Bring the NYC Experience Home this St. Patrick’s Day

Before 2020, NYC natives, visiting tourists, and East Coasters alike practiced the long-held tradition of venturing into the heart of Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy the festivities. What festivities, you may ask? Well of course, there was the late morning parade, but before, during, and after that parade, folks celebrated in Irish pubs drinking proper pints. New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is sadly cancelled again this year and instead going virtual. BUT, just because we can’t celebrate in the manner we’re accustomed to, doesn’t mean we should forgo the rowdy Saint Paddy’s Day traditions that are typically found along 5th Ave or in NYC’s Luck of the Irish Pub Crawl. Bring the NYC experience home this St. Patrick’s Day with this list of festive activities!

All the Best Moments, St. Patrick's Day fashion illustration
Illustrated by Sarah Ditterline

At Home Pub Crawl

Picture this: infamous NYC St. Patrick’s Day bars like Blarney Stone, Bar None and Plug Uglies meets your living room. Stay with me here.

It’s casual, it’s rowdy, and it’s a bit grimy, but that’s the true experience. Deck out your living room and kitchen with dive bar decor and dim the lighting. Think: chalkboard menus, wooden serving platters, and plenty of pint glasses. Prepare to play some rather loud, traditional St. Patrick’s Day bar music that’s folk style, yet eclectic.

Need help with a playlist? Try this custom St. Patrick’s Day Playlist on my All the Best Moments Spotify Account.

Invite that punchy green color into your home with pennants, four leaf clovers, shamrocks and ivy garlands. Green yourself out, and accessorize your friends with green wigs, leprechaun hats and beaded necklaces with shot glasses attached.

Play bar games like darts, pool, Jenga, beer pong, and flip cup, or go all out with karaoke. Stream the virtual parade in the background.

St. Patrick's Day themed solo cups and gold coins

Serve shots of Jameson, Irish car bombs, and classic pub food. If you want to take the NYC St. Patrick’s Day experience to the next level, serve a signature Irish drink, like a Massey cocktail with Irish whiskey, out of individual flasks.

Keep the drinks flowing and the folk music on high, and you’ll have yourself an at home pub crawl atmosphere in no time!


Floor is Lava: Pot of Gold Edition

NYC on Saint Patrick’s Day involves drinks around every corner, and the luck of the Irish calls for a quintessential pot of gold. So why not combine the two? Thus I bring you, Floor is Lava: Pot of Gold Edition.

Fair warning, this game is best played at the beginning of your gathering, before the festivities get carried away. It’s a GREAT icebreaker, and is sure to jump start those rowdy NYC St. Paddy’s Day vibes.

Four leaf clover table decorations

Gather as many throw pillows and blankets as you can, and spread them out strategically around your living room furniture. The goal is to leave enough space to create a bit of a challenge between safe spots (if you’re competitive, you know what I mean).

Pick up between 3-5 nips (tiny bottles of booze) per person, but don’t be the host that makes people drink the whole thing straight. Instead, empty out the different kinds of liquor into their own respective glasses. Create mini mixed drinks that pair well with each liquor (try these Shamrocked Shooters or these Irish Margaritas), then pour those mixtures back into the nip bottles. Make sure to use the right nip bottle for the liquor you used in the mixed drink, because some people don’t tolerate (insert liquor here) very well.

St. Patrick's Day bar

Disperse the nips around all of the “lava” areas that are in-between your pillows and blankets. Ask your guests to start at one end of the room, standing on a shared blanket, and make their way across the room to the pot of gold, without stepping on the lava. When someone lands on a pillow or blanket, they’re safe. If they fall into the lava, they need to drink the nip that’s closest to them!

St. Patrick's Day gold chocolate coins

Don’t forget the key rule: only one player can make a move at any given time. This way, folks will have to hold their awkward positions a bit longer than usual (perhaps I’m the competitive one ๐Ÿ˜‰).

As the host, you get to decide what’s in the pot of gold. I’d recommend picking up some chocolate coins, because… nostalgia.

St. Patrick's Day pot of gold with chocolate coins

St. Patrick’s Day… But Make it Classy

If you’re the kind of person that likes to indulge in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but without all of the drinks to imbibe, I’m here for you. Your lowkey, but still festive, St. Paddy’s Day at home calls for another form of indulgence; baking.

There are endless recipes for authentic Irish comfort food to host a seated dinner with (think of it like Thanksgiving, but swap the turkey for corned beef and cabbage). Although, I personally prefer to satisfy my sweet tooth, and if you’re reading this, I think you might too!

St. Patrick's Day dessert and Irish coffee

Your baked goods don’t need to be authentic, or complex, to be celebratory. Pick up a four leaf clover shaped cookie cutter, bake a batch of sugar cookies, and frost them in varying hues of green to create an aesthetically pleasing (and very Instagrammable) ombrรฉ pattern.

