Holiday Entertaining with Beaujolais Nouveau

Fun holiday table. #spon #CelebrateBNThis post was sponsored on behalf of Georges Duboeuf and One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.

Some years I feel like decorating with untraditional colors. But right now, I’m totally into the classic red and green. Although I am not planning on having any holiday parties this year, I’m sure something will pop up more last-minute. With just a little greenery and hints of gold, I’m going to be ready for any guests that turn up. This post was created to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau. Have you ever had it?

A fun holiday table and entertaining ideas. #spon #CelebrateBNAside from having good food for your holiday guests, it’s always good to have some delicious beverages as well. And I always love when there is something a little extra exciting that you can share with your guests that they may not have experienced before. If you don’t know, every year, under French law, at 12:01 on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released. The first time I heard about this was almost 15 years ago. I wasn’t even a wine drinker back then. But when I heard that you couldn’t get the wine until that third Thursday, which often coincides with Thanksgiving, I knew I had to track down a bottle. It seemed so extraordinary.  I called around to ask who would carry it and headed out, to pick up a bottle for our Thanksgiving meal. The fruity, easy-to-drink wine’s light fermentation means that both red and white wine lovers should enjoy it.  Which makes it just right for holiday celebrations. And you drink it slightly chilled (just 15 minutes in the fridge prior to drinking), which makes it a little more unusual for a red wine. It was exciting to get to try something that had just been released! Most of your guests will probably not know about this celebratory wine. So you can be the first to share it with them and be part of that memory.

Simple holiday flower arrangement. #spon #CelebrateBNGeorges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is all about experiencing life’s simple pleasures and nature’s seasonal gifts. I decided to pair festive, berry-like branches with calla lillies and pine branches to create easy flower arrangements. They were easy to put together but really helped the table to feel more holiday festive. Something I am trying to be better about is keeping fresh flowers around. By mixing flowers bought at the market and plants from around your yard, you can create really easy centerpieces for unexpected or last-minute guests.

Holiday tablesetting with green and red, plaid and gold. Keeping it classic. #spon #CelebrateBNMy place settings include just a colorful napkin and an extra piece of greenery to add a special touch. I added candles to the table to create a glow and the table came together really fast. There is no need to get stressed out during the holidays. Now is not the time to go all out and impress everyone with your mad hosting skills. To me, now is the time to really enjoy, and be present, with your friends and family. Who cares if your silverware (stainless steel) doesn’t match the gold hues of the other accents of your table (I was totally bothered at first, I’ll be honest)? Or that your table-cloth may have a few wrinkles. If your guests feel loved in your home, you’ve done your job.

Celebrating the holidays with Beaujolais Nouveau. #spon #CelebrateBNOf course having plenty of wine doesn’t hurt either. One of my favorite things to do when putting together a last-minute spread is to set out candy. For this table, I pulled out a great glass and brass display box and filled it with candies that played up the reds in the table. People love candy. And even if you don’t have time to pull together a fantastic appetizer spread, your guests will have something to munch on.

I'm feeling traditional this year. Green and red it is!!! #spon #CelebrateBNI recently reorganized my garage and now can find all my favorite serving pieces easily. I suggest you take a moment and pull your favorite pieces together so you can easily grab them when you need to.  I keep things super causal for my family and our nightly meals. But come Christmas morning, my table looks GOOD. A footed bowl can make even store-bought crackers instantly feel more special (special crackers, you say? Yes, crackers can feel special.)

Have you ever tried Beaujolais Nouveau? It's a fun holiday tradition. #spon #CelebrateBNGeorges Duboeuf is the #1 seller of Beaujolais Nouveau and since this year’s harvest has just been released, I think this is the perfect time to invite friends over to try this delicious wine. Don’t you?

*Thank your for supporting the brands that let me be creative, drink a little wine and celebrate with my friends.

