May

21

2013


Two Years Married to My Best Friend

May 21, 2011 stands as the happiest day of my life. Better than bid day 2001 at the University of Florida. Two years ago, I married my best friend.

I told Josh (between tears) during our rehearsal dinner that he was the most interesting person I knew. That is really the best compliment I could pay someone with whom I will spend the rest of my life. Caring, smart, supportive, handsome, well-dressed, funny, anticipating my moments of hunger…all bonuses. But interesting is something harder to find.

Josh, I am so proud to be your wife. Marrying you is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m so glad you asked! I love our adventures, whether traveling or bee-bopping locally. And I love the moments when we are just at home on the couch with our little family…our pups.

I wanted so badly to remember every second of our wedding day and still vividly recall so many details and happy moments. Josh once told me, “I think Heaven will be us reliving our wedding day.” I have to agree. The sun was shining along the Indian River in beautiful Stuart, Fla., we were surrounded by the people we love most in the world, the drinks were flowing, the band was playing, and I’d just married my favorite person. It was the best day!

Our amazing photographer Esther Louise captured moments we’ll forever cherish. Here are a few {More details and photos from our wedding day in this Style Me Pretty post from 2011}. Happy anniversary, my JDA!

Mar

19

2013


Speakeasy Engagement Party

Geoffrey, a dapper father of two amazing kids, and Katherine, a brilliant and beautiful triathlete, found each other at just the right time in their lives, and I’ve loved watching their romance grow. G popped the question in the fall, setting their wedding-planning year into motion.

I was honored when Katherine asked me to be in her bridal party and was eager to start planning the first celebration alongside her local bridesmaids, Brandi, Brittany and Mandy. We enjoyed brainstorming, crafting and creating an engagement party for the adorable couple, and I was excited to host the evening at our place. We decided on a speakeasy theme with mood lighting, gilded boozy-bottle décor and 20s attire.



Our unique version of this Wedding Paper Divas invite helped set the theme into motion for a roaring engagement party. Guests RSVPed to our party-specific gmail address and google phone number (Great idea, Mandy!), where they could receive the speakeasy password, “manatee.” The password was selected for no reason other than the bride-to-be’s irrational fear of the gentle sea cow.


Liquid Leaf-painted jars and clear mason jars were sprinkled around the party and illuminated with a mixture of real and battery-operated tea light candles.

Beer and wine bottles from the hostesses’ homes, plus some collected from a local watering hole, were spray painted in silver and gold and placed in clusters with candles. Getting the labels off the bottles required a long soak in a soapy cooler + a Brillo pad.

Brittany’s pretty damask ribbon added a nice touch around a grouping of bottles and to a gorgeous feather arrangement (which I neglected to capture).



Guests could take their pick of flapper flair. We created complimentary hair do-dads using assorted feathers and hair clips from the craft store. A basket filled with 20s-era props was also nearby for those looking to ham it up. Chalkboard clips made easy labels and complimented the speakeasy theme. We relocated our kitchen chalkboard to the fireplace and added the couple’s names using chalk pens, mimicking the invitation font.

At the bar, a 20s drink was in order, so we did a little research and selected “the Bee’s Knees,” a gin-based drink. I’d say it was definitely more gin-based than juice-based. Lemons and fresh local honey made it a sweet signature beverage in addition to beer and wine options. The Pandora station played Jazz Age tunes until we got a little crazy with the iPods later in the evening.


At the appetizer table, we included a few of the bride’s favorites, such as bruschetta and of course the Junior League Feta Black Bean dip. The delicious strawberry cupcakes were homemade by bridesmaid Brittany – her striped cupcake liners and turquoise dessert stands were a pretty addition to the color palette.

On the patio, an overturned Jack Daniels half barrel (Home Depot) with a glass top (Bed, Bath & Beyond) created a rustic, speakeasy place to rest a beverage. The little chalkboard buckets were a Target dollar-bin find, and they looked super cute with the couple’s initials. Thankfully, the yard was in bloom, so bunches of camellias in buckets helped dress up the patio.


Guests kicked it up celebrating Katherine & Geoffrey. And most importantly, K & G looked like they had a blast. Happy engagement, you two! We look forward to your big day and every celebration along the way! We love you!

