Entertaining and Events

How to host an easy Oscar party

It’s award season! Time to bust out the champs and don a sparkly dress for the 89th Academy Awards.

Every year the hubs and I watch the Oscars with our best guesses as to who will walk away with the coveted gold statue. We are the worst at seeing the movies before the big show so sometimes this helps us decide which movies we want to put on our must see list. Of the films nominated for Best Picture we did see Arrival and Hidden Figures. I thought both films were great but I know the others are supposed to be great as well. This year’s race is going to be a tough one but I have everything I need to put together a great party.

Disclaimer: I’ve partnered with SkinnyPop Popcorn in creating this post but did not receive any form of compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

The Oscars are all about celebrating movies and the art of filmmaking. When I think of the movies I think of popcorn. Whenever we go to the movies I usually like to get a small container of popcorn, light on the butter. For whatever reason, I think we end up eating most of it before the movie even begins. I am also a salty & sweet kind of girl so pairing my popcorn with some sort of chocolate candy or something on the sweet side is usually a must. I think there are a lot of people out there who enjoy the salty/sweet combo so you’re party guests will be pleased by this fun and easy popcorn recipe (full recipe below)!

This recipe is super simple and you can make it minutes before the big show. Whenever you are hosting a party it is always good to have a plan that wont leave you stressed out at the end of the night. Also, I might have really enjoyed drizzling the chocolate all over the popcorn. I mean, you should have fun when entertaining right?

If we don’t order popcorn at the movies (which is like, never) then we might order some pretzel bites or a hot dog. Is it strange that you can get a hot dog at a movie theater? As I ponder that question you might be asking yourself where this is going. I know the Oscars are fancy and people wear dresses that cost more than my house (oh, geez, I really hope not) but for some reason I just thought pigs in a blanket would be a great addition to the menu (full recipe below). I may have made them slightly more fancy than your typical pigs in a blanket but they are small and delightful.

Instead of the usual cheddar cheese I opted for gouda and a little spread of honey mustard just for that added touch! Again, simple and easy. Your guests will enjoy popping these in their mouths in between handfuls of popcorn.

Ok, so we have the food covered and now we have to talk about drinks! There is really only one option for drinks in my opinion, champagne! Since you’ll be spending the whole night listening to acceptance speeches you might as well have a glass of bubbly in your end. I figured my friends would probably want their own bottle because they know how to do parties and it is great that you can get little bottles for occasions just like this.

To complete your party set up you will need to think about the kind of decorations that will help set the stage (pun intended) for your Oscar party. I really wanted to emphasize the glitz and glam so I went with the gold theme. I even had edible gold star-shaped sprinkles in the popcorn! I really enjoyed putting a gold touch on everything. Thankfully all the craft stores know how to read my mind and are adequately stocked with all things in gold. I think this is where you really get to have fun!

Now you are all set for your Oscar party. So go fill out your ballot, gather your friends, get cozy on the couch and watch your favorite stars rule the red carpet. Thanks to SkinnyPop Popcorn for providing the fun ballots and helping me get ready for the big show.


Oscar Party Menu
Oscar Party Menu

    Chocolate Drizzle Popcorn with Reese's Cups
  • 1 Bag SkinnyPop Popcorn
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers
  • 1/2 Cup White Chocolate Melting Wafers
  • 1/4 Cup Mini Reese's Cups (you can swap out for your favorite candy)
  • Edible Gold Dust or Sprinkles
    Pigs in a Blanket
  • 1 Package of Lil Beef Franks
  • 4 Slices of Gouda Cheese sliced in to thin strips
  • 1 Package of Crescent Rolls
  • Honey Mustard (1 part mustard/1 part honey)

  • Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper. Spray with a non-stick spray.
  • Sprinkle popcorn on the cookie sheet, try to spread out evenly.
  • Place dark chocolate wafers in a microwaveable safe bowl and microwave 30 seconds on half power, stir and microwave for 15 second intervals until melted.
  • Repeat process with white chocolate wafers.
  • Disperse the mini Reese's throughout the popcorn.
  • Using a fork, drizzle the melted white chocolate over the popcorn and then follow with the dark chocolate. Sprinkle popcorn with gold dust or sprinkles.
  • Allow the chocolate to harden before adding to bags or placing in a bowl.
    Pigs in a Blanket
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Unroll the crescent rolls and separate. Cut each triangle in to three smaller triangles (lengthwise).
  • Brush each piece with a little honey mustard and place a piece of cheese on the dough.
  • Place a little beef frank at the wide end of the triangle and roll until you reach the end.
  • Place each piece on the cookie sheet and bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
  • Serve with a side of honey mustard for dipping.

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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.

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!


An Evening in Provence

Dinner Table #1

Before the summer began I was determined to have a fancy dinner party for my birthday. I expressed my idea several times to my family and was generally given a “yeah, sure…” response. Eventually I wore everyone down and made them see the greatness that was my idea of having a classy summer dinner party.

The only catch was it couldn’t just be a party for my birthday (wah wah) and instead had to be a combination of our annual Bastille Day party and my  fancy dinner party. No problem with me! I was so excited to get started on the planning. We spent a few family meetings coming up with the perfect guest list and trying to focus in on a French inspired menu. The task proved to be challenging from the start, picking a guest list of interesting and inspiring folks was the easy part, it was the menu that proved to take much longer to commit to.

Olive Mix

We wanted to focus on seasonal food but at the same time try to highlight some of the dishes or flavors that have come to represent the Provence region of France. I found myself visiting websites and flipping through several French cookbooks in order to find the dishes that had to be on the menu. What was I thinking?!?! I am not a French trained chef and I wouldn’t say I spend most of my time making French inspired dishes. I was starting to feel some pressure.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Thankfully I had my mom by my side in the kitchen and she was the best sous chef a girl could ask for. She assured me that everything would work out and we even did a few test runs just to make sure the food would not disappoint. A big thanks to the hubby and dad for eating those dishes and giving honest feedback.

So the night was finally upon us. The food was coming together in the kitchen and the house was starting to fill with the intoxicating smells of France. We were getting closer to show time and then the sky opened up and decided to pour buckets of rain. AGH! Even though we had a tent (a tent of epic proportions) there was still the whole idea of sitting in a rain storm trying to enjoy a summer meal.  We decided to plow through and pray that skies would clear and the rain would cease. With some minor adjustments to the cocktail hour, we were able to hold out for the rain to subside.

As it rained our guests were able to enjoy a wide variety of French wines (price of admission for our guests, hehe) and bites including my French Onion Tarts, Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus, and an assortment of pates and cheese. The rest of the meal flowed beautifully and we hope everyone enjoyed eating as much as we enjoyed making.

1st Course – Beet Salad on Baby Arugula with candied Walnuts, Goat Cheese (not pictured) and a Honey Vinaigrette

Beet Salad


Main Course – Provencal Potatoes, Stuffed Flounder with a bread crumb topping, herbed Lamb Chops, and our version of Ratatouille (not pictured because I am an idiot).

Provencal Potatoes

Herb Stuffed Flounder

Lamb Chops

We finished the meal in true French fashion with a beautiful cheese board accompanied by fruits, nuts and fresh local honey. Unfortunately by this point in the meal I had enough wine and spirits to completely forget about taking a picture to capture the moment, you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was wonderful!

The night was exactly what we hoped for and rain aside, it still turned out the way we hoped it would. I want to personally thank all of our friends and family who helped make the night perfect and for sticking it out through the wind in the rain in order to get a little taste of France in our backyard.

Table Set #2