Saturday, January 31, 2009
Hip Hostess provides you essential information and tips on how to entertain cost effectively, gracefully and impressively. One of the things we don’t talk about much is the day after the party. Just as important as all of the pre-planning is the post-party wind down. You should definitely pencil in a little pampering for yourself, the next day. In case a spa trip does not fit your time frame or pocketbook, Hip Hostess has a home remedy that is skin smoothing, relaxing and revitalizing. This recipe is adapted from the Citrus Spice Aroma Bath at the Ritz Carlton Spa in Grande Lakes, Florida.
With a few simple ingredients you will be on your way to total relaxation in no time.
Skin Smoothing Citrus Bath
1 Navel Orange
1 Cup whole cloves, divided
1 Cup pulp-free orange juice
½ Cup soy milk
2 teaspoons lavender essential oil
How to make it:
Cut orange into even slices; insert ½ cup cloves into slices. Fill tub with 90 to 95 degree water (experts recommend using a cooking thermometer when testing the water temperature. Expectant moms: talk to your doctor before indulging); add oranges, remaining ½ cup cloves, orange juice, soy milk, and lavender oil.
Why it’s good for you:
Rich in antioxidants and vitamins A & C, citrus fruit acids are natural exfoliants. Circle a washcloth over your body while soaking to slough off dead cells loosened by fruit acids. Cloves enhance the sensory experience. Citrus has been proven to make people feel happier and lavender abates stress.
Friday, January 30, 2009
So it's Friday and no one has taken charge of where your group of friends is going to watch the Super Bowl. And with so little time, how can you pull it together and still hope to have at least one lazy weekend day? Hip Hostess is about to show you how easy (and fun!) a last minute SB Party can be.
1. Make it a BYOB. Football calls for beer, not fancy drinks. Everyone can bring their favorite brewskies and you aren't stuck lugging several cases home from the bodega.
2. Download easy decorations. The Paper and Cup shop on etsy has a downloadable set of decorations that cover everything from napkin rings, to beer charms, to a pennant garland. And it's only $5.
3. Prepare some friendly betting games for your group. That way the people that talk during the game and only watch the commercials will stay engaged the entire time and not annoy the diehards. I've searched extensively and this is a link to the best and most accurate description of how to play 2 common games - Squares and Props. Of course they didn't update the directions for this year...so everywhere is says Indianapolis Colts fill in Pittsburgh Steelers, and change Chicago Bears to the Arizona Cardinals. Sorry for the extra step, but I know that you can handle it.
And if your are feeling extra special, most grocery stores have sugar cookies in the bakery that are shaped like footballs or helmets. It's kitchy cute and delicious. Just remember...laces out!!
1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
Meanwhile melt the velveeta in a double boiler or microwave. When beef is fully browned, add the cheese, spices, salsa, and tomatoes. Cook until heated through and then bring the heat down to low. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
In December, I was thrilled to find out that one of my closest friends had gotten engaged. During the holidays I was lucky enough to get back to Chi-town to celebrate with her. In the middle of a long line of toasts, she asked me what I thought of Peacocks as a theme. Well I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since then!
I think that in order to pull off such a bold statement, you must have vibrant personality & style to not let those feathers take over - this lady has both in spades. So I put together this little inspiration board with the future Mrs. Sipic in mind.
Peacock feathers can be found in all sorts of color variations, but I focused on the blues and greens. I liked the mixture of bold statements (the super fun wreath) and more subtle statements (like the centerpieces - where the peacock feathers blend in nicely with simple wildflowers). So as to not go overboard, I also think it is important to incorporate non-peacock, but color-appropriate themes too (such as the paisley invites, cupcakes and multicolor drink flags). And I finished it off with a beautiful tea-length dress and sassy accessories. I can't wait for July...her wedding is going to be so much fun!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Not all appetizers require hours in the kitchen. Cheese always pleases. With little effort, you can put together a cheese display that will stand heads above those cheese cubes on black plastic trays that you find at most grocery stores. Here's our step by step guide to the Perfect Cheese Platter...every time.
Supplies and Ingredients:
Slate or wooden cutting board (we used a 12" x 12" slate)
Leaves or other greenery (lemon, hydrangea, Thai leaves are all good)
Selection of cheeses (see explanation below)
Other Accoutrements (nuts, dried fruit, honey, etc)
1. Start with a blank slate...literally.
2. Rinse lemon leaves. Then arrange on slate or board with leaf points facing out. You should create a bed of green but still allow the base to show. It shouldn't look perfect - more organic.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year which is the perfect day for a fabulous and romantic evening. And, as a bonus, you have all day Sunday to recoup. While it never seems smart to play with fire while drinking, the Flame of Love martini is a dangerously sexy concoction that is sure to make an impression.