Mar

12

2013


The Toastmaster’s Companion: A Proper PA

When hosting, toasting or roasting, it’s not quite the same when no one can hear you. A public address system, or PA system, gives words that extra boost when the guest list goes from a gaggle to a herd. While in a previous career post of mine, our marketing department kept a set of amps and a microphone in supply to help event music and remarks travel the extra mile. I’m now in the market for my own mini PA system for parties, public relations professional needs and the karaoke potential.

Getting on the loud speaker is not necessary at every shindig. Hosts and hostesses should consider the size of the crowd and the appropriateness. Are remarks expected? Will it disrupt more than it will enhance the gathering? Wedding toasts are a different beast altogether and a topic for another day.

When there is an opportunity for a brief-yet-meaningful toast or welcome, a PA system is often a dandy addition, especially for outdoor events. I’m honing in on the options below, and my eyes have been peeled for these user-friendly features: Portable (preferably on wheels), simple / low-tech, sturdy, preferably with an iPod dock, and with both battery-charge and AC options. In the running:

  1. PylePro PWMA100 Rechargeable Portable PA System $71.49
  2. Alesis TransActive Mobile Portable PA System with iPod Dock $199
  3. Ion Audio iPA16 Block Rocker AM/FM PA System with iPod Dock $175.97
  4. DJ Tech iVisa 50 Light Wireless iPod PA Speaker $149.99 (a little too tour-guidey)
  5. Pyle PCMX240I Battery Powered Portable PA System with iPod Dock $182.71

Dec

17

2012


How to: Serve Wine at Parties

When preparing for get-togethers this holiday season, or any time of year, wine is a safe and expected element for the cocktail list. Refer to these tips in your party-planning process to avoid overlooking bar elements, and set up a smooth vino spread.

Purchase Prep
As a general rule, it’s better to have a little more on-hand than what you need for a party. Take a look at your guest list, and estimate the number of wine drinkers – your guess doesn’t have to be perfect! One bottle of wine fills about four to five glasses, and you can expect an average of three glasses per wine-drinker. After a little math, you’ll be in grape shape!

A Vino Variety
Offer guests options, including both red and white wine. I like to offer at least two whites (a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc) and one red (a Pinot Noir), and more varieties depending on the size of the party. Other popular reds include Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet.

Brands: When in doubt, ask your local wine retailer for recommendations based on the number of guests and your budget. Price doesn’t necessarily dictate best taste.

Cater to Guests
If you know a particular guest will expect her favorite Pinot Grigio, make it happen. If someone loves Prosseco and it’s her birthday, break out a bottle for the special lady!

Chill Out
Be sure white wines begin to chill at least 1-2 hours before guests arrive – make use of any room in the fridge for pre-chilling, rather than wasting ice early. Before guests arrive, place white wines in buckets or tubs piled high with ice.

For Openers
Open a red and white (or two) before guests arrive, so no one has to fuss too much with the opening process. Tools to have nearby: a foil cutter (to eliminate unsightly edges that cause dribbling) and a trusted, easy-to-use wine opener.

Free the Reds!
Once you uncork a red, let it breathe. Set the cork aside in case you need it later on for storage.

At Your Service
For those tending the bar, the general rule is to fill glasses halfway, since it allows guests to swirl and appreciate aromas. Personally, I like to pour a little more than halfway!

Proper Supplies
For a more formal event, have enough red and white wine glasses available for guests. Otherwise, be sure to have wine size-appropriate plastic cups. Cocktail napkins are also a must!

Wishing you safe and successful celebrations throughout this merry season!

Dec

11

2012


Crowd-pleasing Dip for the Holidays!

If you are fortunate enough to know a member of the Junior League of Tallahassee, you may have had the pleasure of trying the famed JLT Feta Black Bean Dip. It’s a treat!

This dip is a winner among crowds. It might be the apple cider vinegar, the sugar or maybe the shoe peg corn. Oh heck, it’s everything! I highly recommend adding this to your list of favorite party dips. Served with Fritos (definitely the sturdy “Scoops,” since you won’t want to miss a drop), this dip tends to disappear quickly. Thankfully, the recipe serves 30 handily, making it great for larger gatherings, including holiday entertaining.

Here’s your how-to, courtesy of the Junior League of Tallahassee and its A Thyme to Celebrate cookbook, available for purchase (see details below).

