Archive for December, 2009

Table Centerpiece Ideas

Friday, December 25th, 2009


Wow, what a year it has been and I look forward to a great and successful 2010.  I hope your New Year’s is fun and safe and that you too have a spectacular 2010.

I just wanted to share with you one last quick and simple table centerpiece idea that can be used for New Year’s too just in case you have a few friends over for dinner.  For last night’s Christmas Eve dinner, I created an easy yet elegant table centerpiece using just ribbon and candles.  I then took these decorative plastic berries that I picked up at the craft store and placed the ribbon around them.

Table centerpiece ideas to set the tone of a winter feeling in your home for New Year’s include using dark green organza fabric or a table runner then mixing and matching silk flowers and pine branches with real ones and placing votive and pillar candles on the table as well for decor.

Other fast and easy table centerpiece ideas  can be found in Budget Bash – Simply Fabulous Events on a Budget the book I wrote this past year.  In the Budget Bash, I share my years of experience as well as helpful tips, impressive menu ideas with easy recipes, do-it-yourself flower designs, table centerpiece ideas, easy decorative napkin folds and more.  Essentially everything you need to know to plan beautiful and elegant events on your own.

Thanks to all for making this year so great and until next year, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Easy Party Appetizers for Your Christmas Hors d Oeuvres

Thursday, December 24th, 2009


Countdown to Friday and I thought I would share with you the Christmas hors d oeuvres and dinner menu I am serving on Christmas Eve since the hors d oeuvres are easy party appetizers

My Christmas hors d oeuvres include a Salmon Mousse, a Walnut and Mushroom Pate and Cheddar Cheese Crisps all of which are easy party appetizers.  Serve these appetizers with fresh sourdough crisps, crackers or fresh vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and asparagus.  Both the Salmon Mousse and Walnut and Mushroom Pate recipes can be found in Budget Bash – Simply Elegant Events on a Budget.   

In a previous post I provided the Cheddar Cheese Crisps but just in case you missed it, here it is again.

Cheddar Cheese and Rosemary Crisps 

½ lb sharp cheddar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups of flour
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons of finely chopped Rosemary

Combine all the ingredients but the rosemary in a Cuisinart.  Stir in the Rosemary.  Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Divide dough in ½ and roll out to ¼” thick.  Cut crisps and place on parchment paper on cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.

For Christmas Eve Dinner we are serving a bib lettuce salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and a vinaigrette and old fashioned chicken pot pie.  For dessert, pecan pie which I can’t wait to have a slice of. 


The decor for the event is simple, red votive candles in clear votive glasses, silk poinsettia flowers with gold painted pine-cones and pine leaves and maybe a pine green organza runner.  All of which I keep in my party planning design box.  (More cost-saving design tips can be found in Budget Bash.) 

I hope you have a safe fun joyous holiday and remember this holiday season to keep in mind the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

New Years Eve Party Ideas for Family Parties

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


New Years Eve is always an exciting night so I thought I would give you a couple of New Years Eve party ideas for family parties.  As I mentioned on Martha Stewart Living radio yesterday, with the current economic climate continually changing, we now, more than ever, are examining our spending habits with more care and consideration.  Therefore, this New Years Eve, make it a family celebration and include the entire family when entertaining with your friends.

New Years Eve party ideas include having friends over for a potluck dinner and for your guests to enjoy and participate in, Guess Whose Baby Picture and family favorite board games could serve as the evening’s entertainment for a family celebration

As I mentioned on Martha Stewart Living Radio, since we are talking about family parties, keep it simple and casual.  Call the party time for early evening, request casual dress and create a menu complete with easy-to-make food items or fresh ready-served food that is easy to pick up at the market or deli. 

Keep costs in check.  Limit your guest list and ask guests to participate in a pot-luck dinner.  Avoid duplicate food selections by tagging each family unit with the food item they need to bring.  Spend more time with your guests at this family celebration and less time cleaning up by making sure your guests bring their assigned menu selections in ready-to-serve containers. 

