Entertaining with Mason Jars from Aladdin

*I was sent product by Aladdin, via Mom Trends, to show how entertaining with mason jars can be easy and fun.  They weren’t wrong.  Plus, I had a blast.  All opinions are mine. Throw a pajama picnic for your best gals with gossip mags, drinks and yummy food. I think I am about to commit blogger blasphemy.  Are you ready for this?  I am not a fan of Mason jars.  What?!  I know.  I can hardly believe it myself.  There is nothing wrong with mason jars.  They just aren’t my cup of tea.  I was apprehensive, to say the least, when I opened up a big box from Aladdin filled with their newest Mason jar entertaining collection.  But as I started to peruse all their products, I found myself excited.  For the most part, these jars are plastic (which is huge considering we are currently building an outdoor space for my family to hang out this summer) and the colors are bright and fantastic.  Aladdin wants people to know that they can entertain with ease with this new collection, found at Wal-Mart.  So I decided to gather some girlfriends for a relaxing girl’s night in.  A pajama picnic is what we would have.  What the heck is that?  We all wear pajamas, we order in dinner, and the host provides yummy drinks and a dessert.  Easy.

A super simple girl's night in: pajama party picnic.I can certainly get carried away when it comes to entertaining.  But I made sure to keep it simple this time.  I set up the one table I would need early on in the day so that I wouldn’t be rushing during homework and bath time for my kids before my friends arrived.  I didn’t leave that fruit water out all day but wanted to take a photo in better light for the purposes of showing the set up to you.  From this shot you can see three of the different products Aladdin has out right now.  The beverage dispenser is SO fantastic!  The jar on this one is glass, which I really prefer in a dispenser.  And that teal color is going to be perfect for all my summer entertaining.  You can see the mason jar drinking glasses and reusable acrylic straws and then the extra-large, hot pink mason jar that I decided to use for flowers.  There were a ton of other great products but in an effort to keep it simple, I decided to not use them all.  My favorite product, however is a double walled mason jar cup with a handle and lid.  It is now my cup of choice for my ever-present ice water.  It doesn’t leave water rings!  Its genius.

Entertaining doesn't have to be hard.  But it should be colorful. As you can tell, I like to mix colors.  So I loved that there wasn’t a set of matched jars in the box.  Mixing colors keeps it feeling relaxed and casual.

#spon I love a good beverage dispenser.  Don't you?  For me it HAS to be a glass jar like this one from @aladdinpmiAs I said, I didn’t want to get carried away but I did add some strawberries to the water.  Crazy, I know!  It really took so little effort but I felt like it was a nice touch and would make my guests feel like I really put some thought in to the preparation.

Put our a super simple beverage bar so your guests can serve themselves. For the drinks, I wanted to make sure we had all our bases covered.  This was a weeknight so I knew some of us wouldn’t want a drink.  But you never know what kind of day people have had.  I’m a people pleaser so it is just as easy to set out some fun options and let the guests have exactly what they want.  I’d been dying to try the Nekter cocktail mixers so I thought this was the perfect time.  They are perfect to mix with alcohol, but you can also just drink straight or mix with club soda.  It was delicious!  It was so fresh tasting and vibrant.  I will be getting that again!

Use scrap leather to cut out drink markers.I used some leather scraps that I had to cut out some quick drink tags.  We could have gone by the color of the cup but who wants to have to remember that? :) I just tied them on with some scrap fabric and I was done.  Super quick and totally in keeping with the theme of easy entertaining.

Add fresh flowers for a pop of color.Since Trader Joe’s has the BEST prices on flowers I picked these up to add another color and some height to the table.  I used one of the super sized Aladdin mason jars as a super easy vase.  I think the bright pink of that jar goes perfectly with the bright yellow of the flowers.

Colorful plastic mason jars make for fun entertainingWith that little bit of prep work done ahead of time, all that was left was to relax with my friends.  We poured our drinks, Erika picked up some dinner on her way over and we were set.  They either arrived in pajamas or put them on once they got here and we enjoyed each other’s company and some reality TV.  I can’t think of an easier way to entertain your girlfriends.

Go check out the rest of the Aladdin Mason jar entertaining products at Wal-Mart.  They will be perfect for all your summer and everyday entertaining.

*Thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to keep Cupcakes and Cutlery going.  These gals would have been drinking out of plain old glasses if not for Aladdin.  Boring.