Feta Black Bean Dip:
Serves 30

Ingredients:
½ cup sugar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 (15-ounce) cans shoe peg corn, drained and rinsed
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese, crumbled

Whisk sugar, vinegar and oil in a large bowl. Add the black beans, corn, scallions, cilantro and cheese and mix well. Chill until serving time. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips (Fritos Scoops are recommended).

To find this and more tried and true recipes perfect for all of life’s celebrations, purchase A Thyme to Celebrate, Tallahassee’s official cookbook. $20 each, all cookbook proceeds go to the Junior League of Tallahassee. Contact me for details!

Oct

30

2012


Surprisingly Entertaining Tips from Joan Bever, The Breakers Palm Beach

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate as we approach the end of the year, and Joan Bever of The Breakers Palm Beach has some helpful tips for hosts and hostesses!

As director of food and beverage for catering and banquet operations at Florida’s legendary AAA Five Diamond resort, Joan Bever has one guiding philosophy: Impeccable personalized service, fueled by an intense passion for perfection.

She approaches every facet of event planning and execution in this way, leading more than 200 dedicated associates who flawlessly transform dreams into realities. Bever oversees the various departments that contribute to the effort, including catering sales; culinary services; stewarding; The Breakers’ own in-house décor company, The Design Studio; and audio-visual services, Palm Beach Staging & Production.

Bever has worked diligently to earn an extraordinary reputation for creative vision, collaborative execution and merciless attention to detail. Says Bever, “A wedding dinner for 50 or 500 is as elegant and delectable as a gourmet dinner for two.” Every detail becomes a coveted opportunity to surprise and delight guests.

To effectively engage a new generation of brides and grooms, Bever has tapped the Internet and social media with the re-launch of weddingsbythebreakers.com, a site she first conceived in 2007, to underscore the importance of modern-day wedding planning and communications. This online destination encourages interaction before and after special events, takes full advantage of social media by utilizing resources such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and engages the bridal community through the site’s own dedicated blog.

Bever has been part of the luxury hotel business since 1982, having held positions at the Boca Raton Resort & Club and The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, before joining The Breakers Palm Beach in 1992 as catering manager. Her favorite wedding was her daughter’s, which was hosted at The Breakers in the magnificent Circle Ballroom (Photographed below by Donny Newman.)

Oh My Goodness Gracious asked Joan a few questions. Here’s what she graciously shared!

What advice do you have for the budding host or hostess?
Joan Bever: There are really no rules when it comes to selecting a menu. We like to tell our clients to think of the dinner menu as if you were having friends over your home – you can’t make everyone happy with your menu, but with at least three sensational courses you know everyone will find something they like and enjoy a wonderful evening.

Another “must do” for special events is to incorporate an element of surprise. Ensure a “wow factor” with an interactive element – like a pizza station or a candy bar – or, add fun to your event with fireworks, sparklers or unique party favors.

Are there any dos / don’ts you’d like to share? Cardinal rules your staff is expected to follow?
Joan Bever: My favorite aspect of special event is the opportunity to be a part of something so special. We get to work closely with our clients to plan a memorable event and it’s always so wonderful to watch all your planning come to fruition. We’re in the business of making unforgettable memories, and you just cannot beat that experience – my cardinal rule is to never forget that.

My “do” for all hosts and hostess: Relax! Forget the worrying and leave all the planning to my team of professionals.

The Breakers Palm Beach – Photograph Courtesy of Lila Photo

What are some of the details (which may go unnoticed) that you provide to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience to guests?
Joan Bever: When choosing The Breakers Palm Beach for a celebration or destination wedding, guests can expect a spectacular venue, extraordinary cuisine and above all, very personalized service. With a multitude of amenities, guests can also expect to start enjoying the moment they arrive on property – our staff ensures they can leave all of their worries behind as every want or need can be found on property.

From the first meeting with one of our catering managers, to the menu tasting, through every aspect of the planning process and throughout the event weekend, our staff combines experience with sensitivity to ensure all of our clients’ dreams become reality and their guests enjoy an incredible experience.

Is there a Breakers staff motto / tip from your culture of excellence you’d be willing to share?
Joan Bever: The Breakers stands alone with unmatched quality and versatility in cuisine, presentation and service. Our working environment is characterized by teamwork and dedication, while consistently providing a high level of personalized, sincere and engaging service to all guests at all times.

