hosting

Watercolor calligraphy placecards? Of course.

When my friend Michelle started planning a celebration for her law school dinner, she wanted a big crowd for dinner with zero chaos. She had seen the invitations I made for Sammi and Tony’s engagement party, and asked if I could lend a crafty hand for her dinner.

IMG_2371

We decided on a watercolory aesthetic in shades of blue and teal – playing off of the venerable D.C. restaurant Oyamel’s bright, playful decor.

Inspired by a DIY from Paper & Stitch, I dip-dyed sturdy cardstock squares in a custom blend of watercolor inks (Cobalt Turquoise and Cerulean Blue) from Blick Art Supplies. 

IMG_2374

I wanted the cards to have a faint ombre look, so I mixed two bowls – one of just Cerulean, and one with a 2:1 ratio of Turquoise and Cerulean. I kept the mixes fairly concentrated, and used wide bowls so I’d have an easy(ish) time dipping the paper. I’d recommend testing on scrap paper as you go to ensure that you are getting the right hue and intensity. Also remember that colors dry a little brighter than when they’re wet!

First, I dipped the card two thirds of the way (or maybe three quarters for some!) in the lighter Cerulean bowl. Dip, dip, and dry the edges, then on to the brighter mixed bowl, where I dipped maybe up to halfway of what was already dyed. I played around with angles here – have fun with it!

IMG_2372

Make sure to tap the edges on paper towels before laying them out to dry. After tapping the edges and removing any water bubbles, I laid the cards out on rows of paper towels. Once finished, I covered them with paper towels and a few heavy books, per Paper & Stitch’s recommendation. This is an essential step to making sure the wet cards dry flat and neat! NOTE — if your paper towels have patterns….. you will see those in the finished product. I’d recommend using unpatterned paper towels or even cheesecloth if this will be an issue for you!

I let the cards dry a full day before adding calligraphy. I used a wide nib that gives a playful thick-and-thin stroke, and got to it!

When an evite just won’t do

Folks, its been a while, and for that I’m sorry. Life gets busy. It’s good to be back into blogging!

Lately all of my attention has been on the rooftop soiree we’re hosting in just a few weeks. All my fingers are crossed for a sunny, WARM day, and I’ve checked the extended forecast way too often hoping to see a trend in the right direction. With all the wind and chill we’ve had in D.C., I’m a little worried.

RSVPs are starting to trickle in, which means all the action is just beginning on my end. I’ve got some ideas on food and drink and a few little decorations, but mostly I’m just excited to hear from guests! It’s clear that I’m not the only one who loves this bride & groom, all of their friends & family are so excited to celebrate every step of the way with them.

FullSizeRender (2)

I really had fun designing my own invitation suite and have gotten a lot of questions on HOW I did that given that I have 1. no true design experience (unless you count endless decks at work!) to speak of and 2. no design software like InDesign or Adobe Illustrator. I’m here to answer those questions!

(more…)

How To Brunch At Home

One of my favorite ways to relax on the weekend is over brunch with good friends. I love checking out new brunch spots and going to the usual favorites too. I usually have a hard time deciding between eggy, savory dishes and sweet things that I never make at home like French toast. I never have a hard time deciding on a mimosa 😉

FullSizeRender

In the interest of not having to make a reservation, saving a buck or two, and an excuse to use my new copper chargers from Crate and Barrel, I had two of my favorite ladies and their respective husbands/boyfriends over for brunch this weekend. It was super casual, but I did put more thought than usual into the food I chose. My favorite element of brunch is the lingering, taking our time and doing a little more talking than eating. I hadn’t seen some of these friends in a bit and I wanted us to have all the time we needed to catch up!

brunch menu

Before anyone arrived, I prepped the two plated meals — I sliced the grapefruits in half, separating the segments from outside peel and the thin membranes. I mixed the cinnamon and brown sugar. I chopped and diced the jalapenos, garlic, and onions for the shakshuka, and I hand crushed the tomatoes (apron on! I’ve learned that one the hard way 😉 )

FullSizeRender (4)

(more…)

Valentine’s Day dinner for two

Though I know it’s a bit of a commercial holiday, I can’t help but love Valentine’s Day.

I have celebrated a few different ways over the years – mailing out pretty or silly cards to far-flung friends, going on weekend getaways with Steve (note: Philly’s Italian BYO restaurant scene was the perfect romantic/fun date!), hosting Galentine’s Day parties. Besides all the chocolate + rosé, it’s a great time for sentimental me to get all mushy about the people I love. 

One of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories was my second Valentine’s Day with Steve. In a valiant effort to redeem our first Valentine’s Day, wherein we were long distance and he… forgot about it… Steve kicked out all of his housemates and made me a super awesome dinner at home. Seared rare tuna steaks that he marinated in fresh ginger and soy sauce, with roasted asparagus. An actual expensive bottle of wine and brie and PATE (ew, but A for effort)! I knew he was trying hard to impress, and he was uncharacteristically nervous. The whole thing was so sweet and romantic, and it helped that it was SUPER delicious as well. 

Cooking for a loved one is such a genuine way to show love. Cooking is effort, thoughtfulness, precision. So if you’re looking for a way to show someone how you feel, why not make them a special dinner for two?

FullSizeRender (11)

A few thoughts on what makes a good Valentine’s Day meal:

(more…)

Registry essentials for cooks & hosts

My kitchen is always the center of activity when we have people over, and it used to drive me crazy.

