Party Prizes

A few weeks ago, I hosted a brunch at my home for a committee I chair at our daughter’s school.

It was on a Monday, so I had Sunday to prepare. I did the usual de-cluttering of the house, which my husband loves, and I started getting the food ready. I opted not to hire a caterer, but I did get the flowers done professionally by a local florist, The Blossom Shop, and they did a beautiful job.

Anyone who has ever attended a meeting led by me knows I love prizes. Doesn’t everyone love to be a winner? For the brunch, I opted to have bundtlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes for the party favors. If you’ve never had them, you should try them. We have a few stores here, so it’s easy to get them in Charlotte. But since I love prizes, we had a few giveaways too. I had ordered a few of my favorite things and wrapped them the night before.

Just because I think prizes are fun, I’m going to share some prize options, in case you plan to have a gathering of friends this summer:

  • Comfy. This lovely prize is one of my favorite things. It’s a giant, cozy, one-size-fits-all blanket sweatshirt. Yes, I have one, and I love it! Priced at about $35-39, you can purchase them online from Amazon here or in Target in the “as seen on TV” section. 
  • Burt’s Bees Soy Candles. Scented candles are great, but when they’re soy candles, you can use them to soften your skin too! People thought I was crazy when I said that, but it’s true! While it’s still warm (not hot) after burning the candle, stick your finger into the candle and scoop out a little to rub on your hands…making them super soft! These were just $5.99 at my local grocery store, but you can also order them on Amazon here.41Oj9-2vVEL
  • Hungry Girl Simply 6. This recipe book, by one of my favorite people, Lisa Lillien, is a great gift. It contains recipes, all with six ingredients or less, that are low in calories. Get it at Amazon here.51YV0FPDcCL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer. It’s an old favorite. If you’ve read some of my old posts, you’re familiar with it. I know…it’s crude. But it’s funny. Admit it. It’s funny. Everybody needs a good laugh every now and then. I purchase it from Amazon.com.81GXntyinJL._SY679_
  • Poo-Pourri. Great stuff, no doubt, and it works. Ever seen the lengthy youtube commercial for it? See it here. The “commercial” is crude…not kidding…but if you have a sense of humor and can handle it, watch it. Get Poo-Pourri at Amazon here.
  • Blue Q Novelty Dish Towels. I find them at Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, but you can order online. One friend went home with one yesterday that said, “Do one thing every day that scares your children.” You can order from Amazon here. Blue Q also makes cute oven mitts. I have one that says, “I’m Not Bossy. I’m the Boss.”81cmBO22V9L._SL1304_
  • Fred and Friends Good Measure Cocktail Pitcher. Another old favorite, this one was a popular prize at the brunch. It’s a pitcher with recipes for cocktails by the pitcher…pure genius. We’ll be using them out by our pool all summer. I used two of mine at the brunch, so everyone had seen them as I poured up Bellinis and Mimosas, but they had no idea one of them would be the proud owner of one. One lucky friend took one home! Get it at Amazon here.81-CmMZCBUL._SY879_
  • Whitman’s Sampler Spring Collection. I’m a sucker for a Whitman’s sampler…have been since childhood. I think folks of my generation see them and think of their grandparents or their own childhood. You can find it in your local grocery store, Target, or Walmart.1f74f0cb-0dd4-4927-90ae-12929f5aad37_1.09c7d23fd3a8fad06afa50f610b46b8c.jpeg
  • Anne Taintor Products. Anne Taintor products are fun. Get them at annetaintor.com.  From trays to napkins to kitchen towels…they’re fun. I have a coffee mug from Anne Taintor that proclaims, “I love not camping!” And there’s this fun one:55729_brag

There you have it. A few fun ideas for prizes or giveaways when you have a gathering of your girlfriends. Like I said…I love giving away prizes. And who doesn’t love being a winner?!

Quick and Easy Brunch

Anyone who knows me will quickly tell you I am no Martha Stewart. I like to cook, but I’m no chef. I don’t have the attention span for recipes with too many ingredients, and I tend to be a “squirrel chaser,” i.e. I’m easily distracted.

