Organize the Holidays

Things can get overwhelming during this hectic, holly-jolly time of year.  That’s why we here at CUE call upon the expertise of Lisa Zaslow (www.GothamOrganizers.com) to keep us at our very best.  Here are her tips for a stress free, organized holiday season:

GothamOrganizers Holiday Survival Tips

“Holidays are an expensive trial of strength. The only satisfaction comes from survival.”

— Jonathan Miller

Bah humbug Mr. Miller! The holidays should be a time to feel blessed, not stressed!. Follow these tips to save time, effort and energy this holiday season!

First, stop beating yourself up for not picking up gifts for everyone on your list all year long and for not having your cards addressed before Thanksgiving. This is the home stretch – time to focus your efforts on what you can do.

* Presto Presents – Technology is your friend. Use the power of the internet to pick, click and ship gifts for everyone on your list, from clients to cousins. Gift certificates to sites like Amazon.com, Gap.com and CrateandBarrel.com will appeal to a wide range of folks. If you must get actual presents, hit a few big stores at off-hours and knock off many items on your list in one shot.

 

* Wrap It Up – Why wrap? I’m a big fan of tissue paper and gift bags. They’re super-speedy and no tape, ribbon or scissors needed.

 

* Go-to Hostess Gifts – One for all and all for one. Get a slew of one great item – a nice bottle of olive oil, beautiful kitchen towels, fancy nuts and/or chocolate, or the tried and true gift soaps or bottle of wine. Pick up a bunch of gift bags and you’re good to go.

 

* Speedy Decorating – Go minimalist. Candles are quick, inexpensive and festive. And you can use them year-round and don’t have to store them.

 

* Feast Without Fuss– Let someone else cook. Put pre-prepared foods on nice serving dishes with a little garnish and no one will be the wiser. Ask your guests to contribute dishes and lighten your cooking load. You can hire a caterer to cook entire meals or just a few key dishes.

 

* Quick Cards – Again, technology is your friend. Cut and paste a photo into an e-mail and you’re done, or send an electronic card at egreetings.com or similar sites. If you really love the idea of sending actual cards, you can extend your deadline by a few extra days and send New Year’s cards this time around.

One last note

Take a deep breath and remember that the true spirit of the season doesn’t require any of the above. Spend your time with friends and loved ones, not running around trying to fulfill an idealized vision of the holidays that may not fit your current lifestyle. Happy holidays!

* * *

 

Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, has helped hundreds of people get organized at work and at home. Her expertise has been featured on The Nate Berkus Show, Inside Edition and in numerous publications including The New York Times, Real Simple, and InStyle. Get Lisa’s super-easy organizing tips at www.GothamOrganizers.com

© 2011 Lisa Zaslow. All rights in all media reserved.

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Eloquent Etiquette

The New Year is upon us and it’s time for a new segment, Eloquent Etiquette. We thought we’d expand our view to not only focus on creating exciting events and delightful details, but to also advise as to how to make formal party interactions and customs less foreign and daunting.

This week we found a great article, courtesy of Allure Magazine. “How to Make a Fabulous Party Conversation” caught our attention because it’s clear concise and gives you different topics and techniques to include or excuse yourself. Enjoy!

How to Make Fabulous Party Conversation

December 31, 2010

New Year’s Eve is one of those high-pressure party evenings: You know it’s coming for, well…a year, and you’re supposed to have the time of your life. But when you find yourself talking to people you met just moments ago—and might end up kissing when the countdown ends—there’s nothing like enforced fun to kill a conversation. Here’s how not to let it fizzle:

  • Do a little homework. Read a few online newspapers and peruse blogs like Gawker andHuffington Post. That way, if someone brings up current events, you can ask a few strategic questions to get him talking. When you know what kind of guests you’ll be mingling with, it’s easier to focus your reading. “If it’s going to be a lot of investment bankers, the odds are that talk will turn to government oversight of Wall Street,” says Deborah Roberts, an ABC News reporter. “And you can keep that in mind as you read the paper that week.”
  • Avoid the obvious. Don’t be intimidated by someone because of their job or reputation; just find out what interests him when he’s not at work. “Powerful people have hobbies, too, and they like to talk about them as much as anyone else does,” says writer Julia Reed, who has made small talk with senators and presidents.
  • Ask for recommendations. People love to be asked about their favorite finds. Ingrid Sischy, a writer and the former editor-in-chief of Interview magazine, fishes for advice she can use on her next vacation or night out. “I’m always trying to find out great new places, great restaurants, great books,” she says. “Some of the best things I’ve done, I learned about at dinner parties.”
  • Push some buttons. “Feel free to be wildly interrogative and ask profound questions,” says Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York and the author of Nasty: My Family and other Glamorous Varmints. “For example, ‘How’s your relationship with your mother these days?’; ‘When was the last time you cried?’ Fellow guests will think you’re insane, but the answers are never boring.”
  • Know when to make your escape. If you’re really getting nowhere with the small talk, then extract yourself. “I often do the discrete handoff,” says event planner Deborah Williamson. “I’ll see a group of friends and introduce the person to everyone. After a few minutes, I’ll excuse myself and dash off.” If that fails, fake it. “I pretend to look for someone specific,” says Marjorie Gubelmann, a New York City social fixture who goes to countless parties every year. “I’ll say, ‘I’m looking for Dorothy—it’s always Dorothy. And then a few minutes later, I’ll apologize, excuse myself, and leave to go find Dorothy.” And the last resort? “Apologize and say you must find the ladies’ room,” says Gubelmann. Go in (even if it’s just to apply lipstick), then bump into someone else on your way out.

For this article and others at Allure Magazine:

http://www.allure.com/beauty/blogs/reporter/2010/12/how-to-start-a-conversation.html

Gobble Gobble Time!

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, you begin to consider many things: “What do I do first? How should I decorate? What should be on my menu? Dare I attempt the Turducken?” With that in mind we at CUE thought it might be nice to offer a few suggestions to help you get in the Thanksgiving spirit.

First, let’s start with a craft project.  A cute way to spice up your Thanksgiving table is to create a Turkey Bread Basket.

Turkey Breadbasket Centerpiece

Courtesy of Familyfun.go.com

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large wooden spoon
  • Tacky glue and a glue stick
  • Pair of googly eyes
  • Pencil and scissors
  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Flat wooden craft spoon
  • Red marker
  • Colorful printed wrapping paper or pages from old magazines
  • Waxed paper
  • Thin wooden skewers (sold in the kitchen/cooking section of most grocery and department stores)
  • Basket to serve as the turkey’s body (it should be large enough to fit a loaf of bread or dinner rolls)
  • Florists’ foam or Styrofoam block (sold at many large craft or department stores) large enough to wedge into the basket
  • Cloth dinner napkin
Instructions
  1. To create the turkey’s head, turn the large wooden spoon so that the back of the bowl becomes the face. Use tacky glue to stick on the googly eyes. Then cut out a yellow construction paper beak and glue it in place.
  2. For the turkey’s wattle, use the marker to color the flat wooden craft spoon red. Glue the wattle onto the face at an angle so that the top slightly overlaps the beak. You can use a pinch-style clothespin to hold the pieces in place until the glue dries.
  3. From the construction paper, help your kids cut out lots of colored feathers that measure about 10 inches long and 1 3/4 inches across at the widest point. Cut out the same number of feathers from the wrapping paper or magazine pages, then trim them so that they are slightly smaller than the solid-colored ones.
  4. Cover a flat work surface with waxed paper (this makes for easier cleanup after applying glue), and you’re ready to assemble the feathers. For each one, place a construction paper cutout on the waxed paper and set a wooden skewer atop it so that the blunt end is just below the top of the paper and the pointed end extends about 3 inches below it.
  5. Next, use a glue stick to coat the underside of a printed feather. Then press it, glued side down, onto the construction paper feather, sandwiching the skewer between the 2 layers.
  6. Wedge the foam block into the basket (trim it first if necessary). Push the spoon handle into one end of the block deep enough to secure it. Stick the feathers into the opposite end. Cover the block with the cloth napkin, and the turkey basket is ready to fill with bread.

If you are  in the mood for a more elegant meal, then consider using a few leaves from your yard to create a subtle fall theme. Display autumn leaves beneath a sheer tablecloth and the dining room will look as brilliant as the trees in your front yard. First, place leaves between paper towels or waxed paper inside a phone book for a week to dry and smooth them. Next, if needed, use double-sided tape to attach foliage — in any grouping — to a standard white tablecloth. Then place a sheer cloth, such as organza, on top.

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

You might also want to use a leaf or a sweet-gum-tree spur as a place card. Just tie a name tag with a bit of ribbon to the stem of your chosen item.

