Your Guide to Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday Party

Nov 27, 2014

My favorite part of the holidays is spending time with family and friends. My other favorite parts include enjoying delicious meals, sipping holiday cocktails and getting all dazzled up in sparkly dresses and shiny shoes. So what better way to spend time with those you love and enjoy all those other holiday favourites than throwing a spectacular festive holiday party?!
A blurry iPhone pic of my sister at me at last year's Holiday Party


I love hosting events and get-togethers, but I certainly recognize that for a lot of people, throwing a party is the equivalent of walking through Costco on a Saturday morning...stress, sweats, and nervous stomach pains. Hopefully these few ideas, tips and tricks will help you throw a worry free party, one that not only your guests will love, but that you can enjoy too!

INVITES
(1 month in advance)
  1. Get your invites out early. December is a hectic month for most people. You want to spread the word sooner than later so your guests can plan to attend your event and work around anything else they have going on.
  2. Creating invites online is easy. My favourite site to use is picmonkey.com. It has a  lot of great features, including seasonal specific backgrounds, fonts, and art. It's very user friendly, customizable & free. Here is our Holiday event invite which I created using pic monkey.



PLANNING YOUR MENU
(2 weeks in advance)
  1.  Whether serving a full course meal, or laying out hors d'oeuvres, food and drinks need to be planned for in advance.
  2. For a holiday party, I always go with serving small bites and save full course meals for a smaller gathering. If you're going this same route, don't lay out all the food at once. Everything will have disappeared and your guests will still want to snack. Have a few dishes at the beginning of the night, take a few away and add more towards the middle, and again at the end. It's also good to keep food around while there's alcohol involved so everyone enjoys a good balance. 
  3. Once you've selected which dishes you're going to make, put together a grocery list and purchase your groceries about 5 days in advance.
  4. Looking for some new dishes to try? Check out my Pinterest board for unique food and drink ideas.
  5. Follow Natasha's board Party Menu Recipes on Pinterest.

SUPPLIES
(asses up to 1.5 weeks in advance)
  1. It's a good idea to source some extra seating if your every day furniture is minimal. Friends and family are great options for this and usually don't mind lending extra chairs.
  2. Same goes for utensils, dishware and wine glasses. If you opt to go with the real version, see if you can borrow some items from family and friends rather than purchasing on your own. Some catering companies will also let you rent items.
  3. If yours is not a BYOB event, make sure you fully stock your bar. Keep en eye out for sales at your local liquor & grocery store leading up to your event.

ATMOSPHERE
(day before & day of)
  1. Since it's Christmas, your house should already be fully decked with all the decor you need. 
  2. To really amp up your cozy christmas mood, have a festive simmer on the stove when your guests arrive. Fill a pot half full with water, add some vanilla, a few cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cloves and cranberries and let it simmer on low. The smell of this mixture will really win over your guests.
  3. Music! Having good music at your event is key. Even though it's Christmas, I recommend playing a mixture of holiday and regular music. Oldies are always a crowd pleaser - but stick with whatever you and your guests like.
  4. Light lots of candles and use lamps rather than ceiling lights, which can be overly bright and harsh.

Fun Ideas
  1. If you're expecting young kids, set up an area where they can be comfortable. Maybe play a festive movie, have them colour and draw or do a Christmas craft.
  2. Setting up stations are a fun and interactive way to serve drinks. 
      • Hot Chocolate Station with marshmallows, candy cane stir sticks & baileys if you're serving to adults.
      • Caesar Station including different mixes, a variety of rim seasonings and additions like BBQ sauce
      • Hot Toddy Station. Lay out all the necessary ingredients and let your guests mix together their drink just how they like it.
  3. Use a chalkboard to label your dishes. Can't find one to buy? Use an old mirror and paint over the mirror with chalk paint, which is available at craft stores. Serving a cheese platter? Paint the centre of your serving tray with chalk paint so you can label your cheeses on the platter.
It's not too late to plan your holiday party for this season. Hopefully with this guide, you'll be able to throw a wonderful, stress-free event shared with family & friends at Christmas. 

Christmas Decor Inspiration

Nov 24, 2014

Keeping it simple today friends. Our house is kicking my butt, even after two days straight of working on things, there is always more! But isn't that life? And for houses and projects and holidays that keep me busy, I am thankful.

