taking my own advice – adding easy little touches while entertaining at home

I'm no Dina Manzo but here are some ideas anyone can use while entertaining at home

It’s a lot of pressure to have a blog on events and entertaining. While I like to think that I’m primarily sharing my wisdom and great ideas, I also feel like I have to take my own advice. But the good news is that my advice isn’t so hard to take. I try to make most of my ideas and features as accessible as possible. Maybe this is because of my background in nonprofit planning – you can do anything with an unlimited budget, but doing more with less (or barely anything at all, in the case of some nonprofits!) is so much more impressive. So too are my entertaining tips. I don’t imagine my readers are incredibly wealthy socialites with infinite time and resources to plan Dina Manzo-level dinner parties (but if I’m wrong and you are a wealthy socialite with infinite time and resources, feel free to contact me here and I’d love to help you!). I imagine my readers are regular people with crazy, busy schedules and not a lot of time or resources, just like me.

But back to the pressure. December was pretty hectic for us. We moved into our new house (our first house!) right before Thanksgiving, then a month later we hosted Christmas dinner for my side of the family, then a grown-up New Year’s Eve party for a few friends, and then hosted a housewarming party last weekend for many of our local friends. Among the guests at all three were some regular readers of the blog (meaning, my mom and my dear friends Anna and Melissa).

So despite how hectic everything was, I managed to infuse a little bit of fun into these parties, so I thought I’d share some photos (and prove that I’m not all talk!).

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office holiday party at top of the town

holiday party at top of the town in arlington, va

A few months ago I featured a site report on Top of the Town, just outside of Washington, DC. In December, we used Top of the Town for an office holiday party for about 150 people. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the venue and how the party worked out, as well as share some of the ideas we used for decor and the menu. We also had some entertainment for the evening, but I will feature that in a separate post.

I’ll start with a disclaimer – my photos are terrible. We didn’t have a professional photographer at this event so it was just me and my decent camera in poor lighting conditions during set-up. So, please forgive me!

The Venue

The selling point for Top of the Town is its view. It’s right outside DC (in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington) so it has magnificent views of DC and the monuments. It was actually a gray, rainy day on the night of the party, so I wasn’t able to take any good shots of the view but you can see some here. Luckily it cleared up enough by the time the party started that the guests were able to marvel at the view.

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lessons learned: what I did right and what I did wrong at Christmas this year

lessons learned from hosting Christmas

As regular readers of this little blog know, my husband and I moved into our first house in November and this Christmas was the first we would be able to spend in our new home. We would be hosting my family on Christmas day. Ever the hostess, I was so excited for Christmas this year. I had visions of being able to sleep in our own bed Christmas Eve, wake up at a leisurely hour and open presents in our pajamas, before going to Church and then coming home and getting ready for my family to arrive.

Well, spoiler alert: that’s not how Christmas happened this year. Oh there were no disasters, for sure, but a few things didn’t go as planned and I broke the cardinal rule of being a good hostess (and of event planning): just roll with it. Let’s just say I didn’t always roll with it this year. I let myself get a little stressed, which I never do while planning professionally.

So in the hope of preventing someone else from making the same mistake, I wanted to share my lessons learned.

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champagne cocktails for your new year’s eve party

champagne cocktail ideas for your new year's eve party

You can’t have a new year’s eve party without champagne. Well, you probably could, but I wouldn’t come. I absolutely love champagne and most sparkling wine. Champagne cocktails, or cocktails where champagne is an ingredient, are my favorite.  While most people include a bottle of champagne in their New Year’s Eve plans to pop the cork just before midnight, there’s no reason why you can’t include champagne throughout your evening. A champagne cocktail is a great way to add something fun and interesting to your party, and you can also save some money by buying a lower quality sparkling wine since you’ll be mixing it anyway.

Here are some ideas for champagne cocktails that don’t take too many crazy ingredients. You might have these ingredients in your home bar already, or you may only have a few things to buy. There are so many delicious cocktails out there, there’s no need to try the ones that have really obscure ingredients.

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how to throw a grown-up new year’s eve party

how to throw a grown-up new year's eve party

I know it’s not even Christmas, but I’m pretty excited about our New Year’s Eve plans, probably because we’ve had these plans for approximately six months. Pretty much since we signed the contract on our new construction home and we knew that we’d be moved in before the holidays (turns out it was just before), we knew that we wanted to have just a few close friends over. And since we live about an hour away from these friends they are going to stay over and I’ll make brunch the next morning.

You may be incredibly excited for your wild and crazy New Year’s Eve plans, but I’m definitely too old for that. I’m looking forward to having a cozy evening with friends, with plenty of food and drink, and definitely some laughs as we’re planning on playing this game.

If you’re like me and you would rather ring in the new year with a group of friends at home (or maybe even a big group of friends somewhere else) – here are some quick tips to have a grown-up party that is classy, not trashy, but still fun.

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friday favorites – best CHRISTMAS COCKTAIL ideas of the week

Since everyone else is focused on Christmas this week (as am I!) I thought I’d focus my Friday Favorites on the one piece of Christmas entertaining it’s not too late to change – your beverage menu! At a holiday party I planned earlier this week we incorporated some fabulous signature cocktails – I can’t take credit for them – that goes to Design Cuisine! – and they were a big hit. So much so that I’ve decided to make a modified version of one for Christmas day in my house. Here are some fun suggestions (of varying levels of difficulty and number of odd ingredients) in case you want to add one to your menu. Unless your Christmas dinner is huge, I suggest on focusing on just one to supplement the other drinks that you offer. Cheers!

#5 – Candy Cane Cocktail

Christmas Cocktail Ideas

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christmas place setting ideas

diy christmas place setting and place card ideas

As promised, I am continuing this Christmas week with ideas for entertaining at home. I am a day late but I did have a good excuse – last night was a company holiday party that I planned and I’m happy to report that it was a success – I’ll have more info on that next week, but I definitely was able to follow my own advice because the party was not a disaster.

On Monday I featured centerpiece ideas – today I have some ideas for place settings and place cards. Even if you don’t have so many guests that you “need” assigned seats, I love doing place cards. It’s a fun way to add a little something special to the table, especially if you don’t have room for a centerpiece – which is most likely going to be the case for me, since I always overdo it with the food. Just about all these ideas are DIY-friendly, too!

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