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Things I Love : October, 2014

Dying over the colors on this Good Housekeeping magazine. Crap. October is over. That means that the holidays are right around the corner. Life is just moving way too fast. I’m going to make every effort to slow it down a little bit and actually enjoy the holidays this year. But for now, here is what I loved during the month of October:

Good Housekeeping NAILED it with their November cover. I never pick up this magazine but the colors really spoke to me. I’m not even a huge fan of Eva Longoria but I really loved the graphic design and so I bought it to check it out. I enjoyed the magazine and look forward to seeing what next month’s cover looks like. Maybe they are trying to young it up a bit? I love me some Erin Phraner and I know she works at the mag so…I’m going to just give her all the credit since it has a crisp clean look like her site :)

Ghostbusters Krispy Kreme donuts! When your oldest son loves Ghostbusters and Krispy Kreme puts out Ghostbusters themed donuts, you drive way far out of your way to pick up a few dozen. Not sure when they will stop selling these but I am guessing Halloween so RUN to your nearest store and buy some! They were so much fun. They also had ones that looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!

I can't stop wearing this House Dress from Henry Mack. I can’t quit wearing this House Dress by Henry Mack! It’s super comfy, can be dressed up or dressed down and I love the pattern! I wore this dress 3 times in one week to all kinds of events. One to a nice dinner out sponsored by a local magazine, a fashion show and a blogger event where I paired it with comfy flats. So versatile. I’m hoping they get more prints in soon! This is def a staple in my wardrobe.  Do your kids live for a photo bomb opportunity?

He is finally out of a car seat! Look how happy that makes him! Look at that face!!! It’s pure joy because this was the day we realized that it was legal for him to ride without a car seat. He felt like a million bucks. I still have him ride with the bottom booster most of the time to ensure that he is the safest. But I now know that he can ride without one. They are growing up WAY too fast!

Just the Wine drops for neutralizing sulfites in wine which I have an intolerance to. YOU GUYS. A few years ago my doctor told me that with my allergies and history of headaches that I should probably not drink wine. My nose gets all stuffed up. I get headaches pretty much immediately and the next day can be pretty unbearable. And that can be after just one glass. I pretty much stopped drinking champagne or sparkling wine completely because of the instant headaches. But stop drinking wine altogether? Absurd. Recently, I’ve been feeling exceptionally miserable after drinking wine. So much so that one morning I woke up and decided I couldn’t drink it anymore. Luckily, a mere 5 minutes later, I was reading OC Metro and came across a story on Just the Wine. The symptoms listed in the story were pretty different from mine, but I decided to try them out anyway. I am still trying them out to see if they really help me with my wine consumption. And so far I think the answer is yes! My nose still gets stuffed up, but I’m not getting the headaches like I had been. I tried these drops in a mimosa the other day and had no headache at all! These do not prevent headaches the next day due to over consumption. You put 3 drops in your 6 ounce glass of wine and give it a stir for 20 seconds. This is basically food grade hydrogen peroxide and it neutralizes the sulfites. I even take them with me when I go out now. My husband says it looks pretty shady when I put them in my wine but I don’t care. You can read more about them here.

Self-serve Iced Coffee at Whole Foods.Somewhere along the way I started upping my daily coffee intake. But as the day goes on, I’m less inclined towards a hot cup of coffee, and turn instead to iced.  So I was super excited to see this Cold Brew set up at my local Whole Foods! I pretty much have no understanding about what the different brews are, but love that you can serve yourself. And it was delicious too! I feel like this might be the next big thing. They took out their juice bar. And while this doesn’t exactly replace that, it seems like this is where the focus has shifted. And I quite like it.

Finger Limes! I finally got to try finger limes. The inside is not like a normal lime but are like tiny little balls that are tart and crunchy and awesome. While at Whole Foods, I came across a package of Finger Limes! I had seen them in a food magazine last year and almost went so far as to order them online. I’m a lime fanatic and these sounded super interesting. But I thought it might be a little obsessive to buy limes online. When I came across the package, I FOR SURE had to try them! They smell just like a normal lime, but the insides are totally different. I took the tip of my knife and sort of scraped at the flesh and these little orbs came out. They are crunchy and tart with a limey flavor. These would be so awesome as a garnish for a cocktail or appetizer. I made my whole family try them because who knows when the next time I’m going to have finger limes again! The kids thought they were hysterical. LOVED them! If you see them, pick them up!

