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!

Jan

14

2013


Just 229 Days until College Football!

I miss college football already. It seems like it ran by faster than Percy Harvin. The tailgates, the reunions, the fall mornings, the gameday attire, the roar of the stadium… Josh and I spent many of those twelve Saturdays in Gainesville, Florida, setting up our Gator-home-turf tailgates in a lot (quite possibly the happiest place on Earth) filled with other weekend warrior friends. I am already looking forward to next year.

The tailgate tune-ups and pepper jelly research paid off this past season. Our friend Ethan was probably half serious when he said he’d start timing my tailgate setups from arrival until the last detail was placed to see how I was improving. We had a blast in 2012 and were left with lots of fun memories. The game my parents attended was the highlight for me – it doesn’t get much better.

I enjoyed blogging about some of our tailgates and wanted to relive them just a bit with a recap to tide me over and serve as a scrapbook when getting ready for next year’s details and decor. I mean, I only have 7 months and 17 days to start planning! I hope you find some inspiration here as well. Here’s our 2012 tailgate season in review (links to more details and tips below):

UF v. Bowling Green: Bandanas & Flamingo Fans

UF v. LSU: The AstroTurf Experiment

UF v. South Carolina: Orange and Blue Jeans

UF v. Missouri: Katherine’s Birthday Brunch

UF v. FSU (away, Tallahassee): Breakfast & Bloody Mary Bar

UF v. FSU (away, Tallahassee): Breakfast & Bloody Mary Bar

…and a few more 2012 snippets:

Sprinkles! Sprinkles! Sprinkles!

Baby’s breath at a tailgate? Sure!

ESPN College Gameday Bus Stalking

Steve and Josh with Coach Corso

Natalie in her old-ball-coach jersey, watching Gameday shenanigans at the Peters’ tailgate

Ethan approved of the Blueberry Bourbon recipe, which I nicknamed the “Orange and Blueberry.”

Cheers! Until next season!

For more tailgate ideas and tips, also see:

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

23

2012


Bring the outside in!

A few yard clippings can liven up a room. Take a stroll – maybe with some wine in a tumbler – and you’ll find a variety of arrangement-worthy plants at your scissor-tips. It may be fall, but for many, especially those in the South, there are still plenty of opportunities to bring some green in from the garden and create a fresh centerpiece or room accent.

When landscaping, it is helpful to plan ahead, selecting things you can use for arrangements down the road. For my mom, in Stuart, Fla., she makes good use of Philodendrons, Crotons, Ginger, Hibiscus, Bird of Paradise, Ferns and Sea Grapes. Over the years, she’s built her very own botanical garden. Oh, how I wish I had her green thumb.

Up in Tallahassee, I can keep a Croton or two alive, but my favorite yard clippings are the gorgeous and low-maintenance Camellias I lucked into when we bought the house. Some of the early bloomers are starting to emerge locally, and I know we’ll be seeing some gorgeous pinks and whites over the next few months.

Natural Arrangement Tips from Mom:

  • Asymmetry is a good thing. Make your clipping arrangements look like they’re from nature.
  • Arrange things in odd numbers. For example: three accent leaves…
  • Try not to have too many leaves in the water of your vase. They will decompose – trim off any leaves touching the water.
  • When clipping anything from the yard, beware of unwanted guests. Check leaves and flowers for bugs.

Mom taught me a little trick for prolonging the life of a Bird of Paradise flower. The one we trimmed was on its last legs. She first trimmed off the dead bits toward the back then gently pulled the pouch apart to pull out a new fan.

Another great way to arrange yard clippings is by using a flower frog! They are helpful for unruly arrangements. Learn how to use a flower frog from Martha Stewart, and find suggestions on how to make your own frog.

I made a flower frog using crisscrossed Scotch tape over buckets for these Camellia arrangements in Tallahassee last year. Happy strolling, sipping and snipping!

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!

Sep

11

2012


No Celebration Penalties Here!

Tailgate season is in full swing, and inspiration to spruce up your spread can be found just about anywhere…no matter what your team colors.


During a recent tailgate, a few yards of burlap plus some orange and blue bandanas made for a casual-yet-colorful table dressing. The bandanas ended up being quite versatile, and at just 99 cents each at Hobby Lobby, quite a deal. A couple of clothespins, and presto!

