tips for hosting a housewarming party

Five Tips for Throwing a Housewarming Party

Throwing a housewarming party as an adult homeowner is a different ordeal than throwing one as a college student who moves to a new rental every two months. I mean, it’s fun either way, but when you’re young and don’t actually own the property you’re living in, housewarming parties are really just an excuse to drink, aren’t they? Whereas when you’re an adult, you want to say, “Look at this piece of construction I purchased! It has four walls and a roof and I actually care about cleaning the carpets!” You may even have transitioned to real, grown-up furniture. You know, pieces that were clearly purchased to complement each other and require a coaster. Either way, throwing a housewarming party really doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. Here’s five tips to get you started.

1. Don’t worry if you’ve lived there a while.

This only works up to a certain extent, but it took me two full months from our move-in date to even start thinking about throwing a housewarming party. No one seemed to think that was odd. Actually, no one even mentioned it. Throwing a housewarming party should be fun and you want to show off your house; if you can’t do that, what’s the point? We are a very busy family, plus I’m pregnant, so unpacking and all that jazz took quite a bit longer than it’s taken me in the past. We also needed to do some projects that took precedence (building a fence, installing a dog door, etc.), schedule around my husband’s Saturday school, and pick a day when I’d have a baby-sitter so I could prepare. I’m surprised it only took us two months to throw it, actually.

Of course, there has to be some sort of deadline on this. I don’t think throwing a housewarming party six years after you’ve moved in will make any sense. Could you call that a barbecue instead? It might ruffle less feathers. I checked a few websites, but there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on how long is too long. For us, we took a couple of months because of packing, but perhaps you’ve moved into a fixer-upper and need a little more time. If I knew you were hard at work, I wouldn’t mind waiting a year to go to your housewarming. On the other hand, if you want to throw it before you take stuff out of boxes, kudos to you. Does anyone actually care what’s in the boxes? Not unless you’ve been recreating Seven, probably.

What’s in the box?!

2. Invite your neighbors.

Neighbors? Do people actually talk to their neighbors these days? Yes! I do, anyway, and I totally recommend it. Do you know how nice it is to have someone next door to borrow a tool from or a babysitter down the street? Those are a couple of benefits of neighborhood friendships, but there’s also the possibility you could wind up becoming, I don’t know, actual friends. Think about it. You chose the same neighborhood. There’s a good chance you have a similar income. If you both have kids, you found the same school district to be worthwhile. It can’t hurt to find out what you have in common.

The possibility of friendship is not the only reason to invite the neighbors though. Ever had an awful neighbor? Yeah, they exist too. You might as well find out who they are right away. I’m not suggesting they’ll show up to your party; they won’t. Awful neighbors never do. But, they’ll know you’re having a party, so if they have issues with parking or noise or anything like that, they can let you know beforehand. If the awful neighbors don’t out themselves, maybe some of the other, nicer neighbors, who do show up to the party will fill you in. They’ll also let you know if the neighborhood has a Facebook page and other things like that.

3. Don’t decorate.

I mean this sincerely. If you’re throwing a housewarming party, don’t decorate. Put the balloons down, Becky, I see you trying to sneak them in your cart. No, not even for the mailbox to let friends and family know which house is yours. If they can’t read the house numbers already on your house or mailbox, you need new friends and family. If you don’t have house numbers somewhere, you should get them, or you’re never going to be able to order pizza.

Still concerned? Try an address sign like this.

My reasoning for this is pretty simple. When people attend a housewarming party, what do they expect to see? A house. They want to see how your regular decor is done, not whether you are a streamer or plastic tablecloth kind of person. If you have a fixer upper and there’s something you’re trying to hide, put some boxes or a plant in front of it. Or, hey, leave it out in the open and see if you can get any suggestions for it. I did put a plastic tablecloth on my dining room table when I threw my party, but that was not for decoration. That was so people could spill whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t have to clean it.

4. Serve a combination of packaged and homemade food.

Speaking of spillage, you should serve food and drinks at your party. Depending on where you are in your life, you might want more food or more drinks, but you’re going to have to serve something. You may already have twenty fabulous recipes figured out, but even if you do, throw something store-bought out on the serving table. Why? Remember how I told you to invite those neighbors? Well, you’re probably a completely new person to them. They might not trust your cooking just yet. You know there is always someone who participates in the office potluck that just shouldn’t,  and it makes everyone wary of eating strangers’ cooking unless there’s a health inspector grading them on it.

Baby cup for baby guests only, pasta salad for all.

