Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How to Host a Romantic Valentine Dinner Party--Part Two

Valentine's Day is a special time to show your friends and family a little love.  If you are considering staying home, follow along as I prepare a romantic dinner party for 10.

Part Four:  Food

If you missed Part I, catch it here.  The next step, and always the one that I fear the most, is the food!!  I try to do my best in the kitchen, but something always seems to go wrong.  I definitely have a vision, it's just my vision is not always reality.  

Here was the plan:  for appetizers and cocktails, I prepared ahi tuna steaks.  This really isn't a cooking blog, but since this was easy, I will explain the procedure.  I bought two thick cut fresh ahi tuna steaks from Costco.  I sprinkled both sides with onion powder and garlic powder, doused them with soy sauce, and then pressed in sesame seeds to both sides.  I used a cast iron skillet and oil (not olive oil, as the pan needs to be very hot).  Both sides were seared on very high heat for approx. two minutes per side, less if the tuna is not thick.  After letting it rest, I cut against the grain and dressed it with wasabi and teriyaki sauce.  This was delicious and turned out great.  A bit hit.  I also bought prepared spinach artichoke dip from Sam's Club and had that with scoops.  A guest brought lollipop lamb chops.  Spinach muffin squares were set out but some choose to wait and eat them with dinner.  

I prepared a signature cocktail of Cosmos.  I found a recipe I liked on Pinterest and made up a large pitcher.  When served, we dipped the martini glass in water, then red sugar, and dressed with a lime wedge.  Beer and wine were also available.

Next came the salad.  This turned out yummy as well.  Simply a salad with strawberries, red and orange peppers, glazed pecans, and feta cheese.  This was dressed with a blush wine vinaigrette.

The main entree was ok, but not as good as expected.  I used this recipe.  I am not one to prepare a new recipe for guests, so I tested this out a week or so before and it was delicious.  I thought I could tweak it a bit, as the sauce seemed a bit thin, and the chicken too thick.  I sliced the breasts in half, turning 6 into 12, and added a small amount of flour to the chicken broth to thicken the sauce.  Yea, bad idea.  The sauce, instead of being flavorful and yummy, tasted too much like the flour.  It was also hard to keep this warm and prepare in advance.  I made this in the afternoon and put it in the crock pot on warm, but by the time I put it in the serving platter with the fettuccine, and we had our salad, it was cold.  Oh well, green beans--same.  I warmed them up, which cooked them more, and they weren't as crisp as I would have liked.   

Chocolate cake was delicious.  I found the recipe here.


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Part Five:  Flowers

Now on to something I can feel good about.  I bought three dozen roses from Costco.  Usually they are $19.99 for two dozen, but prices always go up this time of year.  I paid $15.99 per dozen, still not too bad because I get a lot of bang for my buck.  

Luckily, I have lots of greens in my back yard.  I cut magnolia and used my silver trophy urn, filling it with layers of magnolia leaves.  Then I added the roses.

I prepared the flowers on Thursday, and the party was on Saturday.  I used water-soaked oasis to keep the flowers fresh.


I used this arrangement on my kitchen table, using white as well as red roses.


I put the cake, dessert plates, and coffee service on the kitchen table until we were ready for it.


Next, I prepared the arrangement for my dining room table.  I used the greens that came with the flowers, as well as yew from my backyard.


I also used roses in small crystal vases for each end of the table. 


I prepared a bud vase with three red roses to use on my server.


I still had one rose left, so I used a little silver creamer pitcher, and put the rose with greens on my silver tray.  Mini lights reflected off the tray and this looked so pretty at night.


Part Six:  Finishing Touches

Next came the place settings.  I used creamy white china with gold edging.  Mirrored chargers came from Tuesday Morning.  Red napkins were purchased at World Market, and the napkin rings are some that I've had for years.  I didn't have enough place card holders that matched, so I made some using card stock and heart paper punches.

I placed a heart-shaped chocolate on each plate.  I also placed a few hearts on top of the tulle.


