I don't know when it began, but I have a little obsession with stationary. In my closet here at my home office, the shelves are bursting with all sorts of beautiful thank you notes that I've yet to use because I don't want to get rid of them just yet and as the seasons change I find reasons to purchase all sorts of beautiful gift tags, invitations and thank you cards.
You see, as an event planner (my full time), I see the difference that stationary brings to the occasion. It's what I like to call, part of the details. The details of an event all come together and make something spectacular and contribute to the overall guest experience. The trouble with this can sometimes be bringing your personality into the stationary that you're ordering, because so many websites offer standard suites ... and what's the fun in that?
When I discovered Basic Invite, my world was complete.
While Basic Invite is most well-known for their wedding invitations and save the dates, they really have a fabulous selection for any event from a shower to a graduation announcement or even a Valentine's Day Cocktail Party (I just ordered mine!).
I'm personally also really loving their picture invitations ... ladies ... they even have birthday photo invites - how perfect is that for a first birthday or milestone?!
As someone who is no stranger to the online stationary world, I had so much fun getting lost in Basic Invite's website. Not only was their website tech and user-friendly for those of us who certainly aren't graphic designers, but the choices and selections felt limitless.
Basic Invite is one of the few stationary websites that allows its customers to choose from just about any color for every element with an instant preview online, plus you can select from 40 different envelope colors to set the tone of the theme or invitation before your guests actually even open it up! Total customization? Yes, please!
I'm personally really impressed with the scope of design options that are on their site. I'm loving how versatile the design choices are from fun children birthday invitations to swoon worthy wedding suites.
One of the absolute best features of their site though has to be the address capturing service. Coming from someone in the wedding and special event industry, this one's a keeper. All you have to do is share a link to your social media sites and your friends and family can safely input their emails and you'll be able to access it all on your customer account. If you haven't already had to recently update your address book, take it from me and trust that it's really difficult (even through text) to get people to respond to you; however, everyone's on social media and so it's a quick click and really convenient way to get the addresses that you need without hassle.
Interested in purchasing invitations or thank you notes for your Spring social calendar? Get 15% off of your order with the code: 15FF51
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I'm over here taking a break from shoveling the sidewalk and decided I'd share with you all some of my top restaurants that Dan and I like to visit when we go out to dinner. We don't go out that often these days since buying our home, but when we do we like to go somewhere that offers a little ambiance.
The Melting Pot in King of Prussia is definitely up there as one of our favorite places to eat. Why? It's the perfect date night because it's more than a meal, it's an experience. We don't eat fondue at home, so it's always fun to watch the servers expertly put together the cheese and chocolate recipes and it's so delicious.
The Valley Forge Trattoria is nestled in a small shopping center just between Phoenixville and Valley Forge Park, and I can't even tell you how many times we've been there. I always like to sit in the lounge section with its cushioned booths, dim lights and live music. It's the perfect spot to get your Italian food fix and is the perfect romantic date night environment.
I know it might seem funny that I'd list a pizza place as one of my top Valentine's Day restaurants; however, some of our favorite day dates have taken place here and I'm personally a big fan of impromptu lunch dates together. Valentine's Day celebrations don't always have to be elaborate ... it's about spending quality time together! Plus, Snap Custom Pizza offers my favorite gluten-free pizza that I've stumbled across so far. So good!
Strangely enough, we haven't actually been to their Philly location, but we love us some Buddakan. It's a super fun vibe, and I dream of their mushroom potstickers and dumplings.
On the constant quest to make a gluten-free dessert that everyone will love, I decided to try out a flourless brownie recipe that I was inspired by. I found an original recipe on Pinterest and decided to tweak it a bit to my own preferences. Enjoy!