Personally, I’m a big fan of homemade dips, and they’re easy to make, so that’s always a good option. This Chili’s queso knock-off was a big hit if you want to give it a try. As for the store stuff, Costco brownie bites worked really well, and of course we had the standard fruit and vegetable trays. I made sliders (turkey and barbecue) for the main dish, since they’re both pretty easy and I’m always in a time crunch. Your menu doesn’t really matter here, as long as you choose things you know you will eat if your guests don’t. But, the reason you need to feed those guests is pretty simple. They’re probably bringing a gift…

5. Don’t ask for gifts when throwing a housewarming party.

Crazy, right? You don’t ask for them and they show up with one anyway. I think back in the day there was some sort of etiquette rule about gifts and housewarming parties, but I could not be bothered to look that up. Just don’t ask for anything. Is it your first house? They’ll bring you decor things, whether you want them or not. Are you quite young? They’ll probably ask you what you want. Did you just get married? Then you just had a whole registry they chose from, don’t be greedy! For everyone else… Be prepared for plants and wine. Seriously. I wound up with more wine than what I started with, and the only reason I had any wine at all was to serve to our guests. Not that I’m complaining; once I evict this baby next month, that wine is all mine!

Empty pre-party, stocked post-party. Only at housewarmings.

Your younger friends and your neighbors probably won’t arrive with gifts, but that’s fine. It is not anyone else’s job to furnish your house. You don’t buy friends gifts when they purchase cars and other expensive items, do you? I thought not. I don’t think it matters if you mention anything about gifts on your invitation or not. When people see the word “housewarming,” if they’re the gift-giving type, they’re going to show up with something even if you specifically ask them not to, so just leave it alone and don’t make it awkward later. Well, that’s about it. Congrats on your new house, go out and have a fabulous party!

how to SET UP A 5 MINUTE BIG GAME SPORTS BOOK AT HOME

How to Host a Big Game Sports Book at Home

Have you ever wanted to host a big game sports book at your own home? As a native Nevadan, I always like to add a little gambling to my football parties. I’m not sure why, exactly. There’s just something fun about losing three different bets immediately because somehow the Giants forced Tom Brady into a safety in the first drive of the game. Of course, you don’t have to gamble with money. Some people have it, some people don’t, you know which one you and your friends are. You can also gamble with drinks, food, pride, or you know, whatever else you can come up with. We personally choose money or beer, depending on who we’ve invited, but to each their own.

This year I’m not hosting a Super Bowl party, as I’m living in a tiny, dark rental house for one more month. But, my friends did ask me to bring some Vegas type games with me. Since I don’t have to cook, I should have plenty of time – oh wait! I’m a frenzied hostess! It’s tax season and I’m a bookkeeper. I have NO time for anything (including this – which is why it’s late this week!). But, I said I’d do it, so here we go. Enjoy my ideas for making your own big games sports book, and please, don’t feel like it should take all day.

Big Game Sports Book Ideas

Are they a little crazy looking? Sure, but see what I have to work around?

1. Super Squares

If you’ve ever had coworkers, been to a restaurant with TVs in January, or casually glanced at game day ideas, you’ve seen these before. You won’t see them in a Las Vegas sports book, but they’re still fun and easy to get people’s toes wet in the gambling arena. I’m not going to go through the whole process – the folks over at Super Bowl Squares have that covered. Follow those instructions. Now, here’s my input: Get some poster board, don’t waste your time measuring squares because no one cares about that, and then tape it to a wall in an obvious place. You should also have some squares filled out beforehand so people get interested. Yes, you do have to pony up if you place the bets. Then direct your first couple of guests right to that big beautiful grid and get the game going.

2. Prop Bets

I took an extra two seconds per football. Fancy!

Prop bets are my absolute favorite. They are the reason I somehow managed to lose all those bets at once back in 2012. They’re basically just random things you can bet on, like what color Gatorade will get dumped on the winning coach or how long the national anthem will last. Here’s a good list of bets for 2017 specifically, but you could update this each year, minus perhaps the entertainment ones. I would not choose too many. It would get confusing, because you are not actually a sports book. Instead, pick about five, making sure to pick some from both game and non-game related bets. Then throw them on another poster board and have the bettors write their answers on it.

One other little addition I might add this year is to set up a couple of bets about the guests. Not everyone there is going to be a football fan, so to keep them entertained, I thought it might be fun to make some prop bets like “Who will start the backyard football game?” and “Who will cry at a commercial?” If you have big drinker friends, you can incorporate that as well. Since this is your own private big game sports book, you might as well involve everyone.

3. Who Will Win?

Okay friends, you should be doing this even if you aren’t going to make a big game sports book. Why wouldn’t you bet on who’s going to win? Now, there are a couple ways of going about this. The easiest, obviously, is to simply pick who’s going to win. I typically don’t collect any money for this, but when I have guests they write their name on a slip of paper and put it in a bowl dedicated to the team they think is going to win. Once the game is over I pull out a name out from the winner’s side and they get a prize. You could actually collect money and split it between winners; I would give them all something the color of their team, like a pin or beads, to prove they won.

