Monday, September 29, 2014

{dinner party prep & clean up tips}

Entertaining friends in our home is one of my greatest joys in life- there is really nothing more special you can do than invite people in your home for an evening and show them a good time.  While I do love to throw a big party (like this or this), I prefer the more intimate setting of a small dinner party with a fun mix of friends.  After our guests leave for the evening, Chris and I always find ourselves discussing the details of the evening to figure out how to make it even better for next time and I'd like to think after all this time we have figured at least a few things out!  

Today's post is all about my tips for the best dinner party prep and clean-up - brought to you by Electrolux's fancy new dishwasher (Electrolux Stainless Steel Dishwasher with IQ-Touch™ Controls (EI24ID50QS).  The food and conversation of a dinner is the highlight of the evening, but it will never be successful without a little forethought and careful preparation.  While most people don't like to think about the clean-up of a party, it's equally as important as prep because it resets your home to its normal setting and doesn't leave you regretting hosting the party when you wake up to a mess the next morning.  Check out this little dinner party set up on our new roof deck from the other night and then read on for my tips on prep + clean up! 


1. Cook the night before:  We always try to to pick a menu that will allow us to do almost all the cooking the night before a party so that we aren't spending all day in the kitchen.  This is also helpful for weeknight dinner parties where you might only have an hour after work to get everything ready before your guests arrive. You can check out a great menu for a prep-ahead dinner right here!

2. Make a Playlist:  Music is so important to the vibe of a party.  Have you ever been in a restaurant where they forgot to turn on the music?!? It's absolutely horrible.  Music fills in the gaps in conversation and generally helps people relax.  I like to use spotify to make playlists and you can check out the one I made for our Moroccan inspired dinner party right here.

3.  Assign Seats:  Some people have negative associations with assigned seats - probably reminds them of their stuffy grandmother's house on Christmas Eve.  I prefer to assign seats - it elevates the feel of the evening and it helps you control the conversation.  I love a dinner party that has a good mix of people who might not necessarily know each other well which makes it even more important to place people strategically around the table who will have common interests.

4.  Buy Consistently:  While I love to get distracted by the colorful vintage inspired dishes at Anthropologie, I try to only buy dishes in white, glasses in clear glass and decor accents in gold.  This makes it incredibly easy to put together a tablescape that looks polished (like the one pictured above) since everything I own can be used together.  You can always bring in holiday colors or party themes using a fun tablecloth/napkins or interesting paper goods!

5.  Review the steps for set-up:  I always make fun of Chris because before we have a dinner party he sits down and makes a list of all the things we need to do and at what time such as pre-heating the oven, assembling appetizers, etc.  It's always written in chicken-scratch and taped up on the cupboard.  Sounds like a pretty simple tip, but it really helps us make sure we dont forget anything so we arent scrambling to add the cheese to appetizers we prepped the night before as guests are walking the door!


1.  No Cleaning with Guests:  I absolutely will not allow guests to help clean and I have a personal rule in our house that we don't clean anything while guests are still there.  Your guests are there to spend time with you and relax- no one is making lifelong memories while loading the dishwasher.  Also nothing signals the evening is over like clearing a table and disappearing to the kitchen- you never know what hilarious things will happen if you allow everyone to linger leisurely over the after dinner drinks!

2.  Don't Put It Off Til Tomorrow:  There is nothing worse than waking up to a mess.  As much as I want to go straight to bed after guests leave- we force ourselves to clean up that evening.  The Electrolux dishwasher helps tremendously with this as it cleans in only 30 minutes so you could even be extra productive and put away all the clean dishes before going to bed, but if you do fall straight to sleep after cleaning you won't hear a peep out of the dishwasher is cleans silently (which is HUGE as our current dishwasher sounds like a garbage truck).

3. Make It Fun:  Chris and I love to set a timer on our phone to challenge ourselves to see how much cleaning we can get done in a short amount of time.  It makes cleaning up feel like a game and sometimes that's the little distraction you need to make it pleasant.

