Archive for Table Settings

A Holiday Cocktail Party

During this season one thing is certain, parties.  We attend parties, we throw them, we talk about them, plan them, and post about them.  From the office to our families, we can be sure that somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years we will be a guest or a host to at least one event.  The most common and one of the easiest of these soirées to put on is the holiday cocktail party.  These events can be intimate and simple or, a complex affair.   The best part is that cocktail parties can always feel glamorous no matter how big the guest list or how small the budget!

 

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Many elements make the holiday cocktail party so desirable as a host. Cocktail parties are a great excuse to have a kid-free evening with friends. They also tend to be quick, two-three hours long and start in the early evening.  Many hosts find these parties appealing because the guest list can be small (we recommend six guests or more) or very large, depending on your space and budget. Smaller gatherings are best suited for old friends and family.  This is great for a home party where you really want the time to catch up with people you may not see too often, though it also works well for groups of guests who already know each other.  For large holiday cocktail parties, consider inviting co-workers, friends, neighbors… really anyone!  If your home is big enough to host a large gathering, consider ordering rental high-top cocktail tables and a bar for set-up.

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Food

Cocktails are the main focus so keep the food light.  Finger foods and hors d’oeuvres for snacking are sufficient.  For a smaller budget simply place bowls of peanuts, olives, and, popcorn in different areas of the party space.  Of course, cheese is welcome at any party!  For the holidays, classics such as Brie en croute, or even a classy cheese and crackers platter are always crowd pleasers.  Easy to make canapés like prosciutto-wrapped apricots, or a basic a bruschetta add a fancy personalized touch. If your budget allows, consider having catering for passed appetizers or even simply picking up a few platters to ease some hosting stress.

 

Cocktails!

No need to be nervous, you do not need to stock a full service bar to host a cocktail party.  Having beer, and red and white wine available is a good idea.  Instead of providing a full bar, think about having one or two signature seasonal cocktails.  This is a wonderful way to encourage guests to think outside of their typical cocktail styles.  If you’d like, offer a hot beverage such as hot chocolate with Bailey’s or peppermint schnapps–this is a lovely winter-only adult treat that is always a crowd pl116249234101156483_OqYwLojc_beaser and easy to assemble.  For other signature drinks keep the options simple and, preferably, something that can be made ahead of time, like festive pomegranate punch.  Many times these cocktails tend to be sweet and syrupy so offering a stronger drink without as much fuss, such as a basil gimlet, will be a safer bet.

 

No matter what size the party, make it as easy as possible; after all, hosts who can enjoy themselves always throw good parties!  Consider using disposable stemware, buying pre-made appetizers, or using a caterer.  Keep décor to minimum; you want space for mingling and if the house is already decorated, all you need is few candles and the glow of a Christmas tree!

Cheers!

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Simplify Holiday Traditions

Thanksgiving came earlier this year, which means a longer holiday season.  For many of us that is great, more time to plan!  The downside to this is more time to stress, and hustle and bustle to get all our holiday tasks done.   We came up with a few tips to help negotiate this “most wonderful time of the year” and make the holidays more enjoyable!

 

Simplify

Start by simplifying things where you can.  For example: organize a secret Santa with the adults in your family instead of buying of bunch of gifts that put you over budget. Or decide on a determined amount of money for each adult to donate to an agreed charity.  You can also try going green with your gifts.   Instead of a fancy dinner party have a brunch.  Brunch can be easier, more affordable to prepare, and is a nice change from the sometimes stuffy holiday dinner.  If dinner is a must, host a potluck to take the pressure off preparing the whole meal.  For decorations use accents from your own yard, like pinecones or evergreen branches to make your home sparkle.  These can be arranged naturally or you can paint and glitter them for extra pizzazz!  Even look to your grocery store for inspiration like Clementine’s, apples, or cranberries.

 

Plan Ahead

Part of the reason holiday time can feel so stressful is because we are scrambling to get so much done at once.  Between stringing up lights, finding the perfect gifts for friends, family, and kids, attending office parties, social parties, family gatherings, finding outfits for each function, decorating the house, hosting out-of-towners, cooking, and baking, we barely have enough of our holly-jolly left for the season.  Planning ahead will help to ease the holiday stresses.  Start the season off with a detailed list including gifts, food and, holiday tasks.  Every time you are out shopping try to get a few items on the list such as wrapping paper or a poinsettia for as a hostess gift.  Having a list will keep you on track, organized, and help to keep your budget down.  Try to have all items on your list done three days before Christmas or your big event.  This will give you a few days to get organized beforehand without running around tying up last minute loose ends.