St. Patrick's Day four leaf clover cookies

If you do want to dabble with a dessert drink, try an Irish coffee, or make it a milkshake!


๐Ÿ€Disclaimer: this blog post is intended for readers 21+. Please drink responsibly!๐Ÿ€

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5 Ways to Spice Up Your Coffee

I’m a coffee fiend, there’s no doubt about it. It’s the first thing I reach for (ok, second) after I get out of bed. Then it’s another mid-morning coffee and a third cup around 3:00pm to push me through the rest of the day. If you’re also a coffee fanatic, you’ll love these quick, easy ways to upgrade your morning coffee game. You can find most of these ingredients in your pantry, but the fancier ones may need to be tacked onto your next grocery list. Do what it takes to get on Starbucks’ level, and be your own barista at home with these 5 ways to spice up your coffee.


Spices

Spices are uncomplicated, pure, and beneficial to your mental health and physical wellbeing.

A dash of cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice works wonders in a coffee cup, and in your body. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, reduces the risk of heart disease, speeds up your metabolism and it’s high in antioxidants. Nutmeg (in small amounts) can aid in digestion, boost your immune system, sharpen your cognitive function, and increase blood circulation. Allspice can help to prevent infections, reduce inflammation, and even improve dental hygiene.

What’s even better? These pantry-staples are widely accessible and highly cost effective as far as bang-for-your-buck goes. You could conceivably make one hundred cups of coffee (or more) with just one jar of spice.


Essential Oils

If you haven’t already jumped on this train, it’s not too late. While it may sound a strange, essential oils can fuel your body the same way caffeine fuels us all. Some studies have shown that essential oils can lessen anxiety, help alleviate symptoms of depression, and improve your mood. It only takes one or two small drops to elevate your coffee experience. Think: peppermint oil for a peppermint mocha coffee, or an iced lavender latte.

Disclaimer: essential oils are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The absolute KEY to using essential oils is to check (and triple check) that the oils you purchase are food grade, non-toxic to ingest, and safe for human consumption. NEVER consume essential oils that are labeled “not for internal use.” Make sure the oil is pure, with zero artificial substances, and ensure that you don’t have any allergies to the particular type of oil you intend to use. Do your research thoroughly, and only buy from reputable brands that meet the above criteria.

If you like the idea of the enjoying the perks of essential oils that I mentioned earlier (hello, all of my anxiety-ridden friends), but don’t want to take the risk, consider trying herbal coffee. It’s caffeine-free, but the nutritional value and health benefits may replace your caffeine addiction entirely.


Flavored Syrup

This may be straying away from the health-conscious angle I took in the last two ways to spice up your coffee. BUT it is a delicious and indulgent way to achieve that $5.45 Starbucks worthy taste.

Create a decadent seasonal beverage using a pump (or two…) of salted caramel, hazelnut, butter toffee, mocha or vanilla bean flavored syrup. Search for a bundle of syrups to conduct some proper taste testing experiments, like this Classic Syrup Sampler with 6 flavors for $29.99.

What I love about this coffee addition, is that it’s a very easy way to upgrade a drink for yourself, but an even simpler way to impress your guests. I’ve used flavored syrups on hot cocoa bars, in late-night espresso shots, and even in cocktails. I once packed mini flavored syrups with me for a new years trip a few years back, and friends used them the entire weekend.


Vanilla Extract

This method to spice up your coffee is actually going to put us back on the health kick. Are you surprised? Let me explain.

Vanilla bean, a main ingredient in vanilla extract, has anti-inflammatory properties, can aid with stress relief, and reduce anxiety (holla, holla). Vanilla extract is also a great replacement for sugar and coffee creamers because it contains less carbs and calories, while still providing a sweetening effect on your cup of joe. Start with a teaspoon, and add more to taste.


Cocoa Powder

I like chocolate a latte (see what I did there?). The rich flavor blends perfectly with coffee, hence all of the mocha coffee creations out there. A tablespoon or two will dissolve relatively quickly in a hot cup. Add a bit of milk to balance out the thickness of the cocoa and give the coffee a smoother consistency.

Are you ready for the health benefits of this one? They include: better blood flow, rich in antioxidants, improved mental focus and increased attention span, anti-inflammatory, and it also helps with disease prevention. Remember, we’re basically talking about chocolate here. MAGIC!


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Hosting Essentials

Think of this blog post as a beginner’s guide to entertaining; it shares must-have items that every host will need (and want!) when hosting a party at home. If you’re shopping for any of these pieces for the first time, keep in mind that the more versatile, the better. These hosting essentials will see a lot of love for years to come, so you’ll want to invest in items that are both timeless and durable. Follow this checklist for the supplies you’ll want handy for future festivities!


