A Groovy Atomic 1960s Time

 

It’s been awhile since my last post as I’ve been wrapped up in the 1960s which was an age before blogs. ha!   Why 1960s? well my husband and my annual party was a Mad Men 1960s theme this year.   From whiskey sours to cheeseballs, we went back in time.  2014-02-22 14.22.24I even found vintage ads to decorate the walls.  Vintage hose in the restroom and sewing patterns in the kitchen.   2014-02-22 14.22.452014-02-21 18.27.22

 

 

 

 

Just when I thought I had all the decorations ironed out, I stumbled across some vintage records.  Check em out.  The best part – was Bobby asking what’s that and the ensuing music lesson.  Ahh life before streaming radio and pandora.  2014-02-22 14.22.30

but what really took the cake were the vintage canisters that my friend Rose Ann found.  Check these babies out!  With an avocado green centerpiece and grapes (oh yes, they’re fake).  We were rolling in 1960s style.

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So before it all started, Tony was checking up on some vintage tunes.  We decided to start the night with 1960s french cafe music.  Thank you Pandora.

 

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And then it was time for the bites to be displayed.  Like I said earlier, my cheeseball made with roasted garlic, mushrooms and marsala went fabulously with the wasabi deviled eggs.  Of course some trashy meatballs and smoked sausages with a very delicious surprising BBQ sauce.  To top it off, my friend brought the quintessential shrimp cocktail to go with.   Add to that all the other delicious delicacies and, bam! We were partying in style. mad men

 

I couldn’t have done it without friends and family pitching in to help out with vintage finds.  So thanks to all.

The highlight of the evening must have been my friend’s husband trying on the pantyhose,notably a bit small for his 6 foot 4 stature.  Ahem.  But who knew those old hose would still work.  Need a pair?  I’m happy to send them your way. (Wink)

All the fun while raising awareness about a local foundation that is doing great things for kids and families dealing with epilepsy.  Thank you Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California for all you do.2014-02-22 20.03.25And thank you all for reading.  Wishing you happy or in 1960s lingo, boss, groovy, atomic times.

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Partying Mad Men Style While Building An Epilepsy Aware World

mad men cocktail partySo,the next party on the agenda is going to have a mad men theme.  If you aren’t familiar with the show Mad Men, it’s about life in the 1960s.  The style, glamor and tone just beg for a party.  This time, my husband and I are using the party as mainly an excuse to get friends together.

But we are trying something new as well.  We want to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California.  Epilepsy affects one percent of the population.  While sometimes epilepsy can be the result of a head trauma, most of the time the cause is unknown.  Sometimes I wonder if difficult pregnancies, like preclampsia, can cause it.  There are different types of epileptic seizures from the stereotypical grand mal seizures to something as simple as extended staring spells.

Children with epilepsy are subject to a variety of treatments from extreme diet regimens to medications.  These medications can have horrendous side effects like uncontrollable rage.  You may be thinking, ya ya, terrible twos.  No.  Much worse.  It completely alters the personality.   Anything or nothing can trigger the tantrum and it can go on for extended periods of time.  I’m talking about tantrums that draw crowds.

Other medications lack the behavioral side effects but risk things like kidney stones. Not something that would be fun for a lil one.

The good news is that there are numerous studies being done to try to figure out more and find a cure.  The Epilepsy Phenome Genome Project is collecting information to learn more about epilepsy’s causes and effective treatments.  The Human Epilepsy Project is doing an observational study to see if there are any predictors of whether medications will work or which ones for a particular person.  And, lastly there is the Epilepsy Foundation.  With a local presence, this foundation does everything from funding research to connecting parents of children with epilepsy.