Every now and then, though, I like to invite some friends over for a brunch. Sure, I could get it catered, but it’s a great opportunity for me to try my hand at some recipes.

As always, the key for me is the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. When I start trying to get too extravagant, I lose control of the situation. I learned a long time ago that it’s best for me not to make it too elaborate.

I plan to host a brunch in my home later this month…a lovely, spring brunch. In the past, I’ve used plain glass or even clear plastic plates, but this year, I’m doing something different.

In the early 1940s, my maternal grandmother got her first set of Franciscan Desert Rose dinnerware. If you’re not familiar with it, the first Desert Rose dinnerware was produced in California in 1941, and it became the largest selling and longest running dinnerware pattern ever. Jacqueline Kennedy purchased some for use in the White House. In 1979, the company was sold to Wedgewood in England, and all production was moved to England in 1984. According to cedarhillfarmhouse.com, production was moved to other countries in 2000, but the entire pattern was discontinued in 2013.

It’s not a “fancy” pattern, and it was never expensive, but it’s pretty.

Over the years, my grandmother grew her collection and eventually gave it to my mother. I added to my mother’s collection over the years. When my mother died in December, I brought the Desert Rose to my house. My husband took one look at the boxes and wondered aloud what I was going to do with them. I still haven’t figured out where to keep them, but I plan to use them this spring for a brunch.

There are lots of things to consider when planning a brunch at home, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here is what I make notes on:

*Dinnerware (Desert Rose), where to place food, what to serve, when to prepare food, what beverages to serve, music, seating arrangements, flower arrangements, and party favors.*

The brunch I will be hosting is for a school committee, and the date and time have already been decided, so that decision is off my plate.

The dinnerware/flatware/linens question is the first one you should decide, simply because you can build around that. I have some light green cloth napkins I plan to use, because they will coordinate nicely with the Desert Rose dinnerware. I plan to have all the food served buffet-style from my dining room table, so I’ve selected a table pad and a tablecloth that will work with the dinnerware.

As for flatware, I have collected several sets of stainless flatware from eBay for great prices, so I have place settings for 40 and serving pieces too. eBay is a great resource for collecting.

Music is easy too…we have DirecTV, which offers a myriad of music channels. Usually, for brunch functions, I find a jazz station to provide a light musical background.

For me, deciding on a menu for a brunch is far easier than picking a menu for lunch or dinner. I love the Hungry Girl cookbooks, because she offers low-calorie, healthy recipes for just about anything, and she has some awesome breakfast/brunch options.

For this particular spring brunch, I plan to have this menu:

FRESH FRUIT BOWL: (cut up strawberries and stir in blueberries the night before)

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HUNGRY GIRL CRAMMED WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS from page 38 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL BANANA BREAD BONANZA MUFFINS from page 41 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL VEGGIE-LICIOUS BREAKFAST BAKE (recipe can be found here), assembled ahead of time and bake the day of the brunch

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Veggie-licious Breakfast Bake photo from http://www.hungry-girl.com

MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE I could give you the recipe, but I’d have to kill you. That will have to remain within the family.

For beverages, I will serve coffee, water, and orange juice…easy enough. If it weren’t for a school committee, I’d also offer Prosecco.

It’s an easy-to-assemble menu. I will display the muffins on a Desert Rose platter. The Breakfast Bake will be in a Pyrex dish, and the fruit will be in a large bowl. All those foods will be on the dining room table, and I will arrange beverages on the kitchen island. I will grab coffee the morning of the brunch at Panera, and they will provide all the cream and sugar/sweetener. I will have water and juice in two pitchers.

If possible, I always recommend fresh flowers. I love having fresh flowers in the house all the time, but I get an extra arrangement when entertaining…one for the dining room table with the food, and one for the kitchen counter.

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As for seating, the group will be small enough for me to have everyone in the kitchen and keeping room off the kitchen. There is a loveseat and a chair-and-a-half, so that is seating for four people. There are four chairs at my kitchen table, and two taller chairs at the kitchen island bar, for a total of  ten. We have eight dining room chairs we can bring in as needed.

