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10 Tips for an Effortless yet Elegant Cocktail Party

I love a good cocktail party. Like in a big way. The mingling, the mixing, the excuse for that extra glass of bubbly – it’s kind of my happy place. Since I adore them so much, I’ll find any excuse in the book to host them, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. So it’s time to share the secrets with all of y’all. It’s my effort to bring the cocktail party back, because there really isn’t anything better. xoxo Abby Capalbo

10 Tips for an Effortless Cocktail Party

1. Do as much before as possible. Actually do everything before. You don’t want to be the host or hostess stuck in the kitchen or shuffling around. You should actually enjoy this party. Novel idea, right? So get everything out and ready to go around 30 minutes prior to the guests arrival, that way you can enjoy those few moments of peace before the fun begins.

2. Let Your Guest Plays Bartender. Now, I try to make sure I circle the room to make sure everyone is fully imbibed, but I also make sure there are “stations” so to speak, scattered about the house for every choice of beverage so my guests don’t feel like they have to wait for me. From water to gin to bubbly to wine, I want to make sure each and every guest gets the cocktail of their choice, whenever they choose to have it.

3. Invest in Additional Glassware. The very first little soiree we hosted at our house I used the stemware from our wedding. By the end of the night, only half of them remained (sign of a good party, perhaps). So I went to Ikea and purchased glassware in all shapes in sizes, and let me tell you that small little investment has come in handy more times than I care to admit. Plus, drinking out of glass instead of paper or plastic cups just ups the ante on any party. Also, I don’t know what it is about those Ikea glasses, but they are hearty.

4. Master the Cheese Plate. I love cheese in a big way. Hand me a wheel of La Tur and a loaf of bread (and perhaps a glass of prosecco while your at it), and I’m basically in heaven. And chances are, your guests feel the same way. It’s really easy to throw together one that will impress your guests, and once you learn the simple steps to perfecting a cheese plate, you’ll never be intimated by whipping one up again.

5. Make your Guests Feel at Home. Have a place for guest to take off their coats in the winter. I actually use a rolling rack with wooden hangers so it’s easy to see where they should hang their coats if I am busy with another guest. Light a fire in the winter or make sure you have a patio heater going in the summer. Place little nibbles throughout the house. Be sure there is plenty of toilet paper in all your bathrooms (silly, but important). Light candles. Sprinkle fresh flowers throughout (grocery store ones are totally fine!). Make your home as inviting as possible, and try to think of all the little things you notice when you’re at someone’s home, other people notice them too.

6. Don’t overdo yourself. I sometimes have to remind myself of this. This isn’t a dinner party for Betty Draper. You don’t need to embrace your inner Julie Child. You just want to create a warm atmosphere where people want to linger.

7. Turn on the Music. This one is important to me. Music sets the tone of any party, and helps fill the room with a happy vibe. I used to curate playlist for each party, but I’m so thankful for pandora and spotify – they have done all the hard work for me. Make sure to keep an eye on the playlists throughout the night…and the volume.

8. Save the Cleaning for Later. Guests feed off their host in a big way. If they see you cleaning up or doing the dishes mid-party, you’ll send the signal that it’s time to wrap things up. Trust me, all those dishes will be there when they leave. And so will that extra glass of bubbly with your name on it while you tidy things up. One of the wonderful things about a cocktail party is, the clean up is pretty easy.

9. Curate your Guest List. I will always stand by the fact that the guests make the party. It doesn’t matter how delicious your dish or how stunning your spread, if your guests are great the party will be great. Bring people together that you think will enjoy each other, and they’ll do the rest.

10. Enjoy Yourself. Honestly, above everything else, it’s the best thing you can do. A happy host or hostess speaks volumes to their guests, and ultimately will have everyone doing the same. Wear something comfortable yet something that makes you feel a bit fancy too. I like to run around prior getting everything ready in a t-shirt and leggings, and then throw on a blazer, some jewelry, a dab of lipstick and some fun shoes when the party is about to start so I look and feel fresh for everyone. I swear it makes a difference.

