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Category — Entertaining

How To: Throw a Progressive Dinner

Let’s begin with a little history of our neighborhood Progressive Dinners.  The first dinner was held in April 2005 and the second in November of the same year. I was a participant in those first two dinners, not a planner. I became involved in planning by the third dinner, held in April 2006.

White Trash Progressive (11)

The one person who has planned these events for all nine years is my friend and neighbor, Ronnie. She is the real expert in how to pull off a successful Progressive Dinner, but since I have a blog and I’m the one writing this … I shall be your expert for today.

jazzy background

Last Saturday, we had our 10th Neighborhood Progressive. Here is a list of the ten we’ve had thus far:

2005 April – Italian
2005 November – Western/BBQ
2006 April – White Trash/Tacky
2007 February – Valentine’s Love
2008 April – Mexican Fiesta
2009 February – Mardi Gras
2010 January – Jamaican/Island
2010 December – Holiday
2012 April – 1970’s
2014 March – Speakeasy

 

As you can see, a couple of times we held two in one year and then there were a couple of years we missed getting it together.

the 70s ladies

It takes a lot of work and organization to put on a party of this nature for a large group. We have 118 homes in our neighborhood and every single household receives an invitation. If everyone showed up, there would be over 300 party-goers. That has never even come close to happening. I believe our largest group has been about 58 participants or 29 households.

amy plus

The most difficult task is picking a date. It works best in the spring or fall. We generally avoid the winter since the holidays are already jam-packed and the summer as well because it is not only too hot but also too many people are out of town.

tiki

The problem with the spring is working around the various school spring breaks and the fall becomes difficult because around the time the nights get cool enough (late October) it seems as though the holidays are right around the corner and people’s calendars fill quickly.

overall friends

Once you get over that hurdle and you have your date … here is our organizational structure and our step-by-step instructions:

net

We begin the evening all gathered at one home – this is the “Appetizer House.” The Appetizer Hosts provide bottled water and non-alcoholic beverages. Additionally, they decorate according to the theme and set the ambiance with theme-appropriate music and such.

Each participating couple brings a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine along with them to the Appetizer House. A few select couples are asked to bring two cases of beer (light and regular) instead.

valentine dinner

When the invite is sent out, there is a call for “Dinner Hosts.”  Participants can check this box if they would like to host 10 people at their home for dinner. They set the table and ambiance and let the party come to them. In the past we haven’t required the Dinner Hosts to provide any of the food, but we’ve decided to change that and will now let them have first choice at what they would like to provide, instead of being assigned a dish, which is how all other participants discover what they will be bringing.

white trash dessert

Finally, there is a “Dessert House” – this is where everyone joins back together after being divided up for the dinner hour. The Dessert Host is responsible to coffee, liquors (if desired) and for making sure the leftover beer, waters, and other beverages from the Appetizer House get to their house before everyone descends upon them after the dinner hour.

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March 6, 2014   7 Comments

Shrimp Canapes

entry welcome

Saturday night was our 10th annual neighborhood Progressive Dinner. The theme this time was “Speakeasy” and we had so much fun with it.

bently

We started with appetizers at Ronnie’s beautiful home, then split up to have dinner at the various host homes and finally gathered back together at our house for desserts.

wine barrel decor

This was what greeted guests when they entered our house.

lemom drops

At Joanne’s, my “dinner host” home, I enjoyed a wonderful meal where we indulged on Lemon Drops and…

chicken a la rose

… not only delicious, but beautiful Chicken a la Rose, made by Kim…

dinner

… along with Waldorf Salad and Rosemary Potatoes…

jazzy background

… all in a perfectly jazzy dining room! Pictured are Flapper Ronnie, Cool Cat Scott (with his faux cigarette) and Flapper Kim. Can you even imagine a more perfectly themed dining room than this one, with its life-sized jazz band mural?

ronnie's table

It all began at Ronnie’s and her beautifully set hor d’oeuvres table!

I made the appetizers for Ronnie’s house and she provided the desserts for mine. I made Piglets in a Warm Puffy Blanket, Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Mushrooms, Spinach Deviled Eggs, and the following recipe for Shrimp Canapes.

