Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
You are going to love this punch--one taste, and you'll never search for another punch recipe ever again.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
So if you ever need a gift for parents-to-be, I highly recommend a fully stocked diaper caddy. That, and food. And sleep. And if you find a way to gift wrap that, please let me know!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
These three things are largely dependent on the type of event you're hosting. Planning a wedding? Then favors, photographers, music and more are probably necessary. Planning a casual get-together for the Homeowners Association? Not so much.
Activities: Most parties simply involve adults socializing with one another. That's fine. No need to complicate things by insisting they do something. However, I would urge you to think of any kids who might attend. With large groups of kids, they tend to create their own fun. If there are only a few kids attending, or some quiet kids are in the larger group, you might consider providing some kind of games or crafts for them. Set up a crafting corner with an easy project (put all pieces in individual baggies) or put out some board games for older kids. If you have the room, you might even put in a kid-friendly video and provide some popcorn and juice boxes. In the event of a very formal affair (such as a wedding), you might hire a babysitter to supervise the children.
Activities for bridal showers and baby showers are obvious...play some games and watch the guest/s of honor open gifts. Later in the year, I'll post my ideas for fun shower themes and games. In the meantime, if you need ideas, email me. I have plenty!
Favors: Again, for casual parties, favors are not necessary. Unless you are sending home leftovers with guests, in which case make sure you have plenty of containers before hand. For special occasions, such as weddings, showers and kids' birthday parties, favors are often given. The Martha Initiative's advice for favors is the same for the rest of the party elements: don't break the bank. Something small and thoughtful is a lot better than large and clunky. Personally, I like edible favors. After all, do you really want to be responsible for sending people home with a knick-knack that they will only collect dust? A useful knick-knack, fine. A plastic baby bootie with a ribbon on it? Not so much.
Extras: Things like photographers, music, videographer, DJ and more are vendors usually reserved for weddings, anniversary parties, bar/bat mitzvahs and other fancy occasions. Hire someone that is reputable, who gives/shows you samples of their work, provides references (check the references!), gives you a contract that clearly outlines their services and deliverables and is a pleasure to work with. If any vendor leaves you with doubts or second thoughts, then continue your search. Your money, and the time you are spending to plan the event, is too important to squander on poor service or product.
There are a few occasions out of the norm when it would be a great idea to hire a photographer. A milestone birthday: hire a photographer (or persuade a friend who's handy with a camera) to take pictures of the action, so you can focus on the guests. Family reunion: this is an ideal time to have a photographer come out for formal and candid shots. A professional can catch the action and set up wonderful family portraits.
For this weekend, we are keeping things very low-key. This is by DH's request, not by my planning. For example, I wanted to have a DH Trivia Contest, complete with prizes, but DH squashed that idea real quick. We won't have favors, although I'm sure I'll be sending food home with whoever is there last. And there's no need to hire anyone, but we'll have music on and I'll be armed with a camera.
Starting next Tuesday...Party Planning 102! Or, the How It All Came Together: A rundown of my party preparation, recipes and a ton of pictures.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Guest List: This is a no brainer. Mostly. Invite whomever you and the guest/s of honor want to invite as long as the number jives with your budget and the amount of people the location can hold. Keep in mind that for any event, approximately 20% of the invitees will not attend. With that in mind, it is always better to invite more people (the more the merrier) than less. If the guest count has a large impact on your budget and other plans, then it is both wise and appropriate to request an RSVP. Give invitees a phone number and email address to respond to, and give them a deadline by which to respond. If your event is at a location where you need an accurate head count for meals, then feel free to call guests who have not responded at your deadline to ask for a response. I don’t know Miss Manners’ opinion on this, but when your money is involved, I recommend calling people to find out if they plan to attend.
Invitations: Every event requires an invitation, and the type of invitation is determined largely by the occasion and the formality of the event. For example, if the host has determined that the 40th wedding anniversary party is a formal occasion held at a restaurant, then it stands to reason that formal invitations will be used. If you are having a simple cookout with friends, a phone call or email will suffice. Many people use the Evite service—simply choose your e-invitation design, type in the details and email it to your guests. The Evite web site keeps track of who has responded and can send out reminders as the event date approaches. For extremely formal events, such as weddings and anniversary parties, send invitations out six weeks in advance. For other formal and semi-formal events, you’ll need to give people four weeks’ notice. Anything less than that and you run the risk of people having other plans.
Above is a Halloween party invitation from Martha Stewart. Not that she sent me one. But isn't it festive? You can tell that her Halloween party is going to be awesome just by the invitation. Maybe Martha will have room on her guest list for me this year. What do you say, Martha? Anyways, you can find directions to make the invitation here.
