Tag Archives: Celebrating

Girlfriends Celebrating Girlfriends….


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…..more girlfriends celebrating girlfriends! While we love, love, love our families, there is nothing like the kinship we share with our closest gal pals. We look to one each other to bare our souls, cry, laugh, support and toast one another. Quite frankly, that is exactly how we make it through the day. Well, that and a good, stiff drink (or glass of Pino).We support each other in good times, bad times, happy times, sad times and silly times.

Last week I was reminded just how much I cherish my friends (not that I really needed a reminder). A gaggle of us were attending a beautiful Christmas luncheon, which happened to occur on my birthday. All of the sudden, a group of girls broke out the props and into song….all for me! My dear friend Jess made up the sweetest and silliest song about “Vanessa” and how I do it all with “f-anessa”, shouldn’t “str-essa”, I “con-fessa”…..I think you get the picture. The props were fantastic; an apron (trimmed in red marabou), dish-washing gloves (trimmed in red marabou), a tiara (trimmed in red marabou), a red beauty queen sash featuring the words; Organized Hoarder (they know me so well!), a marabou scepter and a leopard trim necklace that said “Blogger Star”. I truly can’t remember the last time I felt so special.

That’s the point….feeling special. What can we do to let our loved ones, family and friends, know just how much we cherish and adore them?

This past weekend my dear friend Molly had a milestone birthday. It’s funny how you get to know people. Molly’s daughter Coco and my Amanda have been the closest of friends since the moment they met in first grade…nine years ago. Like daughters like mothers, Molly and I shared an instant, special kinship, too. In fact, all four of us girls share a special bond. We are all in the December Birthday Club. I am the 2nd, Coco the 3rd, Molly the 5th and Amanda the 30th. Our connection had been pre-determined by the stars: 2 x 3 = 6 x 5 = 30. Isn’t that totally freaky? Our friendships were destiny….. Every year, the four of us get together to celebrate December Birthday Club. We shop, we eat, we see movies, we see sights. It’s the perfect way to be together and we look forward to it every year.

Anyway, the question became, amongst Molly’s friends, “What is the best way to honor a wonderful friend’s birthday?” She doesn’t like fanfare. She doesn’t like attention. So, Molly’s very best friend in the entire world had a fantastic idea: Since Molly loves her fabulous porch and celebrating Christmas…..why not surprise her by putting up a gorgeous Christmas tree on her front porch and asking her dearest of friends to contribute personal sentiments and ornaments for the tree?

 

What a simple, yet unbelievable, idea! Ornaments came pouring in from across the country, state and town. Each person attached a personal note to each ornament honoring Molly and their friendship. The evening before Molly’s birthday, as soon as she left for the evening, the tree went up and a group of us got together to trim the tree. As soon as Molly returned home, her group of girlfriends (and some spouses) descended upon her to surprise her for her birthday. At midnight, the corks were popping, and we toasted our dear friend and wished her the happiest of birthdays!!

More friendships, more thoughtfulness, more special times, more being together….

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Throw a Great Memorial Day Party…..Part Two: The Main Course Menu


Setting the stage for a fun-tastic, blow out bash is only half of the equation. While I completely agree with Billy Crystal’s sentiment (channeling Ricardo Montalban), “You look mahvelous; absolutely mahvelous. You know, it’s much better to look good than to feel good”, while entertaining I want everything to be visually attractive, but it’s equally as important that everything taste good too.

I love the fantasy 0f a party and satisfying all of the senses. The visual presentation should be a feast for the eyes. The different textures incorporated in to your bar, buffet and table should be interesting to the touch. The sounds should be soulful and thoughtful, be they subtle or obvious; music to your ears. The scents should be reminiscent of the theme of your party through candles, or the heartwarming smells wafting through your kitchen. The final detail, of course, is a menu lovingly crafted for your guests to savor.

As the More is More Mom®, I am a huge proponent of……more food. Throwing a cocktail party is always a blast. It’s the perfect opportunity for a dazzling array of interesting appetizers. Dinner on the other hand can be a tad bit more complicated. Once you have developed a menu suitable to the occasion, there is still the matter of determining what little snicky-snacks to offer your guests while they are gathering and the finishing touches are being put on the meal. Then of course there is the ever important matter of dessert. While dessert may seem like an after thought, I think it is the perfect opportunity to end the evening on a high note….even if the note is small, it should be meaningful.

Today I would like to share with you my main course menu for a Memorial Day Celebration. I want for you to have plenty of time to consider incorporating these delicious dishes in to your own celebration this coming weekend.

Lemon and Herb Marinated Chicken:


This chicken smells so ridiculously good while cooking on the grill your neighbors are going to invite themselves over for dinner (so make extra!). It’s always great to find a dish that serves a crowd, so feel free to double and triple as needed.

3-4 lbs of chicken (my family really prefers breasts and drumsticks, but you can choose whatever you like.).