4. Vegas Style

On the other hand, you could get crazy and go real sports book style. Here’s a link to the current odds. I can’t advise you to actually pay out on those odds, unless you’re a rich person, in which case you may want to consider something other than poster board for your sports book. I can tell you what those numbers mean. The line is pretty easy. According to that site, New England is favored by 3, which is the -3 you’re seeing.  Basically you bet on the Patriots if you think they’ll win by 3 or more. You pick Atlanta if you think they’ll win, or even if they’ll lose by less than 3 points. It’s not much of a spread, so good luck with this one.

The other fun part of trying to plan a big game sports book  is taking bets on the over/under. Usually the over/under is what Vegas thinks both teams are going to score combined. In this case, it’s 58 points. Fifty-eight! That’s a high scoring game they’re suggesting. The good news is, the betting part is much easier than the scoring. Do you think there will be more or less than 58 points scored during the game?  You can write down people’s bets for this if you want, or have people put their names down somewhere, or whatever you want. Again, I wouldn’t suggest you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to pay like the sports book would. I’d just settle on a wager from the beginning; perhaps pair over bettors with under bettors and let them choose their own terms.

Well, that’s about it! Enjoy your big game sports book, and don’t forget your amazing bookie visor! 🙂

 

GOUNELLE

Game Day Food by Football Team Cities

Have you ever tried to plan your game day food by NFL city? The play-offs are fast approaching, which means most people will have their eye on the big game. But, if you’re like me, your team will only be hosting the game, not playing in it. So, I celebrate them in earlier rounds. I try to be fair in my game day food, even when I have a preferred team. I’ll use one signature dish from each team’s city (or state, or region if that’s what they represent). I do this all of January every year, yet I never remember my research. It was high time to make a comprehensive list, and I had to share it. There are lists like this out there, I know, but I don’t want to buy specific ice creams or make cabbage rolls, so here we are.

The great thing about having a list like this is you can use it all year. Some teams see the play-offs all the time; others are Cleveland, where the best game of the season is game 1. (Sorry Cleveland! At least you have basketball.) Why not enjoy a little city-specific game day food all year long? It doesn’t have to be a big party; in fact some of these would be better for just a few friends. When it comes to game day food, it can be really fun to color coordinate things like cupcakes or punch, but it’s also fun to get  cultured. I tried to find three ideas for each team, using main or side dishes where possible. Some were easy – think Philadelphia or  New York. Some were ridiculously difficult – I’m looking at you, Jacksonville. If you know of better ideas, feel free to let me know!

List of NFL Game Day Food

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals play in Glendale, but since they claim the whole state I didn’t feel obligated to stick to the area. You might think of Mexican when you think of the Southwest, but there’s also a heavy Native American influence to give you more of a variety of dishes.

Chimichangas
Fry Bread
Cheese Crisps

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta is a great food city. I would legitimately drive there right now just for dinner if my child enjoyed the car.  You can likely find any kind of food you want there, but when it comes to it’s signature dishes, think Southern.

Fried Chicken
Biscuits
Grits

Baltimore Ravens

I feel like it would be cheating if I wrote three different types of crabs, but friends, they have at least that many signature crab dishes. I listed Lake Trout here, although there seems to be an argument as to what that actually is. Have fun with that if you just can’t stand crab!

Crab Cakes
Pit Beef Sandwiches
Lake Trout

Buffalo Bills

When you think Buffalo, I’m sure you think buffalo wings, and that is a good option. But it’s not the only option! There were actually quite a few dishes the city claimed to be good at, although they didn’t all seem like game day food.

Chicken Wings
Beef on Weck
Charcoal Broiled Hot Dogs

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are supposed to encompass both Carolinas. I was tempted to only do North Carolina since I lived there for five years, but I decided to be nice. When I say barbecue, you should be aware, there are very distinct types from each state. Choose wisely!

Barbecue
Shrimp & Grits
Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

Chicago Bears

Did I even need to bother with Chicago? I’m not sure that I did. It has so many signature dishes, you might as well make anything you can think of and just call it “Chicago-style.”

Deep Dish Pizza
Chicago Style Dogs
Italian Beef

Cincinnati Bengals

I was recently in Cincinnati and determined to stop by one of their chili places, but I didn’t make it. Their chili fascinates me though – they put it on spaghetti! Who thinks of this stuff?

