Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Dinner 2010

I love Christmas. I do. However, I get a little blue around this time of year, but that's because my whole family (minus husband, kids and dogs) is far, far away. I think the last time we spent it together was back when I moved to the United States. The year was 2000. Yep, quite some time ago.
But even though I think Christmas is being "rushed" on us earlier and earlier each year (plastic trees and glittery ornaments decorate store display windows even before Halloween!), I love when I start hearing Christmas songs and merry wishes everywhere. It always puts me in the holiday mode :-)
For the past few years I have been spending Christmas Eve at different friends' houses, but always wanting to host it myself. So it finally happened. We'd recently moved to a new city, didn't know a lot of people, but had already made some good friends. We thought it would be nice to thank them for their warm welcome by inviting them to dinner at our new place. This way we would feel a little more at home as well, and with our kid growing up (and another one on the way) maybe start our own holiday tradition - based on the memories from our childhood, but making new ones as well.
Since we didn't have much time to plan and didn't want to spend much on decorations (we had just donated lots and lots of boxes of stuff that didn't fit into our new pad), I started looking for things I already had in the house. I ended up with a few different glass vases and candle holders in shades of green and red and arranged them on our buffet table.

The same "decoration rule" went for the dinner table. Which is pretty much one of my favorite "green mantras": reduce-reuse-recycle (or even, "upcycle")
The place card holders were purchased from Pier 1 many years ago at an "after Christmas" sale and I had been waiting to use them ever since. I've never had marked seats at the table before, I like to leave the guests confortable enough to choose where to sit (and change their minds mid-dinner if they choose to do so). But... I admit it, I just wanted an excuse to use these adorable ornament look-alikes.
Jingle bells napkin rings also from Pier 1 big sale…
I downloaded a few free "Christmas" fonts and being unable to decide which one to use, I went with a different one for each of my guests' names.
Inexpensive plastic ornaments and some garland purchased at Target (at their dollar bins) nested inside clear vases looked pretty good too!
The table runner is from West Elm, and the wine glasses from Crate & Barrel
I like to play around with different uses for jars, glasses... this time, the martini glass was reborn as a nut dish for the table.
I set a "welcome" station with PAMA pomegranate liqueur, Prosecco and pomegranate seeds for guests to enjoy before dinner. I had pomegranate Izze (sparkling fruit juice) drinks for a non-alcoholic option.
Notice the cute jingle bells on top of the food picks. Awwww...
I used a curved tasting spoon to scoop mixed nuts from a glass footed bowl.
Clockwise from left: Coconut brown rice with Brazil and cashew nuts, apricots and raisins; Herb-butter roasted turkey; Brown-butter, lemon-scented green beans with almonds; Rosemary-olive oil roasted fingerling mixed potatoes.
The kids couldn't be more ready for their gifts...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

When I heard about the traditional Halloween celebration on Belvedere Street, I knew that that's where we would be trick or treating this year. But before venturing into the crowded streets, I thought we could have some friends over so we could talk, the kids could play and we could also prepare ourselves for the chilly weather outside by filling up on some snacks and a warming glass of wine.

We came up with this idea only days before Halloween and when I hit the stores for decoration, everything was already picked over. So I had to let go of many of the ideas I had in mind for setting the table... I went through my apartment looking for inspiration and found an old black table runner, some Halloween confetti, food picks and cupcake toppers (which I had purchased the previous year on sale after Halloween) and a roll of gauze from the medicine cabinet. Combined with a few metal serving pieces, mission was accomplished.This is a little cool trick I saw on a Martha Stewart Living magazine (or was it online?) Simple and very affordable, yet, so clever: burn a red candle on top of some regular white taper candles and let the melted wax drip to the sides of it, for a "bloody" effect. I even got the husband to help with this little project :-)I think the only things I really had to buy were the red taper candle and some plastic mice (I really wanted cockroaches and spiders, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?)I found the metal pumpkin candle holders at TJ Maxx (one of my favorite stores - you need to do a little "hunting" sometimes, but it is oh-so-worthy!)

