When I think about the Mardi Gras holiday I think of The French Quarter in New Orleans, jazz music, tons of food, masks and the everything covered in purple, green and gold. The term Mardi Gras is a French term meaning Fat Tuesday. In the US this is commonly associated with carnival celebrations, floats, masks, beads, and tons of food and drinks.  

This year you do not have to road trip down to New Orleans, the Mardi Gras Capital of the US, to participate in these celebrations. Instead throw your own Mardi Gras party for you and your friends. Here are some great ideas that will help get create the perfect carnival celebration!

Since this party theme is based off the elaborate carnival celebrations in New Orleans there are no limitations when it comes to decorations. Go all out in purple, green and gold with beads, banners, masks, feathers, and tableware. You can never have too much when it comes to this party theme. This banner and display from etsy store owner ClassicBanners is the perfect start to your own party decoration.
Have all your friends get into the true Mardi Gras spirit by dressing up in your best Mardi Gras outfit. Masks, feathers, beads, hats and most anything purple, green and gold will fit the bill. Over the top wigs, hats and costumes will make everyone feel like they are down in New Orleans celebrating.
You can’t get any better than including a true Mardi Gras sized feast at your party. You can serve up jambalaya, muffaletta, Cajun shrimp, po’boys, cornbread, and my favorite a king cake to name a few traditional dishes. A lot of sea food is found in traditional Mardi Gras dishes (New Orleans is right by the gulf). If you don’t have good sea food near you, fix some basic party dishes and use Cajun seasonings. For desserts use purple, green and gold decorative sugars and food coloring to give your food the Mardi Gras touch. I am loving this Shrimp and Chicken Etouffee dish as well as these purple, green and gold cupcakes. (Check out my Memorial Day Cupcake post to learn how to create the layered cakes.)
You can play some classic party tunes, like these Mardi Gras songs, to really get your guests in the carnival spirit. Don’t forget the traditional king cake game. Hide a small trinket into your king cake (or other dessert item) and whichever guest finds the trinket is crowned king or queen for the evening!

Are you ready to celebrate Mardi Gras on Tuesday?


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Last fall I shared with you some amazing wedding cake designs using lace. Lace is and forever will be incorporated into the wedding industry through the fashion and decor. I am a huge fan of lace and the patterns but I am always looking for that one unique aspect that sets one event or wedding apart from another.

Just like any other trend, ombre has now emerged in the events industry with cakes being this trends target. You can spot this trend in the color of the cake, the icing and the cake decorations. An ombre styled cake provides a unique style and, of coursem the colors are to die for. Here are some amazing examples of ombre wedding cakes that are sure to inspire your cake!
There are just so many options when it comes to incorporating the ombre style into a cake. I am in love with the stenciled look on the classic white cake. It still says wedding cake with the perfect touch of the ombre effect.

What ombre inspiration is your favorite?


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Whether hosting or attending a Super Bowl party, there are a few things that I look forward to every year when it comes to this event. I can’t believe that the big game is less than a week away! To get you excited and ready big game on Sunday here are my favorite things about Super Bowl Sunday:

1. The Commercials. This is one of my favorite parts of the Super Bowl. Since taking a marketing class in undergrad, where I was required to watch the commercials, this has been probably my most favorite part of the evening. As always, I am sure that this year’s commercials will not disappoint as 30 seconds now costs about $3.8 million.

2. Halftime Show. The first halftime show I remember watching is the 2001 show when they had Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Aerosmith, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly perform. Ever since then I can’t wait to see what over-the-top performance the groups perform.
3. Decorations. This is the last time to pull out those favorite football decorations from the 2012 season. Anytime you can decorate according to a certain theme you better believe that is one of my favorite parts of the party.

4. Team Apparel. For those with a team still in the playoffs this is the perfect time to get decked out in your team’s apparel. You never know if the person’s jersey you have will still be on the team next year so it’s the perfect excuse to wear it one last time.

