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The Party Bluprints Blog
Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen



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!



Inventive cocktails from city hot-spot, Roof

It seems that this summer's ultimate see-and-be-seen spot has been christened, and the big winner is Roof, the 27th floor lounge at the new Wit hotel.  Earlier this month, I visited at 4pm on a weekday, and around 6pm looked up from my table to see it was standing-room only.  Situated in the Loop, this is a popular after-work spot, so be sure to leave the office a few minutes early if you'd like to get a table (LOVE that you can sit at a table without ordering bottle service...other clubs and lounges take note!).

Why is it so popular?  For one, the space.  The Wit itself is a striking structure at State and Lake, and Roof is equally chic, with sleek furniture and beautiful views.  Despite the name, Roof has both indoor and outdoor seating, so don't fret if it's a chilly day.  Second, the service.  From the moment we stepped into the hotel until it was time to bid adieu, each person we encountered was professional and thoughtful.

Lastly, the menu.  While the small plates were good, the drink offerings are the real standount.  Concocted by mixologist Jonny Abens (transplanted from Atlanta to share his Southern charm and mixing magic), Roof is a destination if you're in search of an original, inventive cocktail.  We tried several that evening and the clear favorite was the Urbanite.  Want to recreate the Roof experience at home?  Jonny was kind enough to share the recipe with me, so I'm sharing it with you!

The Urbanite by Jonny Abens of Roof
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. Orgeat
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
1.5 oz. gin (Death's Door recommended)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake, and pour into a cocktail glass.  Serve with an orange twist.  Delicious, and perfect for summer!


Second city clambake

The other day I was walking through the New, Ridiculously Gigantic Whole Foods (yes, I've been going there a lot) and did a drive-by of their seafood counter. Mmm...lobster. Clams. Ooh, wouldn't a clambake party be fun??

But, I don't know...a clambake in Chicago seems very out of place. Inappropriate, even. In my mind it's akin to - and I know this is a controversial statement - adding the extra "u" in "honor" on a wedding invitation. Did you suddenly become British? Would you seek out deep dish pizza in LA? Appalachian bluegrass music in Manhattan?

I guess this is my own personal mishigas. Luckily, Chicago Magazine does not share this viewpoint, and their June edition features a lovely Clambake held in - gasp! - Rogers Park. It's hosted by Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh of Food Network's Party Line with the Hearty Boys, who, to my point, ARE FROM THE EAST COAST, but then again they've been Chicago residents for 10+ years...

Photo credit: Tyllie Barbosa for Chicago Magazine

This is all pretty silly, isn't it?  I should probably just "clam up" and host a bake of my own, shouldn't I? [insert groan here]  Be sure to check out the Chicago mag link for more yummy photos and recipes.

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