bbq pdq!

May 29, 2009

slip sliding away...


It's time to update the BBQ wish list I started last summer. I've been a very good girl this year, and I hope the BBQ fairy rewards me with lots of eye-catching, mouth-watering 'cue delights.

Each year about this time, I turn to grill gods like Steven Raichlen, America's Test Kitchen and the slightly less famous but no less awesome grillmasters in my own life to see what they're grilling, which gadgets they're wielding and how they end sentences that start, "I wish there were a grill tool that...."

Here's what is lighting my fire at the start of this year's grilling season:

  • Large Silicone Basting Brush = your new baste friend. How does it beat the standard bristle brush? It resists odor, can stand temps of up to 600 degrees, doesn't get all clumpy and looks brand new after a run through the dishwasher — or a quick swim in some soapy water. (OXO)
  • ‘Slider’ Mini-Burger Tools (basket, burger press and cutter) make small burgers with maximum ease and adorableness. Take the trend toward mini comfort food and add grilled burgers you can shape and cook in a flash and what does that equal? BBQ S-U-C-C-E-S-S.  (Sur La Table)
  • Monogrammed steak brand. You heard me. We're talking a branding iron you use to ID your meat. Do you need one? Maybe not. Do you want one? Of course you do, cowboy. (Williams-Sonoma)
  • Wine barrel staves once formed a barrel that held red wine and now are ready to be tossed on your grill to add red wine nuances as well as oak. You like a little smoke in your red wine, don't you? Well, now you can add a little wine to your smoke. (The Steven Raichlen Store)

Pair these grilling gadgets with a BBQ-themed Evite invitation like the one below.

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your pimm's cup runneth over

May 28, 2009

pimm's and proper

Summer and Great Britain don't typically go together. The British Isles in June conjure up images of gray skies and chilly temperatures, so it's a wonder that the Brits came up with one of my favorite (or favourite) summer drinks: Pimm's Cup.

Shelterrific has an excellent post that gives a little history about Pimm's from an honest-to-goodness Brit. What you'll find out is that it's one of those drinks that makes you look like a fancypants mixologist but is simple to concoct.

To make Pimm's Cup for your next party, you'll need a bottle of Pimm's No. 1, which is a blend of gin and herbs. Even though there's plenty of conjecture, the actual Pimm's No. 1 recipe is locked away in a secret vault along with other mystery recipes like the McDonald's special sauce and Bush's baked beans. In other words, don't try to make it yourself — just buy a bottle.

Once you've got your bottle of Pimm's the rest is pretty much up to you. Most recipes say to mix one part Pimm's to two parts lemon-lime soda or ginger ale, but I like to riff on it and use sparkling French lemonade. Then add fruit and mint leaves to your pitcher to garnish. Orange and lemon wheels along with cucumbers slices are traditional, but I've added everything from strawberries to blueberries to apple slices.

So lay back on a hammock with your glass of Pimm's and feel sorry for those poor Brits who've got a good six weeks left until their first signs of sunshine.

And don't forget to pair the Pimm's with a summery Evite invitation

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party by numbers: clothing swaps

May 27, 2009

gimme gimme gimme a purse after midnight

Like this design? Create an Evite invitation with this image.

Trading clothes with friends or family isn't a new phenomenon, but the trend is booming in popularity, thanks to our sinking economy and growing interest in all things green and reusable.

Not sure how to host a clothing swap? We've got you covered.

1. Choose an Evite invitation with fashion flavor, like the one above. In your message to guests, set the ground rules. Everybody brings new and gently used clothing, jewelry, bags and belts in wearable condition — no rips, stains or odors. Also, ask your guests to reply with the types of items they're bringing and what they're hoping to pick up. Finding out that someone is craving a silver miniskirt might remind another guest that they just happen to have one way back in their own closet.

2. Create your guest list. Either invite 8-10 friends for a small, informal get-together, or make it a larger group and charge a small admission fee, which can go to renting clothing racks and extra chairs or to buying food and drink. 

