Game Night

 

My group of girlfriends from grad school often get together for game night, where we drink wine, eat, and actually play a few games too. Inspired by my grad student nerdiness, my  husband and I recently hosted a game night for a different group of friends. Game nights are another budget way to entertain because you can get away with serving just snacks instead of a whole meal, and you can ask everyone to bring their favorite drink, along with their favorite game. Definitely easier on the wallet than all meeting at a bar or going out to eat.

The food: Smitten Kitchen’s White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip served with carrots, celery and pita chips (pictured above),  Cheese plate , and assorted treats from Traders Joes (yogurt covered raisins, nut mix and chocolate covered cranberries)

The drinks: We provided an assortment of beers and our guests brought wine and champagne

The games: We cleared some room in front of our TV for Wii, played Taboo and the dining room table, and had Backagmmon and Scrabble on side tables.

Happy Gaming!

Summer Brights

It’s that time of year: backyard soirees, rooftop cocktail parties, and an endless parade of weddings (and rehearsal dinners and showers). And if you’re anything like me, you have plenty of dresses and skirts in your closet to choose from, some still with tags on them. Yet, nothing I have seems to quite capture the vibrant hues and explosion of color that seem to define the Spring/Summer 2011 style.

So to solve this little dilemma, I have rounded up a few affordable dresses and skirts that can really add a little pop of color to my wardrobe from a few of my favorite designers of late: Amanda Uprichard, Halston Heritage, Alice and Olivia, and Maline Berger.

1. Crystal Body Silk Dress by Amanda Uprichard, $194 at Cusp
2. Skirt by Amanda Uprichard, as featured in designer’s lookbook
3. Fierra Y Back Dress by Alice + Olivia, $198 at Shopbop
4. Deep V Dolman Dress by Halston Heritage, $325 at Shopbop
5. Wolla Jersey Maxi Dress by Maline Berger, $275 at Net-a-porter

Aunt Paula’s Gluten Free PB Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My best friend is an extraordinary baker who also happens to have Celiac’s disease and therefore can’t enjoy any of her confections. So, to celebrate her recent completion of the CFA exam series, I decided to whip up these gluten free treats for her, recipe courtesy of my husband’s Aunt Paula. Not only did these cookies meet her dietary restrictions, but  they were also more budget friendly than sending a dozen Sprinkles cupcakes or a bouquet from Mark’s Garden, my go to’s for thank you’s and birthdays. I’ve also discovered (via my best friend of course) that bringing baked goods in a bakery box from The Container Store or Michael’s goes a long way in presentation. Happy Baking!

Aunt Paula’s Peanut Butter Cookies:
2 cups sugar
2 cups peanut butter
2 eggs
chocolate chips (optional)

Mix it all together, roll into balls and press down with fork on baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake at 350 until done (12 – 15 minutes depending on size and thickness of cookies)

Treasure Boxes

My treasure boxes

Alex Von Furstenberg Treasure Box

Alex Von Furstenberg Gem Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since my wedding about 6 months ago, I have been thinking about what to do with the various odds and ends that I had collected and kept from the big weekend, from the chopstick party favors we gave out at our Chinese food rehearsal dinner to the bottle of Veuve we popped just after theceremony. The same goes for the ticket stubs and odds and ends from my semester abroad and the tassle from my cap and gown and other college momentos.

Then, magic happened, when I found Alex Von Furstenberg’s collection of treasure and gem boxes, pictured above. Then, sadness happened, when I realized that the smallest treasure box is nearly $200 and the gem boxes are $658. So, some day when I make it big (or am ready to trade decorating my feet with Jimmy Choo’s for decorating my home with AVF), I will buy several AVF treasure boxes to display my treasures.

Until that day comes, I went the budget route and purchased a couple display cubes from The Container Store  in different sizes and styled my wedding treasures inside and have them on top of the piano next a framed wedding photo. I was afraid it would look tacky, but I’m pretty happy with the result, and it sure beats keeping our momentos in old shoe box in my closet at my parents’ house.

Pinterest

This weekend I signed up for Pinterest, an inspiration board sharing website. I will be using it to collect images related to home decor, seasonal ideas, and fashion. I’m pretty excited about the capabilites of pinterest and I hope if you sign up you’ll share your inspiration boards with me and take a look at mine. My boards are a little sparse right now, but I will updating and adding frequently.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Enjoy the day off and take a moment to think of those heroes who lost their lives in order to provide us with the freedoms we enjoy!

Budget Dinner Party

There are three key elements to hosting a successful dinner party: Good food, good wine, and ambiance. It used to be that when we had friends over even for the most casual of dinner parties, I’d go all out and make a dinner with multiple dishes, multiple wines, an appetizer, and dessert. While I get lots of oohs and aahs, it was a lot of work and quite costly.

What I have discovered recently is that it’s just as easy to dazzle without spending a fortune and hours in the kitchen. The way to do it is an upscale pizza party, such as one I hosted last night.

The food: I slightly altered the Shaved Asparagus Pizza from Smitten Kitchen. I used a Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough to because I am lazy, ehem to make it a bit healthier and also used a bit of pizza sauce. We skipped appetizers, and I found that each pizza fed approx. 3 people for dinner. For dessert, we had chocolates we had recently been given as a gift. Another tip for keeping dinner party costs down, allow you guests to bring dessert if they ask if they can bring anything!

   

Total cost per pizza: $1.29 for pizza dough + $3 for asparagus + $3.99 for mozzarella cheese + $4.99 for parmesan cheese =$13.27

The wine: Good wine can often be a budget buster for us Beemer girls who have grown accustomed to drinking Dad’s Silver Oak. However, taking the time to go to a specialty wine store and asking for recommendations or looking at the specials can help discover hidden gems under $20. For instance, with our pizza, I served Maia Lina Chianti that I recently purchased at K & L Wine Merchants, my “go to”  for wine recommendations, both in-store and online.

Cost per bottle of wine: $7.99

The ambiance: Great ambiance can be created easily with a simple flower arrangement and tea lights if you have already invested in decent sets of wine glasses and dishes. Many twenty-somethings use hand-me-downs from their parents and mismatched wine glasses. But truly, a set of Riedel stemless wineglasses instantly makes a party more Beemer than one where your guests are drinking out of souvenir glasses from your sorority’s formal. Department stores often have them on sale, and they are definitely worth the splurge. As for dishware  I am a big fan of plain white dishes that can be dressed up with different color napkins, placemats, and glasses depending on the occasion. Again, they aren’t as expensive as you might think, and Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and even Crate & Barrell have sets on sale all the time.

Cost for ambiance: $8 for two bouquets at Trader Joe’s

Happy entertaining!

Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

     Now that the school year has ended, I have a bit more time on my hands (i.e. the big decision of the day was to a. bake, b. watch Oprah, c. bake while watching Oprah). I went with option c and decided to use the Oats that have been sitting in my pantry waiting for an afternoon such as this.Since my plan for my newly found free time also includes getting in shape, I wanted a low-guilt cookie recipe that would still taste delicious and satisfy my sweet tooth. I found this recipe for Chewy Oatmeal Cookies and made just a couple adjustments…

- whole wheat flour

-splenda instead of granulated sugar

-I added white chocolate shavings purchased at Fassbender & Rausch during our stop over in Berlin on our way to what turned out to be a chocolate binge of a week in Leipzig

I usually find that baked goods with these healthy substitutions spoil a lot more quickly, but these are so tart/sweet/crunchy/chewy that I don’t think they will last long enough to be a problem.