The Flame of Love was created by Pepe Ruiz in 1970 for Dean Martin and was a very popular drink among the Rat Pack. Not only can you prepare Flame of Love for your significant other but you have an instant cute story and Rat Pack music to create atmosphere.
2 oz. Vodka
2 drops Dry Sherry
2 oz. Oranges
The art of the drink
Before filling the glass, light a wooden match a few inches above the rim, and pinch thick strips of orange peel into the flame, oily skin side toward the flame. The oils ignite and flare up over the glass. A few more strips are pinched and their oil ignited over the glass. You are oiling up the glass with this method to prepare for the finale. Then the drink is poured in, and one last strip of orange peel is flamed over the glass in the same manner. In a flash, the spray of orange oil falls over the martini, giving the first sip a citrus zing.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The growler is a large, 64 oz. glass jug that looks like it could be well-suited as an instrument in a hillbilly mountain band or as a vessel for delicious beer. Not only is the packaging eco-friendly (no waste cans or bottles) but also economical as your local brewery will fill and refill at a discounted rate.
Growlers are generally made of glass and have either a screw-on cap or a hinged porcelain gasket cap which can provide freshness for a week or more. A properly sealed growler will hold carbonation indefinitely, but it is not an appropriate means of long term beer storage since it is not a sanitized form of packaging.
Growlers got their name from the sound that the CO2 made when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around. It likely dates back to the late 19th century when fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one's home by means of a small-galvanized pail.
I can’t think of a better way to make an impression at your Superbowl party next weekend. Why would the ladies go for the guy with the 40 when they could have the guy with the 64!
Below is a list of growler purveyors in the NYC area. Please call ahead to make sure they have stock. --b
American Beer Distributors/Thrifty Beverage: 256 Court St. at Kane St., Brooklyn, (718) 875-0226
Friday, January 23, 2009
You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find. You get what you need.
Besides being the lyrics to a really great Stones song, this was a big lesson that I learned in my wedding journey.
Prior to being a bride, I never had a real emotional attachment to any flower. I thought roses of nearly any shade were lovely. Tulips are great. Peonies are fantastic too. But as a bride, I became obsessed with the anemone. For 29 years of my life, I thought an anemone was a sea creature...but now I had to have it. One little problem: Anemones are no good during the time that I was getting married. What is a girl to do?
My answer came shortly after when I was at our cake tasting. While we were there, my wonderful Chicago baker, Take the Cake, was preparing samples for images that they planned to use on their website. We could see firsthand what they could do with sugar flowers, and I was impressed. So I hurried home and drew up a pathetic little sketch and sent it over.To my relief, Take the Cake said that they were up to the challenge even though anemones are highly detailed and difficult to create. And I am SO happy that they did. The end result was stunning. I may have not been able to carry a bouquet of these beauties, but I was so happy that they were represented in this unique way. --a
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Thanks to the generosity of my husband’s co-workers and clients we ended up with quite a surplus of bottles over the holidays. I wonder if that says something about us? So I started to think about what we can create with a 1.5L bottle of red wine instead of just drinking it?
I researched and found you can provide a delicious, inexpensive dinner for 4. Since the weather outside is well below the freezing mark, I decided to use Ina Garten’s recipe for Parker’s Beef Stew and then skim a little wine from that recipe to use on Michele Humes’ Mulled Wine Syrup over blood oranges for dessert. This should leave me with just enough for a couple of glasses to serve with dinner. Now, I wonder what I can do with tequila. --b
PARKER’S BEEF STEW
Mulled Wine Syrup
Yields 1 cup
1 bottle red wine
1 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1. Place all ingredients into a medium pot or skillet (the wider the vessel, the quicker the process) and bring to a boil.
2. Lower to a simmer and reduce until liquid is one-third of its original volume (about 20 minutes). Look for a lightly syrupy consistency--it will thicken further on chilling.
3. Strain to remove spices and transfer to a container to chill. Refrigerated, the syrup will keep indefinitely.
The recipe calls for one bottle of red wine, but it's easily scaled up or down, depending on what's on hand. Experiment with your favorite spices. A version containing star anise and black peppercorns could be used to dress a seared duck breast. Or substitute white wine, and scrape the seeds of a vanilla bean into the pot for a speckled syrup that will go well with stone fruits and sorbets.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
This is one of my favorite DIY tutorials to date. With a little experimentation and patience this is a HUGE cost savings. When planning my wedding in Mexico I had a vision of many glowing candles poolside for the reception. I first approached the resort who wanted to charge an exorbitant rental fee. Next, I checked with local artisans who made something very similar to the Candletech DIY Luminaries, but the cost was between $50 and $100 per piece depending on size. I definitely didn’t want to pay that kind of money for something I would have to leave behind.
