Does anyone else crave Thanksgiving dishes before Turkey Day actually rolls around? Several years ago some friends (including my husband to be) and I decided that we just couldn't wait for the holiday and we better just hold a pre-Thanksgiving training meal. With that, our what-would-become annual "Thanksfeast" was born.
Our Thanksfeast event is essentially an orphan Thanksgiving. However, since of our friends travel home for the holiday it's never held on Thanksgiving. Instead, we gather before the holiday to kick off the holiday season together. Here are some shots of last year's event:
Creating the tablescape is by far my favorite part of the planning!
I am a firm believer in party favors and also in saving money. Last year, I bought mini-jar candles ($2/each) and personalized them with ribbon and scrapbook stickers. Bonus! They acted as my placecards as well.
My husband and I handle most of the food; including freezing sweet corn from the summer and saving it for the occasion. Our dear friends that we started the annual event with (our guest list has grown since then) always contribute a dish or two. Typically it's a traditional Thanksgiving menu- turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, etc. But this year; I would like to throw in some of Real Simple magazines Scene-Stealing Thanksgiving Side Dishes for a little twist. Yum! Which ones would you choose?
Due to some scheduling conflicts; Thanksfeast will actually be POST-holiday this year - which gives me a couple extra (much needed!!) weeks to prepare! Keep watching for posts on this year's decor inspiration, invitations and menu planning.
Check out Socialize's first post debut on the Cafe di Scala blog.
I’ve created a list of the aspects of an event you need to consider for planning. Some of these are pretty basic but putting all of them together will create a foundation for a well-organized, successful event.
It's another exciting day at Socialize! Word just came that this blog was featured here as one of the Cafe di Scala's favorite local blogs of the month!
I've also been asked to do a guest post for them - so look for that coming soon! In case you haven't heard Cafe di Scala is a fabulous local restaurant that offers something Des Moines could use more of - an opportunity for an exclusive experience.
Don't get me wrong, private party rooms are great and perfectly meet the needs of most events. However, there are times when you want the the space to be completely your own. Cafe di Scala will open their lovely victorian mansion doors to private groups on nights it is not open to the public (Sunday through Wednesday) for lunch and dinner.
In addition, the staff will consider closing the restaurant just for you on a regular business evening (Thursday through Saturday) depending on the number of guests and budget. Fab food, an award winning wine list and a unique experience. What more could you want?
Well, I'm afraid the last few weeks have been all about Socialize. Not to worry. I'll get you some more event planning tips and tricks soon enough!
It's time for the big reveal! My friend TJ has been hard at work crafting the perfect look for Socialize and our fab look was finalized this week. So it's time welcome our lovely little logo to the world!
It's a big, exciting day at Socialize! A little paperwork, a signature and a trip to Iowa's Secretary of State office and the government now has one more business to watch over. We even get letters after our name. That's right Socialize, LLC has officially been born!
The final draft of the Socialize logo also popped into the inbox today and will be available for viewing shortly. Stay tuned!!
You can't host every party. So when you attend one, you still want your hostess gift to have a little bit of your party flair, right? Enter these beautifully letterpressed and fantastically witty goodies I came across on the Hostess With the Mostess blog. Now, I'm smitten with popptags! The perfect way to make your gift of wine even better.
Or any of the 12 designs that are currently available at 3 for $9.95 (minimum order) and $3.30 for each additional tag. That's less than most Hallmark cards! The ribbon is already attached so all you have to do is sign the back of the tag and slip it over your carefully chosen bottle.
Custom orders are also available and perfect for weddings, party favors and the holidays. I think I need to find a reason to make one that says, "Would you like fries with that?"
For the last few years, my husband and I have gotten together with friends a couple weeks before Halloween to embrace some pumpkin carving fun! None of us have kids (or much artistic ability) but it's still a great reason to get together and an easy gathering to plan. Here is what you'll want to do:
Pre-determine a location. You are probably not going to want to do this in your house. The grown-ups I know are just as messy as most 5-year-olds and you'll be sweeping up pumpkin seeds on Labor Day. The backyard works well if the weather is still pleasant enough. You can use the garage as shelter from the elements if there's a chill in the air. Wherever you are; clear enough space to give everyone plenty of room to work.
Gather supplies and prepare the space. Pull out your folding tables if you have them.
Collect newspapers to cover everyone's carving space. Make sure you have enough to give everyone a couple layers.
Put an empty trash can in a central location for most* of the pumpkin seeds. Use a heavy duty trash bag or double up on the household kind. Those seeds get heavy!
Print and set out pumpkin stencils for those who don't want to freehand. Better Homes & Gardens has a huge (and free!) selection here. For some tips on carving with stencils, check out Pumpkin Carving 101.
Have a sharpie and a pumpkin carving kit for everyone or ask them bring their own. This way, you don't have to sacrifice your good steak knives to a jack-o-lantern.
Have a lot of rags or paper towels on hand.
Finally - have tea lights for each pumpkin!
Find your perfect pumpkin. We like to make this part of the event for the whole group. Head to your local pumpkin patch so everyone can select their canvas.
And a couple suggestions for easy, festive additions!
You can't beat hot spiked apple cider to keep everyone warm. Use fresh apple cider, spiced rum and some cinnamon sticks and whole cloves (to taste)
Heat apple cider in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Stir occasionally. When cider is heated, remove cinnamon sticks and cloves with a slotted spoon.
Pour a shot of rum into a mug, then pour cider over to fill mug. Add a cinnamon stick to stir drink.
