Trick or Treat Brunch + Hosting Tips

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Halloween Party

Last week, I had 6 kids under the age of 3 over for a pre-Trick or Treat brunch.

In related news, I was asleep by 8:30pm that night. Parents- hats off to you.

Really and truly though, it was one of the most fun afternoons I have had in ages. The kiddos showed up in their costumes and were just so cute and excitable about…everything. About waffles. About jack-o-lantern cookies. About the pumpkin decorations. And about bubbles.

Oh man, the bubbles.

I put some in the buckets I got the kids with Halloween goodies and thank goodness because With the temperature in the 60s, we were able to play on the back porch and it provided a solid hour of entertainment. I know this is not news to parents but I was blown away.

In addition to spending time with friends and having fun with the littles, it was the first party we have had here that I feel flowed well. We entertain frequently but the food-greeting-drinks-entertainment-chatting aspect of things was just on with this party. Here are some tips about hosting I have picked up along the way:

Unless it’s a seated dinner party, choose a menu that is prepared ahead of time. If guests are settling in for an evening, still being in the kitchen stirring risotto or basting the Thanksgiving turkey is fine but messing with cooking when you’re having a casual, fun, mingle party is a huge pain. Playing to the toddler set and parents who might not want to eat candy all day, we did Belgian waffles and egg casseroles. I had the buffet filled with cider, orange juice, waters and options for a Bloody Mary (I figured a cocktail might be appreciated by parents about to hit the streets with hundreds of kids on candy highs). I also had fresh cooked apples and a strawberry sauce with maple syrup for waffle toppings. We opened the door and everything was ready for when people wanted to dig in. So much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Also ahead of time: put dishes out. “Where is that plate? What bowl should I use? We’re out of forks!” is pretty standard for when we have people over. On Sunday I laid out the serve ware and utensils first thing in the morning where I thought they were needed and actually took time think about it. Thus I was able to run to the store when I realized I actually didn’t buy paper plates (kids = paper plates in my book) and when food was ready, it had a place to go.

Give new guests a tour. I always forget who has been to our house and who hasn’t so it’s Ryan who takes this on and he is so good about making sure everyone knows where the bathrooms are and how to get around. I think it really contribute to making people feel comfortable being in our home.

Speaking of comfortable, ask if anyone needs anything. My friend Kate is a wonderful host. She and her husband are always refilling glasses before you even knew you were low and asking what you need. It’s not about being waited on but asking people what they need really communicates that “mi casa es su casa” and to help yourself to what you want. Pass the Malbec, please.

Spilling/Dirt/Etc Doesn’t Matter: There is nothing in your house that can’t be cleaned up or is that irreplaceable; if it is, put it in a closet or don’t have guests over. Nothing is worth stressing yourself or your guests over. Relax and have fun- that’s why you’re doing this!

Bubbles. I will never not have bubbles on hand ever again. I am not sure kids love anything more than bubbles.

Halloween Party 2

(photo credit: KateGivesThanks)


Wedding Week: 6 Things I Am So Glad I Did

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1. Address thank-you note envelopes before the wedding. Some people say you have 6 months to send out thank you cards but I like to get them out, wedding or not, as soon as possible. As a giver, I worry someone hasn’t received my gift if I haven’t heard from them and as a receiver, I am just so touched that anyone wanted to mark our celebration with a gift. You know who you are inviting to your wedding and part of what is so time consuming with thank-you’s is the addressing so just do it ahead of time so you can get them out in a timely manner. This way, the only thing you are thinking about post-wedding is filling the note with gratitude for their generosity. And if you don’t receive a gift from a guest, a note thanking them for attending and detailing a special memory from the day is always a lovely gesture.

2. Go with the flow. Here’s the game plan: you wake up unmarried. By end of day, you’re married. If something comes up that doesn’t effect that, it’s all going to be okay. My flower guy called 10 minutes after he was supposed to be there asking if being 20 minutes longer was alright. The only thing that would have happened if I had been all “No! It’s NOT OKAY!” would have been my blood pressure going up and making my mom and bridemaids anxious while we were getting ready. Insert wedding day drama here and if there’s no serious cost to the issue, let it go.

