Entertaining Essentials [3] Cheese Boards

Entertaining Essentials - Cheese Boards - The Perpetual Hostess

Who doesn’t love a good cheese board?  I propose there is nothing more inviting to guests than a communal, beautifully crafted cheese board with various cheeses, olives, prosciutto, grapes, apricots, and a variety of other delectable treats to munch on before dinner.  In a pinch, it can all be served on a beautiful plate or even a tiered cake stand (yes, I’ve done it – it wasn’t cute, but I’ve done it), but presentation is key.  So today I rounded up my 3 favorite types of cheese boards, and I want to share them with you!

Upper Left:  This ever popular slate board was given to Andy and me by a friend for our wedding and I have since suggested it to others.  It’s perfect for a wine and cheese night or a great additions to appetizers on the coffee table.  Plus, it comes with chalk – Bonus!

Upper Right:  A rustic cheese board is the best choice for a chic outdoor or barn party with friends and this is a really affordable options.  My favorite use of this style is to fill it up completely with charcuterie and fruit, alongside a variety of cheese.

Bottom:  I just bought myself a marble cheese board and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  It’s a notch above the others in terms of classy sophistication, so if you’re looking for a fancy way to serve your cheese, this is it.  I love that this specific board has a wooden detail which makes it more approachable and versatile.

Are there any cheese lovers out there?  Do you have a favorite cheese board?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

#happybirthday

#happybirthday - The Perpetual Hostess

This past weekend I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday with a number of family and friends.  It was such a special night and I was so happy to have so many people I love in the same place.  There are two things I will always remember about this party:

1.  I am one blessed girl.  So many people took time out of their weekend to celebrate with me and I am so very grateful.  Friends from every phase of my life here in Northern Virginia, including neighbors, church friends, work friends, family and others, came to hang out and it was awesome.  I felt so loved.

2.  Emily of Emily Hill Events is the bomb.com.  All the fun details you see below were designed and/or executed by her, and on top of that,  she was an amazing help during the actual party, plating food, serving drinks, cleaning up, and treating my friends as her own.  If you’re throwing a party of any kind and you live in the DC/MD/VA area, drop her a note.  She’s your girl!

One of my favorite details of the party were the script cutouts Emily made based on this project and the corresponding free printable templates provided by Style Me Pretty Living.  These can be used for ANY party and turned out amazing.  The #happybirthday sign above was hand created by Emily and was the anchor for what turned out to be a classy, yet fun, party.

Little Eats - Birthday Sign - The Perpetual Hostess

Birthday Food - The Perpetual Hostess

We kept the food simple, serving quesadillas and crab cakes from Whole Foods and an assortment of appetizers from the freezer aisle of Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter.  It made prep a piece of cake and allowed us to spend more time on the fun, decorative details.

Little Treats Sign - Birthday Party - The Perpetual Hostess

Little Treats - Birthday Desserts - The Perpetual Hostess

The desserts were simple and sweet.  I made chocolate pudding, stirred in some Cool Whip and topped it with Cacao Nibs and Raspberries, put out frozen eclairs from the grocery store and made No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Mini Tarts from the Kitchen Treaty.  It was all super easy and super delicious.

Pop Rocks Favors - The Perpetual Hostess

And what is a party without ridiculously fun favors?  These glass vials filled with Pop Rocks were the hit of the night and EVERYONE took one home…even the guys who I thought might be too cool to take home a hot pink gift.  I was wrong.  They loved it.  Apparently everyone loves a blast from the past!

All in all, it was a night to remember and I was thrilled that everything turned out so well.  My original Winter Birthday Party Inspiration was the perfect jumping off point for what morphed into a party that was truly ‘me’.  Another big thanks to Emily for her awesome ideas and for making my ideas come to life!

Have you ever thrown your own birthday party?  What theme would you choose if all your friends could be in one place for an evening?