Outdoor Entertaining : Easter Brunch

Easter brunch ideas.So I’m trying out a new idea.  I’ve been wanting to do a series of entertaining ideas shot at night.  I love to do things that are more conceptual and non-traditional and have always been afraid to do it because I didn’t know how you all would respond.  Also, I am an amateur photographer at best and I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull it off.  I think it turned out ok, but more importantly it was super fun and challenging to do.  I’d like to keep doing these and hopefully will get a better grip on how to produce these kinds of shoots.  I wanted it to come off more magazine like but I’m not sure that it did.  I did this the other night when my husband was not home so not only was I trying to shoot and style in the dark, I had one ear open trying to listen for the kids in the living room (or telling them to go back to the living room because they kept trying to steal the Peeps).  So here is what I think the perfect Easter brunch looks like.  I’m not suggesting you do it as a picnic I just thought grass was the perfect spring backdrop.  And I’m not suggesting you lay it out this way.  I am simply suggesting a few ideas in one place.

tulips and mini carnationsSo tulips are awesome.  And I was pleasantly surprised by the mini white carnations I found at the grocery.  For years I never used fresh flowers in any of my parties.  I felt like they were expensive and a cop-out.  Do you all see how I over think everything?  But I now realize that fresh flowers really do add something special to a table.  It has been really fun learning about and paying attention to flowers more lately.  Tulips in spring colors are the perfect accompaniment to your Easter brunch table.  And while usually the kids are sent home with Easter baskets, why not break the centerpiece up in to smaller bunches and send them home with all the ladies.

It isn't Easter without peeps. I can’t think of an easier way to make everyone at brunch happy than by serving Peeps.  They are nostalgic, fun and pumped full of sugar.  I can think of nothing better.  This season in particular I have been noticing an abundance of new Easter themed goodies like these swirly, fruit, egg-shaped marshmallows.  How darling would these large marshmallows look in a cup of hot chocolate for the kiddos?  I like to lay out some sweets so there are some fun nibbles while waiting for the full meal to get to the table.  I guarantee you will not just see kid’s hands reaching for those things.

large tassels for Easter Brunch decorI’ve got to say, I am NOT over tassels just yet.  But I wanted them to be a little different so I made these extra-large ones.  I will share the tutorial next week but I think they would be perfect for a really simple wall decor.  Add a little hand-cut Happy Easter sign and your ready for brunch.

pastels for Easter brunch decor.The basis for my overall color scheme was this rad scarf I found at Forever 21.  I am in love with scarves for entertaining.  They are super versatile and usually much less expensive than tablecloths.  I added some coordinating napkins and think it is the perfect color for a spring brunch.

Blood orange gin and tonic floats for Easter brunch.  Or anyime.For the drink I would serve a Blood Orange Gin and Tonic float.  What I love about this is that it provides a few options for drinks so your guests can fix a drink they truly like.  The blood orange sorbet adds a wonderful sweetness that women typically love.  But if you skip it, you’ve got your basic gin and tonic.  I’ll be sharing that recipe next week also.  And because the float tastes better as the sorbet melts, you don’t have to worry about keeping the container out of the freezer to long, it will only help the drinks.  Yeah!

Choose a basic idea for brunch and then look for a twist on the classic.My extended family likes to stick with their tried and true recipes.  I always try to do that but sometimes I want to find a a twist that I know they will still like.  You know your family best so think about the flavors they enjoy and see if you can introduce new dishes with those flavors.  For the frittata I would choose this one.  Doesn’t this french toast sound amazing?!  And of course bacon.  But I would also throw in some of this for a special treat.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new series or tips to shoot it better!  And while it is still a few weeks away, I’ll wish you a Happy Easter now in case I forget. :)

 

Casual Holiday Brunch with #Freixenet

The holidays are a magical time of year. There are tons of opportunities to host your friends and family and create special moments together. But by New Year’s Day we are all pretty tapped out in the energy department. A casual brunch is all you need for starting off the new year on the right foot.

Bubbles are a must at brunch. Not only do they pair really well with most breakfast foods, but a glass of sparkling wine generally makes any occasion feel a bit more special. Freixenet (pronounced Fresh-eh-net) is a great option for your brunch beverage needs. Not only is it easy to find (available in most grocery stores including Trader Joe’s), but has a great price point, although they don’t sacrifice the quality just to be more cost effective. Total win for us.

