Archive for the ‘Party’ Category

5 Tips for Outdoor Dining

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

This month our book club read Gone Girl, which we discussed over a beautiful alfresco dinner. The book is sort of a “beach read” which was appropriate since I finished it during my last beach trip of the summer.

The weather is cooling, which made dining outside so enjoyable. Erin made coconut shrimp with pineapple salsa, which we had with cilantro rice and a ginger tomato salad. For desert, we had warm brownies with ice cream and fresh strawberries. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was very romantic. Throwing an outdoor dinner party can be very easy with a little planning.

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Tips for Outdoor Dinner Parties

  1. Scout for the perfect space. We are fortunate to have a balcony large enough to comfortably fit our dining table, but I love the idea of throwing a dinner party in a unique outdoor location.
  2. Setting the mood. Simple holiday lights went a long way in setting the mood for our dimly-lit, twinkling scene. We took mosquito precautions with this (worked great). We also lit some candles and streamed background music via a Kings of Convenience Pandora station.
  3. Planning the menu. The hardest thing about dining outside is timing—i.e., serving a warm meal on location. We didn’t have too much trouble with this since our table was so close to our kitchen. For a more distant location, I would try something portable like a steak salad with fresh berries and cheese for desert.
  4. The table. Last year I purchased a tablecloth from Target and picked up a few sets of cloth napkins from Marshalls. They were pretty inexpensive and I’ve used them over and over. I worked as a caterer in college so I love any excuse to break out my napkin-folding skills (though it is pretty easy). A nice table setting is an easy way to make a simple dinner feel special.
  5. Guests! At our house, we look for any excuse to entertain, but book club nights are some of my favorites. It is so rejuvenating to laugh, cook, and catch up with the girls. And sometimes we even manage to discuss the book!

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Top Chef Challenge

Friday, August 24th, 2012

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The roomies and I love elaborate challenges and competitions (e.g., the great frugal challenge), so we were all really excited about Chris’s suggestion for a Top Chef style cooking challenge. It turned out to be a wild (and delicious) success!

The rules: each of us picked a day (over a two-week period) to prepare a meal for the house with a maximum budget of $40. We initially had a whole scoring system in place. The diners were to assign 1-5 points in the areas of taste, creativity, presentation, and difficulty. In the end, we threw out the voting system since there was a pretty clear winner.

I tried to set the bar high by cooking first and presenting a four-course menu. I started with a chilled corn soup, followed by pear salad, with homemade spinach ravioli for the entre and fruit cobbler and cream for dessert. Erin wowed us with baja fish tacos and fried ice cream. Chris made some impressive gourmet ramen with grilled kabobs. But Alex really blew us away with an eggplant starter, chimichurri tenderloin, and bananas foster flambee for desert. Seriously, when he lit that pan on fire at the table, we all knew it was over for the rest of us … until the next challenge!!

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The Great Frugal Challenge

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

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Last week, the roomies and I competed in what we like to call The Great Frugal Challenge. We are all very active and competitive so, naturally, we love new challenges. The frugal challenge was awesome because it gave us an excuse to compete and save a little money at the same time. We searched all over the internet for some kind of points-based frugal challenge but found nothing, so we made one up ourselves. The rules are these:

The challenge lasts one week (Monday to Sunday) and competitors score points two ways: budget points and active points.

Budget points are earned by staying under a pre-set spending limit. In our case, we decided to allot a total of $100 for the week. We divided the amount between grocery money, for food, and mad money, for everything else. We were worried we might end up eating nothing but ramen for 7 days and didn’t want to sacrifice nutrition during the challenge, so having a certain amount of money set aside for groceries was important. We assigned 20 points for staying under the grocery budget and 50 points for the mad money budget. Certain expenses were exempted from the challenge – e.g., transportation to work, pre-planned travel, bills, etc.

Active points are earned by participating in frugal-friendly activities. For instance, we set up the following possible daily points:
Bringing lunch to work: 5 pts
Brewing (vs buying) coffee: 2 pts
Exercising 30 minutes: 10 pts
Using Coupons: 1 pt each

Finally, each day we could score up to 30 “activity” points. These were designed to get us involved in fun, low-cost activities. Some examples of point-worthy activities include going to the public library, playing sports in the park, visiting the DC monuments at night, going to a museum, attending a free concert, etc. We learned the activity points are vital to doing well in the challenge. We asked Alex to serve as challenge commissioner to assess the point value for the activities and make calls in case of disputes. The system worked out great.

Erin won our frugal challenge, but I made a strong effort and came in second place. The challenge was much harder than we anticipated and I learned a lot about my spending habits. I’m glad to take a frugal rest break for now, but I think a rematch is definitely on the horizon.