3. Know when to not go with the flow. I was so focused on not being a crazy bride that I took zen to a new level, at least for this total Type A.  My hair stylist for the last four years cancelled 3 days before the wedding. My initial reaction was to agree immediately to an appointment with another stylist. It didn’t feel great, I was making a special trip to the salon to see my girl and now that zero concern about the finished deal was gone but hey, I wanted to be the cool, stress-free bride. Cue Ryan who immediately called BS (he went to her too for his haircuts…not anymore, obviously) and my amazing makeup artist who explained to me that not only was this wildly unprofessional but there was zero need to add stress to my wedding day and not be with my moms and best friends at the hotel. In the end, I got my hair done at the hotel with my favorite people, with zero worry and a ton of fun.  Whatever the situation is, if the cost of going with the flow has adverse effects on your day, even if it’s just prolonged worry, speak up and make a different decision.

3. Incorporate your real life. Yes, a wedding day can be one of the more extravagant events in one’s life but early on, we received some excellent advice: have your wedding invite your guests into your love story, have it reflect the life you share. The first time Ryan told me he loved me was before a Cubs game so when we found out that the Cubs were in town the day before the wedding, we jumped on getting our guests to the game. I buy flowers every week from Mariano’s. I know many people just view it as a grocery store but I love their flowers and how I feel when I am choosing them so I met with their florist…who hit it out of the park for us, created exactly what we wanted and for an incredible price. Our DJ, DJK, is someone I have done events with for work for years and who Ryan and I love running into when we are out. Not only did he kill it at our reception, getting every single guest up breaking a sweat dancing their faces off but I love that our friends and family got to meet him and we got to see him on such a fun day!

4. Speaking of going with vendors you love…go with vendors you love, however unexpected. I was taking a work call from Argo Tea in the Gold Coast when I heard “Radioactive” coming from a bright blue violin. I immediately asked her if she played weddings. I didn’t ask for her website or booking agent, I just talked to her, liked her and invited her to play “Ave Maria” as I walked down the aisle and whatever she wanted during our cocktail hour. She was so lovely that a few months later, I asked if she knew any jazz trios. I signed a contract with the trio she connected me to and I can truly say they made our reception with their insane talent and style. I know there are vendors you should go with, who are big in the wedding industry, and are probably great. And if that feels right, do it. And if you happen to meet someone who can contribute to your wedding who you love who isn’t a who’s who in the wedding industry but you love them…think about it. It could be that special, personal touch that makes your day feel even more like a labor of love.

5. Make a to-do list 10 days before the wedding. After that, you do not add a thing to the list. The week before the wedding, there were a few times when I thought I “needed” something else or just got a little silly questioning if what I was doing was “enough”. By making your final list 10 days before your wedding and sticking to it, you prevent falling prey to the enoughs and made-up needs and driving yourself unnecessarily crazy. Also- send that list to your best friend/mom/organized person in your life who shares your vision for the wedding. They’ll either tell you if you’re crazy (no, you do NOT need another set of personalized cocktail napkins) or if you’re missing something major.

6. Trust your gut: Early on in planning, we knew we wanted an intimate wedding that felt like an extra elegant and extra fun version of the dinner parties we love throwing at our home. For us, that meant keeping our guest list to immediate family and closest friends. For us, this was the right move and allowed us to be fully present with each person at our wedding and do some fun extra events to create a full Chicago experience. We loved the whole weekend, the whole planning process and it was pretty awesome to start our marriage without a single regret.  The same goes with the photographer I met with who wanted me to take a personality profile to be sure the right “vibration” was communicated through my wedding photos. I am sure he was as great as “they” said he was but my gut said no way so I left and now my family is so in love with the photographer we did choose that she may or may not have been invited to Thanksgiving.