As our president, Paul Leone says, “We believe that to achieve our goals, the most important element of our strategy is to attract, retain, and develop the best and brightest talent in the hospitality industry.” That extraordinary emphasis on our team clearly benefits our clients.

The Breakers Palm Beach – Photograph Courtesy of Lila Photo

Is there anything we’d be surprised to know?
Joan Bever: It’s really all the little details that can truly make a tremendous impact. You might be surprised to know the amount of people or departments involved in a special event (hundreds), or the amount of flowers used on a wedding “chuppah” (a traditional canopy used in the ceremony) or even the number of lights needed to illuminate a performance.

Is there a signature drink or recipe you’d be willing to share with us?
Joan Bever: Certainly! We have many fun and delicious recipes perfect for a signature cocktail. Here is a link to the recipe for our Flirtini Cocktail.

Thanks, Joan! Cheers!

Oct

16

2012


Home Turf Tailgate

Going into one of the biggest games of the football season, our tailgate deserved something fresh. I found myself at Home Depot on the Thursday before the game buying a ginormous strip of AstroTurf to create a unique table runner – the added turf was just the ticket for this tablescape.


I used a chalkboard we usually display in our kitchen (made using an old frame and some spray chalkboard paint) as a canvas for one of my favorite lines in the song “We Are the Boys of Old Florida.” The letters looked nice and bold using chalkboard pens.


Patterned craft paper went the distance to create not only the table’s flag banner but also some mini-flag cupcake topers. I found the “We are #1” toppers at Michael’s, and the mini SEC helmets (which come in a set of all SEC teams) were also a fun addition to the cupcake stand.

My approach to tailgating is no different from planning any other gathering. You must consider things like the guests attending, the number of guests, time of day and flow of the event. Knowing this would be one of the busiest games of the season and with a tailgating window around lunchtime, I opted for grab-n-go foods that didn’t require much fuss or prep for mingling guests.

On the menu:

  • Publix chicken fingers with a side of ranch dressing – manageable and delicious
  • Pepper jelly, cream cheese and Ritz crackers
  • Cucumber sandwiches made with white bread, cucumbers and chive/herbed cream cheese (Just smear a little cream cheese on one side of each slice of bread, add cucumber slices and you’re done!)
  • Seedless grapes
  • Orange-flavored cupcakes (box mix) with whipped frosting (I loved how the orange cake mix showed through the white cupcake liners.)

Added creature comforts such as mints and hand sanitizer help keep guests clean and minty fresh. I was inspired by She’s Kinda Crafty to decorate the pump dispenser – she outdid mine for sure!

We were excited to again use our customized tailgate cups and pom-pom drink stirrers, serving Bloody Marys and sweet tea vodka-lemonades to our family and friends.




Last but not least, my husband’s tailgate contribution may have outshined the whole spread. He brought and chilled the largest bottle of beer I have ever seen, nine liters of St. Feuillien Triple. As someone once said, “Win or lose, we’re here for the booze!” …and the football, friendship and fun! Have a great time tailgating this weekend, wherever you may be!

More tailgate tips:
Tailgate Tune-up
No Celebration Penalties Here!

Oct

08

2012


Ice Ice Baby

There are a couple of party supply essentials that have pretty low price tags but leave a major impact when you run out. The first is bathroom tissue – I will leave it at that. The second is ice.

It is always better to have more ice than you need. The reason is simple. Ice melts. When ice melts, drinks don’t taste as great, buckets don’t look as fresh and parties get soggy.

My husband is usually in charge of purchasing ice before gatherings. Every time, I tell Josh, “Lots and lots and lots of ice please! Like, too much ice. If you think it’s too much ice, still get more.” He never lets me down.

Entertaining tips:

  • Pile drink bins high with ice. By the time guests arrive, it will have melted a little – the extra ice will help maintain the fresh factor.
  • Be sure drinks are chilled in advance. When beverages will be served in bottles or cans, remember to ice drinks down before guests arrive, or refrigerate them until they’re ready to be popped into iced drink bins. Plopping drinks on ice just before guests arrive makes for lackluster beverages.

Relative to its price, extra ice is worth the investment, so much so that we’re hunting for the perfect ice maker for our home. A Scotsman machine, the kind that makes Sonic ice or “nugget ice,” would be amazing. (Sonic ice is so popular it has its own facebook following.) Ice Ice Baby!