These days, there are a wide range of invitations. It’s the opinion of The Martha Initiative that you put time and effort into your invitations, as they set the tone for the event weeks in advance. Get creative! Write a poem, include a funny picture, highlight some event activities, whatever. Let your guests know that you want them to attend, and that they’ll have a great time when they do. But don’t break the bank on your invitations. Printing out the invite on fancy stationary bought on the cheap at Factory Card and Party Outlet is fine—it’s what you write on the invitation that counts!
Menu: The choice of food and beverages is reflected largely by the wants of the host and guest/s of honor, and the style of the event. Just about anything is acceptable as long as it fits with the mood and occasion. Sloppy joes or ribs at a formal event—not such a good idea with everyone in their Sunday best. But for a backyard bbq or summer birthday bash? Perfect!
It’s better to go with one or two big items, several sides and a few desserts rather than cook everything under the sun. It’s better to do a few dishes really well, rather than make many dishes that are so-so. And when people ask what they can bring, unless you are dead-set on being the only cook, let them bring something. Suggest an appetizer, dessert or side dish. If they have a specialty that you really like, request that. It will flatter your guest, make them more involved in the event, and give you one less thing to do. Finally, if someone really wants to contribute but has no cooking skills whatsoever, you can always suggest that they bring a drink to share.
For Dear Hubby's party, the guest list was simple: friends and family. We sent an evite invitation, and the menu is basically everything that DH likes...so expect lots of cheese/crackers, jello jigglers, chocolate cake with white buttercream frosting, and lots of pizza. Good times!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Topics to discuss:
Occasion and Event Style (covered in yesterday's post)
Any extras: such as a photographer/videographer, entertainment, music, etc.
After you’ve announced the occasion and determined the event style (relaxed, formal, etc.), it’s time to start the hardcore party planning.
Budget: Every event needs to have a budget. Even if you are hosting a potluck at your home and everyone is bringing a dish to share and even their own tableware, a $5.00 budget may be all you need, and that covers the cost of the dish you are preparing. Choose an amount that you are comfortable spending on an event, and aim to spend 15% less. That 15% cushion will come in handy as you get closer to the event date: more guests, additional favors, more food and drink, etc.
For larger events, you’ll need a larger budget. Keep in mind, though, that there is no occasion so grand that it calls for breaking the bank. Skipping the movies a few times in the course of a month to reallocate that money to your party budget is acceptable. Living off Ramen and Kool-Aid for eight weeks so that you can scrape enough together to host a party and still pay rent is not. You can have nearly any kind of party on any kind of budget—it just takes thought, planning and prioritizing where you want that money to go.
Most formal event budgets follow these general guidelines:
Food and Drink = 65%
Invitations = 5% (this number includes postage)
Favors = 10%
Decorations = 5%
Extras (photographer, music, etc.) = 15%
Obviously, these numbers change according to the needs of your event. If you don’t need to hire a photographer, or favors aren’t necessary, then clearly that money can be reallocated to something else.
Location: this is largely determined by the type of party you are having. And any place for any kind of party is certainly doable—just be sure that you have plenty of room for the number of guests you are expecting, that the space is easily accessible for all of your guests, and that there are plenty of restrooms available. If you have a party with many elderly guests, a bathroom on the second floor just isn’t going to work—the stairs are an issue. Likewise, a baby shower honoring 4 mothers-to-be calls for more than one restroom in close proximity to the guests of honor.
For more formal events with a large number of guests, you might consider having the party at an outside location (ie: reception hall, church basement, restaurant). In the event of large bridal/baby showers, this is the way to go.
Just think of the amount of time and energy it would take to host a bridal shower for 40 people—cleaning your house, making the food, preparing the favors, decorating the house, cleaning up after the party…at that point, it may be worth your time and sanity to simply have the event at a restaurant and let them worry about the food and clean-up. You might even save money (and time and energy) in the long run, and you’ll certainly have a better time visiting with your guests. Remember: happy host = happy guests.
Date/Time: the foremost consideration for picking a date and time for your party is what is convenient for you and your guest/s of honor. Then, think of the date/time that would most work for your guests. If your guests have full-time jobs and work all week, a weeknight party might not be the way to go. Conversely, if your party is during a busy time of year (holidays, graduations, etc.), a weeknight party could be an option as most guests will have their weekends already booked. Also, think of how far your guests will travel for your party. If it’s a gathering of neighbors and they’re within walking distance, the date and time can be more flexible. If many of your guests have to drive a long distance for your get-together, it’s best to have it on a weekend day when they can drive to/from at a safe pace.
