- March 11, 2014 - 10:59 am
- Thoughts from the Kitchen
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Mystery & Intrigue
Sometimes it's tough to relax and be social, even at a party. Rather than letting your shyer guests become wallflowers, get them engaged in what's happening! Planning an activity that everyone gets involved in, is an instant icebreaker. Hosting a casino night or a murder mystery theme keeps everyone guessing and involved in the evening's events. When your guests are relaxed, you'll find yourself having more fun too!
Hosting a Murder Mystery - Everyone loves a good mystery, and while the idea of organizing the whole event yourself may be a little overwhelming there are tons of pre-made kits ready to get you started. Plus we’ve collected these clever ideas for you!
Attire: Send your guests a description of their character with some back-story information in advance. It's more fun when they can dress the part.
Suggested Menu: Perhaps a Mystery Soup or a Meatloaf Surprise to keep your guests guessing. For drinks, try a Dark & Stormy night cocktail, or getaway Sidecar. And of course end it all with Death by Chocolate Cake. Bakeries in Fort Worth
Decoration Tip: Your decor will depend on the “scene” of your murder; it may be on a highbrow yacht (with some ocean wave music in the background) or in a smoky underground nightclub (a la non-toxic smoke machine). If you dim the lights or play some tunes just make sure your detectives can still see and hear well enough to investigate. Props are also key to help your guests get into character, e.g. magnifying glasses, wooden pipes, party masks, perhaps a few fake mustaches...a top hat or two...
Casino Royale - Break out the cards and shape up your shuffling skills, for a night of poker, blackjack, and craps. You don't need to rent tables, a few green table cloths will do the trick.
Attire: Traditional casinos were places where elegance was the priority and champagne was a must. Be sure your invitation encourages your guest to "Dress to Impress" in cocktail dresses and tuxedos.
Suggested Menu: A casino is too busy for a sit down meal. Think buffet style with fantastic finger foods like mini sliders or cherry tomatoes stuffed with delicious chicken salad. Top it all off with not one but TWO martini bars. One for alcohol and one for mac & cheese -- a sophisticated selection of mixers and garnishes and you are ready to really set the night off.
Discover this list of Best Martini Garnishes
Decorations: Dice, playing cards, and poker chips-- all available at your local dollar store and perfect for setting the scene for your casino night. Birthday Print up your own money with the guest of honor's face on the fake bills. You can even get some prizes so your guests have something to play for—gift cards or bottles of wine work well.
- February 12, 2014 - 1:36 am
- Thoughts from the Kitchen
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That's a Novel Idea!
Who among us hasn't wished they could spice up their party plans? Here are a few party themes based on stories that we all know and love, plus our thoughts on how to turn these pages into a rockin' good time!
Alice in Wonderland - Start with a tea party. Add brighter colors, mix in over-sized and under-sized snacks, stop all the clocks, and you’ve got yourself a mad tea party. Direct the guests with “Eat me,” and “Drink me” labels on all the treats and don’t forget to leave a place for the Hatter.
Attire: Guests are encouraged to combine patterns and colors at will, and conversation should, as a rule, be utterly absurd.
Suggested Menu: Bowtie pasta salad served in top hat bowls, fruit & cheese tray arranged as a caterpillar and a Mad Hatter Potion!
Recipe for Mad Hatter Potion
Decoration Tip: Playing cards have a distinctive look. Incorporate playing cards into your invitations, place settings and centerpieces!
Thru the Looking Glass to more decorating ideas
The Great Gatsby - Recreate the Gatsby-esque Long Island experience with an opulent evening filled with ecstatic 1920's jazz. (if you can't swing live musicians, find a great online mix.) Enjoy more Gin Rickeys than prudent, and after you danced yourself silly, cool off with a midnight dip in the pool.
Attire: 1920s fancy dress required for entry; the more pearls and longing looks, the better.