 

Start Something New

Between the media, the mall, and our kid’s excitement, it is easy for us to get caught up in the holiday hoopla.  Find new ways to get together with friends like hosting a cookie or recipe swap.  Get the family involved in charity work for a day.  Find a sledding hill and bring thermos of homemade hot chocolate or cider. Take a long walk to collect pinecones and branches to take home and paint or glitter… Most importantly, in order to really appreciate the holiday season, take moment to turn down the jingle bells and look at what the season means to you and your family.  Remind yourself of this when you find things getting chaotic. Try to let go of expectations for how a dinner or event should go allow room for spontaneity, who knows?  Maybe a new tradition will start!

 

Stay tuned to the Serendipity blog for more event and menu ideas for the holidays!  

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Countdown to Thanksgiving

The sugar-filled, doorbell-ringing, princess and cape-wearing pageant of Halloween is behind us and now it is officially November, which means it is time to think turkey!  Thanksgiving will be here in a few short weeks.  To ease some holiday planning stress we highly recommend planning ahead as much as possible.  We collected a few ideas to get you moving in the right direction:

 

Gather your guest list.  Are you just inviting family, extended family, or a larger event with friends and family?  Send invitations out now via mail or E-vites.  Having an idea of who and how many are coming will help you with menu planning, budgeting, and, if necessary, seating arrangements.

 

Next, think about the feel you are trying to achieve with your gathering.  Will this be casual and kid-friendly or up-scale and elegant? Is there anything special needed for your party–a new tablecloth, napkins, or candlesticks? Do you need extra tables or chairs? Will your party be a sit-down affair or a buffet?  Start planning and arranging ideas in your head for how you’d like your space set up and order anything you need. Rental companies are busy this time of year so call them now to reserve your needs; we like All Well Rents.  No matter which route you choose, we always recommend setting up a few stations around the house to keep guests mingling.  For instance, a bar area in the kitchen, a cheese and fruit platter in the living room, and an appetizer station on the buffet or dining table. Then you can start thinking about the menu.

 

Since you now have a guest list and an idea for your party’s mood, it is time to start menu planning.  First take a look at your guest list and check if there are any dietary requirements such as vegetarian, gluten free, any allergies, etc. that need to be worked around.  If so, decide what dishes can be accommodated for guests with specific dietary needs. (Extra potatoes for gluten free, Tofurky for vegetarians, etc.)  Many Americans pull off large feasts for casual Thanksgiving parties with a potluck style get-together.  If this is the direction you choose, decide who is bringing what dish and confirm them as guests and as contributors.  If you are going the up-scale route, consider calling your local caterer soon!  Dates book up quickly, especially around the holidays.  It is common for clients to want to cook a turkey at home and order all sides and desserts from catering companies or through local markets.  It is never too early to call and confirm your food order reservation.

 

Turkey talk- as we keep mentioning, reserve your bird early!  Many of the local, organic, and free-range farms sell out quickly. Ideally, these are the best turkeys to order, as they are fresher and never frozen, they give moister meat, and richer flavor.  As a bonus you are supporting our local farmers!  These birds can be ordered through most natural markets or through Grant Family Farms.

 

Now you are off to good start!  Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on menu planning, recipes, cocktails, table settings, etiquette, and more!  Also follow us Pinterest  for more holiday ideas!

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A Cold Weather Brunch

Party season has arrived and we are all getting ready with decorations, menus, and fancy dresses.  Parties can range from over-the-top extravaganzas to low-key gatherings.  Of course, we love all types of parties, but during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it is refreshing to attend or host a party that is more unexpected and casual like a brunch! Between all the evening engagements, brunch is great time to get guests together for a laid back affair.  As a bonus, brunch can also be more affordable than an evening party, though we think it can be just as fancy.

Décor

Brunch is early in the day, which brings freshness to mind.  Seasonal flower arrangements, fresh fruit like apples or oranges piled in decorative bowls or large vases, or mini pastries or cookies stacked high on floral plates; floral pumpkins, poinsettias—these all make great centerpieces.  Use nature’s decor for accents: autumn leaves, and juniper or holly branches.  Keep the colors in season.  Often when we think of brunch, we think of springtime, so it is important to keep the colors relevant to the season.  For fall colors we favor light yellows and oranges and for winter, off-white with deep red.

