Saturday, May 29, 2010

Knock-Off Wood


So I’ve been trying to find an inexpensive solution for an outdoor dining table and chairs. Unfortunately, even my favorite “low-price” retailers charge a bit more than I wanted to shell out for a temporary outdoor solution. That’s when I got the bright idea that I could build my own table and chairs. I didn’t really have a plan but I still thought it was a good idea.

Luckily, I stumbled across Knock-Off Wood. This brilliant site teaches the inexperienced carpenter how to make their own versions of popular store-bought options. Each instruction sheet gives you a shopping list, cut list, tool list and in-depth directions with drawings.

And here is our final result. We’re so pleased and we saved a bundle by building it ourselves.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Paper Globes


I was immediately smitten with these cute, easy DIY paper globes found on Here Comes the Sun. With just a few products you can add visual interest to any get-together. As an added bonus if you are running low on time it is a great project to give the kids. So buy your card stock and check out the tutorial here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Picture Perfect

Hanging Pictures.

I love the look of grouping lots of pictures of different sizes along a wall. What I do not love is trying to hang them by trial and error, leaving a trail of nail holes along the way.

A quick and easy way to avoid this problem is to create picture templates out of paper. Then using painter’s tape to adhere to the wall, create a mock-up of the display. When you’ve perfected the arrangement, you can even measure where the hanging mechanism falls on the back of the frame and then hammer the nail directly into the paper template. Then just tear away the paper and hang the photo/artwork.

Isn’t that easy? And think of all of the extra nail holes, fussing, and swearing that you saved.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pork in the Mail


With Father’s Day right around the corner I always keep my eyes open for fun things that I think my dad would enjoy. Nothing says, Happy Father’s day like pork in the mail. That’s right, you can get cured meat such as delicious thick sliced Hereford pancetta, black pepper tenderloin and Spanish Paletilla Hungara delivered right to your doorstep.

Bolzano is a Wisconsin based company that sends Artisan meats in an airtight envelope that is good for up to one year unopened and unrefrigerated. It lasts for six months once opened. If charcuterie is something your dad loves but has a hard time finding the perfect cuts of cured meat then this is the perfect pork gift package.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Emma’s Design Blog
I am absolutely loving the contrast of the black picnic table against the stark white walls and floors in this interior!

Forget the checker tablecloth. This picnic is divine.

Sunday Suppers
What an adorable and original food favor…beet root potato chips in brown paper bags.

Velvet and Linen
This place setting has a lot going on, but it works. Love it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blended Cherry Mojitos

Cocktail Recipe.

My husband and I ended up having an impromptu gathering last Saturday night. It came together very last minute which required a mad dash to the store to pick up a couple of items. We decided to grill some chicken and shrimp for fajitas. Luckily, earlier that day I had just watched Giada make a delicious looking drink called Blended Cherry Mojitos. Since I hadn’t stopped thinking about the frosty beverage I decided this was the perfect venue to give it a whirl.

All I can say is that this is definitely my new favorite summer drink. Unfortunately the grocery store was out of frozen cherries, so I grabbed a couple bags of wild Maine blueberries. The change in berries did not make one ounce of difference, the drink was still refreshing with just the right combination of tartness and mint. A couple of guests even commented that they didn’t know why they would ever drink anything else.

Definitely give this drink a try you will not be disappointed. Two things that I will caution you about is the drink is the consistency of a slushy, so better suited for a casual get together. Due to the berries it can also leave you with a gleaming purple smile, so if you are trying to capture Kodak moments this may not be the drink for you.

Blended Cherry Mojitos

1 pound bag frozen pitted cherries
2 cups crushed ice, plus extra to serve
½ cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
1 cup citrus flavored rum
1 2/3 cup Lime Simple Syrup
Lime wedges and fresh cherries for garnish


Place the frozen cherries, crushed ice, mint leaves, lime juice and simple syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture into chilled glasses and top with crushed ice. Garnish.

Lime Simple Syrup
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3 limes, zested

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lime zest over medium heat. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat an allow the syrup to cool.

Yield: 1 2/3 cups

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Cats Heart ModKat

Pet Product.

Though litter boxes aren't necessarily a topic you would equate to entertaining, few things could put a damper on a party faster than an ugly litter box for all of your guests to behold. That was exactly the problem that I recently faced with our new pad.

Without a good enclosed option that would totally hide a litter box, I had to find a solution that wouldn't completely offend the eye and scream "this is where my cats do their business." So I was pretty excited to find the ModKat.

If you are thinking of converting to the ModKat, I have a few helpful hints:

1. Fill the box with new litter, but add a scoop or two of litter from the old box to help them adjust.

2. Put the box in the same location as the previous box.

3. Leave the lid off for a day or two to help them adjust to entering from the top.

AND...if you happen to be in the Chicago area and want to see the ModKat in person, I would go to Barker and Meowsky (you might call ahead to see if they have them in stock). Their owner has used this box for her cats and offers lots of great tips and help...and they have a million other adorable pet supplies that you'll want to buy as well.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Household find.