Cincinnati Chili
Goetta
Montgomery Inn-Style Barbecue

Cleveland Browns

I thought I was going to have a hard time with Cleveland, but they surprised me. They have several dishes that not only make sense as a game day food, but they’re also pretty easy to make, even for a group.

Polish Boys
Pierogies
Pizza Bagels

Dallas Cowboys

Ah, Texas. So much food, so little time. Luckily there are two Texas teams to fit it all in. I tried to split them appropriately, but they both have that Tex Mex style to them and love meat. Perfect for games, right?

Brisket
Burgers
Tex Mex

Denver Broncos

I love Denver’s restaurant scene, but they have a lot of influences from all over the place, so it was hard to narrow it down. If you’re on the east coast, you’ll probably prefer a Denver sandwich over the omelette, but west coasters might enjoy them for an early morning game.

Bison Burgers
Green Chili
Denver Sandwiches/Omelettes

Detroit Lions

I always thought a Coney Dog was a Coney Island thing, but either I’m wrong or confused about the history. Apparently they’re Detroit’s signature dish. I’m kind of vague about apples, I know, but it gives you a chance to be creative.

Coney Dogs
Square Deep Dish
Apple Dishes

Green Bay Packers

The team’s fans are called Cheeseheads, and if I wasn’t sharing this list, it would be all cheese. Since I am, I did my best to find some other dishes. Wisconsin sounds like a good place for game day food!

Fish Fry
Cheese Curds
Brats

Houston Texans

Houston’s food is all over the place due to it’s history of immigrants from everywhere. There’s a big Cajun influence along with their Tex Mex, and of course regular ole’ Texas chili.

Chili (no beans)
Cajun Shrimp
Pecan Pie

Indianapolis Colts

Every source I looked at claimed Indianapolis loves breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, so I would have to say this one is actually definitive. Of course, if pork isn’t for you, there are other options.

Corn on the Cobb or Sweet Corn
Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Sugar Cream Pies

Jacksonville Jaguars

Oh Jacksonville. You all claimed you have no specific dish, and after a morning of searching, I believe you. In fact, I picked shrimp for you because you had a lot of vague “seafood” comments. But your baseball team is the Jumbo Shrimp, so the crustacean must be cooked somewhere, right?

Camel Rider Sandwiches
Shrimp
Lubi Sandwiches

Kansas City Chiefs

I’ll be honest with you. After researching Kansas City food, I’m pretty sure all they eat is barbecue. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter. In fact, if you are a vegetarian, you might cease to exist once you cross city limits. I added some broader Kansas/Missouri foods to round it out.

KC Barbecue
Fried Chicken
Zwieboch

Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles claims to be good at everything, so go ahead and make whatever you want. I left a ton of stuff off this list, like tacos, but other cities needed foods too, so LA has to share.

Ramen
Thai Food
French Dips

Miami Dolphins

To me, Miami is all about Cuban food. They might serve something else, but I’ve never looked. I know some of these things look difficult and not like what a frenzied host might want to make, but they aren’t that bad. If you don’t have time to try them, make any Cuban dish and call it a day.

Ceviche
Croquettas
Fried Plantains

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota has a ton of regional food. A lot of it comes from Nordic influences, which is perfect for the Vikings. They may be hard to accomplish. But the other parts are kind of like what you would expect at a state fair or an unhealthy potluck (think Jello salad), so you have a variety of foods to choose from.

Lefse and/or Lutefisk
Deep Fried Cheese Curds
Tater Tot Hot Dish

New England Patriots

Friends, if you don’t have a good recipe for clam chowder or know of  a can worth serving to people, let your eyes skim right past that option. Pretend you saw oysters or cranberries. There’s probably many more choices as well, since the Patriots are greedy and represent a whole region.

Clam Chowder
Lobster Rolls
Boston Cream Pies

New Orleans Saints

You know what’s great about New Orleans food? No other city claims it. They have a rich history of Cajun/Creole cooking that’s really distinctive, and it sure was nice not having to read about what kind of tacos they serve.

Gumbo
Jambalaya
Muffulettas

game day food

New York Giants

You may be aware that there are two New York teams. Two! And they play in New Jersey! It’s nonsense. But, I’m perfectly okay with it in this situation because New York has a ton of food they can claim as their own. Add a few more teams, I’m sure I could find a few more options.

Pizza
Hot Dogs
General Tsos Chicken

New York Jets

If you’re wondering, these are listed completely at random. I don’t feel like the Jets would be more likely to eat bagels than the Giants, or that the Giants would be more likely to eat pizza than the Jets. Wouldn’t it be kind of funny if they were though?

Pastrami on Rye
Chicken & Waffles
Bagels

Oakland Raiders

Yes, that’s right, I gave taco truck tacos to Oakland. All the forums I read were pretty insistent about this, so it is what it is. I’m not sure precisely what kind of tacos appear in those trucks, so I guess that means you can choose whatever you want.