I had to improvise on the location of my flamingo friends. They wouldn’t stand in the gravel but showed perfect posture perched inside the drink bucket.



Daytime cocktails included Bloody Marys, sweet tea vodka with lemonade, and gin and tonic. To hold a smattering of garnish options, including pom-pom drink stirrers, I used some sturdy orange and blue hand-blown glasses.

Customized cups – No celebration penalties here! – were a hit with our tailgate visitors. Visit the Oh My Goodness Goodies section for a coupon code on your own cup orders, plus some fun tailgate tagline ideas!



Extra bandanas helped decorate the food spread, which included the winning pepper jelly-cream cheese-and-cracker combo, sugar cookies, and salmon and herbed cheese pinwheels made from a Williams-Sonoma recipe.


Tailgate tips: A pop-up cooler lined with a trash bag makes a great collapsible, easy-store trash bin for tailgates. Add a paper towel holder to your tabletop for when a cocktail napkin will not do.

Aug

30

2012


The Perfect Pepper Jelly: A Heated Competition

One of my favorite snacks, especially during tailgate season, is pepper jelly with cream cheese and Ritz crackers. It’s a quickly prepped and easily addicting treat with a perfect balance of spicy-sweetness and creamy-crunchiness. There are quite a few delicious pepper jelly options out there, so I recruited a pepper jelly panel to help select the fan-favorite prior to football season.

The Contenders:

  1. Redfearn Pepper JellyProduct of Dixie, GA | Purchased at Tomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
  2. Tomato Land Hot Pepper JellyTomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
  3. Braswell’s Savory Sweet Heat Hot Jalapeno JellyGrocery Store
  4. Braswell’s Select Red Pepper Jelly World Market
  5. Lyman Walker Groves Hot Pepper JellyRoadside Store, Monticello, FL
  6. Palmalito Jalapeno Pepper Jelly Grocery Store

After assembling highly experienced tailgate experts through a Paperless Post invitation, I conducted a semi-scientific study. Each pepper jelly was rated by the panelists with a score between 1 and 10, 1 being less enjoyable and 10 being pepper jelly perfection (multiple jellies could receive the same score).

The table numbers from our wedding (Save yours! They come in handy!) made great jelly identifiers – hand-painted numbers were inserted into the ever-versatile Tolsby frames from IKEA. Some burlap fabric laid over a hat box gave the tablescape some height and created sort of a rustic-veggie-stand texture. Some quick paper dots in peppery colors added to the fun.

Now, before you get all riled up because your favorite pepper jelly was not included, I will say this may just be the preliminary round. If you have a suggested, must-try pepper jelly, please send in your suggestions!

So. Are you ready to learn which jelly reigned supreme? I know the suspense is killing the panelists in particular. You will just have to check back soon to find the winner posted in the Food & Beverage section!

Aug

24

2012


Tailgate Tune-up

We are merely days away from tailgate…excuse me…football season, and as anyone training for a team sport would do, I’m warming up.

I am sure many of you can relate to the excitement felt this time of year, whether you are thousands of miles away or just minutes from your home team’s turf. For my husband and me, our pilgrimage is to Gainesville, Florida, where every home-game Saturday is a little slice of Heaven: old friends, bourbon, Chick-fil-A nuggets, the roar from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and the Florida Gators…

Where was I? So, it’s time for a little tailgate tune-up. Dusting off some old favorites, I’ve also added some new equipment this year, including this orange and blue Flamingo couple (yet-to-be named). You can find these little guys in a variety of team colors at www.flamingofans.com.

Embracing the whole “Gators wear jean shorts” notion, I played around with denim fabric atop burlap. No sew – just a little folding here and there, since the frayed edges kind of add to the ‘Merica-chic look.

Another important addition to the tailgate toolbox this year: a food screen (World Market or Bed, Bath & Beyond), since bugs love pepper jelly almost as much as I do. This little contraption takes up relatively no space when folded, and I am sure it will come in handy when needed.

For this next tablescape trial, I was a little open-minded, going for the glitter-gator-hide denim (thank you, mom, for insisting it would be cute), and was pleasantly surprised by how well the fabric transformed into a table runner – also no sew. Finally, I added some “shinier” serving pieces to bring out the silver in the fabric.

More tips and ideas to come. Good luck to everyone this tailgate season!