New Years Eve party ideas include the Guess Whose Baby Picture game.  Simply ask each guest to bring theirs’ and their children’s infant pictures.  Then randomly tape the pictures up on a board and hand out paper and pens.  Each family plays as a team and the family who guesses the most correct pictures, wins a prize.  For family parties, the prize could be anything from a gift certificate to a family-styled restaurant, movie tickets or a gift-card from the local market or video store. 

A second family celebration oriented entertainment suggestion is to turn New Years Eve into family game night.  For family parties, ask each family to bring a couple of their favorite board games such as Scrabble, Monopoly, Sorry!, Candyland, Barrel of Monkeys or Chutes and Ladders.  For a more challenging time, try Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy Board Game, Wheel of Fortune or a jigsaw puzzle.  For puzzle parties, set a time limit.  The family who completes or is closet to completing the puzzle in the least amount of time wins.   

Your New Years Eve party ideas should include a family celebration dinner menu.  For family parties especially, I recommend menu items that are filling, fun, kid-friendly and easy to eat.  Again make sure your menu selection is easy to prepare or can be picked up at the local market ready-to-go. 

Finally, select menu items from all food groups, avoid known allergens such as nuts and whenever possible, create a menu that allows guests gluten-free food selections too. (Some easy fast menus and recipes including gluten-free and vegan, look to pages 94 to 110 in Budget Bash.)

I hope you found these New Years Eve party ideas helpful for your family celebration.  New Years Eve is a great time to host family parties and what better way to celebrate the New Year than with your family.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Easy Christmas Table Décor and Party Planning Tips

Monday, December 21st, 2009


The countdown begins to Friday, Christmas Day, and I thought I would provide some party planning tips and share some Christmas table decoration ideas.  These easy Christmas table décor displays are inexpensive Christmas decorations that can be re-used for years to come.

Candles are a great way to provide inexpensive Christmas decorations for your buffet or dinner table.  Christmas table decoration ideas revolving around candles include taking a red hurricane glass and candle and creating a wreath around it with fresh flowers.  Another Christmas table décor display is to take a glass container, fill it with red rose petals and then place a smaller glass votive with a candle inside. 


Recycling Helpful Hint for Votive Candles

A great tip to keep your votive candles looking new is when you are finished using them for your event, put them in the freezer and let them freeze up.  Then carefully pop the unused and leftover candle wax out of the glass container and place the empty votive glass container in the dishwasher.  Run it through a cycle with your dishes and when it finishes, the glass votive looks brand new. 

Other party planning tips that are inexpensive Christmas decorations include using silk poinsettia flowers, gold painted pinecones, gold, red and green colored beads (can then be re-used for Mardi Gras) and place loosely on the table as a centerpiece for your buffet or dinner table.  Add a green organza table runner and red votives in clear glass containers and there you have a fast, easy yet elegant Christmas table décor.  (For more fast and easy party planning tips check out my book Budget Bash.)

Other Christmas table decoration ideas include purchasing gold, silver, various shades of burgundy, red and green fabric remnants and using those fabrics on your buffet table.  Purchase about a yard of a few different fabrics in coordinating colors and textures and then use them as Christmas table décor on your buffet by covering books or small boxes.  Place your food platters or a flower arrangement on top of these covered items.  Your buffet will have food and flower displays on different levels creating a more dynamic look and feel to your table.  


Various ribbons are great and easy inexpensive Christmas decorations as well.  Purchase wide bands of textured, patterned and plain colored ribbons to compliment the fabric swatches used on your buffet.  Wrap a ribbon around a platter of food, in between groupings of loose flowers or just down the center of your dinner table.