I used red goblets, and gold rimmed water glasses.


I hung a few hearts from my chandelier.


I used votives as well as mini lights under the tulle.


The evening was tons of fun, and I hope the guests enjoyed it.


Here are a few more pictures for you to enjoy!





Happy Valentine's Day!! 



Hugs, 
--Betsy


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How to Host A Romantic Valentine Dinner Party--Part One

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and even though going out to a restaurant is always nice, staying in with friends and loved ones seems a bit more intimate, romantic, and less stressful to the pocketbook.  So follow along with me, as I prepare a Valentine Dinner party for 10.  These lovely people have been so gracious as to have us to their homes in the past few months, so I felt it appropriate to have them.  Consider a small group when planning your event, as conversation, table settings, and food preparation is much easier.

Step One:  Sprucing Up

I started a few weeks before by sprucing up my home.  After I put all the Christmas decorations away, I took my time putting accessories back out.  I wanted to make sure my home was clean and glitter-free before I put things back.  Some of my accessories, especially in the dining room, are silver, so I spent some time polishing trays, etc., before I put them out or before I put them back in storage.

Next on my list was adding something to my urn that sits on a pedestal in the family room.  I had a Christmas arrangement in this, so it has been empty for a few weeks.  I decided that, instead of putting a seasonal arrangement in it, I would create something that would last through the remainder of winter, spring and summer.  So I used artificial white flowers, and a few lavender ones to add a bit of color.



Step Two:  Decor

Mission accomplished.   Next on the list was preparing a welcoming entry.  Most of my friends use my side door which opens directly into the laundry room.  Not exactly the first impression I'm looking for.  I decided on a big Valentine wreath for my front door, and possibly (depending on weather), candles and globes lining the sidewalk to guide my guests to the door and foyer.  We had some yard work done, which included trimming some overgrown bushes and the workers were nice enough to power wash the sidewalk, which had gotten quite nasty over the winter.

I searched Pinterest for inspiration, watched a tutorial, and decided on a ribbon wreath.  I have never done one of these before, but I didn't think it could be so hard.  I had a wreath form, and I got a great deal on ribbon at a local crafts store.   This wreath took a ton of ribbon and a lot of time to do.  I liked the end result, but I'm not sure I would tackle this style again.


The shiny red ribbon was Christmas ribbon and greatly reduced.  I also used tulle--black, white, red, and pink, as well as decorative ribbon with hearts and chevron black and white.  I think I should stick to flowers ...

Then, since I had all this red Christmas ribbon, I decided to make an attempt at something smaller for the side door, just in case.  This didn't take a lot of time (obviously) but at least there's something festive on the door!

It's a bit wind-blown here, since we've been having March-type winds lately.  If I keep doing these, I think I could get it down, but this is definitely beginner level.

As we enter the foyer, I added just a little basket of red and white flowers,  sorta just used what I had leftover.



This silver vase is a an old bride's basket.  It has a handle, which is hard to see in the picture.  

I also worked on the kitchen table, but our dinner will be served in the dining room.  I will use the kitchen table for dessert and snacks.  Stay tuned, as I haven't really decided what I'll put there yet!  Anyway, I decorated some plain column-type vases that you can get at the dollar store with some little red jewel stick-ons.  I also used them on the candles.  They are very inexpensive and you can pick them up at any craft store.


I filled the vase with the wiry heart garland that I found at the grocery store.  The plan is to fill with water and float a candle--which I still need to buy.


I used the same bling on the pillar candles held by my little bored cherub.


There's a backing that just peels off and you can stick it on whatever you'd like.  I think it will come off pretty easily.

Step three:  Dining Table

Romance is necessary here.  Glamour and cosmopolitan.  That's the look I want.  The only problem is that none of my decor is cosmopolitan, more vintage, I would say.  Black and red was the answer.  And lots of candles.  I used a black tablecloth as my base.  I also used a piece of wood between my table pads and cloth to elevate the center, just a bit.  I bought a piece of craft wood at the hardware store, approx. 12" wide and 48" long.  It's only about 3/4" high.  Didn't take a picture of this step, but I know you can figure it out.  Black tablecloth came next, then mirror tiles down the center.  I am using little battery-powered rice lights on the top of the mirror, then red tulle as a table runner.


