4 Tips for a Socially Distant Birthday Party

My baby girl turned 1 this week. It was such an amazing day of excitement, reflection, and family… But it was much different than your typical 1st birthday celebration.

2020-05-28-11.55.31-1

It is crazy to think that only a few months ago I was planning her birthday party. I had a theme, guest list, and was scouting out party locations. I love hosting, entertaing, and party planning (thus the “party” in my blog name) and this was a celebration I had been looking forward to for quite some time. A few weeks into social distancing I realized her first birthday was not going to  pan out the way I envisioned.

This week, I decided that I was still going to “go all out” for her birthday. I was going to decorate, bake a cake, get balloons, take photos, and have cake and ice cream with our entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins). I just had to figure out how to make it all happen while following social distancing guidelines. I know some people might find my precautions extreme BUT because I have an immunocompromised relative in my family, I’m taking the “better safe than sorry” approach.

I wanted to share with you how we celebrated, along with some tips for throwing a safe and budget friendly socially distant birthday party!

Keep the Guest List Small

As much as I wanted to invite our entire support system to the 1st birthday celebration, it just wasn’t an option. We decided to keep our guest list to just family (aunts, uncles, and grandparents). We came up with time slots and shared the availability with the family. This actually ended up being a great approach because it kept our birthday girl from being over stimulated AND we only had a few people over at a time. If we had hosted a traditional style party we would have had 17 family members at the house at one time.2020-05-28-11.54.09-1

Keep the Budget Small

I know it seems like a no brainer, but it’s not always easy when it comes to a celebration. For the decorations I reused some tassles I had from a babyshower we hosted a few years back. I purchased the balloons from the dollar store, and made my own cupcakes and smash cake. I even made a cake stand for less than $2.00! You can find an easy tutorial for this DIY by watching the video below!

2020-05-28-11.56.29-1

Rethink the Traditional Cake and Ice Cream

Instead of making one big cake for everyone to share, I made cupcakes and packaged them individually. I was sure to wear a mask when handling and decorating and kept the mask on until the cupcakes were packaged into individual cupcake boxes. The boxes served a dual purpose — the packaging kept the cupcakes germ free and allowed anyone that stoped by to pick out their cupcake of choice. I ordered these adorable cupcake boxes off of amazon and loved that they were easy to assemble and super sturdy.

I also purchased individually packaged ice cream as an extra precaution. They’re the perfect serving size, don’t require separate bowls, and keep things germ free. 2020-05-28-11.53.28-1

I used Snixy Kitchen’s Spiced Banana Date Cake recipe for the smash cake (I used a whole weat/oat flour blend)! I loved that the smash cake wasn’t overly sweet. Our girl still LOVED the cake and frosting and I didn’t have the guilt of loading her up on refined sugar.2020-05-28-11.55.06-1

Offer a Live Stream but Keep Things Simple

Again, we wanted our entire family to be able to see our girl enjoy her first slice of cake but if I’m being honest, I think we all are experiencing a bit of video chat burnout.

I shared a Zoom video link and let the family know that they were welcome to log in and see our girl eat cake! I was also very open in stating that it wasn’t a “virtual birthday party”.  Folks could log in, watch her devour her cake, and then log off whenever they wanted. Everyone felt included but there was no expectation for them to be tuned in for a long virtual event.

2020-05-29-12.03.01-1

I hope that these tips are helpful and provide a fun way for you to celebrate a special milestone in the age of social distancing. This approach can be tailored for all sorts of birthdays and milestones, not just 1st birthday parties!

Quick and Easy Entertaining

DSC_0211

I recently celebrated my first birthday as a married woman. My husband and I had our families over for cake and ice cream in the middle of a long and busy weekend. We wanted to have heavy snacks that would keep our guests full, but wanted food that did not require a lot of prep.

I went last-minute grocery shopping and filled my cart with easy to prepare items, dressings that I planned to doctor up, chips, salsa, cheeses, and meats. Purchasing foods that don’t require much preparation but look good on a spread is key for last-minute entertaining. Here are my 7 simple tips for creating a welcoming (and delicious) spread for a last-minute party.

1. Cook simple favorites that you’ve made hundreds of times: I love chicken nuggets. I’ve made them hundreds of time and chicken nuggets tossed in BBQ or Buffalo sauce are “Boneless Wings”. Boneless wings are easy, delicious, and most people love them. I served my boneless wings in a crudite server with a blue cheese dressing and fresh celery sticks.

DSC_0216

2. Do as much as you can the day before: I cut all of my cheeses the day before and refrigerated them in ziplock bags. Cutting the cheese the day before was a simple step that saved me a lot of stress. I also “set” my table the day before. Knowing where my dishes, cutlery, and plates were going to go ahead of time allows for me to have a more inviting setup.

DSC_0213

3. Create a menu with foods that can be eaten at room temperature: I am a fan of cheese platters and since the items tend to be eaten rather quickly they don’t need to be kept warm or cold. Chips and salsa are easy and lately my guests have loved pita chips with hummus. Having to keep foods cold or warm means more work for the host.

DSC_0218

4. Be selective with processed and pre-prepared items: Avoid pre packaged or pre-prepared foods as much as possible. If you have to use pre-prepared items, doctor them up where you can. I used a pre-bottled blue cheese dressing but to give it a bolder taste I crumbled fresh blue cheese and added it on top.