With such a worthy cause, I’ve been so inspired to throw the ultimate 60s party.  Recently I’ve been having a bit of fun on Pinterest collecting ideas.  Bored or curious?  Take a peek here.  The challenge is transforming my traditional farmhouse into a mid-century modern cocktail lounge.   Let’s just say the ideas are flowing.  I’ve also recruited local friends to help – from a fabulously talented graphic designer to a new friend with an amazing collection of 1960s goodies, people are coming out of the woodwork to help the cause.  Another friend found a recipe for avocado green deviled eggs. Want to help? Shoot me an email.  Want to contribute to the cause? Click here

Thank you for reading.  Thanks you friends for helping.  And thank you community for pitching in.  I’m so inspired.  It’s experiences like this that redefine the sense of community and demonstrate that by working together anything is possible.  For now, transporting a traditional home to the 60s, for later a world that is more epilepsy aware (and hopefully one day epilepsy free).

Bringing Back the CheeseBall

There are some things from days of past that I just adore.  Vintage shoes, china, kids clothes and the art of entertaining.  I’ve started selling some of my favorite vintage things on Ebay which is a total digression from this post which is about entertaining.  From parties to food, there are some sweet ideas from days of past that deserve to be brought back.  For example, a Sip & See to introduce a new baby, the teacup bridal shower, and vintage hors doeuvres like the deviled egg.   There is another hors doeuvre warranting attention. Something easy, affordable and flavorful.  The Cheeseball! Even typing it makes me giddy.IMG_4874

The Cheeseball has been a party staple since the 1920s.  According to Better Homes & Gardens “they’re only getting better with age.”  I’d have to agree.

At my last party, a Rio themed birthday party (details here), I wanted to reintroduce this time honored dish to my circle of friends.  With images of the traditional cheeseball from the supermarket, you know the one the nut covered Velveeta cheese concoction, I was dying to flavor it up with quality ingredients.  My Google Search resulted in images that were brown, ugly, and with the word Kraft, which just wasn’t what I was going for.  After a little digging, I found Martha Stewart’s version which was a  nice start.  Her beautifully styled pictures gave me inspiration – a cheeseball didn’t have to be brown.  It could be green or red and served with complimentary colored crackers.  For example, beet chips make the brown cheeseball look more appealing.  Then, a photo of a pumpkin themed cheeseball from the Food Network really blew my mind.  So, I’ll be doing that around Halloween this year.

From Martha Stewart’s post, I learned that the base was cream cheese, salt & lemon.  To that you can add what you like. I wanted to make two, one sweet and another savory.  For savory, I added mushrooms sauteed in butter, Marsala wine, Gruyere cheese and roasted garlic.  When that was too bland, I added a half cup of blue cheese.  For sweet, I went on a berry and orange theme.  So I added a fig & cranberry compote and shredded sharp cheddar.

My basic recipe this is more than enough for a crowd of 60

  • 32 ounces cream cheese
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 5 dashes hot sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste

Split into as many portions as you want balls. I decided on two.  For the mushroom I added 2 cups of chopped mushrooms sauteed in butter, a tablespoon of bacon fat; 2 tbsp Marsala wine; 1 tbsp roasted garlic, 1/2 cup blue cheese, 1 cup Gruyere.  For the cranberry, I added about 1/4 cup of fig & cranberry compote & 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  Next time, I think that I’ll add some roasted figs. I might even get really daring and add some prosciutto.  Form the final product into a ball – wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Here’s the trick.  To let the flavors marry let them sit overnight in the fridge.

Then it is all about presentation.  For the mushroom ball, I decided to roll it in scallions and parsley.  The textures of which gave it a really pretty effect, sort of like a moss ball you’d see in an English garden.  To compliment the green color and salty flavor, I served it with salty yet classic Ritz crackers.  I served it on a shiny pewter platter, but next time I’ll use a rustic cutting board.  For the cranberry ball, I took another approach. I rolled it in cranberries.  When I didn’t have enough (oops), I chopped up some dried cherries to finish it off.  The deep dark red of the cherries mixed with the lighter red of the cranberries to provide a beautiful depth.  To add elements of sweet and orange, I served it with Anna’s Orange Swedish Cookies.  I served it on a vintage cake stand made from green glass from the Depression era (which began my love affair with vintage glassware).  The great thing was that the cranberry orange cheeseball also went with the Ritz crackers, so folks could make it more salty of they preferred.

