A Day at the Races:: Kentucky Derby Party

Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep. Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep.

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager here. I don’t know about you, but the Kentucky Derby is my unofficial start to summer. One of my very best college girlfriends is from Lexington, Kentucky, and she instilled a love for the race in us while we were in school.

Even though I’ve only gotten to have one trip to Churchill Downs for the run for the roses, there’s something about the Kentucky Derby that keeps me intrigued year after year. Maybe it’s the beautiful horses or the fabulous fashion…or maybe it’s the the Mint Juleps. Either way, it’s such a quintessential, classic event.

This year, I’m planning to watch the races with friends. Who knows? Maybe we’ll don fun hats and chic sundresses for the occasion, too. I’ve already started thinking about decor, food, and beverages for the day, and of course, I’ve turned to Annette for all of the details.

Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep.

Annette’s tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat. I love her ideas for decor like including vintage horse trophies and ribbons, sprinkling in plastic horses here and there, and making sure roses make an appearance. To plan a party of your own, you can find her full list of tips here.

And a Kentucky Derby party wouldn’t be complete without a classic cocktail, and what’s more appropriate than a Mint Julep? A splash of simple syrup and a whole lot of Bourbon makes for one sinfully sweet sip.

Classic Mint Julep by Becky Stayner
serves 1

You will need:
– Crushed ice
– 2 oz. good Bourbon
– 1 oz. simple syrup
– 6 leaves of fresh mint + fresh mint for garnish

To prepare:

Make the simple syrup by bringing one cup of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in one cup of sugar till it dissolves. Once it’s chilled, stir in mint leaves to steep overnight (a trick from Annette’s friend, Becky). Put crushed ice, bourbon, and mint leaf simple syrup in a julep cup. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Don’t crush the leaves! Be gentle…after all, this is a Southern drink.

xo, Nicole

photos by Leslie Graham

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A Haunting Centerpiece :: Skull Floral Arrangement

 

skull floral arrangement

halloween floral arrangement

Hi everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s blog manager and friend, and I’m back to bring you a haunting centerpiece for your Halloween table: a skull floral arrangement. In case you don’t know, my absolute favorite holiday is Halloween. Last year, I dressed my mantle for the occasion, and this year, I decided to add a little spook to my table.

One of the things I’ve learned from Annette is to always be looking for vessels that can be used for flowers, food, and more. When I stumbled upon this black skull candy jar at Target, my creative wheels started turning. Take the lid off and voila – the perfect vase (I loved this one, too).

Imagine my excitement when I found seasonal fall flowers in bold, jewel tones including ones that look strikingly similar to brains! I think they’re spot-on.

skull floral arrangement

halloween centerpiece

When it comes to flower arranging, I use floral bricks to keep my flowers in place and fresh. Cut them down to size for your vessel, and follow the directions on the packaging. Make sure you allow your bricks to submerge completely in the water on their own (instead of pressing them down). Then, just have fun arranging the colors and mixing in different textures. I think greenery would have really added another dimension to this particular arrangement, so just use what you have – even if it’s from your yard!

Whatever you use, this easy DIY skull floral arrangement centerpiece will certainly add the right amount of eerie fun to your Halloween holiday table. Happy Halloween!

xo, Nicole

photos via: Nicole Letts

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Easy DIY Chalkboard Menu Vase

DIY chalkboard menu

October marks the third year my book Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli NY) has been on bookshelves. I run into people all the time that tell me they cook from my book regularly, or they threw one of the parties in the book with great success. This makes me extremely happy. To know that I have inspired people to live a better, more stylish life is a gift like no other. I am always humbled and touched with these wonderful personal stories, so thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experiences with my book.

One of my favorite decor hacks is this one. I love chalkboard paint and recycling; this project has it all.

This fall centerpiece is definitely an easy fix to get your table in the autumn spirit.  One of the parties in my cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY, is all about Sunday Supper. Sunday Supper is a staple at the Josephs; people that gather on Sundays include our family and our friends. The entire point of Sunday Supper is to hangout, enjoy comfort foods, and wrap-up the weekend. So give it a whirl! You’ll love this tradition as much as we do.