Pumpkin-nut muffins fresh out of the oven Pesto Chicken Meatballs with some happy jack-o'-lantern picks

Para uma versão em português da festa, clique aqui.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gabriel's 2nd birthday - A Night at the Movies, Hollywood Style

The little man in my life was turning two soon, and that got me thinking about a party theme... He had just started watching his first movies (I really avoided all TV-related activities until then) and with the upcoming Oscars and Golden Globe Awards, I thought it would be fun to do an "old Hollywood glam" 2nd birthday bash.
I had an idea in mind for an invitation: the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo, but instead of the lion head, I would have my son's face in the center.  So I called my big sister Katia for help bringing to life my mental draft.  As we started brainstorming together, she had the brilliant idea of shooting Gabriel's photo dressed as a lion - perfect!!  Since it was after Halloween, I though it would be hard to find him a costume, but with a little help from the internet, I found it online at Walgreens!!
Then we had another idea that ended up not happening (because neither of us knew how to do it!) To film Gabi roaring in the logo photo, and add this clip to a virtual invitation to be sent via email.  The hard part was to convince a "soon-to-be" 2 year-old to do so... Here's the "making of" the video (several attempts of it) which I decided to play on a TV during the party (before and after the "feature" movie.)
I printed movie-related images (film projectors, movie reels) and placed them on top of serving dishes to accommodate the food on top
On the day before the party, we got one of the biggest snow storms in the area, and I had to call everyone rescheduling the celebration... Luckily, most of the guests could still make it, and to make the trip super-worthy (specially having to deal with the hassle of driving and trying to find parking on snowed down streets), I made some warming foods such as "white" turkey chili and hot dogs ("Brazilian-style", with a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, onions and bell peppers.)
What movie screening (for kids, at least) would be complete without popcorn?
I used balloon weights shaped as movie cameras and clapboards to display the name of the foods.
Another warm and comforting food - roasted spiced butternut squash soup with crumbled blue cheese for sprinkling on top.  It was the hit of the evening!
Support table arranged with plates, cups, bowls, napkins and utensils
The "screening room" all set with top hats for each mini guest
Oh well, I meant "mini guests", but apparently the grown men were also (if not more) interested in the movie...
Which was a Brazilian computer-animated children's fantasy film called "The Happy Cricket and the Giant Bugs" You can check the trailer here and here.
I purchased red curtains specifically for the party, and then hung some string decorations from the curtain rod.
Oh yeah, and let's not forget about the "Hollywood Stars Walk of Fame".
The biggest celebrity walking down the "red carpet" with his... convertible?
Did I mention the snow?  It came in handy to chill our beverages :-)
Dressing Room, a.k.a "bathroom door"
My favorite movie star...
I made a few VIP passes for special guests... dad sitting in the back
This mamma here got in the party mood dressed accordingly (I also donned long white satin gloves)
To add to the stress of the last-minute changes caused by the snow, we didn't have a birthday cake, since our local Whole Foods Market (where I had ordered the cake from) was closed due to the blizzard!! So we had to improvise and go on a cake hunt.  I "re-assigned" one of the decorations (the clapboard/movie reel combo centerpiece) and placed it on top of a plain white cake.  Not the best looking birthday cake, but it worked as an emergency solution.
To make up for the cake fiasco, we were lucky to have delicious Brazilian sweets (chocolate "brigadeiro" cups and guava marmalade-fresh cheese rolled sweets, also called "Romeo & Juliet" because this guava-cheese combination goes oh-so-well) made by my good friend Lucina :-)
I used popcorn paper bags to hold party favors such as gold award statues, hand clappers, clapboard and flashlight key chains, star stickers and sunglasses, microwavable popcorn and raisins to snack on (sorry, no "real" candy here.) I then created a "concession stand" to hold the bags, made with a large shoebox and some aluminum foil from the kitchen.
Para uma versão em português da festa, clique aqui.
For a Portuguese description of the party, you can head over to Katia's blog, "Casos & Coisas da Bonfa". 
That's all, folks!
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