10 oz dark chocolate morsels
4 tbspn sweet cream butter, unsalted
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 tspn vanilla extract
1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder
6 oz milk chocolate morsels
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
2 tbspn unsweetened cocoa powder
dash of rum extract
The first thing I did was make the brownies since you really shouldn't put the icing on until they've cooled. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take your baking pan and line it with parchment paper (it's easier if you use parchment paper that hangs over the sides of the pan a bit so that you can just lift the brownies out when they are done).
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate with the butter in 30 second increments, stirring between sets. When it's melted together, stir in the sugar and combine. Set that bowl aside (you'll come back to it soon).
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Add in the cocoa powder and continue whisking until it's combined. You want the edges of your bowl / mixture to have a bit of froth/bubbles forming.
Pour the mix into the baking pan, spreading it out evenly. Place the pan in the oven and bake about 25 minutes. When done, place the pan on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
While the brownies cool, move on to the icing. Heat your heavy cream until it just bubbles and then whisk in the cocoa powder. When combined and no chunks of the powder are showing, pour the cream over your milk chocolate morsels in a small bowl. Add a dash of rum extract (optional) for a richer icing flavor. Stir until smooth. Pour icing over cooled brownies and then refrigerate for about one hour.
Remove the completely cooled, finished brownies from the fridge and cut with a sharp knife. These are a pretty ooey-gooey texture already, so you can chill if you prefer, but I like to keep them sort of messy!
The past few months I've slacked a bit on my gluten free diet and my body hates me for it. On New Years, I rang in 2018 from the guest bedroom at our friends lake house where I was completely spent from a 4-hour flu-like spell/reaction to a plate of pasta at dinner. This wasn't the first time I reacted that way from regular pasta and I realized how serious my allergy to wheat is (at home I always eat GF pasta) and decided to start taking it more seriously.
For dinner earlier this week, I decided to whip up a new recipe for gluten free chicken enchiladas. Dan and I love us some Mexican food, so I decided to make the recipe "safe" at home.
One of the things that many people don't think about with gluten free eating is that it's not just obvious bread products that you need to watch for, but even sauces and pre-made mixes. On the bright side, I'm eating much healthier because 90% of what I'm making these days is from scratch!
Enchilada Sauce Recipe:
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons GF rice flour
2 tspn garlic powder
1 c chicken broth (I just added water to the chicken I cooked and used the "broth" of that instead of sodium-filled store bought)
1 1/2 c water
Dashes of hot sauce (I used Frank's) to your desired heat
In a saucepan, mix all the spices, flour and oil. Heat while whisking until fragrant, about 3 minutes. While you whisk, you want to add the chicken broth and water until it's smooth and there aren't any flour clumps. Allow it to come to a boil and then simmer a few minutes to thicken.
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breast (cooked + shredded)
1 pack of GF Corn Tortillas
Enchilada Sauce (recipe above)
4 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
8oz bag Shredded Cheese
1 Onion (diced)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the shredded chicken into a mixing bowl with the diced onion, about 1/3 of your enchilada sauce and about half of the shredded cheese. Mix well.
Next, you'll pour a thin layer of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the baking dish you're using.
Take the cream cheese and spread a thin layer onto each tortilla. Fill each tortilla with the chicken mixture. Roll, and put into baking dish. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over top with the other half of the shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
I've always wanted to visit the Philly Home Show, but it's always conflicted with my schedule ... until now! I'm so excited to stop in this month to check out all of the fun, especially as a homeowner myself now. We're outlining eight of the things you should definitely check out while you're there this year.
PS: Don't forget to use our code PHILLYHOUSEWIVE for Buy 1, Get 1 tickets!
1. Connect with the HGTV and PBS celebrities.
If you're like me, you are personally invested in the lives of all of the HGTV stars and look up to the PBS celebs for their knowledge on all things design. This year, Tyler Wisler (Design Star contestant) and Kevin O' Connor (This Old House) are going to be gracing the Philly Home Show 2018 stage. Be sure to check out the schedule for presentations!