This DIY is perfect for Sunday supper, and it would be perfect for Thanksgiving. You will use this great addition to your tablescape again and again.

The step-by-step instructions are simple, and the items needed you probably already have on hand, and if you don’t, are easy to find. I love the texture that chalk adds to the vase. Be sure to add vibrant flowers to really make everything pop.

Have fun creating the menu vase DIY, and don’t stress if it doesn’t turn out perfectly; that’s part of the fun! BTW this is a great craft project to do with the kids, get them involved because they will be so proud when you unveil your table scape to friends. Happy Sunday Supper everyone.

Menu Vase DIY

You will need:
– Painter’s tarp
– 1 (8-inch) terra-cotta pot
– 1 chan chalkboard spray paint
– chalk
– Glass vase, slightly shorter than the terra-cotta pot
– 3 dozen fresh mums, dahlias, or other festive flower

To make:

1. Spread the tarp on a work surface in a well-ventilated space.
2. Spray the terra-cotta pot with the chalkboard paint, using 2 coats to cover, and allowing it to dry between coats.
3. Let the paint dry completely.
4. Write your menu on the pot with chalk.
5. Place a glass vase half-filled with water inside the menu pot.
6. Arrange the flowers in the glass vase and use the menu pot as a centerpiece of your table.

For this and more fun crafts run out and buy my book Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Holiday Prep for Small Business : Steve McKenzie’s + Staples

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Jill of Steve McKenzie’s helps customers complete their holiday wish list with custom postcards & a desktop poster.

I am back again to help you prepare for the upcoming holidays with Staples Print and Marketing Services! This time with my favorite partners in crime – Steve and Jill McKenzie, of Steve McKenzie’s . This super chic gift boutique and interior design studio is located on the trendy Westside of Atlanta, Georgia. Steve is a seasoned professional with vast experience in business.The truth is that you should be preparing for the holiday season now if you own a retail store. Steve and I are here to walk you through three great promotions that you can easily achieve with the help of Staples.

It’s no surprise that I enlisted his expertise once again. You may remember him from last year. Of course he knocked it out of the park again. Steve and Jill are a natural choice because Staples Print and Marketing Services has been their go-to resource for years.

This year we wanted to be extra creative; wait until you see what we have up our sleeves. With the help of Staples, we could be creative and make our holiday promotions super cool.

Steve and I created three impressive store programs with Staples. If you’re a small store owner, listen up. Steve and I have some very important information to share with you to make you look like a total pro during the holiday season.

Holiday Program 1: Partner with Your Vendors and Create an In-store Event:

Steve created a tabletop program that offers beautiful product at a savings. To enhance the promotion, Steve and Jill ordered banners with exclusive imagery they got from a vendor. Be smart: your vendors have beautiful images, and they want you to use them. Steve uploaded the image to a Staples Print and Marketing banner template, added some clever copy to it, and voila a stunning banner to drape in your window.

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A tabletop trimmings poster hangs in the window while a smaller version beckons guests to the display. 

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Tabletop trimmings post cards are available for shoppers to easily see discounts.  

To support the event even more, Steve ordered table top signs and postcards that customers can take with them. The flip side of the postcard has all the items listed that will be discounted in the promotion. I love the catchy tag line “Tabletop Trimmings”.

Holiday Program 2: Create a Holiday Event for Customers

The idea of a workshop for the holidays is fantastic. Steve has had great success with conducting classes over the past year. He and Jill decided that a Holiday Gift Wrap Workshop would be a fun way to mingle with customers while teaching a skill. Serving nibbles and drinks while doing a craft like gift wrapping is a super way to get to know your customers. Here’s how Steve and his team put the whole thing together:

Steve designed a great postcard invite that he turned into a poster for his store. He framed a poster and placed it on an easel. A fantastic way for customers shopping to note the event and register to attend.

The postcard/invites are also placed on a display table that Steve set up in the middle of the store to showcase the event. This display farm table will serve as the actual wrap desk during the event. But he placed it in the middle of the floor a few weeks before the event, all set up to rally interest and conversation before the workshop event.