Suggested Menu: Crab-stuffed mushrooms with Parmesan cheese, deviled eggs, Shirley Temples and Mint Juleps! Recipe for Mint Juleps
Decorations: In case you don’t have a vintage convertible to park out front, think black, white, and chrome. Art Deco of the 1920s was predominated by glossy black, chrome, repeated geometric patterns, and mirrored surfaces. And don’t forget your feather boas. Turn on some jazz, string up some white lights and fake pearls and Charleston until dawn!
Party planning doesn't need to be a nightmare. With a little preparation, and a few clever decorations, the perfect holiday bash can easily be yours. Here are a few of our handy party planning tips & tricks.
-Give notice: Two-three weeks is usually enough notice to get people before they make other plans but short enough that they won’t forget.
-Make a list: Having a master list of all the tiny details (clean the good glasses, get more chairs, etc.) and a timeline to get them done, will free up your brain to concentrate on more exciting tasks like decorating and menu planning.
-Keep it simple: Don’t make the menu too complex. Simple foods with great presentation (especially snack and finger foods) will take the stress out of your prep and clean-up process. Or take it a step further and have it catered.
Set the Stage
-Create an atmosphere: Keep the lighting and the music at a manageable level, not bright enough or loud enough to be a distraction to casual conversation but still present.
-Make space, leave seating: Push furniture back so that there is space to mingle but make sure that people still have the option to sit. Situate chairs in small clusters to create space for intimate conversations.
-Don’t go overboard: While it is a holiday party, decorations can quickly become overwhelming. Try to be purposeful in your choices and let them accent the way your space is normally decorated.
Try: Making Your Own (DIY) Centerpieces to save some money
-Cocktails: As fun as it may be to whip up made to order cocktails for everyone, pre-making one large batch can save time and free you up during the party to mingle.
-Pre-soak the dirty dishes: Fill a tub with warm soapy water and have guests dump their dishes in it throughout the night. This will help with later clean-up.
-Things will spill: And that’s okay. Be prepared with towels and some spray cleaners but keep your truly important belongings out of the main space.
Lastly, to send your guests out the door with warm feelings and happy memories, consider small takeaway gifts. It can be as simple a few chocolates wrapped in a cute bag, and will really put a nice cap on the evening.
Other party ideas from our Pinterest:
Not a chef? Not a problem. Simple foods, great presentation
- August 19, 2013 - 11:12 am
- Wedding Plans
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by: Katherine Shaye
Whether you’re the father of the bride or best man to the groom, giving a wedding toast has become an important and expected tradition on that special day. This moment may induce excited anticipation or a tsunami of anxious nausea in you. Maybe both. Either way we'd like to offer some tips to help you deliver a memorable and meaningful toast.
Outline your wedding toast in advance
Regardless of whether you feel confident in front of a crowds, it’s good to make notes and plan what you’d like to say. Having at least an outline of what you plan to say will help you avoid poor humor pot holes and rambling story pitfalls. And remember, you don’t need to pen the next Odyssey; a good rule of thumb is keep it less than 2 pages written or under five minutes out loud.
Borrow inspiration with wedding quotes
Often times, someone else has already said it best. If you’re feeling at a loss for words, let the experts take it away. Famous quotes are already time tested and audience approved. Try these sites for a little inspiration:
Humor is a spice not a main course
Remember that your goal is not to embarrass the bride/groom. A little light ribbing is acceptable so long as it doesn't detract from the main message of how wonderful the new couple is. Truly mortifying adolescent anecdotes should be avoided at all costs.
It’s not your moment, it’s theirs
People have gathered to celebrate the new couple; accordingly the toast should make them look good, not you. This moment at the mic is not your opportunity to flirt with the cute blonde in the back or to detail why you and the bride/groom are tighter than any other two people on the planet (a la Bridesmaids...). One touching story about your history is enough and bonus points is it involves both bride and groom, or the how they got together.
