Valentine’s Day Soirée!

Someone like myself, who prefers Halloween to all holidays, watching documentaries about diseases, sharks and/or massacres, as well as the generally macabre aspects of life, may not truly appreciate the saccharine, heart-shaped miasma that is Valentine’s Day. I do, however, love a good theme. One I can really run with, like the goddess Diana, through a beautiful forest of decorating possibilities!

Given this fact, and Valentine’s Day being on a Thursday last year, I decided to host a fabulous Valentine’s soirée! I thought it might be much more enjoyable than a “fancy” date night at some restaurant, surrounded by a bunch of desperate strangers, with outrageously high expectations, eating overpriced steak and mediocre desserts.

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So yummy!

Again, because I have doting parents who are willing to help me, and provide excessive amounts of table settings, decor and silver pieces, this party was an over-the-top success! Not to mention, the house lends itself extremely nicely to this color scheme, given the vintage pink linoleum covering the kitchen, pink curtains in the dining room, pink sectional sofa and dramatic peacock feathers in the foyer. I invited so many people that we had all three tables set up (one in the Library/Study, Dining Room and Breakfast Room). Each was set with a different combination of colors, all of which featured pink heavily.

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Fancy folks in the Dining/Cherub room!

The Breakfast Room! (My favorite table cloth, the vintage net and sequined felt!)

The Breakfast Room! (My favorite table cloth, the vintage net and sequined felt!)

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Sophisticated romance in the Study!

I served Mexican food, mostly because you can cook a lot of it at once without too much effort, and it has less staining properties than Italian fare. (Red sauce and white table cloths DO NOT mix.) So, I opted to make 40+ enchiladas, with chicken and veggie options! Never before attempted, but they were delicious! I bought rice and beans from Chuy’s (they were SUPER gracious about it), and a couple of my friends provided the (totally necessary) crock pot queso.

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My mother, and guests, were very helpful!

Not sure how I got away with not wearing an apron. (ALWAYS wear an apron!)

Not sure how I got away with not wearing an apron. (ALWAYS wear an apron!)

We also had a pink champagne punch (OBVS), with a frozen juice/blueberry-filled heart to keep it cool, and make my great grandmother’s punch bowl look even more fabulous!

Gorgeous in all the ways!

Gorgeous in all the ways!

For dessert (along with the many amazing guest contributions), I made what my family now calls “Strawberry Collapse Cake.” So named because of an incident in my childhood involving my mother, covered up to her elbows in pink, strawberry/coconut icing, weeping and babbling incoherently while what was once a layered cake slowly oozed sideways and simultaneously imploded. Being a relentless problem-solver, she decided to put the “cake” in an antique trifle bowl. Alternating cake, icing, sliced strawberries and cool whip, she created a beautiful dessert, and effectively masked it’s inherent instability.

*Somehow the desserts went unphotographed, however, if you have any pictures, please let me know!*

The decor for this party was absolutely incredible. Seriously. We’re talking gold lame swags, punctuated with my mother’s (seemingly endless) supply of heart-shaped candy boxes, in the living room. A silver epergne (pronounced: ay-pern), adorned with piles of hearts and cherubs, not to mention the ever-present pink cow hide rug, and pink and green sofa.

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So many golden swags! (It’s all one long piece, btw.)

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Silver epergne and pink cow hide rug. So classy!

Pink sofa! And the gorgeous flowers Boyfriend bought just for me!

Pink sofa! Plus, gorgeous flowers!

We added some hearts to my mother’s antique wall-o-drawers piece in the Breakfast Room, plus some hanging on her stick arrangements, for good measure.

My friend's camera had a color filter! We USED it!

My friend’s camera had a color filter! We USED it!

The cutest!

The cutest!

My father’s Study/Library was made more festive with two enormous Styrofoam hearts, on loan from my maternal grandmother. I used one of the three hearts as a background for the “photo booth” we set up in the entry way! This was also a big hit, especially for those who donned some of the “costumes” provided: feather boas, oversize pearls, ladylike fans, and the token mustache guy we inherited from my grandparents’ furniture store.