With the luminary project you can produce as many as you want for a few bucks a piece. The most difficult part of this process is shipping, if you’re wedding is in a destination location. As Hip Hostess always suggests, being prepared is key. I would first research to make sure the mode of shipment to the destination was economical and then do a test batch, pack them and ship them using the same shipping method to see how they fare. It is also a good idea to ship the actual luminaries a couple of weeks before the wedding and make sure someone opens the box and checks their condition. Beware of extra storage fees in resort and hotel contracts. If you know you are shipping things ahead of time, be sure to negotiate that fee from the beginning.
These luminaries would add a classy touch to any event.
Hot Melt Paraffin Wax.
1. Fill a water balloon with tepid water.
2. Melt your wax. Optimum working temperature for this project is 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Try to maintain this temperature for your wax while working by keeping it on a double boiler.
3. Slowly dip your balloon into the wax to just below the water level in the balloon. Warning: Do not dip the balloon into the wax past the water level. This could cause the balloon to pop.
4. Hold the balloon in the wax for a few seconds, and then slowly lift it out of the wax. Dip the balloon a few more times, allowing some time between dips to let the wax cool.
5. While it is still quite warm, carefully set the balloon down onto a piece of paper or a cookie sheet, making sure it is level. This will create a flat bottom for the luminary.
6. Dip your balloon a few more times until it is the desired thickness. A good target thickness is 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch.
7. Set the balloon on the paper or cookie sheet again and let it cool.
8. When the wax is completely cooled, hold the balloon over a sink or bucket, facing away from you. Carefully pop the balloon with a skewer or knife and let the water drain out. Throw away the balloon shards.
9. To level the top of the luminary, heat a cookie sheet on the stove and place the luminary top-down onto the hot sheet and carefully melt the edges until it is level.
10. Place a tea light or votive inside the luminary and burn on a candle holder in a dark area. (This shows the luminaties with dye added).
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
With the economy being what it is many people are searching for inexpensive alternatives for entertainment. One of the ways Hip Hostess entertains a casual group of friends is by breaking out The World’s Liveliest Trading Game…Pit. Pit is a great way to break the ice if you have groups of friends that have never met before or don’t have that much in common. With this lightning-paced Parker Brothers game everyone will be yelling “Trade three! Three! Three! and small talk will be all but forgotten.
The game is based on trading commodities such as barley, hay and flax and also thrown in are the Bear and the Bull. When you collect all nine cards you have cornered the market and you’ve won the round. You announce you have won the game by ringing the bell which is usually followed by a number of hands being thrown on the table as well as some expletives.
Parker Brothers sells a new Pit game for about $17 or since the game originated in 1904 there are several vintage game boxes for sell on Ebay for around $10. The game is good for many hours of inexpensive fun and when else will you get the chance to yell such phrases as “The exchange is open” or “Corner on corn”.
Monday, January 19, 2009
So you've watched Oprah's Best Life Week with Suze Orman and you know that it's time to get real about your finances. Sure that may mean giving up dinners at 4-star restaurants or any clothing that isn't on the sale rack, but you do not have to give up entertaining. You just have to get creative.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
As I mentioned recently, Hip Hostess has been on the search for cool, retro fabric for a number of events in the planning stages. And we found it! Whenever we run across a great find we immediately log in to share with our readers. It is always exciting to find just what you are looking for and at a great price to boot.
I would like to introduce, Tonic Living, a Toronto based online fabric store that not only has textile lines such as Michael Miller, Alexander Henry and Robert Kaufman, but also still believes in designer goods at reasonable prices. One of my favorite things about the website is that if you click on a specific fabric, complimentary suggestions will pop up along the side of the chosen fabric. This is a fantastic tool for mixing and matching patterns as well as a huge time saver.
Tonic Living has graciously offered Hip Hostess readers a 10% discount, with no minimum purchase, just by using the coupon code HIPHOSTESS (one word). The discount will be valid through July 13, 2009.
If you have a vision in mind for your napkins, bridesmaid’s gifts, table runners, etc., but are having trouble finding that perfect piece, Tonic Living also offers a custom sewing service. Hip Hostess hopes these great fabrics paired with fantastic prices will allow you to add the special touches to your big day or event that might have been impossible otherwise. --b
Feeling Groovy, Orchid - $8.95/yd
Friday, January 16, 2009
Limiting a few options doesn't limit the fun.
One of the biggest expenses at a wedding can be the bar. Once you stock up all of the "essentials" and the mixers, you've racked up quite a bill...and don't even get me started on the stress of getting quantities right.