2. Sixth Annual Habitat for Humanity Upcycle Challenge: Urban Jungle
Philly DIY'ers, this one's for you. Take an old window and $50 at the Habitat for Humanity's ReStore and create a city garden. You heard us right.
3. Providence Animal Shelter Barkitecture Village
We are all obsessed with our dogs. I know I'm not alone in this. Rufus is literally my child and I'll be damned if he doesn't deserve the finest little retreat. Cue this village of luxury doghouses sure to inspire you and your fuzzball (Rufus' nickname).
4. Design with Grace in your Small Space
Whether you're in the city of Philadelphia or surrounding Main Line 'burbs, it's possible you're living in tight quarters. Our area has so many charming and historic residences and apartments, but sometimes working with small spaces can prove challenging. The City Studios design feature will be showcasing three distinct looks from local designers that show you how to get creative with your small space!
5. Make-it, Take-it
Another opportunity for those of us who love a little DIY opportunity. Local crafters and designers are attending the show to host their own hands-on workshops.
6. Expert Presentations
The Philly region is full of creatives and artists who continue to wow us with their talent. Be sure to check out the Main Stage furnished by Pottery Barn to see the various presentations that will take place.
7. Honor our Heroes
On January 15, free admission is going to be granted to teachers, nurses, first responders, firefighters, police and all active or retired military personnel in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.
8. Take Action
I don't know about you all, but my Pinterest board(s) are brimming with inspiration for home projects that I'm jonesing to bring to life. The Philly Home Show 2018 is the perfect place to interact with vendors, exhibitors, bloggers and designers who can show you how to make your dreams a reality.
I can't believe that it's already 2018, can you?! One of the top priorities on my list for the new year was to revisit my time management system to get more organized and increase my productivity.
Let me give you a little background ... I'm self-employed running two businesses, just bought my first home and am trying to break away from my workaholic tendencies. Within my event planning business, I need to make sure that I'm scheduling time for administrative tasks, client work, meetings/networking, venue management, etc. Within my HITC blogging I need to make sure I'm content planning, networking to find us new GNO locations, planning GNOs, executing GNOs, and even training / on boarding new cities for the franchise! As a new homeowner I'm working on adjusting to keeping our home clean, running endless errands, making dinner, and of course, decorating every other minute. Whew!
I found myself overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities on my plate, and especially towards the end of 2017 with all of the transition realized that much of my time was spent trying to figure out how to get everything done instead of doing it. Not only was I letting my to-do list overwhelm me, but being self-employed and working alone from home I was having a hard time staying focused and not getting distracted ... just hopping task to task and not giving any of the things I needed to get done the attention it deserved. Cue time blocking!
If you go on Pinterest and look up Time Blocking, your equally organization loving heart is going to do a little dance just like mine did. No really. Mine did a little flip and I think even did one of those heel pops from the Princess Diary movie.
Time blocking is exactly what it sounds like. You carve out periods of time to assign various tasks to and then use that time to get it all done. Not only does this give you a deadline to help you focus as you're working, but it's a way to jot down all of your thoughts and delegate them to time chunks which really helps from allowing your to-do list to take over your life.
You have to make your time block to fit your own needs, but here's what mine looks like in my off-season for events (in-season looks much different as my work hours and days change!).
Let me break down what all of this means for me to help you structure your own. First, I wrote down all of the things that needed to be prioritized/done throughout my week. Then, I took those tasks and put them into more broad groups by color.
Orange = Personal
Blue = Work
Green = Family Time
My House Tasks // Errands is when I do the most cleaning around the house, meal planning, run any errands, etc.
Operations // Admin is where I answer emails for both businesses, make calls, file any papers that I've piled up, etc.
Planning // Tie Up is what I like to spend my last hour of the workday on. I'll take a half hour to finish any outstanding projects I didn't get done during the day and the last half hour to look at the next day and figure out what I want to work on and put a to-do list together.
If you've been feeling a little overwhelmed or just want to be more productive with your time, I highly recommend that you give this a try!