The kitchen/keeping room combo is a perfect place for everyone to congregate, visit with each other, and discuss any committee business.

When the fun is over, it’s always nice to send something home with your guests…a small token that shows you were happy to have them in your home…a party favor. In a previous post, I sang the praises of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies. For this particular event, I plan to have 2-oz jars of Fire Island Peach Jam and/or Apple Pecan Pie Preserves with blue ribbons around the top, because the school colors are blue and white. Everyone will love these! To see what Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies has to offer, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies Facebook page

So, if you are planning a small brunch at home that you don’t plan to have catered, this is the easy way to do it…keep it simple!

*If you like Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please invite your friends to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.*

Happy Hosting!

Kelly

***All Hungry Girl photos courtesy of hungry-girl.com or her books.***

My Favorite Things for a Girls’ Weekend

I have a husband, a teenage daughter, and three dogs. I love them. I love spending time with them. I also love when my husband leaves town for a few days. I know…it sounds terrible, but sometimes, it’s fun to miss him! When he is out of town, I love to have friends visit.

When I have a friend or friends visit, my daughter will spend a little time with us, but mostly, she wants to carry on her social life. So once she goes to a friend’s house, we have “girl time,”even though we are 50+. Chances are, we won’t even leave the house.

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No kids? No husband? Friends in town? What to do? Every situation is different, but I will share some ideas of things we have done in the past. I’ve included lots of links!

*FAVORS I am all about some favors. If you plan ahead, you can give each guest a goody bag on arrival with some small take-home trinkets for the weekend. I think it’s fun to give them on the front end, especially if they can be used on during the weekend. Whether I’m getting together with one friend or seven friends, it’s fun to have some favors to offer. Custom T-SHIRTS are fun. When I gathered with some friends to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail, I had t-shirts made that said “Got Brakes?” and included the date and location on the back. I ordered everyone size XL, because I know they won’t wear them in public…best for sleeping or lounging at home. You can have custom t-shirts made through Zazzle (click here) or Cafe Press (click here). Some of the items I’ve listed in previous blogs are great for goody bags: 1818Farms Shea Creme (click here or order from Amazon here), Dry Divas Shower Caps (on sale at Neiman Marcus, click here), or some cute little, custom bags from Collective’s Etsy shop. I have one friend who loves candy (see photo below), so when she is in town, I always have some of her favorite candies: Zotz, Spree, Twizzlers, Skittles, and even Fruit by the Foot. (She eats healthy almost all the time, so it’s OK to splurge.)

*WHAT TO WATCH Old friend gatherings mean lots of talking, but it can also mean binge-watching favorite shows or watching favorite movies. As I posted on Instagram before, one binge-worthy show is an Amazon Original, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. They have streamed one season; watch now and be ready when the next season starts. It’s a funny, smart, heartwarming dramedy, and the aesthetics are incredible! It’s about a young, Jewish housewife, Midge Maisel, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1950s. The opening scene is a shocking toast at Midge and Joel’s wedding, and then jumps ahead four years…they have two kids and live in a lovely apartment in the same building as her parents. Midge, like many women of her time, builds her life around her husband. All is well till things take a bad turn, and we see how Midge copes. It’s a must see for the storyline and fashion, a time when ladies dressed like ladies. I was mesmerized by every episode. It’s definitely binge-worthy, and I wish I had watched it with one of my college friends. I’d be willing to re-watch it. Eight episodes, and the first season is captivating from beginning to end. (Warning: language and nudity.) (It has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including two Golden Globes.) To watch, click here.

