How to host a Narnia themed Dinner Party

Remember when I told you about my desire to start a dinner club? I think we did it! I think we started a dinner club. It is even more legitimate since I created an Instagram account for it (see here). So, I think whenever you host two dinner parties AND create a social media account you have just started a dinner club. When we started thinking about our winter installment we decided to let a literary classic be the source of our inspiration, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here’s how we did it…  

Our amazing invitation which can be found at Paperless Post.
  • Picking a theme – It turns out that picking a theme can be very hard, especially when you 0r your co-host might not share the same vision right away. For this dinner party we started out by creating a Pinterest board  where we pinned pictures of decorations and food that seemed appropriate for a winter dinner party. Somehow in all of the pinning and discussion we landed on Narnia as our theme. We wanted to stay away from something that was too much like a Christmas dinner and we knew we would host the party after New Years so that was not an option. If you know the story then you know Pevensie children wander through a wardrobe to find themselves in a winter wonderland. We wanted to create that winter wonderland.

    White tablecloths, crystal glasses, candles, and fine china did the trick!
  • Setting the menu – The menu is my favorite part of planning (I am sure you can guess why). I usually get overly excited and since we had such a fun theme to work with, the menu was important. So here’s how the menu planning usually goes (typically over drinks)…

Me: I know we talked about doing something like Cornish hens but what if we do some sort of red meat or like seafood…oooh maybe like a surf and turf!

Anna: Oh yeah, that could be really nice! 

Me: Yeah, like maybe we do steak for 15 people and pair it with fish and like the whole plate is white and the meat is the only color on the plate and it’s just really pure… 

Anna: Hmm, steak for 15 people you say? Is that going to be hard to pull off? 

Me: Ooh and how about we do…

Anna: Hey, remember when we talked about Cornish hens? 

Me: Yeah, ok, I think we should go back to Cornish hens.

So we ended up making Cornish Hens, cauliflower mash, roasted mushrooms, and roasted green beans. Everything was easy to execute and truly spoke to the winter season. (See pinterest board for recipes) 

  • Make a cake! – Alright, you don’t have to make a cake to have a successful Narnia themed dinner party but it only seems fitting to have cake at a party. I really wanted to push myself so I decided that my biggest contribution was going to be to make a layered cake with some sort of winter decoration. If you follow this blog then you probably know I don’t typically make cakes. I like to bake but cakes always seemed to fall in the category of being too stressful. I took a deep breath, drank a few cocktails and then got to baking. Anna arrived the next morning to help me finish decorating (she also kept me sane). I was extremely proud of the final product. We also had a Turkish delights in honor of the book but not everyone loved them (you should still make them because they are from the book). 

    The cake was a black magic chocolate cake (recipe on pinterest) with a buttercream frosting.
  • The decorations – I think any winter themed dinner party is going to be a little more fancy than one you might host in the fall. We knew we really wanted to play up the fantasy element but also have fun with it. Our hosts were gracious enough to allow us to use their fine wedding china and fancy glasses. We also pulled together lace tablecloths and candles to make a very elegant dining layout. If you check out our Instagram page you will see some the fur coats and crowns that helped bring home the Narnia theme. I wouldn’t suggest you run out and buy fur coats for just this purpose, we happened to have a friend who had a few lying around, ha!
    We found lace crowns on Pinterest and knew we had to have them so Anna armed herself with spray paint and glue and made sure we all had beautiful crowns to wear.

    We couldn’t have a night in Narnia without Aslan the lion!
  • What to drink – Punch is always a good idea! Our hosts put together a delicious blood orange punch that our guests enjoyed before the meal. They also crafted a beautiful ice mold to go along with it. The punch was a bright way to start the night and since it was winter it was a nice distraction from the winter weather outside. We serve wine with dinner (of course) and ended the evening with some fun cocktails. One of our guests made coffee ice cubes which were a great addition to the kahlua and vanilla vodka cocktails we served with cake. If you want to go alcohol free then I suggest hot cocoa since that is very Narnian.

That’s how we hosted a Night in Narnia and how easy it is for you to host a winter dinner party with your friends or family! Stay tuned for our spring installment and more adventures with the Pittsburgh Dinner Club.

