Friday, January 31, 2014

Weekend Links: The Latest in Super Bowl Celebration

Image Sources: Style Me Pretty Living | Studio DIY | Studio DIY
I've already explained how I feel about sports, so Style Me Pretty Living's all-pink "Anti-Super Bowl Party" definitely speaks to me. As does this hilarious video titled "Sports, Go Sports!" (You seriously have to watch it). But if you are hosting or attending a football celebration on Sunday, Studio DIY has two free printables: Super Bowl Bingo and Commercial Ratings Signs. Even if you are looking forward to actually watching the game, an activity would be helpful for those who aren't! 

In other news...
Belluccia Bold Font
The designer of the beyond beautiful font Belluccia just released an update, Belluccia Bold! Belluccia is the font I chose for my wedding invitations - it's modern calligraphy in the best way. And designer Debi Sementelli has generously offered a 40% discount for A Bar Cart in Brooklyn readers! Click here to view the font and use the promo code "barcart" for your discount. Thank you, Debi!

Delighted Magazine Winter 2014 Cover
Delighted Magazine (who was kind enough to feature my holiday gift guide in their previous issue!) just released their Winter 2014 issue - so much prettiness in those pages. I especially love the Valentine's Dinner Party spread (of course).

Image Source: J.Crew

Sugar Paper - who makes my absolute favorite stationery and paper products - has teamed up with J.Crew. When I first heard this was happening, I needed a moment to let it sink in. I knew this partnership would result in absolute perfection. These bubbly place cards (which coordinate perfectly with my favorite coasters) are definitely going on my Valentine's wish list. These gift tags would elevate any thank you gift, these coasters would be perfect for an engagement party or bridal shower, and this wedding planner is (almost) enough to make me want to go through wedding planning all over again. Well done.

Image Source: Dwell Studio
Dwell Studio is having a great sale: 20% off their "must-have list for effortless hosting" this weekend. Crate and Barrel is also offering 15% off bar cabinets and bar carts. And One Kings Lane has a "Set the Bar" sale featuring the gold stemless champagne flutes seen on my bar cart and the gem bottle stoppers by Brooklyn Thread that I fell in love with at West Elm's "Meet the Makers" event. You can pass those links along to your sweethearts and hint at what you'd like for Valentine's Day. And for those of you who need gift ideas, next week I'll be focusing on gift guides - for guys, girls, and foodies! 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Valentine's Crafternoon to Support Etsy's "Special Delivery: Share the Love" for Citymeals-on-Wheels

I love that the "crafternoon" really seems to be taking off. I hosted one last weekend and it was such a nice way to spend an afternoon: close girlfriends, champagne cocktails, cake, and crafts. Everyone made Valentine cards to mail to their loved ones, and we also made extra for a really wonderful project through Etsy called "Special Delivery: Share Your Love." Etsy is collecting Valentine cards that will be delivered with Citymeals-on-Wheels.
To prepare, I put together a tray of supplies including card stock with envelopes in coordinating sizes, stampsink pads, pens and markers, washi tape, scissors, and a heart-shaped craft punch. You can get everything you need at Paper Source or Michaels, or any craft supply store. My neatly organized tray quickly turned into an explosion of pink...
I used this recipe box from Sugar Paper to hold the envelopes. 
I served the chocolate cake that I posted about on Tuesday, using the "Lovely Lace Collection" plates from Shop Sweet Lulu.
Even if you're not participating in a crafternoon this year, you should consider sending along a few cards for this great cause! The information can be found here on Etsy's blog.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DIY Valentine's Stationery in Black, Pink & Gold Glitter

With a little over two weeks left until Valentine's Day, that leaves plenty of time to mail some love letters. Even though there are a ton of pretty cards out there (I'll round up my favorites for you soon) I thought it would be fun to do a little DIY stationery project. 
I primarily used products from Paper Source: A7 and 4 Bar notecards and envelopes, plus glitter wrapping paper for the envelope liners.
To make the liners I used the envelope liner template - it comes with stencils for envelopes in all the sizes they carry. You simply trace the template on the glitter paper, cut to size, insert the paper into the envelope and use a glue stick to secure it. I also used this template a few weeks ago for baby shower invitations.
For the small glitter hearts, I used a heart shaped craft punch, then glued them on. To write on the black envelopes, I suggest Sharpie's metallic fine-tipped markers in gold and bronze.
I love scouring Etsy for vintage postage. I found these floral stamps on Pack and Post. Note the postage rate increase to 49 cents (from 46) that went into effect this past Monday January 27 when stamping your envelopes.
USPS just released the new 2014 Love stamp last week. I'm really into the mix of red and pink this year. What do you guys think??

