Tag Archives: decorating

Phantom Flight Night™ 2017

Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineIt’s that time of the year again–Phantom wine time! Earlier this month we hosted our THIRD annual Phantom Flight Night™, our little wine tasting gathering where we compare notes on several years of releases of Phantom wine. This year, we tasted 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. (2014 is available now at Trader Joes and other wine shops!) Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I packed most of our Halloween decorations in the dining room since that’s where the party was. I labeled the bottles so we could easily identify the year and poured each person two ounces. This was the biggest Phantom Flight Night™ yet, so I had to borrow some wine glasses from Karen so we’d have enough for everyone. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineKaren brought her grandma’s wine glasses. As you can see, wine glasses (right side) were, uh, a little smaller back then. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine, meat and cheese trayKaren made her fabulous homemade pimento cheese and we served meats and cheeses and minestrone soup. The “other Karen” made Lucky Charms treats which were amazing. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I printed some wine tasting wheels so we had some wine language to work with. I’m terrible at discerning different tastes in wine, so it’s nice to always have a guide and some Trader Joe friends who’ve had some wine tasting training. Even though I’m no sommelier, I still find comparing Phantoms interesting. The blend changes a little bit each year (for instance the 2014 blend is 42% Petite Sirah, 34% Zinfandel, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot) and the finished wine is vastly different. Overall, 2012 came through as a favorite.

Every year I love this party more. Mainly because it’s an intimate group of fellow wine lovers, but also because wine, snacks, friends…simple. It’s the perfect October tradition before the busy-ness of the holidays begins.

P.S. Here are the posts for Phantom Flight Nights™ of years past: 2016, 2015

 

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Cinco de Karen

Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusA few weeks ago, we threw a surprise fiesta-themed retirement party for our friend Karen. Her last day at her job was May 5th so we deemed it “Cinco de Karen.” We told her that Naoto and I were going to take her out to dinner, but instead, all of the guests were waiting for her in the lobby. (Because she lives across the hall from us, I thought it would be too risky for guests to come in, for fear she would leave her apartment for something and run into a random friend.) Karen was really surprised.  Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusThe apartment was decorated with papel picado everywhere. (Sadly, it was plastic and not the paper one I ordered…womp womp!) I bought a colorful table runner and added a few succulents to tin cans for the table. taco piñata Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus taco piñata Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus taco piñata Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusOur friend Jackie made a taco piñata which was AMAZING! Seriously…is it not the cutest taco you’ve ever seen? (Plus it was filled with grown-up candies!) Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusI made a taco garland (Naoto is holding a piece of it above.) but we hung it in the living room where it didn’t get much air time. I didn’t want to compete with the big taco!
Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusAnd I made giant cacti out of cardboard, tissue paper, and spray paint. Of course I waited until the last minute so the morning of the party, I was outside on the balcony spray painting in the wind. Thank goodness for giant boxes to catch the overspray. (Idea from here.) Now I’m addicted to oversized party decorations–think of the possibilities! Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusWe drank (too many) margaritas and ate chips and salsa and homemade guacamole, beef and chicken tacos, Mexican corn salad, fruit, and a Mexican chocolate mousse pie. Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusCinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusJackie made a little door in the piñata so we didn’t have to beat it up to break into it. Genius! Now the taco can live on! Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus, Pleasant Home Book Club ladiesIt was such a fun night and I’m so relieved we were able to pull off the surprise. Congratulations to Karen as she starts a new career chapter!

 

P.S. Picture of “surprised Karen” by Peggy. Pictures of taco by Jackie.

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Write On Party

Photo on 4-23-17 at 4.26 PM, Write On GuestsLast Sunday I had a few people over for a letter writing party. I ordered the Party Pack, which was kind of a party-in-a-box with pens, confetti, and Write On packs for everyone, along with other goodies like a printable invitation, a letter writing themed playlist, and a Write On calendar and tote. air mail envelope garland, Write On party set-up 4, National letter writing monthI hung some vintage air mail envelopes and a Japanese air mail kakejiku (hanging scroll) from the ceiling and I strung up a few more air mail envelopes to make a garland. Write On party set-up 1, National letter writing month Write On party set-up 1, National letter writing monthI covered the table in kraft paper and sprinkled the confetti along with some mail things from my collection. Each person got a Write On kit and a little brochure about letter writing. Write On party set-up 3, National letter writing monthOn the stereo, I had all of my mail themed rubber stamps and washi tapes along with some extra air mail envelopes, postcards, and my new Mr. Zip book. (He deserves his own blog post!) Write On Party, envelope pies, letter writing treatsFor snacks, I made a pot of tea and put out some Trader Joe’s truffles, some Japanese Happy Turn crackers, and I made these little envelope pies. I found the idea here–they were so easy and even though mine looked rather imperfect, they were a really fun addition to the simple menu. write On party guests, National letter writing month write On party guests, National letter writing monthIt was a relaxing afternoon of chatting and letter writing. We all really wrote letters! (I finished two!!) My only regret is that we didn’t have Naoto take a picture of us writing in action, but we got a fun group shot using Photo Booth (at the top.) I think I’ve said this before, but I love letter socials. Obviously letter writing is a good solitary activity, but sometimes it’s interesting to get together and share our hobby in person.

