Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Friday Giveaway of 2010

Happy New Year's Eve! We'll round out the year with a little Friday Giveaway. Win a set of space-agey swizzle sticks to start 2011 in style—well, at least your drinks. To enter to win, email me at hostess @ or become a Host-It Notes follower via Google Friend Connect—you'll find a link in the column on the right. Or just leave a comment after the post telling us what fun things you're up to for New Year's. Contest ends at midnight on Monday (PST) and I'll announce the randomly selected winner the next day. Here's to 2011!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve At Home

Here's a bit of New Year's Eve entertaining inspiration via Celebrations at Home. I love the custom clock look under glass plates. Gold is always classic, and the hourglass is a nice touch. See more after the link. Are you going out for New Year's Eve or staying in?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NYE Party Planning Tips From the Pros

It's practically New Year's Eve eve, folks, and if you're planning to usher in 2011 with a party of your own we've got a few tips for you. Below are 10 suggestions from event gurus Pat James and Glenn Jacinto of PAT GLENN PRODUCTIONS. Follow their advice and your NYE party planning just got a little easier.

1. Know Your Space. Don’t over invite. There is nothing worse than having a space where your guests are crowded and can’t get a drink.

2. Don’t Sweat It. You don’t want your house to feel stuffy and overheated. Turn down your heat well in advance of your guests’ arrival to ensure the temperature will be comfortable. It will also cut down on the cost of your heating bill!

3. BYOB – Build Your Own Bar. You can create a bar by simply covering a six-foot table with a crisp, white floor-length table cloth. Make sure to situate your bar in an accessible location so you don’t create a “traffic jam” in the corner of your living room.

4. Get Festive with Ice Cubes! Give your guests’ drinks a festive touch by freezing cherries or cranberries in your ice cubes. Any leaf from the mint family also freezes nicely.

5. Custom Cocktails. Don’t waste money on high-end champagnes. Instead create a signature cocktail for your event. It’s not only festive but will help monitor how much alcohol you’re serving.

6. Create a Coat Check. Clear out a hall closet or consider renting a coat rack, which are easy to assemble and can be placed in a spare room or hallway. It’s much nicer than having guests throw their coats on a bed with a sea of other jackets.

7. Kitschy Cocktail Napkins. Buy cocktail napkins with fun/seasonal sayings—they will become conversation pieces at your party.

8. Candle Couture. Instead of a large centerpiece at your dining table, decorate with pillar and votive candles. Votives come in virtually every color, so you can buy colors to match your other d├ęcor and line them down the center of the table to create a simple, clean warm ambiance.

9. Hello Espresso! Coffee, espresso or cappuccino bars, complete with whipped cream and shaved chocolate toppings, are a special treat for your guests. It’s also a great way to keep your guests awake until the New Year's Eve countdown!

10. Forget Flowers. Save money by incorporating a common theme throughout your party and sprinkle the room with different objects that connect to the theme to tie it all together. Small personal touches really help make your guests feel the warmth of the season.

Glenn Jacinto and Pat James

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays...See You Next Year!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays! With my baking done and house guests arriving, I'm signing off for a little vacation time. While you won't be getting a daily dose, I'll be sure to check in with the occasional post on things I love. I'll be back full time in the new year—in the meantime, follow Host-It Notes on Facebook if you want to know what we're reading, cooking, or eating! Have a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Holiday That Sparkles

My guest post at is live! In it you'll find tips for creating a sparkly holiday table setting and what to serve. Click here for the full post. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DIY Download Round-Up

I'm free download crazy this week! Enjoy the below round-up when you're doing your last minute wrapping and tagging. Happy Holidays!

Mountain-themed gift tags and wrap from Poppytalk

"Reindeer Food" tags by TomKat Studio

More tags, this time from Less Cake, More Frosting

Fantastic candle wraps by Creature Comforts (not new, but this is the first time I've seen them over at SF Girl By Bay)

Awesome gift coupons, in case you still don't have that gift for giving! By Just Something I Made via SC Johnson

Free holiday cards by different artists via Creature Comforts

What Santa's 2nd Birthday Might Have Looked Like

This is pretty cutie-patooty (I'm fairly certain that's the first time I've ever written out the word patooty...). Spotted over at Celebrations at Home, this darling party was created by Katie of Katie Cassidy Photography. I love that it has holiday themes but still manages to look like a birthday party. What an amazing balance! I have a food crush on these santa hat pretzels and the marshmallows. More pictures and details after the link.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Downloadable Holiday Party Game

All sorts of people are coming out with great free downloads for the holidays and this is no exception. Made by Melangerie in NYC for Daily Candy, this is a cute little game played with old-school "cootie catchers," aka fortune-tellers. Download the PDf with instructions, worksheets and four colorful holiday fortune-tellers. Grab a pencil, some eggnog, and start playing!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last-Minute Christmas DIY

Looking for some last-minute winter decor before friends and family come over for the holidays? Pepper Design Blog has an easy-peasy tutorial for Feathered Christmas Trees. All you need is poster board, a stapler, feathers and glue. Click here to get the skinny on how to make yours.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's a Star Wars in Your Mouth

Star Wars Vehicle Cookie Cutters

Call me geeky, but I'd love to make these for someone who would really appreciate them. They're Star-Warsy good fun—perfect for little boys and fanboys alike (girls too, of course!). That's an impressive icing job on those cookies.