4.  Use Nice Cleaning Products: I'm obsessed with glamorous cleaning product brands like Caldrea & Murchinson Hume.  It may seem ridiculous to spend a bit more on cleaning products, but the luxurious scents make the whole process significantly better.  Lately I have been using this Rosewater Driftwood scent.

see more details on Electrolux Appliance's homepage right here

The new Electrolux dishwasher provides a professional level clean with its 30-minute wash and dry cycle. As the highest rated dishwasher on ( ), it also features SatelliteSpray Arm technology which provides 400% more water coverage than a traditional dishwasher. Visit for more information on this and other stylish and functional options available from Electrolux.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Electrolux via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Electrolux.

Friday, September 26, 2014

{friday cocktail: kentucky devil}

We use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce around our place the same way most people use ketchup.  I think my favorite way to use it is for a spicy crema sauce on tacos, but the runner up is adding a spoonful to a weekend bloody mary.   I recently came across a bourbon cocktail using our favorite canned peppers and knew I had to try it out for myself.  I modified the recipe slightly to include honey syrup in the place regular simple syrup.  This is a truly delicious spicy cocktail with a nice bite to it that is softened by the fresh watermelon and honey.  It's also a great cocktail option for those who aren't normally bourbon drinkers (like myself).


Thursday, September 25, 2014

{what i loved this week}

on instagram:  The perfect mix of edgy and feminine on this wedding dress.  My girl crush Erica Pelosini killing it as usual at Paris Fashion Week.  An glamorous outdoor birthday party from Bijou & Boheme.  A dreamy Paris breakfast.

on pinterest:  Love these mini eucalyptus trees as wedding centerpieces.  Sort of obsessed with this idea of a marble waterfall countertop mixed with a unfinished plywood.  

on the blogs:  The Hunted Interior's new living room inspiration is right up my alley- especially the rug which is surprisingly affordable!

on my wishlist:  This week's wishlist features two amazing bar options.  The Layla bar cart from Urban Outfitters is surprisingly affordable at only $149- makes me re-consider my statements about not wanting a bar cart in our place.  This leather upholstered bar from West Elm pretty much stopped me in my tracks- it is pretty pricey, but how amazing would this be in your home?!?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

{trio of gourmet s'mores}

S'mores just might be one of my favorite throwback desserts from childhood, but they so rarely make an appearance now outside of camping trips (which are not a part of my life) and bonfires (which I wish were a bigger part of my life).   For the last post in my series with Pinnacle Vodka I got to watch a series of fun cocktail videos they recently created and their recipe using Whipped Cream flavored vodka to make a S'mores cocktail got me inspired to try out some alternative s'mores combos this past weekend (you can check out the fun video at the bottom of the post!).  I'm not a huge chocolate person so I decided to try making three different s'mores combos all without chocolate.   The whole set up of ingredients laid out in our kitchen before we started assembling the s'mores reminded me of the fun idea of creating a "s'mores bar" for a party like this one- you could even add a couple dessert cocktail options alongside the s'mores toppings using Pinnacle's flavored vodkas!

 {how fun would this tray be to bring out after a summer dinner}

{to make it easier to assemble/devour- I crumbled the pretzels in a ziploc bag before
adding them to the toppings tray} 

 {this was by far my favorite flavor combo- I even added a tiny sprinkle of finely ground black pepper to add a bit of kick. in the humble brag department I'll inform you that I grew that basil myself - it's really all about the small wins in life ya know?}

 {this simple combo was inspired by my all-time favorite street crepe flavor that I would find myself purchasing on our late nights in Paris- I would recommend not cutting the bananas like this, but rather cutting the banana on the bias to create longer pieces so they dont slip out of the s'mores set up - you can learn from my mistakes}

Check out this fun video that inspired this post with a S'mores cocktail recipe using Pinnacle's Whipped flavored vodka:

Pinnacle Vodka shakes things up with unexpected experiences and delightful discoveries. Explore with other fun flavors at  Also, check us out at and or find more fun entertaining and drink ideas on our Pinterest page at

Pinnacle® is a registered trademark of Jim Beam Brands Co. and is used with permission.  This is a sponsored partnership, with Pinnacle® Vodka, via Mode Media.  The information, comments, and ideas expressed on this website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Jim Beam Brands Co., its affiliated companies, or any of their directors or employees.