January 2017 – Stitch Fix Review

Happy New Year!!

Confession: I don’t make New Years resolutions because I don’t really see much value in deciding in January to make major changes or updates to my life. I’d like to give myself the flexibility to do that year-round, less room for error haha! I do however, think it is important to go in to the New Year feeling renewed in some aspect and perhaps willing to try new things. And so, over vacation I decided you get to see more of me (eek, I hope that’s good) because I don’t see many people who look like me or reflect features that I relate to, and I realized if I want that to change then I should be the one out there, duh! So here’s a bit more of me… 

Have you heard of Stitch Fix? I am sure you have but just in case.. Stitch Fix is a fashion subscription service where a stylist hand picks 5 different clothing items or accessories for you to try on and potentially purchase. They charge a $20.00 styling fee that is then applied to any of your purchases. You can get a fix sent as frequently or as infrequently as you want and you don’t have to purchase anything if you decide not to (note: you lose the styling fee if you don’t buy anything). Everything you get is a surprise and you have 3 days to try things on and decide which items to keep, mail back what you don’t like and repeat. More FAQ on SF here.

I have been using Stitch Fix for some time now. This was actually my 24th fix, wowza! I first learned about it when a co-worker came in wearing this adorable simple dress for a holiday party and everyone asked her where she got it. She said Stitch Fix, which at the time still had a waiting list. I had some immediate reservations about signing up because she was someone I viewed as being fit and easy to size where as I saw myself as a bit harder in that department (read: curvy and not fit). I am one of those one-size fits all skeptics – “like, yeah no, it will not fit me but let’s try and hope to maintain our dignity”.

Well anyway, fast forward to today and you can see I got over my fear and took the plunge. I wouldn’t say all fixes were great but I usually found at least one piece that I was willing to add to my wardrobe. SF recently increased their size offerings (up to 16/XXL) and I believe they are preparing to launch a plus-size line this year so size concerns should not be an issue. Also, there is a Stitch Fix for Men which is great for those guys out there who need to spruce up their wardrobes (or spouses/gfs who want to spruce up their guys wardrobe). I have learned a few tricks and tips over the course of my time with them and I wanted to share my latest fix and some notes on how you can get a good fix below.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or compensated by Stitch Fix to share my thoughts or promote their service. However, I have listed my referral link in the post which grants me a credit if you sign up for your own fix. 

p.s. I used my phone for these pics (clearly…) and they aren’t the bestests but they’ll do. I’ll probably step up the photo game in future posts but for now I hope you don’t mind. Also – ignore any signs of clutter or chaos in the background, k, thanks!

  • Seychelle – Snare Cozy Shearling Bootie  $150.00

I told my stylist, Cassie, that I wanted a pair of blue booties that I saw on Pinterest. She said she couldn’t get those exact ones but thought I would enjoy these instead. When I saw these I immediately went “want, want, want!”. Then I looked at the price and said “ok, but only if they are amazing and I just can’t take them off…”. So, long story short… I tried them on and liked them a lot but had some concerns about keeping them clean in our Pittsburgh winter weather. They are suede and thus likely to get stained and dingy in our wet/snowy climate. I also had a hard time with the $150 price tag since I already own a pair of neutral booties. I liked these but wanted to make sure I felt free to wear them without fear of getting dirty.

Verdict: Returned

  • 41Hawthorn – Donelson Ruffle Blouse $64.00 

I asked Cassie to send me a shirt/blouse in red. I was thinking I needed a really nice red blouse for work. Something that would brighten up those dreary winter days. I was pretty excited to see this blouse at first but had some concerns about the ruffles (Pirate shirt??). I tried it on and found that it was the cut that was actually least appealing. For some reason I didn’t think it was terribly flattering on me. Thumbs up for color, thumbs down for fit.

Verdict: Returned

  • Kut from the Kloth – Mollee Knit Dress $88.00

Here is another item that I pinned to my Pinterest board (notice a trend?) and asked my stylist to send me. I had a feeling this would be a great addition to the wardrobe and the color was perfect! I tried it on and kind of went, “yup!”. This dress is a bit form-fitting (read: curve highlighting) but I was ok with that. The draping details and asymmetrical lines are a nice way of working with that. I already saw myself wearing it to work (note my styling…)!


