Sunday, December 21, 2014

Free Printable Holiday Gift Tags

With just 4 days left until Christmas, I figured a few of you are probably doing some last minute gift wrapping? These tags are perfect for dressing up your packages without having to leave your cozy home and brave the stores today! Click the links in the captions to download.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How To: Offer a Martini Bar at Your Holiday Party

A fun alternative to mixing a big batch of a signature cocktail is to have a make-your-own drink station. Try a martini bar and let your guests make their drink exactly the way they like it. People love to get involved in making their own drinks, especially when you have all the right accessories and a fun map like one this to follow. This type of setup is ideal if you're having a smaller party or an "open house" where not everyone arrives at once. For a larger group you can still have a station like this, as long as you have other options like beer and wine readily available to avoid a bottleneck.
Here's what you need - Liquids: Gin, vodka, vermouth. Accessories: martini glasses, tumblers, cocktail picks, an ice bucket, a shaker. Garnish: olives, onions, and lemon rind. That's it! It also helps to have a sign like this one, designed by me and hand drawn by Caitlin of Charlie Whiskey. Scroll down for more sources.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Bar Cart Design

How is this for some holiday cheer?! You'll see a lot more of my holiday bar cart in the weeks to come - for a martini bar, cake & champagne open house, and then a mixup for NYE. Sources below!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

4 Free, Pretty December Downloads for Desktop & Mobile

Yaay, it's the holidays! The image above is my favorite this month. I've been browsing airbnb looking for the perfect little cottage for a ski trip early next year, so I'm in the mood for all things cozy. For the rest of December, I have a lot of bar cart related holiday entertaining ideas to share with you! We'll begin with my holiday bar cart design tomorrow. And then a how-to: have a martini bar at your holiday party. And also a cake & champagne open house. So much fun. I'm spending Christmas with my family in Mexico, so I'll have a tropical edition update of our eggnog recipe.

I'm wondering if anyone has been checking in here looking for gift guides? I honestly feel like there are just so many gift guides on all sorts of great blogs that even I am a little over all this focus on retail. I know I should be trying to earn more commission but I'd rather focus on holiday experiences besides just buying stuff. So that's why you won't see 20 different gift guides targeted to different audiences here. If you are in need of some ideas, you can try the holiday hostess gifts under $50 that I featured last month. I also really love Victoria McGinley's "Holiday Shop." Speaking of experiences, do you guys have any festive seasonal plans? I'm looking forward to stopping by Gramercy Tavern for a drink - they always have the best holiday decorations and it just feels so classic New York to me. Here are my picks for December downloads - click the links to go to the designers' sites.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!! & Recipes for Leftovers

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Here's an idea for tomorrow: instead of eating the same meal twice (or three times) in a row, turn the usual leftovers into fun new recipes.

For breakfast, try Stuffing Hash - hash browns made of stuffing and sweet potato drizzled with maple syrup and topped with a poached egg. Ummm yes, please!

Throwing a party on Friday? These canap├ęs are so creative: panchetta, green beans, stuffing and brie on a Triscut cracker.

Mashed Potato Croquettes would be the perfect side dish for Friday dinner. Who wouldn't want to eat breaded fried mashed potatoes?!

Enjoy your holiday!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Meal Delivery | Subscription Boxes for Busy Holiday Weeks

Something I'm still getting used to while writing this blog is doing all of the prep work for holidays so far in advance of the actual day. For instance, our Thanksgiving dinner (Friendsgiving) was over 3 weeks ago! And I've already taken apart my Autumnal bar cart design and replaced it with holiday decor. Walking into our apartment is starting to remind me of that disorienting day when you walk into a store and see Christmas decorations before Halloween has even happened. On the plus side, I haven't been crazy busy this week preparing for Thanksgiving, as I'm sure some of you have been!

Speaking of - since we're all now officially into the holiday season and will only be getting busier, I thought I'd share something that's been helping me out immensely for the past few weeks. I started subscribing to HelloFresh, a subscription service that delivers recipes and pre-measured ingredients every Monday afternoon. As much as I love browsing Pinterest for recipes and shopping at our local markets, on busier weeks that can cause more stress than enjoyment. I find that when I have a big event coming up, it consumes my focus. I don't want to worry about weeknight meals when I have a dinner party to prepare for! A friend I was telling about the service asked why I would need to use it, since I know how to cook. I explained that, especially during the week leading up to Friendsgiving, without these recipes and ingredients showing up at my door, I wouldn't have stopped to cook real meals and I'd have survived on popcorn and eggs. Seriously. That's happened several times.
The HelloFresh recipes I've made so far were simple yet satisfying and took no more than 30 minutes to prepare. I wouldn't use this service every week - vegetarians don't get a choice of recipes like meat eaters do with the "classic" box, and many of the recipes included more cheese than I prefer to eat in weekday meals. Plus there's no mention of "organic" anywhere... However, for busy weeks I think this is definitely a better option than takeout, both health-wise and economically. If you'd like to try it you can use my promo code "QFKNKA" for $20 off your first box. And no, I did not receive compensation for writing this review. I was gifted a box, and a few weeks into your subscription you'll likely be given a few boxes that you can give out as gifts as well.

I'm curious - have any of you tried a meal subscription box? I've heard that Blue Apron meals are too complicated for weeknights, and I'm interested in learning more about Plated. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Cocktail | Autumn Sangria with Bourbon, Pears & Apples

I made this Autumn Sangria for our Friendsgiving signature cocktail, and it would be perfect for Thanksgiving as well. Of all the cocktails I've served at parties in the past year, this one was by far the most popular. We were also serving a nice sparkling wine we brought back from our last trip to Napa, but everyone loved this cocktail so much they barely noticed the bubbles - rare for our group of friends.
Rain moved our dinner from the terrace to the living room, leaving very little space for mingling, so we had to move cocktail hour to our bedroom. To guide guests away from the cramped living room and kitchen, I set up this cocktail station in the hallway just outside of the bedroom. This is a trick I learned when I worked in event planning - station food and drink in different areas of the space to get the crowd moving.
Combine 1 bottle of white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc) with 2 cups of good quality apple cider and 1/2 cup of bourbon. Add 1 apple and 1 pear, sliced. Throw in a few cinnamon sticks and chill overnight in the refrigerator. I put a cinnamon stick and a few cranberries in each glass for a festive touch.
I love these acacia wedge servers for autumn and winter entertaining. The natural element lends a rustic feel to the otherwise fancy crystal. To keep the sangria cold I used a mini beverage tin and put tongs on the side in case anyone wanted to add ice to their drink.
If you'd prefer a sparkling version of this cocktail, I've made that too! You mix the cider and boubon with the cinnamon sticks and fruit (leaving out the wine). Then when you're ready to serve, pour some of the cider mixture into the bottom of a glass and top with champagne. Extra points for garnishing with a sprig of rosemary! 
Photography by Darren Gantt