Here’s how the berry one turned out –IMG_4872

My thoughts are that the cheeseball is a fabulously easy dish to offer at your next gathering.  It’s almost too easy!  So, yes – it’s time to bring back the CheeseBall.  And sorry friends, you’ll be seeing this time and time again.  Next time at the MadMen themed cocktail party to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation.

Wine Country Entertaining – Downton Abbey Style

Entertaining in the wine country means being flexible. Whether it’s a small group of friends, large chaotic kids party, or small intimate formal dinner, it’s all about combining fabulous friends and flavors.

Of course throwing parties with kids is an entirely different animal as the entertainment options can range from as simple as coloring sheets and play dough to extravagant hired entertainers and traveling petting zoos.

Recently while enjoying a quiet laid back casual dinner of homemade pizzas and local wine, the conversation turned to our favorite TV show, Downton Abbey. The four of us decided to throw a small intimate black tie dinner party for fellow Downton fans. We decided to do something revolutionary: have a party without kids. Us parents don’t get out much, so the thought of adult time made it more fun.

The beginning planning stages involved conversations about whether it would be white or black tie, when to send invitations and what to serve.

downton 3From the invite to the place settings, every detail was thoughtfully planned. I used Paperless Post for the invitations. I chose a formal design with a picture of a chandelier similar to the one that would decorate the party.

Having sent the invitations, it was time to plan the other details such as decorations, place settings, music and menu. Planning ahead made it such a success. For the cooking portion, I have to thank Ina Garten for her tips published in one of her fabulous cookbooks. For example, she suggested a cooking timetable. Well, when coordinating seven courses, the timetable was key. In the days before, the schedule made the little tedious tasks like unpacking crystal and silver more manageable. For the day of the party, having a written schedule took the stress out of things. Another key factor was hiring an assistant to help serve the meal and help with washing the legions of dishes left in the wake of a 7 course formal meal. (Emily – you rock!)

So, for the menu, I had a 24 pound turkey that I built the menu around.

Passed Appetizers, Bubbles & Lady Mary Cocktail

Endive with roasted garlic cream cheese and shrimpdownton
Dates wrapped with prosciutto
Lady Mary Cocktail (bubbly, Lillet Blanc, lemon & basil) or (sprite, lemon & basil)
Main Meal

Mushroom sherry soup (mushrooms + sherry + shallots) with a heavy cream drizzle
herb roasted turkey, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, English peas & cherry port gravy
mixed greens with raspberry vinaigrette
cherries jubilee over ice cream (this is fun as you light it on fire)
cheese course (cheeses, dried fruit, crackers)
homemade fudge & port

For wines, the party featured those from Peter Cellars Pinot Noir & Roche Winery Merlot

As far as set-up, Emily Post was helpful in setting the scene. The detailed diagrams helped guide the European table setting required for a formal Downton evening. Admittedly though, I didn’t follow it exactly as to make things easier I put the dessert utensils on the table. (Gasp!) A sin for which I likely would have been fired or put on probation had I been working at Downton Abbey.

With most of the food ready to go, greeting guests was a pleasure! We enjoyed the flavors and libations. And, afterwards silly fun with fake mustaches (really worth a laugh). In Downton Style the men departed for cigars & scotch and a chat about all things manly. Us ladies did the same (cigars, scotch and a chat about all things girly).

downton2Of course ages after our bedtime, we dimmed the lights and started dancing the night away. Like I said earlier, us parents don’t get out much so we are easy to entertain.

Now it’s on to planning our next one. Perhaps it will be Mad Men cocktail party or a Gone with the Wind garden party.. Any ideas??