Vedict: Kept

  • Fate – Rowen Faux Suede Quilted Vest $78.00

I am really feeling vests and ponchos right now. I put a lot of vest options on Pinterest board so I was glad to see one in this fix. This one was kind of cool because it had all this fun detail. The belt buckle collar and the faux pocket flaps were cute in my opinion. Some people might see these as silly but I liked the detail. I loved the gold accents and thought this would be nice to wear for a casual Friday at the office or even on the weekends. The vest feels well made and sturdy and I think it will get some good wear.

Verdict: Kept

  • Market & Spruce – Pacci Cowl Neck Sweater $78.00 

Remember I said I was really feeling ponchos? Cassie clearly took note of the ponchos and cowl neck sweaters I pinned to my board. I was excited to try this one on since it immediately looked cozy. The minute I put it on I knew it was too big (note the sleeves). The sweater felt well made but just too big.

Verdict: Returned*

*Stitch Fix has added an exchange feature for this reason but given that I now have two ponchos in my closet and the grey was just not exciting enough to keep I decided it was ok to just return.

In Summary:

I thought this was pretty good fix. I kept 2 out of the 5 items which is pretty on par for me. Over time I have learned that your Pinterest board can be your best friend. I have tried to pin individual pieces instead of outfits. I want to make sure my stylist knows what I am looking for exactly instead of seeing a whole outfit. SF does not send you pieces that are designed to be a complete outfit but they give you outfit suggestions on little picture cards (see below). Also, after each fix I go in and do a sweep of my board, removing things that no longer appeal to me or are similar to something I just bought or received. Adding a note on the pin saying what you like about the item is also a good way to get your stylist thinking of what to select for you.

Style Suggestion Card

It is also important to give detailed feedback when checking out. This helps your stylist know why you are returning items so they can stay away from those items in the future. If you need a very specific piece i.e., a dress for a wedding or a blazer for work it is best to be very specific and say what kind of wedding you are attending or what style you prefer. Giving your stylist examples will always help them so they can find something similar. If you like your stylist you can request the same stylist for your future fixes by saying “Same stylist” in your note, if you don’t specify they will sometimes give you a new stylist.

Having Stitch Fix has greatly reduced the number of visits I make to the mall, honestly I find I go to an actual store maybe once a month. I have found that it is much easier to try things on at home and for you moms out there I bet this would be a godsend! Ready to sign-up, click here!




BBQ Chicken Nachos

I want to say that I didn’t eat a whole plate of nachos by myself but that would be lying.

BBQ Chx Nachos

Can you honestly blame me? I wouldn’t judge you for eating a whole plate of nachos on your own. Go ahead, I won’t tell!

Homemade chips

It’s December already and the year is winding down. I think there is a significant group of people (most of America…) who are very grateful to see the end of 2016. I will agree that there are elements of this year that have been less than awesome and yet there have also been some amazing highlights. It might be possible that every year looks something like this. Highs and lows, it’s the way it goes. Did I just write a song?


I am not going to lament on the election. I think that has been covered already. I have decided to turn to other pursuits like reading funny books, buying sweaters with animals on it, snuggling with Mr. JD and reciting Elf quotes. I might have come up with the cure for disappointment. Just follow these steps and you can wake up every morning telling yourself it will all be ok. It might help if you have a dog like Mr. JD who just happens to be hysterical and a big cuddle bug. If you don’t have a Mr. JD then you may try snuggling with a baby or a cat, both are reasonable substitutes, though I would warn that the cat may scratch. If this doesn’t work then you can always turn to the holiday spirits, thank goodness for eggnog am I right?!?!

Guac Salad

Since this year isn’t making the top ten list I think I’ll make the most of December by eating plates of nachos (jk, I need to be able to wear all those animal sweaters!!!), being obnoxious about all things holiday related, perhaps partaking in winter sports and of course, ending most evenings with a steaming glass of hot cocoa topped with a ludicrous amount of marshmallows (obvi). Doesn’t this all sound great?

