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Sunday
Dec302012

Host an Orange Bowl party!

This post originally appeared in December of 2009, but I absolutely had to revise it for the 2013 Orange Bowl...

When I was a student at Northern Illinois University, our football team had the distinction of being the very worst among Division I schools. To give you an idea of how bad we were, the students rushed the field and tore down the goal posts when we won a game. Not Homecoming. Not against a rival. Just a regular game that snapped our 80 million game losing streak. The next Monday, the gameday results were featured in a two page wraparound of the student newspaper.

Back in the day, gametime = sequin time!The team steadily improved, but even after I graduated, my friends and I could casually roll up to Huskie Stadium on Homecoming morning and easily grab a primo tailgating spot just a few yards from the stadium. And then, things changed. We started winning more games, sometimes even against "good" teams like Alabama and Maryland. Sportscasters began to take notice. Alumni donated money. New buildings popped up around campus. And the tailgating area next to the stadium turned into a top-tier donor lot.

This brings me to January 1st, 2013. NIU is playing in the Orange Bowl. I don't care what the angry tangerine-hued man on ESPN says. I am beyond excited, and I know my fellow alumni are, too.

If you're not going to the Orange Bowl itself (which, le sniff, I am not), or a sponsored watch party, the next best thing is hosting an Orange Bowl party at home. Take inspiration from the Cuban cuisine of Miami, along with some tropical touches.  Some ideas to get you started:

DISH: Serve Mini Cubano Sandwiches, Cuban Shortbread Cookies, and Citrus fruit salad

DRINK: Orange basil mojitos by Recipegirl.com (photo from Fine Living)

DECOR: Spruce up your space with oranges and cloves in addition to a general football motif and team colors. Also stock up on these Cayman 7" plates from CB2. And remember...

 

GO HUSKIES!
(Hello to my 'Nole friends. My love for you will return on January 2nd.) 

 

More football watching merriment:
Rose Bowl
Sugar Bowl
Fiesta Bowl
plus general football party tips

Sunday
Dec022012

Keep Kitchen Remodeling COSTS from Adding UP

There are two things I don’t love about my kitchen, shown above – the color of the cabinets (cherry was so chic eight years ago) and the backsplash (::ahem:: there is none). One thing at a time, right? I asked Joaquin Erazo of Case Remodeling/Design for some advice on the cabinets, and here’s what he had to say:

A complete kitchen remodel can be a big investment. Installing new appliances, updating the flooring, countertops, lighting, painting… the list of tempting to-do items is seemingly endless! If you’re trying to minimize kitchen costs for a remodeling project, you need to employ two strategies – prioritize the big expenses, and determine where you can cut corners.

Photo source: Pinterest

Homeowners looking to update their kitchens often start with their kitchen cabinets, as these improvements will likely cause the biggest notice of change (I hear that!). However, replacing kitchen cabinets can also be the biggest budget buster. An easy way to cut kitchen costs for remodeling is to identify whether cabinets should be replaced, or if they can be refaced or refinished.

Photo source: Pinterest

Before you make a decision on the type of cabinet remodel needed for your space, take a good look at your kitchen.
Reface or refinish if: you are satisfied with the current layout.
Replace if: your kitchen cabinets are not functional or if you want a completely remodeled kitchen.

Here’s the difference between the three:

  • Refacing: Refacing is the process of replacing doors and drawer fronts and recovering the remaining surfaces with laminate, paint, or veneer. Refacing jobs are easy and relatively quick to complete, plus they cause limited damage to walls and other surfaces in your kitchen.
  • Refinishing: Refinishing is the process of repainting all existing surfaces with a fresh coat of paint or varnish. For an added twist, consider replacing the hardware (hinges and knobs) Refinishing is the most affordable, fastest, and easiest remodeling option for your kitchen cabinets.
  • Replacing: You can probably guess this one! If you’re looking for a bigger impact with your kitchen , you should replace your cabinets. The total budget for replacing will depend on the type of materials you select. Stock cabinets will be much cheaper than custom-made cabinets.

Photo source: Pinterest

 

No matter which route you choose, changing the look of your cabinets is a great way to breathe life into an outdated space, or just give it a little lift.

What do you guys think? Should I refinish my kitchen cabinets? As you can probably tell from the photos above, I’m a bit obsessed with white cabinets!

Thursday
Nov012012

Five Foreign FINDS for unique GIFTS

Oh dear...gift-giving season is upon us. We all have that person who's impossible to shop for, right? Well, perhaps they'd like something unique from one of these five international sources. All are inspired by some traveling I've done, all ship to the United States, and all are sure to make an impression!

1) SPAIN: Lladró Porcelain. This beloved Spanish brand creates pieces that can sometimes be a bit fussy for my taste, and they're expensive to boot, with pieces regularly in the thousands. But they also have hipper and more wallet-friendly alternatives, such as this cool "Egg Cup" sculpture, a more affordable $110.

2) AUSTRIA: Imperial Torte. It wasn't until my last night in Vienna that I tried our hotel's eponymous Imperial Torte. A pity - I'll just have to go back. I much prefer this heavenly chocolate/almond creation to the better known Viennese export, the sachertorte.

3) UK: Christmas Hampers. No one does a good hamper ("gift basket" to us Yanks) like the English do, and Fortnum and Mason does one of the best hampers in the UK. They will even ship to the USA, should you get a tea and biscuits craving like I do, on the regular.

4) THAILAND: GOODJOB Bags. I was immediately drawn to these "Blossom" bags at a department store in Bangkok. So glad I whipped out the plastic for a tote... it's one of my favorite purchases ever! I've only found one online outlet that will ship GOODJOB to the USA, and while it's expensive, it beats airfare to Thailand.

5) FRANCE: Maison Georges Chocolat. J'adore traveling with the mister, but sometimes a girl needs time on her own. On a cloudy morning in Paris, he went off and studied WWII memorials while I hit the shops in Marais, where I literally followed my nose to the Maison Georges near the métro St-Paul. One bag of bon-bons later, I had an edible souvenir of Paris (that lasted all of two days. Oops.)

Saturday
Oct272012

EASY or ELABORATE? Last minute Halloween Pumpkins

Attention last minute gourd decorators! I found two how-to videos (well, one is a series) detailing how to make an easy - or an elaborate - jack o'lantern for Halloween. Scroll through the video bar below. The first is the easy Duct Tape Pumpkin. Sure, you could go nuts with the tape if you wanted (see the examples on her table), but I think one shown in the picture above will do in a pinch.

If, on the other hand, you want to get cuh-ray-zee with the squash, try the elaborate Skull Pumpkin detailed in videos 3-8). Yes, six videos. That should give you an indication of how involved it is, but look at the results!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday
Oct242012

Nine TIPS from the party PROFESSIONALS

How do I decode the dress code? What music should I play? Where can I find a good hostess gift for someone I don't know very well?

All very valid questions. Parties can be tricky, right? To find the answers, earlier in the year I interviewed nine professionals for their little-known soiree secrets. Quite a few of the answers were surprising (ditch the try-hard "hand on the hip" pose, and avoid makeup with SPF if you'll be taking a lot of photos), so even the most seasoned social butterflies should learn a few things.

Nine Tips from Top Party Pros from the April print edition of Make It Better magazine

 

photo credits: dress codes, props, wedding, DJ Madrid, blue steel, cultures, gifts, makeup, candles

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