For hubby’s party this weekend, we went with the open house style. It’s relaxed, it’s informal, and it allows us to spend time with our guests. The budget for this event covers food, drinks and tableware. The date was a no-brainer: we’re having the party on his actual birthday. As for the time, it is an open house, but we do have a set start and end time. This is not to say that people MUST show up at that start time, or that they MUST leave at the end time, but it lets people know that we really aren’t ready for them until a certain time (I guarantee you that at our house, we are cleaning and running around up until the second that doorbell rings!), and that at the end, we will take a small break from the festivities to tuck our little guy into bed. Also, it lets them know that they shouldn't be surprised if we return from said bedtime routine with our own comfy pants on. So, to our guests, bring your own comfy pants--we'll be changing into them at promptly 8:10pm.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The Martha Initiative’s Party Planning 101
When planning a party of any kind, whether it is a casual gathering of neighbors for a summer cookout or your parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, the same process is used each time. The party planner must consider:
Occasion and Event Style
Any extras: such as a photographer/videographer, entertainment, music, etc.
In the coming days, I’ll cover the list of party planning topics. Parties are on my brain now, since I am hosting a birthday party for my wonderful husband this weekend. Woohoo!
Before making any decisions about party plans, the host must do some deep thinking about the following:
What type of party do the guests of honor want? What type of party does the host want? And what can the guest/s of honor and the host reasonably handle?
Here’s what I mean: you may want to plan a big blowout bash on a riverboat for your parent’s 40th anniversary, but if your dad gets seasick and your mom is easily fatigued, that’s just not the way to go. Likewise, grandparents may insist that you have an enormous party for Junior’s first birthday that lasts several hours has a guest list of 60+ family and friends, but that’s not feasible when Junior is still an easily-overwhelmed baby who does not need sugar and does need regular naps. And a cranky baby equals a cranky mommy equals a cranky daddy equals unhappy guests. Always, before any plans are made, any invitations sent, any decorations bought, the host must consider what they want and what the guests of honor want.
For my husband’s party this weekend, we’re going for an informal and relaxed gathering. It will be open house style, so friends and family can drop by throughout the day. Hubby can be relaxed and visit with everyone, I am as relaxed as any hostess can be, and our little guy doesn’t get too overwhelmed with the festivities. After all, if we are enjoying the party, it stands to reason that our guests will, too.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss how to determine the budget, location and date/time for your party. Or, par-tay, if you that’s how you roll.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
These weights are finally justifying the space they use in this house. Actually, for some exercises in the video, I could move up to heavier weights...maybe a whole 5 pounds! My next weigh- and measure-in will be at the 30 day mark on March 2. Stay tuned!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Behold: last week's trip to Jewel.
The total was $32.95 for all this, with a savings of $39.69. I saved more than I spent--nice! Highlights include 12 Healthy Choice entrees for $10.00, and clearanced Swiss Miss. The flavor is chocolate with added caffeine--as much as a cup of coffee! Because that's totally what I need right now: more caffeine! The most expensive things I bought were the boxes of cookies: they averaged out to $1.19 each.
Ignore the mini-pyramid of Hamburger Helper. We don't eat that in my House of Martha. Clearly, it must be for someone else. I put it in my pantry for safekeeping.
Today's trip to Dominick's was similar. I spent $42.10 with a savings of $59.25.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
As you can see, Plant was completely rootbound and suffering in the tiny pot. I bought Plant a huge pot and 2 bags of organic potting soil, and got to work.
Plant is enjoying the new pot. I estimate it to be 3x larger than old pot. This is much like us in our new house. It's amazing how wonderful room to stretch can feel, especially after being cramped up in a teeny tiny house for so long. But I digress.
You'll notice that the new pot is on a rolling stand, should Plant decide to roam the world or simply reside somewhere other than the foyer. For right now, though, Plant is content to welcome guests into our home, and patiently waits for Martha Stewart to walk in the door.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Two children's books, a plastic magazine file, a crab cookie cutter (brand new) and a southwestern theme cookie cutter set (howling coyote, large cactus and what I hope to goodness is a chili pepper): the total was $6.61.
Our second stop was the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Montgomery.
I got a nice decorative box (for the dog's toys), an orange GAP hoodie for me, Carter pajamas and Chicago Bears outfit for the little guy, and 4 jello jigglers molds for $12.52.