Danger, Will Robinson
Avoid the topics of sex and exes like the plague. Remember that much of the bride/groom’s family will likely be in attendance and what may be funny to reminisce about with a group of friends at a bar, might be totally mortifying to great aunt Milly. Other topics to avoid include: the national divorce rate, stories of extreme intoxication, and any other youthful debauchery. If you wouldn't share the story with your grandmother, don't share it in your wedding toast.
Practice, practice, practice
Preferably in front of a test audience. Their feedback might be what pushes your toast from good to great. Few people ever “wing it” through a great speech. Give you toast the best chance to succeed and do a few (or many) pre-game run-throughs.
Acknowledge the moment
Ask for everyone’s attention when you step up to the mic. You've worked hard to put this moment together, don’t let the beginning get swallowed up in side chatter. Most people know the drill and will easily give you their attention. Speak clearly, confidently, and into the microphone. Make eye contact and try not to bury your face in the note cards, if you have any.
Avoid over imbibing
One drink may calm the nerves, but two or three are more likely to open the floodgates to bad jokes, inappropriate stories or inarticulate rambling. In an age where nearly everything is recorded, don’t let your wedding toast become infamous for the wrong reasons.
Overall, you can’t go wrong speaking from the heart. The bride/groom chose you knowing you’d have to make this very speech. They've trusted you with this moment, so as the audience raises their champagne glasses and you begin to speak, trust yourself and be sincere; no matter what you say, they will hear this in your voice.
by: Carlo Capua
It was a typical Monday afternoon. We were busily preparing for the following day’s boxed lunch orders and creating our weekly food inventory list.
Out of nowhere, Willie, one of our senior employees, appeared outside the front door and started beating on the window to attract our attention. He was waving inside at us and pointing at something outside.
Judging by his frenzy, I thought either someone had been hit by a car or Beyonce herself was walking across the parking lot. It was neither.
I attempted to read his over-enunciated lips. “Mickael, dumb skies in your jar!” Nope. “Mickeal, plumb fries in your bar!” Huh?
“Mickeal, some guy’s in your car!”
Willie had gone outside to take out the trash and heard Mickeal’s car door slam. He thought it odd, since Mickeal was inside the café. When he walked around the truck, a suspicious guy was running away with a bag and an air compressor.
After deciphering Willie’s plea for help, I darted out the front door and saw a shirtless guy running down the street with booty in tow. I started running after him.
This guy looked about 30 years old and was ripped with muscles. I slowed my run down a little.
Besides, I didn’t want to be within range of a weapon if he had one. Judging by his sagging jeans, however, I was pretty sure he was unarmed. There was nowhere to hide a gun, at least.
Willie was behind me, awkwardly trying to dial 911 while keeping pace. My dad ran out the back café door with Keaver and they jumped in his truck.
The “perp” took a sharp left and I followed, staying about 20 yards behind and trying to not to make it obvious that I was tailing him. He alternated between walking and running, and I praised God for not putting me up against a Usain Bolt.
I was suddenly really glad I hadn’t just eaten lunch. It was 104 degrees outside and I was in dress shoes and slacks, running through traffic like I was Neo from the Matrix.
At one point the perp ran up to a building and tried to barge in through a couple different doors. The look on his face was priceless as none of them budged. I was kind of hoping the door would open and lead to a neighborhood watch meeting. Or better yet, a K-9 training seminar.
From out of nowhere, my dad comes racing around the corner in his Silverado pickup. He zooms past me and right up next to the perp. “Drop the bag and I won’t call the police!” I could hear the crazy ex-Marine yelling.
The perp yelled something back. I doubt it was, “Hey, thanks for almost running over me. When this chase is over, I’m coming by for a chicken salad sandwich.”
My dad was weaving back and forth, jumping curbs, trying to knock him down with his truck (so he claims.) He got really, really close, and actually almost pancaked him up against a building. The perp darted around the corner through a field, and my dad jumped another curb and sped through the meadow. The burglar climbed a 12-foot fence and jumped over.