Of course, one of the most obvious but sometimes forgetful party planning tips is to arrive early in the morning on the 26th at your local store that sells ribbon, lights, silk flowers, fabrics, table displays wrapping paper and other Christmas table décor.  What I do is stock up and then put all of my purchases away in my party planning design box as I mention on page 29 in Budget Bash.  Then I just pull from it what I need when I need it.

I hope you found these party planning tips on inexpensive Christmas decorations and Christmas table décor useful for your upcoming parties.  Enjoy your holidays and remember to keep in mind the Budget Bash mantra; make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Event Planning Ideas for a Corporate Holiday Party

Friday, December 18th, 2009


I know the corporate holiday party season is winding down this week but I wanted to run by some corporate party ideas for you to think about for next year and quickly review some of the event planning ideas that need careful execution for corporate events.

I always find it best to theme corporate events.  It helps create a focus for the event’s invitation, menu, design and entertainment.  Creating a themed corporate holiday party also gives the guests an opportunity to participate.  

Event planning ideas I have used in the past for corporate events include a traditional Yuletide Holiday, a Cirque Holiday, a Moroccan Holiday and a Hot Havana Nights Holiday celebration.  After reviewing these corporate party ideas with my client, Contractor’s Wardrobe, we decided to theme our event A Night at the Kasbah based upon a Moroccan holiday theme.  (For more party theme ideas, check out pages 12 to 15 in Budget Bash.) 

Event Planning Ideas That Need Careful Execution

The Moroccan themed holiday party is a corporate holiday party that needs careful execution.  Like any themed event you need to make sure your décor and entertainment reflects the theme.  Corporate events with small budgets can use this theme as well, just make sure you hire top notch entertainment and decorate your party room.   

For Contractor’s Wardrobe, we hired a gypsy fortune teller and belly dancers.  We created floral centerpieces using a red hurricane placed among gold and red flowers in a gold painted box.  We complimented these floral arrangements with Moroccan striped linen and gold Chiavari chairs with red cushions.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the adequate space to bring in a camel for atmosphere as I have done previously at another corporate holiday party.

Other fun corporate party ideas for a Moroccan party include providing a Moroccan lounge and tea station, genie bottle cookie party favors and a henna tattoo artist.  What is also fun and I do this at all my corporate events is a photo op.  You can bring in a green screen and drop a themed background, or hire animal wranglers and bring a live animal such as a camel or Capuchin monkey for the photo op as I have done in the past.


Of course, to compliment your themed event create a menu that reflects your selected event planning ideas.  Here is a sample Moroccan themed menu.

A selection of Humus along with Babaghennoush and Falafel accompanied by Pita Bread
Chicken and/or Vegetable Tajine
Chicken Pastille and various Kebobs using Beef, Chicken and Vegetables
Moroccan Salad and Couscous (I like to add raisins, pineapple or dates)
Bakalava, Sellou and Moroccan Coconut Cake for Dessert

I hope you can use some of these ideas for a corporate holiday party for next year.  When you theme your event, the ideas can be limitless which in turn creates a fun atmosphere for your guests.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

A Non Profit Event and a Tofu Vegan Recipe

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009


Sometimes a non profit event you work on will actually change your lifestyle and your eating habits.  A whole new vocabulary (such as eat vegan and vegan catering) has become a part of my daily life and in January, I will attempt the 21-day vegan cleanse courtesy of PCRM.

I think one of the effects from PCRM’s non profit event (scheduled for April 10th of 2010) is that they improved my eating habits and got me to think about what I eat.  At least once a week, I try to eat vegan (or I will admit, more often vegetarian) and to include an increased amount of tofu vegan foods.

Working on this non profit event has also caused me to look to substitutes when I cook.  Why not use olive oil instead of butter when sautéing?  How about vegetable broth instead of chicken stock?  A lot of people think that when you eat vegan, the food will be dry, tasteless and chewy which is not the case at all. 