Checklist of Hosting Essentials

Serving Boards

think: agate trays, wooden boards, marble slabs
Hosting essentials: serving boards

Vessels for Fresh Flowers

think: various sizes of glass, ceramic or stone
Hosting essentials: vessels

Unscented Candles

think: tapers, votives, tea lights
Hosting essentials: unscented candles

Nice Serving Utensils

think: cheese knives, serving spoons, mini tongs
Hosting essentials: serving utensils

Champagne Bucket

think: stainless steel, antique brass, acrylic
Hosting essentials: champagne bucket

Drink Dispensers

think: double dispensers, dispenser stands… guests love easy access to batch cocktails or fruit infused water
fruit infused ice in glass

Bar Tools

think: cocktail shaker, muddler, strainer
Hosting essentials: bar tools

Linen Napkins

think: eco-friendly, reusable, elegant
linen napkins

Stemware

think: red, white, champagne, water
Hosting essentials: stemware

Flatware

think: five piece set, butter knives, steak knives
Hosting essentials: flatware

Dinnerware

think: charger, dinner plate, side plate, salad plate, dessert plate
dinnerware

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Tips for Hosting in a Small Space

Hosting a party, or even a small gathering, can feel overwhelming when your home is tight on space. Perhaps you’re living in a tiny apartment, working around roommates, or you’re planning to invite more bodies than your place can hold comfortably. In any scenario, don’t let your small space prevent you from thinking big. It’s taken me a few tries and a few different living situations, but I’ve come to establish a bit of a routine for hosting in a small space. In this blog post, I’ll share a list of tips that I follow to maximize space, reduce clutter, reinvent and repurpose the use of everyday furniture to create an open environment for guests to flow freely. Welcome friends, family and neighbors into your home with confidence, by implementing these tips for hosting in a small space.


Tip No. 1

Establish party zones. Chances are, you aren’t planning to open up your bedroom to guests. Or your linen closet, or any other storage areas that are tucked away behind closed doors. Think of these spaces as the crown jewels of your party. They offer entirely open and usable space to conceal any clunky home furnishings, hide personal belongings, and temporarily store unneeded items that take up too much surface area or floor space.

Determine which rooms you’ll invite guests into, and which rooms will be the main areas dedicated to the party, AKA, the party zones. The majority of house parties tend to rely on kitchens and living rooms as dedicated party zones, especially when hosting in a small space.

Apartment Decor

Tip No. 2

Walk into your party zone with a fresh perspective, as if you’re seeing that space for the first time. What impression do you get from your home? Consider how it makes you feel, where your eyes are drawn to, and what words you would use to describe it.

Pay extra attention to any clutter, piles of empty boxes, overstuffed shelves, unused dinnerware / kitchenware / home decor. You don’t need to tackle these areas right away, but do make a mental (or physical) note of the obvious stuff.

Decor

Allow yourself a healthy dose of criticism, and identify any spaces that aren’t serving their full potential. Untapped potential is going to be your biggest waste of space, so don’t let it rob your party of that coveted square footage!

Evaluate how you could better capitalize on those areas. Do a massive clean out, donate unused or unwanted items, or rearrange any sections of your home that stand out as an eye-sore. Remember, the changes you make don’t have to be permanent. You could always rely on those crown jewels spaces to temporarily store your things.

Apartment Decor

Tip No. 3

Reconfigure the floor plan. Before you roll your eyes at this tip, consider the possibilities. The way you use your space to live your day-to-day life isn’t very harmonious with the way your space is used during a party.

The top changes that will make the biggest difference in opening up your space include:

Relocating furniture to the perimeter of the room to develop an open floor plan.

Remove extra seating, especially if you’re planning a cocktail style event. Leave enough seats for guests to rest comfortably, but not enough for the same guests to remain seated the entire time. You want to encourage a version of musical chairs ๐Ÿ™‚

Shift chairs and ottomans around to create vignettes. In a small space, you could use two ottomans and a side table, two chairs, or a couch and coffee table to make your vignettes. These furniture pairings will give guests a designated space to have a more intimate conversation.

Pro-Tip: Use software like AllSeated or Merri to generate a floorplan of your space that’s completely to scale. Or use the Houzz app to upload photos of your space and test out different remodeling options.

Stools

Tip No. 4

Get granular about the dinnerware, platters and glassware that you intend to use. The more that you limit these items, the more minimalistic and streamlined it will feel when guests are actually in the room.

Take your food and beverage presentation for a test run, by setting aside some time to put together a mock table sample. In events, we call call this a design presentation. Though, it doesn’t need to be as elaborate to be as effective.

Plates

Pull all of the items that you plan to use and arrange them strategically on your kitchen table, island, or countertop. Play around with the placement until it’s as concise as possible. Remember that less is more, because once your gathering rolls around, each of those dishes will have food on them and will look much more abundant than empty serving trays.

When your final few trays are left standing, use post-it notes to label those trays with how you plan to use them (i.e. “Cruditรฉs,” or “Petit Fours”). Take a photo of the full set up and revert back to it on the event day. This will reduce clutter by keeping you from grabbing more dishes than you need.