I’d be saying polite things like “no its okay I don’t need any help” all while thinking frantic things like “get out of here there’s barely enough room for two people in my kitchen and you are in my way!!!! there are snacks in the other room! stop eating the ingredients!”

The kitchen was always a hot mess before a party (okay, that part hasn’t changed) and I felt kind of exposed and harried if someone was watching me.

When I finally learned to embrace the distractions, ahem, I mean the company, I found that I actually loved it. It’s so nice to spend more time chatting with the people you invited over, and no one is expecting your home to be like a restaurant – they just want to hang out with you! If that makes dinner a few minutes late, who cares… that’s what the extra bottle of wine is for 🙂

One outcome of this revelation was that I wanted to up my kitchen game. Our first apartment together had a teeny galley kitchen with a half-size gas oven that worked, coincidentally, about half the time. (Yes, this is a health hazard and yes, our landlord took their sweet time replacing it!) Our new kitchen has about double the cabinet space (yes!) with a full size oven (yes!), but it is an electric stove (boo) and an open kitchen into our living/dining room area (MAJOR boo. can’t hide the mess anymore!) Well, you can’t win ’em all!

With additional storage space and more eyes than ever on the action, it was time to get some nicer kitchen gear. These are classic pieces – though I’ll always love my fun, unique kitchen pieces, these are workhorses that get the job done and will look great in this apartment and 50 years down the road. For those of you who love to entertain, whether you’re actually registering or just taking yourself shopping, here are the most used and loved items from our registry!

 

  • Staub Oval Cocotte: oh wait, was this one obvious? It’s been in most of the pictures I’ve shared, so, yeah, probably pretty obvious. Beyond its obvious beauty, this thing is a champ on the stove or in the oven. From braising meats to simmering soups or chilis, this puppy can do it all and then look gorgeous on your table. The lid has little nibs on the inside that help keep moisture circulating while cooking and yield the most tender meat. That and the rich color made Staub an easy choice for me over Le Creuset!
  • Shun Classic collection knives: speaking of game changers, These. Are. Amazing. To be fair, my knife set before this was 6 years old and hadn’t been sharpened in quite some time. But still, the Shun set cuts through anything easy as butter.
  • KitchenAid Design Series Stand Mixer in Antique Copper: Because, duh. I’m not even going to say anything else. I love the color to death and it looks fantastic in my imaginary future white marble countertop kitchen. (Check back in 10 years to see if I’ve made any progress towards confirming that.) Champagne and Blueberry are equally stunning.
  • Wine decanter. Not that I always remember (or bother) to use it, but I’m always amazed by how it improves the taste of red wine. Plus, its a way more elegant look on your bar cart or table! This isn’t the exact one we have, but I love  its  shape!
  • Crate & Barrel Marin Dinner Plates in White: Steve and I had a HUGE debate about plates when we were registering! He favored the more classic/traditional styles, and I was all about modern looks with more color and texture. These were our compromise, and they are perfect! Equal parts new and classic, the crisp white is a great backdrop for all food and the texture and subtle greying on the organic-shaped rims are the perfect pop of interest. Plus, they look great with all the colorful plates I already have! 😉

What are your favorite kitchen pieces for cooking or entertaining? I’d love to know!

Gotta risk it for the brisket

One thing I like to do when planning a menu, for any kind of party, is to rely on familiar favorites. There’s no reason to experiment with something unknown and expensive under pressure – do that on your own time! I don’t mean to suggest that you should gravitate towards boring options, but I do mean pick dishes that you’ve served before, use techniques that you’re familiar with and have mastered, etc.

This just seems like common sense, and a good way to make sure you don’t make mistakes when your guests are arriving soon.

Right?

This is the story of how that principle didn’t pan out so well for me.

We had 12 friends over for dinner last Friday. Remember, I live in the D.C. area, where we were just slammed by Winter Storm (ahem, blizzard) Jonas. Everyone was planning to walk to our apartment, and the snow had been scheduled to start coming down thick around noon that day. Warm and comforting were top priorities for food.  

menu

Weird mix of Jewish, southern, and modern? I’m all over it.

(more…)

Dinner party inspiration

We’re hosting 8 friends for dinner on Friday. Or maybe 9. Plus the two of us, that’s 11 chairs required, with only 8 on hand…oh, and four of those are actually bar stools. This is going to be a litttttle cozy.

Which is kind of perfect. This weekend’s forecast is calling for a big dump of snow and I can think of nothing better than being snowed in and watching it pile up with some of my favorite people.

Our friends like to host a rotating dinner club, where one apartment makes a feast and everyone else just shows up, sometimes with a friend or two in tow. We’ve kind of let dinner club slip by the wayside recently (#holidaze), and the new year is the perfect time to start fresh. Note to friends: who’s hosting next?

Besides the shortage of chairs, I only have one problem – I have to work Friday and won’t have a ton of time to prep before people arrive. Dinner’s got to be something that cooks slow and low, and warms everyone up. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve 😉

In the meantime, I’m loving the chic winter dinner party inspiration I’m finding on Pinterest! Those pomegranate Moscow Mules are calling my name — too bad we only have four copper mugs. (Are you sensing a theme?)

Follow along as I decide on a menu and style at @everyday_soiree on Instagram.