I got up to the fence and saw there was no footing, but managed to get to the top when I noticed there were spikes at the tips of the iron posts (I had seen a similar obstacle the previous night on “American Ninja Warrior.”) As I debated how fast I could run wearing a split-crotched pair of pants, I saw a good Samaritan on the other side begin tailing the tiring perp from his car.
I climbed back down the fence and decided to short cut through the nearest office building to get around the fence. I ran to the nearest door and threw it open, terrifying an older Asian lady, who was cleaning the office. After 3 seconds of trying to explain to her what was happening, I just said “thank you” and sprinted past her and through a maze of offices, surprising 3 rooms full of employees. Judging by the endless rows of mundane cubicles, and drab decoration, it was probably the most excitement they’d had all month.
Following the exit signs, I burst through the front door and towards a couple of volunteers who had joined our Fantastic Four crime fighting gang. Apparently, the perp had hopped a chain link fence and into someone’s back yard. I ran to the front of the house and saw 2 police officers come to a screeching halt and immediately seal off a perimeter. A resident from the house next door said she saw someone climb a fence, and we knew he couldn’t have gone far.
The officers slowly opened a storage shed and pointed their flashlights and guns inside. One of them detected movement and started screaming “Police! Freeze! Come out with your hands up!” They put him on the ground and handcuffed him right in front of me. It was like being in a real life episode of COPS.
As they hauled him off, I felt a little sorry for him. We figured he was probably on drugs. He most likely already had a criminal record. And he had little to look forward to as they loaded him into the paddy wagon.
The Fort Worth Police officers were absolutely outstanding. They were on the scene within 90 seconds of us calling, and were professional but firm while arresting the unarmed burglar. I asked one of them how many times they had ever chased a criminal, and he said “too many times to count."
I saw a recent 60 minutes story on Stockton, California, which was the first large city in the US to declare bankruptcy. People there call 911 during an emergency and sometimes have to wait for over an hour for someone to respond.
We rarely think about police officers, firefighters, or EMTs until we have an emergency and desperately need one. Although yesterday wasn’t life-threatening, I’m thankful to live in a city that can protect its citizens when a matter of seconds can often mean life or death.
- June 24, 2013 - 11:02 am
- Beyond the Cafe
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by: Katherine Shaye
When the weather lashes out like it did recently in Moore, OK, there are a whole host of individuals who jump right in to help. First Responders, National Guard troops and relief workers of all kinds stream in to recently devastated areas in a time of crisis. When there’s so much to do, it can be easy to forget the simple things, like food and rest. That’s where disaster caterers come in.
In some situations, victims must rely on generous donations of freeze dried and dehydrated foods like lasagna and beef flavored stroganoff that can be prepared quickly by simply adding water. Other times, caterers who specialize in providing delicious healthy food can come in and offer their support to the victims and relief workers out there on the ground helping to rescue, clean up, and rebuild areas struck by disaster.
With mottos like “Whatever it takes” and “Ready at a moment’s notice” ,these mobile catering companies are true to their word. Some can deploy in a as few as four hours after a request call is made. Others can have trucks and employees on the ground in most of the country in under 24 hours. These guys plan for the worst and prepare the best in the fastest time possible.
Most of the time, disaster catering is provided by local community catering companies who have made the commitment to get trained, stay stocked and be ready. As the slogan at A Joy Wallace Catering goes “Emergency plans are best made in advance,” and these guys are ready for almost anything.
Though there are only a handful of companies offering these services, each one is specifically trained to feed groups of sometimes over a thousand in almost any location in the country. Some like Spectrum Catering are veterans to this style of hyper-mobile catering and have been sending out disaster assistance for over twenty years.
Time spent on a deployment for these folks can vary anywhere from a few days to weeks. This requires the staff and equipment to be totally self sufficient. Often refurbished step-trucks outfitted as fully stocked kitchens and optimized for on-location catering make up the home base for each operation. Each company travels a different array of tents, supplies, generators, and RV’s for staff housing, so that they require little more than space from the community the enter. Procedures to handle waste material, grease, and grey water are worked out beforehand as well as systems for high capacity cold storage and bulk water stations. Every detail thought out and streamlined so that their clients can focus on the disaster affected area and individuals.