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

Finally, no Thanksgiving is complete without a bit o’ Pumpkin Pie. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Follow the recipe below.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of 100% Pure Pumpkin or Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can NESTLE® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)

Libby's(R) Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Courtesy of AllRecipes.com

But remember, no matter what decor you choose or how many delicious treats you taste, Thanksgiving is ultimately about being grateful for the ones we care about and the meaning they bring to our lives. So, this Thanksgiving make sure to put a little extra TLC (Tender Loving Care) into each project or dish and it will certainly shine through to your loved ones!

{Advice We Love}: Selecting the Right Wedding Officiant

Selecting the Right Wedding Officiant

Yolanda Shoshana (Luscious Lifestyle Diva)

It is always interesting when a bride-to-be waits till the last minute to find an officiant. This may not be the best move, especially if you are getting married during the popular wedding months. The best officiants get booked fast, and you just may end up with an officiant you have to settle on. You work hard to plan everything so that it is a perfect day, so why should your wedding officiant blow it? A wedding officiant sets the tone and pace of the wedding ceremony, so you will want the right one standing before you.

It is important that you and your partner decide what type of ceremony you want to have such as interfaith, spiritual, traditional, etc. before you select an officiant. Feel free to think outside of the box with what you want in a ceremony; you really can have exactly what you want. Having in mind the type of ceremony you want will help you narrow down your search for an officiant.

Find out what the state you live in requires in the qualification of an officiant. Each state has its own rules when it comes to who can officiate weddings. For example, in New York State anyone you choose can marry you, but in New York City it’s a whole other case. The person officiating the wedding has to be registered with the court. If you live in a state where it is required for the person to be registered, they should be able to supply you with a number from the court, so make sure you check the number to confirm they are legit. The last thing you need is to find out on your ten-year anniversary that “technically” you aren’t considered married. Check the officiant number.

You should question how much the officiant is willing to customize the wedding ceremony. There are officiants who will create one ceremony and use it for every couple that they marry. Talk about boring and impersonal. Then there are officiants like me who specialize in creating customized ceremonies. In a customized ceremony, you can add prose, poems, songs, have dancing bears, that basically allow your imagination to run wild. Also, find out if you want your friends and family to play an active role in your ceremony and see how the officiant feels about that. These are important questions to ask when you interview. The officiant should be incorporating your vision into the ceremony.

Personality is key when selecting an officiant. For the most part, when you interview the officiant, what you see is what you get. Choosing someone with personality will ensure that your ceremony is unique, plus there is nothing worse than an officiant so boring that everyone at the ceremony is falling asleep. Everyone has been to a boring wedding; you know you don’t want that to be you.

Last but not least, find an officiant who makes you feel comfortable. Don’t forget that the officiant works for you, not the other way around. It is your big day, one to remember forever.

Celebrate the 4th in Style

Looking for last-minute party ideas for Sundays 4th of July celebration? Look no further because we at CUE have a few tips on simple table decorations, fun drinks, and playlist recommendations!

Easy, yet chic centerpieces.

Everything is coming together for Sunday’s bbq, you have all the food planned out and everyone is assigned to bring something, you have the tables planned out, but you forgot about centerpieces. Here is an easy, yet chic centerpiece idea to give even the kiddy tables a grown up look.

Run to your local Whole Foods or market and pick up several bouquets of white hydrangea. Prepare the flowers by cutting the stems, grab a few vases that you have around the house (or borrow a few from your friends and family… I love the eclectic look; wide mouth vases will work the best), fill them up with water and pop the flowers in. I really like the look of white hydrangea, and bring in pops of color by tying red or blue (or both) ribbon around the vase.

This is a simple and very inexpensive way to class up your tables with some nice centerpieces.

*** Sample of a DIY hydrangea centerpiece that we constructed at a recent event.

Refreshing summer drink that is perfect for kids and adults!

One of my favorite easy 4th of July recipes is a festive drink, inspired by one by Martha Stewart (the photo here was my inspiration– it belongs to her!).

To make the garnish –which is perfect for the Fourth!– simply press a cookie cutter though a thin piece of watermelon rind. So pretty and fun!

Ingredients:
1 pt. fresh, ripe strawberries
3 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 lime, juiced
2 liters. ginger ale

Instructions:
1. After cleaning your strawberries and watermelon, put them into the blender on high to make a purée.
2. Mix them with the ginger ale. You can serve this beverage as it stands with ice, or change it by doing any of the following:

* Freeze the berries and melon for a “smoothie” (this is a huge hit on a hot day!)
* Using one liter ginger ale and one liter champagne
* Adding berry vodka to the mix for the adults
* Add blueberries to float in the drink (red, white, blue)

Oh, yummm!