I’m a little sad Write On is over, but the letter writing shall continue! I managed (thanks to a solid push to the finish line last night) to finish 31 postcards and letters and I’ve replied to everyone from my pile of overdue mail…whew! I need to give myself a pep talk to keep that momentum going in May!

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Presley Turns 10

Presley in a party hat, presley turns 10Labor Day marked our tenth year with Presley. Because it was a landmark year, we had a little party for her. (I know, I know…we’ve become one of those childless couples who throws parties for their pets.)family, presley turns 10 presley hug, presley turns 10 img_3509It was just a good reason to have Karen (the cat nanny) over for supper and to wear tiny party hats. Getting Presley to wear her tiny party hat was the best part of my week. She kept it on for all of three seconds, but I got a picture of it so I am thrilled. Her charmingly grumpy expression is just perfect. presley with wine toy, presley turns 10 Karen gave Presley some treats and some wine bottle cat toys. (So far, Presley prefers the Catbernet to the Muscat.) cake, presley hug, presley turns 10She enjoyed a special tuna dinner while we ate her cake. presley from 2006, presley turns 10Now I’m just looking for more excuses to wear tiny party hats.

P.S. Here’s the story of how we got Presley.

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Rio Olympics Party 

Olympics Party Rio 2016, viewing area decorations, flag bannerIt’s Olympics time again! Last Friday I hosted a few friends for an Opening Ceremonies viewing party. Just like in 2014 and in 2012, I made a few decorations to get into the Olympics spirit. I had my flag banner left over from last time. (Yes, I saved it. No regrets.) This time, I added some tissue poufs in Olympics colors and a little torch. tissue and paper olympic torch, Olympics decorationsI may have taken a few laps around the apartment with the torch before I sat it by the TV. (I got the idea here in case you want to make one of your own. I used super sticky tape instead of pins and it’s still holding quite nicely.)Olympic rings fruit platterKaren and I chopped up fruit to make up the easiest Olympic centerpiece ever. BrigadeirosI made sausage, beans, and rice and brigadeiros, little chocolatey truffles made with condensed milk.  (They are so easy to make! I highly recommend them as an easy treat while you watch swimming or gymnastics!) Olympics party food spread, Rio 2016Karen made Brazilian cheese bread and Jackie made little shrimp and mango tostadas and James made two kinds of guacamole. We had quite a feast! CaipirinhaAnd of course we had to drink caipirinhas, the National Drink of Brazil. They were delicious (topped off with a bit of sparkling water to dilute the booze just a little bit!)

I had so much fun getting the party ready and of course so much fun celebrating with friends. We tested each other’s geography skills and did our own commentary about the uniforms and cheered extra hard for the countries with small delegations. Go athletes!

 

 

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2016

Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations dayLast month, we had a few friends over to celebrate Tanabata, a Japanese festival celebrated on July 7th. (We held our party the weekend after.) The celebration revolves around an old Chinese legend.

Orihime, daughter of Tentei (the Sky King,) had a lover, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa (the Milky Way.) Orihime and Hikoboshi were both hardworking gods. She was a weaver and he was a cow herder. But once they got married, they became lazy which upset the Sky King so he separated them with the Amanogawa. Orihime was so devastated that her father promised her she could be reunited with Hikoboshi, but only on the seventh day of the seventh month and only if she and Hikoboshi worked very hard. But because the lovers were separated by the river, magpies had to build a bridge so they could meet. Tanabata is the celebration of the lovers crossing the Milky Way to meet each other again.

Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan, sometimes on July 7th and sometimes in August (for those keeping with an older calendar system.) Modern day festivals include fireworks and bright, colorful decorations. (I love these pictures! #decorationgoals) Festival-goers also write wishes on pretty paper strips and tie them to bamboo branches in hopes their wishes will come true. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepI wasn’t planning to celebrate Tanabata, but once I read more about it, I couldn’t wait to have an excuse to invite a couple of friends over for a little mid-summer celebration. I did some research and found a few easy decorations to make. I spent a morning folding a few traditional Tanabata ornaments to hang on the lanai. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami fan Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami bamboo leavesI folded fans and lanterns and made a trail of bamboo leaves (the green one…please excuse my imperfect folds!) and cut a little blue net (which is so simple but turns out so neat looking!)Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations nightI also used this printable and cut strips so we could each write down our wishes. I tied the strips to my basil plant, the most bamboo-like plant on the lanai.
Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, somenI made a yuzu cocktail and Naoto made edamame and somenHasegawa Tanabata 2016, Naoto eating somen(Naoto was the only one who ate his noodles with a fork.) Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepAnd Presley even got into the action, tearing up one of the decorations and chasing it around the apartment all day. (How could I be mad with that sweet, innocent face looking up at me?)

I’m already thinking of Hasegawa Tanabata 2017. I have a Tanabata Pinterest board going so I can keep all of the origami instructions and ideas together until next year. I think I may need to start folding now, right?

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Scottish Lighthouse Tea

Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the partyMy friend Jackie is off to spend a month in Shetland as the artist-in-residence at a lighthouse! She will be spending the month of March working on her art and living in the keeper’s flat. I am crazy excited for her adventure. Last weekend, Peggy, Karen, and I threw her a little going-away party, a Scottish Lighthouse Tea. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the sideboard displayWe started planning the tea back in November and we went a little crazy with the plaid. Peggy has an amazing collection of plaid tablecloths, napkins, and runners that she brought over, along with loads of dishes, a Scottie dog, a lighthouse light, and many more additions to the table. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the tableWe set the table with Peggy’s dishes and a collection of lighthouse statues from my mom’s house. I also made a little banner from twine and plaid triangles and strung it up with two gold garlands I’ve used for a few parties. (All three fell down during the party–womp, womp.) Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse tea, placecardKaren made lighthouse place cards and we added a little Scottie dog shortbread cookie for each setting. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the place settings, vintage green depression glassWe tried to be really careful not to make the table look too Christmasy and I think we succeeded thanks to the addition of the blue plates and glasses and the black place mats. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse tea, cocktail makingI mixed up a cocktail that was bubbly and tasty. (I’ll share the recipe later this week!) Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the toast, sparkling rosé ginger raspberry cocktailWe drank cocktails and ate a cucumber appetizer before we sat down for the tea. Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the foodWe enjoyed Waldorf Salad, bacon shortbread cookies, Meyer lemon & almond scones with clementine curd and Meyer lemon curd and Devonshire cream, and two types of tea sandwiches, ham with apricot cream cheese and chicken salad with grapes, thyme, and toasted almonds. (Thanks, Marissa, for the suggestion!) And of course, we drank tea! So much tea that we could have floated away. (We drank Barry’s, which has been my favorite lately.) Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, the cream puffsFor dessert, Karen made Scottish cream puffs, which were so delicious and really a perfect way to end our feast. It was so much fun and I love that I got to share the party with friends who appreciate all of the tiny details in the planning.

Cheers to Jackie! And if you’d like to follow along with her lighthouse adventures, she’ll be blogging about it here.

P.S. Thanks to Karen for sharing some pictures from the party!

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Book Club Christmas Tea 2015

book club christmas tea 2015One last thing about the holidays…

Last month, Peggy hosted our third annual Book Club Christmas Tea. As usual, it was a festive event with everyone contributing something tasty. I made this Japanese egg salad, which was delicious. (I take no credit…it’s just a good recipe!) I am not a fan of curry usually, but I really did love this egg salad.Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 3In addition to the egg salad, we had ham salad, cucumber sandwiches, and chicken salad served in little bread boats, lemon cranberry scones and English toffee scones served with lemon curd, cream and cranberry butter, grape salad, toffee pudding, plum cake, and Christmas cookies. (I think that’s everything!)Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 4, cranberry pepper shrub with proseccoI also made this shrub to serve with prosecco. I’d never made a shrub before, so I was a little bit worried, but it turned out really tasty. (Though next time I will crush the peppercorns a bit more because it was lacking the peppery bite.)Book Club Christmas Tea, placecards, Yellow Owl Workshop Placecard stampAnd, because I think every party needs a little paper element, I made these simple place cards out of some red cardstock, my Yellow Owl Workshop stamp embossed in white, and some Jolee’s holly stickersBook Club Christmas Tea 2015 2Peggy’s tables were delightfully decorated, as always. img_7308img_7304We read The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It was a perfect read for December when everyone is busy. (Last year, we attempted an Austen novel and hardly anyone finished.) Most of us finished it in one relaxing afternoon while sitting by our trees. And though it was only eighty pages and maybe more of a tale for children, we found so much to talk about, even comparing it to The Dead. I recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet tale to read this December.