Friday, September 19, 2014

{friday cocktail: green bloody mary}

For a long time I was strictly a mimosa drinker for brunch situations, but in the past couple years I have become a full blown bloody mary convert.  In partnership with Pinnacle Vodka, I'm bringing you a fabulous way to enjoy your bloody mary at brunch this weekend in the form of a green bloody mary.  Using lots of fresh green veggies like tomatillos, peppers  and cucumber, I mixed up a green bloody mary base that is almost healthy enough that you might forget it's actually a cocktail.   In fact you could probably add some kale to this recipe and consider it your green juice for the day!

Despite how much healthy veggie ingredients are here, this mix is delightfully flavorful and a nice change from the normal red tomato bloody- sometimes you just gotta switch it up.  You can see my classic bloody mary recipe right here and a unique korean inspired version here.   Scroll down for both the green bloody mary base recipe and the cocktail recipe- as always make sure to get your garnish on!

Green Bloody Mary Base:

what you need:

  • 1 cucumber 
  • 6 tomatillos
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 Roasted and skinned pasilla pepper*
  • 1 roasted and skinned green bell pepper*
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
*the roasted part of these peppers makes them taste super yummy, but roasting them is a totally optional step. we just got excited about getting out in the sunshine and grilling stuff. ya know? 

  1. Peel skin off roasted peppers and chop.  Peel, de-seed and chop cucumber.  Roughly chop parsley and tomatillos (leave skin on).  Juice limes.
  2. Puree all chopped ingredients in a food processor or blender until well combined.  
  3. Strain entire mixture into serving container.
  4. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
  5. Mixture should keep in the fridge for a few days, but I wouldn't push it too far!


Pinnacle Vodka shakes things up with unexpected experiences and delightful discoveries. Explore with other fun flavors at  Also, check us out at and or find more fun entertaining and drink ideas on our Pinterest page at

Pinnacle® is a registered trademark of Jim Beam Brands Co. and is used with permission.  This is a sponsored partnership, with Pinnacle® Vodka, via Mode Media.  The information, comments, and ideas expressed on this website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Jim Beam Brands Co., its affiliated companies, or any of their directors or employees.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

{what i loved this week}

on instagram: New cases from This Is Ground- perfect gift for the guys in your life.  Glamorous outdoor entertaining with Peppa Hart.  Later today I am headed to Claire of The Kitchy Kitchen's book signing at Jenni Kayne's LA boutique.  Shoe porn via Elle Ferguson.

on pinterest: Obsessed with this marble macbook cover. Could this frittaffle be the new cronut? We have been considering putting curtains up along the edge of our bed- what do you think?  Home-made neapolitan marshmallows- can you imagine how good these would be in a smores?!?

in real life:  Last weekend we celebrated our upcoming birthdays with a toga party at our place and I was so happy that people got really into dressing up! 

on the blogs:  Great home decor tips even if you aren't fresh out of undergrad on The Coveteur.

on my wishlist:  A simple but sexy Lovers + Friends dress.  A great feathered skirt for the upcoming holiday season!  A gorgeous blue coat from Smythe.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

{decor shopping in the kid's section}

We are still searching for the perfect dining table lamp for our new place and a recent browsing of pinterest led me to the Pottery Barn Teen website.  I was shocked to find that I liked a lot of the great pieces (and was generally concerned about what that says about my taste level).   That led me to peruse the children's sites of Restoration Hardware and Crate & Barrel's kids store called The Land of Nod.  While many things on these sites really only belong in a kid's room, there are quite a few deals to be had on pieces that are similar to adult decor favorites.  Here's a little round up of some items that caught my eye in the kid's section:

Friday, September 12, 2014

{friday cocktail: mezcal sazerac}

I absolutely love using mezcal in cocktails to add that interesting smokey flavor.  I generally use it only as a float on top of a cocktail like spicy margaritas, but for today's recipe I decided to let it be the star of the drink.  This cocktail is simply a classic sazerac cocktail with the usual rye switched out for mezcal.   The absinthe rinse paired with the strong smoke flavor of the mezcal and aromatic peychaud bitters basically makes this drink a punch in the face.  Definitely not a light aperitif, but the perfect sipping accompaniment after a long night.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

{what i loved this week}

on instagram:  Amazing design inspiration in Tommy Hilfiger's studio.   After seeing Erica Pelosini's wedding on The Coveteur, I have a full blown stalker girl crush on her-especially her instagram feed.  Perfect fall outfit.  Love these neutral booties from BCBGeneration.

on pinterest:  This bar situation is the perfect look for a masculine party or maybe even a toga party?  A good reminder from Ricky Gervais.

on the blogs: Pretty much obsessed with this kitchen/great room makeover from Amber Interiors.

on my wishlist:  A great line up of LBD's for fall from Shona Joy, Indah, and IRO.  Also even though I can't link to this outfit the entire thing is on my wishlist for fall- especially the gorgeous camel coat.

{tailgating snacks: mini corndogs 3 ways}

While living in Chicago,  I found myself watching a lot more football than I previously had in my life between Northwestern's team, the Bears and rooting on the Georgia Dogs or USC Trojans alongside friends.  I would say that now I am about 10% more interested in football than I was previously which is a solid jump for me.  But I'm 100% more interested in the act of tailgating (something previously foreign to me as I went to a college with a forgettable football situation).  More specifically- the elevated version of tailgating (like this amazing tailgate).   You might remember a post on here for mini corndogs with fancy ketchup pairings.  That post has actually been seeing a lot of action lately - maybe because football season is beginning or maybe it's getting bounced around on pinterest... who knows.   I thought it would be fun to do a little update to that post adding in some more interesting flavor options for the mini corndogs.  I tried out jalapeno, onion/chive and maple versions- all of which are soooo good that Chris and I probably ate 6 each (not sorry.).  Scroll down for the recipes and happy tailgating season!

 {fyi- thats the "real talk" photo of the kitchen. I didn't move things out of the way so it looked pretty. my cell phone is within arm's reach. all thats missing here is a glass of red wine or a stiff drink, but I made these in the early afternoon so you know how it goes...}

Mini Corndog Flavor Trio

what you need (makes 24 mini corndogs) :

  • corn bread mix (I used Trader Joe's version) and ingredients listed on box for mix which for me was vegetable oil, 1 egg & whole milk
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 pack of Hebrew National Beef Franks
  • mini cupcake pan
  • cooking spray 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix corn bread according to box instructions. Then divide the mixture evenly among three small bowls.
  3. Finely chop jalapeno.  Dice one half of a white onion. Fine chop chives.
  4. Carmelize onions on stovetop until golden brown (about 10 minutes over medium heat).  Set aside and allow to cool.
  5. Mix in 1/3 cup of the jalapeno into one bowl of cornbread mix.  Mix in cooled onions and 1/4 cup cut chives in the second bowl of cornbread mix.  Mix in 2 tablespoons of maple syrup into last bowl of cornbread mix.
  6. Cut hot dogs into 1-inch long pieces- usually about 4 pieces per hot dog.
  7. Spray mini cupcake pan with cooking spray.
  8. Place about 3/4 tablespoon of cornbread mix in each cupcake basin. 
  9. Place one hot dog piece in the middle of each "muffin."
  10. Bake corndogs for about 12 minutes or until edges just start to get golden brown. 
  11. Allow to cool before removing from cupcake pan. 
  12. Enjoy!