On the night of the Wrap Workshop, Steve and Jill will provide the paper and the ribbon and string and demonstrate wrapping techniques. It’s a super way to bring everyone together during the most wonderful time of the year.

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Steve & Jill created a 24×36 poster with Staples Print and Marketing Services for their window display.

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A framed poster gives customers directions while a custom postcard added to each shopping bag promotes the party. 

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Program 3: A Comprehensive Gift Certificate Program and a Wish List Program

Sometimes gift certificates can look ho hum. Steve came up with the brilliant idea of using an invite template from Staple Print and Marketing Services to create a very stylized gift certificate. Check out the beautiful gift certificate he created. Sometimes it’s the little touches that make such a big difference.

The wish list program is a great way for you as a retailer to help customers get what they want during the holidays. Steve and Jill came up with this beautiful sign to promote conversation with their regular customers. This wish list service is an extra touch that will separate you from the rest. Your customers will love this easy way to share what they love in your store. Here’s how it works: customers fill out this card, on the card they write who you should contact, and you take care of the rest. It makes gift giving easy.

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Branded tape measures make cute takeaways for shoppers who complete a wish list. The wish lists are customized rack cards from Staples Print and Marketing. 

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Gift cards created using Staples Print and Marketing invitations are branded with the store’s logo & address. 

3 Great Tips from Steve

  1. Use your vendors for beautiful imagery.
  2. Create holiday events that your customers want to attend.
  3. Make sure your gift certificate program is as comprehensive as it can be. Be creative and use an invite template.

Products used in today’s post:

StaplesSteveMcKenzies2016

 

  1. Custom Photo Postcards 2. Custom Photo Banner 3. Custom Party Invitations 4. Personalized Tape Measures 5. Custom Rack Cards 6. Avery Round Labels 7. Custom Posters

Photo credit: Annette Joseph

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Easy 4th of July Table Ideas

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s blog manager. I am bringing you today’s post from lovely Seaside, Florida. Every year, my husband’s family ventures to 30A to spend a week at the beach, and we always celebrate the Fourth here and in style.

The Fourth of July happens to be my second favorite holiday (behind Halloween), and I like to decorate our beach rental’s table as best as I can for the event. Since we’re on vacation and away from our own bevy of vases, plates, napkins, and props, we have to improvise a little when it comes to planning a spectacular tablescape for the Fourth. And improvise we do.

Today, I’ve got a round-up of some of my favorite easy Fourth of July table decor ideas from some of my favorite go-to entertaining magazines. Search your own homes (and yards) for festive items you already own. Be sure to think out of the box and keep it simple. A little goes a long way!

Paper straws add just the right amount of pizzazz to your every day drinks. I have a stash of paper straws in my kitchen in just about every color. If you’re feeling extra DIY-ish, add a paper flag or pompom to each one.

hm_296843050c42196c_spcms

photo by Laurey W. Glenn via Southern Living

A centerpiece doesn’t have to be complicated. Round up bottles and vases in patriotic colors and add punchy red flowers for a bit of pop. Or, head to your own garden and snip a few hydrangeas in white or blue. Hydrangeas are in full bloom right now which is perfect for festive decor!

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photo via Better Homes and Gardens

rope vase centerpiece

rope vase centerpiece

photo by Laurey W. Glenn via Southern Living

Don’t discount found items in your home for a pretty place setting. Your red linens from Christmas do double-duty for holidays like Fourth of July. Pull them out & put them to use. I love the idea of tying flatware together for quick grab and go at a cookout, too.

place setting

place setting

photo by Laurey W. Glenn via Southern Living

Finally, a zhush-up a store bought cake with colorful summertime berries. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries take a typical cake from the market from drab to fab in no time. Guests will never know the difference, especially if you put it on a beautiful cake plate ahead of time.

vanilla-cake_gal

Photo by Nicole Hill Gerulat; Styling: One Charming Party via Real Simple

Any other table decor tricks I should know? Share them in the comments, and happy 4th of July!

xo, Nicole

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