5. Colored Tableware & Utensils. Just like those decorations I love having an excuse to go out and buy cups, plates, napkins, etc. in fun and festive colors and patterns like the ones below from etsy store Hello My Sweet. Maybe I should just get a stockpile of every color so I am prepared for any party theme? 
6. Football Gameday Treats. This is the truly last time (until fall) to make some of your favorite football gameday treats. So if you forgot to make something this past fall now is the time to do so! Check out some of my favorite gameday treats from this past fall.

7. The Food. Besides Thanksgiving this is probably one of the top “food holidays” of the year. From wings, pizza, dips, snacks and more you just can’t get enough of the football food favorites.

8. Games. The fun gameday challenge pool like the one I shared with you last week is one of my favorite pools to take part in. It doesn’t require any prior knowledge of teams or players like bowl tournaments and is all just pure luck.

9. Super Bowl Apps. Since there is an app for everything you can't miss downloading the app that will keep you up to date on everything, give you behind the scenes access, and even give you the chance to win prizes. Some of my favorites from iTunes are SB XLVII Guide (Free) and Chevy Game Time (Free).
10. The Game. You can’t forget the actual game, it is the Super Bowl after all.

Are you ready for the game yet? Who do you think/want to win on Sunday? Being a purple and gold JMU Duke I think I might root for the Ravens. I can't wait for the Super Bowl!!


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This week is Restaurant Week in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is the first time I have heard of such an event and so of course I had to do a bit little more research. What I found was that this is an amazing event that I believe every city should take part in. 

This weeklong event is focused on raising money for a local charity, this year they are raising money for the Virginia Institute of Autism. Every time a person eats at one of the twenty eight restaurants $1 from your meal goes toward helping the Virginia Institute of Autism towards reaching their goal of building a new, safe playground for its students in the area.

Each of these restaurants offers a prefix menu selection at one of the three set price points $16, $26 or $36 per person. You can view each restaurant's menus and find out more about this event at www.charlottesvillerestaurantweek.com. There are no tickets that you have to purchase and everyone can take part in this event, but reservations are encouraged as restaurants will be booked each evening.
I love how this event allows you to explore more of the local area while helping to raise money for an amazing cause. Now all I have to do is decide which restaurant I want to try!

Do you have an event like this in your area?


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I am always a fan of dishes that are beyond easy to make and the perfect solution for when you need a dish to take over to a friend’s get together. So let me just prepare you now when I say that this is THE EASIEST dish that you will ever learn how to make and you will never need a recipe card to remember how to make it. I present to you my favorite dip ever: Chili Cheese Dip. 

Growing up this dish would show up at a number of parties that we would host or attend. Three simple ingredients and pop it in the oven to warm up and you are good to go! 

Here is what you will need:
     - Baking Dish (I love my Corelle pie dish as it is perfect to cook and serve in)
     - 1 8oz Package Cream Cheese (I usually tend to buy the one with less fat)
     - 1 Can Hormel Chili (I use the kind with no beans)
     - 2 Cups Shredded Cheese (Cheddar, Sharp, Mexican Blend, Taco Blend – your choice)
     - Corn Chips
Take your dish and spread the cream cheese evenly across the bottom. Next pour in the can of chili and then sprinkle the cheese over the top. Now you are ready to put it in the oven! (See not too hard to make and there is practically no mess, unless you are like me and manage to have cheese go everywhere around the dish too.)
You are ready to put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble. I like to serve my chili cheese dip with Fritos Scoops but any type of corn chip will do. This will rarely ever happen, but if the dish ever cools down before all the dip is gone all you have to do is reheat it in the oven or microwave and you are good to go.

Now you have the perfect Super Bowl Party snack to take with you and believe me when I say that you will return home with an empty dish. Enjoy!!

What is your favorite go-to party dish to make?


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Back in the fall I shared with you some great ideas when it came to hosting a football tailgate. From the food, tailgate essentials and gameday treats I shared with you ideas on every aspect to set you up for the perfect football day. Now with the Super Bowl just over a week away football season is coming to a close. Now is the time to host that final football event until next season. Luckily a lot of those tailgate essentials from the fall will come in handy when hosting this Super Bowl party just tweak the color scheme to incorporate this year’s teams and you are good to go! Here is how I would create my Super Bowl Party.