Neighbor Open House

Thumbprint Cookies - The Perpetual Hostess

I have always felt strongly about knowing my neighbors.  There is something about community that is built in right next door that feels good and necessary.  My parent’s neighbors watched me grow up my entire life, employed me to babysit, took me on camping trips and to this day, are a big part of my life.  As I moved on to college, one of my favorite parts about living in the dorm was that I knew I could knock on any door down the hallway and that someone would be there to chat, say yes to a dinner invitation, or just hang out.  When I moved off-campus, my roommates and I were blessed to live next door to a group of great guys, our dear friends.

Translating this love for my neighbors has been a little bit more difficult since moving to Northern Virginia.  In each of the places I lived before our current apartment, my roommates and I knew just one of our neighbors.  We frequently traded favors, babysitting pets, or checking on plants while the other was gone.  We witnessed arguments and talked about religion and politics, and just did real life together.

But now that Andy and I live in apartment building, it’s been hard to even meet, much less get to know our neighbors.  In fact, most weeks, we don’t even see them, since you have to be in the hallway at the same time.  I had been really starting to think about this last fall when we joined a new Sunday School class at church, and they had just begun to read together the book ‘The Art of Neighboring’.  I won’t go into all the details, but the gist of the book is that we can and should show care and love to the people that live right next door.  I would highly recommend it if you have a heart for those that live near you.

I was blessed, around the same time, to start getting to know my neighbors across the hall who were also craving community and wanting to get to know the other people on our hall.  And so we decided to host a cookie party, a sort of neighbor open house, for the purpose of meeting and getting to know the other neighbors between our apartments and the elevator.  I bought paper invitations over Christmas and hand wrote them, asking people to join us for  an ‘After Christmas Open House’, slipped them in envelopes, and wrote ‘Our neighbors’ on the front.  I taped them up with washi tape on each neighbor’s door frames and provided my email address for purposes of RSVPing.

Out of 8 invitations, only one other couple showed up and one family replied with regrets because of sickness, but we had the BEST time and I was so encouraged.  We kept everything super simple and it made the time very comfortable and relaxed.  My neighbor made chocolate chip cookies and I made the thumbprint cookies shown above and provided hot chocolate and coffee.  There was super something special about sitting in the living room on a Saturday afternoon, chatting and getting to know our little community.

Our neighbors left with promises of a dinner get-together soon and I’m really looking forward to it.  In the meantime, I’m thanking God for the opportunity to meet new friends and hopefully show some love to those who live closest to me.

Do you know your neighbors? I would love to hear how you engage with your physical community, right in your neighborhood!

Social Circles Collide

Social Circles

The most important part of any gathering is the guest list, the people that you are hosting.  Sometimes it makes sense to keep the group small, and in order to keep an intimate environment, it’s best if all those people know one another.  It encourages real-life conversation and deepening of relationships.  But for nights like a birthday party, housewarming, or any large gathering, I like to mix social circles.

There is nothing more fun to me than getting all my friends together, whether they be family, friends or anyone from work, church or otherwise, together in one room.  I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve come to realize that I like it because I like the idea of living one life, where my friends and family know one another, and where I can be the same person across all my circles.

I know this is really uncomfortable for some people and they work really hard to avoid situations like this.  I totally get it.  It can be nerve-wracking.  But, I challenge you to try it out sometime.  You may be surprised at how well it goes.  If you’re unsure, try introducing people ahead of time by sharing stories or how you know the other person, maybe even give them a topic they can talk about with a person from another circle.

I’ll be doing this for my birthday party in a couple weeks and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Winter Birthday Party Inspiration

Winter Birthday Inspiration - The Perpetual Hostess

A couple months ago, my friend Allie asked me to put together an inspiration board for a conceptual party we would want to host for our virtual blog/instagram/twitter friends, if we were ever able to get together in real life.  What you see above is what I came up with and now I’m using it to plan my birthday party next month!  Navy, white and gold are always classy choices for a winter party, and I think the pink/fuschia tones helps add a bit of fun.  I’m looking forward to getting friends together for little eats, little treats and at least one signature drink.