Star Wars Heroes & Villains Cookie Cutters

You Star Wars fans can find these cookie cutters at Williams-Sonoma. I also find their pancake molds to be excellent!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Free Holiday Downloads

Spotted by a reader, check out these excellent downloads courtesy of West Elm (love that store, by the way). Just in time for your holiday entertaining you can download one of four wintry sets. Each design comes as a suite with menus, name badges and place cards (I would use those name badges as favor cards). And while you're there, download and print their gifting goodies—4 styles of gift tags and recipe cards. It's like an early Christmas present! For the whole kit-n-caboodle click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How The White House Does The Holidays

When it comes to show-stopping holiday decorations, it's hard to beat the White House. What other residence has room for all those trees? Host-It Notes reader, Jess, recently took a tour of the White House while it was all dressed up for Christmas, and she's sharing the pics so we can enjoy them too. Thanks for the cyber tour, Jess!

The tour starts downstairs where you see the Gift of Service Tree, which is decorated with ornaments from every branch of the Armed Services. In this room they have postcards and pens for guests to write letters to soldiers stationed overseas. There is even a big blue mailbox in the room for everyone to drop their cards into.

Next is the Gift of Child's Joy Room, which might remind you of Who-ville with its bright colors and lights. They even have a big Bo, the Obamas' dog, made completely out of pipe cleaners.

Upstairs, is the East Room, which is where you see Obama giving his indoor press conferences. That room is decorated in blues, golds and peacock feathers—very elegant.

Following the East Room is the Green Room, which is decorated in recycled materials. Fitting for the Green Room, no? Almost all of the decor is made from old books and magazines, including magazine Christmas trees like these from Martha Stewart online. Click here for the tutorial to make your own!

Next is the Blue Room, which is where the main White House Tree is. It is an 18 1/2 foot tall Douglas Fir tree from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA. The tag on the tree says, "Gift of American Spirit."

After the Red Room, which is fairly sparsely decorated, comes the State Dining Room. The room can seat 140 guests for dinner, and the chandeliers, though silver, were guilded by Jackie Kennedy during the Kennedy Presidency. In this room you'll also find the traditional White House Gingerbread House. It is made of gingerbread and white gold and prominently features Bo, the White House dog.

The tour ends in the Grand Foyer, where everything is decorated in crystal and lights and red and silver.

Isn't it opulent?! Wouldn't you love to have just one of these pretty trees to show off?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy National Cupcake Day!!

I hear it's National Cupcake Day (isn't every day a national something day?). To celebrate I'm bringing back an old post featuring actress, comedian and super-hostess Amy Sedaris' delicious Tattletail's Vanilla Cupcakes recipe—named after her rabbit, I believe. Enjoy!!

Tattletail's Vanilla Cupcakes

Turn oven on to 375 degrees F.

You will need:

Unsalted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, flour, milk

Put 1 1/2 sticks of butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of sugar and beat well. Add 2 eggs. I like to crack the eggs on the side of the bowl while it is moving, which can be really stupid. I like to take chances. Yes, I have had to throw away my batter because I lost eggshells in the mix. Yes, it was a waste of food and yes, I know how expensive butter is, but what can I say? I'm a daredevil. Mix well. Add: 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla, 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 2 1/2 cups of flour, and 1 1/4 cups of milk. Beat until it looks like it is supposed to and pour into individual baking cups, until they are about 2/3rds full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Should produce 24 cupcakes; I get 18 because I'm doing something wrong, although my cupcakes were voted 2nd best in the city by New York Magazine.

Tattletail's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

In a bowl combine: one box of confectioners' sugar, one stick of unsalted butter, one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of milk or light cream and beat for a while. Really whip it, don't be afraid to get in there. I occasionally add food coloring and sometimes substitute pure almond extract for vanilla.

If you do choose to add pure almond extract instead of vanilla, you're on your own. I don't know the measurement for it, but I do know it's less that the amount of vanilla you would add.

Excerpted from I LIKE YOU by Amy Sedaris. Copyright (c) 2006 by Amy Sedaris. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Holiday Pretties from d.Sharp

Letterpress Yule Log ($10) It's always good to check in with d.Sharp around Christmas. She makes such lovely paper goods and has a unique take on each holiday. Here are a few goodies you might like:

Letterpress Birdhouse Ornament ($24)

Eiffel Tower Candy Container / Ornament ($42) The price on this one is a little too steep for my taste, but it's certainly gorgeous!

Small Red Letterpress Buckles ($5.50 each)

Letterpress Buckle with Velvet Ribbon ($7 each)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We didn't win...BUT...