What I have been exposed to via PCRM are delicious tofu vegan foods at funky hip vegan restaurants that also offer vegan catering.  In fact for Thanksgiving and for a couple of dinner parties, I made a vegan pumpkin pie.  I have also cooked a “neatloaf” – vegan meatloaf – and quite often I whip up a walnut mushroom pate that looks like chopped liver.  (More vegan recipes and party ideas can be found in Budget Bash).

The Environment and a Vegan Diet

When you eat vegan, I believe you also start to take a second look at your environment and how you can possibly decrease the amount of waste produced.  A diet of tofu vegan foods puts less stress on the environment because this diet requires less manufacturing. 

Also, consider your wardrobe. Are there certain leather accessories that you can do without or can you switch them to fabric products?  Now more than ever, designers are looking to stylish alternatives for leather, suede and fur and creating alternative fashion statements that are fun, functional and hip.   

Tofu Vegan Recipe

Below is a delicious and easy tofu vegan recipe for a walnut mushroom pate.  I included this recipe in Budget Bash since it is impressive to serve yet simple to make.  (Hint, I keep it in the fridge and just eat it without the crackers after working out for a good source of protein.)

Walnut Mushroom Pate

3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ pound fresh sliced mushrooms
½ onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound firm tofu, mashed
½ cup walnuts
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Sauté the mushrooms, onion and garlic in olive oil until the onions turn soft, about 5 minutes. 

Put the mushroom mixture and tofu in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Add the walnuts, salt and pepper and puree again until smooth.  Chill the pate thoroughly before serving with your favorite bread or crackers.

Enjoy the mushroom pate and stay tuned for my details from my 21-day vegan cleanse.  After all, you never know what effects producing a non profit event may make upon your everyday life.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

How to Use Budget Catering with Christmas Party Food

Friday, December 11th, 2009


The holiday party season is here so what I thought I would do is suggest some party appetizer ideas for your Christmas party food.  What you want to keep in mind to maintain a low-cost budget catering menu is to incorporate easy finger foods along with your holiday buffet. 

As the party host, be creative with your presentation of your Christmas party food and make it easy for your guests to pick up and eat.  Create an interactive buffet station by using skewers for your vegetables at the crudités station.  Make a vegetable garden presentation using skewered vegetables “planted” in wheat grass.  

At the dessert station, build your own fondue station.  Again using skewers, offer strawberries, bananas, rice crispy treats, Oreos, marshmallows, to name a few easy finger foods your guests can choose from.  If you are trying to watch your weight, select the fruit over the cookies and walk away from the dessert station before you dip into the chocolate!


Christmas party food has a tendency to be very rich and abundant in calories so if you are trying to watch your weight, select the low-calorie alternatives.  Party appetizer ideas to watch your weight include selecting the fresh vegetable crudités versus the macaroni cheese bites.  Even though the spinach and artichoke and cheese dips are more delicious, dip your veggies into the salsas or various flavored humus dips if offered. 

As a host, serving crudités, dips and small bites is an effective use of budget catering.  To stretch your dollars further offer easy finger foods such as an anti-pasta station with sliced meats, cheeses and skewered tortellini.  (Budget Bash offers great party appetizer ideas and a menu with recipes that can be found beginning on page 80.)

Other party appetizer ideas to help keep your costs low include tray-passing heartier items such as beef or turkey sliders, pigs in blankets, shrimp cocktail and shot glasses filled with soups.  You can serve either hot soups such as the classic favorite tomato soup or a cold gazpacho or cucumber soup.  By tray-passing these items, you are able to control the portions and timing of the food.

To help maintain a low-cost budget catering menu at the bar, feature a holiday martini such as a peppermint martini.  Here is an easy recipe for a peppermint martini.  (Budget Bash features other martini recipes beginning on page 87.)

Peppermint Martini

3 parts vodka
1 part white crème de menthe

Pour ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice and shake well.  Pour straight up into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a mini-candy cane hanging along the rim of glass or prior to pouring the drink into glass, crush the candy cane and wet down the glass rim.  Then dip the rim into the bowl filled with candy cane pieces.

