Tag Archives: you can do it

You Can Do It: Host a Dinner Party, Part 2

Today is the second post in a two-part mini-series within a series about hosting a dinner party, written by my friend Joy of Living Life in the Shades of Grey. You can catch the first post, which covers how to plan for a dinner party. Today’s post goes into the nitty-gritty.

{Image: Joy}

You came back!! I hope you’re still excited to host an AWESOME dinner party! Here are some thoughts on the nitty-gritty of Dinner Party week. *hint* you’re going to need to make a list.

For the ease of writing this blog, let’s say you’re having the party on Saturday at 4:30, eating at 5:30 (note: I like to host parties on Saturday since I generally don’t have to work). Here’s what your week should look like:

Sunday thru Tuesday – work on making your list (whos coming/to do/to make/to buy) and getting together all of your RSVP’s. If you’ve facebooked or e-mailed people to invite them, you may want to send a friendly reminder even to people that have said they are coming. This will remind people that they have made plans with you while reminding others to let you know that they need to tell you whether or not they will be there.

Also, do whatever cleaning you’re wanting done. Obviously there will be last minute things like dishes from the week (and to be frank, I like to clean my bathroom the day of the party), but you don’t want to have to think about cleaning while you’re cooking.

Wednesday – completely finalize your menu. Make a list of what you will need at the grocery store. Even if you’re not usually a grocery store list person, make a list this time! If you don’t there will inevitably be something forgotten, and you don’t want to have to think about going back to the store for it!

Thursday – Go to the store! Buy what needs buying (flowers will last more than 3 days!) Check off your list. Go home. Put the groceries away. Chill out, you deserve it. Set your table (except for flatware). Put the flowers out. Leave the glasses/stemware upside down, and the plates too! All you’ll have to do the day of the party is turn them over and set out your forks/knives/spoons.

Friday – Prep time. If you’re making lasagna like me, you can put the entire thing together on Friday night. Marinate meat of you’re making steak or chicken. Make a dessert that can be made altogether in advance, or put it together so all it has to do is be baked (if that’s possible).

Some of this you can do on Thursday after grocery shopping. Really the trick is, the more you can get done ahead of time; do it! If all of your prep work is done, you’ll really get to enjoy the day of your party. You’ll get to relax while you’re finishing cooking. Do as much ahead of time as you can!

Saturday a.k.a. Party Day! – Wake up. It’s a very important step! I would even allow yourself a little bit of time to sleep in. People aren’t coming over until 4:30. You have plenty of time! Once you’re up? Eat breakfast! Then you can finish cleaning. Dishes from the night before (you’ll have to bear with me, I don’t have a dishwasher and I know this isn’t really a step for most people anymore!). Bathroom (if you’re like me). Tidy what needs tidying.

Eat some lunch… I’d go for a small one because you’re going to be cooking an amazing dinner and you’ll really want to enjoy it! But you don’t want to be too hungry; you’ll need the energy for cooking and socializing, after all! Shower, get yourself ready, veg out…

Turn over the plates and glasses/stemware. Put out the flatware. Maybe add some water to the flower vase.

About two hours before everyone starts coming over, that’s when you’ll hit Dinner Party Mode. Checking to make sure things look good. Double check your recipes so you know how much time you have and what you’ll need to put in the oven when. Then all you need to do is coast until it’s time to cook.

Here’s how things work with my menu:

My lasagna takes about 45 minutes to cook, so I’ll turn the oven on to start heating up at 4:15. I cheat and use the microwave steamer bags, so my green beans are in the bag waiting to be microwaved until 5:15. My rolls will go in the oven for 10-15 minutes after the lasagna comes out to rest before cutting it. I like family style meals, so everything will make it to the table and we’ll eat.

Dessert? My apple cranberry crisp will go into the oven right around when people are done eating (I’ll sneak off to the kitchen quickly to get it in the oven). That way we get a break between dinner and dessert to let everything “settle” and my friends ready for some dessert. Once the crisp is done, I’ll bring it out with some ice cream! Yum!