3. Get your place swap-ready. Set up tables and mark each one for the clothing items that should go on it, so guests can set out their wares and, later, easily find the items they're most interested in. Turn another room into a changing area by propping up a full-length mirror and making sure there's ample lighting.

More Tips for Avoiding Fashion Mayhem

  • What if some people bring expensive things and others don't? Decide with your guests if you want to assign values to each item rather than swapping on a one-to-one ratio. To assign a value, consider factors like whether the item is new or worn and whether it was above a certain dollar amount, then use color-coded stickers (or a numbering system) to give it a value. That way, a purple-stickered item can equal 2 red items or 3 blue items.
  • What if some of my friends are too grabby? Start the party by letting your guests browse around and try things on without "calling" any items as their own. You can also set limits for how many items each person can take, either by letting people take only as many items as they bring or creating rounds in which everybody can only take a set number of items.
  • What if more than one person wants the same thing? Use a tie-breaker, like a coin toss, or create a rule where the item goes to the person who has the fewest items.
  • Does everybody have to be the same size? Good friends come in all shapes and sizes, and all should feel welcome to swap it up together. If you're concerned some people will feel left out, focus your swap on shoes, purses and other accessories.
  • What if there are items left over? Donate any extras to charity.

comfort me with cuteness

May 26, 2009

mama cake and baby cakes!

When the economy plummets, comfort food’s popularity soars. After all, a night on the town may seem too expensive, but a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese does not.

Also popular during times of economic strife? The more budget-savvy approach to socializing:  entertaining at home.

And if you take these two trends and roll them into one, you get a pretty appealing option — a party with only cost-conscious comfort foods. Go even easier on the budget by calling it a potluck. For added interest, you can follow corporate America’s lead and downsize your comfort foods to create mini versions that will have guests proclaiming their cuteness before devouring them whole.

Here are some teeny-tiny, totally cute options:

  • Buy some phyllo cups and fill them with macaroni and cheese. To make your mac extra-special without getting too labor-intensive, get a boxed variety (I like white cheddar) and add stuff.  You’re in charge, so throw in what you like: blanched broccoli or asparagus, prosciutto, breadcrumbs, chives, more cheese or whatever.
  • Here’s a mini must-have: mini pigs in a blanket and its vegetarian cousin: mini soy-based pigs in a blanket.
  • Tip: Muffin tins are amazing. Make a meatloaf and instead of using your bread pan, use the muffin tin for mini meatloaves. Or, even easier: Heat up some mini meatballs.
  • Baby carrots are essentially downsized regular carrots, no? Put those out with some ranch dip. And go a little novel by offering those crazy-tiny champagne grapes. It’s probably pushing it on the comfort food front, but they’re so bizarrely small and fascinating, we must have them!
  • Are quiches comfort food? Let’s pretend they are, and add mini quiches to the menu too.
  • Shooter glassware is your friend for pint-size portions. Note: Shooters are larger than shots — think of the shooter as the toddler equivalent to the baby shot-glass size. Use shooters for small, individual servings, such as Jell-O.  A round of milkshake shooters would also be super-cute — get vanilla ice cream and add ingredients to create different rounds of flavors: chocolate syrup, strawberries, or peanut butter and banana. (Is this anyone else's childhood favorite or just mine?)  For extra nostalgia, add whipped cream and a cherry.
  • Cupcakes — and the even smaller mini-cupcakes, above in strawberry-lemon-Funfetti flavor — are always, always a hit. Seriously. Get some.

Get the potluck started with an Evite invitation. Click here for the potluck-themed option below. 

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question of the week: what's your flavor?

May 25, 2009

qwestyuns. I haz dem.

I scream, you scream... now that it feels like summer outside, everyone's screaming for ice cream. For the real ice cream lovers out there, pretty much any flavor will do. But everyone has a favorite classic ice cream flavor. Tell us yours!

bask in the glow

May 22, 2009

we'll be out there having fun, in that warm California sun

Like this design? Create an Evite invitation with this image.