Plates with cards ontop

Tip No. 5

Use vertical space!

Consider your closet, for example. If you’re hosting an event in the winter, folks will likely arrive at your home wearing heavy coats, hats, gloves and scarves, and will inevitably leave them all over the place. If you can clear out any seasonal items from your closet (either in your entryway or bedroom) and temporarily lay those clothes under your bed, you can use the closet space as a coat check of sorts.

Woman holding fur coat

Get that recognition as hostess with the mostess by offering to take your guests’ jackets when they first arrive. Stuff the scarf into the sleeve, the hat into one pocket and the gloves into the other pocket, and hang up the coat in your closet. It’ll stay out of sight during the event, and mitigate one major reason why small spaces fill up so quickly.

More vertical space hacks:

Tiered serving trays and risers to optimize food stations.

Decorative ceiling or wall installations to maximize standing room.

Eliminate curtains or open blinds entirely to draw the eye up and create a sense of more space.

Vanilla frosted donuts with gold sprinkles on tiered stand

Tip No. 6

Don’t go crazy with decor. Negative space is important at any gathering, but especially when hosted in a small space.

Clean, untouched areas give the eye a place to rest. These open areas will help your guests feel calmer, less confined, and eager to keep the party going rather than feel overstimulated and uncomfortable.

Champagne glasses against neutral background

Choose a neutral color palette that evokes a fresh, light and airy vibe. Try to stay away from patterns and stick with solids.

Utilize pre-existing decor in your home, instead of bringing more materials. Think: greenery, white candles, and transparent materials like glass instead of heavy materials like gold. Again, bear in mind that less is more. The perk to this tip, is that it’s really budget friendly!


Tip No. 7

Make friends with the neighbors, but do it authentically! Relationships with your neighbors are everything, and if you buddy up early on, you can often lean on them for a helping hand when you’re hosting.

The favor could be as simple as storing a few bottles of wine in their fridge, or keeping desserts on their table until after dinner. A note on etiquette; if the gathering lends itself to it, invite your neighbor as a guest. It’s the polite thing to do, especially if you’re hosting a more casual affair.

Women popping champagne bottle

Tip No. 8

Do away with the conventional bar or buffet. Instead, disperse drinks, appetizers and desserts throughout the home to prevent heavy foot traffic in the kitchen. Serve a charcuterie board from a coffee table, or a coffee station from the entry table, to help alleviate congestion caused by serving all of the food and beverage from one central location.

Coffee on table near flowers

There you have it! Now go own that tiny space and make something beautiful.


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Valentine’s Day Cocktail Recipes

Expert mixologist Yusef Austin, AKA The Cocktail Architect, graced us once with three fabulous cocktail recipes (check out The Best Christmas Cocktails), and you liked it so much that we had to bring him back for more. Indulge in these three cocktail recipes designed to delight your senses this Valentine’s Day. Hopeless romantics, lovebirds and cocktail connoisseurs, this one’s for you.


Sweet Nothings

Sugar, spice and everything nice.


Ingredients: 2 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Fig Jam, 1/2 oz. Black Pepper + Star Anise Enhancer, 3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

Garnish: Edible Flower

Add ice to your cocktail shaker, shake and double strain into a coupe glass.

Illustrated by Sarah Ditterline

Tall, Dark and Handsome

The perfect night cap.


Ingredients: 2 oz. Tequila Blanco Infused with Saffron Threads, 1 oz. Chilled Espresso, 1 oz. Dark Chocolate Enhancer, Pinch of Sea Salt

Garnish: Shaved Chocolate

Add ice to your cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a martini glass.

Illustrated by Sarah Ditterline

Matchmaker

Cupid’s Cocktail.


Ingredients: 2 oz. Bourbon, 1 oz. Fresh Apple Juice, 1/2 oz. Fresh Ginger Juice, 3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice, 1/2 oz. Szechuan Pepper Enhancer

Garnish: Dehydrated Lemon Wheel

Add ice to your cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a rocks glass.

Illustrated by Sarah Ditterline

Thank you Yusef Austin for sharing these Valentine’s Day Cocktail Recipes! To learn more about The Cocktail Architect, click here or click here to learn about his virtual mixology classes.


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The Best Christmas Cocktails

Christmas cocktails are arguably the best cocktails. Alas, mixology is not my strong suit. So I asked an expert for his advice! Yusef Austin, AKA The Cocktail Architect, is a Brooklyn-based beverage genius. His emphasis on seasonal ingredients, quality, creativity, and taste generates sophisticated cocktails with a multi-sensory experience. Craft three of his staple Christmas cocktails at home by following the recipes below.


Merry and Bright

Cheerful with a zing.