You know I am totally obsessed with Zip-Loc Baggies. Rather than use a bowl, or a large lidded container, I mix all of the ingredients in a gigantic 2 gallon Zip-loc baggie (much easier cleanup!). Combine:

• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 2 tsp finely chopped lemon zest (fresh is best)
• 2 tsp soy sauce
• 2-3-4 tsp rosemary, finely chopped (it smells sooooo good!)
• 1-2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
• Lots of garlic, 5-6 cloves pressed or minced
• 1 large shallot (or 2 very small) finely chopped
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper……Hot! Hot! Hot!
• Salt and pepper to your liking….

 

Add your chicken to the bag and marinade over night, flipping over a few times to make sure the marinade is well distributed. You could allow for just a few hours of marinating time, but that would scarcely allow all of the fresh flavors to infuse the chicken.

You have the option to do one of two things here.
1. Roast the chicken.
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the chicken on a rack in a large roasting pan, pouring 1 cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Baste occasionally, until the outside of the chicken is a nice golden brown and an instant read thermometer registers at 180°, for somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-60 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
Transfer to a platter and garnish with any leftover sprigs of rosemary.
Tent with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

2. Warm up grill.
Reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 45 minutes (when you poke a fork in to the chicken, you’ll want for the juices to run clear.)
Remove from the grill.
Place on a platter, adding garnish if desired, and you’re ready to serve.

I almost exclusively have employed the grilling option as I grill 12 months a year. Everything on the grill is super tasty and clean up is a snap!

Bacon and Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes:


These potatoes are so good it’s criminal! I frequently make your basic D0 Ahead Mashed Potatoes (especially for the holidays when the need for planning ahead is at a fevered pitch), and have never made this particular recipe before this weekend. After eating a spoonful of mouth watering goodness my family has informed me that I should only make the Bacon and Smoked Gouda variety forever more……

This is yet another recipe that could easily be multiplied, even if just for yummy leftovers. Some things are even better the next day.
Ingredients:

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped up in to cubes

 

8 slices of bacon (or more…..and who wouldn’t enjoy more?). I like a nice smoky flavored bacon, but maple is good too for a sweet treat.

A bunch of scallions….you choose how many you like. I used about 6 onions, finely chopping them until I got to the dark green ends

¾ cup sour cream
½ cup of milk
¼ – ½ stick of butter

2 plus cups of Smoked Gouda (I used a peppercorn flavor enhanced Gouda and it was to die for!), coarsely grated. Reserve ½ cup for topping at the end.

Cook bacon in either a skillet, or my favored method for making pounds and pounds of bacon, on a rimmed, aluminum foil lined, cookie sheet (for pounds and pounds of bacon you’ll need several….) cooked at 350°, for approximatley 20-25 minutes. It depends on how crispy you like your bacon. I’m a fan of more crispy……. Truly, if you are going through the mess of the bacon, make enough to warm up through the week; great with breakfast, on a sandwich, in a salad or even by itself. In any case, drain the bacon on a paper towel to soak up some of the grease and chop it up. Place the chopped bacon in a bowl.

Chop the scallions, add to the bacon and combine. Set aside.

Place the peeled and cubed potatoes in a large pot, fill with cold water, place lid on pot slightly ajar, and boil for 20 minutes or so until tender.

Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. On a very low heat, cook potatoes until all of the moisture evaporates. This should only take a minute or so.

 

Add the sour cream, milk and butter. The potatoes will be nice and hot, and the good creamy stuff should melt in quickly. Mash with a potato masher until nicely smoothed.

Stir in both the shredded Gouda (reserving ½ cup) and 1 cup of the bacon mixture (reserving the balance). Season with a little salt and pepper….you know me, I love, love, love the cracked black pepper for a kick (and a field goal!). Mix well.

 

Butter a 13x9x2 baking dish and evenly spread the potato mixture.

At this point, I topped the Heavenly mashed potatoes with the remaining shredded Gouda and the left over bacon and scallion mixture. It was so pretty!

Now, you will either be covering up the pan, refrigerating and cooking the potatoes later, or plug ahead and heat your oven to 375°. Cook until the cheese starts to melt a little bit and the edges begin to turn a warm, golden brown (about 30-40 minutes fresh, 45-60 minutes from the fridge, but either way…watch ‘em.).

Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette:


I must confess, unless I mix up a quick bottle of Good Season’s Italian Dressing Seasoning with vinegar and oil, most nights we douse our salad with bottled dressing (we are fans of the Western French). When company is expected it’s always nice to prepare a little something different.

This dressing is lovely with the fresh basil and grated parmesan. It is special enough to simply toss on a bed of pretty greens. For this particular meal I have enough flavors colliding, that the richness of this vinaigrette doesn’t need to be complicated with a medley of other vegetables. How about that? Simplicity from the More is More Mom®? (Though I would prefer to view it as a well honed matter of restraint.).
Ingredients:
• 2-3 cloves of garlic
• ½ tsp or so of salt
• 2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp lemon juice (again, since there are so many other rich, fresh flavors, I don’t think it’s worth the time or mess of squeezing fresh lemon juice. Sorry).
• 3-4 Tbsp fresh, chopped basil (little smells as delightful)
• ¼ – ½ cup of finely grated parmesan
• ½ tsp cracked black pepper (I’m going through this stuff like crazy!)
• ½ cup or so of olive oil

With a mortar and pestle mash the garlic with the salt.