I can’t wait to share more about the planning process, my thoughts on getting different social circles together, and how Emily Hill Events is going to help me make it an extra special night.

Inspiration Sources:

Straws

Florals

Deviled Eggs

Napkin Rings

Table Setting

Tassel Garland

Pink Star

2 Tier Server

P.S.  Happy New Year!  I’m definitely looking forward to planning my birthday party – what are you anticipating in this new year?  Anything fun to share?

Christmas Round Up

Christmas-Tree

Did everyone have a very merry Christmas?  I hope so.  I know I definitely did.  We spent Christmas with Andy’s parents, brothers, sister-in-laws and sweet nieces and nephew.  11 people in one house.  Yes, it can be done, and it was a wonderful week!

I hesitated sharing the above image because it is full of Christmas presents and not full of the people, the fun, and above all else, the Savior whose birth we celebrated last week.  But alas, without sharing a full family photo album, this was the closest I could get to sharing the fullness of my Christmas with you.  We made and shared meals, attended Christmas parties as a family, set out cookies and milk for Santa Claus (Christmas with a 3 year old niece is the so. much. fun), and celebrated my other niece’s 1st birthday.  I don’t think we could have packed more into 7 days!

Alas, though Christmas with the family was certainly special this year, I’m a little sad about how the month of December turned out.  I was dead set on focusing my attention on Advent this year and really soaking in the glory of God sending his Son to earth.  And up until Thanksgiving, it looked like the schedule would allow it.  But then work travel, Christmas parties, and sickness crept in and I found myself scrambling on Christmas Eve to take a minute and really think about what we were celebrating.  Anyone else feel the same way?  It’s times like these I am thankful for mercy and grace and a God who knows our heart.

And so I look forward to a new year with thankfulness.  2014, let’s do this thing.

Indoor Market Fun

Downtown Market - Grand Rapids

I’m officially obsessed with indoor markets.   If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, cities like Grand Rapids, MI, Washington, DC, and many others have created a shared space where small or large businesses can rent space and sell their product all under one roof.  They are often comprised of cheese, dessert, and coffee shops, fresh produce and flower sellers, and a myriad of restaurants or more informal food options.  It’s a wonderful way to gather friends and family in one place, and honestly, what is there not to love about all your favorite things under one roof?!  Also, I think it’s a great way to support local, and occasionally, handmade, businesses.

I was finally able visit the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan, over Thanksgiving. I was impressed by the options and the size of the market hall, but even more by the event space and classroom kitchen space available on the second floor.  If I lived closer, I would be trying out a class there in no time.  I was enchanted by the cheese shop, Aperitivo, and had a delicious lunch at Rak Thai.  My parents and grandparents joined my husband and me, and it was fun to see how each person interacted with the market in a different way and found unique things to their liking.

Downtown Market - Grand Rapids, MI

Apertivo - Downtown Market - Grand Rapids, MI

One of my favorites in my current area is Union Market, in Washington, DC.  I have completely fallen in love with the home goods store, Salt & Sundry.  I can’t walk by the store without picking up a little thing for entertaining or a cute hostess gift that will wait patiently in the closet until the right time.  And my favorite meal is the chicken taco from Takorean.  If you have never had a Korean BBQ Taco, you’re going to want to make that a priority, very soon.  Andy and I love coming here on Saturdays to hang out and eat.  It’s a perfect place for a morning or afternoon date!

Salt-and-Sundry

Union Market - Washington, DC - Takorean

Does anyone else share my love for indoor markets?  Do you have one in your town/have you visited yet?