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chocolate Cake for Valentine's Day (or Any Day!)

As I mentioned last week, yesterday was National Chocolate Cake day. Did you celebrate? I made a chocolate cake over the weekend with a DIY cake topper in Valentine's colors. (Yes I realize it's not even February yet).
I've been noticing that the "naked cake" trend has really taken off, so I thought I'd give it a try. A naked cake is frosted only between the layers and on top, as pictured here. I like the simplicity of the look, plus it saves a lot of time! I did set aside the extra frosting in case anyone wanted more with their slice.
I made the tassel garland cake topper using two "double pink" paper straws from Silver Spoon Scraps and basic tissue paper. If you're not feeling crafty, you can buy similar cake toppers from several Etsy shops. I like this one from Glam Fete by Bri.
For the cake I used this recipe for Bon Appétit's Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake. The coffee flavor was very subtle - instead of tasting like a mocha cake, it was more of a grown-up, interesting chocolate flavor. I didn't have the time or patience to make a Swiss Meringue buttercream, so instead I made this Basic Vanilla Buttercream by Billy's Bakery via Martha Stewart. Warning: it is VERY sweet. But paired with the rich chocolate the whole cake was nicely balanced.
Above, I added some old fashioned Valentine's sprinkles. Did anyone else call sprinkles of this shape "jimmies" in childhood? I served the cake to friends during our Saturday afternoon book club meeting and boxed up an extra slice for each guest in pink bakery boxes. Then I brought what was left (about half) to a friend who had invited me and my husband over for dinner. For those who have asked - this is how I bake so much without eating leftovers all week! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

3 Valentine's Day Looks: Girlfriends' Crafternoon, Cozy Dinner In, Romantic Date Night Out

Our fashion contributor Megan is back! By now she needs no introduction, but if you missed her first two posts, you can find them here: 3 Holiday Party Looks & 3 New Year's Looks. I've already explained why I love Valentine's Day, so you know I was thrilled when Megan offered to put some looks together for the occasion. I had a feeling this holiday would be the perfect platform for her girlie meets glam style. Here she is…

Megan: If your Valentine's Day plans include a Saturday night dinner reservation for two, the occasion calls for the perfect date night dress, preferably in hot pink. I always turn to Erin Fetherston for dresses that are feminine and charming and usually involve a bow. I've found faux-wrap dresses to be reliably flattering, and there's no dress that can't be improved upon with the addition of a glitter heel. I love Kate Spade's book clutches for a literary geek-chic twist, and this pink and gold bag is the finishing touch (well, aside from the tormented love triangle of "Age of Innocence") for a romantic Valentine's date night. 
Dress: Erin Fetherston (on sale!) | Shoes: Nine West, similar Badgley Mischka version here | Necklace: Tiffany & Co. | Bracelet: Kate Spade, similar here | Clutch: Kate Spade (on sale!) | Lip: Sugar Fresh Lip Treatment, Cherry

Megan: My favorite elements of Valentine's Day haven't changed much from my days in elementary school - candy hearts, construction paper cards, and frosted cupcakes. And lots of glitter. So what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with an afternoon of card making and cookie decorating? There are few things I love more than a crafternoon with my girlfriends, so I embraced the opportunity to dress like a literal valentine - pink, red, pearls, glitter, and some kissing armadillos.
Shirt: J.Crew, similar Vineyard Vines version here | Sweater: J.Crew | Pants: J.Crew | Shoes: J.Crew, similar Sperry version here and Kate Spade smoking slipper here | Belt: Kate Spade, bow version here | Necklace: J.Crew | Bracelet: Kate Spade (on sale!) | Lip: Nars, Schiap | Nails: Essie, Sugar Daddy

Megan: If you're staying in and sharing a cozy dinner for two, I love the idea of wearing soft, touchable texture. In a word - cashmere. This cableknit Vineyard Vines sweater is a dream, and I love the contrast against the metallic jacquard pant. Together they feel special without being fussy - perfect for an evening in with your valentine.
Sweater: Vineyard Vines, similar J.Crew version here | Pants: J.Crew (on sale!) | Shoes: Ann Taylor | Necklace: J.Crew, similar Factory version here and loving this bauble bar confection | Watch: Kate Spade | Lip: Nars, Roman Holiday