I hope you found these party appetizer ideas helpful for your Christmas party food.  You can keep costs at a minimum with budget catering by controlling the portions via tray-passing some easy finger foods.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Los Angeles Special Events and the Andaz Hotel

Thursday, December 10th, 2009


As a special event coordinator, I am always on the hunt for new venues to hold a special event at.  Thus when Michael Loveridge from the Andaz Hotel called to set up a meeting and have lunch I took a drive to the West Hollywood and was pleasantly surprised.

There are so many options and venues when it comes to Los Angeles special events.  In fact, a few years previously, I had coordinated a special event at this hotel when it was under the Hyatt flag.  However, they closed the hotel and did a complete renovation and as a special event coordinator it was very exciting to see that they updated the hotel and added many features we request for special event planning.

The upstairs pool and deck at the Andaz was renovated and now the hotel has cabanas for guests to use.  Unlike other hotels and Hollywood hotspots, you don’t need to order a minimum to sit underneath the cabanas on a hot day; they are on a first come first serve basis (how democratic!).  This deck has a fabulous view of the city to the ocean (on a clear day) and is a great spot to hold a special event.

Next to the pool is the revamped ballroom and it too should be noted as a unique spot for Los Angeles special events.  The hotel installed an open interactive kitchen which as a special event coordinator I love since this kitchen gives you so many options for special event planning.  Cooking demonstrations on a large scale or interactive buffet stations are a few ideas that immediately come to mind.  (For other theme ideas check out pages 12 to 14 in Budget Bash.)

The hotel also offers a couple other options to hold a special event.  They have a smaller ballroom that also has an interactive kitchen.  In fact, recently the Andaz hosted its own event for local event planners to show us what special event planning ideas are possible in the room.  As a special event coordinator, I thought the room was well planned since it included not only the interactive kitchen but also event furniture, a lovely bar and sit-down and stand-up cocktail tables. 

Another great spot at the hotel to consider for Los Angeles special events is their restaurant.  They completely changed the existing space by installing an open kitchen with glass doors on the refrigerators as well as the food storage bins.  The restaurant has a cool bar space within it, and it also has communal tables for guests to sit and mingle.  Of course, the food was delicious and I plan to go back for a special event on Valentine’s Day!


Finally, the staff was extremely cordial and helpful, and it appears that the hotel is conscious of the economic climate and is open to working with all types of budgets and economic situations.  (For more helpful tips on keeping your event on a budget as well as sample budgets, read pages 5 to 10 in Budget Bash.)

Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Floral Arranging and Cheap Flower Arrangements

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009


So many times with event floral, you find after the event that you have left over flower arrangements.  What I thought I would do in this article is offer some suggestions for floral arranging and show some samples of elegant but cheap flower arrangements for your events. 

One example of a wedding flower arrangement is to take hydrangeas and create a wreath around a hurricane candle and holder.  If it is around the holidays, use a red hurricane and purchase white hydrangeas to make a stylish example of holiday décor via floral arranging

Using a hurricane with hydrangeas is a good illustration of easy and cheap flower arrangements because you can pick the flowers up at your local market or flower shop and the hurricane holder and candle at a craft store.  Then, just place the flowers around the hurricane. (To compliment this event floral, look at pages 65 to 67 in Budget Bash for stylish napkin folds.)  


Want to add some color to your wedding flower arrangement?  Select some colored roses that match your wedding theme and insert those into the wreath of hydrangeas to give an alternate look to your cheap flower arrangements


Floral arranging using flower clusters and mixing the clusters with votives is another idea you can use on your buffet or table centerpiece.  Just purchase roses, Gerber daisies, tulips or any other favorite flower of yours, cut the stems low and place as clusters on the table interspersed with candles to create inexpensive flower arrangements.  Just make sure not to use any type of heavily scented flower such as lilies or tiger lilies on the table.  You don’t want to overwhelm your senses with the food and the perfume of the flowers.  