If you haven't started decorating yet, take a peek at these beautiful homes for some inspiration for your decor this year.
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Projects in Progress

Nov 19, 2014

I love sharing before & after photos. It's exciting to see how drastically a room can change before your eyes. What you don't get to see though, is all the things that go on in-between start and finish. So today I'm sharing our projects in progress - what we've completed so far and what we have left to do.

Sometimes DIYing can be frustrating when it seems like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Normally to avoid this, I work on one project, or one room, at a time. See it through from start to finish before starting something else. Having a sense of accomplishment makes taking on another DIY project a lot easier.

However, at the moment, we have a lot of those in-between projects on the go. We're rushing to get a few things clued up before Christmas so that the main floor of the house will be ready to welcome our friends & family over the holidays. In addition, we're working on the two spare rooms upstairs.

Here's a recap of our ongoing projects and what we have left to do.

Spare Room 1:
Remove carpet
Remove baseboards
Remove wallpaper
Hang new wallpaper (this is in progress)
Lay hardwood flooring
Change light fixture
Install new baseboards
Install new bedroom door and closet doors
Add bed & decor

Spare Room 2/Craft Room:
Remove carpet
Remove baseboards
Plaster, prime and paint
Lay hardwood flooring
Change light fixture
Install new baseboards
Install new bedroom door and closet doors
Add bed, decor and craft supplies

Front Foyer:
Plaster, prime and paint (in progress)
Install new light fixture
Hang pictures
Add rugs, key hooks, shoe rack and sitting bench

Main Stairs:
Plaster, prime and paint (in progress)
Remove carpet
Paint risers and treads, install carpet runner
Relocate and install new light fixture
Add mirror

Safe to say that we'll be busy crossing off the remaining items on these lists over the next week and a half. I'm aiming for a December 1st project completed date. We'll soon see how we do!

Are you working on any DIY projects before the holidays? Do share!

Dining Room Reveal

Nov 17, 2014

I'm so excited to finally be sharing the dining room today! Although we've had it painted for a while now, I wanted to wait until the dining room chairs were re-upholstered before sharing the room.

I initially thought that I could do the chairs myself, I mean how hard could it be? (ha!) But once we realized that the seat foam needed to be replaced and that the fabric section of the chair back would definitely pose some challenging obstacles, we opted to get them done professionally. They took less than a week to do and they turned out perfectly. We stuck with a neutral cream for the front of the chair, and, for something a little different, we chose a damask patterned fabric for the backs.

Before:
After:
As soon as we bought the house, I knew that I wanted a black wall in the dining room. I'd seen a lot of rooms with black walls on Pinterest and loved the crisp contrast of black and white. They're also classic timeless colours which can transition with changing decor. Even though I was convinced that this would look fabulous, I was faced with a lot of objection. Everyone thought it would look out of place and make the room extremely dark. In the end, I'm glad I stuck to my guns. Once it was all complete with curtains and a new light fixture, all my opposers were big fans and loved the end result. Just goes to show that even in decorating, patience and perseverance pays off!




All done & just in time for Christmas!  I'll be sharing some festive tablescape ideas in the next few weeks.

Friday's List: My 10 Favourite Recipes!

Nov 14, 2014

Each Friday I post Friday's List. There are no requirements for what type of list I post. I like having a consistent weekly feature and it also switches things up from my regular posts about decorating and our reno.

Today I'm sharing 10 of my favourite tried & tested recipes.

1. Baked Blueberry Pecan French Toast. Baked french toast is the way to go. It's absolutely delicious. Another version of this recipe involves cranberry-raspberry topping, perfect for Christmas festivities.

2. Chorizo Carbonara. This is a Jamie Oliver recipe. It's so warm and hearty yet not too overwhelming. I've made this dish with kale as well, which goes really nicely with the lemon flavours already in the recipe.

3. Hearty Maple Beans. I once cooked a Southern themed meal for Nick & his family for his birthday, this dish was by far the most popular. Pair it with BBQ ribs and mashed potatoes to really get the effect.

4. Healthy Pumpkin Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread. I love loafs, I'd like all baked goods to come in the form of a loaf. This one's a particular favourite because it's "healthy" (minus the chocolate chips, but realistically, a little chocolate is healthy...isn't it?).

5. Crock Pot Bread. This is simply genius. You can add a variety of things to this as well, rosemary and oregano, or cinnamon and craisins. Endless options and it really is delicious!