You can also check out a fun video I did with Hebrew National all about elevating your tailgate right here. 

With grilling season upon us, everyone is craving an all-American hot dog. What makes a kosher hot dog different? It's all about what makes the cut (and what doesn't). Hebrew National is choosy about what goes into their franks – only 100% pure kosher beef so you know what you’re getting and they taste great. No artificial flavors, colors, fillers or byproducts.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Hebrew National via Mode Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Hebrew National.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

{grilled appetizer + cocktail pairing}

An alternate name for this post was "all grilled everything" because that's basically the mentality I took.  In the second to last post in my series with Pinnacle Vodka, I thought it would be fun to try mixing up a cocktail using grilled fruit- especially since everyone is currently saying these are officially the last days of summer.  Inspired by the recipes in this post, I grilled up some peaches and lemons for a delicious cocktail with a charred and smokey flavor.  One of my favorite things in the world is grilled bread so we tossed some of that on to the grill as well to make an accompanying appetizer using the leftover grilled peaches.  Scroll to the bottom of the post for the cocktail recipe which I'm calling the Burnt Sunset as well steps to make its twin sister appetizer of grilled bread topped with charred peaches, burrata cheese, fresh basil and lemon zest.  

This is little pairing is the perfect combo to savor the last days of summer!

Grilled Bread with Peaches, Burrata & Basil (serves 6)

what you need:

  • loaf of french bread (or whatever bread makes you happy)
  • olive oil
  • 8 oz burrata cheese
  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • zest of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper

1. Heat up your grill on high heat.
2.  Cut bread in 1 inch thick slices, lightly brush oil on both sides. Set aside.  Cut 1 inch thick peach slices and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
3. Chiffonade the fresh basil leaves and set aside.
4. Place both the bread and peaches on to the grill.  Peaches will take about 5 minutes per side and the bread should take about a minute per side.  Keep an eye on both until they get a nice char then remove from the grill.
5. Spread a healthy spoonful of burrata onto each slice of bread, top with 3 or 4 slices of grilled peaches.  Place a few small pieces of basil on top then sprinkle lemon zest on top.  Top with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Enjoy!

Pinnacle Vodka shakes things up with unexpected experiences and delightful discoveries. Explore with other fun flavors at  Also, check us out at and or find more fun entertaining and drink ideas on our Pinterest page at

Pinnacle® is a registered trademark of Jim Beam Brands Co. and is used with permission.  This is a sponsored partnership, with Pinnacle® Vodka, via Mode Media.  The information, comments, and ideas expressed on this website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Jim Beam Brands Co., its affiliated companies, or any of their directors or employees.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

{the essential cocktail tools}

We make a lot of cocktails around here and have a pretty healthy bar situation filled with interesting spirits, bitters and cocktail accessories.  While I love cute little embroidered cocktail napkins, fun drink stirrers and gold plated bar accessories those just aren't the things that make a good cocktail.  Today I thought I would round up the essential tools that are the work horses of creating cocktails in our house.  Check out below for how we use each of these and where to buy!

1.  Boston Shaker & glass: Just don't bother with regular cocktail shakers like this- a classic Boston shaker is what you want in your life.  Build the cocktail in the glass side, add ice to the metal side, pour liquid into metal side, firmly close together and shake like your life depends on it.

2.  Barspoon:  We picked up this one in Paris and I'm obsessed it.  Besides having a nice weight to it and the perfect twist on the handle it also includes small measurement in the spoon area.  This little guy makes negroni cocktails possible and that is important to me.

3.  Julep Strainer:  This type of strainer is generally used for stirred cocktails along with the Yarai mixing glass (see #9).  You do not need to spend a lot of money on this tool (although like most things in life the luxury option is available). 

4.  Jiggers:  We have three sets of jiggers, but these two are the ones we use constantly for getting that perfectly measured cocktail.  One is sized 1oz to 2oz and the other is sized 1/2 oz to 3/4oz.  I find that those sizes suit my needs pretty well along with the barspoon for even smaller measurements.  Like the strainer above- you don't need to spend a ton on these, but I would recommend getting something a bit nicer as a heavy weighted jigger will make it easier to use. 