Often our first response when we hear of a tragedy is to reach out and help. The Tarrant Area Food Bank does amazing work in our community, or for a map of other food pantries in the DFW area visit GivingGoodsDFW.com
Best Ways to Support of Disaster Victims
Her are some resource articles to help you figure out the best ways to get involved and do the most good without getting scammed.
For more information on how you can help disaster victims visit Idealist.org
- June 17, 2013 - 11:49 am
- Wedding Plans
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With so many wedding details competing for your attention, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. After choosing a venue, booking a band, selecting the cake and spending ages searching for that perfect dress, deciding the proper wording for your invites can feel like the last tedious straw.
This pocket guide is designed to help you with those tasks that need a bit of finesse. A few rules of careful etiquette can help you be a most gracious and polite host/hostess on your big day.
Explore our website for additional resources. From a variety of Fort Worth venues to discount packages on local wedding vendors, we’ll help you figure out the details so you can focus on what’s important…like where you’ll be spending your honeymoon!
These are very helpful if you are inviting many out of town guests, or friends with busy schedules. As your first correspondence with the intended guests, save-the-date cards should go out four to six months before the wedding, potentially more if the event happens on a particularly busy weekend (like a holiday) or if nearby accommodations are limited.
Wedding Invitation Timing
Addressing and stamping your wedding invites can be a lengthy process. Give yourself at least a month to get them done. Your "send-out date" should be about 7 or 8 weeks before the wedding date to ensure people have time to RSVP and make travel plans. RSVP’s will also allow you to provide the venue/caterer with a reliable final head count (many ask for the final count 4 weeks in advance.)
Avoid using nicknames or initials on the envelope. Though it may seem tedious, all names should be written out in full along with the appropriate titles, i.e. "Mr. and Mrs. Thusandsuch." Professional titles should also be noted and can vary your formatting a bit. If the husband is a doctor, for example, the titles will appear as “Doctor and Mrs.”; if the wife is a doctor, her full name will come first, as in “Doctor Sally Carter and Mr. John Carter.”
Continue spelling out all words as you write in the address. For example, write “Street” rather than “St.”, and “North”, instead of “N.” In addition, spell out any house number smaller than twenty. These rules also apply to return address which is generally put on the envelope’s back flap.
Names and Titles:
FORMAL – Incorporate social titles and the husband’s first name on the outer envelope. Use only the titles and last name on the inner one. All the words, including the state and the house number—if it is less than twenty—are written out.
INFORMAL—To loosen things up a bit, the house number, even though it is less than twenty, can be written as a numeral. Omitting wives’ first names feels old-fashioned, and including the first names of both husband and wife after their titles is more appropriate. In keeping with a more personal style, the couples are addressed by their title and respective last names.
WITH CHILDREN, FORMAL—This outer envelope will match that of a couple without children. The inner envelope is where things will deviate a little and the name and title of all the invited guests in the household will be written out. Boys under the age of 13 are referred to as “Master,” instead of “Mr.” while girls and young women under 18 are written out as “Miss.”
WITH CHILDREN, INFORMAL—Again both parents full names can be used on the outer envelope for a less formal feel. For the inner one, drop the titles and simply write the parents’ and children’s first names.
INDIVIDUAL GUESTS—Both “Ms.” and ”Miss” are appropriate for a single woman but many people prefer the first, finding it more formal. Only the invited guest’s name appears on the outer envelope. The inner one should include that individual’s name followed by “and Guest.” If you know whom he or she will be bringing, you can add that person’s name on a separate line to give it a more personal touch.
At the post office you can request that your letters be hand-canceled rather than put through the machine that print barcodes on the envelopes. Hand-cancelling consists of simply marking each stamp and keeps the envelopes looking neat as and prevents possible damage. Why take the chance of ruining all your hard work?