Color Coordination
As with any party I would have to coordinate my party colors to this year’s teams. I am not a die hard fan of either the 49ers or the Ravens so I would have a variety of both purple and red scattered with some basic football themed items. 
Every year growing up there would also be a family that hosted a Super Bowl party. One of the best games that we participated in was the football pool. There would be a large grid and all the guests could buy spots on the 10 x 10 grid. You would then randomly draw out numbers 0-9 and write those numbers going across the top (team A) and down the sides (team B). At the end of each quarter whoever had the grid spot with the last two digits coordinating with the score would win! You can get more detailed step-by-step instructions on how to set up your pool here and you can print off the blank grid below for your own party.
And what would a Super Bowl party be without food and drinks? Since it is usually so cold in January a nice chili and some warmed wings are the perfect start to a gameday meal. You can make your favorite tailgate dishes or a bunch of themed football foods to compliment the main dish. I love these familiar bite sized gameday treats and just about any kind of dip (check back tomorrow for my favorite!). For dessert you can whip up some of the football gameday treats that I shared with you this past fall.
What are you doing for the Super Bowl this year? 


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Props have become a staple in weddings over the years with the “thank you” signs being the newest trend. (Thanks Pinterest!!) This is the perfect way to say thanks to all your guests and with site such as Shutterfly and Tiny Prints you can get cards made within days. I love the idea of thanking this photo and making it into a postcard thank you with the bride and groom writing a short message on the back. For those that want something a little more crafty you can take the photo and attach them to some scrapbook paper to create your own thank you card. Check out some of my favorite ways that you can say “thank you” in your photo.
Get as creative as you want with your “thank you” photo. I adore the ones that incorporate some part of the wedding theme. Which one is your favorite?


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I couldn't wait for week two to share with you the rest of the amazing trends you will see in events in 2013 (the week 1 list can be found here). You will find everything from prints, technology and popular cultural trends appearing in events this year. Some of my favorites are from today’s part 2 list of trends! And remember that these don’t just apply to weddings but to any event you are planning.

1. Localized Weddings. This is a trend that has become popular with about every aspect of society. The use of local farm ingredients, local vendors, local anything is the new way of the future.

2. Grooms Start Spending. With more grooms getting involved in the planning of weddings and other events there has been an increase in the average cost of the event. Grooms are wanting to contribute to the planning with groom cakes, rings, accessories, fancy honeymoons, and intricate grooms gifts. However, brides are loving that they are taking part in the planning so make sure you have the cash!

3. A Return to Elegance. In 2012 you saw a lot of DIY as a part of cutting back on event expenses. 2013 will bring back the elegance that we used to associate with events. From nicer fabrics, lace details and influence from the 1920’s we will see the elegance return to events that is something to love.
4. Fabulous Florals. In 2013 the florals will be full of color. From pastels in the spring to bright colors in the summer, there will not be a lacking of color in this department. The new trend that you will see will be the use of monochromatic bouquets taking full advantage of the 2013 colors.

5. Custom Wedding Details. I am a huge fan of customized details. This includes everything from adding your own monogram to decorating your own blank-slatted venue. Brides, grooms and event planners love creating an event from scratch. It allows the hosts to intertwine a part of themselves into the event.

6. Economy Drives Choices. With the economy still trying to make a comeback one’s budget will still be driving the limitations when it comes to event planning. However, the use of technology and sites such as Pinterest and Etsy have helped in finding cost friendly ways of having the things you have dreamed of at your event. 
7. Birds of a Feather. This is an odd theme, but is already seen everywhere in current fashion. Bird themed items: bird cages, bird seed, feathers, nests, etc, are going to appear in every aspect of an event. Though this may seem odd you can’t forget that most wedding couples are usually referred to as “love birds!”

8. DIY Attire.  With Pinterest and Etsy fueling the DIY mindset of event planners everywhere (me included!) this trend will continue to live on in 2013. It started out as just basic projects like favors or place cards but you will see a transformation in the events of DIY accessories and attire in 2013. It may be time for a bigger craft corner.