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Whether your weekend plans include a trip out of town or a BBQ, why not kick off your festivities with a pre-summer glow? A dusting of bronzer gives skin a healthy dose of color and quickly enhances your complexion. (To achieve the most natural look, sweep onto areas of your face where the sun naturally hits: cheeks, forehead, chin and nose.)

Here’s a roundup of budget-friendly bronzers that will give your skin a sun-kissed glow, at least until Labor Day:

be my "and guest"

May 21, 2009

ring-a-ding-ding

Like this design? Create an Evite invitation with this image.

Since we're at the beginning of another wedding season, we thought this would be the perfect time to address the perennial etiquette discussion of inviting guests with "and guest." Whether you're doing the inviting or getting invited, there are things to keep in mind to avoid a sticky situation.

Guests:

The rule is generally clear-cut: If your invitation doesn't include "and guest," then you're flying solo. Keep in mind that the bride and groom are tallying an exact headcount and paying per head. Showing up with someone unexpectedly or RSVPing with a guest will at most cause problems and at least lead to an awkward conversation.

There could be instances where the bride and groom may have overlooked your guest. If the wedding is being hosted by distant relatives or friends who live across the country, they may not know about your significant other. General etiquette suggests that your other is significant enough to require an invitation if you live together or are engaged or married. If you think that your lack of and-guest was an oversight, then definitely give the bride or groom a call.

Hosts:

In the interest of keeping your guests happy, here are a few things to consider during the invitation process.

  • If a guest is single and doesn't know anyone else who you've invited, it's courteous to invite them with a guest. This is especially the case if that guest has to travel to get to your wedding.
  • As mentioned above, if a guest lives with or is engaged to someone, their significant other should be invited. When inviting their guest, go the extra mile to find out that person's name (correct spelling and all).
  • Be prepared to receive an RSVP or two with an unexpected write-in. It's not necessarily a pleasant surprise, but one that most couples (present company included) have to face.

get the scoop on party favors

May 20, 2009

fill 'er up!

Providing fun and free party help is the name of our game here at Evite, and we love seeing all the clever party ideas other bloggers come up with. Like this one: a retro-cute party favor bag you make yourself.

This clever party idea comes to us from the Tangarang blog (via Craft Gossip — one of our favorite DIY sites), and it's a great way to add an inexpensive, homemade touch to your next ice cream social, girls' night or kids' party.

All you do is download the design on the Tangarang site, print it, cut out the shapes, roll it up, fasten and fill with candy and trinkets.

This ice cream-themed Evite invitation screams for...well...ice cream! Click here to get the look. 

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sweet sushi

May 19, 2009

fruit + sushi = frushi

As party foods go, sushi can be pretty polarizing — some people can't get enough while others absolutely loathe it. But lately, we've been coming across some recipes for sweet sushi that just about anyone, even those pesky seafood haters, can get behind.

  • Perfect for kids, The Kitchn has peanut butter and fruit sushi. Not only is it made up of fairly wholesome ingredients like wheat bread and mangoes, but the construction seems like it would be a fun, interactive party activity.

  • For something a little more refined, the Sushi de Fruits at La Tartine Gourmand is practically a work of art. This recipe includes pink grapefruit or apple slices atop a bed of rice pudding with a raspberry dipping sauce. Quelle delish!

  • Got a sweet tooth? Candy sushi from Steak & Cakes will give you the ultimate sugar rush. Whether you want cut rolls, hand rolls or nigiri, they'll show you how to get it with flattened Rice Krispie Treats, Swedish Fish and Twizzlers.
  • So wrong it's got to be right, Hostess Twinkie Sushi brings the creamy, cakey treats together with dried fruit, gummy candy and green Fruit Roll-Ups.

question of the week: memorial day plans

May 18, 2009

qwestyuns. I haz dem.


Memorial Day is next Monday already. How did that happen? As we honor our military heroes, we also welcome summer by getting together with family and friends.