One More Thing, #12

Another great casual dessert idea if you’re hosting a (smallish) dinner party: The giant chocolate slab.

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Guittard oversized chocolate bar

This image features Guittard, a family-owned company from California, but there are now so many excellent chocolatiers that you can take your pick.

While you could also present a display of smaller, artisanal bars and allow guests to pick and choose flavors, I love the scale and drama of the oversized bar.

Put this on a tray or cutting board with a sharp knife, surround it with dried fruits and nuts, and voila! Do it yourself dessert. No oven required.

P.S. Feeling even lazier? You can customize your own chocolate bars here. S’mores bar with graham crackers and marshmallows? Yes, please.

Dessert in the Living Room

We don’t entertain all that much, but that doesn’t stop me from hoarding ideas about entertaining.

Usually this takes the form of pages ripped from magazines with recipes, play lists, pictures of place settings, etc, all of which gets stuffed into a drawer in our kitchen island that threatens to explode. But hey, I may need to source calavera molds when I throw an authentic Dia de los Muertos celebration someday.

The following ideas come straight from Real Simple, my favorite magazine (November 2013 issue).

I’ll skip the dinner menu and tips, because what was more interesting to me were the ideas about dessert.

  • For one, RS recommends serving dessert in the living room. This signals to guests that a new chapter of the party is starting and lets you switch up conversation partners, which is a godsend if you’re stuck next to, say, your drunk uncle who loves guns.
  • Dessert elsewhere also allows the host to abandon the mess. A direct quote from RS: “It makes guests feel relaxed and lets you seem chill, even if you’re not.”
  • A great surprise: Serve champagne after the meal. This is so festive, especially for the holidays. I love this tip.
  • Make mini desserts. It obviates the bellyaching with “just a sliver” requests. And tiny desserts are adorable.
  • This genius idea was from a caterer in NYC: Instead of asking who wants coffee, bring out a tray of small, prepoured cups. Decaf is more than fine, especially if your dinner parties are like mine and tend to end way later than anticipated.

Last idea: Circulate a small plate of seriously fancy chocolates or caramels at the end for a sweet finish. And invite me next time!

Prep Work

In light of the numerous resolutions I need to make for 2014 (more on that later), I’ve spent the past two days tackling organization projects around Fancy Pants Ranch that have been woefully neglected.

Project #1 was to sort through all of my pilfered hotel toiletries as well as all of the new potions/lotions/elixirs/unguents I received for Christmas or recently had purchased between Black Friday (when all of the irresistible deals start coming around) and now. They’re safely tucked into the guest bathroom, where I can shop from my own closet for the upcoming year (foreshadowing here, people).

Project #2 was to organize the cupboard housing the kids’ art supplies. This cabinet infuriates me like no other, since it rains down crayons, construction paper and rulers on my head the minute one of the doors is opened even a micro crack. Thanks to some plastic bins from Costco (which miraculously fit just right – Note to self: Measure cabinet next time, you got really lucky here), this is how it turned out:

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Let’s see how long this lasts…

Project #3 (and the last one for today, I’m sick of this) was to organize my Gift Closet. Another one of my many problems is that I love to buy paper products, like note cards, ribbons, etc. And when I see something that would make a great hostess gift or is something I know someone in my life would adore, I buy it. And then promptly forget about it, since my Gift Closet is a total black hole. The closet got sectioned into areas for ribbons (in a repurposed Easter basket), greeting cards, note cards, wrapping paper, tissue paper, gifts, party supplies and seasonal decor. Seriously, I unearthed some really good stuff, plus I discovered that I am set until 2060 or so in the cocktail napkin and straw departments.

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Time will tell how long this organizational streak will last, but I’d give it at least a half hour or so…

Words to Remember

As I’m off work this week – using up some use-it-or-lose-it time before year’s end – and stricken with an evil virus (Trixie’s down, too), sub-zero temps and two pent-up kids, I’m trying to remember these words from the gorgeous and talented actress Julianne Moore:

When your kids are young, they’re always holding your hand.

Then suddenly you turn around and it’s not happening anymore.

The days are long, but the years are short.

Christmas Wrap Up

So, how was your holiday?

Ours started with a harrowing drive through a blizzard to my mom’s place on Christmas Eve. The trip normally takes about 75 minutes door-to-door, but the road conditions were so poor that it was nearly 3 hours before we arrived. Everyone had already eaten dinner, too, so it felt really weird and rushed once we got there to dine on the dregs.

There was one point on the journey where it was a total whiteout and we were on a narrow stretch of road with no shoulder on either side – plus a precipitous bilateral drop – and a semi blazed by us doing about 90 MPH. Ever Patient Spouse and I looked at one another and simultaneously asked, “Was that Large Marge?”

It went downhill from there.

One highlight of all the gifting was Disney Hedbanz.

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Although it was meant for Trixie from her cousins, we all engaged in several rounds of this. The premise is rather straightforward: Each player wears a headband with a card that isn’t visible to the player (but is for everyone else), and then you ask yes-or-no questions to determine which card is in your headband. An hourglass timer is involved (Thank god!).

Example: Trixie had an the Enchanted Pumpkin Carriage card from “Cinderella.”

Something like this:

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Trixie: Am I a boy?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I an animal?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I hairy?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a person?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a princess?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a hairy animal?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a crab?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I an animal with a lot of hair?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a hairy crab?

So, you can see how this went down. 

And now we’re safely ensconced back at Fancy Pants Ranch, where the real Christmas Miracle occurred today: The garbage truck hauled away Mt. Saint Trashmore, our towering pile of cardboard boxes, colorful wrapping paper, and assorted holiday detritus.

Until next year…

A New Love

I’ve espoused my love of Henri Bendel candles several times already, and it almost feels like adultery to admit there’s a New Sheriff in Town.

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While I’ve seen these Lafco New York candles around for a while, their exorbitant price tag (even by my twisted standards) kept me away.

Until… I recently stayed at a spa whose boutique carried the whole line and I found myself going back again and again to catch a whiff of my favorites.

The gist of Lafco is that there is a perfectly scented candle for every room in the house, provided that your home features a library, sitting room, sun room and boudoir, among other locales.

An offshoot line devotes a candle for every type of house, including Tree House, Penthouse and my current crush, Ski House.

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Feu de Bois Ski House Candle

This is a complex, woodsy scent that is just like the best memory of sitting around a cozy fire during a ski weekend with all of your friends. It’s heaven.