Monday, December 13, 2010

The Efficient Hostess

I may be efficient but recently I have been neglectful. Of you. And of this blog. I am sorry.

It's hard to believe Christmas is literally around the corner. We head home to Colorado this Saturday and as I pack the boys' things, I can't help but wonder where did 2010 disappear to? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or what have you, December is a busy and hectic time for all.

This last weekend was a grand slam hit of events including but not limited to: birthday party, home improvements, cooking, hosting a baby shower, Christmas party, and a multitude of errands. What I want to touch on this morning is how to make being a hostess a snap for any event.

Let me lay the ground rules of true efficiency for you:

1. Planning
2. Time Management
3. Smart Choices (Just like I tell me five year old to make)

My mother is always telling me, "Make it easy on yourself" and for this baby shower this past weekend that's exactly what I did! Normally, I would spend countless hours creating from scratch every detail from food to decor. Knowing the weekend that lay ahead, I tried to optimize my time and the shower experience for everyone. My menu was simple since the shower was at one o'clock:

- Cinnamon Cider
- Cranberry Fizz Punch
- veggie tray with spinach dip (Sam's club items secretly arranged on one of my fab serving dishes)
- stuffed mushrooms (super easy and always a hit!)
3 cartons large whole mushrooms
3 1lb packages sausage (I used chicken sausage this time)
1 tub grated Parmesan
De-stem, wash, and dry mushrooms. Stuff with sausage. Place on foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
- spanikopita (Sam's baby and since I have made these before I knew that wasn't happening this weekend)
- brie wheel with blueberry preserves (amended menu item, brie en croute was planned but had phyllo dough issues)
- hummus and pita chips (you guessed it, Sam's)
- white on white cupcakes with butter cream frosting decorated with pearlized pink sprinkles by the best husband ever. (this will blow your mind... 30 cupcakes for $13 at Sam's)

So there you have it. Throw a white table cloth down, some coordinating colored basket filler- the krinkly paper strips-, thank you notes for guests to write their name on address on for the guest of honor in a silver platter, and a homemade cupcake tower also constructed by the best husband ever. Don't forget the balloons, they make any occasion more fun!

My point is ladies, you can make this happen. There was a time, not so very long ago, where I would have mentally berated myself for purchasing all of those items rather than making them. But I have to tell you, not anymore. There is a time for making it easy and December is that time! My family did not have to suffer with pre-shower Mom and the friend I was honoring with the shower seemed to truly enjoy it! What more could you ask for? So, with the race to January 1st in full swing, do yourself a favor and be smart with your time and your choices. Holidays are for celebrating so let's get on with that part, shall we?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tiny Prints

It's a big, big internet ordering world out there folks. And with a multitude of fine paper companies making their debuts, I have to take a moment and recognize a true gem. WWW.TINYPRINTS.COM is not only the purveyor of lovely holiday cards and shower invitations, but also a unique pioneer in the art of divine customer service and attention

I have ordered a number of items from Tiny Prints but most recently our Christmas card. Their website is darling, easy to use, and the finished product makes you feel like Martha's sister, only younger, cooler, and without the felony. I had planned on mentioning them to you with all of the holiday shopping you have yet to do (no, not you), but yesterdays happenings made me so compelled to do it, I am up at 1am.

Yesterday I received an email from Tiny Prints Co-Founder, Ed Han. Don't be too impressed, it was a mass email thanking everyone, but what caught my eye was Mr Han including his personal email address and asking his customers to contact him directly with anything at all! And you wouldn't expect any less of me than to do just that! I sent him a message thanking him and his team and making sure he knew how PLEASED I was with them. (*We are all quick to complain, but how often have you called the 1-800 number or asked for a manager to COMPLIMENT?) Most impressive of all was Mr Han's response, within hours:

Hi Austin,

Thank you for this wonderful note, and for being such a wonderful customer. I can't thank you enough for this kind of feedback, we live for them and makes our hard work around customer service and shopping experience more than worthwhile. And your offer to post something on the blog, WOW thank you again so much.

Have a wonderful holiday season!



So ladies, our lesson is there are indeed companies who value you and your business today. Take the time to spend your hard earned dollars with them! (Not the smug retailers who ignore you when you enter their place of business. IE: JCrew - The Shops at WillowBend) Tiny Prints is an online company with quality products AND quality people!

Monday, December 6, 2010

South Austin, TX

There is literally a cornucopia of restaurants worth visiting in Austin. An eclectic mix of local, international, and down right fun places to dine around every corner! Living in Dallas I always tell people that if you love to eat and shop, this is the place for you. Austin seems to share that but at the same time, seems a world away from the posh world of Big D.

We spent the weekend in Austin with some dear friends celebrating my hubby's birthday and our friend Karin's birthday as well. They have an 8 month old, so with our 5 and 1 year old children in tow, we knew we needed to eat early, and eat fast! Polvo came recommended via a Dallas friend and confirmed by some of our Austin friends' acquaintances.

Pulling into the restaurant, we were delighted to see a relaxed and energetic atmosphere. Lots of different people all having a good time enjoying the beautiful 80 degree (in December) temperatures. Opting to sit inside (in case it got cold the hostess warned) for high chair functionality purposes, there were a handful of tables, lots of Christmas lights, and a high volume music mix to drown out any unruly young patrons. And kids too. The waiter was great, food was hot, and margarita wonderful. It's a help yourself salsa situation which is fun but everything else is standard table service. More than your run-of-the-mill sour cream enchilada and fajita place, the menu had many tasty options and everyone at our table left full and happy!

So, if you're in Austin, head over to Polvos. It's local, it's lively, it's legit. Cheers!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aunt Lori's Dip

Every family has traditions (good and bad, ha ha ha). My family is HUGE since my Dad is one of eleven children. You can imagine the traditions we have! With such a large group, baby showers and wedding showers seem to happen every weekend. Ok, not every weekend, but seriously, you can't be pregnant or engaged alone in our group. One staple at showers for some reason is my Aunt Lori's cheese dip. Now, while I don't think it lends itself necessarily to the formality of showers (stop gasping North Dallas friends over the thought of a crockpot dip at a baby shower), it is tasty and perfect for football and cold (using this term loosely in TX) winter get togethers. A hit with the man folk.

So here you have it, super easy and a crowd pleaser that takes care of itself right in your crockpot!

Aunt Lori's Cheese & Sausage Dip

  • 2lbs Hot pork sausage
  • 1 large Velveeta
  • 2 small Mild Mexican Velveetas
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk

Brown sausage in a pan and drain grease. You can cheat on this if you have a plastic colander. Break up the sausage in the colander and set colander in microwave safe bowl. Microwave sausage until cooked and it will drain itself. Miracle! Put remaining ingredients in crockpot and add sausage. Stir and leave on low. Serve with tortilla chips.