Wednesday, November 18, 2009

{hostess of the week} kerri mich

Hello, everyone! This week's hostess of the week is Kerri, my very oldest friend. Kerri and I met when we were three. Her family moved in across the street from mine, and we were fast friends from the moment she invited me over to play with one of her fabulous Barbie houses. So many of my childhood memories involve Kerri...puppet shows, lemonade stands, walking to school in our matching ponchos crocheted by Kerri's mom. And now we have sons similar ages and our husbands' personalities are so similar it is sometimes spooky!

Kerri's mom is also a killer cook and the original grow your own food lady. Seriously, long before it was chic to have your own backyard vegetable garden, Kerri's mom had one, and after consulting a cookbook from the most ginormous cookbook collection I have ever seen, she'd put something fantastic on the table. Although cooking comes naturally to Kerri, I think her "just do it" spirit is one we all can (and should) embrace!

From Kerri:

Albuquerque, New Mexico is famous for its Balloon Fiesta, the first week of October every year. We like to celebrate by having a balloon breakfast. When else can you have a party at 7 am on a Saturday???

Table: Assorted outdoor patio tables, which no one is sitting at, preferring to stand at the wall to look at the balloons.
Chairs: Assorted outdoor patio chairs.
Lighting: The sunrise!
Favorite table decor: Flowers, candles
Last time you entertained, you served: Breakfast hot dishes, fruit, ham, doughnuts and sweet rolls, lots of coffee and hot chocolate!
How many people were there? About 40 or so, adults and kids. Depends on the weather and which way the wind blows.
Last minute or planned in advance? Advance, via email
Go-to recipe when in a hurry: Pasta Caprese. Basically make Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil salad and throw it over pasta. Its DELICIOUS when you have home grown tomatoes. We eat it all summer.
Favorite cookbook: My mother is a complete cookbook fanatic (we're talking thousands), and I have received many from her. The last one I used was the Ovens of Brittany cookbook, yum.
Invitations: printed, hand-written or e-mailed? When I plan far enough in advance, printed invitations from hen and barley, of course, but usually I am pulling things together last minute, so phone/email!
Best entertaining tip: Don't stress about having people over, just do it. They'd rather see you and your family than sit home, so don't worry that everything is perfect. And let them bring food too! Usually people like to make a contribution to the event.
When you're not entertaining, what are you doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Specialist for the Forest Service so basically I make maps and do analysis with spatial data. I have a 2 boys (2 and 3 years old) that keep me busy at home, and a wonderful husband who owns his own company ( making solid hardwood furniture. Mainly beds, but he can make anything!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Happy Monday, everyone! We are so excited to announce our first-ever blog giveaway. If you're like me, you are still in "the holidays are coming" denial, and haven't given an ounce of thought to holiday cards, teacher's gifts, gifts for family...well, anyone, really. But there's no time like the present, and maybe this giveaway will inspire you.

A couple of years ago, we were exhibiting at the Atlanta Gift Market and in the booth behind us was this darling company called Always A Girl's Girl. As we chatted during the show, we realized that we lived just a few blocks from one another in Chicago and had many friends in common. Small world! Always A Girl's Girl designs this very clever conversation confetti, available in a bunch of different themes. Each piece of confetti has a different question that you can use to inspire laughter and conversation during a dinner or cocktail party, and the confetti can be used to decorate your table, too. And it all comes in this cute little tin! Talk about multi-tasking, AND a great reason to give, invite and gather! So, when the girls from Always A Girl's Girl contacted us about doing a joint giveaway, we jumped, and we think you will, too!

Here's the deal. Enter the giveaway one of four ways:

1) Purchase any hen and barley press product by December 5 from one of our online retailers like Paper Concierge, Traylor Papers or EStationeryandgifts

2) Purchase any hen and barley press product by December 5 from one of our brick and mortar retailers and have them notify us of your purchase and desire to be in the giveaway

3) Make a purchase on the Always A Girl's Girl website or on our website

4) Comment here!

The winner, to be announced December 6, will receive 4 boxes of hen and barley press blank folded notes ($50 retail value) and 2 tins of Always A Girl's Girl conversation confetti. You'll receive them in time for the holidays, to use or re-gift with wild abandon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

{hostess of the week} cindy elsman

Phew! It has been crazy busy around here as the holiday orders have started coming in, so our blog went on the back burner for a bit. But we're back with a new hostess of the week, our good friend Cindy Elsman. We've spent many a late night at the Elsman's house and the reason for this, I think, is that
first and foremost the emphasis is always on everyone enjoying themselves. So, while the food is always delicious and the table nicely set, the atmosphere is always easy...not easy as in no effort went into it, but easy as in relaxed and encouraging guests to sit back and enjoy. Cindy reveals some of how she does this below, so enjoy and be inspired!

Table: A dark stained pine table that was Jim's family dining room table while he was growing up. We inherited it when we moved into our first apartment over 16 years ago. I've been wanting to replace it ever since, but it has served us well! It seats 6 comfortably. We can squeeze in 8 with extra chairs from around the house, and when we are having a big group my handy husband Jim puts a large piece of 1/4" plywood with rounded corners on top, and we can easily fit 12.

Chair: 6 ladder back chairs that came with the table.

Lighting: 5 arm wrought iron chandelier. I think it came from Home Depot?

Favorite Table decor: I usually have fresh cut or dried hydrangeas from the garden (super easy and free), then add small candle votives around the table.

Last time you entertained you served: Make your own pizzas.

How many people were there? 7 thirteen year old girls

Last minute or planned in advance? Planned. My daughter, Hannah, planned it all. She did evites, planned the menu and the girls came over and did the rest.

Go-to recipe when in a hurry: Roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato pasta.

Favorite cookbook: I love all the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. I also like the magazine Everyday Foods by Martha Stewart. Great recipes, with not a lot of ingredients.

Invitations: printed, hand-written or emailed? I would love to be a planner and use printed invitations but I usually do things last minute or a week in advance so I pick up the phone and call everyone.

Best entertaining tip: I like to serve simple, good food that doesn't take a ton of time to prepare, so I can enjoy the party too! Never make a new recipe for your guests. Try it on your family first.

When you're not entertaining, what are you doing? Running the daily obstacle course of life with my husband Jim, our three kids Hannah, Bennett and Stuart, and housebreaking our new black lab puppy Bear. When I can squeeze in time for myself, I try to get outside as much as possible, read, back and exercise.

Thanks, Cindy!

A note: we jokingly call Cindy's husband Jim "Captain Activity" because he loves to plan an activity in conjunction with a dinner or barbeque. This makes the evening so fun. He'll arrange a round of golf at the local par 3 course for kids and adults, or a few rounds of paddle tennis, and then everyone arrives at the Elsman house hungry and full of funny stories. A game of "celebrities" is a favorite after dinner activity and it is as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids. It reminds me of growing up in the 70s when everyone seemed to play charades at dinner parties. But give "Captain Activity's" ideas a try before your next gathering.