Sunday, April 27, 2014

Stir It Up

(Image courtesy jtiano)

If you’re like us, you know it’s the little details that bring any great social gathering together. Of course it’s important to have a great menu but it’s the little details that let your guests know that you really took the time to prepare for them. Though they may not say it, all guests love to feel appreciated!

For that reason, it may be a fun project to craft your own stirrers for your next cocktail party. Adding a little unique flair will help a little fun - not to mention your guests may be able to tell their drinks apart! These ideas courtesy of are sure to give you the inspiration you need to get started. Keep reading to learn more:

The Crafted Cocktail Stirrer

While this may take some arts and crafts experience and a trip to the art store, it will also create a fun project for you to do over an afternoon before a get together or a party. First, you will need pieces of wood or plastic as your actual stirrers. They must be long enough to reach the bottom of the glass and still stick out of the top of the drink by a good few inches so that stirring can actually be done. Ideally, nothing should be added to the portion of the stirrer that will be immersed in the drink itself, as this could come off in the drink. But above the drink line, if you will, there’s nothing but creative freedom. Maybe attach rubber pencil holders to the end of each wooden stirrer, or small different colored puff balls of yarn for a fun addition to each drink. The creative crafting is only limited by imagination here.

Edible Cocktail Stirrers

Being able to eat your cocktail stirrer is a whole new level of drinking, if that makes sense. This has been done with specific drinks before and is always fun, as long as it adds to the flavor of the drink itself. For bloody mary’s, for example, consider using celery as your cocktail stirrer. For a sweeter drink, like a white Russian, consider using a stick of hard chocolate as the stirrer, though this might ultimately dissolve if left in for too long. A toothpick of olives works well as a stirrer for a martini, as does a strip of carrot, which will make a delicious bite or two after the drink is finished. This might take some experimentation to totally get right, but it’s very memorable when you do.

Found Cocktail Stirrers

There are items at your disposal that will work well as cocktail stirrers. Small plastic or wooden gardening dowels actually make excellent cocktail stirrers—just let your guests know they are totally sanitary. Long dull nails could also work, though they should be stainless steel and clearly cleaned to assuage any fears of unsanitary stirring conditions. These are more extreme ways to come up with your own cocktail stirrers, but if used with the right drink and the right crowd can be really cool.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Unplug to Recharge

(Image courtesy of Charles Dyer)

We know you’re all busy. With an endless list of things to do and places to be, technology like cell phones and iPads keep us connected to everyone at all times. During the day being connected can make our work and social engagements easier, but at night it can mean the difference between a goodnight’s sleep and no sleep at all.

Instead of sacrificing your sleep, why not separate yourself from your cell phone? One blogger did just that - at night she began putting her phone away in order to get the optimal level of sleep. In this blog she takes a look back at the last four months to document how her routine has changed. Keep reading to find out what she discovered:

About four weeks ago, I declared that I was going to stop keeping my iPhone at my side overnight. I'm happy to stay that I've stuck with the plan, and the results have been positive across the board.

First, thanks to everyone who expressed support for the idea. Telling you about the plan and knowing I wanted to report back were key in getting me to stick to it.

These days, my lonely little phone spends nights on the TV room coffee table, or on a particular window sill in a well trafficked hallway of my house. On the few nights where I've gone on autopilot and brought the phone into my bedroom, I've tucked it into the top drawer of my dresser so I won't be tempted to waste time looking at social media feeds before sleeping or when I first wake up. I've used my laptop from bed at night once or twice more than I would have before, but never for as long as I'd use my phone (which I'd attribute to the device's size).

While I expected to notice the change the most at night, the morning has been the biggest improvement. Using a dedicated alarm clock has actually helped me get up earlier. I'm hitting snooze less often; the alarm has only one, pretty annoying sound. But really, it's the peacefulness of letting my mind ease into wakefulness, rather than checking to see who's shared an interesting photo of flowers or dogs, that makes me happiest about reshaping my habits.

What do you think? Would you be able to unglue the phone from your hand to help your sleep schedule? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Your Emergency Party Plan

We’ve all been there - that awkward moment when a relaxing Saturday at home suddenly turns into a hangout session with twenty of your closest friends! Even worse than not having the apartment scoured and ready for guests, what are you going to feed everyone?

There’s no need to panic as long as you keep your pantry stocked with this shopping list courtesy of With a little forethought, you can enjoy your emergency party just as much as your guests!


Alcohol - Bottles of red and white wine, champagne or Prosecco, a light and dark beer, vodka, gin, a whiskey or bourbon.

