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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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.


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!


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.


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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Preparing for the Holidays with Steve McKenzie and Staples Copy and Print- THINK LIKE A PRO.

Staples Holiday 2015

Steve and Jill Mckenzie are pros all the way. They’re seasoned retailers always thinking about how to make their brand shine, so when I asked Steve if he used Staples Copy and Print for his home furnishing store’s needs, without missing a beat he said, “Yes, we have been using Staples Copy and Print for years.”

I thought it might be fun to help all of you specialty stores out by showing you how to brand for the holidays by photographing Steve and Jill’s store while they prepared for Thanksgiving.

Lead by example, right? Here is one of the best examples I have seen of customizing all the elements that will make your holiday season great, and your customers feel special. All while promoting your strongest category at the perfect time of year.

Staples Holiday 2015 Staples Holiday 2015 Staples Holiday 2015

Steve McKenzie’s was Voted Atlanta’s Best Tabletop in Atlanta Magazine, so you can imagine that table top products are a huge category for them. Steve and Jill ordered everything custom for their 2015 Thanksgiving promotion. They decided to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table in the front window, then hang a custom banner over the table to highlight the display.

Staples Holiday 2015 Staples Holiday 2015 BANNERS- POSTERS- POSTCARDS

Postcards were sent out to their mailing list announcing new merchandise with a Thanksgiving promotional discount offered on all stock.

Notice that the banner and the postcards have the same graphic. Reinforcing the graphic, whether it’s a photograph like this one or your logo, shows you’re a pro.

* Note the photograph is of a dishware line featured in their store. Staples Holiday 2015 GIFT WRAP- STICKERS- STAMPS-RIBBON-BOXES

Customized gift wrap is as easy as a sticker or a stamp. Don’t forget it’s the little touches that make all the difference in how your small business is perceived. I love the use of the bakers string to tie up small boxes and the S sticker on the bright orange bow makes for a beautiful and coordinating holiday wrap program.

Staples Holiday 2015 Staples Holiday 2015 GIFT CERTIFICATES – GIVE AWAYS

Gift certificates and functional take always, like this logo tape measure, are a great way to promote your business and give customers a treat. Having custom gift certificates with your logo is an important component, and this gift certificate with the pretty logo represents the store’s aesthetic.

Staples Holiday 2015 Staples Holiday 2015

Steve and Jill do a really great job. They have shown us that it’s as simple as putting your logo on everything you order from Staples Copy and Print. These touches won’t break the bank and will increase sales during the busiest time of year. Thanks Steve and Jill for showing us how you use Staples Copy and Print to make a statement in your beautiful space. xx Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


1. Custom Photo Banner 2. Custom Photo Postcard 3. Kraft Paper Boxes 4. Orange Satin Ribbon 5. Orange Baker’s Twine 6. Custom Stickers 7. Custom Gift Certificates 8. Custom Tape Measures

If you have a store and use custom Staples copy and print to make a statement, please share your photos in the comments section below; we would love to hear from you!

This is a sponsored post, all opinions expressed are my own.

Photo credit: Me



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The Office Party : A Holiday Cookie Bakeoff with Staples Copy and Print

Staples Holiday 2015 One thing I love to plan, as you already know, is a party. Sometimes when you own a small business, throwing your employee holiday party may feel like a chore rather than a joy. The key to a successful holiday season is to always make a game plan. Start with a theme.

In some cases, coming up with the right theme can get tricky. Let’s face it: when you work together everyday, you already know everything about each other right? So picking a theme can seem daunting. Using the custom banners, and prizes from Staples Copy and Print can lighten the load and make your employee holiday soiree a big hit.

As an expert at parties, I am here to tell you that I have the perfect plan for you. I suggest a holiday cookie bake off, a contest of sorts. Have all your employees bring their favorite cookie recipe: their own concoction or even a family recipe. It’s fun to share the holiday memories of the cookie recipe, and a great way to engage all of the people in your firm in an entirely new way. Plus, a little friendly competition is good for the office holiday spirit, especially when cookies are involved.

You can provide is some festive decor and a few prizes, and you will find an amazing array of selections on Staples Copy and Print, like this custom banner.

Staples Holiday 2015 Staples Holiday 2015

Make sure everyone brings their prize winning cookies along with the recipe and encourage story telling about the cookie recipe at the holiday gathering. Then, best cookie recipe voting can take place at the party. You can award personalized awards like this great polo with the phrase “smart cookie” embroidered on it.

Staples Holiday 2015

I love these custom hats especially made for the winners, or you can even use them for your entire staff as a holiday gift. It’s a great way to celebrate. Take it from me: organizing an activity for your employees for your holiday party is the way to go, and you can get everything you need in one place. Be a smart cookie and shop Staples Copy & Print.

Staples Copy & Print helps small businesses make customer and employee appreciation happen with custom gifts.



1. Customizable banner 2. Embroidered hats 3. Embroidered polo shirt

This is a sponsored post, all opinions expressed are my own.

Photo credit : me

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Summer in the City from IKEA

2015-05-06_16-11-59 As most of you know, I am BIG on entertaining outdoors which is one of the reasons we built our home with tons of outdoor spaces. Al fresco dining is one of the most important components to adding instant ambiance to any party.

I’m a huge fan of IKEA; I shop there for props for party photo shoots, and of course while cruising the aisles for my clients, I always find things for my own spaces and for my own parties. This week in Atlanta Magazine’s Home {where I am Entertaining Editor} we will feature a gorgeous Swedish Style engagement party. For party decor we bought lots of props at YES, IKEA. As an aside, I feel strongly that Swedish style is about to become a big trend in the U.S.

I really love this whimsical lighting, and lighting is so important for outdoor entertaining because it sets the mood. How sweet is this collection of tabletop products?

Check out the latest issue of Atlanta Magazine’s Home on newstands May 13th for our Swedish Syle Party. It’s amazing, but more on that next week.

I love the way IKEA is stylish, simple, and affordable which is my mantra in my book Picture Perfect Parties.

Check out the these wonderful finds at IKEA, and make your outdoor gatherings a big hit.

2015-05-06_16-10-22 2015-05-06_16-10-44 2015-05-06_16-11-18

This is not a sponsored post; all opinions are my own.

photography from IKEA



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