Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Very Festive Halloween Table


I love a good dinner party - I'm totally into them right now! There's just something great about having people over, bringing people together and chilling out over some delicious food and wine. It's my new favorite thing to do and I don't get stressed about the planning. Actually I relish it.

Rather than focus on too many fancy schmancy details, I try to keep in mind what's important… Friendship, good food and fun are at the top of that list of priorities for me. I don't get too fussy most of the time about what I cook as I generally find that people respond best to good ole fashioned, delicious, hearty normal food. If I'm cooking for a lot of people, I'll opt for a meaty tray bake of some sort… If it's for only a few, I'll generally go for something pasta oriented or maybe a lamb dish. Either way, when the food is tasty, the wine is flowing and the conversation gets going, the details tend to be less noticeable.

That said, I don't shy away from a pretty table - it's one of my favorite parts of throwing a dinner party. It doesn't need to be fancy or over the top… No four foot tall floral arrangements or gold plated silverware on my table these days. I keep it simple and fun… Placemats, a few fresh flowers and little tidbits to make the table welcoming and fun… That's really all it needs, isn't it?

I often hear people say that dinner parties are hard - they don't have enough stuff for the table or space, but you'd be surprised by what you can do with this and that. I put together this festive Halloween dinner table with little more than what I had lying around, mostly by pulling down the decorations I bought for various shelves and rooms in our flat and plopping them down on the table. This table is festive, fun and perfect for a Halloween dinner party on a budget! It's fun, festive and with some delicious food laid out, is certain to impress your pals.


So, you don't have a lot of fancy tableware lying around? No problem. I am particularly fond of plain, white plates, primarily because they don't distract from the food. I don't even spend a lot of money on my plates… I buy them from Robert Dyas where I know I can always buy one or two more if I have more guests or if one breaks. For me, it's more about what's on the plate, not the plate itself. However, as someone who loves pretty things, I understand the blandness of a white plate. The compromise for me is to find a pretty napkin or something decorative to take away the massive white void. I chose paper napkins for this particular table because it's fairly casual, but also because they lower the amount of laundry required. Nice little perk and when cooking for 6 people, every little bit of tidy spared is welcome to the hostess! If you find paper napkins repulsive, then cloth would work too. I got these paper napkins as a free gift with purchase ages ago, but you can find similar just about anywhere. 


When I started thinking about my Halloween table decorations for this year, I loved the idea of a monochrome base… It's appropriate for the season, goes well with pops of orange, purple & green and the pieces can easily be used once Halloween is over. I picked up these adorable striped placemats at Butler's for a steal. 

To add color, find some cute treat bags to use instead of place cards. Fill them with Halloween candy or to give guests a little pre-dinner nibble, pop in some mixed nuts… They'll love noshing on them while you finish up the cooking. An orange ribbon around tied around the knife and fork is simple yet chic and a bit of Halloween confetti brightens things up for minimal cost. Finish with a festively colored straw in the glass and knickknacks like a small, inexpensive ghost candle to round out the look. 


I love the idea of displaying things on the table for added color and decoration. No chance we'd use 25 black & white straws for this dinner, but they look so cute in a pint glass, I just had to leave them out. They add a bit of dimension to the mix and they're fun. Miniature pumpkins or gourds are also great for Halloween tables - I picked these up at my local grocery store for about £1 each.


Stair-step candles in orange & black on glass candle plates provide maximum effect for minimal effort and cost. You can use them throughout the Halloween season as well and they're inexpensive. Should you opt for only orange instead of using some that are black, they'll be useful straight through to Thanksgiving for those of you in the USA.


To complement the larger candles, spreading votive holders out across the table provides a bit of candlelit ambiance. Halloween votive holders are always easy to find at any price point. I picked these cuties up at John Lewis and after the dinner, they take residence on my mantle until Halloween is over. Clear ones with orange or black votives will work just as well… It's about working with what you can find, not making it hard on yourself. 

Festive, fun and low-key, not to mention low-price… It's as simple as that! Be sure to watch this space for more table ideas, coming soon! How are you decorating your Halloween dinner table?

The Perfect Halloween Cocktail

John Lewis Glass (similar) / Butler's Straw / Cargo Napkin (similar) / Waitrose Ghost Candle (similar)

Of course there are hundreds of cocktail recipes floating around, not to mention punch concoctions that featured frozen, floating hands and whatnot… They're all great! But what about the non-scary options for people who don't want to feel as though they're drinking a test tube full of blood & guts or for the hostess who's Halloween party is leaning more towards chic than freak? In comes the cute Halloween cocktail of choice for me… The Aperol Spritz.

I first heard about the Aperol Spritz while on holiday in Bordeaux last summer - they were everywhere and bright orange. I had no idea how easy they are to make, yet I couldn't resist filing away the thought for Halloween. Here's the recipe for this delightful, orange concoction - it's the perfect thing to wet the whistles of your Halloween dinner party guests!

Ingredients
3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 part soda water
Ice

Method

  1. Fill a glass with ice.
  2. Add 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and top with 1 part soda water and stir.
  3. Serve immediately.
This tasty cocktail is great anytime, especially in the heat of summer, but for a Halloween twist, add a monochrome straw and cocktail napkin. It's the perfect drink to welcome dinner party guests or you can make it in large quantities and leave in pitchers for a serve yourself party. 

Daily Style October 22, 2014 - Casual Stripes

Friday, October 17, 2014

Canyon Ranch Radiance Facial Scrub

Radiance Facial Scrub ℅ Canyon Ranch
Everyone's skin is different and we all have our own little problems, however the one thing I think most people have in common is a need for exfoliation. One thing I hate is buying an exfoliating product and finding that it's just a bit too wimpy and doesn't work. For me, exfoliators are super important as my skin requires a good scrub several times a week.

I started using the Canyon Ranch Radiance Facial Scrub about 6 weeks ago. Generally I use it two to three times a week and it's a great product. Unlike many other exfoliators, Radiance is quite gentle while still getting the job done, leaving skin smooth and soft after each use. It also has a creamy texture, which feels lovely on the skin. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who likes a facial scrub rather than exfoliating with a tool like a Clarisonic Skin Brush.

Radiance Facial Scrub is $34 for 3.4 ounces and it's available online via Canyon Ranch

Daily Style October 16, 2014 - Baggy Chic