Taco Truck Tacos
Barbecue
Oysters

Philadelphia Eagles

Philly’s really adamant that they’re more than cheesesteak, so please don’t feel like that has to be your only choice. Pretzels for game day sounds amazing. By the way, Irish potatoes aren’t Irish or potatoes. I wonder what the Irish think of that.

Cheesesteak
Irish Potatoes
Soft Pretzels

Pittsburgh Steelers

You are reading this right. Pierogies are appearing on the list for a second time. Who knew this country had such a love of pierogies? I ate them in North Carolina once and no one else knew what they were. Primante is a restaurant, but you can find their recipes online.

Pierogies
Primante Sandwiches
Fried Zucchini

San Diego Chargers

Do I remember something about San Diego moving to LA with the Rams? I might have to change this soon. Until then, enjoy some more California food with a beachy vibe.

Carne Asada Burritos
Fish Tacos
Turkey Avocado Sandwich

 

San Francisco 49ers

I miss San Francisco clam chowder in a bread bowl. I ate clam chowder all over Boston, but nobody served it like they do on the pier. Cioppino’s a pricier meal, but it’s actually pretty easy to cook. Just remember to clean your shellfish.

Clam Chowder with Sourdough
Cioppino
Mission-Style Burritos

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle folks couldn’t seem to agree on anything other than salmon, so serve that however you want. They also kept mentioning coffee, but last time I checked you can’t eat that. They do say their vegan food is great, so if you are feeling like it’s time to try something animal product-less, might as well start with this.

Salmon
Fish and Chips
Vegan

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I bet you’re surprised to see Cuban sandwiches here instead of Miami. They actually started out there, but the more I read about Tampa, the more I realized this is where they belong. And yes, that says enchilado, not enchilada. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t create it.

Cuban Sandwiches
Crab Enchilado
Spanish Bean Soup

Tennessee Titans

Here’s my current home team (although not the one I root for). With these three dishes you’ve got Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville covered. I’m not a super fan of cornbread, but it is a nice and easy addition to a game day meal.

Memphis Barbecue
Hot Chicken
Cornbread

Washington Redskins

Our nation’s capitol is known mostly for food of other country’s. Neat, huh? Everyone agrees the main signature dish is the half-smoke, although they claim locals don’t actually eat it. But then, D.C. isn’t exactly full of locals anyway.

Half Smoke
Ethiopian
Mumbo Sauce

Well, that’s it! I hope this gives you enough game day food ideas for at least a couple of years.

Untitled design

Hosting Casual Viewing Parties

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the easiest way for me to host something is to make sure it’s small and easy rather than large and extravagant. That seems pretty obvious, but seriously guys, you can dress up any little gathering as a party and practice your hosting. Do you have any favorite TV shows or a movie you want to watch with friends? Why not throw a casual viewing party? Here’s my favorite part of viewing parties: there’s no reason to decorate. I mean, you’re all going to be facing the TV the whole time. If you want to jazz that up, go ahead, but your co-viewers might get annoyed. Just saying.

casual viewing parties
Too much? Or just improper bow placement?

 

Viewing Parties: Get in and Get Out

You could serve popcorn and be done with it. If you have a weekly viewing party for a show, maybe that’s all you should do. Do you really need to impress your friends every week? There’s the opposite approach, like those insane Walking Dead-style parties where everything is themed. That’s too much work for me though. I also think they must party longer than the one-hour show lasts. If I’m inviting you to watch one show or one movie, I don’t want you there more than an hour before, and you better be gone an hour after. It’s nothing personal; I’ve got stuff to do. If you’re like me, make this clear in your text or email invitation. Luckily, most of my friends won’t have time to stay longer anyway. I’m not the only one who constantly says, “I’m too busy.”

The Fun Part

I’m not decorating for a viewing party, but I think only popcorn is boring. So what exactly am I going to do to impress people without going overboard? I’m going to pick either one dish or one drink to tie it all together and call it a day. For my example, I’m using a Shonda Rhimes show. Anyone watch How to Get Away with Murder? If not, here’s a quick breakdown: They try to get away with murder. This might just be one example, but feel free to hit the comments up with more, or contact me if you can’t come up with anything for your favorite show.

Special Food:

Philly Cheesesteak Sliders

Why? The show takes place in Philadelphia.  Since Philly is known for their food, I might as well take advantage of it.

Special Drink:

Vodka Tonic 

Why? The main character is an alcoholic and she chugs vodka straight like nobody’s business. Because I don’t want to serve straight vodka, a vodka tonic is a super easy solution.

