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

13

2012


‘Tis the Season to be Thankful!

Guest post by Oh My Goodness Gracious friend Sarah Marie Powell!

This is an important post, folks! You’ll thank me in the end! We are now fully submerged in the most beautiful of seasons. If you’re a procrastinator (like me), the beauty may be lost on you at this point, but it will show itself soon enough! During this hectic time of decorating, baking, caroling, gifting, and getting, it’s important to remember how blessed we all are to have these “first world problems.” It’s important to say thanks.

Way back when, handwritten thank-you notes were borderline required upon receiving a gift. Certainly, they were expected. Nowadays, our selfish generation (okay, my selfish generation) has completely forgotten how cherished these simple notes can be. This holiday season, I charge you to take the time to write a note or two. I promise it isn’t so hard to do. To make the painstaking process easier, I’ve written a formula. Feel free to use and share it. I’m sure I’ll be famous for it one day….

Make it special…

  • If someone gives you stationery as a gift, write your note on a piece of it.
  • Include a photo, if appropriate. Example: My boyfriend’s aunt and uncle always let the two of us use their home as a hotel when we travel to Tampa. When I send their note, I like to include pictures of our trip.
  • Fit your stationery to the gift received. Example: If someone gave you tickets to an athletic event, use team-specific notes!

There are also situations that probably don’t require a full thank-you note but still beg for some sort of thanks. Find creative ways to say thank you, like (but not limited to!) these:

  • Scenario 1:A co-worker surprised you this morning with a treat from Starbucks.
    • When you finish the drink, write a quick note on the cardboard sleeve, and put it on his/her desk!
  • Scenario 2: A friend/family member sends you a Christmas/holiday card
    • Shoot them an email, IM them, tweet about it, or post a note on their Facebook wall!
  • Scenario 3: A friend whisks you away from your overflowing to-do list for drinks/dinner.
    • Tweet, Instagram, or “mupload” a photo to Facebook, publicly proclaiming how thankful you are for him/her!

Finally, I can’t do an OMGG blog post without referencing my beloved Emily Post. Here are some thank-you tips from the 18th edition of Etiquette:

Oh My Goodness Goodies: Superb Stationery Sources

  • Kate Spade: Her “All Occasion” note set (available via Papyrus) is a great staple to ensure you’re never at a loss for words.
  • Traylor Papers is a treasure for personalization addicts. Be sure to check out the Kids section for fantastic fill-in-the-blank options!
  • Snapfish is a one-stop-shop for incorporating photos into your stationery library. This extra step of personalization is a great addition to notes sent from the entire family!
  • May Designs is my new favorite. My dear friends, Helen and Charlie, recently surprised me with a pack of notes, and I simply can’t get enough!
  • Be sure to check out local paper/gift shops for fun ideas, too!

~SMP

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!

Aug

10

2012


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.