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March 3, 2014   5 Comments

enter and exit

It makes me a bit sad to be entering my last post about Tram’s baby shower. Albeit, five consecutive posts about one party is a lot, but I’ve really loved sharing it with all of you and reliving it for myself.

front of house

I’ll start with the beginning, what the guests saw as they entered…

doors

… the front doors and the burlap wreaths that I made especially for the shower. I had purchased a couple springtime wreaths at Home Goods last year, but they were all nasty and faded before the end of summer, so into the trash they went. Once I took down the Christmas wreaths this year, I had nothing to replace them with.

boy

I had pinned THIS tutorial on how to make burlap wreathes on Pinterest and decided, “no time like the present” to get it done! Oh my goodness, it could not have been easier! I whipped them both out in about 20 minutes. Seriously, ten minutes each! Follow the tutorial and you can make some of your own. By the way, I used an 18-inch wreath form. I will be adding some sort of spring/summer embellishments in the near future.

girl

I found the yarn and number twos at Hobby Lobby and the baby shoes at, Micheal’s, of all places! I used clear adhesive dots to adhere the shoes to the burlap and the twos to the doors. Of course, the shoes went home with Tram.

candles

To the right of the door was a chalkboard sign (of course!) telling guests what to do and where to go. Some people are so darn bossy!

sign

About an hour and a half into the shower, Peggy set the Party Favors out in the same front courtyard so the guests could easily snag them on their way out.

party favors

You have to know by now that there was another chalkboard sign, with instructions. This is a school theme, after all!

take one sign

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January 17, 2014   2 Comments

it’s all in the details…

tabledecor

Creating a party around a theme is all about the details. The little touches that tie it all together add up to a lot.

head table

Once the theme for Tram’s baby shower was solidified in my mind, I began scouring my house for items to build the theme around. Chalkboards, Scrabble tiles, various items with the number 2 on them, scales, globes, children’s books, etc. Then I made a list of the additional items I’d need to purchase to make it complete.

123abc

Two such purchased items were these Dr. Seuss flip books. I bought them at Half-Price Books and then proceeded to take them apart.

take apart

In doing so, I could use the flashcard-like pages to place all around the inside and outside of the house.

letters

Similarly, I cut up the pages of other books to make garlands and bunting.

books and bundting

These were strung on just about every surface available cabinet front.

bundting

I used vintage flashcards from an ABC set I already owned to make not only the garland seen below, but…

twins

… also to scatter about as seen on the tray that held the classes at the drink station.

numbered glasses

Notice that many of the glasses themselves are numbered, adding to the schoolhouse theme.

hopkins ruler

Other school-type items I used were rulers and yard sticks. This one being my favorite. It is from my husband’s family’s old lumber and fuel store in Rockton, Illinois. You can see just how vintage it is by the 5-digit phone number.

Oh, but not everything was a hit.

the game

Tram and I had decided that neither of us wanted to “play games.” But at the last minute, I thought I’d put one out, just in case anyone felt the urge to partake in a little competition.

celeb babies

I found a Celebrity Baby Name Game on the internet and printed it out. Actually, I found two, so I printed them both out and called the second one, “Extra Credit.”  There were no takers. I should have known better and gone with my first instinct to forgo any and all games!

tips

Much more popular was the opportunity for guests to give Tram a favorite parenting tip. Guests wrote down their best hints and tricks. Tram, Peggy and I read through them after everyone left. Some were funny, others were sweet and touching and some should prove to be quite helpful to the first time mommy and daddy.

book drop

When guests first entered, there was a place to drop off the unwrapped books they brought …

build it

… to build the twins’ library.

top of trunk

I started it off with a set of ten classic children’s novels. (Oh, and the book in the wagon was sent FedEx by a sweet friend who lives in Texas – so very thoughtful!)

set of 10

And this is what it looked like by the time the party ended.

books after

Over on the gift table…

gift table

… we started out with a gift from Peggy and me and a second one that a friend who wasn’t able to attend had dropped off.

time has not been set aside for gift opening

Another decision Tram and I made ahead of time was to not open gifts during the shower. This sign informed the guests of that matter upfront as they dropped their gifts off.