The first time he was able to dip his cookies in Cow's Milk! He's outgrown that allergy! This kid has had food allergies since he was one year old. This right here is the first time he has ever dipped Oreo‘s in to cow’s milk. We are so grateful that he has outgrown that allergy. He seems to be fine with eggs as well, but he still resists the foods that were harmful to him for so long. This was such a great moment for me to see him acting like a normal kid and not being afraid to try the milk. I know that over time he will learn to like eggs as well. So cool! And we’re keeping our fingers crossed about the nuts as well. Because Butterfinger.

*I’ve been making some changes to the back end of my blog and as a result I have lost my spell check! I read through this post to the best of my ability but there could very well be some errors…I don’t need to know about them. And I guess I shouldn’t rely so heavily on the spell checker, but I do! Fingers crossed I can figure out where it went!

Interactive Chocolate Tasting

It’s that time of year. There are about to be tons of holiday parties and get togethers over the course of the next 9 weekends, beginning with Halloween and going strong all the way through New Years. Many of these gatherings will be cocktail parties, where you make contact with a bunch of people but never really get to spend any quality time with any one person. Especially if you are hosting. So I really wanted to think of a way to connect with my guests should I choose to host something this year. And instead of serving a cocktail, which I know most of my regular readers are like, “Dude! That’s like your thing!” I’ve opted for a totally different beverage. Almond Milk.

Interactive chocolate tasting.Especially during the holidays, I crave time with my girlfriends. So I think a sit down dinner, for my closest pals, would be perfection. I’m not going to pretend that I would make all the food. No way, Jose. There are plenty of restaurants that put together a nice little spread that is super tasty. But my focus would really be on the dessert course. I’ve been wanting to host a really interactive dinner party for a while. You know, to get people off their phones and actually talking and working together? So I think an interactive chocolate tasting dessert course would be a wonderful idea. I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate? And while there may be (there WOULD be) wine before and during dinner, dessert is going a different direction.

Set up a chocolate tasting for the dessert course of your next dinner party.To demonstrate how this chocolate tasting would work I picked up four different flavors of chocolate from Whole Foods (Hey chocolate lovers – Whole Foods has a ridiculous selection of chocolates. Just maybe refinance your house before you go…). Instead of making sure each person gets a piece of each flavor, each guest would have only one flavor of chocolate at their place setting. Then the guests would have to ask each other for their chocolate in order to taste them all. And only the host would know the flavors so the guests will have to talk to figure out what flavors are present. You guys, they make the weirdest flavors of chocolate bars now a days. This isn’t ground breaking, I realize, but sometimes we just need to be reminded to interact with people. Consider making a no-phones-at-the-table policy. And just think of how funny this could get. I mean, who would even guess that there were Pop Rocks in your chocolate bar?!

Silk Almond Milk for a dinner party. #sponThe perfect drink to serve with the chocolates is Silk Almond Milk. I went with the Unsweetened version but Vanilla would also work well. In fact, I know some people prefer the Vanilla over the Unsweetened because it adds a touch of sweetness to it. Since I don’t like sweet beverages (which us supes weird because I have the biggest sweet tooth ever, I prefer the Unsweetened. Over the summer I did this “cleanse” diet before my trip to Mexico. It wasn’t a typical cleanse, more of a really paired down diet of mostly roughage to clean out your system. And it allowed for some snacks and treats, totally my kind of cleanse. One of the treats was a glass of Almond Milk and some dark chocolate squares. YOU GUYS! It was so good and satisfying! I first tasted Almond Milk a long time ago and I was not a fan. But I’ve realized, over the years, each brand tastes a certain way and, by far, Silk is my favorite. Have you ever tried Almond Milk? You totally should. And if you have and you didn’t like it, try it again!