To keep things easy, hold your pumpkin carving party in the evening, post dinner. This way, some light snacks will be sufficient (remember - this is supposed to be an easy one!). Last year, I had some candy corn, Halloween-theme Oreos and some popcorn for guests to snack on. You can also *save the seeds from the first few pumpkins to be gutted. Roast some up using butter/olive oil and salt or this recipe from Fabulous Foods. By the time the carving has ended you'll have a seasonal snack ready for your guests.
I thought it would be nice to sprinkle around some Local Love* posts for the some of the fabulous vendors Socialize has had the opportunity to work with and probably some of those we hope to work with in Central Iowa!
For the inaugural Local Love post - I am actually going with someone I worked with on a more personal level - my wedding photographer, Mark Kegans. But don't worry -I had already been in the event biz for three years by the time I worked with him so he was carefully evaluated with my already developed event planning eye!
All photos are the work of Mark Kegans. This photo is of my lovely friend, Alexson. In the background is Iowa's great State Capitol building in the Des Moines East Village.
Mark truly is a photojournalist at heart. What keeps him busy these days is his wedding business but he'll still to things for some small-time publications; like the New York Times. I think explaining Mark's style is best put in his own words (from the "What the FAQ" section of his website).
"You get dressed up, say your vows, party, dance and fall in love all over again. I take pictures. Documentary, photojournalistic, reportage, lifestyle, candid, ninja, whatever you want to call it, it means that I work as the proverbial 'fly on the wall.' I don’t direct. I don’t work off of preconceived 'must-have' shot lists. My goal is to capture your wedding and all its glorious, messy reality."
Mark takes beautiful, REAL images away from whatever he shoots. He understands the importance of the obligatory formal shots but his true talent shines through when he is telling the story of your day in his images. Don't worry brides - he will follow your must-take shots but the more free and photojournalistic you allow him to be - the more you are going to love your photos.
Mark searches for the quirk and humor in the day and I think generally, the human experience. But I think his favorite part of what he does is that he gets to capture a day full of love. This means his shots of the new bride and groom try to capture all of the emotion and beauty of the day.
I still pull Mark's photos from my wedding day out at least once a month. Each one reminds me of some special moment or image that I treasure from that day and get to re-live, just a little. (For anyone who want to see more of what those in the biz like to call "wedding porn" - you can check more of my very own wedding shots here: http://mkegans.zenfolio.com/p39223348/ password: shinkunas)
As Mark's website states, "If you really, truly, madly, deeply love good photography and gotta have it for your wedding or family;" contact him. I highly recommend that you do!
*Socialize blog's Local Love posts are not sponsored and will not be available for sponsorship.
For whatever reason, I struggle with transitioning my home decorations to Halloween before October. September just doesn't feel right to me - not quite summer but not ready to be fall. It's kind of a month of limbo in our house. But this weekend I'll make the switch. Fortunately there are a lot of great Halloween party and home decor ideas out there already! Enough that the main challenge may be just to pick a color scheme.
Pop quiz: What's the one space that many but not all of your event guests will use; but usually gets left out of the event decor plan? Think about it. The bathroom is probably one of the few other areas in your home or venue that a large portion of your guests will visit. Why not tie it in with the rest of the festivities?
The Bride Scouts show us how to do just that with a photoshoot they did for Style Me Pretty. Check out their post here for a few more tips on how they customized the display. It's a great take on the dessert buffet craze, don't you think?
I am a huge believer in providing bathroom baskets for any gathering. But if you have a venue that will accomodate it; a display like this is a lovely way to let your guests know how much you appreciate them. Mints, handtowels, soaps and cotton swabs are wonderful to have in the bathroom. Since you won't be worried about minimizing things for photo purposes; you'll want to include a few more basics. I recommend including:
Spray deodorant (choose whatever brand is best suited to your color palette, naturally)
The list can go on but these items will help people survive most situations that they may not be prepared for (blisters from new shoes, sauce spilled on their shirt, etc.). And if you don't have a whole vanity to dedicated to the amenities; use a smaller basket and one stand for a more limited display. I'm willing to bet that at least one of your guests will find something that saves the day for them!
One last Oktoberfest post before I get ready for the tapping of the golden keg this afternoon. Check out this story on the Des Moines Oktoberfest celebration. It covers an example of when a major change did NOT work in making the event more successful but was definitely worth a try. Now the Des Moines Oktoberfest is making what I think will be a triumphant return to it's original location.
Added bonus: great tips on what a Burgermeister does. Another great addition to your Oktoberfest party!
Considering some of the stats from Germany's Oktoberfest, it may not be something you can replicate exactly in your own backyard. But here are a few ideas on how you could do it on a *slightly* smaller scale.
If you don't want to rent and set-up a tent; take a cue from some of the building/tent roofs at Oktoberfest. This look can be replicated fairly easily with a little rope or wire and streamers a la the blogosphere darling Max & Margaux wedding.
Finding some authentic Oktoberfest tables like these might be a little tough unless you have someone who wants to build them (or drop some cash on one here). But to get that bier hall feeling, a wooden picnic table will do the trick. For centerpieces, fill a few beer steins with flowers or wheat/hops and line them down the center of the table.
And although I couldn't find a photo from Oktoberfest that actually shows this runner on a table; it does add to the Bavarian theme and can be ordered from quite a few websites including partycheap.com.
Even if you don't have an Oom Pah Band, you'll still need Polka music. My personal favorites are The Beer Barrel Polka and In Heaven There is No Beer.
To add just a little more fun, give everyone a Tyrolean hat and set up a photo booth. Beer steins, aprons, talk bubbles with German phrases (Wilkommen! Prost! Danke Schon) and lederhosen could make for some great props. You could also go the route of the Hessen Haus in Des Moines which hosts the local Oktoberfest that I'll be joining:
It should go without saying that you'll also want to have some German beer on hand. Add custom labels with names like Smithsteiner. And to drink it, you'll need