And now to get the party going, you need a playlist that gets your guests in the mood to celebrate.

A few weeks back, my roommate decided to throw a “Party in the USA” party, and I was in charge of creating the playlist. I decided to stick to the theme and only add songs that had America, USA, or the name of a state in the lyrics. It really hurt my brain to think that hard about music, but I took my task to heart, and this is what I came up with (I think it’s appropriate to bust it out again for this weekend).

American Woman
American Pie
American Baby
American Honky Tonk Bar Association
American Ride
R.O.C.K. in the USA
Don’t Stop Believin’
Sweet Home Alabama
Georgia
Empire State of Mind
California Girls
Hotel California
Pink House
Take Me Home, Country Roads
City of New Orleans
Beautiful America
Buffalo Soldier
Wakko’s 50 State Capitols (oh, yes, I threw that in there, thank you Animaniacs)
Small Town USA
Keep on Rockin’ In the Free World
Party in the USA
God Bless the USA
Living in America
Everyday America
Born in the USA
Surfin’ USA
American Saturday Night

That’s just the start of our playlist. Come up with more songs of your own. What are your must have songs for this weekend of celebrating?

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend from the girls at CUE!

xoxo,

Emily

Mix up your Cinco de Mayo

The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with a significant Mexican population. It is not, as many people think, Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually September 16.

Though, in the United States I feel like we search for any excuse to throw another fabulous party. Though most of your preparations for tonight’s festivities have probably already been taken care of, why not mix up your drink menu with more traditional tequila drink recipes. (Fun Fact: Margaritas aren’t really enjoyed outside of the resort areas in Mexico!)

These recipes are sure to spice up your party, and impress your guests with your creativity. These drinks are also tastier alternatives for those of us who aren’t the biggest of tequila fans.

Infused Tequila
For a large dinner party, nothing beats a pitcher of distilled spirits. For an alternative on the tired vodka blends, try this infused tequila recipe. It’s just the thing for a hot summer night.
Pour a 750ml bottle of Cazadores silver into a glass pitcher, and fill with strips of cucumber and seedless watermelon. Store in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving, mix in a shaker with ice and a few drops of agave nectar. Serve over ice and garnish with mint.


Paloma
Forget the Margarita. The Paloma, or dove, can make claim to being the national cocktail of Mexico. In addition to the refreshing taste, Palomas probably earned their claim to popularity for being incredibly easy to make. In Mexico, they’re made simply by pouring a shot of tequila and Fresca, a sugar-sweetened grapefruit soda, over ice. In the States, where Fresca is inherently diet, you can make a similar drink with Squirt, or achieve a natural tasting Paloma with the following recipe:
Lime and salt the rim of a tall glass. Fill with ice.
Add 1.5 oz. of silver tequila to your shaker.
Add 2 oz grapefruit juice and 1.5 oz. lime juice.
Sweeten with agave nectar as desired.
Shake with a full scoop of ice.
Drain into the glass.
Top off with Sprite.

Corzo Modern Muddled Margarita
If you must have your margarita, forego the frozen, sugary types. Drop into your shaker the following:
2 orange wedges.
2 lemon wedges.
2 large lime wedges.
1 oz. agave nectar
1.5 oz. Corzo Silver.
1 oz. Cointreau (optional)
Crush ingredients with a strong muddler.
Add a scoop of ice, cover and give it a good shake.
Pour into a martini glass and garnish with an orange wedge.

Enjoy these sippable treats!

Share with us your favorite Cinco de Mayo party tips and recipes. We would love to hear what you’re doing.

xoxo,

Emily

Hiring a Professional Wedding Coordinator

Weddings are typically one of the most important events in a person’s life, and in many cases, one of the most expensive. We turn to a salesman who is considered an “expert” when we go to buy a car. We turn to a real estate agent when we go to buy a house, again, another “expert.” Many consult accountants and financial advisors when doing their taxes or making large financial decisions. With all of these “experts” in your life, why not consider hiring an expert when it comes to your wedding?

If just one of these ten reasons to hire an event consultant can help you enjoy your day even more, or help keep the peace during the planning process, wouldn’t it be worth it?

We want to hear from you! What are your reason for hiring (or not hiring) an event professional for your next big bash?

xoxo,

Emily