Interactive chocolate tasting to end a dinner party.The Silk Almond Milk acts sort of as a palette cleanser between chocolate flavors. And the unsweetened version is perfect for cutting the sweetness of the chocolate. Some of your guests might be expecting something a little more, fun, shall we say. And you can easily jazz their glass up with a splash of Kahlua or Bailey’s. I view this chocolate tasting as the gateway to being an Almond Milk convert. After trying it with the chocolate, I knew I could easily replace regular milk with Almond milk in just about every capacity. Except for my coffee. Give me the cream and nobody gets hurt.

Share chocolates with your friends and interact to find out what the flavors are. Put down your phones! #sponThe underlying point of this tasting is to try to remind our friends how much fun we could be having with each other, in real life. Not online and not on our phones. And there is lots to talk about with the chocolate. I mean, one of the chocolate flavors had cinnamon and bacon. That’s going to elicit some conversation for sure. And then the one filled with banana caramel and topped with pecans and pink salt? Yeah, there’s going to be some tasting notes about that one. And it’s always fun to surprise your guests with a little spicy chocolate which is my fave.

Dessert course with Silk Almond Milk. #sponI put out a centerpiece with pretty macaroons and macarons (because I think it’s funny to have both) along with a carafe of Silk Almond Milk for refills. Some people might not be as fond of chocolate as I am (but they are crazy and should probably not ever be invited again…) so it’s nice, as the hostess, to put out another option. And the colorful cookies add to the table decor. This might just be the easiest dessert course for a dinner party ever. But I love that the focus is on being with your friends and working together in the name of chocolate.

Pink and pretty dinner party.Want to try Silk Vanilla Almond Milk? Sign up for their eNewsletter and receive a coupon to try it for free. You’ll also be entered to win prizes each month, so you should probably go do it. I’ve been getting the newsletter for a few months now and I have to say, they do it right. Their newsletter always looks great, has tons of awesome info and they aren’t bombarding you with their product promotions all the time. I’m not kidding, try it with chocolate. So good! I love my Silk. And I think you will too.

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Easy Halloween Decor Ideas

Bright and white Halloween decor. #sponThis post is sponsored by King’s Hawaiian. Head to their site to learn about “The Legend of Hallowaiian.”

My kids are so excited about Halloween this year. They have been wanting to decorate for the last few weeks. But since Halloween is my least favorite holiday I have been stalling. Then we found this awesome neon green skeleton. He reminded me that the decorations don’t need to be so gory and dark.  And because the decorations are only kept up for a short period of time I like easy Halloween decor ideas. And if they are inexpensive, that’s even better. When I saw these colorful, cheap, plastic vampire teeth it just made sense to do something with them. This super easy Vampire Teeth Garland couldn’t be easier.

Bright colored plastic fangs for an easy Halloween garland. #sponAll you need is some string and a pack of plastic vampire teeth. The teeth come in all kinds of colors depending on where you buy them. They even have a glow in the dark version which would work great if you had darker walls.

Yarn and plastic teeth are all you need for quick and easy Halloween decorating. #sponInstead of tying a knot, I did a simple loop around each side of the fangs with the yarn.

Black, white and bright Halloween decor. #sponAnd then I simply tied the other ends to my backdrop poles. This set up would work really great as a photo backdrop for your Halloween party. And of course you should set out extra teeth to use as props in the photos. Just make sure each person takes their teeth with them after they’ve used them. Because, ew. You can easy just keep these as garlands on the wall by adhering them with some washi or masking tape. How adorable would a black and white striped tape be with these?!  When taping your garlands, just make it look intentional. Create a small “x” with two pieces of tape on each end. Not only will this help to hold the string a little better, but no make it look like you designed it that way and didn’t just stick it up on the wall with tape.

Easy Halloween Decor with plastic fangs #sponThese teeth are always a favorite in my household. The persona my youngest son takes on when he has these in his mouth is hilarious. What do I not enjoy? The slobber.

