Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Entertaining made easy, even for a busy Santa

It's here - the most wonderful time of the year. But if you are anything like me you are committed three times over this holiday season with barely the time to recover before doing it all over the following day.

My children have come to expect a house decked out for the holidays. And really, I have to agree, it just isn't the holiday season without cedar boughs, a beribboned wreath, Eggnog and tins of Butter Tarts. 

We kick off the holiday season with my annual Santa's Breakfast. This festive brunch has expanded from a fun way to say "thanks" to clients to a day celebrating with friends and family as well. It looks like a big undertaking but "shhhhhh" it's really easy.  Over the years, I've learned some tricks that make event giving as easy as gift giving. 




RENT THE PARTY PLACE: I love house parties more than anyone but when it comes to hosting over 100 people I relax and rent the local community center. Most rental halls have the tables, chairs, a small kitchen and help. Their fees are nominal and I love that I am supporting the local parks department. The fact that I don't need to worry about cleaning my house and doing those honey-do jobs weeks leading up to the party is just a bonus! 

PICK YOUR COLORS AND DON'T DEVIATE: I pick my color theme and run with it, really, I don't look back. I use those colors in my invitations, rented linens, on custom labels, everywhere I can. This gives the event a consistent look and pulls it together. I go for big impact with colorful linens and simple centerpieces. This saves time setting up the day of the event. 

I purchase the poinsettias from a local charity fundraiser
KEEP THE MENU SIMPLE: I start baking a month in advance which leaves lots of time the week before. I have found some great muffin, quick bread, coffee cake and cookie recipes that freeze beautifully. When I bake, I make extra for Christmas gift giving and Christmas morning. I put my husband to work flipping pancakes and somehow, by the grace of god, it all works. 

INVEST IN SERVING PIECES: My parents are too good to me. Over the years they have given me serving pieces that make entertaining a crowd easy. The 36 cup Faberware coffee urn (on sale right now at Macy's) is a must as is a functional glass dispenser - perfect for OJ, mixed drinks or flavored water.

MUSIC: I keep a play list labeled on my iPod for the event. Throughout the year I add songs so all I have to do is hit 'play' the day of the event. 

REMEMBER THE SPECIAL TOUCHES: People love special touches and guests will remember the little extras. Personalizing events for your guests makes everything so much more special and really, isn't that why we are doing all this?

Santa is ready to listen

FINALLY, I DON'T LET MY TINSEL GET TANGLED IN A BUNCH (at least I try): I have found there are just too many things that can go wrong, so I prepare for success but if the hot cocoa burns or the pancakes stick I let it slide. It is a party after all.

Here are a few extra photos from this year's Santa's Breakfast taken by Mischelle, Jackson's mom! Thank you Mischelle, I always forget to take photos.   


A hungry crew waiting for pancakes!
My husband is such a good sport


Wishing you Joyeux Noel!

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, November 10, 2017

What to Bring?

The first question you ask when invited to dinner is “what can I bring?”, with the usual response being “just yourself”. Well, we all know that’s not going to work, we just have to bring something.  Whatever it is, however, the host should not feel compelled to serve it that evening.

Depending on your hosts' preference, this tasty snack can be put out right away, or saved for later. Bonus!

Salted Pecans - serves 24
4 ounces (1/2 cup) salted butter
6 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons table salt

Preheat oven to 250F. Place butter in a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven until melted. Add pecans to the pan, and toss with melted butter. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt; toss to coat. Repeat. Bake until deeply toasted, about 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Transfer to a pan lined with paper towels to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

I like to wrap this gift in vintage bowls that I've picked up from vintage shops over the year using cello, a festive ribbon and topped with a serving spoon.

Mason jars and boxes work just as well. The key is to use what is handy and keep it easy. Making a few of these ahead of time, reduces a lot of stress during the busy holiday season!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Monday, November 6, 2017

Creating a Cozy Home

Fall is all about creating a warm and inviting home. Think about what comforts you during these chilly and dark months. By adding those items into your interiors you will feel warmer, and so will your guests. Adding layers of throws, blankets and soft pillows with different textures and patterns is a wonderful start. I have a habit of buying up vintage blankets - some have pedigree, like my vintage Hudson Bay and a few of my Pendletons, but most are just tattered, vintage throws I've collected because I simply love the pattern or the color. I confess that my throw fetish is so bad that I had to buy another suitcase in Ireland just to bring back all the blankets I picked up there. Oh my!