The Cordon Negro is crisp and clean with notes of citrus and a hint of ginger (yes please). Not to mention the black bottle is totally chic and dare I say a bit sexy…It is a versatile Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and goes really well with foods with spice like a flavorful breakfast sausage or charcuterie tray. And for the first time in 20 years, Freixenet has launched a new variety, the Cordon Negro Brut Sweet Cuvee (notes of peach and tropical flavors). This blend is a bit sweeter making it the perfect morning wine. Yes, I said that. This goes perfectly with something like a raspberry Danish (my fave brunch treat that happens to be store bought, can’t be any easier) or to sip on its own. Don’t get me wrong, it is still quite dry and not overly sweet. You will never find me drinking a sweet wine.

Being that it is brunch, make sure to still offer the traditional morning beverages like tea and coffee. And if the morning is chilly think of offering an optional “hot toddy” like the hot whiskey and honey that is my husband’s family’s tradition. While you are aiming to keep it easy, you still want to make sure that your guests needs are met (within reason).

No need to go crazy on the decorations. Simply use what you have to set a pretty table. Use sparkly leftovers from your festive New Year’s Eve celebrating to give the table some drama. I added a string of crystal shaped lights to the table to make it look like it was glowing. Lights are a fun way to decorate and I wish that people used them more throughout the year instead of just at holiday time. Using leftover wrapping paper creates the world’s easiest table runner and if you can’t leave well enough alone (that is my personal motto) add some coordinating fabric to give the table more texture. And of course fresh flowers never hurt.

Since New Year’s Day is a lazy day for us where we lounge in pajamas and just relax after late night festivities, the food must be kept simple. Quick, pre-made bacon quiche bites are perfect and are delicious when paired with the Cordon Negro Brut. Set out the food, a self-serve drink station and your work is done. Have you heard of using marmalades in your cocktails? Kind of the perfect accompaniment for brunch, am I right?

Freixenet has a really fun promotion happening right now. They’ve been touring the country in a pair of MINI Coopers. With stops at retailers and restaurants, they’ve been sharing samples of the sparkling wines and playing games for a chance to win a 2 year lease on a brand new MINI Cooper! You can play too. Look for “hidden bubbles” with reward codes throughout their site, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages, as well as at the tour stops. Once you find the bubble, visit www.findthebubbles.com to enter the codes. Good luck!

Who says the holidays are the only time for bubbles? Make it your resolution to sparkle 365 days of the year with Freixenet cavas. Our sparkling wines come in a variety of different styles to suit any moment or mood. Cordon Negro Brut, our classic Black Bottle Bubbly, is great as an aperitif before a night out on the town or at home with takeout pizza. Our brand new Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvee is the perfect match for brunch favorites like pancakes and eggs benedict. Visit FreixenetUSA.com for more information about where to buy Freixenet sparkling wines and learn how you could win a 2-year lease on a new 2013 MINI Cooper.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Freixenet. The opinions and text are all mine.

Give Soma and Clean Water this Holiday

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group and Soma, but all opinions are my own. #pmedia #givesoma http://cmp.ly/3/8vnXcO.

Soma Water CarafeThe first time I saw Soma, I wanted it.  Aside from the fact that the 100% biodegradable filters are designed to make your water taste better, it simply looks gorgeous.  I always like to have water available when I entertain.  And now I can serve it right from this gorgeous handcrafted carafe.  It looks amazing, tastes great and couldn’t be easier.  This would make the perfect gift for your favorite party thrower this holiday (and many other recipients on your list).  Not only would they receive the gift of clean, clear water, and stunning carafe, but every filter bought from Soma helps people in need get their own safe drinking water through charity:water.  A gift that gives back is always the best.

soma-water-filtration-systemSoma is crazy easy to use.  The top of the lid features a kind of flap that you can run the water right through.  It passes through the filter and the clean water fills in to the carafe.  The filter portion fits snuggly in to the top and it is virtually impossible to do it wrong.

soma-water-filterSoma was super easy to purchase and every along every step I was met with outstanding customer service.  Like, exceptional.  While I didn’t run in to any snags during my order I have no doubt that they would bend over backwards to sort out whatever issues you might run in to.  When you purchase Soma for $49, you are automatically enrolled in their fresh filter program which I love.  The replacement filters will be sent to your house every 2 months.  You or your gift recipient won’t even have to think about it.  The cost is $12.99 and shipping is always free.

