Entertaining

The best parties are those that have the three G’s: good food, good music and good lighting. And of course, a good guest list. I decided to turn to my favorite DIY projects into a sensational party setting that would wow my guests. 

Invite

Skip the Evite—the best impression for an elegant party is to mail invitations.  Evites give the idea that anyone and everyone is invited and rarely get a prompt response.  A sophisticated dinner party is exclusive. A DIY invite can save you money and look far more impressive to your guests. They'll be intrigued to come see what else you'll have at the party. 

For this recent dinner party, I chose A Midsummer Night's Dream as my theme, but you can go DIY for a backyard BBQ and have just as much fun with your projects. I got crafty and became a DIY Diva with Cricut.com's new electronic cutting machine and their Make It Now projects. It cuts, paper, fabric, vinyl and even leather in minutes, flawlessly.

Music

If you aren’t musically inclined or have the time to make a varied selection then search for DJ mixes online or CD’s that fit the theme of your party from lounge music or soft R&B for dinner and switch it to disco for dessert to keep the mood and energy upbeat. Or get yourself the Camden Square from PolkAudio.com and you can connect up to four iPhones so to share playlists.

Flowers

Buy fresh from your local farmer's market or supermarket the morning of the party OR go DIY and make a stunning centerpiece like we did of paper and fabric flowers. With a few adjustments, I can mix and match different flowers, even mix with fresh for future parties.

Food and Drink

As for food, keep it simple. If you want a sit down dinner minimize the guests to 8-10 and prep the ingredients or portions of the meal ahead of time. Stick to what you know in the meal department. Stay away from complicated recipes and main courses that need constant attention. Don’t hesitate to dole out side dishes to friends and order your favorite dessert from the local bakery.

For more guests set up a buffet and hire someone to pass hot hors d’ouervres, serve dessert and clean up the kitchen. You can usually hire someone through a catering company, cooking school or college program. The point is to get out of the kitchen and enjoy the party.

Stick to wine and either beer or a signature drink for alcohol. Stick to seltzer and ice tea as your non-alcoholic choices. Nothing gets more bogged down that offering too many choices of soda and drinks.  

Seating Arrangements

Mix up where friends usually sit at your table. Create place cards and help establish some new friendships. To break the monotony that can occur with the same old crowd, come up with questions for your guests. Type or write them up ahead of time and place them under the dinner plates, dessert plates or in a bowl so guests are unaware until it’s time to share. You may suddenly learn of a hidden desire, their favorite gift given or received or even a silly fear. 

For the Guests

Don’t let guests leave empty handed.  Write or print up the recipes from that evening’s dinner, roll up and secure with ribbon and tie around a mini bottle of wine or champagne. Or just send them home with something sweet like a mini cupcake.

Photos

Don’t forget to capture the memories. Create your own photo booth. You don’t need to hire anybody. Instead create a backdrop with something as simple as a large sheet. And offer your friends props like simple DIY masks, hats and sunglasses. Take photos on each other’s cellphones and share.

     

DIY

Cricut is looking to get inspired by you!  All my DIY projects were created with the new Cricut Explore.

 

Awesome Group Costumes!

Trick or Treat, we want something good to eat. We also want to look good in our costumes while filling up our bags with candy.

Is your whole family trick or treating together? Are you and your freinds going to a party together and think it would be so much better if you all dressed from a movie, TV show or comic book? We agree! We dressed friends in our favorite group costume ideas for Halloween this year. We think you'll agree that all the kids look adorable.

Wizard of Oz

The Scarecrow, Dorothy and little Toto too, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch

Super Heroes

Iron Man, Captain America, Super Girls and Bat Girl

Star Wars

General Greivous, Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker and Princess Leia

80's Rock Icons

Anchors from KTLA Los Angeles, Henry DiCarlo, Megan Henderson and Chris Schauble

Watch us on TV!

All Together

Where's the candy?

All costumes from Buycostumes.com and CostumeExpress.com

YUM!

We love an afternoon treat and when we can incorporate a breakfast ingredient, even better. These sticky ooey gooey balls with Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal! It's simple to make and within a few minutes you're biting into a mix of marshmallows, caramel and dark chocolate.

Recipe:

Sticky Ooey-Gooey Balls

6 Cups Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal

¼ cup butter

1 pkg. 10 oz. marshmallows

1 bag 7 oz. dark chocolate

20 caramels

1 Tbsp. water

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Add marshmallows; cook 5 minutes or until marshmallows are melted and the two are well blended, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.

3. Microwave caramels and water in a medium microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 ½ to 2 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds.

4. In a large bowl, pour in the cereal. Start adding the melted marshmallows and caramels to the bowl of cereal and mix all together.