Wow…this product could not have come at a better time. Let’s face it, backyard BBQs are downright messy and it always makes me feel guilty when I see that pile of dirty napkins in the trash afterwards. Well not anymore, I will be purchasing my stack of Skoycloths immediately.

I love the idea of a 100% biodegradable multiuse cloth that can be cleaned in your dishwasher, washer/dryer and you can remove any bacteria in the microwave. Besides the fact, that they are adorable and are equal to 15 rolls of paper towels.

My next BBQ is scheduled for this weekend, so I am off to find a canvas drawstring bag and put the Skoy flower on it so that guests know to recycle their napkins.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vanilla Sugar


I'm always looking for an inexpensive way to spruce up my daily routine. I've decided to give my morning cup of joe a bit of a boost with vanilla-infused sugar. Vanilla sugar is unbelievably easy to make and store. It can also be substituted for regular sugar in desserts to give it a big flavor burst. Yum...

Vanilla Sugar
1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
2 cups sugar

If vanilla bean is whole, slice down side of bean with back of knife and scrape seeds into airtight container with the sugar. Bury bean in sugar and seal tightly with lid. Let sit for 1 to 2 weeks.

PS. My last trip to Costco yielded a fantastic deal on vanilla beans.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Personalized Party Bucket

Party Supply.

I must admit that I'm a bit smitten with these Lucite ice buckets from Dabney Lee at Home. You can customize them with different print designs and multiple monogram options. Isn't it the perfect addition to a Summer fete?

And with so many will I ever decide? Looks like I might be stalking this product online for awhile...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Inspired Goodness
Love this inexpensive and unique idea for personalizing books with stamps.

landlocked bride
Pinwheels instead of bouquets?

Swanky Tables
Fabulous white apothecary jar and the Fish House Punch sounds delicous.

Make Merry Events
Simple yet stunning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beer-Steamed Mussels with Cilantro


Recent news has come from the University of California that beer is good for your bones. That being said, my bones should be rock solid. It appears that brews with more malted barley and hops, such as, pale ales, are rich in dietary silicon, a mineral important for maintaining bone density.

Another food with benefits is mussels, with a boat load of iron and B-12. Mussels are a great food for entertaining. They require just a few ingredients, very little prep and are a quick turn-around. One of my favorite ways to prepare these sea treats is to combine bone-building-beer and cilantro. So why deprive your guests of strong bones and B-12? Put those mussels in the stock pot immediately.

Beer-Steamed Mussels with Cilantro

Serves: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced
1 cup (8 ounces) light Mexican beer, such as Corona, Pacifico or Modelo Especial
1⁄4 cup (2 ounces) tequila
3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
Lime wedges

1. In a deep pot with a tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and chili(es) and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the beer and tequila and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the mussels, discarding any that fail to close to the touch. Cover and return the liquid to a boil. Cook until the mussels open, 4-5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, divide the cooked mussels among warmed wide, shallow bowls, discarding any mussels that failed to open. Spoon the broth remaining in the pot into the bowls.

2. Sprinkle some of the cilantro over each serving, dividing it evenly. Serve with the lime wedges, squeezing a few over the mussels.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ice Cream out of the Box

Food Presentation.

Not only is ice cream delicious and refreshing it is also an easy dessert to serve when having a few people over for a backyard BBQ. This photo from Sweet Paul shows that you don’t have to give up on presentation when breaking out the carton of vanilla.

Next time people stop by on a summer’s night don’t forget to check out your cabinets for an assortment of coffee or tea cups, ramekins, vases or even bowls. You are sure to find something interesting for serving a scoop of ice cream. I have egg cups that I couldn’t resist buying on sale because they were so cute, a couple melon ball scoops of sorbet should be perfect!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Summer Entertaining

Beverage Containers.

One of the most difficult parts of summer entertaining is finding a place to keep your cold beverages. When having a casual get together there are some great cooler options like the stainless steel Coleman series.

However, if you are having more of an upscale event you might want to check out these, Pasha wine and party buckets by Roost. They are currently available in two different sizes and ship in early June…just in time for your next pool party.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pod Planters

Garden Find.

So...I'm kind of in love with these planters that I spotted at Sprout Home. We've got awhile to got before we tackle our new outdoor space...but I'm pretty confident a few of these beauties will make an appearance.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spotted: Alberino Lanterns

These fantastic lanterns will add a touch of flair to outdoor summer entertaining and, even better, they are on sale at Z Gallerie for $9.99 per lantern. Grab yours while they last.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Desire to Inspire
Talk about your urban oasis. This incredible pad is in the heart of NYC…sigh.

Sweet Nothings
Oh…how I can relate to this…

Amorology Wedding
The bride is an elementary science teacher. So reception tables named after elements on the periodic table is an adorable streak of genius!

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Sponsor: Freak Music

Band Hire Agency.

Anyone that has been to a wedding or party that has the stereotypical cheesy DJ, can attest to the fact that the right kind of music is essential to a successful event. For me, the second the Chicken Dance hits the air, I hit the door.