You can see the outline of the board in this picture, as well as the lights on the mirror.  I like having things different heights to add interest, but not so much as to block my guests' views.


After adding the tulle, you can see the glimmer of the lights reflecting in the mirror tiles.  I will use red flowers in these vases as well as the centerpiece in the picture above.  The charger plates--two different styles--also reflect light from the chandelier above as well as the shiny hearts I hung from it.

Think I will stop here, as I've got more things to do to get ready, as you can see.  I will finish the table setting, and lastly, prepare the food.  Today I am ironing the napkins and getting all the dishes ready to complete the table.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope this will give you some ideas as far as entertaining.  I find that not many people do this much anymore.  It's something I enjoy, but if I were invited to someone else's home, I would be just as happy with paper plates!

Hugs,
Betsy


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Studio Apartment Decorating

Moving in New York is quite the challenge.  This is the third time we have moved our daughter in Manhattan.  First time--from Virginia to downtown; second time--from downtown to Washington Heights; third time--from Washington Heights to the Upper West Side.  I sincerely hope she stays here a while.  This studio apartment definitely has its charm, but you pay for that charm in New York.  She moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a studio, so less square footage for quite a bit more money.  Yes, she has a doorman, a rooftop deck and solarium that is quite nice.  I was determined to help her get this apartment set up before I came back home.

This is the "before" picture that was pictured in the real estate ads.
Since I had never been in the apartment to take measurements, I used these pictures as a guide for furniture placement.
Another "before" picture from a different angle.
We brought a smaller couch with a sofa bed, since there really isn't room for guests here.  We used the cocktail table she had in her old apartment.

We painted her red sofa table gold and used it behind the couch for lamps and accessories.  Again, the size of the apartment did not allow for large end tables.
The cream and gold rug was purchased at At Home.  We brought it from Virginia with the couch and various other items when we drove up.

We put up this curtain to separate the sleeping area from the living area.  It is sheer so the light comes through.  The dresser does double duty as it holds her clothes and her tv.

She uses her vintage sewing machine table as a desk.  
The mirror was in the apartment.  We thought about moving it, but we were told we had to store it if we didn't use it.  So we just placed this table in front, and the glasses reflecting in the mirror look quite nice.
Her bar cart sits between the sofa and the sleeping area.
We used the chest opposite the bed, on the same side of the room as the sofa.  We changed out the sconces and used some that were a little more "girly".
I found this small table at a consignment store.  It had been used in our city's symphony house and it was the perfect size.  Of course, I placed a picture of my daughter and I on the table!!
This picture is a bit blurry, sorry, but I wanted to show the closet and the little vintage shelving unit.  We also used her coat rack as you can see.
Since this was around Christmas, I made her a wreath for the mirror.  No room for a Christmas tree!
In the hall, we put her shelf table.  She uses it for decor and more importantly, for her keys when she comes in the door.
The kitchen is tineeeee!!  She was upset that when they painted, they ended the paint in the middle of the wall.  We just had them come back and paint to the corner.  It looks much better now.
Not much room here.  Doing dishes is a bit awkward because of the placement of the sink.  But it works for just one person.
This shows the hall as you are coming in the door.  She has another deep closet here, which is nice.
You can see her canopy bed with the curtain as you come in.
We found these venetian shelves and put them over the toilet in the bathroom.
Another view of the bed and desk from the living area.
The bistro table and chairs are near the hall.
The curtain can be opened if she so desires.
The artwork above the sofa was a great Tuesday Morning find.  All the soft colors really went well with our pink, gold, and cream theme.
And the "After"!  Hope you enjoyed our Upper West Side Manhattan Studio apartment tour!