9. Low Key Soirees. No matter the trend you will always have those who like to rebel (yes this can be a trend too). In 2013 you will see quite a number of couples just want to throw in the towel and stick with the basics when it comes to planning events. Hosting very small get togethers, elopements, and just laid back events that take the press off from the “having it all” event that is pushed upon so many people.
10. Food Truck Frenzies. This might be one of my favorites. Over the past year or two food trucks have been gaining popularity all across the country. Those that are looking for that special touch that will set their event apart from everyone else is turning to the truck. They are great as a catering option (they do come with their own kitchen) and they do make delicious late night snacks. Hire multiple trucks to satisfy everyone’s food tastes.

Missed part 1 from last week? You can check that out by following the link hereWhat trend are you looking forward to see in 2013? 


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This past weekend I attended the Elegance in Bridal Show hosted at The Omni in Charlottesville, Virginia. Working in the event industry I find it helpful to attend a variety of events at various locations to get a feel for how other locations operate and make new contacts. Being new to the area this was the perfect opportunity for me to get an idea of who is who in the Charlottesville events industry.

There were over about 50 exhibitors at the show. There was everything from bridal shops, venue locations, bakeries, photographers, party rentals and more! You could find just about everything that you would need to book for a wedding at this one show. Check out some of the pictures below of the show!
This last picture is of one of my favorite bakeries in Richmond, Virginia, Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe. They make amazing cupcakes and cakes and you cannot go wrong with choosing them for your wedding! I ordered from them when I planned my friend's Pretty in Pink themed bridal luncheon this past August. 
They had tons of give-a-ways that you could register for as well as a fashion show at their show. The most important thing I tell my friends who are going to shows like this is to come prepared with an idea for what you think you want for your wedding and find those businesses that would coordinate with your ideas. When you have multiple vendors offering similar products (a ton of bakeries for instance) it is very easy to become overwhelmed. It is always better to take a business’s information so a few days after the show you can reevaluate and not make an impulse decision. 

What tips do you have for someone going to their first bridal show?


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When attending a party you will probably find some type of cheese being served. From cheese and crackers, spreads, dips and a variety platter you will always find something. The cheese platter is always a classic though at any party, especially a Wine & Cheese Party. There are just a few things to remember when it comes to building the perfect cheese platter.

  1. Variety. There are multiple types of cheeses: hard, soft, aged, blue, mild, sharp and blends to name a few. When building a cheese platter it is always a good idea to offer a variety. Include some that everyone will be familiar with as some new ones for those that have a love for trying new things.
  2. Sides. Though some people may be able to just sit there and eat the cheese with nothing else it is always important to includes sides that will compliment your cheeses. This could include crackers (the variety boxes are best), toasted bread, pretzels, nuts, and fruits like apples and grapes. You need the contrasts of sweets, salts and crunch to go with your cheeses.
  3. Presentation. How you display your selections is always something I love to play around with. You can create your own chalkboard platter, from yesterday’s Wine & Cheese Party post, or use a variety of your own platters. Just make sure that you have enough space to include place cards that specify what each cheese is. To help out your guests set items near each other that pair well together like brie and apples.
  4. Serving Time. Most cheeses are better served at room temperature. You can create the displays about an hour before guests arrive (leaving fruit in the fridge of course) to allow for plenty of time for the cheese to warm up.

Still need some help in creating the perfect cheese platter? Use the chart from yesterday’s Wine & Cheese Party post to see what pairs best with what and for a list of common varieties. If all else fails when you go to your local store (I love Trader Joe's and Whole Foods) ask one of the people that work there what they suggest when it comes to putting together a great cheese platter. They will know what they just got in as well as have some great tips for you.

What is your favorite go-to cheese dish when it comes to entertaining? And for a fun fact: National Cheese Day is this Sunday, January 20th! So invite some of your friends over and host your own Wine & Cheese party and wow your guests with your amazing knowledge!


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