 

food-drink-kitchen-cutting-board

Holding an Easy Mini Wine Tasting Party

If you aren’t a drinker, then a post about wine tasting is not the one for you. I try to make food and booze interchangeable, but unless you’re going to do a mini-prepackaged food party, it would take a lot more work to incorporate food. I’ve talked about having mini-cooking competitions before, so maybe that is the way to go for you. But if you do like wine, one of my favorite ways to have a classy little gathering is to host a wine tasting.

Readers, you do not have to be a wine expert to do this. You honestly don’t need to know anything about wine at all, as long as you can read the labels when you’re buying the bottles. If you do want to know a little something before you start, you might want to pick up The Wine Bible or Wine for Dummies. Be warned: They’re not quick reads. There are other books about wine that are a lot smaller, but I haven’t read them so I can’t recommend any. When my sister and I started drinking wine, we went all in. You don’t have to read the whole book to host a little party though; once you decide what you’re tasting you’ll be able to find that specific chapter.

Preparation

Okay, so this is going to be a super easy prep. First choose, your guest list. I usually invite a couple or two, or friends that really love wine. Sometimes I’ll do a combination, but I try not to make anyone a fifth wheel during a wine tasting. I don’t personally mind being a third or fifth wheel, normally, but if you put me in Napa Valley with two couples and not  my husband, I think I’d wind up drinking too much.

Anyway, who you invite isn’t really that important, except for their level of wine knowledge. Do they like wine, but basically know nothing past red or white? Are they so advanced you’ll have to impress them with a tasting of Bordeaux’s by year? (Good luck with that one.) Knowing this will help you pick what wine to drink. Now, you can ask them to bring wine, or buy it all yourself, but that’s up to you. Just make sure they know what to bring. Last time I did various white wines; we each picked one and tried to see if we could guess what it was. Fun fact: We could not.

Execution

You already decided whether or not you’re buying all the wine or not. If you are, better go get some! You also absolutely need to make sure you have enough wine glasses. Guys, this is the easiest kind of gathering to throw. You’re not cooking or decorating anything. It would just be silly to your good wine in plastic cups to avoid cleaning a few glasses. Everything else is going to go straight in the garbage, so get out the good dishware.

Next, you’re going to want some kind of a palate cleanser (like oyster crackers), or even little bites to go with the wines. Again, this is something you can ask your guests to bring if you like. Sometimes if I get the wine, my sister will get cheese, or vice versa. If you don’t already have a wine guide, a quick Google search will tell you what to pair with which wine. Set it out nice and pretty, and then cut a few pieces of printer paper in half for tasting notes. If you want to get really fancy, you can print out your tasting notes instead. That’s it! How easy is that?

Wine Tasting Example

White wines

Need: 3 bottles of wine (1 chardonnay, 1 sauvignon blanc, 1 pinot grigio)
Cheese Pairings: Brie & chardonnay; mozzarella & sauvignon blanc; ricotta & pinot grigio
Tasting notes: You’ll definitely want to list what type of wine it is, along with taste. Some other ideas are aroma/smell, taste, finish, appearance, and points. I’m attaching a downloadable version of my own super simple notes here. Notes for Wine
Things to write on tasting notes if you are not into wine but want to feel like you are: fruity, leafy, earthy, oaky, buttery. Or, my personal favorite, bramble. A sommelier once told me to call all wines brambley and everyone will be confused enough to agree.

I really do hope you can enjoy a little tasting party like this. There’s not a lot of effort to it, but you know what? Making wine the focal point of the event honestly does make it seem like it’s a high class affair. I don’t know why that is – I guess rich people have succeeded in their trickery of getting us to believe whatever they want to tell us. We’ll talk about beer tastings at some other time; strangely enough, I do not throw those the same way. If you don’t drink at all, I do apologize! I’m sure you could come with an alternate; apple cider maybe? That actually sounds kind of fun, it is a little chilly right now. Maybe next time…

 

 

 

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Recipe for a Honey Whiskey Pear Drink

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My sister created this recipe for a honey whiskey pear drink during a mixology competition at my house. That’s one of my favorite parties to throw. You know why, right? Because I don’t have to do all the work. I only have to provide a space and my own little entries. Even the cleaning takes care of itself, since most guests will bring their own dishes or something disposable. It’s also a fun way to get rid of things you have too much of. For example, the whiskey my husband drinks kept trying to push honey whiskey on us by attaching mini-liquor bottles to what we wanted. We built up quite the collection. What we were going to do with that? Drink it? No. We were going to have a competition instead. So, drink up, and host your own competition!