Menu

Prosciutto Cups Brunch is a balance of sweet and savory foods.  Keep the familiar brunch food interesting by adding a spin on classics.  For the sweet side try pumpkin pancakes, gingerbread waffles, stuffed French toast with apples and raisins, or pecan cinnamon rolls.  For savory items: quiche in prosciutto cups, roasted potatoes with rosemary, maple bacon, sausages with sage, or a strata baked with mushrooms and sweet potatoes.  Include a salad with fresh greens and seasonal fruits like pears or dried cranberries.

 

Drinks

The mimosa is the standard brunch cocktail and easy enough to make.  For a more interesting route, experiment with different types of mimosas like a pumpkin ginger mimosa or a festive cranberry mimosa.  To keep a fun flow to any party, it is always great to have an interactive station such as a make-your-own bloody Mary bar with vodka, tomato juice, a variety of olives, salami, provolone squares, a variety of hot sauces, and celery stalks.  For non-alcoholic drinks offer a twist on hot chocolate like the spicy and warming Mexican hot chocolate, or serve a classic holiday punch.

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Pumpkins

Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year, from our porches to our dining tables, and are often overlooked as anything other than Jack O’ Lanterns.  We discovered why the celebrated pumpkin can be much more than a spooky decoration.

Health Benefits

Pumpkins are packed with vitamins and many other nutrients.  With their high carotenoids (the same nutrient that makes carrots orange) and lutein content they are anti-aging, cardiovascular and eye protecting pumpkin powerhouses. Surprisingly, they also contain protein. The pepetias (pumpkin seeds) hold up to 7 grams of protein per serving.  The seeds are also a great source of essential fatty acids that protect against cancer, promote healthy skin, regulate blood pressure, and improve brain power.  Pumpkins are high in vitamin A (good for eye health), free-radical fighting vitamin C, bone boosting magnesium, and potassium and Zinc (great for immunity and fiber).

 

Cooking with Pumpkin

It is time to think outside the pie!  Pumpkin can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.  It can be used as a warm side dish, a salad, a soup or stew, a main course, dessert, and even as a serving vessel.  Save the big pumpkins for carving and choose the smaller, more manageable varieties for cooking and baking.  For soups and stews try the Red Kuri pumpkin. It has a bright color and smooth flesh that purees well; or the Kabocha pumpkin, which is green on the outside and has a dry yellow flesh, which picks up other flavors nicely.  For a stand-alone side dish try the colorful (yellow, orange, white, and green striped) Carnival pumpkin.  It has a long shelf life of up to 3 months and has a flavor profile similar to an acorn squash.  And for baking, the sugar pie pumpkin is best with its bright orange flesh and sweet flavor.

If these varieties are hard to find, substituting acorn or butternut squash would work too or, using organic canned pumpkin is an acceptable substitute as well.

 

Decorating with Pumpkins

Now that we know they can be used for more than pie, what about decorating with pumpkins?  We all know the carved triangle eyes and toothy grin, but we have found a few more creative ways to use our orange round friend: Pumpkin candle holders, a vase, a painted and glittered pumpkin, a pumpkin tureen, a clock, a pumpkin ice bucket for wine or beer or a pumpkin pot potpourri pot.  Be as creative you can with the versatile, delicious, chubby, coral colored, autumn staple–the loveable pumpkin!

 

We’d love to hear your ideas! What are your favorite pumpkin recipes or unique pumpkin decorating tips?

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A Fall Wedding

Many brides prefer the spring and summer for a wedding, but fall is gaining popularity.  With cooler weather and richer colors, an autumn wedding in Colorado can be a great way celebrate a big change!

 

A Venue

When finding a venue it is important to consider the weather.  If you are having an early fall wedding (September or early October) you might be able to get away with an outdoor wedding, but consider a venue that has both an outdoor and indoor option in case of inclement weather.  A recent trend are country barns dressed up in wild roses, sunflowers, and gardenias for a glammed-up rustic feel.  Barns are a great way to tie in the changing outdoors with their large austere feel. Art galleries and museums also make great fall venues.  These spaces can be very open, with large windows, leaving plenty of room to decorate to fit your vision.  Often many art galleries in Denver will have funky garage doors and patios if you’d like a space with an outdoor area for your guests.  Of course, living in Colorado we cannot neglect the mountains.  There are many high country venues to chose from–just consider the distance you would like to drive and if there are accommodations for guests that would want to stay.   The mountains can provide a beautiful, natural fall backdrop!

