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ABCD Design
At Home with Kim Vallee
Celebrations at Home

The Daily Basics
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The Gracious Girl
Housewife Bliss
Hostess with the Mostess
It's in the Details
The Party Bluprints Blog
Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen



"Rock your Block (Party)" on Chicagonista

Whether you're in the city or suburbs, summertime is block party time.  What to do about non-residents crashing?  How to keep kids entertained?  How to keep adults entertained?  Find out all that and more, this this week on Chicagonista.com!

photo credit


Tennis, Memories, and Pimm's Cup

What the Mint Julep is to Derby, the Pimm's Cup is to Wimbledon. What's a Pimm's Cup? So glad you asked. But first, a little story:

I originally planned this entry for today because we're in the midst of Wimbledon, but soon realized I have a personal connection to Pimm's and this time of year - on July 4, 1999 I arrived in England for a study abroad program (yes, the irony of going to England on Independence Day was not lost on me), and there at the Oriel College bar is where I first became acquainted with this classic British summer cocktail. I've kept in touch with several people from the program over the last ten years, and Mr Pimm is among them.

photo source

So what's in a Pimm's Cup? You start with Pimm's No. 1 - a gin-based digestif with notes of spice and citrus. From there, add ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, or soda water. Garnish with cucumber, orange, lemon, mint, strawberries, or apple slices. At the Oriel bar it was made with lemon-lime soda, orange, mint, and cucumber. For what it's worth, I sampled Pimm's Cup at various establishments throughout Oxford (for research and quality control purposes, of course), and never once saw it made with strawberries or apple...sounds yummy, though.

As I said, there are endless variations. Here's my favorite:

Fill a tall glass with ice
Add 1 part Pimm's No. 1 and 2 parts lemon-lime soda
Stir gently
Add a cucumber spear, sprig of mint, and orange slice. Muddle the orange and mint a bit.
This recipe can be adjusted for a pitcher or punch bowl batch - just increase the amounts but keep proportions the same.

Enjoy! Whether you're at Wimbledon, in a dark college pub, or on your Wicker Park rooftop, Pimm's is a perfect summer cocktail! (Also try this variation, a Zin Cup made with wine)

Pimm's No. 1 is available at most large liquor stores, such as Binny's and Sam's Wine & Spirits.



Spice up the conversation with Tabletopics

Have you heard of Tabletopics?  They're little cards with big questions, grouped by theme!  Hosting a bridal shower, a barbecue, a golf outing, or a book club?  Maybe something else?  There's probably a Tabletopics set for your event!

While it would be fun to just sit around and flip through the questions, I can think of several other uses for these:

1) At an event where people don't know each other very well.  Leave the cards lying around anyplace where people might congregate.  The ice will break and conversation will start to flow!

2) As a creative place setting.  Prop the cards up with a placecard holder, and write the guest's name directly on the card.  If you don't want to do that, get some sticky notes in a color that compliments the card, snip off the sticky part, attach that to the card (cut to size), and write their name on the label you've just created.  Regular labels will be too sticky, and potentially damage the card.

3) As a drink coaster. Take a set of "photo coasters" and instead of a photo, slip a card inside.  Functional and fun!

The Tabletopics web site also has some food, drink, and playlist ideas for decade parties - check it out for 60s, 70s, and 80s inspiration.


Tabletopics are available at Elevenzees, 1903 W Division St, Chicago or online at tabletopics.com


Easy tool for party playlists - Pandora!

Although it's been around for several years, I find that not everyone is hip to Pandora Radio. Are you?  It's the perfect tool for developing a party playlist, and it's FREE! All you need is a laptop, an AUX cable that'll go from your laptop's headphone jack to your stereo's input jack, and internet access. Got all three? Got a party coming up? Check out Pandora!

First, go to pandora.com, wait for it to finish loading, and then create an account.


Next, create a new station by entering an artist who best captures the type of music you want to hear. Maybe it's the Rolling Stones for a casual BBQ, or Carrie Underwood for a girls' night in, or in my case, Jamiroquai for a funky disco vibe.


Awesome, my Jamiroquai station has been created! Pandora will now play artists that have a similar sound, in addition to songs by Jamiroquai. Appropriately enough, the first song that pops up is "Off the Wall" by Michael Jackson (sigh...RIP).

If I don't like a song that pops up, I can vote it down, and Pandora won't play it again. If I want to hear more songs like that one, I can give it a thumbs up.  If I decide I want to tweak my Jamiroquai station, I click on "add variety" (highlighted in yellow, below)


I can now add Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, or even Carrie Underwood...really, anything that strikes my fancy, and Pandora will add it to the mix!

So there you go...try Pandora for your next event and never worry about having to mix a playlist yourself!  Note that every now and then there's a commercial, but they are very short and happen infrequently.  They won't interrupt your party's energy.


Sophisticated Popsicles on Chicagonista

After many weeks of enduring an unseasonable chill and relentness rain, Chicagoans are finally getting our wish - summer has arrived!  If the near-90 temps are a bit too much of a shock, cool down with some exotic ice tea pops.  Recipes and step-by-step instructions are on this week's Chicagonista post:

Fruit Sangria, Mint, and Coffee ice pops - learn how to make them!


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