It reads, “Time has not been set aside for gift opening. We will be enjoying our time together ‘mingling.’  If you would like to have Tram open your gift while you are here, just pull her aside.”  Tram and I were happy with the decision, I hope the guests were too.

gfits after

This is what the table looked like at the end of the shower. Such generous guests!

party people

Speaking of the lovely guests… here they are.

Emma, Tram, Jen

Emma, Tram and Jen.

Lin and Tram

Lin Sue and Tram.

Heather, Tram,Matt, Kacie

Heather, Tram, Matt and Kacie.

Tram, Cruz, and Veronica

Tram, Cruz and his mommy, Veronica.

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January 16, 2014   4 Comments

milk & cookies and coffee and cocktails…

… we’ve got it all!

press

We’ll start with the coffee. As I’ve mentioned here before, Tram and her husband, Steve, own Press Coffee Roasters. They have locations in the Scottsdale Quarter and at Sky Harbor Airport.

Plus … there was a very special third, albeit temporary, location in my backyard on Saturday morning.

Steve came over on Friday and set up all the fancy machinery. I do not drink coffee, I know, weird for an adult, but it is what it is.

This means that I don’t know anything about coffee, except that I enjoy the smell of it and I adore the burlap sacks that the beans are shipped in. Oh, and I love love love coffee ice cream too!

Steve knows everything there is to know about coffee. As he was setting up, he tried his best to teach Peggy and me a thing or two. Peggy “drank it up” – the info and the coffee and she loved every drop of it.

Not only did we have our own Press Coffee station, we also had our own barista to specially brew each cup for each guest to their specific tastes and requests.

coffee bar

Nanda graciously spent her Saturday morning serving coffee, even though her real job is Head Roaster at the Press Coffee Roastery. Thank you, Nanda, for not only spending your morning with us but for being a great group-photo photographer too!

coffee drinkers

As you can see, the guests loved their coffee!

abc

For some strange and somewhat annoying reason, most of the coffee table was taken up with coffee “stuff” – but I did manage to squeeze out the front corner for some decor to carry through the theme. A massive vintage scale and an old typewriter.

b

Three ABC flashcards added a pop of color to all that industrial looking black.

bunting

Behind the station, on the kitchen window, I hung a couple of book page-baker’s twine buntings. The book pages were taken from a nursery rhyme songbook that I found at a second-hand store.

On to the cocktail…

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January 15, 2014   2 Comments

the baby shower recipes

cropped

Many of the guests at Tram’s Baby Shower had expressed interest in the recipes for the brunch food I served.  In fact, Tram commented that yesterday’s post was a “Cliffhanger” since so many of her friends were hoping for the recipes and I said that the recipes would be coming tomorrow.

That actually made me laugh. A Cliffhanger? Me?

No, I just have so much to share about the shower that I have to break it up into a week’s worth of posts. So, today I shall give you all the recipes!

It sounds more daunting than it actually is because all but one of the recipes have already been posted here on the blog. See, no Cliffhanger to be had. Most of them, I made exactly as previously written and a couple of the others – have a few tweaks. Let’s get to it!

ultimate granola bar

First up, The Granola Bar.

I made a double batch of my Glinda’s Wickedly Delicious Granola. It is my take on a recipe from my friend and colleague, Gwen Ashley Walters.

wickedly delicious granola

To accompany the granola, there were bowls of fresh blackberries, blueberries, strawberries,plus lemon curd, low-fat vanilla yogurt and, my favorite store-bought yogurt of all time, Greek Gods brand Honey yogurt.

greek gods

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January 14, 2014   3 Comments

I’m back… with baby shower details

2 wreaths

… after nearly a week off, I’m back to share all the glorious details of Tram’s babies (twins) shower with you. In all honesty, I don’t know where to begin.

Lin and Tram

I don’t know if I should start by thanking Tram for being the most appreciative and gracious guest-of-honor, EVER! (I love this photo of Tram with her friend and colleague, Lin Sue. It so beautifully shows off her ever-growing baby bump on her tiny frame!)