Mixers - Tonic water, club soda, ginger beer or ale, cranberry juice, peach puree (for a simple Bellini), lemon and lime juice, sour mix, simple syrup, quality sparkling water for non-drinkers.

Garnishes - Sugar or sugar cubes, salt, cherries, pickled onions, cinnamon sticks, dried rosemary sprigs.

A rule of thumb for a stocked bar is to plan on three to four cocktails per guest, and three bottles of wine for every four people (for a three-hour party).


Hors d'Oeuvres - Dried herbs (thyme, sage, oregano, crushed chili pepper, garlic, onion salt, nutmeg, peppercorns, ground mustard, cumin), olives, pickles or cornichons, tapenades, roasted peppers, canned tomatoes, nuts (raw and roasted/salted), dried fruit, palm tree hearts, green chilis, beans (white, black, garbanzo, etc. great for homemade dips and spreads), jar of chopped garlic, black-eyed peas, wasabi peas or spanish cocktail mix, rice paper (for summer rolls), dried mushrooms, silken tofu (great for vegan recipes), vegetable bouillon cubes, cream of mushroom or celery soup (for sauces), dip mixes, pita chips, variety of crackers, tortilla chips.

Condiments - Olive oil, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, hot sauces, Sriracha, mustard (dijon, grainy, honey, etc.), mayo or Veganaise, salsa, a good chutney, nut butter, spreads, soy sauce or tamari, a couple dressings (vinaigrette & creamy).

Baked goods/Desserts - Brownie mix, cake or cookie mix, corn bread mix, Girl Scout cookies or Oreos (great for being vegan-friendly), soy milk (great to have on hand for times you're out of milk), dark chocolate, baking soda, baking powder, flour, vanilla, confectioner's sugar, brown sugar.

This list is by no means exhaustive — you could add to it if you want to be the hostess with the mostest, or swap out certain items for your favorites (like rum or tequila for gin). Do you have any pantry party favorites that didn't make the cut? If so, please tell us what you couldn't be without.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

5 Tips To More Cohesive Decor

(Image courtesy of Liz)

When living in an apartment, often we’re faced with the challenge of creating spaces that fulfill a variety of functions. Regardless of how spacious and open your apartment is, there may come a time when you need to double up your guestroom and your home office. Though these tasks sound disagreeable, they are sometimes necessary.

Just because you have to mix the functions of the spaces in your apartment doesn’t mean that your decor has to be jumbled. There are plenty of efficient ways to blend two different rooms to create an attractive and inviting space. Follow these tips courtesy of to keep the rooms in your apartment organized and functional, no matter what.

1. Decide on the room's primary function

This is tough (and in some cases, impossible) but important: What is the function that is the most important role a room needs to serve? How often will the room be used in each way? Really take a look at how you will be using the space time-wise. I've seen plenty of homes that have rooms with giant beds for guests, tiny desks for what they really use it for and 70% of the room gets dusty most of the year. If you're a frequent over-night guest host and can drag a laptop anywhere to work, your extra room's primary function should be as a guest room with a small surface for working that also doubles as storage. But if you only have overnight guests once a year but really need a dedicated space where your creativity can flourish — think of yourself first!

2. Disguise the room's secondary function furnishings

Once you've decided your room's primary function, buy or DIY furnishings for your secondary function that are disguisable. Like going for a stylish sleeper sofa ordaybed as seating in an office that can be converted to a comfortable bed when guests arrive. We loved this desk and dresser combination. In the top photo in this post, a tiny secretary desk takes up a corner of the living room area in a studio space, allowing the "office" to be closed up when entertaining.

3. Do you need it?
Sometimes dual-function rooms, extra rooms especially, get the leftover furniture. The furniture you didn't really have a place for so you stuck it in there, using it in a different way than was intended. That can be great and inventive sometimes! But sometimes it makes more sense to sell what you have to make room for what you could use the most. Answer honestly: Do you need every piece of furniture in your dual-function room?

4. Organization is more vital than ever

Having an organized closet and storage is important in every room, all the time. But in rooms where many different functions are taking up space and storage, it's vital. You're going to want to implement as many space maximizing ideas as you can — to invest in lots of shelves and other organizing tricks to get every inch of storage out of not just your closets but also your drawers, cabinets, credenzas and more.

5. Let your focal point set the tone

People think that only living rooms need to really worry about a focal point (TV or fireplace) but that's not true. Any room can benefit from the clarifying effects of a focal point, and a room with multiple purposes is no different. Revisit your primary function again — and choose an appropriate focal point for that function, letting the other furnishings fall in line and complement that item.

Do you have a room in your house that has to pull double-duty? What design tricks have you used to cope? Let us know!
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