Mother’s Day Paper Rose Card Tutorial

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

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Handmade cards are so special and personal. So this mother’s day tell mom you love her with a beautiful paper rose card made by you! Use any paper you like for the roses. I picked up this scrapbooking paper from the Columbia Heights Target (who knew they had a scrapbooking section!). I attached the roses to a blank fold-over card, but you could also use them to jazz up any basic card or envelope. Here’s how:

Step one: Free-hand draw a swirl design on a 4″ by 4″ square of paper. Tip- the wider you make the lines, the “taller” the flower will be. You can also play around with different sizes of paper to create a variety of flower sizes.

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Step two: Cut.

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Step three: Roll the strip of paper beginning at the tail end of the swirl, i.e., not the middle part(with the design side of the paper facing in).

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Keep rolling to form the rose.

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Step four: Add a little glue at the base to keep the flower in place (I used a hot glue gun, but any glue will work).

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Step five: Glue the roses to a fold-over card or use them to personalize a premade card.

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{Happy Mother’s Day!}

Chicken Pot Pie Muffins

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

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I come from a big family and learned at a young age the value of an easy, kid-friendly recipe. Even though I am not living with any kiddies at the moment (though we may act like it sometimes), I got a rave response when I made these fun savory, muffins. This recipe is easy and I love the concept so much that I think I will play around with other filling ideas. The pot pie muffins are perfect for entertaining (think heavy hors d’oeuvres) or they make a great snack for kids (or a row house full of busy 20-somethings!).  

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1 1/2 c. chicken, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 bag frozen mixed veggies, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
2 (10 oz) cans biscuits

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen veggies, cheese, and salt and pepper. (Note: when I made these muffins I used frozen veggies, which makes this recipe super easy, but next time I will probably substitute for fresh, chopped veggies, sautéed for a few minutes until soft. Fresh is always better!) Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin and press one biscuits into each cup to form the crust. Spoon the pot pie mixture into the biscuit cups. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve!

(original recipe via)

Park City Wedding

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
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I am so excited for my lovely friend, Sarah, and her charming new husband, Christopher. They were married over the weekend at the Canyons Lodge in Park City, UT, and the ceremony was simply beautiful.  I love that the guests were greeted with champagne for the gondola ride to the lodge. Once we got to the top, the snowy mountains made a peaceful and striking backdrop for the ceremony. I was something of a blubbering mess as the minister read love letters that the couple had written to each other, but somehow I managed to compose myself just in time for dinner and dancing. What an amazing wedding. Congrats!

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{personalized hanger}


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{lace embroidered veil}


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{arriving in style}


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{walking down the aisle}


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{flowers decorating the room}


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{personalized centerpiece}


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{illuminated mason jar}


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{suite at the Canyons Lodge}


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{the girls and Suj}


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{the bride}

Happy Birthday, Scott!

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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Last night, the roomies and I celebrated Scott’s birthday. Luckily for us, Scott works ridiculously long hours, so we had plenty of time to bake cakes and decorate the house. Erin and I decided it would be fun to make a cake with a drawing of Scott’s face on it. Naturally, that idea came to also include mini “face cupcakes” of us. Our little celebration turned out great, and we even managed to surprise Scott. Happy birthday, roomie!!


20120308-140824.jpg{Taylor’s creative decorating}

20120308-140847.jpg{the whole gang}

20120308-140903.jpg{happy birthday!}

Oscar Night in Petworth

Monday, February 27th, 2012


Last night, I joined Rohan and Eric for their Oscar night party. Eric is such a talented graphic designer and made special ballots (above) for our predictions. I was pretty confident that I had correctly guessed the winner in every category. I was wrong. But I performed reasonably well. It was a fun party, complete with lots of snacks. I threw together a little fruit and cheese plate (strawberries and aged gouda, my favorite), but Rohan wowed us with his naan pizza. The biggest winners of the night ended up being us! (Awww.)


{naan pizza}


{cheese plate}

i {heart} cookies

Thursday, February 16th, 2012


The holiday is over but I’m still in the mood for love … and peanut butter cookies! Last night I made a quick batch of cookies and topped them with Reese’s hearts (which were on sale the day after Valentine’s day). Nothing better than warm cookies on a cold night.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012


The New Year holiday brings with it plenty of opportunities to host casual gatherings. This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting several friends’ homes as well as hosting a small dinner at our place. The best part of any party is the company, but special dinnerware can add a nice touch to the gathering.

1. Areaware Dish Set
2. Reclaimed Wood Serving Tray
3. Dahlia Placemats
4. Fleur-De-Lys Tumbler