5. Shape mixture in to 24 balls with cold water moistened hands. Place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet; cool completely.

6. Heat dark chocolate in a bowl over a pot of hot water on the stove at a low heat. Stir frequently until chocolate is melted.

7. Dip top of each ball in chocolate; return, dipped side up, to baking sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until chocolate is firm.

Sometimes the best things arrive in a box. It's like a special holiday or birthday when a box arrives at your doorstep and you get to be surprised by the contents. I researched the best box subscriptions and other companies that specialize in sending you curated items from jewelry to dog treats to kids crafts to wine. I checked out an array of items and I shared them with Marie Osmond on Hallmark Channel.

 

    

Kiwi Crate

-Kids projects for ages 3-7 that celebrate kids’ natural creativity and curiosity.

-Each box comes with the instructions/inspiration and materials to create the project covering a number of developmental areas through art, science and imaginative play from gardens to dinosaurs to creating butterfly wings.

-$19.95 a month or $220 a year with one month free. Each box contains 2-3 projects each month.

Bark Box

-They curate a box based on the size of your dog.

-$18 a month—four or more carefully selected products and presents for your dog—anything from bones and treats to leashes and innovative gadgets.

-Monthly, 3 or 6 months plans available- free shipping

-Each month 10% of proceeds go to a different local animal shelter they sponsor

    

Tasting Room

-Lot 18 has rolled out a first of its kind wine club, called Tasting Room.

-Members taste and give feedback before they commit to a full case of wines.

-They receive 6 mini bottles (4 red, 2 white) for $9.99. Members are given instructions on how to taste via an online tool that asks basic questions about likes and dislikes.

-Once the tasting is complete a taste profile is created and the first shipment is created with a case of 12 full size bottles. Four annual case shipments per year. First shipment is $84.99 with free shipping ($7 a bottle) and after that it’s $149.99 for a case ($12.50 a bottle).

True & Co.

-True and Company has reinvented the way women buy intimates. By taking a fit-based approach to online bra retail by replacing the uncomfortable fitting room experience with an online two-minute fit quiz and risk-free home try-on.

-Take trueandco.com's 2-minute online quiz and create your own personal bra shop of best fitting styles. They use your current bra size as a starting point and then diagnose your true size taking into account your shape, pain points and common body image issues.

-Their algorithms then recommend and sell only the styles and the sizes that fit a woman’s specific body shape in a personal bra shop created just for each customer. 

-For your initial home try-on box, get your 5 favorite styles (you pick 3, their experts pick 2) sent to your home. 

-You then have 7 days to try on the bras. Pay only for what you keep, return the rest.

-This is not a subscription service, but you can try it as often as you like.

All bras start at approximately $45. Shipping and returns are always free.

    

Elizabeth and Clarke

-Why spend over $100 for that designer blouse when you can have designer-quality blouses and tees delivered to your doorstep each season for $30 or less.

-Get a box of one, two or three shirts delivered every 3 months at the beginning of a season. Three tops are just $20 each.

-Neutral colors so they match with items in your wardrobe. Quality fabrics. Fashion forward. Styles similar to Alexander Wang, Theory and James Perse.

Mynt Box

-Every month you receive 3-5 items of the top jewelry and accessories trends based upon the box you choose-Boho, Luxe or Mixe for $30 a month or just try it once for $40.

-Receive up to $100 worth of jewelry every month.

-You can also shop Mynt without joining.

    

Misto Box

-You can try Misto Box for just $5 with free shipping. Subscriptions cost between $12.50 to $15 a month depending on the length of the subscription. 

-Misto Box has a team of coffee experts who taste and evaluate more than 50 coffees every month from different artisan roasters across the country.  (Think local favorites.) 

-Each box contains four 1.7 - 2 ounce samplings of premium single origin coffee from four different artisan roasters. You’ll get to know each roaster and coffee intimately with included tasting notes and coffee info.

Love With Food

-Gourmet food delivered to your door for $10-12 a month depending on the plan you choose.

-Each box contains 8 or more gourmet foods.

-New flavors each month curated with a different theme.

- For every box sent, a meal is donated to feed 1 in 5 hungry children in America. In one year of business, Love With Food has donated more than 50,000 meals. They donate a meal to a hungry child via efforts with Feeding America and Share our Strength.

-Their motto is “Make Tummies Happy.”

- Love With Food frequently works with celebrities to curate the boxes, e.g. Thanksgiving 2012 box was curated by Amy Roloff of Little People Big World of TLC. Upcoming April 2013 box is curated by Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods on Travel channel.