Vampire teeth garland for cheap and easy Halloween decorating. #sponNeed some other quick and easy Halloween ideas? Here are some of my past posts:

Fang Mobile

Easy Wire “Boo” Sign

Clove and Orange “Pumpkins”

Neon green skeleton for fun Halloween decor. #sponI don’t know if you have seen it yet, but King’s Hawaiian launched “The Legend of Hallowaiian” at the beginning of October. It is fantastic! From the moment I saw their pineapple carved like a Jack-o-lantern, I fell in love! Their Hallowaiian.com site features TONS of fantastic Halloween party ideas for everything from the food (because, duh, it’s King’s Hawaiian and you want to eat at much of that as possible) to party decor ideas. They have created such a fun campaign with these aloha-inspired concepts. It’s so clever and full of fun – a true representation of the Taira family.

Vampwich sandwich idea from King's Hawaiian's "Legend of Hallowaiian"I mean, how cute are these vampwiches?!  And what is even better? You could win a trip for 2 to Hawaii just by sharing your own Halloween party! Just upload a few photos from your big bash and you might just win a glorious trip to the beautiful island of Lanai!  See full contest rules here.

For serious, this campaign makes my heart so happy and I’m glad to share it with you. Thank you for supporting the brands, like King’s Hawaiian, that let me do what I do.

Fun Party Decor Idea : Carved Watermelons

Talking watermelons. Carve them to create awesome party decor and signage. Carved watermelon. I bet that wasn’t the first thing to pop in to your head when you were planning your last party, was it? But it totally should have been. Pumpkins aren’t the only things that you can carve. And carved watermelons make really great party decor and signage. These can be made ahead of time, really they SHOULD be made ahead of time.  But they are quite easy and will be the star of the show. 

Put your message on a watermelon. Super fun for parties! I asked my friend Carole to create one for our pajama party in Palm Springs. And then, of course, I forgot to print out the phrasing before I left for the trip. But that really didn’t matter. Carole was still able to carve the watermelon.  You will need a watermelon, some simple carving tools – her’s were for carving or cutting clay and purchased from the local art supply store, and the image or words that you want to carve. If you want a specific font, you can easily just print out the words on standard computer paper, just try to make sure that the words will fit on the size watermelon you bought. 

Trace your design on a watermelon to create jaw dropping party signs! Using the straight tool, (I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what any of the tools are called. This one is sharp on the end but straight, sort of like a straight pin but a little bit thicker) begin to poke holes in the watermelon all around the outline of the words. Many pumpkin carving books use a similar technique. 

Carving watermelons is easy to do with the dot method.So here you can see the dots that you can then connect to shape the letters and words. 

Watermelon Carving is pretty easy and creates totally fantastic party signage! Total crowd pleaser! I really love this idea for signage at parties. You can use them on buffet tables, as centerpieces, just about anywhere.  And it works not only with words but also with images.  Carole has carved some pretty amazing things in watermelons. 

Carve watermelons for fun party decor. Next, you will use the tool that looks a little bit like a tunnel or a “u”. With it, you will follow along your dotted line scooping out the speckled green skin. You do not need to go very deep in to the watermelon.  You just want to remove the hard outer skin. 

Fun party sign idea! While it might take a few minutes to do, it is really easy. Once you are done, you want it to have a chance to dry out a bit. We left this one out overnight and by the next morning, it looked like the first image in this post. The carved out portion turns a little bit lighter and it makes the words pop. Aren’t they fantastic!

Carved watermelon for fall decor.  // cupcakesandcutlery.comThis carved watermelon above was the first one Carole carved for me for an outdoor movie photo shoot I did a really long time ago. It shows perfectly how watermelons can live on past summer and slide right in to fall. (this last image is by Sadie James Photography). I feel like this is how I want to carve my pumpkins this year too. Just think of all the creative designs you could do! I’m so grateful to have creative friends who are willing to share their talents with me! Thank you, Carole!