I know I’ve done this before and I know it sounds crazy… but if you use my method, you should easily stay relaxed and sane! Friends will offer to help, let them or don’t. They’ll be thankful for all you’ve done for them and if they’re not, don’t invite them next time. 😉


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You Can Do It: Host a Dinner Party, Part 1

My friend, Joy, blogs about photography, cooking, and living “in the maybes” over at Living in the Shades of Grey. She had so many good tips for hosting a dinner party that we’ve made it a two-part series within the You Can Do It series! Today is part one. I’m so glad Joy decided to write about this topic. When I approached my blogging friends with the idea of doing a guest blogger series, I told them the theme was “You Can Do It” and then let them decide what they felt led to share for that theme. When Joy brought up this idea, I was thrilled! She’s a wonderful party planner and pays incredible attention to detail. She’s a pro!

{Image: Joy}

I love to throw and host parties. It’s true! I love big events and have thought that if I didn’t have bills to worry about, I would love to become a party planner… but that’s another blog post for another day. As much as I love to plan a shebang of a party, my favorite party to throw is a dinner party. There is something so wonderful about a small intimate dinner with friends and something so exceptionally rewarding when you see everything come together.

What’s that? You want to throw a successful dinner party! I don’t blame you at all! Here are a few things to think about first:

1. Don’t invite a lot of people – I know you’ll want to. You obviously have a lot of friends and they are all equally deserving of a lovely dinner party. Have a second (third, fourth…) dinner party some other time. Keep your numbers small. 8-10 is a nice sized group, and 10 is definitely big enough (take it from the girl who overwhelmingly threw one for 23!) I promise if you keep it smaller, you’ll enjoy yourself more! You’ll get more of a chance to really talk to people and there’s a better chance for a great table wide conversation. If you invite more people, there’s a good chance that conversations will splinter into smaller groups of people, and you’ll probably end up feeling like you didn’t talk enough with some of your invited friends.

2. How will you invite people? Phone calls, mailed invitations, facebook … it’s your decision! Whatever will be easier for you, but do everything you can to get an RSVP! You’ll want/need to know how many people you’re cooking for! I have been known to make phone calls a week before the party to get an answer from friends!

3. Ambiance – Just a fancy word for music and decorations. As in do you want them? I love some light breezy background music (see this week’s post about making a playlist!) and maybe a small bunch of flowers on the table. I like to use a tablecloth… Do you want overhead lighting or candles? Both can be nice… just keep in mind your table space and what you might need room for which brings up to…

*imaginary drumroll*

4. Food – What? Thinking about food for a dinner party? Stop being so obvious, Joy! Ina Garten in her The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook said:

“Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable.”

Here are four other things to think about when planning food:

a) Are you going to have a theme? Italian, French, Greek… Southern, Northern, West Coast…    There are a lot of options out there, be creative and take risks! I love cooking new things and sometimes I like to make my friends be the guinea pigs!

b)  Are you going to have 1 main meal, or are you going to do courses? Honestly, I’m a meal and then dessert kind of dinner party girl, but someday I want to do a 5 or 6 course meal with my friends. If this is your first dinner party, I’d recommend appetizer, meal, & dessert at most just to get a feel for it. Next time you’ll have more experience and you can go for more. I stand by the rule of thumb that you should be comfortable with what you’re doing.

c) Plated or family style? Take into consideration how much room you’ll have on your table and what your friends will be comfortable with. Are they picky eaters? Family style might be better; they can pick and choose what they want. Are they adventurous? Pre-plate away!

d)  Don’t stress! I mean it. You’re not a professional chef (and if you are, you should know this stuff). Please remember that nothing has to be perfect. I promise! Do what you can to time your food so it all gets done at the same time, but know that ovens and stove tops and microwaves all have warm up settings.