Action Shot Nachos

How are you celebrating the holidays this year? Are there any fun things I should be adding to my list? Leave a comment below telling me how you plan to make the most  of what is left of 2016. I hope you find a way to make these nachos part of your plans. I promise you wont be disappointed!

BBQ Chicken Nachos

BBQ Chicken Nachos


  • 1 Pkg. Chicken Tenders
  • 2 Cups BBQ Sauce
  • 10 Corn Tortillas cut into triangles
  • Peanut Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Paprika
  • 1 Pkg. Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend
  • 1/2 Cup Black Beans
  • 2 Tbsp. Slice Black Olives
  • Sour Cream
  • Avocado Salad (see below)
    Avocado Salad
  • 1 Avocado cubed
  • 1 Plum Tomato diced
  • 1/2 Cup Red Onion diced
  • 1 Jalapeno Diced
  • 1 Tbsp. Cilantro chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Lime juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Hot Sauce


  • Combine chicken tenders and bbq sauce in a medium pot.
  • Cook chicken tenders over medium heat until cooked and easily shredded using a fork.
  • Shred chicken in bbq sauce and set aside until ready for assembly.
  • In a cast iron or deep skillet pour peanut oil 2 inches high.
  • Heat oil until hot enough for frying.
  • Place tortilla triangles in the oil and fry until golden brown and crispy.
  • Remove the tortilla's from the oil and drain on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel.
  • Sprinkle the warm chips with salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Assemble nachos by layering, cheese, beans and chicken. Microwave or bake in the oven at 375 until the cheese is melted.
  • Top nachos with toppings and avocado salad.
  • Avocado Salad
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine.
  • Season with a few drops of hot sauce, salt and pepper.
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    How to host a simple fall dinner party

    Guys! I have this secret obsession with starting a dinner club. It’s not a secret anymore since I just told you about it, ha. Seriously, anyone who knows me, knows I love to host gatherings. I mostly love hosting when it involves food (which is always). Also, you probably know I have an obsession with all things fall. So, of course I had to put those two things together! Recently, I co-hosted a fall inspired dinner party with my co-worker and I think it was a huge success. Here are some of our tips and pics!

    Our guests enjoying their dinner on a crisp fall night
    Our guests enjoying their dinner on a crisp fall night
    • Pick a location – We wanted to have the party outside so we had to decide between backyards. When doing a party outside make sure you have a fairly flat yard if you want to put a table on the grass. Know where your electrical outlets are if you want to use any sort of lighting or music. HAVE A RAIN PLAN! We live in Pittsburgh and we have our fair share of rain, make sure your location allows for flexibility if you have rain or snow. (It did start pouring an hour before our dinner but we waited it out and luckily our guests were more than happy to help us get things set up when it was dry.)

      Simple can still be elegant! Candles and flowers go a long way.
      Simple can still be elegant! Candles and flowers go a long way.
    • Sketch out a menu before you send the invite – This was a really crucial step. We actually made some pretty good decisions on the theme of the menu and number of dishes before we sent out the invite. We decided to focus on a Mediterranean feeling menu but wanted to make sure there were fall elements in each dish. We also decided on our protein early on because we knew that would drive a lot of the expense. Chicken is always a cost-effective way to go and there are plenty of ways to make it sexy! Also – remember your veg friends; they appreciate you thinking of them and making sure they don’t have to just eat salad.

      Carrots are a great side dish for any fall dinner! We found this recipe on Pinterest which includes a lemon tahini sauce!
      Carrots are a great side dish for any fall dinner! We found this recipe on Pinterest which includes a lemon tahini sauce!
    • Make a Pinterest board – Shortly after menu planning we set up a Pinterest board where we could both pin things that inspired us and dishes that looked yummy. Ultimately, most of the recipes we chose came from Pinterest. This is also a good way to focus in on specific elements of the party that you want to make sure you capture (i.e., I was committed to having a blanket bench and luckily she had a bench so I brought the blankets!)