Whisk together with the vinegar, lemon juice, basil, parmesan and salt and pepper.
Slowly add olive oil and whisk until well blended.
Toss with greens and serve.

Fruit Kabobs:


The beauty of the kabob is that you know from the get go just how many servings you are preparing. You can select any number of different fruits, or stream line the process and select two or three, alternating them on the skewer for a pleasing display.

Over the next two days I will be sharing with you ideas for setting up your buffet and recipes for versatile, easy starters and dessert.

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Throw a Great Memorial Day Party….. Part One: The Concept


“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~ Virginia Wolf

I couldn’t agree more! Eating alone is fine, enjoyable and necessary, but dining with loved ones, especially in celebration, is sooooo much better. For me, as the More is More Mom®, entertaining in our home is the pinnacle moment in which so many of my favorite things converge at one time and create a “super experience” that is rivaled by little else. The fantasy of entertaining allows me to toss traditional convention aside (okay, you’ve got me, a More is More Mom® is all about throwing caution to the wind at every turn. Rules and sensibility be damned!), and indulge my craving for creative expression, authenticity and a rockin’ good time.

Entertaining guests in your home should be an event! There is nothing better than good company, good food, good music, good wine and good times. In my mind every event, big or small, should be celebrated. What makes these events successful is the feeling of joy and happiness that our guest’s experience and the fond memories they have after our party is long since over.

Memorial Day is next weekend…..how will you be celebrating?

Over the next few days, I am excited to be sharing with you some of my ideas and philosophies with regard to tablescapes, buffets, menus and recipes.

Clearly, I’m a gal that loves drama (maybe not so much in my daily life, but more by way of the fantasy of entertaining). Life is a show. Our conversations are dialogue! Our clothing our costumes! The soundstage of our lives is the set we design to represent and interpret our priorities and our truest (and very best) selves.

In my interpretation of everything…..my vision starts with an over-the-top (think Ziegfeld’s Follies or a Busby Berkley musical ….if you don’t know what those are, it is time for a quick visit to Wikipedia and the American Movie Classics Channel …AMC, check your local listings) and authentic show.

For Memorial Day, a celebration of Americana, what better way to start than with a table setting showcasing an All American Quilt as a table covering? I actually love to incorporate blankets of sorts in to my table designs…..they are washable and rarely wrinkle! They are interesting and easy to use; a total bonus. The one I am using here has enjoyed many incarnations from wall hanging, to bedding, to table settings. Such versatility! In fact, I took it right off of the bed in my guest room (and ran it through the wash…not to worry.) before I used it here. Talk about versatile and getting your money’s worth….

 

Because my table covering is so graphic, the remaining elements fell in to place rather easily. A centerpiece of red mums displayed in a simple, ridged, glass vase is timeless. I incorporated denim placemats (which I had in my inventory), red-white-blue plaid cloth napkins (napkins are items that I collect and hoard….always in the 20’s, just in case.), caramel colored leather chargers, white stoneware dishes, with a really pretty, but classic scalloped edge (embellished with a patriotic fan at each place setting, from JoAnne Fabrics, 3 for $1.00), red handled flatware, large red tumblers (donning an American flag in each glass), two blue glass hurricane lamps, cobalt blue votive holders and a crystal bowl full of beautiful cherries. The display was warm, welcoming and authentic.

 

While the table setting looks great, one of the most important elements, never to be over looked, is the….bar. The bar is a happy place, and should look the part. As a general rule, I corral the stemware and glassware on a tray of some sort (I have many from which to choose….shocking, I’m sure). Here I have selected a finely woven rattan. I love the organic quality and texture of a naturally woven fiber. It’s yummy! Unless you are stocking your beverage tub with bottled water, it is really nice to put out a pitcher of water for the comfort of your guests. Everyone needs a water chaser every now and again.

 

Offering a variety of beverages is also rather hospitable. Here I am featuring beautifully bottled Lime Aid, wine, beer and a sparkling beverage (of course, here in the “House of More” there are many more chilled beverages in the refrigerator in the kitchen , the fridge in the mudroom, the fridge in the garage, the fridge in the basement……I guess we are a thirsty people.). I have provided my guests with lemon and lime slices (who totally doesn’t love a pretty garnish?), napkins, festive, party straws and my favorite….alligator bottle opener. There is no reason for me to have an affinity for the alligator. They are not the mascot representing my school. I just so happen to adore the whimsy and silliness of the alligator as a bottle opener.

Here’s a little tidbit to make your bar more interesting and personal. After you have added ice and beverages to your ice bucket, try to incorporate an object that re-enforces your theme, be it by spirit or color. Today I have chosen to add beautiful blueberries to my beverage tub display and they are just the right amount of color and texture to scream, “Attention to detail.” There is nothing as special as paying attention to the details…….

I hope you will visit with me over the next few days as I share with you my menu and recipes and buffet design for….Creating More Meaningful Life Experiences…..

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