Ingredients: 2 oz. Local Gin, Hibiscus Tea Mixer (Dried Hibiscus, Cinnamon Stick, Orange Zest, Crushed Cardamom, Cloves) and 3/4 oz. Meyer Lemon Juice

Garnish: Dehydrated Lemon Wheel

Shake and strain into a martini or coupe glass.

The Best Cocktail Recipes for Christmas

Santa, Baby

Christmas spice classic.


Ingredients: 2 oz. Local Whiskey, 1 oz. Chili Infused Honey, 1 oz. Orange + Lemon Juice Mix

Garnish: Orange Flamed Twist & Sphere Ice Cube

Shake and strain into a double rocks glass.

The Best Cocktail Recipes for Christmas

White Christmas

The perfect dessert cocktail.


Ingredients: 2 oz. Vodka, 1/2 oz. Tonka Bean + Vanilla Bean Mixer/Syrup, 1 oz. Chilled Espresso

Garnish: Whipped Cream, Grated Cinnamon

Shake and strain into a vintage cocktail glass.

The Best Cocktail Recipes for Christmas

A massive thank you to Yusef Austin for sharing these Christmas Cocktail Recipes! To learn more about The Cocktail Architect, click here or click here to learn about his virtual mixology classes.


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Sunset at the Beach

If you’re like me, it can be hard to stay in one place for long. When you’re eager for a change of scenery, find the nearest beach, and plan a few special touches to elevate an evening away from home. Celebrate life over a glass of rose and good conversation, watching the sunset at the beach.


Sunset Vibes

Sunset at the beach is quite possibly one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. I don’t get to the beach as often as I’d like, so it feels really special when I can block out an evening to getaway.


Beach Moment

Plan to arrive to the beach a few hours before sunset. Typically, two to three hours is the perfect amount of time for me. Though, if you want to spend the latter half of the day at the beach, be my guest!

When I go to the beach for a day trip, chairs are definitely my forte. But when I head to the beach for an evening away, I like to keep it as simple and lightweight as possible. I pack a blanket to cozy up on, and set up a little vignette of the following things.

Lifeguard deck at beach

Bubbles & Bites

Wine, rose, and champagne always taste better at the beach! Chill the bottles beforehand, and add them to a little cooler or insulated bag with ice right before leaving. Always opt to bring acrylic wine glasses or plastic cups over glass.

Wine glasses at beach with beach hat, flip flops and sunglasses, on a blanket

I’m a big fan of a charcuterie board. It feels super indulgent, but it’s relatively low maintenance to compose. Plus, what goes better with wine than cheese?

In the morning, prepare the board with a few cheeses, prosciutto, bread or crackers, and jam. Cover the board with tin foil, pop it in the fridge, and take it out right before heading to the beach.

Don’t forget: plates, napkins, cheese knives, hand sanitizer, and garbage bags for trash.

Pro-Tip: Don’t go overboard; less is more for an evening at the beach. Think: easy in, easy out. The simpler, the better!

Cheese board at the beach

Games & Activities

If you’re going to the beach with family or friends, consider packing a few lightweight games to play when you first arrive. It’s an easy way to break the ice, kick off the evening and keep people entertained. Especially if little ones are involved!

A deck of cards, kite, or a game like ring toss are perfect options.

ocean waves crashing on shore during sunset
Photo by Jess Vide on Pexels.com

Music

Most beaches are pretty lenient on allowing visitors to play music, especially in the evening when it’s less crowded. Charge up your portable speaker, and find a few good playlists to set the tone for the evening.

Music is such a simple way to completely transform the vibe of a space. Plus, it can inspire off-the-cuff moments of singing and dancing, spark a new conversation, or give a little background when the conversation falls as you watch the sunset.


Relax and Enjoy

It’s so important to build in time to recharge and celebrate the small things that life has to offer. What better way to do that than with your feet in the sand, and sunset on the horizon?

For more ideas to elevate special moments, see my blog posts under Happy Hostess.

birds flying under orange clouds
Photo by Jess Vide on Pexels.com

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How-To: Make A Self Serve Bar

When gatherings at home feel too intimate for a bartender, self serve bars are the name of the game. They’re an ideal option for guests to help themselves to their beverage of choice, without overwhelming the host with drink orders. Follow these steps on how-to make a self serve bar that’s just as aesthetically pleasing as it is convenient.


Select Beverages

The best piece of advice I could give to determine which beverages to include on a bar, is to think in terms of “knowing your audience.” I pose that phrase to clients and myself all the time, because it’s true!

As a host, you can recount occasions with your specific group of guests that remind you how popular Aperol Spritz’s are, or inform a decision to purchase one pack of beer because you know only two people will drink it.

Consider the guests, their go-to drink orders, and your favorite recipes to share and introduce via a welcome drink or signature beverages at the bar.