Sometimes the host at an event will offer you the table centerpiece to take home with you.  This event floral can be very large and you may not have room anywhere to keep it.  However, what you can do is take some of the flowers home with you and then use your vases or a water pitcher and create beautiful flower arrangements that will last the week after the event.  

Other cheap flower arrangements include using baby’s breath around a hurricane glass holder and candle.  You can do an all-white look using white roses or intermix some red roses to create an elegant yet inexpensive wedding flower arrangement. (You can also use event lighting for your wedding, such as gobos as discussed on pages 26 to 27 in Budget Bash.)


In fact, why not theme an entire wedding using baby’s breath including the bridal bouquet as the event floral to compliment the above mentioned table centerpieces?  I have seen some of the industry’s top designers go with this theme and if done correctly, is elegant, stylish and inexpensive.

I hope you found these suggestions for floral arranging and using cheap flower arrangements helpful.  Using candles and a limited amount of specific event floral can help keep costs down especially for a wedding flower arrangement.  For other ideas on flower arrangements check out Budget Bash and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Event Décor and Special Event Lighting

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009



No matter if it is a wedding, Mitzvah or corporate event, event lighting is a crucial element of event décor.  Many times, special event lighting will make or break an event.  What I thought I would do is provide you with some event planning ideas for event décor to include on your event planning checklist

You can create any type of atmosphere using event lightingSpecial event lighting can be a relatively inexpensive use of event décor and will enable you to turn a tent into a Louisiana bayou or a warehouse into a circus.  With special event lighting anything is possible including projecting images onto scrims or walls.  (For more décor tips, check out pages 26 to 30 in Budget Bash.)

One of the event planning ideas I give to my clients is to project their names with a gobo (metal or glass disc that is used with a Leiko light to project an image) onto a dance floor, wall or ceiling.  Using gobos, especially for weddings and mitzvahs, is a fun event décor idea that calls attention to the couple or child being honored at the event. 

All you need to do is create a PDF file of the name you want to project such as Amanda (as seen in the bat mitzvah picture above) or Frank & Apryl (wedding picture).  You can also purchase or rent additional generic gobos as well.  With one corporate client, I always have on my event planning checklist to rent special event lighting pre-made gobos such holiday bells, reindeer, a Santa or holly leaves.

Another great inexpensive use of event lighting is to up-light trees.  These trees can be in your backyard; planters that already exist at the event site or greenery you rent for the event and then highlight them with color.  Depending upon your theme and event décor, you can use amber, green, blue or pink to name a few colors.  Special event lighting using LED lights on the perimeter of your banquet room floor will add color throughout the event with the lights transitioning color from pinks and blues to ambers and greens.


Another event décor idea using special event lighting is to use lighted tables and bars.  Most party rental companies either have these tables and bars in their inventory or can recommend a company that rents event lighting tables with plexi-glass and LED lights.  

Pin spotting table centerpieces is another one of the event planning ideas I give my clients to add special event lighting to the event.  The best way to pin spot tables is to hang the pin spots above the tables; however, if this is not possible, then try to have your pin spots at least 14’ high attached to a pole. 

The higher the light, the less likely a guest will complain that light is shining in their eyes when they are at the table.  Of course, you will need to accommodate for the ceiling height you are working with so be sure you include checking the ceiling height on your event planning checklist and relay this information to your event décor contact or event lighting company. 


One of the special event lighting companies I work with is Kinetic Lighting.  Their event lighting capabilities have helped me transform a white tent into a swamp for the opening of Bubba Gump’s in Santa Monica and transformed a ballroom into a Havana nightclub.

I hope you found these event planning ideas on special event lighting something you can add to your event planning checklist.  For other budget event décor ideas you can check out about Budget Bash and what it offers including advice on invitations (page 15), step-by-step easy flower arrangements (page 59) and more at  

Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!