Photography: Erin McGinn | Styling: Abby Capalbo

Abby Capalbo

Design, Styling, Parties
Ginger Rhubarb Pie

With the help of Libbie Summers genius pie baking skills and her knack for making food not only delicious but ever so pretty too, this Ginger Rhubarb number was born. It’s a unique twist on a classic recipe and will get standing ovations at your Easter table next Sunday, we guarantee. Grab the details below all photographed by Chia Chong. Plus a yummy pie dough and how to for lattice crust.

Ginger Rhubarb Pie
prep time
45 Minute/s
cook time
1 Hour/s 15 Minute/s
total time
2 Hour/s
Serves 8Ingredients
  • 1 prepared pie dough for a double crust pie
  • 1⁄2 cup candied ginger
  • 6 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced 1⁄4-inch thick on the diagonal (about 6 stalks)
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional)
Instructions
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of the dough and drape over a 9-inch pie plate being careful not to stretch the dough. Allow the dough to loosely drape over the sides. Refrigerate while making filling.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the candied ginger and pulse until nearly pulverized (you can also chop finely with a knife).
  3. Add the pulverized ginger, rhubarb, sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon to a large mixing bowl and toss to coat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Place rhubarb filling in chilled pie shell and top with a lattice top pie crust.
  6. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar if desired.
  7. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a rich golden brown (about 1 hour and 15 minutes).
  8. Let pie cool completely before slicing and serving.

Photography: Chia Chong For Salted And Styled | Recipe And Styling: Libbie Summers

A Bright and Cheery Home Office Transformation

When it came to renovating her home office, Nicole White put her interior design expertise to work and crafted what can only be described as gorgeous explosion of color. You won’t find your run of the mill white space within this gallery. Not even close. Instead it’s a spot as invigorating as they come and straight out of this color addict’s dreams. See the full tour right here.

Bright and Cheery Home Office
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Bright and Cheery Home Office
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From Nicole White… This Home office transformation was a labor of love, an old bookcase was the one thing the previous owner left behind and it was headed for the trash pile. I thanked heavens I popped by the house the morning of the closing, and rescued it before it was hauled away. A little paint, a new filing drawer to fill a gaping hole, some gold handles and I gotta say she is now the star of the show. I am a lover of real books, and definitely wanted a room where some of my favorite books (yes, we’ve read most of them) could be celebrated and this book case has definitely allowed that to happen.

It is seriously the office of my dreams. Loads of color cause y’all know I’m a bit of a color addict. Playful enough to remind me to laugh a little at what can sometimes be a very stressful biz, and inviting enough for my son, Xavier to hang out without feeling like he can’t get his hands all up in the mix.

Home Office: Nicole White Designs Interiors | Interior Designer: Nicole White Designs Interiors

Double Tahini Sandwich Cookies

Fix Feast Flair has opened our eyes to a whole new ingredient for cookies: tahini. Made from ground sesame seeds, this super creamy paste adds a subtle nutty flavor to your baked goods that you won’t get be able to get enough of. This recipe for cookie sandwiches doubles up on tahini in the batter and buttercream filling!

They’re a good introduction into the world of sesame for newbies and a reminder of why you fell in love with the stuff for all you long time lovers,” says Alana of Fix Feast Flair.

Try out the recipe below, and check out Fix Feast Flair for more mouthwatering recipes!