Honey Whiskey Pear Drink

 

1 part pear liqueur
2 parts honey whiskey
2 parts Sprite or Club Soda
Thyme
Pepper

  1. Pour pear liqueur, honey whiskey, a sprig of thyme, and soda into shaker.
  2. Fill shaker with ice (3/4) of the way full, add top and strainer, shake.
  3. Pour drink through strainer to glass; add pepper to taste.
  4. Enjoy!

For Your own Competition:

Pick an Easy Theme

Don’t ask your guests to do anything too specific unless you know they have all the ingredients, or you’re going to purchase everything for them. If someone invites me to an eggroll cook-off, I might go, or I might just order Asian and watch TV on my couch. Of course, if you’re only going to invite professional chefs, go ahead and attempt an Iron Chef-like challenge. Who am I to stop you? I’ve held appetizer competitions, chili cook-offs, and martini and hors do’oerves pairings to name a few themes. Those are both pretty broad. Even your non-cooking friends can probably whip up a dip or something.

Keep the Guest List Manageable

I keep these really small. I don’t have a lot of time to make up fancy invitations, figure out which group of friends would be best for this, or figure out some miraculous time when none of my intended guests have anything planned. This way I can do it on the fly. Now, if you and your friends are childless, mostly childless, and/or all work Mon-Fri, 9-5, that’s a different situation. In that case, you could easily turn this into a big shindig. But what I really like about keeping it small is if I see an opening one weekend, I can easily dial up a friend or two and act like I’m having a fancy theme party, when what I’m really having is a potluck.

Have the Right Equipment for Cook-offs or Mixology Competitions

What theme did you go with? Was it anything to do with mixed drinks? If so, you need the right bar equipment. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect your guests to bring pre-made food, but should they really be mixing a drink before they get to your house? Probably not, unless you like all your drinks served warm and/or watered down. My husband picked up this set when he was in a mixologist phase, and it hasn’t steered us wrong. It’s got everything your basic drink needs, plus it doesn’t take up too much room.

This should probably go without saying, but folks, also make sure your microwave is working if you want people to bring over precooked food. If you’re okay with being a little environmentally unfriendly, I’d also go ahead and get some paper plates and cups. It’s going to make cleanup so much easier. Of course, I do try to be a green hostess when I can, and it is possible to get paper plates that won’t live in our dumps for eternity .

To Judge or Not to Judge?

I’m calling these cook-offs and mixology competitions, but I’ll be honest here – we don’t actually judge anything at my house. We say we’re going to, and we certainly all have our favorites, but no one is competitive enough to need to declare a winner. Scratch that. We’re all too competitive – it’s quite possible we’d battle to the death to win. This is all about fun! You know your guests better than I do. Designate a judge if you want, or just spend the day patting each other on the back for your creativity.

But Beth, you say. That recipe for the honey whiskey pear drink. Didn’t you say it was the winner of a competition? Well, yes, but we selected our “winner” long after the competition was actually over, just so I’d know which one to post. It’s based on this amazing appetizer recipe we like, so feel free to serve with bacon. Overall, this really is such an easy way to entertain! It’s almost like tricking people into believing you’re them a party, when really they’re doing just as much work as you are. I hope you give the honey whiskey pear drink a try, and feel free to share any amazing recipes you come up with at your own parties.

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Brunch Time-Saving Basics

I’m not sure exactly when I became obsessed with brunch, but I suspect it has something to do with a bottomless mimosas brunch place in Chico, California. I don’t remember the name because it was years ago, otherwise I’d direct you all there now. If you know it, feel free to drop it in the comments. Anyway, I’ve been to plenty of places with unlimited mimosas, but this place claimed that your glass would never be empty, and IT WASN’T. Waitresses would just appear. It fascinated me. But that’s not actually why I became obsessed with brunch. It was their menu. They had a salmon and cream cheese omelet. What?! That’s crazy. I had only seen your basic brunch menu before then. This one was so awesome, it definitely sent me on a search for more amazing brunches.

Menu Options

But, while I absolutely recommend finding a place where you live that will help you enjoy brunch, I also love to cook. So why wouldn’t I enjoy two of my favorite things by having a little brunch gathering? This particular hosting duty is nice because it’s one kind of party that you can do with friends or family or both and it doesn’t feel forced or awkward. The first time I wanted to host a really nice brunch, I looked up some tips from the world’s best hostess, Martha Stewart herself. She said you needed a meat dish, an egg dish, a sweet dish, and fruit, and who was I to argue?

Normally I plan everything in advance and prep and all of that, but I have a confession to make. I plan my menu ahead of time, of course, but I’ve never done brunch without one crucial time-saving component. That would be my sister, my permanent co-host. So, I have been able to pull off some pretty time-consuming meals without going completely crazy, but I better be able to figure out something without her soon . I can’t have her cook her own bridal shower brunch, now can I?

