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