Double Tahini Sandwich Cookies
prep time
4 Hour/s 45 Minute/s
cook time
18 Minute/s
total time
5 Hour/s 3 Minute/s
Serves 20Ingredients
  • COOKIE
  • 1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. tahini (white sesame butter)
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste, such as Nielsen-Massey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. roasted white sesame seeds
  • BUTTERCREAM
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cubed
  • 1/2 c. tahini
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • OPTIONAL DECORATIONS
  • Sprinkles
  • Black or white sesame seeds
  • TOOLS
  • Mixing bowls
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Stand mixer
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rolling pin
  • 2" round biscuit cutter
  • Rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat mats
  • Small saucepan
  • Silicone spatula or wooden spoon
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Candy thermometer
  • Whisk
  • Wire rack
  • Offset spatula
  • Piping bag with round tip
Instructions
  1. FOR THE COOKIES: Combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together; set aside.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, tahini, honey, and vanilla bean paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, around three to four minutes. Add egg and beat for forty seconds.
  3. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in four parts, and beat on low until just combined. Remove bowl from stand and stir in oats and sesame seeds with silicone spatula or wooden spoon.
  4. Transfer dough a sheet of plastic wrap, form into a 5-inch by 7-inch brick, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, around two hours.
  5. Remove brick from fridge and transfer to a floured work surface. Using rolling pin, roll until a 1/4-inch thick. Flour surface and dough as necessary--the dough is sticky.
  6. Using a two inch round cutter, cut out 40 to 48 rounds. Use a floured offset spatula to transfer cookies to pre-lined sheets and leave at least one inch space between rounds. Freeze until cookies are firm, at least 1 hour.
  7. Heat oven to 325°F while chilling cookies. Bake until golden brown, around 16 -18 minutes. Let cool on sheet for five minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  8. FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Adjust speed to lowest speed to keep egg whites moving.
  9. Bring sugar and 1/4-cup water to a boil in small saucepan, swirling pan to help dissolve sugar. Attach a candy thermometer to pan, and cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 248°F. Promptly remove from heat, and turn mixer speed up to medium-high speed and beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Adjust speed to medium-low and slowly drizzle sugar syrup into whites. Once all the sugar syrup has been added, bring speed up to medium-high and beat until whites hold stiff peaks and are room temperature, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add butter, a couple pieces at a time, until the buttercream is smooth and totally emulsified.
  10. Measure out 1-1/2 cups and place in a medium mixing bowl; reserve remaining buttercream for another use.
  11. Add tahini, honey, and salt, and whisk together with whisk until smooth. Transfer to piping bag fitted with round tip.
  12. Place half of the cookies top side down on a baking sheet, and pipe buttercream almost to the edge of each cookie then top with a remaining plain cookie and sandwich together. You can sprinkle on sprinkles or sesame seeds onto the sandwiched buttercream edges if you desire. Refrigerate cookies to firm buttercream for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Photography: Fix Feast Flair | Recipe: Fix Feast Flair

The Prettiest Easter Tea Inspiration

If ever there were a time to fully embrace pastels, it would be Easter and oh is pastel having a moment with this inspiration crafted by Fluent Productions along with photography by Ainsley Rose. It’s a tea celebration packed with traditional, big spring blooms by The Flower Factory and a few unexpected treats… like cotton candy for dessert or easter eggs decorated with calligraphy. Click here for more.

Easter is such a fun time of the year and of course, what better time to host a party? Spring has just arrived and it’s such a great excuse for everyone to pull out their pastels and their spring dresses. In Vancouver, we see rain for most of the winter and we’ve been craving light and sunshine. The entire event came together using soft florals and an egg as inspiration. What we designed together with an incredible team in just under a week completely blew my mind. We pulled gorgeous home decor from one of our favorite home decor stores, The Cross and we worked with one of the most talented florists in the city, The Flower Factory to create beautiful arrangements in a variety of milk glass. The spread of food that was equally beautiful to the eye as it was delicious was provided by Liberty Bakery and our favors were provided by Petit Puf. The entire tablescape wouldn’t have been pulled together as beautifully as it was without the unique calligraphy details from September Letters. This day was so much fun to pull together. From all of the suppliers and vendors to Alex and Alicia helping us tie it all together with their beautiful gowns, to us, this shoot really reflects what hosting an event is all about. Good food, beautiful decor and fantastic company! 

Photographer: Ainsley Rose | Floral Design: The Flower Factory | Bucket Of Roses: Landeau | Cake & Pastries: Liberty Bakery | Calligraphy & Stationary: September Letters | Chocolate: Temper Pastry | Cotton Candy: Petite Puf | Decor: Upright Decor And Design | Decor: Delovely Creative | Decor: The Cross Decor + Design | Design & Planning: Fluent Productions | Hair & Make Up: Denise Elliot Make Up Artistry | Model & Blogger: To Vogue Or Bust | Model & Blogger: Alicia Fashionista | Office Space: The Duncan Building

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