Is anyone else obsessing over that Erin Fetherston dress?! And of course I love her signature collared shirt and pearls combo. Thanks, Megan! xoxo

All images in this post are by photographer Kristin Lance.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekend Links: National Chocolate Cake Day Celebration

Valentine's DIY Projects in Progress
While this coming Monday doesn't hold the kind of holiday that gets us a day off work, it's still something to celebrate: National Chocolate Cake Day! Oh Happy Day rounded up 5 chocolate cake recipes for your celebration. Given the recent return of the polar vortex, a Sunday spent baking sounds pretty good to me. To help, Food 52 tells us how to identify good (and not so good) cocoa powder.

One of those people who loves coffee with your afternoon cake? Again from Food52 (sometimes I swear that team is inside my head): how to make flavored coffee creamer at home. I've been trying to find a way to break my husband's toxic Coffee-mate habit, so I'm definitely going to try this.

I'm always collecting tips on impromptu entertaining. This week Style Me Pretty Living published a list of 21 things you need for entertaining on the fly. Preparation for celebration! 

Speaking of, I am SO excited to dive into Valentine's Day prep next week. In the meantime, if anyone does bake a chocolate cake this weekend, please send me photos!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Defense of Valentine's Day

I'm just going to say it: I love Valentine's Day. And definitely not for the traditional expectation that your significant other will spend a fortune on red roses and mid-grade chocolate and take you out for a hurried, over-priced prix fixe meal. Certainly not - I think red roses are hideous and any experienced diner knows to avoid restaurants on February 14. To me, Valentine's Day is about celebrating love - all love - be it of friends, co-workers, the guy at the juice bar who makes your green juice exactly the way you like it…you get the picture. I think this holiday serves as a fantastic opportunity to think about who you appreciate in your life and show them, even with something as simple as a note or some candy. On the appreciation front, it's sort of like Thanksgiving - only trade the giant bird carcass for chocolate pastries and forget about the obligation to endure family tension. Isn't this sounding better and better? And then to top it off, an all-pink color scheme is perfectly acceptable?! February can't come soon enough.
Ladies Valentine's Brunch 2011
With my explanation of my love of Valentine's Day, I will unapolegetically announce that I am dedicating the next couple of weeks to celebrating it here on A Bar Cart in Brooklyn. I have so many favorite Valentine's-related things to share! We'll discuss party prep with some DIY's, and of course correspondence - there are a ton of pretty cards out there. I'll share an entire week's worth of gift guides for guys, gals, foodies, and the cocktail-obsessed. Plus on Monday, our fashion contributor Megan will be back with 3 Valentine's Day looks!
But first, here are a couple photos of a Valentine's brunch I held a few years back. This was pre-blogging so I haven't noted the sources of anything. If you have any questions about specific items let me know and I'll do my best to track them down.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

3 Step Super Bowl Party Prep

For those of you who know me, I am as surprised by the topic of this post as you are. For the rest of you I'll explain: I really, really dislike the presence of sports at parties. I just don't see the point of everyone staring at the TV and barely speaking to each other at a social gathering. Especially when inevitably all the women end up crowded together uncomfortably in a brightly lit kitchen. This year I didn't know who was playing until it was mentioned on Chelsea Handler's round table Monday night, and I still don't know where a Bronco is from. So far the most exciting part to me is this mention of a Full House reunion during the commercials.

All that said, I've realized that between the baby shower earlier this month and the Valentine's luncheon I'm currently planning, there has been a lot of girliness around our apartment lately. While my husband hasn't complained about it, I feel like it's time for an event with a more masculine focus. So I've offered to help him host a Superbowl party this year. And don't worry, no cutsey football shaped cupcakes etc. - I've learned that men appreciate simplicity far more than fussy details. But while there's no need to spend hours crafting a cake in the shape of a football field, that doesn't mean you shouldn't put some effort in. Follow these 3 simple rules for a  Superbowl party that won't turn your home into a frat house.

1. Use real glasses. Period. 
After spending two years alongside my husband at business school, I made a simple request for our new home: no solo cups. I've mentioned before that we bought a few sets of inexpensive stemless wine glasses to use when we entertain on our terrace, and I think we need to add a few sets of these half pint tumblers to our cabinet.

