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




Come and get it!

I have to admit, when I cook dinner and call to Josh, “DINNER’S READY,” I get totally deflated if he’s not there within a few minutes to enjoy it. Not that I’m cooking Food Network meals every night, or even cooking every night, but if anyone takes the time to make a meal – any meal – it’s only right that it be appreciated in its finest form, fresh and warm. Right? Otherwise it’s like a ribbon cutting with no attendees. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal, but I’m hooked on the idea of a dinner bell for our home to help signal the call to gather.

“Dinner Bell” by Stevan Dohanos, 1944

From the sound of it, you might think we live on a ranch and can’t hear each other hollering about supper. Nope. But we do live in a ranch house, so that’s close enough. I remember a cute little hand-held bell at our house growing up, but I’m leaning toward one of these wall-mounted ringers for some gravitas. Come and get it!!!

  1. Elegant Dinner Bell by U.S. Bells, $85
  2. Cast Iron White Rooster Dinner Bell by Guales Woodcrafts, $10.50
  3. Silver Dinner Bell by Red Sky Trader, $30.95
  4. Lab Dinner Bell by, (Cute for my dog-loving friends!) $69.99
  5. Vintage Black and White Dinner Bell from Good Vintage, $24.50
  6. Tractor Cast Iron Dinner Bell by The Shabby Shak, $35.99





I’m convinced the open space along one of our living room walls can only be filled by a bar cart. In fact, I believe the original owners of our 50s pad likely enjoyed their own bar cart regularly in just the space I have in mind. Whether vintage treasures or new beauties like those below, bar carts are such happy, welcoming and versatile little pieces of furniture.

My well-appointed beverage station will one day include glasses, cocktail napkins, garnish of sorts, a killer ice bucket, a smattering of liquors and maybe a bowl of lemons. I’ve also seen bar carts styled with accessories like books, plants and lamps – the possibilities are endless! Dear Santa, these are the bar carts on my radar:

  1. Mrs. Lilien Bar Cart by Society Social, $550
  2. Sedgewick Bar Cart by Society Social, $515
  3. Becket Bar Cart by Williams-Sonoma, $999
  4. Emory Bar Cart by Arteriors, $1,399
  5. Libations Bar Cart by Crate and Barrel,$599




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!




Tequila Flats

No, this post is not about a hot new Tex-Mex bar. It’s about portable, friendly footwear options to have on-hand after a long night of cutting a rug.

This past weekend at Jackie and Ryan’s still-trying-to-come-up-with-a-word-that-does-it-justice wedding, I thought I had it all planned out by bringing a pair of flat footwear in a separate bag for later. Inevitably, after an incredible time celebrating the beautiful couple – complete with tequila shots and Gangnam Style – I boarded the trolley home, sans flats. My second pair of kicks became a casualty of wedding night fun.

My feet are still paying the price for the high-heeled dance moves, but it was worth every minute. I do know that next time I’ll tuck some of these foldable flats into my handbag to help with dance-floor comfort and the walk home:

1. Tieks {A million different colors, and reviews say they are so comfy! Pricier at $165+}
2. Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats {~$10 and available at Walgreens and Target}
3. Fit in Clouds {$20-$25}
4. Footzy Folds {$55-$80}
5. City Slips {$34-$58}

I would love to hear about your personal favorite pair of “Tequila Flats!”




A Place to Rest Your Buns

End-of-summer sales mean great deals on outdoor entertaining essentials. Plastic deli baskets are among the items I’ve seen frequently marked at 50 and 70 percent off, and now’s a great time to pay less for what would normally be (in my opinion) overpriced plastic baskets.

I found these blue baskets heavily discounted at Jo-Ann Fabric. A few other locations you may want to explore include World Market or Bed, Bath and Beyond. You can always visit a restaurant supply site for deli baskets year-round, but bargain baskets are bound to be better.