3 friend

Or by thanking Peggy for being the best friend and assistant party setter-upper and co-hostess that a girl could ever deserve or hope, wish, and dream of having!

Or maybe, tell you all about the theme and show you a bunch of photos from the perfectly perfect day.

perfect day

Let’s start there – at the beginning. This is how it went down.

Tram and Steve came over to our house before going out to dinner and with the supposed reason of seeing our new back patio. That was on Saturday, September 21st.

The very second after Tram told me she was expecting twins, I said, “I have to throw you a baby shower!” That is the moment the planning began in my mind.

mai twins

I first went to Pinterest and started a new board for the shower. The theme was solidified in October when I found this vintage Fisher-Price toddler desk at Sweet Salvage.

2

Theme:

  • School
  • Books
  • Vintage Toys, flashcards, and blocks
  • ABC
  • 123
  • Chalkboards
  • Pink & Blue
  • Globes, Rulers, & Crayons
  • …and the Number 2

pink table

One of four centerpieces … at a table for 10.

globes

Table for eight.

table for 6

Table for six.

maitwins table

Intimate table for four.

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January 13, 2014   5 Comments

Apple Crush Punch

The pretty Christmas beverage dispenser below was given to me several years ago, as a gift, from Peggy. Everyone at the Christmas Craft Party loved it, as do I!

peggy pitcher

I had two cocktails available for guests at the party.

pear thymePhoto

A Pear-Thyme Mimosa (pear juice,  fresh thyme sprigs, and champagne) and an autumn apple punch.

apple punch

The punch was the most popular, by far!

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December 11, 2013   2 Comments

planning and plotting

I am currently in the frantic throes of planning for/working on 6 upcoming events/classes which are occurring between tomorrow and a week from Saturday. And that doesn’t even take into consideration Christmas decorating, which I have not even began to think of tackling.

That is so far off my radar that it might as well be September at my house. But I do see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

cutting invites

One of the things on my “Must Do” list was to get the handmade invites out for Tram’s baby shower. The shower isn’t until mid-January, but I felt that with all the Christmas cards and catalogs clogging up people’s’ mailboxes, it would be best to get them out now, as in today!

putting it all together

I’ll be dropping them off at the post office in the next hour, when I go out to do the grocery shopping for my cooking class at Les Gourmettes, which is tomorrow night. So that will be 2 of the 6 items done or nearly completed by the end of today!

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December 3, 2013   4 Comments

entertaining tips

Tips for Entertaining

or How to be the Hostess with the Mostess

tiki

Theme: The jumping off point for all my entertaining begins with choosing a theme. Some are built-in; holidays, birthdays, seasonal gatherings. Even then, selecting a color palette helps the event have a cohesive feel and flow and makes planning so much easier. Make a list of what you already own that works with the theme or palette, and then buy or borrow pieces that you want to incorporate.

todolist

Make a list of everything you need to get done and set deadlines. Put big, time-consuming projects, such as cleaning the house or tracking down tables and chairs, at the top of your list.

Build menus around dishes you already know how to make and are comfortable with, and then add one or two new recipes.

4pm

Prepare as much as possible ahead of time, so you’re able to relax and enjoy your party! Many recipes have “do ahead” notes. But even if the recipe you’re using doesn’t, get into the habit of thinking about what can be prepared ahead. If you’re not sure, search online for a similar recipe and see if it has “do ahead” notes.

If you’re still at a loss, drop me a line and I’ll help you figure it out.

Do not be afraid to take short-cuts with store-bought items.

I do it.  All. The. Time.

I am not a baker, so I’ll buy dessert from a bakery or I’ll just pick up a variety of little sweets from Trader Joe’s. Trust me, your guests will remember how much fun they had, not if you made your own pie crust or used a store-bought crust.

Vanilla Pomegranate Sangria

Have a Signature Cocktail. It sets the tone for the evening. It let’s your guests know you went to a bit of extra effort. Even if it’s just a glass of champagne with a splash of juice and a berry added, it makes a statement. Have the drinks set on a tray at the entry. Add a little sign, such as: “Welcome, please enjoy our Signature Cocktail – Rojo Sangria”

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November 27, 2013   1 Comment