6. Passion Fruit & Coconut Panna Cotta. This one's a crowd pleaser, and so easy to whip up; for a group or yourself, there's no judgement here.

7. Swedish Fish Stew (with saffron). The original recipe I followed for this dish was in Swedish, but the one linked here seems very similar. I served this to family and friends over the summer and they couldn't get enough of it. It's a rich dish with a lot of flavour but if you're willing to give it a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

8. Peanut Butter Protein Bars. This recipe is from a friend of mine, and although not a meal recipe per se, protein bars are great for snacks, and these ones are particularly tasty & nutritious.

9. Fish Tacos. Yummmmm This dish is fairly straight forward and realistically, you probably don't need to follow a recipe. But if you've never had fish tacos before, you just have to try it - use this recipe as a guide and enjoy!

10. Smoky Bacon Mac & Cheese. Just what you need to warm you up on a cold winter's night.


And there you have it, my 10 favourite recipes. I basically like all food, so defining this list was hard, but I decided to go with dishes that were not only easy on the taste buds, but also pretty easy to put together. I'm not a fan of complex cooking.

Try one out and let me know what you think!

Making Do With In-between Decor (TV Room Update)

Nov 12, 2014

Hello again!

It feels like I haven't blogged in ages, even though it's only been just over a week. In case you were wondering, I severely injured my back last Monday and was bed ridden for 4 days - I couldn't stand or walk or put any weight on my feet. I was finally able to start walking Thursday night and am 95% back to my normal self today. Having never majorly injured myself before, this experience was quite a scare, and it certainly put things into perspective for me. I'm thankful for "Aha" moments that encourage reflection and remind me to be grateful.

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude" - Cynthia Ozick

Onto a lighter topic, I rearranged our TV room today. It's really an in-between room at the moment. When we do our major renovations after Christmas, we're going to open the kitchen up to this room so it will be getting a major makeover at that time. None the less, I didn't want it to feel like a neglected space until then.

Before:
I don't have any photos of the before because I wasn't planning on sharing this room yet, but picture blank walls, no plants or accessories, and a beige slipcover on the couch.

After: 
The cream covered slipcover that previously covered the couch frequently got dirty and blended in with the yellow/cream walls. Although the floral patten of the couch is dated, I've tried to make it work with a throw and couch cushion. I also used the green in the fabric as a jumping off point for the rest of the green decor in the room - the two side tables are green, there is green in the curtains, and of course the leafy green plant helps tie it all together.
The beautiful prints I've framed are actually cut from a 2013 calendar of the artist, Ed Roche's work.  This is such a great idea when expensive artwork is not an option.











I've kept the coffee table decor simple & practical with a candle, coasters with prints of Newfoundland row houses on them and seasonal pinecones.


There's no denying that the paint colour and flooring in this space are dreadful, but I think these few minor adjustments have created a cozy bearable space that I can enjoy until the overhaul. Don't feel like you can't make a space welcoming and comfortable even if it's just temporary. With a little attention you'll surprise yourself with how easy it is to bring a dull room to life.

Oh Deer! - DIY Canvas Art Tutorial

Nov 3, 2014

Hello hello - sorry about the day late post. I should never commit to posting on the weekend because they simply get away from me. Between working on house projects and trying to still have a life, two days goes by pretty quickly. Speaking of time flying by quickly...it's the first week of November already! Christmas posts will be abound before you know it :)

Today's project is bordering Christmassy and could even become more festive by adding some silver dots or stripes or even lights, but since I want to leave it up year round I'm keeping it fairly neutral.

DIY Canvas Art Tutorial

For this project you will need a canvas (choose whichever size you like), paint, paint brushes and a pencil.

I google'd around until I found a deer head shape that I liked and then proceeded to start sketching it on the canvas in pencil. I am really not a painter or have any drawing skills, so if you're like me and are a little intimated by sketching, just give it a go.  You can easily erase any mistakes and after a few tries I think you'll find a version that you're happy with.  

Trace out your final pencil lines in a sharpie so that when you paint on the background colour, it will still show through. Just paint on one light coat for now. Then repeat this step 2-3 times until your canvas is fully covered in your background colour. The colour I chose for my canvas was Wickham Gray by Benjamin Moore, I had some extra left over from a sample we purchased.
Now you can start filling in your deer head with gold paint. 
And once it's all dry, it will look something like this. 

One more coat would really fill it in, but I kind of like the look of the different shades of gold and might just leave it as is.

Happy creating!