Kinfolk Workshop: Herbal Infusions

Kinfolk Workshop - Purcellville, VA

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Kinfolk Workshop, hosted by Rebecca Gallop from A Daily Something and many other incredibly talented people here in Northern, VA, including the ladies from Sweet Root Village and Jen Olmstead.  It was my first Kinfolk Workshop and I was thrilled to be a part of a day committed to learning a craft and enjoying food and drinks with new friends.

The theme of the day was Herbal Infusions and Rebecca and friends taught us all about infusing olive oil and making fun things like allspice dram.  We gathered in a gorgeous barn out in Purcellville and ate family style at a long, rustic table.  It was the perfect way to escape the busyness of life, and as Rebecca said, take a break from the online world and meet people in real life.

Make sure to check out Kinfolk Events to see if they are hosting an event near you.  And if you’re in the area, make sure to sign up for the Natural Home & Holiday Decor Workshop being hold THIS FRIDAY in DC.  I can’t be there and I’m sad to miss.  You should definitely check it out and fill me in on all the great details!

Have you been to any great classes/workshops lately?  I’m finding them to be a great break from daily life and a great way to learn new skills and meet new people!

 

My First Flower Arrangement

Flower Arrangement - The Perpetual Hostess

Today I want to share with you how I conquered my fear of flower arranging.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have a terrible habit of completely nixing fresh flowers from my table because I never knew how to make them look nice.  And so for Friendsgiving, I was bound and determined to put together some type of arrangement.  My tablecloth from Hen House Linens was a deep aubergine color and so I thought the table could use some bright, yet sophisticated, color.  I had recently picked up the soup tureen from The Old Lucketts Store and thought it would make a perfect vessel for a low arrangement at the table.

Flower Arranging - The Perpetual Hostess

Since I didn’t have easy access to a farmer’s market or a wholesale flower shop, I went with the next best thing and hit up Whole Foods two nights before the party.  I purchased one pre-made fall bouquet that included the berries, sunflowers, hydrangea, and greenery and one bouquet of the orange daisies (or at least I think that’s what they are!) for filler.  I separated them all out, threw away the lilies that came with the bouquet (I’m SO allergic), and stripped the leaves up about 3/4 of the way from the bottom of the stems.

Originally, I thought I would form the bouquet and then cut down the stems before inserting them into floral foam in the soup tureen.  I tried it, but it didn’t work for me.  The foam was floating and I just couldn’t handle working with all the flowers in one hand.  Thankfully, I remembered I had seen this really great blog post by House of Earnest about how to create a flower arrangement from market flowers and used Erin’s advice to go to town.  I made a grid on the top of my soup tureen using scotch tape and started forming the arrangement.  I placed the hydrangea in the center and then worked my way around the grid, using blocks of color as my guide.  The berries and greens were added at the end to add visual lines and interest.

All in all, I was pleased with how the arrangement turned out, but I was most excited to get the first one under my belt.  It really was much easier than I thought and I’m looking forward to trying again soon to continue working on my technique.

Do you enjoy arranging flowers?  Wish you enjoyed arranging flowers but have a mental block like I did?  Let’s share tips and techniques in the comments section!

 

Turkey Tips & Tricks

Turkey Tips & Tricks - The Perpetual Hostess

Alright, you guys, Thanksgiving is only a week away!  Can I get a show of hands for people that will be making (or is it cooking/baking/something else?) a turkey for the first time?

Two months after I got married, I invited my husband’s family over for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner.  All the sisters-in-laws were heading to their family homes for the actual day and so I thought it would be fun to get the in-law fam together to celebrate before we each went our separate ways.  The only small problem was, I had never made a turkey before.

If you’re anything like me, the idea of making a turkey is super daunting.  I would have never succeeded that year if it hadn’t been for about 20 frantic calls to my Mom and Grandma (thank you…muah!) that day.  And since then, I’ve made two more.  So today I want to share some of my top turkey making tips for those of you who I will now affectionately call ‘turkey virgins’.  And for those of you who have done this a million times, would you share your best tips in the comments sections?  Let’s help our friends!