Thank you to those of you who commented on last week's Chronicle Books Happy Haul-idays post. Alas, we're not the winners. Congrats to CakeSpy for the win!

To console ourselves we can always take advantage of this snazzy offer from Chronicle Books. They're offering me—and you, my lovely readers—35% off plus free shipping. Just enter the code "HAULIDAYS" when you check out. This promotion is running now through Thursday the 16th.

If you buy something, leave a comment and tell me what it was—so I can borrow it, naturally! (I kid...)

Friday Giveaway Winner: The Swiss Colony

Drumroll, please ... and the winner of last week's Friday Giveaway, hosted by The Swiss Colony, is charity/ccboobooy, who said "I would love to try the Christmas Heart Cake." Charity, enjoy your tasty prizes—a Snowman Yule Log and Petit Fours Set and Mini Butter Toffee in a cute holiday tin!! I hope this helps make your holiday amazing!

A huge thank you to The Swiss Colony for their generous prizes. They've got holidays down pat, so don't forget to check them out at Happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sweet Paul's Holiday Issue

I finally just got a chance to sit down and enjoy Sweet Paul's Holiday Issue. Clearly this was a long-time coming, as they have a section on Thanksgiving dinner....What can I say, it has been busy around here! If, like me, you haven't had a chance to take a look, you should. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Great wrapping tips using fun materials like shelf liner, kraft paper and lace, and vintage hat decor (pg. 18)
  • Some pretty incredible edibles, including tasty toadstool toppers (pg. 46)
  • Holiday Cookie goodness (pg. 70)
  • Popcorn and Candy Wreaths (pg. 74)
  • Almond Lollipops (pg. 92)
  • An impressive Chicken Pot Pie (pg. 115)

Thanks, Sweet Paul! What a delicious issue. It's better to enjoy it late than never.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Giveaway: Holiday Treats From The Swiss Colony

The end of the week is finally here, and with it our latest contest! This week's Host-It Notes Friday Giveaway is generously sponsored by The Swiss Colony, makers of tasty sweet treats, nuts and snacks, and meat and cheese assortments. The Swiss Colony has offered up a pair of gifts that are perfect for your upcoming holiday celebrations. Their Snowman Yule Log and Petit Fours Set ($29.95) is possibly my favorite. Those tiny snowman petit fours are heart-melting! They are also giving away their popular Mini Butter Toffee in a cute holiday tin ($19.95).

One lucky reader will win both! All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us what treats you'd like to try from The Swiss Colony, or what your favorite holiday dessert is. The winner will be randomly selected and notified on Tuesday, December 14th, so be sure to leave your comment by midnight on Monday!

If you don't want to leave it to chance, you can buy your own desserts online at Still Christmas shopping? — More than half of the food gifts at The Swiss Colony are under $25.00.

Order in time for Christmas:

Standard Delivery - Order by December 15. 
Usually arrives within 5-7 days.
Expedited Delivery - Order by December 21. Usually arrives
in 3-4 business days.
Express Delivery - Order by December 22
. Usually arrives
in 1-2 business days.

Best of luck!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pretty Holiday Cards. Order Them Now.

As I browse the blogosphere I often save myself hyperlinks to things I want to write about later, usually with a little note. Today when I looked back at my saved link to Present & Correct Paper Goods, all I had written was "Pretty holiday cards. Order them now." When I looked at the cards again I thought to myself, "Hmm...'Nuff said."

Now, while I haven't followed my own advice yet, I'm sorely tempted to. These cards by P&C are unique and sweet and a little nostalgic. Up top is their Merry Christmas card. I also love the Kings/Angels design (above). And if you're looking for something a little more funky, they also have a great scratch-off card! I heartily recommend browsing their site, which you can do if you click here!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Themed Trees Versus Keepsake Ornaments

As I mentioned yesterday, I was just at Pottery Barn scooping up solid ideas for holiday hostessing and decorating. Whenever I'm at a store like PB, I covet their trees, which are decorated in themes. Lovely color schemes, matching ornaments, trees full of stars, woodland creatures or ribbons—I love it! I hope to have a catalog-worthy tree someday, if just for one year.

As you unwrap your ornaments, though, you'll likely find you can't bear to leave some of your favorite ornaments off the tree. Maybe they remind you of your childhood or of cherished memories with your family. They might be souvenirs of a wonderful trip you took, or a gift from a loved one. How do you incorporate these treasured ornaments and still achieve the look you want? I've got a few ideas for you:

  • Hang a single ornament from a ribbon on the back of each chair at the dining table. It looks pretty, and sharing the history of each ornament makes for a fun table topic.
  • Showcase favorite ornaments grouped together on a side table. You can also mix in attractive holiday cards you've received.
  • Hang ornaments from a chandelier.
  • Tuck ornaments into a wreath and display it on your door.
  • Arrange a few of them in a shadowbox frame to display on the wall or your mantel.
  • Incorporate ornaments in your centerpieces and floral arrangements.
  • Hang a sentimental ornament above each stocking on the mantel.


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