At the end of this post you will find links to a few
of my favorite woolen mills and manufacturers. 

A blazing fire goes a long way to make you feel warm and snug. For fire safety, be sure to have your chimney looked at every few years by a local chimney sweep and burn a creosote log to reduce and treat creosote buildup. Pine Mountain makes a good one. 

Now’s the time to bring in natural elements. A simple wreath on the front door is the perfect way to welcome guests. This is the time of year when I forgo the floral shop and head outside with my shears. I gather branches from our flaming maple, vines from our grape arbor, and fallen leaves, pinecones, acorns and chestnuts. 

The colors of fall weave beautifully into my interiors. So adding in more autumnal hues of amber, ochre and copper is fairly easy. To heighten these gorgeous fall colors, add the warm flicker of candles (please, never leave a candle burning unattended). 

However you choose to warm up your home, I wish you all the bounty and blessing this beautiful season offers. 

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Nothing cozies up a home like a soft throw - whether tossed over a chair, piled high in a basket, used as a tablecloth, or placed at the foot of a bed. My fetish for woolens dates back to 1966 when my mother gave me her tan plaid Pendleton car blanket - I've been collecting every since (and that blanket can be found in my car to this day). Here are my favorite manufacturers -

Be sure to check local vintage shops as they quite often have vintage woolens that once washed, look marvelous in a collection. The proverbial hi-low in collecting, so to speak. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Host a Harvest Gathering

Fall can be busy and finding time to entertain a challenge! That’s why I love hosting a Harvest Gathering. The star of this event is our Washington State Apple!

For me, the quintessential fall staple is apple cider, and whether you’re making it at home or purchasing ready made, it’s the perfect beverage to celebrate our crisp autumn days. I keep my event simple - I serve hot cider which I keep warm in my big urn, and cold pressed cider in my lemonade-style dispenser. I add a platter of candied apples, bowls (or bushels) of assorted fresh apples, caramel corn and spiced nuts. I don’t spend a lot of time on decor - I toss vintage throws over assorted chairs and tables, add lanterns and keep the details rustic and natural! 

Here's a fool proof recipe for apple cider with mulling spices (I usually triple this recipe) - In a large saucepan, heat 4 cups apple cider. Add 2 tbls. brown sugar, 5 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly ground is ideal, but from a spice jar works just fine), 1/4 tsp. cardamom, zest from one orange to the cider. Simmer on low heat or transfer to urn. Be sure to strain before serving and watch the beverage temperature, this beverage can get very hot. Enjoy!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Seeing the beauty

My Nº 1 quote when advising a seller on listing their home - 

"How you live in a home

is not how you sell a home"

There's no question that we all accumulate stuff - stuff we need, stuff we don't need, stuff we love, stuff handed down to us, given to us, or the 'just because' stuff. And, unless you have a big home, most of that stuff is either packed in a closet, (and I mean packed), or on display, making it difficult for anyone, including you, to enjoy the sweet spaces of your home.

Living with lots of personal 'items' is one thing, but having it all around when you go to sell is another. The challenge this stuff causes is that potential buyers can't look past your personal items to 1) see the house and 2) visualize how their life, their stuff, will look in it. 

That's why decluttering, with a healthy rinse and repeat, again and again, is critical to a successful sale. 

There are apps that walk you through a year of decluttering, there are trained (and untrained) personal organizers readily available to work with you in your home, and a great selection of organizing/decluttering self-help books, and almost every home and lifestyle magazine offers a thorough read on the subject. Implementing any one of these tools will go a long way to accomplishing the job.

