Tis the season for…hot chocolate

If there is one thing I actually enjoy about the winter season, it’s hot chocolate. And popcorn balls. Hot chocolate and popcorn balls. But today, I’d like to explore my love for the many possibilities of hot chocolate.

So often the holidays just pass us by. We say we’re going to invite people over, we say we’re going to have a holiday party and then before you know it, it’s New Years Eve! I have a solution for you!

If you don’t have the time to pull together a cookie exchange party, white elephant party or even an ugly sweater party, consider having a hot chocolate party. It’s actually quite simple since you’re only offering beverages and maybe a few cookies or treats to enjoy. Be sure to invite your guests over after dinner time, as to manage their expectations of a very simple and sweet party. It’s all in the spirit of gathering with friends and family and enjoying the holidays. And hot chocolate.

Grab some mugs, invite your friends over and enjoy some of these delicious hot chocolate recipes with your loved ones.

The Classic Twist: Red Velvet Hot Chocolate 

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Inspiration Thursdays…Creative Ways to Label Food at a Party

Beyond the Essentials Event Blog - Creative Ways to Label Food at a PartyAs the host of a party, we deserve to have a good time too! But as someone commented on my recent post regarding hiring a bartender, sometimes our enjoyment is boggled down with serving our guests and answering a slew of questions, including, ” what is this? ” and ” what does this have in it?”.

When hosting an event in your home, usually you are familiar with the likes, dislikes and allergies of your guest list. If I have a guest who is allergic to a particular food item, when greeting them I tell them what on the menu was created with them in mind, and what items they should stay away from. There are usually only one or two guests with severe allergies, so it isn’t a major inconvenience on your part.

On the other hand, ” what is this?” will be asked by everyone. Here are a few creative (and fun) ways to label food for your guests. Continue reading

Hosting an Upscale Cookout

The weather is warmer, spring is officially here and it is time for cookouts! Cookouts  are always a great way to catch up with friends and family in a relaxing and casual setting. As a host, of course the great part of a cookout is the low maintenance in the planning and execution of it all. However, while it is a low maintenance event, there’s always room to scale it up, make it a cookout that stands out among the many we will all be attending this season.

No matter the occasion, graduations, Father’s day, birthday or just a get together with friends and family you can turn your cookout into a upscale yet casual event!

When planning your next cookout, keep these simple enhancement techniques in mind:

Presentation, Presentation, Presentation

Keep food cold and decorative using planters.

Keep food cold and decorative using planters.

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Let’s Plan Together… A Cookie Exchange Party

This weekend was the big day! The 3rd annual Cookie Party!

Beyond the Essentials Blog - A Cookie Exchange Party

The table was already getting full and everyone wasn’t even there yet! I had a few presentation platters available for those who didn’t have one and I made beautiful place cards using striped red and white card stock (which reminded me of candy canes) for everyone to write their cookie name and description.

I added to the fun of the photo taking with a few props. I made a santa hat, santa beard and Rudolph red nose (not shown). These were a hit!

Beyond the Essentials Blog - A Cookie Exchange Party

The dips were also a great hit!!! I would definitely suggest having a Dip Bar at your next party or get together. The bar included Chorizo and Cheese, Bacon and Onion, BBQ Chicken and Red Pepper Dip. The BBQ Chicken and Chorizo and Cheese seemed to be the winners of the evening.

It was such and amazing time planning this year’s cookie party. Definitely consider hosting a small scaled one this season or a full planned one for next year! It’s become a tradition for my friends, so I hope it’s a tradition you can bring into your circle.

On a personal note, this week was a big week in more ways than one, my now fiance and I got engaged! I am so happy and feel truly thankful to have him in my life, for now, a lifetime!  While it won’t be in the very immediate future, please be on the lookout for great wedding planning posts.

Inspiration Thursdays…Holiday Decorating

I received a request to do a post on holiday decorations. So I’m taking us on a brief detour from the cookie party planning to show you some of my favorite holiday decorating ideas. These ideas will be great to use for any holiday gathering or to just get your home into the holiday spirit!

Beyond the Essentials Blog - Holiday Decorating
I love great banister decorations! This design can easily be created to fit your own personal taste by choosing coordinating ornaments and ribbon. If you don’t want the nature feel, you can remove the branches all together, or spray paint them to match your color scheme. Not to mention these look very easy to assemble! (Photo: midwestliving.com)

Beyond the Essentials Blog - Holiday Decorating
These spray painted styrofoam balls are the perfect decoration for a large window or to front porch. (Photo: freshpoppydesign.blogspot.com)

Beyond the Essentials Blog - Holiday Decorating

I must admit, the refrigerator is always a decorating dilemma for me. I don’t want to take away the comforting feel of the home, but I also want the home to be presentable. These ornament magnets are a great way to keep your home looking like a home and festive at the same time. (Photo: younghouselove.com)

Beyond the Essentials Blog - Holiday Decorating
It never fails, there are always leftover ornaments. Grab a vase, drop in the ornaments, and that easily you have a festive and easy table centerpiece.

Beyond the Essentials Blog - Holiday Decorating

This decorating idea opened up so many ideas for personalizing the home with holiday decorating. Merry Christmas, the family last name, the possibilities are endless! You can also use individual ornaments to serve as identifying initials for hanging stockings. (Photo: hgtv.com)

Happy Holiday Decorating!

Entertaining at Home: How to Maximize Comfort and Conversation

Third Stop: Maximizing Comfort and Conversation
On our journey to planning a Cookie Exchange Party

The invitations can be great, the food can be delicious, but you must make your guests feel comfortable. Here are a few tips on how to make sure your guests are comfortable, everyone is having good conversation  and your party is a success!

– Never place the food or bar near an entrance or exit. Guests always congregate near the food and/or drinks causing a block from the other guests trying to move about. Focus the food and drink in a central area such as the kitchen or dining room.

– You don’t need seating for everyone. If there’s nowhere to sit, it encourages your guest to walk around and mingle with everyone in attendance. The industry standard would tell you to have seating for a third of your guest list, but in the home, I would say half is safe. The key is to not aim to have a seat for everyone.

– Spread out the food and drink. When entertaining at home you don’t need to fill the kitchen counter or have one long buffet table. Spread everything around your home, one corner for drinks, another for food and another for dessert. This eliminates everyone crowding around the food and drinks, and gets everyone moving around and mingling.

– Section it off. Chances are your guest list is a combination of different people. Some people will like to sit and engage in conversation, others will like to walk around and meet new people. Try arranging different sections for your guest. A nice sitting area of a couch and chairs on one side, a clear area near the food and drinks for those who want to mingle and don’t forget the children, a nice clear floor area near a tv may be best for them.

– Help them help you. Even though you’re the host, you want to enjoy yourself too. Which for me means, eliminating the constant questions of, where do I throw this away?, Do you recycle? and the I can’t finds…. Have ample amounts of plates and napkins out and do a quick eye check every so often to see if anything needs to be replenished. Make sure you have everything in plain sight for guests. Your trash can should be in a central location, if you recycle place a nice bin near the trash. A tip for the recycling bin: put an empty can or bottle in there already, so your guests can catch the clue.

I’ll definitely be using these tips for my annual ” cookie party “, make sure you do too!

Cookie Party Planning Posts Here and Here.

Look out for photos of how I maximize comfort and conversation in my open concept home.

Next Stop: The Fun Stuff! Decor, Props and more…