Firstly, be sure that when you open presents you record who gave you what, either in a notebook or by writing directly on the gift tags. While writing a note the day you receive it is best (especially since you can cross it off your to-do list afterward), the acceptable window for response is about three months. People do understand that weddings can make a couple’s life hectic so if you fall behind just be sure to send a thank you as soon as you can—but no later than six months after the event.
Stamps come in all kinds of designs.Check what variety of stamps are available at your local post office to add a fun touch to your envelopes.
This item has no strict format, and can therefore be more of a representation of you and your partner’s tastes. Generally, the program will include the names of the officiant, attendants, and anyone else who has a role in the wedding (flower girl, ring bearer, etc.) The most basic program guides guests through the ceremony, listing the order of the service as well as titles and authorship information of readings and songs.
Other personalizing touches might include
~ A brief description of each participant's relationship to the bride and groom after their name.
~ A tribute to deceased relatives or close friends in the form of a dedication in the program or an explanation that a certain activity—a candle lighting, for example—is being done in their honor.
~ Some people also include poems that speak to them, meaningful quotations, or a few words of thanks to their assembled family and friends.
A sure fire way to make sure these aren't missed is to have the ushers distribute them as the guests are being seated, or leave one on each seat for the guests to find as they file in.
Favors for your guests are one more way to show appreciation for their presence on such an important day. Lots of things can be made into a favor but you want to make sure they are reasonably sized, portable, and available in large quantities. Sites like The Knot.com or Pinterest can have great ideas for adorable and/or thoughtful favors if you are searching for ideas. DIY favors can also be a great way to save some money and show your guest how much you care.
The best favors are those that double as decorations for a reception. Arranged neatly on a each table around a centerpiece or perhaps stacked in an artful display near the guest book, favors can easily brighten the space.
Though, a side table adorned with favors may be a temptation to your guests and you may need to remind your them that these small decorations are meant to be taken home and enjoyed when the party ends. It’s all in the way they’re presented. Favors may be small, but when done right, they’re a memorable cap to the evening.
*TIP: An economical choice might be to forgo centerpieces altogether and opt for favors only. The tables will still look enchanting for the reception and the guests will inadvertently help cleanup at the end.
The Guest Book
~ Signing the book
For small, intimate celebrations, the guest book can sit out on a table and guests can sign it at their leisure during the reception. For a large wedding, you might leave the book out for a while, then recruit and attendant or relative to take it to each table so that guests who haven’t signed yet will have an opportunity to do so.
~ Pen, Pencil, Marker, Crayon...?
Colored pencils and markers can easily inspire the artist in each signer and make for interesting notes and pictures to review later on. Or perhaps a classic fountain pen is more your style giving the guest book a more cohesive look. No matter what writing implement you choose make sure it’s easy to work with. Quills and calligraphy pens, for instance, should probably be avoided.
You can personalize a pre—made guest book by pasting your invitation to the cover or embossing your monogram to the bottom corner of each page. Or if you are feeling really adventurous, your guest book needn’t be a book at all. Depending on the size of the wedding a wide picture frame, a set of cute note cards, or even a set of photo strips can be fun ways for guests to leave their best wishes.
Place Cards and Seating Cards
Place cards may seem small, but they play a big role helping guests feel more at ease—it’s nice to have an assigned seat rather than scrambling to find a spot. At most weddings, many people will be meeting for the first time and place cards can also be friendly reminders of neighbors’ names. Your guests will thank you for the help.
Most seating cards display a guest’s name and table number. They will be set up on a special table near the entrance to the reception readily available to guide guests to the right spot. Again, if the wedding is large, this might be a nice place to have another attendant or relative help people find their card and point the way to the right table.
These can be shared with people who you are unable to invite but with whom you would still like to share the news. A printed note telling them of your marriage after it happens, perhaps with an idyllic picture from the day included. Small weddings and elopements most commonly have these.