Another issue I constantly see is the lack of updates and refresh of a person's interiors. It's been said that personal style and aesthetics change every seven years. There was a time when a home owner purchased a living room set and that was it. I'm not sure that isn't how we should be approaching our home purchases (for the long haul), but I do know that the mauve's of the eighties don't work in today's world of interiors, just as the Tuscan warmth of the 90's don't. Bringing your home current with a fresh coat of paint is just a basic job any seller should decide to take on, and quite frankly, a must!

My final tip for getting your home ready for market is to edit. It is one thing to declutter (critical step), and to freshen up your interiors with a coat (or two) of paint, etc., but you must also edit what you leave in your home. That includes your furniture, art and accessories. By doing so, the bones of your home are the star, not your personal belongings. Let a potential buyer see the rooms - the floors, windows, walls and flow! Don't get me wrong, you want your home to feel warm and inviting, but it doesn't take much to accomplish this - a few key pieces of art, furniture and accessories is all it takes.  Let the rooms be on display, not you!

Now comes my disclaimer - I am a known collector - I have a passion for anything French or English, I enjoy textiles with lots of pattern and love an eclectic  mix of wallpaper. I prefer a more curated look to interiors and enjoy living with items that make me happy, and there are a lot of those! When I renovated my kitchen, I did so in a way that goes against traditional real estate speak. Which takes me right back to my opening quote -

"How you live in a home

is not how you sell a home"

When it's time to sell my home, I will be sure to declutter, freshen and edit my interiors so the bones of this sweet Tudor shine. 

To better showcase my thoughts on this subject, take a gander at these before and after photos taken from a recent listing of mine in Seattle -

I recommended an updated paint palette throughout the home to
compliment the light filled spaces and charming cottage feel.  
Working with, not against, the flow of the rooms, I changed
the furniture layout so as to invite you into the home.
I love wallpaper, but it must stay fresh and current! Removing
big pieces of furniture and changing the layout went a long
way to showcase just how big this bedroom is!
I recommended the sellers declutter, paint the dated cabinets and remove
the wallpaper to deliver a simply charming and completely modern kitchen!
Don't forget the outside. It doesn't take much - in this case we did
some clean-up, added a few plants and a place to sit and enjoy!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Le Dîner en Blanc
Seattle ⚜ July 27, 2017

Taken directly from DEB's website - At the last minute, the secret location is revealed to thousands of friends who have all been patiently waiting to learn where “Dîner en Blanc” will take place. Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.

Over the course of the evening, guests experience the beauty and value of their city's public spaces by participating in the unexpected. Beyond the spectacle and elegance of the dinner itself, guests are brought together from diverse backgrounds by good taste and a love of beauty. Le Dîner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamor of high French society, and guests engage one another, knowing that they are taking part in a truly magical event. There are no disruptions: no car traffic, no pedestrian traffic—only amazed and astonished looks from passersby observing the scene before them. And participants, like spectators, wonder whether it's all not a dream…

It wasn't a dream for Colleen, Cara, Abby or myself. Being the organizers we are, we set out to make the planning of this event nothing but fun and stress free! I took on assembling the tables, chairs, linens, wine and glasses - making them portable by hand truck, of course. Abby, the master chef that she is, prepared the most elegant dinner conveniently packed in their picnic basket (which took one for the team by being painted white by Cara). Colleen created the most gorgeous florals which I am still enjoying today!

Accompanied by our table leader, Kristin, 
we traveled by charter bus to our secret location.

Without wasting any time, we set up our table and chairs,
and waited for our entire row to be set up before taking our seats. 

Beautiful Myrtle Edwards Park on the shores of the Puget Sound


The Beginning
Once everyone is set up, the table captain waves her napkin and all join in,
indicating the beginning of dinner and the occupation of the public space. 

Le Dîner
In one of the most beautiful settings in the city, Myrtle Edwards Park, accompanied by close friends, we enjoyed a beautifully prepared meal by Abby!

The most magical time of the night was the
lighting of the sparklers!

The Park was alive with music, laughter and so much fun!

Clean Up
Guests make sure they leave the park clean, leaving nothing behind!
Including the beautiful florals which are gracing my buffet!

An incredible memory - truly magnificent!

This was the first year Le Dîner en Blanc was held in Seattle and I certainly hope it is the start of many more!

Until next time, la chasse au bonheur