Here are my only cooking rules: LOVE whatever it is you’re cooking & have FUN cooking it!

If you’re looking for new recipes, these are a few of my favorite cookbooks and blogs:

Betty Crocker Everyday Vegetarian – I used to be one and love this cookbook
The Joy of Cooking – I have my Grandpa’s copy from 1931, but there are dozens of updated versions.
The Pioneer Woman –her recipes are very basic – check out her soups!
I Am Baker – her desserts are fabulous and honestly simple to make.

Are you ready to host a Dinner Party yet!! I hope you’re so excited!! Come back tomorrow for some of my “week of” planning tips!


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You Can Do It: Make a Rockin’ Playlist

Today’s guest post is from my friend, Rachel, who recounts the ups and downs (and those moments of life when you just need a theme song to play on repeat) over at her new blog–For the Record. You know how you always have that one friend who always knows the best songs to listen to for any given circumstance or emotion in time? That’s Rachel. She helped to compile THE wedding playlist for me two years ago. Seriously. It was amazing, and I still listen to it today whenever I’m feeling nostalgic or in the mood for a good love song. (Although they tried to sneak in Gold Digger. The unedited version.  Ahem. Somebody–I don’t know who–accidentally deleted that little gem before it went live at the reception.)
  {Image: Michael Le Roi}
I’m so excited that Andrea asked me to be a guest blogger and more specifically I’m excited that I get to write about music. I’m incredibly flattered that Andrea thinks I’m an “expert” in the area of music- I just think I’m obsessed! In addition to being obsessed, I also think that there should be a playlist for every possible mood or life situation- which is seemingly impossible but I’m trying. So now to the task at hand- choosing a rockin’ playlist!

1. Defining “rockin.” Since I try to be the eternal optimist, I’m going to hope that you are having an epically awesome day and that you need a playlist to match it. Don’t get me wrong- sometimes you need an angry playlist, but I’m thinking more along the lines of fun, lighthearted songs for this post.

2. You’re going to need to pick between 18-35 songs. 35 is just a number. If you have an iPod and any other MP3 player, a playlist can be infinitely long, but if you are putting this on a CD, you may need to limit it. Got to love that 80 minute max on CD’s.

Here are some of my suggestions for a rockin’ playlist:

The Classics

  1. Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – because every playlist needs at least one Queen song!
  2. Led Zeppelin – “Rock and Roll” – get the led out!
  3. The Beatles – “Obladi Oblada”
  4. The Beatles – “With a little Help from my Friends”
  5. The Who – “Join together with the band”
  6. Ray Charles – “Hit the Road, Jack”
  7. Ray Charles – “Hallelujah I love her so”
  8. Billy Joel – “Only the Good die Young” – not as depressing as the titles makes it seem.
  9. Tom Petty – “Running down a Dream”
  10. Eagles – “Take It Easy”
  11. Bob Dylan – “Don’t think twice, It’s alright”
  12. Booker T & The MG’s – “Green Onions”
  13. Cheap Trick – “Surrender”
  14. Steve Miller Band – “The Joker”
  15. Aerosmith – “Dream On”

The Standards/Newbies

  1. RHCP – “Danny California”
  2. John Mayer – “Why Georgia”
  3. Coldplay – “Viva la Vida”
  4. Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly”
  5. Fruit Bats – “When U love somebody”
  6. Gin Blossoms – “Follow you down”
  7. Green Day – “I Fought the Law”
  8. Mumford and Sons – “The Cave”
  9. Train – “Save Me, San Francisco”
  10. White Stripes – “Hotel Yorba”
  11. Paolo Nutini – “New Shoes”
  12. Ryan Adams – “English Girls Approximately”
  13. Regina Spektor – “Fidelity”
  14. OkGo – “Here It Goes Again”
  15. The Killers – “All these things that I’ve done”

These are just my suggestions on what I think is required to make a rockin’ playlist. I am sure I have missed some that you would have put on here.  But that is the great thing about choosing your rocking playlist- its yours! Pick out songs that make you want to dance, smile, go for a drive, or whatever! I will leave you with this epic song, may want to considering adding to your playlist!  Enjoy the fabulously 80’s video!