Standard Bar Guide

Spirits: Vodka, Tequila (I prefer Blanco), Bourbon, Gin, Cognac, White Rum

Mixers: Club Soda, Seltzer, Lime Juice, Cointreau, Bitters, Vermouth

Garnishes: Lime Wedges, Lemon Wedges, Orange Slices, Maraschino Cherries, Mint, Salt & Sugar

Barware: Ice Bucket & Scoop, Bar Spoon, Cocktail Shaker, Strainer, Muddler, Jigger

Glassware: Rocks, Highball, Red Stem, White Stem, Champagne, Martini

There’s a method to the madness! There are about five, five-ounce glasses of wine in one bottle… A 750 ml bottle of liquor will account for about twenty-five, one-ounce shots… And so on and so forth. Pro-Tip: When in doubt, plan for three drinks and three glasses per person for a two hour event.


Create Mini Vignettes

Once your beverages and barware accounted for, the next step on how-to make a self serve bar is all about organizing.

Group like items together that compliment one another in color, texture, and most importantly, use. Functionality is key for a self serve bar to operate like it’s intended to. Guests will be more inclined to ask the host for assistance, or skip the drink altogether, if beverages and barware are too far out of reach.

Choose tableware that coincides well with the event theme and color scheme. My list of Most Loved Sites for Party Supplies is a great resource for unique finds.


Prepare Cocktail Recipe Cards

Everyone appreciates drink recommendations! Even self-proclaimed bartenders.

There are dozens of vehicles for presenting drink recipes to guests. A picnic might call for a chalkboard, while a cocktail party might opt for acrylic signs in stands. Either option would double as decor on a self serve bar.

Here’s a cheap and cheerful way to create cocktail recipe cards...

Format a Word document to a 4×6 layout

Add the drink name, along with a photo, to the first page, and list the ingredients and instructions on the next page

Design each cocktail card with the font and colors of your choice

Save as a PDF

Email the file to Staples to print each cocktail recipe double sided (picture on the front, ingredients and instructions on the back), on a high-gloss cardstock. Request they laminate each card to protect them from inevitable spills.

I created three cocktail recipe cards for just under $14. Click the Download button below to view some pretty stellar recipes.


Form a Back Bar

The last thing that any host wants to do is restock a bar, especially in the middle of a party.

Use a ledge, table or shelf as a back bar to house extra bottles of club soda, seltzers and mixers. Keep like items together by grouping beverages according to brand, flavor and use. Juices in one spot, sodas in another!


Get Welcome Drinks on Deck

Welcome drinks with an unexpected twist are a fun way to kick off a celebration. For my Twenty Fifth Birthday Bash, mini margaritas in Patron Silver bottles were a must!

Miniature Bottles of Patron Silver with Pink Flamingo Straws inside
Photo by Mel Barlow & Co. Click here to find Pink Flamingo Drink Straws

I also filled an inflatable pool with a variety of spiked seltzers and a metal cooler with beers.

I left tumblers on the bar, each with their own unique design, for guests to choose from when they first arrived. The tumblers doubled in use as guests refilled water bottles from drink dispensers throughout the party, and took them home as gifts upon departure.


Add Surprise and Delight

Lastly, don’t forget to incorporate some form of Surprise and Delight.

Unique drinks in unexpected places can activate a space, and add value to a design-driven concept. I left guests to discover Jello shots stacked up in a retro cooler that was nestled among lawn games.


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Event Decks

Decks provide visual reference for event concepting, design, layout, form and function. They’re an extremely useful tool to curate how an event will look and feel.


What is an Event Deck?

After I’ve surfed through Pinterest, mulled over different designs, and have a skeletal plan for an event, I launch Powerpoint and begin working on a deck.

The deck serves two purposes; representing inspiration and actualized ideas. It flushes out concepts, serves as a hub of information and is ultimately a decision-making platform.

When I build a deck, I like to think in terms of event flow, with a beginning, middle and end. I start by choosing a cover photo that best represents the vibe I’m after.

My Event Deck features tropical concepts, represented by this pool with palm leaves
Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

Finding Inspiration

In the early stages of a deck, the next 10-20 slides are filled with inspiration images ranging from stationery ideas, to welcome moments, decor, activities, food and beverage, and guest gifts.

There could be as many as 3-5 different themes shown in these initial images. Think of this step as a jumping off point to guide you towards a final theme direction that best accomplishes the goals you’re after.

Read more about the importance of defining goals for your event here and the role they play during the planning process.

My Event Deck includes concepts like a beauty bar activation, represented by this image of powdered eyeshadows in pink, blue, orange, and purple
Photo by ๐•๐ž๐ง๐ฎ๐ฌ ๐‡๐ƒ ๐Œ๐š๐ค๐ž- ๐ฎ๐ฉ & ๐๐ž๐ซ๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ž on Pexels.com

Looking at Logistics

As the deck is populated with inspiration, consider the following for each concept shown:

How does this support the overarching goals of the event?

Is this feasible in accordance with the event budget?

What labor will this realistically require for set up, during the event itself and strike?

All of these questions will prompt you to play out scenarios for each design.