 

Decorations

Fall colors are deep, rich and vibrant.  Deep purples, mahogany reds, Aspen tree yellow, dusty orange, and chocolate browns are all great colors to choose from for a fall wedding.  If these colors don’t suit you, go for a sea blue with touches of deep orange or, for our pink girls, we like light and dark shades of pink with deep browns and gold. When planning a fall wedding it is best to keep nature in mind and not stray too far away from the season.  Use anything from wheat bundles in ribbon, changing leaf-tree branches, pomegranates, apples or mini pumpkins in tall vases or fall flowers for centerpieces.  Use the changing season as your inspiration.

 

Food

Comfort foods often remind us of fall and winter.  When planning your menu, think of heartier food–roasts or pork tenderloin. Skip items like seafood or chicken.  For appetizers have your cheese plate include blue cheeses, apples, and figs.  This is both beautiful and delicious!  Sides can be dishes like herbed mashed potatoes or roasted root vegetables.  Rosemary, sage, thyme and marjoram are herbs that can instantly conjure up fall memories.  So make sure your menu has these included!  Another fun addition for colder weather weddings is to have hot chocolate or hot cider for your guests.  To kick it up a notch offer guests hot drinks spiked with Khalua or rum.  As a parting gift for your guests, give out wrapped candy apples labeled with the bride and groom’s names and the date.  A delightful gift any guest would be happy to walk away with!

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Labor Day Weekend Parties

It seems that just a few short months ago we were writing about getting ready for summer: BBQ ideas, seasonal summer foods, poolside parties, and warm weather cocktails.  It is hard to believe that this weekend marks the (unofficial) end of summer.  Labor Day weekend is the time to make the most of what the summer has brought us with warm weather, outdoor dining, terrific seasonal fruits and vegetables, and great parties!   Labor Day weekend is about taking it easy, so we put together a few simple ideas for the long weekend’s parties.

Décor

Turn your backyard into a cozy, rustic gathering place. Try recycling old soda and wine bottles and use them as vases.  No need to buy expensive flowers, just use what you have in your garden–flowers, fresh herbs, or vines.  Often times seating outdoors is uncomfortable, so place decorative pillows on lawn chairs or place random quilts on the lawn so your guest may have a place to “picnic.”  Once the sun goes down, light plenty of citronella candles to keep the bugs away and set a nice glow to the party.  Use different shapes and sizes of candle holders to fit the rustic feel. Remember, it is Labor Day weekend so keep the décor simple and relaxed.

 

Activities

Sadly, the warm days are coming to an end which means that many of the leisurely yard games are too.  Set up an area for summer games like bocce ball, badminton, or croquet.  If your crowd is more active, set up a mini tournament – men vs. women or kids vs. adults. This is a great way to get everyone to socialize and people to get to know each other! Keep score and give the winning team small gifts such as a small bag of homemade cookies, seeds for next summers garden, or fun bottle openers. Keep the kids active by having a water balloon toss, potato sack races, or hold a watermelon-eating contest.

Food

Keep the food as easy-going as possible.  Feature summer vegetables and fruits, and keep the BBQ hot for summer staples like burgers and hot dogs.  Set out a “burger/hot dog bar” with a variety of toppings outside of the typical condiments.  In addition to ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, onion, and tomato, try green and red salsas, bacon, relishes, different mustards, flavored mayos, Sriracha, BBQ sauces, bell peppers, mushrooms, a number of cheeses–anything from goat cheese to sliced American–pesto, an olive tapanade, hummus….you get the idea!  For side dishes include summer favorite like potato salad, baked beans, and grilled summer veggies like squash.   Desserts should be light and summery: strawberry shortcake, fruit pie, or ice cream topped with fruit.  Or, if you really want to keep it easy, buy a few different types of ice cream bars and popsicles.  Your guests will appreciate the summer nostalgia.

 

Other Ideas!

Epicurious: Top Summer Cocktails

All Recipes: Vegetarian Grilling

Real Simple: 6 Recipes for Homemade Popsicles

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