      Appetizers can be simple - bread with different olive oils, olives, and cheese!
      Appetizers can be simple – bread with different olive oils, olives, and cheese!
    • When it comes to decor, simple can still be elegant – I subscribe to the notion that when you want something to look really classy, just add candles! We kept the decor very simple, the tables were covered in butcher paper (a roll from Michaels cost $7.00) and we used mason jars with tea lights as decoration along with two vases of dried flowers (see picture below). A simple accent of burlap and twine helped to keep the rustic fall look. The food was all served family style which means you need plenty of room for your dishes on the table. A strand or two of lights can also make a huge difference. Don’t fuss with fancy dishes or glassware! If you want to spend money, spend it on more candles!!!! Fun platters can also serve as a great way to bring color or detail to your table.

      A simple centerpiece with dried flowers, burlap, twine, and mason jars.
      A simple centerpiece with dried flowers, burlap, twine, and mason jars.
    • Buy in bulk – We made a Costco run a week before the dinner to pick up ingredients that were non-perishable or had a long shelf life (nuts, cheeses, dried fruits). Buying in bulk can be a great way to save on the cost, we had also planned dishes that had similar ingredients so things could be used in multiple dishes.

      Appetizers can be as simples as dried fruits, nuts, and cheese. Filling your platter to the brim can make an impressive statement.
      Appetizers can be as simples as dried fruits, nuts, and cheese. Filling your platter to the brim can make an impressive statement.
    • Full bar vs. wine or beer – We talked about this a good deal. Do you go with specialty cocktails? Do you get a bunch of wine and beer? Ultimately, you should do whatever you think your guests will like. We had a feeling a lot of our guests would bring some wine so we decided it would be easier to just have wine (we ended up going through lots of wine!!). To save on money, encourage your guests to bring their favorite wine or beer. Most people want to bring something as a token of appreciation so let them!
    • Time out cooking so that you don’t have to stand in the kitchen the whole time – We did some prep work the night before (mostly sauces and cutting). Make sure you pick recipes that are simple enough that you can execute in a few hours. Time everything out based on prep time and cook time. If you want to pre-bake anything make sure you don’t overcook it. Your guests wont know what things are supposed to look like so you get to be the judge before things go out!

      Chicken can be sexy! We served a simple roasted chicken with a series of fun sauces (pesto, harissa, hummus). This allowed our guest the option to jazz up their chicken however they wanted!
      Chicken can be sexy! We served a simple roasted chicken with some fun sauces (pesto, harissa, hummus). This allowed our guests the option to jazz up their chicken however they wanted!
    • Don’t Stress! – I have had my fair share of kitchen meltdowns but I have learned that the biggest part of entertaining is the time spent with your guests. Unlike a restaurant, your guests usually don’t come in with a lot of expectations (unless you have hosted before and then of course, you have to live up that haha) so just roll with it! If it rains, it rains. As long as you have plenty of wine I am sure it will still be a great time!


    July-August Instagram Bites

    Where have I been?!?!

    You are probably wondering why it has been so quiet over here at HPB. I wish I had a super exciting reason for being MIA but the reality is far less interesting. It just seemed so busy lately. I was just busy. Busy means a lot of things I suppose. More nights out with friends and co-workers, weekend excursions, networking events and building an organization with 5 badass ladies! I mean, this is like a legit kind of busy right? I totally ate at all the places and took pictures of all the things. If you follow me on Insta then you know I might be obsessed with the new “snapchat” thing since I clearly don’t get snapchat (still trying…) and you have probably seen more pics of me being a total goofball then you had ever wanted to see but I feel like it’s important you get to see the real me. Turns out the real me is really into selfies and photos of Mr. JD. But anyway, here are some of the things I ate and drank in July and August. Sorry it has been so long. hope you forgive me!


    1. Spicy Mango Margarita – Sancho Pistola’s 
    2. Roast Pork Sandwich – DiNic’s Roast Pork 
    3. Cochinita Pibil – Las Bugambilias 
    4. Toasted Pecan Old Fashioned – The Pines Tavern 
    5. Tacos Al Pastor and Chorizo – Bea Taco Town
    6. Lavender and Vanilla Ice Cream – Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream 
    7. Pork Belly Taco – Craftwork Kitchen 
    8. Latke Rachel – Smallman St. Deli 
    9. Halibut Piccata – The Carlton
    10. Pork with Soba Noodles (and other goodness) – Cure
    11. Apple Cider Donut – Commonplace Coffee 

    Ok, I promise recipes are coming soon!