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You Can Do It: Make the Healthy Lifestyle Change

Today’s blogger is my friend Tiffany from Healthy ‘N’ Balanced. She’s a soon-to-be first-time momma who enjoys blogging daily about living a healthy and balanced life, though she will quickly say that she is not an expert on all things healthy nor is her life 100% balanced. Instead, she takes it a day at a time and relies upon the strength and guidance of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the support of her husband of five years.

I met Tiffany at my former day job and became quickly impressed by how I could tell that, over a period of time, she got this glow about her and seemed to exude health and happiness. I just had to ask her about it, and she was glad to tell me more. She shared her story on her blog recently, and I encourage you to check it out and be inspired! I know I was.

{Image: Kim Gillett | lululemonathletica via Flickr}

Going on a diet is easy, peasy lemon-squeezy. 🙂  However, making the change to have a healthy lifestyle…well that is no easy task!

So how can we make that healthy lifestyle change once and for all?

1. Change your vocabulary.

A lifestyle change and a diet are not the same thing.

Diets are short-term. We go on them in order to reach a short-term weight loss or health goals but almost always, we either give up before reaching that goal or once we reach that goal we slowly go back to the way we were eating and living.

Lifestyle Change is long-term. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a commitment to change the way that we are living. So first, we have to change our vocabulary in order to change our perspective and our mindset on what we are doing.

2. Set REALISTIC goals.

Setting goals is incredibly important but the key is to be realistic.

For example, don’t set a goal that you are going to work out at the gym 5 days a week when you are working full-time and going to school 3 nights a week. Remember, a healthy lifestyle is not only exercise and eating right. It’s living as stress-free as possible. If trying to fit 5 work-outs a week into your already too busy schedule is going to stress you out and steal valuable sleep time then that’s not a realistic goal. You will give up on it quickly. (Believe me. I am speaking from experience.)

3. Don’t allow the scale to tell you whether or not you are healthy.

In fact, throw it out! Don’t go by how many pounds you are losing in order to determine if you are reaching your healthy lifestyle goals. If weight-loss is one of your goals, two of the best ways to “measure” your success is the way your clothes are fitting and how you feel. If you want to have some kind of record, then measure yourself with a measuring tape and go by how many inches you are losing.

4. Plan your menu and your exercise.

Planning your weekly (bi-weekly or monthly) menu will not only help you to stay on budget, but it will help you to stay on your eating plan as well. When I go to the grocery store without a shopping list that I have made from my weekly menu plan, I usually wind up bringing lots of temptation (aka JUNK) home with me.

Planning your menu will also help you to avoid the stress-filled question of “What’s for dinner???” If you are not sure where to start, there are tons of great blogs out there that post their healthy weekly menu plans, as well as recipes. (Mine just happens to be one of them. ;))

It is also imperative to plan your exercise. Write it down on your calendar just like you would any other meeting or date. This will help you to not overbook yourself and to be sure that you reach your weekly exercise goals.

5. It’s not just about fitting into a smaller pair of jeans.

Like I mentioned earlier, living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about eating right and exercise. Living a healthy lifestyle covers not only physical health but mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Take a little walk today instead of turning on the TV as soon as you get home. Take a minute to thank God for the day and read His word. Simplify your life. Get rid of the relationships, circumstances, food, etc  that are not healthy and that are stressing you out. Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t be overrun by your to do list. Live today as if it is your last. Serve God and love love love love those around you.

Living a healthy life is a journey. Don’t expect to be able to change everything all at once. Don’t expect perfection. Take it a step at a time, a day at a time and you will reach your goal of having a healthy lifestyle.

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