 

While many of us may be thinking about our new year's resolutions and trying to trim down by a few pounds, my thoughts turn to planning the next party and what I'll be wearing or dressing others for whether it be for the Oscars, Valentine's Day or upcoming events. And then my thoughts turn to the need for GOOD FOOD for those occasions! I shopped online and tasted some of the top FOODS from around the world that can be delivered to your front door. Since I'm Marie Osmond's style contributor on her show, I shared my favorites with her and the audience. Here's my top picks that I've shared with friends and family.

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine (pastoralartisan.com)

European inspired cheese and specialty food shop. Sometimes the perfect meal is a baguette and cheese. But not just any cheese, I like picks from France, Spain and other foreign countries for my brie, Fontina, Gouda and Manchego. They have created delicious pairings of cheese, wine, charcuterie and extras like honey or jams. Featuring Around the World and Kitchen Essentials.  Prices range from $6 to under $200.

Jacques Torres Chocolate (mrchocolate.com)

Who doesn’t love chocolate?  They do a variety of chocolate, truffles, decadent chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, and bars in wickedly good flavors—everything is delicious! They use the finest ingredients and they combine exotic ingredients together with chocolate like chilies, nuts, and ginger. Prices range from $6-96.

Carousel Cakes (carouselcakes.com)

They had me at red velvet.  And Oprah and Gayle fell hard for their blue velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and sugar snowflakes. If that’s not your dream cake, don’t fret because they have cupcakes, rich chocolate cakes and mousses as well. Approximately $40.

Squirrel Brand Nut Company (squirrelbrand.com)

The company has been around since 1888 and they are not your average nut company. This isn’t about a bag of peanuts at the ball park. These nuts are packaged beautifully in tins and wooden boxes and have highly addictive flavors like Crème Brulee Almonds, Fleur de Sel Pistachios, Herbes de Provence Pecans, Artisan-Peppercorn Blistered Virginia Peanuts. Prices range from $23-50

Pipcorn (pipsnacks.com)

No floss required when you snack on this variety of hulless popcorn which means it’s crunchy yet tender. It’s also naturally grown, popped in small batches using extra virgin olive oil and extremely tasty whether you choose to add flavors like lemon truffle or go with their signature rosemary. You can buy bags that come packaged in a cool wooden crate or large bags. 6 large bags for $36


Schwans (schwans.com)

Having a party and don’t have time to prepare it all? Whether you’re feeding the family, your kid’s football team or your friends you can seem like a super chef when you choose it all from Schwan’s.  From Schwan’s Home Service we have these delicious flatbreads great for any party or a quick snack.  Schwan’s offers hundreds of delicious flash frozen foods that are delivered right to your door so you can create meals to serve and share with your friends and family.  Visit Schwans.com to shop for a unique variety of delicious meals and original recipes the whole family will love. And it’s affordable! Featuring the Spinach and Mushroom Flatbread Pizza and the Roasted Garlic and Chicken Flatbread Pizza, serves four for $8.30.

ONEHOPE wine (onehopewine.com)

In a short period of time ONEHOPE Wine has become one of the most recognizable cause brands in the United States of America. ONEHOPE Wine donates an astounding 50% of its profits to partner charities benefiting a variety of causes. To date ONEHOPE has raised over $1,000,000 for a wide range of charity organizations that benefit the environment, cancer research, ending hunger, helping veterans and children’s hospitals and more. ONEHOPE has become the socially conscious wine of choice at several hundred premier events including the Grammy’s, The American Red Cross Gala, the BAFTA’s, Sundance Film Festival and VH1 Save the Music. They have a variety of wines from Pinot noir to Merlot to Sauvignon Blanc. Wines range in price from $19-60.

This is such a simple and fun DIY to add more holiday decor to your home or Christmas tree. The main ingredients, paint chips, are free from the paint or hardware store, just don't be greedy. Invite your friends over or get the kids involved.

 

From the DIY Divas, we bring you one of the simplest craft projects that can be done in 30 minutes or less.

    

Don't get us wrong we love to dress up in our finest cocktail dresses and statment jewelry for holiday parties, but sometimes when you go from party to party to party a fun way to break up the champagne clinking monotony would be to switch the invite attire to your best ugly holiday sweater. It becomes a conversation when you compare who's is truly the "best" worst of the bunch. My girlfriend, Tracy Metro held one of my favorite holiday parties years ago when she decided last minute to turn a glam party into a white trash party. We dressed head-to-toe in our perception of a trashy look and since I love dressing in a theme and take on a chartacter full throttle from look to voice to even background we won. We DIY Divas took on the challenge to create our best ugly Christmas and Hanukkah sweaters. Enjoy!

