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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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!

Bathrooms…The Forgotten Space

Bathrooms always seem to be left off the list of spaces to decorate when planning events. Whether at home or in a venue, the bathroom is an important place to pay attention to. Think about the relaxing feeling you get when you step into a four star hotel restroom. Soft music playing, pleasant scent, luxurious soaps. That’s the feeling you should aim to give your guests.

Make sure it smells good. To keep a very consistent pleasant scent in the restroom, place a lit fragrant candle in a corner. Make sure to keep the candle away from any corners or spaces that might accidentally cause a fire. If you’re hosting in a venue, make sure to see if it is against their policies.

Bring in some life. Everyone loves a fresh bouquet of flowers. Place a nice fresh bouquet on the vanity for a pleasant surprise to guests. If you’re hosting in a venue, be sure to put them in the men and women’s bathroom. Men are special guests too.

Light the way. When entertaining at home, it’s always a good idea to keep your bathroom identifiable. If you don’t have multiple forms of lighting in your bathroom, consider getting a few of the battery operated tea lights to provide a soft light in the bathroom. Having the bathroom lit up with the door open will avoid lost guests wandering into random closets and private bedrooms.

White. The color of hospitality. People tend to associate the color white with hospitality. This is why you always find white fluffy robes and towels in hotels. Bring the feeling of hospitality to your guests with nice white towels in the bathroom. They don’t necessarily have to use them, but a nice basket of white hand towels along with nice paper napkins to dry their hands off will make a great difference. Again, this is a nice addition to venue restrooms, if they don’t already provide additional décor.

Go the extra mile. If you have a small iPod deck or radio, have some light music playing. It’s easy to hide it behind a basket or stick in the corner. This is sure to add a wow factor for your guests.

The Essentials. Everyone needs a little refresher. Create a basket with a few essentials they may need throughout your event. Include items such as, Shout Wipes, mints, feminine hygiene products, bobby pins, body spray, first aid kits, lint roller and anything else you can think of.

Also, when entertaining at home, keep additional supplies out in the open. Have a small basket with additional rolls of toilet paper, napkins and even soap and lotion, so that you aren’t stuck refilling them in the middle of your event.

The moral of the story? When planning an event remember to think about your guests entire experience. From the moment they, to the moment they leave and all the wonderful moments in between.

The Seasons are Changing…Let’s Prepare for Fall

Trust me, I am the first person to hold on to Summer until the last and final day on the calendar. But I’m taking this opportunity to give you a peek into what you can expect from Beyond the Essentials this fall and help you prepare for your own fall events and parties.

Changing Seasons Tip: Now is the time to buy all of the summer party supplies and decor. The end of the season is the time to take advantage of the sales and clearance. Just don’t forget to use them next summer!

Fall is the time for pumpkins, apples, leaves and sweatshirt Sundays. This season you can look forward to blog posts helping you plan out your Octoberfests, Football Sunday Parties, Halloween Parties, Campfire Gatherings and my favorite of them all, Thanksgiving.

We’ll enjoy recipes and ideas for comfort food, pumpkin and apple baked treats and delicious warm beverages.

I’m looking forward to a new season of event inspiration, I hope you are too.

So, please don’t rush and miss out on our final days of summer! But during these brisk evenings, start getting excited about all the fun Fall will bring!