This is why Freak Music is so entirely cool...and important. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, Freak Music is an agency that reps over 300 of the very best bands from all different genres. And their website is so amazing. You can listen to samples of the bands' music and quickly send in a pricing request. It goes directly to the band...ensuring a quicker response time and best price. How nice is that?

And quite possibly my favorite feature is that they have an "emergency band replacement policy". So if something goes awry, you don't have to scramble to find that cheesy DJ just to have some music. Freak Music will just tap into their list of 300+ bands and find you a stellar replacement.

So...if you are in the UK/Scotland or if you are a planning a destination wedding in that area, you really should check this company out. It will save you so many hours of searching and stress worrying about the Cha Cha Slide and Chicken Dance.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Etsy Crush


I believe that I've mentioned on a number of occasions my odd love of cakestands. When I had a studio apartment, I only allowed myself to indulge in 2 cakestands. Now that my square footage has increased, I've decided to collect them and keep them on display in my kitchen. And they are useful, so I don't feel like I'm being silly by taking up space for something frivolous.

So...I often find myself doing random searches to find interesting designs, and I happened to run across Whitney Smith's etsy page. Amazing!

Beyond cake and cupcake stands (how cute is that?), she also has a very cool selection of bowls, vases, cream & sugar sets, and much more. I can tell that I'll be stalking her work for awhile until I decide which of her pieces will find themselves on display with my new collection...

Friday, May 7, 2010

San Juan Microbrew


A couple of weeks ago, Brandi and I were in Puerto Rico coordinating a wedding and were fortunate enough to steal a couple of hours away to explore the Old San Juan district. With the help of our incredibly informative cab driver Bully (real name), we were directed to the only microbrewery on the island of Puerto Rico - Old Harbor Brewery.

Now please don't judge us on the fact that we opened up the place at noon and proceeded to taste a complete flight of beers before another customer walked through their doors. It was all for the benefit of our Hip Hostess readers, I assure you. What did we think of the selection of beers? Delicious!!

Old Harbor has a well rounded assortment of beers that range from Ale to Lager to Wheat to Stout. There wasn't a single selection that Brandi and I disliked and their knowledgeable staff and was spot on in their descriptions and recommended pairings.

If you are lucky enough to visit beautiful Old San Juan, add Old Harbor Brewery to you list of stops. If you want to enjoy it at home, Old Harbor is distributed in the US. Check with your local liquor store to see if they offer any of these unique options.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spotted: Chalkboard Bubble

If you have a party on your agenda with photo ops…what could be better than a chalkboard bubble? I for see many hours of fun. You can purchase this prop at Photojojo store.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco Guacamole


I need few excuses to eat guacamole, but I will certainly take advantage of the fact that today is Cinco de Mayo so I can get my fill of avocado.

photo courtesy of monitorpop

Now I make a mean guacamole that I would consider to be the gold standard of traditional. But I always like to mix things up a bit, so here are 5 links to some very unique takes on guacamole. Perhaps I'll treat myself to a guacamole flight tonight along with a very cold cerveza...

Spicy and Smoky Guac


Mango Guacamole

Roasted Poblano Guacamole

Cuban-style Pineapple Guacamole

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Link Love

Mint Design
Healthy chocolate mousse by Sarah Britton.

Check out this DIY for cute party favors.

I definitely want to be invited to this luncheon.

This is proof that inspiration can be anywhere...even on your wallpaper.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bundt Cake Beauty

Mother's Day Idea.

Do you have a mother who is hard to buy for? Join the club. My mother lives in a different state but if she were nearby I would definitely put together a brunch with this cake as the focal point. This is Martha’s idea and albeit a good one she makes it seem like something you could throw together in an hour. I believe this cake would take some pre-planning but would be well worth the extra work.

Bake the cake ahead of time so that you have time to find the perfect vessel for the middle to hold the flowers. Freeze the cake and take it out the morning you are going to serve, I believe the freezing process actually adds to the moistness of the cake. After you have found the perfect fitting vessel it is a good idea to put in a call to your local florist a couple days ahead of time. The flowers should be non-toxic and may be special order. The flowers in the photo are muscari, brodiaea and bupleurum.

With your plan in place you will have a beautiful centerpiece and a stress free day to be able to kick back and spend the day with your mom.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What's in Season?

Herb ideas.

One way to better your odds of culinary success is to work with produce that's in season. So what's in season now? Mint.

Yes...those Kentuckians knew what they were doing when they mixed mint with bourbon to create the delicious and deadly Mint Julep. It's the best time of year to have this herb, so why not put it in a beverage too?

But if your are like me and always buy way too much, you are probably wondering what you should do with the extra mint when you've had your fill of Makers Mark. Here's a lovely tea that will brighten your morning for the days following the Derby:

2 cups Water
1 bunch of coarsely chopped mint leaves

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the mint and remove from heat. Let it steep for 5 minutes and then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a teapot or container. Add honey and lemon to taste.

Note: You can also chill and serve cold.