5. Use disposable plates and cutlery (when appropriate): I love having clear glass plates available for my guests to eat off… but I opt for sturdy and simple disposable plates when I’m on a time crunch. Disposable plates are being produced at a higher quality and the best part is that you don’t have to stay up as late clearing and washing dishes.

6. Invest in quality serving trays and platters: One tip I came across when registering for wedding gifts was, “Invest in white”. Plain white dinnerware, platters, and serving trays are timeless. Foods look better on white and you don’t have to worry about the color of your food clashing with the color of your plate. Food also looks better in sturdy and quality dishes. Take the extra few minutes to place the chips in a bowl, the lemonade in a carafe, and the turkey on a platter. Macy’s The Cellar line has a variety of items available in all price points. Most of my serving dishes are from The Cellar line. Crate and Barrel has slate boards which are pretty to use as a cheese trays. Use soapstone chalk to label your items.

DSC_0215

7. Buy Ice: I believe the best way to keep canned beverages cool is by placing them in a beverage bucket filled with ice. If you forget to buy ice, you won’t have any ice available for your guests to use in their cups. Spend the extra $2.00 and buy a bag of ice.

Holiday Etiquette

picjumbo.com_HNCK2125

The holiday season is a wonderful time of thanksgiving, celebration, giving, sharing, and enjoying the company of friends, family and loved ones. There are so many things that I am thankful for, but one thing that I become more thankful for as I get older is that fact that my parents took the time to invest in me.

My parents are some of the most supportive and encouraging people that I know. They were constantly encouraging me to do what I love, and to be the best version of myself. My parents encouragement and support started when my siblings are I were children and has continued on into adulthood.

As children, my siblings and I never ate out of plastic “kiddy” bowls and were never allowed to place our hands in our plates. My parents believed in the importance of teaching table manners and to this day, I am so grateful they did what they did. So many people do not know, or understand table manners… knowing which fork to use, or how to differentiate between your bread pate and someone else’s is important.

As we enter the holiday season, here are some tips on how to use table manners at the Thanksgiving table, while mingling at a Christmas party, or while enjoying your time with loved ones on New Year’s Eve.


Basic Table Setting

 

InformalTableSettingA basic table setting consists of a fork, knife, spoon, bread plate, bread and butter knife (optional), dinner plate, napkin, and beverage glass. The fork goes to the left of the plate, and the knife and spoon are set to the right. The napkin can be placed on the plate or to the left of the fork.

Sometimes it is difficult to know which bread plate or glass to use if you’re seated at a crowded table. If you forget easily, here is an easy trick to remember which plate and glass to use: holding your hands in your lap, touch the tips of your pointer fingers to the tips of your thumbs making a lowercase “b” and a lowercase “do” with your fingers. The lower case “b” shows that your bread and butter plates is to your left. The lowercase “d” shows that your drink is to your right. This is usefully for both children and adults.


10 Tips for a Pleasant Dining Experience

  1. Compliment the host and don’t forget to bring a hostess gift.
  2. Show up on time. If you are going to be late, be sure the host is aware so that he or she can plan accordingly. The meal might begin without you.
  3. No one wants to know what partially digested food looks like: Chew with your mouth closed
  4. There is a purpose for your napkin — Use it.
  5. Keep your mobile devices out of sight at the table. If you must take a phone call or respond to an urgent text, excuse yourself from the table.
  6. If you accidentally use someone else’s bread and butter plate, apologize, make a joke, and and then offer your unused plate.
  7. If you don’t like how something tastes keep your opinions to yourself. The chef put time and effort into the meal.
  8. It’s okay to talk about current events but try to avoid controversial topics such as religion and politics. The holiday season is a sensitive time for some people so try to keep from asking about relationship status, family planning, or recently lost loved ones.
  9. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. If you’re sitting next to a stranger, make a comment about the food, the weather, or the occasion. If you ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” it’s easy to get a conversation started.
  10. Enjoy yourse

Party Etiquette: Christmas, Holiday, and New Year’s Eve Parties

  1. RSVP: If you receive an invitation, respond by the given date. If you need to arrive late or leave early, ask the hostess if this is okay.
  2. Dress to impress. If necessary, ask the host for attire suggestions. Wouldn’t it be horrible if you showed up in jeans and everyone else is dressed in black tie?
  3. Show up on time or within 15 minutes of time stated on the invitation. If you arrive early, sit in your car and call your mom, scroll through Instagram, or get on facebook. Showing up to an event early is just as rude as showing up late. Don’t ring the doorbell until the time that’s stated on the invitation.
  4. Don’t overindulge: be aware of the ratio or party guests to the amount of food. Keep alcohol consumption on the moderate to low side (If you do plan on drinking — don’t drink and drive)
  5. Don’t bring uninvited guests: It’s rude. If you want to spend that evening with someone who was not invited, send your regrets (by the RSVP date) and hang out with your friend. If you already gave your RSVP and replied with a “yes” stick with your commitment and hang out with your friend another time.
  6. It takes a lot of time and hard work to plan and host a party so be sure to send your host a thank you note. Trust me, it will be appreciated.
  7. Have fun and go with the flow! The best way to have a great evening is to have a great attitude!