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**If you’ve seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and want something new, my next binge-watch will be UnREAL on Lifetime. The third season just started, so I want to catch up on the first two (you can do this online through Lifetime). Kelly Ripa talked about it, and it sounds awesome. It’s a drama, and according to IMDb, it’s “a behind-the-scenes look at the chaos surrounding the production of a dating competition program.” One of the creators is a former associate producer of ABC’s The Bachelor, so maybe there’s some truth behind this fiction!**

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**If binge-watching TV isn’t your thing, maybe pick a movie. Bridesmaids is hilarious, if you want comedy. For something more serious…Sense and Sensibility (click here to watch on Amazon) and The Joy Luck Club (click here to watch on Amazon) are two of my all-time favorite chick flicks. Even though I’ve read both books more than once and seen both movies countless times, I get emotional every time. Another great movie to watch with friends is …”Snap out of it!” To see it on Amazon, click here.**

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*WHAT TO DRINK When friends are staying for the weekend, I like to serve a fun beverage. I’m not a big drinker, but when I drink, I want it to feel like a celebration. Nothing says celebration like some bubbly. Champagne is good, but I prefer Prosecco, because it doesn’t give me headaches. For daytime, I enjoy Peach Bellinis, and there’s no Bellini like a Cipriani Bellini. The original Peach Bellini was served at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, which is owned by the Cipriani family.  Pick your Prosecco, and if you want an authentic Bellini, order the mix from the Cipriani family hereIf you do not want to mix your own, Trader Joe’s has the Secco Peach Bellini for $5.99, and it’s good! (I call it a “Bellini in a bottle”) This is my second choice, and it’s less expensive and easier! They also offers mango and cherry Secco Bellinis.

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*For nonalcoholic Bellinis, pair the Cipriani mix with Sprite.* **If you don’t like Bellinis or peach flavor, add a splash of Chambord Liqueur to your Prosecco…gives it a lovely red hue and raspberry flavor.**

*WHAT TO USE This is not so much something to “do” as it is something to “use.” I’m hoping to receive some lovely Cornet Barcelona Sagrada Champagne Flutes soon. My friend, Debe, recently told me about the beautiful line. According to the Cornet Barcelona website, “The dream of our company is to create more beauty and excitement so that those around us can be inspired and feel as though life is truly a gift.” Each piece is hand painted “in hues reminiscent of the world-renowned Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain,” according to the site. They’re beautiful filled with bubbly Champagne, Prosecco, or a Bellini, and their price point is surprisingly good. Their flutes are handmade, so they are not always available, but I recently heard from a representative of Cornet Barcelona that they will be releasing more Sagrada Champagne Flutes in March and April. To see the Cornet Barcelona line, click here. These are items you can keep at home for visiting friends.

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*WHAT TO EAT What we eat depends on the guest, and some friends love to go out. If my friend, Angela, comes to town, she wants to stay in and spend the entire visit catching up. There are some great, simple recipes in Lisa Lillien’s latest book, Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed. A couple of my favorites are the Beefed-Up Cheesy Mac on pg. 140, and the Love at First Bite Lasagna on pg 128; both are easy to make and taste great. (Purchase at Amazon here.) I am a believer in Hungry Girl. You can access recipes on her website too, by clicking here.. Or we might order some favorites through Goldbely in advance: Coca-Cola Cake from Jestine’s in Charleston, or the Southern Mac and Cheese from Loveless Cafe in Nashville. I’ve mentioned Goldbely before, but it’s worthy of another mention. Check out their offerings by clicking here. Don’t forget dessert!

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*WHAT TO WEAR I’m a fan of pajamas of any kind. When friends come to visit for a “stay in girls’ weekend,” I like to stay in pajamas or super soft loungewear. The softest PJs and loungewear I’ve found are from Barefoot Dreams (pictured below). For a long time, I only knew of Barefoot Dreams as a company that made supersoft baby blankets and sleepers. I recently discovered they have a fabulous adult line. My very favorite PJs they offer are the Luxe Milk Jersey Piped Pajama Set. Priced at $130 on their website, they aren’t cheap, but if you can spare the $$$ on PJs, they’re worth it. I also love their loungewear. Purchase them here. If you don’t want to spend that much, the Life is Good line is offering their Teacups Pajama Set on sale for $24.99, and they are well-made, comfy pajamas. You can’t go wrong with this brand, and this is a crazy good deal. To purchase, click here.

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When hosting an old friend (or friends), the main thing is to enjoy each other’s company. So invite a friend for a visit, share some Bellinis, eat some comfort food, and watch the entire first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Relax, catch up, and enjoy!

Cheers!

Kelly