What a terrific shopping day! I got some great items at a great price and I spent an enjoyable day with my mom and sister. Resale shopping...it's a good thing! To find a Goodwill store near you, click here. To find a Salvation Army store near you, click here.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
1. Upload a picture. CHECK
2. Update the profile. CHECK
3. Write witty post #1. CHECK
4. Write witty post #2. CHECK
5. Subscribe to some blogs I like. CHECK
6. Review blog and consider stylistic changes. CHECK
7. Look into this Google Adwords business, so I can make millions of dollars and live a wonderfully fabulous and ordered life and have a staff of 40 people to carry out my orders/creative ideas, just like Martha Stewart. CHECK
8. Continue with the witty posts. CHECK
While the wittiness of each post is up for debate, I have blogged faithfully for 36 consecutive days. My to-do list is complete. CHECK!
Regarding #7: I had thought about putting that wacky Google Ads feature on my blog, but decided against it. It's not the Martha thing to do--she just doesn't endorse anyone, right? I had no idea what ads they might feature, nor do I want just any old ad on my site. So, I went out in search of advertisements from companies and products I use and like--you can see those ads in the right-hand sidebar and at the bottom of the page.
Vistaprint, Betty Crocker and Coupons.com are all reputable companies. I use/buy their products, and I am comfortable recommending them to anyone. After all, how could I enjoy the 40 assistants I plan to hire with all that ad revenue if I were recommending crappy products? I couldn't fully enjoy a life of luxury that way, and that's how you know I'll only include ads on my blog for products I use myself. It's the Martha way, right? Actually, she makes nearly everything she buys, but I digress...
And a big thanks to all of you readers--all 10 of you! ;) I really enjoy blogging, and I appreciate everyone's encouragement as I continue on my quest for domestic diva-dom. Diva-ness? Diva-ocity? Diva-tude? Diva out! Happy Friday!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The photo is of Little Martha and Big Martha. View more of Martha's scrapbook here.
I don't have a multimedia empire, let alone my own show, but I do have my own Big Martha. My mom is my original Martha Stewart. From decorating to shopping to entertaining, my mom has been my inspiration for years, and a continual launching pad for all of my aspirations.
I look back in amazement at my childhood birthday parties--my mom has mad entertaining skillz. She always went out of her way to decorate the cake, decorate the house, plan games (with prizes!) and make sure that everyone was included. While the mere thought of hosting 32 screaming 2nd-grade girls for a sleepover might cause many parents to pull out their hair, my mom did it with enthusiasm and style. And for those who might wonder, those 31 guests were not my idea. My mom thought it would be unfair to leave any of the girls out from the two second-grade classrooms in my small elementary school, so she invited ALL OF THEM!
I could go on and on about my Big Martha's can-do attitude, her natural leadership skills and her amazing generosity--she gives constantly of her time and talents to anyone in need--but I'll stop before I say something really sappy and then we're both crying over our computers at work, embarrassing ourselves in front of our coworkers and causing the keyboards to short circuit. We just hate that, don't we, Mom?
So here's to my own Big Martha (just 'Marty' for all who know her please, lest 'Big Martha' catch on as a nickname and I get in major trouble). Thanks for all the inspiration over the years, and for the pushing I sometimes need to follow my own aspirations.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The only changes I made from the recipe was to leave out the sugar and club soda, and add a full jar (8oz.) of maraschino cherries. Be warned: this must sit overnight to allow all the flavors to mix, so be sure to make it the day before you plan to drink it.
The end result is delicious! And potent, so be sure to have designated drivers for all who imbibe. Of course, Martha says that if you are serving alcoholic drinks at your parties, you must stop serving them an hour before your party is scheduled to end, and to have the names and numbers of area cab companies on hand for guests who shouldn't drive themselves home.
That Martha, she thinks of everything!
I say that you should serve this only to those people who you don't mind having crash on your couch, floor, recliner, front bushes, etc. Let them crash at your place overnight, and then they're there to help you clean up from your awesome party the next day. They'll be hungover, sure...but a hungover cleaning crew is still a cleaning crew! Enjoy!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Dry Idea deoderant $5.99
Revlon concealer $9.99
Zucol cold relief $7.99
Wags aspirin $0.99
After coupons, the total was $23.96. After a $5.00 wags coupon and $9.12 on a gift card, I owed $9.84. I'll get $22.51 in Wags rebates, and I received $5 Register Rewards for buying the deoderant. Not bad!
The long and short of this trip was that I spent 8 EBs, $0.57 on a gift card and $0.19 out of pocket, and I walked out with $14.48 in EBs. With coupons, the candy was free and the conditioners were only $0.05 each.
This summer, I'll be teaching a community education class on Savvy Shopping at Waubonsee Community College (provided enough people sign up, of course). I'm going to use the deals above to show folks that with a little planning and coupons, it is possible to get many health and beauty items for free, or next to free. Hooray for Wags and CVS!