2. No chip bags

Unless the packaging is exceptionally designed, I don't like serving food from the container it comes in. A bunch of crumpled chip bags strewn across the living room? No thank you. I think this wooden chip and dip is beautiful, yet masculine enough for a guys' party.
3. Quality Takeout 
If you're planing to order in, PLAN to order in. Meaning - don't wait until one of the busiest days of the year for food deliveries and end up making your hungry guests wait hours only to feed them Domino's for lack of better available options. These days there is a gourmet answer to any comfort food you can think of. So whatever you'd like to serve, schedule a delivery in advance. And by advance I don't mean the day before - many restaurants stop taking orders a week prior to the event. Here in Dumbo we have a great sub shop called No. 7 Sub - check out their Superbowl menu for inspiration.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

10 Best: Birthday Cards for 2014

If you're one of those people who always intend to pick up a birthday card, then realize the recipient's birthday is tomorrow and end up not sending one because it's too late (sound familiar?) - then avoid this cycle by starting off the year with a stack of pretty cards ready to go. Some of these cards are sold in sets to make it super easy. Have you noticed that for adults, our birthdays start to seem less and less important with each year that goes by? Receiving a thoughtful card in the mail can make a big impact on someone's day.
2nd Row: All 3 are Rifle Paper Co. - Left, Middle, Right
3rd Row: The Social Type | Wild Ink Press "Everything in Moderation…Including Moderation" -Julia Child
Bottom Row: All 3 are Sugar Paper - Left, Middle, Right

Monday, January 20, 2014

Entertaining Sale: One Kings Lane

Note: This is not a sponsored post - A Bar Cart in Brooklyn is in no way affiliated with One Kings Lane. I just happened to notice that they have some really great entertaining products right now scattered throughout their various sales. In case you haven't been fully stalking their site, I thought I'd give you a sample of my favorite items currently on sale...
1. Marble Salt & Pepper Bowls with Spoons - There are endless uses for marble bowls, and they last forever. | 2. I like the unisex look of this Luigi Bormioli Decanter. Most decanters are either entirely masculine or feminine, but this one finds a good balance. | 3. Brooklyn Thread's Agate Stone Coasters (available in more colors). I discovered Brooklyn Thread at a West Elm "Meet the Makers Event," wrote about it here and have loved them ever since. These coasters are the perfect pop of color for your coffee table. | 4. Gold Alan Side Table - Small tables like these do wonders for making a room look complete. | 5. These silver plated giraffe and zebra shakers do double duty as a practical item and decor - so modern and fun. | 6. 5 Piece Domino Place Setting in Rose Gold - Gold flatware is hugely popular right now. If you don't want to invest in a complete set, why not buy just a few place settings for a small, special meal? | 7. Hayward Tray Table in Navy - One of my all-time favorite color combinations. Plus how gorgeous would this table be used as a bar cart?! Tray tables are such versatile pieces. | 8. Brooklyn Thread's Stone Trivet (available in more colors). Trivets are usually dull, so these are very refreshing. 9. This Set of 6 Moroccan Tea Glasses would be a cheerful addition to a glassware collection. | PS: If you're not a member of One Kings Lane yet, sign up

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekend Links: The Latest in Cocktail Celebration

All Images from the Sources Credited Below
Though I can no longer handle more than one cocktail in an evening (which my mid-20's self would certainly not understand) I've been making an attempt to learn more about the art of cocktails.

1. PUNCH explains the rise of the cocktail bar in Paris: "In cocktails Parisians can taste liberation from wine's outsize role in French culture in a way that's hard for Americans to understand, mostly because we have no equivalent historical burden." Speaking of Paris - have you all taken the "What City Should You Actually Live In?" quiz that's been going around this week? One guess what my answer was. Très bien!

2. "How to order a martini like a pro" from the Huffington Post. Now if only they could explain how to drink one like a pro (meaning still be able to walk afterward!)

3. As a refresher, The Boys Club outlines the basics: 5 Terms to Know When Ordering a Drink. 

4. Food52 offers a lesson in "How to Make (Almost) Perfect Ice at Home." (Did any of you even realize this was a problem?) They explain: "That sexy, crystal-clear ice cube in your $14 drink is denser than the cloudy stuff in your freezer, which means it's slower to melt. Less melting means less dilution; your drink retains its flavor longer." Who knew?! If you care enough, you can follow their guide to getting better ice in your home freezer.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Baby Shower Favors: Apple Cider Caramels in DIY Nautical Treat Bags

