for you, yum!!

(if you have any questions about anything party/entertaining related, I'd love to answer them in an upcoming post! Send them my way via my Contact page with the subject line Fête Friday!)


Mantra Monday

With the arrival of a new year, I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, the things I wanted to change, and how I would begin to shape this year into something brimming over with fun, life and success. Quotes have always inspired and intrigued me; I keep Pinterest boards full, snapshots of random sayings stored in my photos, stacks of paper scraps with wise words, and an ever growing list of quotes stored on my iphone. It's funny how some words just seem to resonate with you at particular points in life, and recently I pondered the thought of having a theme word/saying/quote/reminder for the year. It's so difficult to narrow it down to one, so I thought I'd share 4 of my favorites over the next few Mondays, in hopes that you'll find one that speaks to you, come up with one for your own musing & inspiration, or at the very least, come across thoughts that perhaps spark new ideas.
Oh I just adore this quote, first, because Nelson Mandela was an incredible and passionate leader, and a true inspiration in every sense of the word, but secondly for it's idea. It astounds me to see how apathy has infected the society and attitudes of so many, we think that settling for average, wallowing in contentment, and deciding to play it safe, small and "normal" is ok, when in reality, we have been called to far more. How often have we seen someone with such potential, be it in sports, acting, music, business..etc, and yet watch them sit back, and never fully utilize the talent they possess, and achieve all that they could have? Its frustrating to see something like that, and how often have we seen this behavior in our own lives? Like Mandela says, there is no passion in that kind of a life, no spark, no drive to push toward greater things...and yet many of us settle. The motivation behind this mantra is for you and I to no longer be content with average, normal and standard, but rather to live with greatness, test your limits of potential, and walk in the life that was designed for you to live; a life of adventures, successes, great memories, lessons and impact. Here's the deal, if you're going to get in the water, might as well make a splash. Live with purpose and passion in 2014.
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