So much work goes into planning this thing–especially by Peggy since she decorates, sets the tables, and cleans up after we all leave!–but it is so worth it. We are already talking about things to add for next Christmas!

(And with that, I think I may be done talking about the holidays…for now!)

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The First Post of 2016

Christmas Tree 2015Happy New Year! It always seems like December flies by without a chance to catch my breath. The first week always feels full of possibility and then I’m always rushing to finish projects and parties by the end. But in the end, the work is worth it, the parties are fun and full of laughter, and I know I have all of January to recover.

I am so looking forward to this month.

January is the introvert’s delight.

The parties are over. The shopping is over. The weather in Chicago makes going out difficult. I’m looking forward to hibernation and working on a couple of projects around the house and on my desk. I’m also looking forward to popping in here more often. I got out of the blogging habit at the end of last year…for many reasons that may deserve their own post someday. But I think I’m ready to come back…slowwwwly. Sitting here at my desk, I have a running list of things I want to share, including bits about the holidays, some great mail that’s been showing up in my mailbox, and well…more about Japan. Oh, and perhaps some resolutions?

Anyway, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to what 2016 may bring.

It’s time to take down the Christmas tree…

(Have you taken yours down yet?)

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Phantom Flight Night™

wine tasting guests, Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingThis week Naoto and I hosted Phantom Flight Night™, a little wine tasting party featuring a Trader Joe’s fall-favorite wine, Bogle Phantom. We have been accidentally collecting (hoarding?) Phantom since 2012 and we had bottles from 2008, 2011, and 2012 (available this year at your friendly local Trader Joe’s) so we thought it would be fun to compare the different years. Because Phantom is a blend, each year the grapes vary, so they end up being slightly different wines*. I love an intimate party, so we invited a handful of fellow wine-drinkers to help us polish off three bottles of Phantom. Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, Paper Source wrapping paperEven though it was a small gathering, I was determined to decorate a tiny bit. I love making paper table runners for parties. I usually use my kraft paper but I wanted something dark for PFN™ so I used black wrapping paper and wrote on it with a chalk marker. Someday, maybe I’ll learn calligraphy and I will be able to make the runner really fancy! Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom WineI added a big candle nested in old wine corks at the end and labeled the wine bottles in the center. Then I went through all of our wine glasses and found a group of three alike for each person. (I didn’t realize how many wine glasses we have around here. I think we need to have more wine parties and use them more often!) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingI labeled each glass with a year marker made from black cardstock cut with a 2-inch circle punch and tied on with twine. (This may have been overkill since we stayed at the table for most of the party.)  Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine About a half hour before our guests came, I poured three ounces of wine from each year into our glasses to give the wine a little bit of time to breathe. I figured three ounces was a decent pour for comparison, and then we could fill our glasses with more as needed, and open a new bottle of 2012 if we really wanted to get crazy. (It was a weeknight so no one got crazy, sadly.) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingWe tasted each wine in order of year and wrote little notes on the paper at our place setting. It was fun talking about the wines even though we were all far from wine experts! Next time, I’ll have copies of tasting notes for everyone–something like this one–to help us express ourselves more, but as it was, we had a fun time laughing about our comments while we tasted. We all loved 2011 the best and we decided that the 2008 was beginning to “turn”. (I guess I won’t be saving our last bottle of ’08 for Phantom Flight Night™ 2016.)simple wine tasting snacks, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WineIn the kitchen, we served cheeses, dried figs, salami, grapes, fruit, nuts, chocolates, and a Trader Joe’s shrimp appetizer–simple bites to complement the wines. wine tasting toast, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WinesI’m already dreaming of Phantom Flight Night™ 2016…in October, with a Poe reading by Naoto. Look for that blog post next year!

P.S. Unfortunately, this post was not sponsored by Bogle or Trader Joe’s, even though it kind of sounds that way. Extra special thanks to James for coining the name Phantom Flight Night™!

*Phantom 2008 is made from 51% Zinfandel, 47% Petite Sirah, and 2% Mourvedre and 2011 is made from 46% Petite Sirah, 40% Zinfandel, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Mourvedre. I couldn’t find the grapes used in 2012, but I’ll update the post if I find that information!

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