When we were planning our wedding, we chose a venue that would require us to bring everything. It wasn't a restaurant with 8 kinds of vodka, 10 kinds of rum, and a plethora of obscure liqueurs. It was a blank slate. After much thought we decided to do a limited bar. Wow. Did we ever stress over this one. I really didn't want to literally cause a buzz kill during our big party, but I had to be practical. It ended up being one of the best decisions that we made.
What is important is that you don't skimp on quality or presentation. With the help of many of my in-laws, we had an informal wine tasting to help us select the perfect red & white options. Our 3 beer options were a real no-brainer for us (very strong alliances in our families with the brewskies). Prosecco is my favorite and it costs a fraction of what champagne does. And then we created a signature cocktail that would be hefty enough for our party animals, but tasty enough to please our more reserved. Then we made sure that besides having 2 open bars the whole night, we also had the drinks passed on silver platters.
Let me tell you...no one complained. In fact it was the opposite. I know that I have been at weddings and where I stand at the bar forever plotting how my evening should go "well, if I start with wine, I can't go back to cocktails...but if I have too many cocktails, I don't want to get crazy in front of Aunt Ethel." Having a limited bar totally took that out of the equation. People made quick choices - any of them being a good option - and got on with the party. And the surprise hit of the night was our signature cocktail. I'm still getting emails 4 months later to get the recipe for this tasty concoction. Give it a try...you won't be sorry!
Sparkling Lemonade Cocktail
2 Parts Lemonade (I've tried all kinds - my fave is Crystal Light)
1 Part Lemon Vodka
1 Part Prosecco
You can either make each cocktail to order.
Premix the Vodka and lemonade in pitchers. Fill 2/3 of a highball glass with the lemonade mixture and top with prosecco as needed. (easiest for mass quantities)
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Stephen Einhorn has come up with a brilliant twist on gift packaging just in time for Valentine’s Day. They will gift wrap your jewelry in a plaster heart, painted whatever color you desire (silver, gold, black, red, pink, etc). And upon receipt the recipient has to break the heart to get their gift.
Come Valentine’s Day many couples will be searching their significant other’s outfit for the outline of a little box. What they won’t be expecting is the outline of a heart in one pocket and a hammer in the other. --b
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Well it's a New Year, but I'm still talking about my same old wedding. But I learned so much being on the bride-side that I really feel compelled to impart any lessons that I learned...big or small. So onward we go...
If you've read any of my other posts on our wedding, you know that my hubby and I wanted to create a wedding that felt more like a really great party...all while celebrating our love for each other and our families & friends. When I am planning any other party, music is a key element to set the tone...so why should our wedding be any different? If you are like me, you can listen to certain songs and be taken right back to the period of your life when you wore your cassette tape out listening to it (yes - I'm old). So we decided to buck tradition (again) and go with music that has meant a lot to us.
For our ceremony, I loved the idea of having a string quartet - they create such an intimate and romantic feel. But why must we play Cannon in D? I like the classics as much as anyone, but that has little to do with our relationship. So what should we do? When my better half and I were just friends in college, I was in a big Beatles phase. He bought me all of the Beatles Anthology cd's for Christmas that year...I think that was kind of his way of telling me that he liked me a bit better than friends. So I thought it would be great homage to the beginning of our relationship if our ceremony music was all Beatles music - as interpreted by a String Quartet. It turned out great!
And then the bridal party had a lot of fun reinacting the cover of Abbey Road for some of the pictures.
Without detailing every song that we picked, just know that we chose many "key" songs to be played throughout the night - songs that we knew certain groups of people would instantly react to and jump to the dance floor (if they weren't already there). It took a little more work in the preparation, but at least we didn't have to listen to the chicken dance...that is so NOT us!
PS. If you are interested in using Beatles songs for your string quartet these were our choices...they all translated really well: Hey Jude, All You Need is Love, Good Day Sunshine, When I'm 64Yesterday, Across the Universe (Groom & Parents, Bridal Party), In My Life (Bride & Parents), Ob la di Ob la da (Recessional).
Monday, January 12, 2009
I decided over the holiday break to try and find a solution to storing my old magazines, the ones with to much good info to just pull out the pertinent pages. Instead, I started flipping through pages, became inspired to write this blog entry and never went back to my organization project!
But all was not a total loss, I get to introduce you to Jessica Rust Designs. Jessica definitely knows how to use classic patterns but with a personal flair. You have to look closely for the personal touches as they are added so seamlessly that it doesn’t take away from the style, it adds to it. Amidst the birds, trees and blossoms you will find your wedding date or initials intertwined into the design.
All of Jessica’s designs are absolutely stunning and she has recently added an online registry that makes ordering a snap. If you already have a china pattern, don’t worry, Rust designs are so stylish that they would integrate nicely with most patterns or you could always add a fun twist to dessert. --b