Soma Water CarafeThe ease and design of this product is perfect for my entertaining style.  I prefer to make things pretty but not be fussy.  The fact that I can just pop this carafe of water out of the fridge and on to the table makes me want to dance ridiculously happy.

beautiful-soma-water-carafeSometimes we think we have to invite people over for a big, sit down meal, but that is not the case.  Some easy, delicious snacks and yummy drinks are the perfect complement to good conversation.

slate and neutral with SomaPackaged chips and dips zhushed up a bit are really all you need.  I’m fine with leaving bags on the table but if that is not cool with you, simply put them in to a different serving dish.  Since Soma is so well designed I wanted to complement it with natural colors and materials.  A little greenery from around the neighborhood adds a fresh element to the table.  And the glow from the candles makes the room feel cozy and warm.

Food Should Taste Good SnacksThe point of entertaining is to take care of your guests and make sure that their needs are met.  We are fortunate to be able to drink wine and share snacks around a table.  It is unimaginable that in this day and age that all people do not have access to clean drinking water.

soma-carafe-is-perfect-for-entertainingThis carafe will get a lot of use in my home.  The shape is too gorgeous to not use it in as many ways possible.  I love when companies create a great product to meet a need (clean water – an important need).  But I love it even more when they pay attention to design and realize that a truly great product fits seamlessly in to your lifestyle.

Share Soma with someone you love this holiday season.  Follow Soma on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

*I was sent Food Should Taste Good Snacks and it was my choice to use them in this post.  They are in no way a sponsor of this post or affiliated with Soma in any way.  I felt that the chips were the perfect way to show how easy and delicious simple entertaining can be.  The colors also worked perfectly…and sometimes, when you are crazy about details like I am, that is how you choose your snacks.

New Flor Rug Brightens my Dining Room

*I was a sent a rug from Flor. A freaking rug. It is so awesome. I want you all to be aware that they sent it to me (as the FTC requires) but I also want you to know my unbiased opinion of the Flor rug…I heart the heck out of it.
plain dining spaceWe have been VERY slow to decorate our new house.  I want to decorate every single room.  With new pieces.  So it has become too expensive, overwhelming and well, I’ve just stopped.  So this had been our dining area.  This old blue rug was so plain and with the bare walls, the space was just so boring!  So Flor offered me a rug to brighten up the space.  DONE.  Send that bad boy over.

FLor-tiles-to-installSo I just went for it.  I don’t think I looked at their site for more than a few moments before I found the look I wanted.  Oops, I forgot to ask my husband for his opinion.  I had been looking at rugs online for a month and couldn’t decide on one.  But when I saw this, I just knew!  I had to have it.   And spoiler alert, my husband ended it up liking it too.

laying-out-the-pattern-for-our-flor-rugI put the rug together in about 20 minutes, one evening, while the kids were out playing in the front yard.  It was super easy to lay out the tiles and figure out my pattern (this rug used 4 different  patterns but you could also find one that just uses one pattern and wouldn’t require any preplanning of the design).

installing-our-flor-rug

It was SO easy to put together.  Their little stickers are marked to make lining the tiles up super easy.  And the adhesive is designed to get stickier, later.  So you literally can’t screw it up.  I love things like that!

Flor bright rugAnd now my dining room is bright and fun.  I had wanted to put up some art on the walls prior to shooting this so the room would be 100% done.  But the hubs and I couldn’t agree.  So now there is custom framing that needs to happen.  That could take a while.  So just imagine this room with super rad art on it.

rainbow and black and white stripesI kind of love this rug so much.  You might remember I am in a huge black and white phase right now and I don’t think I could have found a rug pattern that let me have my stripes but also brought the color.  And how darling does my new runner from A Sunny Afternoon look?!  I had to have it when I saw it.  I knew it would go perfectly with my rug!

candy-maniacsAnd like moths to a flame my kids found the candy I put out for my little dining room shoot.

mouth-full-of-candyAnd ate a lot of it.

death-by-candyMaybe a little too much.

FLOR-rug-tiles-for-the-dining-roomBut I am pretty much a total dork.  I put the tiles with the most white in two of my most high traffic areas, by the kitchen door and by the back door.  But I am totally not freaked out because I could always just swap them with more colorful tiles just by cutting the sticker and using a new one to secure the tile in its new location.  Same thing with stains, since the rug is under our table and all.  If I had to, I could always order a new tile to replace a really soiled on.  Just one tile.  Not a whole new rug.  GENIUS!

When it comes to sponsored posts, I truly am a consumer first.  I had always be curious about the Flor system and was so grateful to have a chance to try it out first hand.  They gave me a rug but I really got so much more.  They helped me feel more like myself in my own home.  They helped me want to invite people in to my home again and helped make the dining room not feel like the last place on earth I want to be.  So in my opinion, this was a remarkable experience for me and I truly love the rug!