Finalizing the Theme

Look for patterns in the inspiration photos that make you most excited, and identify exactly which parts of those images you are drawn to and why. Research the marketplace for the concepts shown, it may become clear that certain themes are out of budget, or lacking in availability.

At this stage, you will have fully flushed out the design, compared pricing to the event budget and confirmed availability. Check the box for due diligence!

Once the theme is selected, deep dive into design. Remove any inspiration images that no longer fit the scope and scale of the event.

It’s totally fine to mix and match inspiration images that showcase different themes. The point is that the deck makes sense to you. It doesn’t need to represent one continuous design plan just yet.

My Event Deck includes flamingo stakes, pictured here, and pink accents with palm leaves
Photo by Linda Eller-Shein on Pexels.com

Pro-Tip: Lean into the design by creating vignettes for each phase of the event. Consider the presentation of everything; treat all vessels, activities, food & beverage, and decor as a decision. Be thorough here, anything within the event environment should be on-brand and represent the theme.


Planning for Purchases

While sourcing materials for the event, add product links and pricing to the notes section of the Powerpoint slide that houses the items you’re considering.

Look for multiple suppliers of those products – don’t just purchase the first one you see. Starting far enough in advance of the event will position you to purchase items when they’re on sale.

When your first purchase has been made, separate the event deck into two sections: Inspiration and Purchased. Reference and compare the two sections against future purchases to stay on theme. This is also when an Inventory List will come into play.

Two nude pool umbrellas
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

It’s All Coming Together

At this stage, the deck is no longer a shell of a design, but instead a cohesive lookbook of actualized purchases.

Populate your deck in real-time, as purchases are made and orders are confirmed, to account for each piece of the puzzle.

Don’t forget to include stationery, like the save the date!

Pink exterior envelope with my name on it in white script. This was the save the date invitation for my twenty fifth birthday bash
Envelope liner with palm leaves
Save the date invitation with pink flamingos and gold and pink writing

Final Edits

Once all purchases are reflected in the deck, play the presentation on full screen a few times, and organize slides in a cohesive way; mirroring the beginning, middle and end of the event.

It’s super helpful if the items on each slide make up the vignette being produced on the event day. Then, it can be easily translated to a visual checklist of items to account for once you or any staff hired starts to set up.

Final edits solidify the vision and goals for the event, and demonstrate how to properly execute those moments in a turnkey way.

Round beach towels in palm leaves and pink flamingos. Yellow palm leaf pillows
Tropical sun visors in playful patterns like rainbow, mermaid, orange, iridescent and pink and green palm leaves.
"Baby Got Bounce" inflatable beach ball, "Island Vibes" inflatable flyer and inflatable volleyball net for pool

The Completed Deck

Toss the confetti, the deck is complete!

Download the presentation to your phone for quick reference on the event day. This step-by-step guide is such a helpful resource to identify where every item will live, so be sure to share with anyone assisting with set up on the event day.

To view an example of a final event deck, click the Download button below. This deck shows the plans for my twenty fifth birthday celebration that took place over the summer of 2020 (I had a blast with this one). To read more about that party and how it came to fruition, click here.


Have a question about something specific? Ask it on my Q&A page!

Read more Event Planning advice.

Friendsgiving

A time to practice gratitude, enjoy the company of friends and test your cooking skills.


A Little Background

Choosing to host Friendsgiving was a super easy decision. I had just settled into my first apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and was excited to welcome friends into my new space.

Calendar coordination proved to be quite the task, but once we landed on a weekend, the invitations went out.

Digital white envelope liner with seasonal foliage

Digital Invites FTW

When I’m hosting a personal event, I prefer to send digital invitations for a few reasons, but my number one reason is for convenience.

Digital invites via platforms like Paperless Post offer automated RSVP tracking, enclosure cards, embedded links to external sites, and capabilities to send follow up messages to specific groups of guests (perfect for inquiring about dietary restrictions and food allergies).

A few other reasons I prefer digital invites…

Invites can be edited even after they’ve been sent out.

Tons of fully customizable and user-friendly design templates.

Relatively inexpensive invitation suites compared to traditional printing methods.

Lastly, there are so many aspects of events that are unfortunately unsustainable and not so environmentally-friendly. Opting for digital invites can #savethetrees and reduce waste.

Friendsgiving digital invitation with seasonal foliage boarder and brown and orange writing

Concepting

Somewhere in the process of dreaming up Friendsgiving and sending out the invitations, I started a Pinterest board.

When I need to narrow down theme options and decide on a color palette, Pinterest is usually the best platform for me to see all of the options, and curate the ideal look and feel that I’m after.

These are some of the pins that sparked the most inspiration.

Over the next few months, I populated an Event Deck with inspiration images, household items that I planned to use, and links to products that I intended to purchase.

It was my Friendsgiving deck that led me to purchase my first set of china, which I still love!