I thought we'd finish off baby shower week with the favors. I don't like guests to leave a party empty handed - especially not a party where they're expected to bring gifts! For the baby shower favors I made apple cider caramels using a recipe found on Etsy's "How-Tuesday" by Heather of Sprinkle Bakes. I doubled the recipe to make enough caramels to fill 25 favor bags. These caramels are great as favors because they can be made a few days in advance.
To fit the nautical theme, I chose gray stripes for the bags topped with alternating fuchsia and navy whales. I bought the bags at Paper Presentation. For the whales, I used the envelope liner that Carissa designed. I enlarged the print in Photoshop and printed a single whale to trace onto card stock as a stencil. This wasn't exactly a quick project, but I couldn't find a whale stencil anywhere! For the eyes I used a silver metallic Sharpie.
During the party we presented the favors on the bottom shelf of my bar cart. They were a great addition to the decor and really helped get the theme across. Then towards the end of the event we moved them to a table near the exit so guests could grab one on their way out.
The whales are cut from card stock in fuchsia and midnight from Paper Source.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Baby Shower Invitations by Carissa Nee Designs & DIY Envelope Liners

Carissa of Carissa Nee Designs was nice enough to design the baby shower invitations for us. We stuck with the navy & fuchsia color scheme and used a whale theme, inspired by crib bedding that the mother-to-be had registered for.
I am in love with these DIY envelope liners. Carissa sent me a .pdf of the whales that I printed out and cut to size using Paper Source's envelope liner template kit.
The kit has a template for every size of envelope that Paper Source sells, which are standard sizes found in most stores. You simply trace around the template on whichever paper you want to use for your liner. I'm seriously doing this for all invitations from now on! A liner really adds something to a piece of mail, don't you think? A plain inside of an envelope looks so boring to me now.
The mother-to-be requested a "library shower," which means that instead of a card, each guest brought a children's book with a note written inside. To get this across, Carissa designed the invitation to mimic a library catalog card. The manilla pockets from Quill. The flat cards are from Paper Source. 
The invitations and liners were printed by Remsen Graphics, a local business here in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Baby Shower Planning: the Menu

Though this was the first baby shower I've hosted, I knew that a shower was probably not the time to attempt complicated recipes. There is just too much going on with the gift opening, friends from different circles meeting, etc., to have to worry about being in the kitchen. For the shower, the mother-to-be requested pizza (her favorite), which was lucky for us hosts! As the guest count grew, we ruled out making homemade pizzas and decided to order in. Again, we didn't want to be distracted from the actual event especially when we ourselves didn't know all of the guests and wanted to spend some time getting to know everyone. So before the party we prepared a cheese board with nuts and fruit, truffled tater tots (recipe from Spoonful of Flour), individual salads, and this Teddy Graham "S'mores" mix inspired by Ninah's Instagram account, which is my latest obsession.
Seriously, could this be any cuter or more fun?! The graham cracker bears + chocolate + marshmallows = s'mores. (I'm spelling it out here because a few guests didn't make the connection!) Luckily we have a candy shop in Dumbo called Dewey's Candy that sells M&M's by color. If you don't have a candy store close by, you can order online at Oh! Nuts.
We placed a large crystal bowl of the mix on a side table on top of a stack of books, and a smaller one on the bar cart. It was definitely a hit with both the kids and the adults. Thanks Ninah for the idea!
We ordered this vanilla cake with dulce de leche filling from One Girl Cookies. I've taken several classes at the bakery taught by their Executive Chef, Dave (and even got some entertaining tips from him, outlined in this post!) I'm such a huge fan of theirs. And I learned years ago that if I'm hosting a party, making the cake on top of everything else is just too stressful. As much as I love serving my own desserts, baking under pressure doesn't lead to great results. So it's great to have local bakeries to lean on for occasions like these. I moved the baby carriage made by Forever Sweet Favors from the bar cart to the top of the cake when presenting it. The paper plates in the background are part of the "Lovely Lace Collection" found on Shop Sweet Lulu. There are such pretty options out there for paper plates these days. The placemat is the "Dahlia" in gunmetal by Chilewich, and the cake server set is the "Belle Boulevard" by Kate Spade.
Since this was a party for ladies we wanted to lighten up what seemed like heavy fare with these individual salads. We used 25 plastic cups placed on a tray filled with mixed greens, crumbled goat cheese, and sliced yellow baby tomatoes. I made a simple pink grapefruit vinaigrette served in a cruet next to the salads.

If anyone has suggestions for menu items that work for a large group that can be prepared ahead of time, I would love to hear them! Next up, invitations & favors...