Prepping the House

I’m going to have a lot more to say about brunches and brunch themes, but because you don’t have all day and I don’t either, today let’s focus on the basics and determine where we can cut time. We don’t need decorations, right? Nah, let’s go ahead and toss those out the window. A clean house will be fine. If you’re house isn’t already clean, here’s some tips for keeping up with it from day to day, but if you really want to host a brunch and you just don’t have time to clean, make sure your table has enough room for your guests and your kitchen is clean when you start. If it’s not clean when you finish, your guests will survive.

You know what else doesn’t have to be time-consuming? Drinks. Make your guests bring them. Or, if you’re the kind of person that has to do it all yourself, stick with regular OJ and champagne. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Brunch Food Time Savers

Next up, the food. Obviously you can’t skimp as much here, but you can get away with combining some things if you like. Egg and meats go together perfectly. Fruit and sweet dishes do too. Fruit on it’s own would be easy too, if you buy it already cut up or pick something like strawberries or grapes. Chopping up a whole watermelon sounds like a pain. Of course, if you don’t want to combine (for the record, I always combine the fruit and the sweet – we may or may not have leftover fruit, but I like my sweet breakfasts with fruit) you still have a few other time-saving options.

brunch

 

Let’s look at eggs. Eggs can’t really be cooked ahead, but you know what is great about them? They cook super fast if all you need is to scramble them, plus you can dump whatever you want to go with them into one pan and call it a “skillet.” You could buy some pre-chopped vegetables too. Then it feels homemade, but you save yourself some prep.

What’s next? A meat dish. You know what that means to me, in the case of brunch? A sandwich. Super easy! Throw some ham or sausage in some bread, melt some cheese, and call it a day. Now, if you have a waffle iron, or multiple irons, a sweet dish is pretty easy. You make a waffle, you put some syrup and fruit on it. If you make a full waffle for each individual person, that’s going to take forever, but if you quarter them it should go fast. If you don’t have a waffle iron, you might need a little extra time for a sweet dish, but pancakes could work just as easy too.

 

Now, we’ve talked about a few ways to save time on a basic brunch, but I like mine a lot more cohesive.  Stay tuned for more specific plans!

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Planning Parties Away from Home

I’ve lived in three different states in the past six years. That’s quite a bit of moving for a non-military family. As you can imagine, I’ve had plenty of friends come and go. But, my true friends and I will always be in touch. We try to get together at least once a year. That means that once a year, there’s a good chance I’m going to be hosting something in a place away from home. This might not happen frequently for you; maybe you and everyone you know live in one place, and it’s easy to gather at your home whenever you want. But there are still plenty of occasions to get out of the house, whether it’s to a restaurant or a rental house. When that’s the case, things can get…interesting.

Check out your Home Away from Home

I mean, check it out BEFORE you go shopping. This is pretty crucial. I’m going to use an example from when a bunch of friends and I stayed in the Smoky Mountains. Our first night I planned on having a big southern meal cooked up for everyone. They were all coming from much further away, so it made sense for me to get there first and be prepared. The problem was the house was really up in the mountains. We didn’t want to get up there, then have to come back down and go shopping, so we tried to do it all beforehand. It was not the best choice. We wound up missing all kinds of tools we thought the house would have, as well as a few crucial ingredients.

Luckily, in that case all our friends were arriving at various times, so we were able to send all of them to the store throughout the day before they headed up the mountain. It would have been a better idea for me to go first, see what we needed, then go shopping. Or, we could have had my husband stay down off the mountain until I could tell him what we needed. One other note about shopping – you’re obviously going to want the smallest size things you can get, since you’re either going to throw it away or have to drag it home.  So practice your recipes! Don’t waste what little you’ve got on a practice try.

You don’t know the kitchen

Remember this. I know in theory everything should cook the same, but we all know ovens are tricky. Things might take longer to cook than they do at your house – or they might burn! Elevation can change cooking times as well. Don’t stress about this , just remember you’re going to be even more frenzied than usual as you get to know your surroundings. If you’re really worried about elevation, you can check out this article for some help. As for oven times, you can always open it up and take a look.

Decorations mean cleanup

If you’re going to be decorating this joint, remember that you’re also responsible for cleaning it, and it will have to be done right away. You can’t leave it for a week like you could at your own house. I personally skip decorating, but a few signs might go a long way. If you have a couple of small chalkboards lying around, it wouldn’t take long to scribble something out. Plus it’ll be just as fast to load them up as it was to bring them out. No tape or tacks required!

Things will definitely be different when you host away from home, but it can still be really fun. I hope one day you get to try it!