Menu Planning

Menu planning is one of my favorite things to do. I find it so satisfying to surf the web and flip through books to create a menu that people will enjoy, and tell a story that they will remember.

As much as I love to cook, I’m also a big fan of convenience. Spare yourself the time and effort where you can, by relying on other people and places to add to the table (no pun intended).

I lean on local businesses whenever possible; the butcher down the street for meats and cheeses, the bakery with fresh pies and cookies, and local floral boutiques, to provide fresh, seasonal products that guests love.


Friendsgiving Menu

AppetizerCheese Spread from Bedford Cheese ShopSparkling Apple Cider Sangria
First CourseRoasted Butternut Squash Soup
Apple, Cranberry, Walnut Salad
Veuve Clicquot
Main Course & SidesTurkey
Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Corn
Candied Yams
Green Beans
Fresh Rolls
Zinfandel, Rose, Assorted Reds
DessertApple Crumb Pie from Martha’s Country Bakery
Ice Cream Sundaes
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Snickerdoodles
Moscato

The above menu coincided with a fairly length grocery list, as I’m sure you can imagine. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will note that I found it much more turnkey to list the ingredients and quantities needed under the heading of each recipe, for reference when we began to cook.


Event Flow

I only invited a few friends, who were all coming in from out of town and stayed with me for the weekend.

My timeline officially kicked into gear on Saturday morning. Starting with breakfast at home, into shopping around Williamsburg’s boutiques, to visiting the waterfront, and returning home for Friendsgiving festivities to begin.

Photo of me by the water!
Photo by Alex Munteanu

This is a much looser run-of-show than I would compose for a client, or for an event with more moving parts. Still, referencing a framework of to-do’s and next steps kept me on track as the day unfolded. Creating this in advance also helped ensure I wouldn’t forget anything on the day-of.


Timeline

MorningPrep
– Go to Bagel Smith for Bagels
– Cook Quiches
Breakfast:
– Assorted Bagels
– (2) Quiches
– Corn Muffins
– Seasonal Fruits
– Mimosas
– Coffee & Tea
AfternoonCheese Plate
– Slice Cheese
– Jams in White Ramekins; Refrigerate
– Wash Grapes; Refrigerate
– Nuts in Italy Bowl, White Vase and White Ramekins on Top Shelf of Bar Cart
– Crackers on Top Shelf of Bar Cart
Bar Cart
– Remove Items from Top Shelf
– Square Blue Ravello Plate to Top Shelf
– Cheese Board to Top Shelf
– Chalkboard Cheese Signs on Cheese Plates
– Menu Sign on Gold Easel
– White Pitcher on Top Shelf (Sangria)
– Straws in Water Glass on Top Shelf (from under sink)
– Cocktail Napkins on Bar
– Plastic Cups on Bar
Bake Cookies
– Snickerdoodles
– Chocolate Chip Cookies
– Store in (2) Shallow Bowls and Cover w/ Tinfoil
Whipped Cream
– Place Bottom of Mixer and Large White Vase in Freezer to Chill
– Make Whipped Cream & Transfer into White Vase; Cover w/ Tinfoil and Store in Fridge
Peel and Chop
– Sweet Potatoes
– Butternut Squash
– Yukon Gold Potatoes
Late AfternoonPrep
– Make Sangria and Move to Fridge to Soak & Chill (White Pitcher)
– Light Festive Candles
– Turn on Music
– Netflix Fireplace on TV
– Set Table
– Prepare Apples for Salad
– Decide Team Captains for Recipes; Cook Away!
Dinner– Place Out Cheese Spread and Sangria Pitcher
– Shift Music to Jazz Playlist
Bon Appetit!– Pour Champagne
– Soup in Bowls; Garnish
– Invite Guests to Dinner
– Toast
– Enjoy First Course
– Clear Soup Bowls; Clear Floral Arrangement; Place Wooden Salad Bowl in Center of Table w/ Wooden Tongs
– Guests to Self-Serve Salad
– Enjoy Second Course
– Put Dinner Rolls in Oven
– Clear Second Course
– Invite Guests to Buffet
– Bon Appetit!
Gold and marble bar cart made cheese board for Friendsgiving appetizers

A Little Reflection

Friendsgiving was the first gathering I hosted (back in 2018), and it was a massive learning experience.

It was a team effort between my friends and I to prep, cook and clean everything, (which was no easy feat in a small apartment without a dishwasher!) but we divided and conquered by designating captains to take the lead on each recipe.

Champagne glass with Friendsgiving dinner in the background

We toasted to health & happiness, played a Thanksgiving-themed trivia game, and shared all that we were thankful for. I’d love the chance to host Friendsgiving again soon… though next time, it might be a potluck.

Friendsgiving place setting, with white coupe china, and roasted butternut squash soup in a bowl

Have a question about something specific? Ask it on my Q&A page!

Read more from the Happy Hostess.