 

Before

    

Alison's Christmas Version

    

Lauren's Hanukkah Sweater

    

Christina's Holiday Sweater

    

Trio of Pretty Ugly Holiday Sweaters

Whether it's the pool, beach or backyard, there are plenty of activities, games and toys to keep kids (and yourself) entertained this summer. I recently appeared on The CW/KTLA Los Angeles to show off some of the latest items that scream FUN! GO GET WET!

Me and my friends' kids, gladly taking on the task of testing out all the activities-Josh, Molly Rose, Finn and Maeve

WATCH THE KTLA MORNING NEWS SEGMENT HERE:

 

Banzai Aqua Splash Dual Racing Slide available at Kohl's for under $12

Diggin Dodge Tag, Melissa & Doug Jolly Jellyfish Sinkers, Marvel Spider-Man Web Shooter Sprinkler,

Melissa & Doug Tootle Turtle Bubble Set, Melissa & Doug Clicker Crab Beach Tote Bag, all available at Kohl's, Australian Gold Sunscreen spray

Poolmaster Pool Kids Beginning Swimmer Set, Melissa & Doug Froggy Lily Pad Toss Set, Poolmaster Swim Goggles Set

    

Banzai Aqua Splash Dual Racing Slide and Melissa & Doug Octopus and Clicker Crab Folding Chairs

    

Poolmaster Pool & Lawn Game Set and Finn chillin' in the wading pool.

Time to get outdoors!

Longer days of sunshine, warmer nights, and a chance to enjoy time with friends and family... summer is meant for socializing. First up - Outdoor Movies! Pack a picnic, invite friends and nab some lawn space. Our favorites in Los Angeles are the StreetFoodCinema.com in Exposition Park and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, both on Saturday nights. Here are my tips for surefire fun and ease:

    

Bring travel games to play until it turns dark.  Carry low-seated folding chairs so you stay comfortable and others can still see the screen. These chairs are available for $20 at Marshalls and fold into a backpack style, so you can pack a blanket and still have your hands free to carry the food. As for food and drink, choose unique flavors and take a step away from the usual suspects (like Diet Coke) and a must for the movies - popcorn and candy. I found these popcorn buckets available at TJ Maxx for $4 and filled them with a various popcorn flavors spiced with truffle oil and jalapeno.

    

Learn more about your friends with these curious napkins that ask questions. And what better way to get happy than bright and colorful tableware? Instead of paper plates and cups choose plastic that can be washed and reused all summer long.

Party in the backyard or by the pool?

    

Go with a theme like this one centered around red, white and blue... and seafood! A shrimp and crab boil served up in a kid's plastic ship available at Marshall's with a mini boat for dipping sauce is a conversation piece at the party.

    

Create one main beverage for everyone to partake in at the party, like lemonade or ice tea. This beehive drink dispenser from TJ Maxx was only $24 and is simple to clean and these smiley face containers create icey smiles. Fill with juice (like lemons) to spike your water with flavor. Go ahead and "pick your nose" when you fill up your cup - each cup shows a different nose for you to "try on" for size.

Whether it's whoopie pies, red velvet cupcakes, glazed nuts or popcorn, you'll need the sweets to top off the party.

Check out my segment on KTLA for more summer entertaining ideas.

 

 

 

Hello Friday. Pour me one of these, please.

Spending your summer at home can still feel a little indulgent. Find relief from the heat and make summer backyard gatherings a chic affair with a sparkling drink, a frothy drinkable dessert or one of myt favorites for summer, rose or vinho verde wine. NUVO Sparkling Sunset, a delicious, fruity drink perfect for a warm weather get-together. Nuvo Sparkling Sunset 3 oz NUVO Sparkling Liqueur 3 oz pineapple juice Splash of fresh lime juice Top with sliced fruit of your choice Or for a drink that tastes like dessert choose one of my favorites, the mudslide. This reminds me of the yummy drinks I recently had on my boat trip off of Panama. Baileys Mudslide For one serving
Ingredients 
4 oz. Baileys Ready-to-Serve Mudslide ½ cup ice
Preparation 1.     Add 4 oz. Baileys Mudslide and ½ cup of ice to a blender. 2.     Blend until smooth. 3.     Serve in a highball glass with a straw.
Wino  Weekend: If wine is what you're looking for set your sights on a rose or vinho verde. Leave the reds for fall and the buttery whites until Labor Day. This summer keep it light, crisp and bubbly. Some of my favorites: 2010 Adega Cooperativo Regional de Monçao "Trajarinho" Vinho Verde, $8.99 2010 Adegas Cooperativos de Monção "Muralhas" Rosé Vinho Verde, $9.99 2010 Domaine Begude Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d'Oc Rosé, $12.99 All from KLWines.com    

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