So demure!

So demure!

Perfect friends!

Perfect friends!

Also meant to be!

Also meant to be!

Or does Matt love this guy??

Or does Matt love this guy??

Nope. It's this pretty lady!

Nope. It’s this pretty lady!

Adorbs!

Adorbs!

So happy!

So happy!

My anti-Valentine's friends came too!

My anti-Valentine’s friends came too!

Since we are a pretty crafty group, I also set up my mother’s craft room as a place for people to make their own Valentine’s Day cards and/or paper bags to collect goodies! (Like the Spanish conversation hearts my mother managed to accidentally purchase!)

Te amo!

Te amo!

I collected some pre-made Valentine’s cards, along with paper, glue, scissors, stickers, GLITTER, doilies and so much more! Giving people something to do before and/or after dinner encourages creativity and conversation. Plus, if you haven’t put together gift bags, they have something to take home that will remind them of how much fun they had!

Brian was super excited about his Valentine's bag!

Brian was super excited about his Valentine’s bag!

Craftin!

Craftin!

And lookin' good!

And lookin’ good!

Also, for this event, I decided I needed to create an ensemble that would be memorable and gorgeous. Thankfully, my mother has a pattern collection that would rival that of Vogue or McCall’s, so I quickly found a pattern that NEEDED to be real.

Isn't everything about this incredible??

Isn’t everything about this incredible??

So, Mom also had this fab silky red fabric that happened to be a shade darker on the “wrong” side, which was PERFECT for this dress, and I didn’t have to line the peplum! It was one of my first attempts at dealing with boning (re: buy boning that hasn’t been wrapped in a circle for 20+ years), and sewing this particular pattern. It went pretty well, though, and the final product turned out to be quite the conversation piece!

Dramatic in red! (Look at my pink cheeks!)

Dramatic in red! (Look at my pink cheeks!)

Worn with my PEACOCK FEATHER BOA!

Worn with my PEACOCK FEATHER BOA!

This party was a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day! Everyone had a wonderful time, contributed so much, and were able to wallow in the evening’s romantic theme.

Have you been to a Valentine’s Day party? Do you and your other celebrate Val-D? Do you have an anti-Val-D tradition?

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Host the BEST Christmas Gathering!

We are down to the wire, people! If you are hosting a holiday party this year, now is the time to get going with the party planning! Unless you’re a lonely butler, chances are you know some people, and those people are likely to invade your house at some point during the month of December. The closer you get to Christmas, the more true this becomes. So, with the inevitable onslaught of guests, it’s advisable that you decorate your abode, and perhaps have some last minute party-making tricks up your sleeve.

This guy knows about deadlines.

This guy knows about deadlines.

In the event that you’re spending Christmas away from family traditions, creating some of your own, or hosting a party for friends, this article/video by Julia Ziegler-Haynes is full of SUPER helpful hints, tips, and recipes! She basically tells the ultimate hosting-on-the-cheap secret, which is DO IT YOURSELF. If you opt for ingredients instead of pre-made stuff, you’ll almost always save money. With just a few items, and for about $100 total, she puts together a lovely party in not much time!

She tried the punch, and it was gooood.

She tried the whiskey punch, and it was gooood.

Even if you have never hosted a holiday party, or any party for that matter, the above links and video should be a fantastic guide toward making you a successful host! That being said, here is a collection of amazing Christmas “celebrations” and personal holiday stylings from the Internet. Feel free to attempt any of these you prefer, and impress all of your guests! The following are my favorites:

Christmas HAIR! She and Gaga should hang out.

Christmas HAIR! She and Gaga should hang out.

I love the super resentful, angrypants look on this guy's face!

I love the super resentful, angrypants look on this guy’s face!

Bahahahaha!

Bahahahaha! Wrecking Balls! This could definitely be a “pornament” on a naughty Christmas tree!

I'm not all about babies, but his dude is giving some fierce crazy eyes.