1.  IF IT’S FROZEN, BUY IT EXTRA EARLY

I buy a frozen turkey every year.  I’m sure I can be convinced of the merits of a free range, organic bird ordered a month in advanced and picked up at the local Whole Foods, but I’m just not that coordinated these days.  But to my point, if it’s frozen, you need to buy it enough ahead of time so that it is completely thawed by the time you’re ready to either brine it (12 hours ahead) or to dress it the morning of your meal.  I bought my Friendsgiving turkey on Tuesday night ($20 for a 13 lb bird!!), stuck it in the fridge and brined it on Friday evening.  It spent 72 hours in my fridge and it was JUST thawed enough.  A good rule of thumb is to allow 3-4 days for a 15 lb turkey and add days accordingly as you move up in pounds from there. 

2.  BEFORE YOU DRESS IT, MAKE SURE IT’S EMPTY

If you don’t know what turkey giblets or a turkey neck look like, please click here (warning:  these look disgusting).  These ALL need to be removed from your turkey before you dress it and put it in the oven.  Most of the time, everything but the neck will be nicely wrapped up in a bag that you can easily remove. The best way to know if you’ve removed them all is to a.  count all the parts and b. rinse the turkey through and stick your hand inside to make sure nothing is loose.  It’s gross, but you’re going to be getting very close to that turkey in the next couple steps, so you may as well get used to it.  Many people even use these parts to make turkey stock or gravy later, but I’ve never actually succeeded in doing so.  That will be my next challenge.

3.  PAT IT DRY, THEN LATHER IT UP

Whether you have brined your turkey or are taking it out of the package for the first time Thanksgiving morning, you will want to rinse it all the way through and on the outside and then take paper towels to it to pat it dry.  The more dry the turkey, the better the next part will stick.  My first move once the turkey is dry is to take salt and rub it alllllll over the turkey.  My grandma taught me this.  The salt, especially if you have not brined it, helps keep the moisture inside the bird.  Once you have salted the entire thing, it’s time to lather it up.  Whether you are using butter and spices or something like the bourbon glaze I used for Friendsgiving, you will want to make sure the entire thing is covered.

BONUS If you really want to keep the turkey moist and add flavor, you can add whatever you have applied to the top of the turkey under the skin of the breast.  I know it sounds crazy, but if you lay the turkey breast up and look at the carefully at the bottom of the breast where it meets the large cavity, you will see that the skin is partially separated.  Take your concoction of butter, spices or whatever else, slip your hand between the meat and the skin, and rub it around.  Seriously, do it, it makes a difference.

4.  BASTE, TENT, BASTE, TENT

Turkeys were made to be loved.  Do not put your turkey in the oven and only open the door 4 hours later when you think it is finished.  Whatever you lathered the turkey in during step 3, you should continue to do so every 15-30 minutes throughout the cooking process.  This keeps it moist while adding flavor, slowly but surely.  While you do this, you will also start to notice (unless you have the world’s most amazing oven) that certain parts of the turkey will cook faster than others.  In order to keep it from burning, have tin foil handy so you can ‘tent’ the turkey appropriately.  I always start by wrapping the wings in foil and then as parts of the turkey start looking darker than others, I loosely put foil over the top.  Basting and tenting are the most fun part to me and has served me well in my 3 turkey experiences. 

5.  LET IT REST

Whatever you do, don’t carve that turkey the minute it comes out of the oven.  The best turkey is the turkey that sits for about 15-30 minutes after it comes out of the oven.  The juices and flavor are able to set further and the moisture is sealed in.  However, make sure to take all tinfoil off when doing so, otherwise the skin may absorb condensation and you’ll miss out on the perfectly crunchy skin you worked so hard to achieve.

Ok, good luck – I can’t wait to hear about your adventures.  Make sure to take lots of pictures, especially a before and after shot of your gorgeous bird.  You will do great!

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