5.  Hawthorne Strainer: This little guy is the boyfriend to the Boston Shaker (#1) and you will need it to make drinking shaken cocktails possible.  Since it will be used in most of the cocktails you make, it would be best to get a nicer quality strainer- the good news is that this one is $7 and works like a dream!

6.  Garnish picks:  I bought these on a whim at Crate & Barrel and they were accompanied by a large eye roll on Chris' part, but we actually use them all the time.  I love their classy and simple look- perfect for spearing Luxardo cherries in a Manhattan

7. Straw-spoons:  This is another case of something that was bought more as gimmick, but has also proven to be a staple.  The perfect marriage of stir spoon and straw in one- I use these for almost every cocktail served in a highball glass. 

8.  Citrus Juicer:  They make these for limes and oranges as well- I would definitely not waste your time buying the lime one since limes fit in the lemon one.  Even though limes and lemons would fit in the one made for oranges I don't prefer to use the orange one as it is pretty large and unwieldy. 

9. Yarai Mixing Glass:  Just look at this thing- do you even need me to tell you what I use it for to want it? Probably not- it's pretty cut crystal you'll want to buy one of these just because.  It's used for stirred cocktail FYI.  Could you make stirred cocktails in the glass side of the Boston Shaker? Yes.  But the height and size of the Yarai mixing glass makes it perfect for getting your stir on with plenty of ice.  We use it for negronis, manhattans and sazeracs.

10. Wood Muddler: There have been times when I can't find our muddler and have had to make a mint julep or caipirinha with the back of a wooden spoon. That situation is wrong and it makes me appreciate having a nice muddler on hand- you should too. 

11. Champagne stopper:  This. Guy. Is. The. Best.  While its not actually a cocktail accessory, I do find myself using champagne in a lot of our cocktails and this little puppy really extends the life (aka bubbles) of a bottle.  Why not get it in gold while you're at it?

Not pictured:  I realized after grabbing all our tools, I forgot one of the most important things: ice molds.  We use three different ice molds on a regular basis.  Small square for mixing, Large Square for old fashioned glasses and Long Rectangle for high ball glasses. 

If you didn't notice- I love to use Amazon to buy most of the items on this list (as well as just about everything else in life), but my favorite site for cocktail accessories is by far Cocktail Kingdom.  I hope this round up helps you build your home bar better and enjoy making cocktails on the regular!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

{birthday inspiration: 29th birthday toga party}

Every year I go back on forth on whether I want something low key or something bigger for our birthday party (Chris and my birthdays are three days apart so we have always done a joint party).  You can see our 26th birthday dinner here and here, 27th birthday cocktail party here & a more intimate dinner we did for our 28th here.   This year we turn 29 and I decided to use that as the perfect excuse to do something a little cheesy (it is the last year of our 20s after all!) - we decided to throw a toga party at our new place in a few weeks to celebrate!  Complete with flower crowns and gold laurel wreaths, lots of wine and champagne (plus our party staple whiskey punch!) and of course a photobooth.  Toga attire is strictly required from guests and I can't wait to see how people deal with that!  Here's a little inspiration board I put together for the evening:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

{late summer florals with protea blooms}

I have been wanting to create an arrangement using protea flowers for some time now, but they have such a unique look that I always end leaving them behind for easier to work with flowers.  On a trip to the flower mart this past Saturday, I passed a stall with pink protea on sale for a $1 a stem and couldn't pass up the chance to experiment with them.  For a more glam touch, I used a low profile gold ceramic vase and paired the protea with some more organic and wild feeling flowers like deep purple clover, wax flower and cream hypernicum berry.   I don't know what kept me away from these interesting blooms for so long, but I'll definitely be using them in arrangements much more in the future especially since they provide a lot of look for a low price!