I’m not all about babies, but his dude is giving some fierce crazy eyes.

Star Wars nativity is THE BEST!

Star Wars nativity is THE BEST!

I did a “Star Wars” themed Christmas a few years ago, and although I’ll clearly have to do a (way better) repeat performance, it was a blast! If you’re a Christmas traditionalist, that’s great, but I since it comes around every year, I like to use it as an opportunity to try lots of different themes (Elvis/Blue Christmas, Turquoise & Purple Peacocks, Star Wars, Nightmare Before Christmas), and they have all been delightful! It’s much easier to feel motivated and festive for a party if you have chosen a great/simple/clever theme to bring everything together.

Are you hosting a holiday gathering this year? Have you already? What theme did you go with this year? Do you have a Christmas celebration tradition?

Random Fun Wednesday! Beauty, Decor & Inspiration!

Today’s collection of things is pretty amazing! I’ve got a couple of Houzz articles to share about holiday decorating, some INCREDIBLE up-close shots of snowflakes, and a super inspiring project that involves mannequins! Yay, mannequins!

Ok, so for those of you who haven’t thrown up the Christmas decorations just yet, Houzz has some simple ways to jazz up your entry! They’re really great, mostly because almost all of them could be applied to any space, whether large or small. The first few are definitely for home owners (those lucky/totally trapped individuals), but could be utilized by those of you who have kind and flexible landlords.

We'll talk more about these shortly.

Just add a wreath! (We’ll talk more about these shortly.) They also suggest you purchase a lion (or other awesome) door knocker! GREAT idea!

The next set of suggestions are for anyone and everyone who has the time and/or energy to put said tips to use: add a pop of color, put together enormous floral arrangements, set up a festive corner seating space, and the really dedicated folks can totally paint the walls!

I know most of you won’t go that far, but you can easily add a festive feel to your home with a theme wreath! This tutorial gives detailed instructions for creating a lovely one out of real plants!

This is a great tutorial, and you can incorporate any elements you prefer using the same methods! (Rikki Snyder © 2012 Houzz)

This is a great tutorial, and you can incorporate any elements you prefer using the same methods! (Rikki Snyder © 2012 Houzz)

Now that we’ve fed the DIY beast, it’s on to complete and utter awe at how incredible nature is! The Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov has utilized macrophotography to take unbelievably detailed pictures of snowflakes! I’m a Texan, and it snows in Houston about every 3-5 years, and even then it doesn’t really stick, it just sludges up and mixes with whatever muck is on the ground.

Snow/Grass People!

Snow/Grass People!

That being said, I’m ALWAYS impressed by snow in any capacity. My brief stint in North Texas granted me a few glorious snow days, and one terrifying, white-knuckled experience of driving on snow/ice for the three blocks I had to go in order to pay my rent. (I’m pretty sure the stress aged me by at least ten years.) I even introduced my cat/life partner Molly to snow (her snowfaked fur looked beautiful!), but she was over it almost immediately after discovering it is both cold and wet. Anyway, here are some of the gorgeous photos!

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They don’t even look real, but they ARE!

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It looks like ice! Which I guess it kind of is.

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All the angles!

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Future snowflake!

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This one is my favorite because of the traditional shape, but also the insane intricacy.

Moving on from one inspiring thing to another, Pro Infirmis (a German organization for the disabled) has created a video detailing their amazing project, creating personalized mannequins using the measurements of disabled/differently-abled people!

This is such an incredible project!!! These people/the models are so brave! I admire their poise, graciousness, and amazing sense of self! They are willing to be measured, prodded, and evaluated against “regular” mannequins in order to make this a reality. It is abundantly clear from the looks on their faces after the reveals, and especially seeing their mannequin-twins in the store display windows, how meaningful it is for someone, anyone, to be reassured of their beauty, and to feel accepted by others.

What do you think of this mannequin project? Would you own a mannequin, if so, why? Do you already?? (I did!) How are you decorating for the holidays? Think you’ll make a wreath this season? What colors/style/materials will you use?