Maybe you’re not a big believer in the cliched New Year’s resolutions, but there is value to recognizing your aspirations and designing a plan to better yourself. At the end of 2015, I looked back on last year’s resolutions for myself and felt a strong sense of accomplishment. Chances are you already tell yourself you’re going to get better at this thing or another. Turn that thought into a mantra this year and find a way to challenge yourself in the best way possible. After all, baby steps can lead to big changes in a year’s time. Here are my 2016 resolutions… Maybe you’ll find an ounce of inspiration in them:
This is the part where I apologize to you, loyal readers, for my hiatus from LIVE THE LUXE LIFE. Since mid Fall, I’ve filled my free time with writing pages and pages on my novel. Inspiration hit me like a mad fever, as often happens when you’re a writer… But this delirium still has me in its grasp. I think I’ve finally figured out how to subdue my procrastination and stay dedicated to the craft from which I derive all my passion. And for that, I do not apologize. So, here’s looking at you, 2016. This may just be the year I near completion (or possibly even finish) my first book.
You know that friend who always pulls the camera phone out any time you go out? Uh huh, that’s me. Y’know, the one you rely on for your next profile pic or trip down memory lane. As my friends and family can tell you though, I’ve gotten real bad this year about posting those photos in a decent time span. (I haven’t uploaded photos from as far back as summer yet, oops.) I’m starting fresh this year and aiming to upload photos within a week of an event. Won’t my friends and family be relieved?
We’ve become the perpetual hosts for any holiday shindig as you can see here and here. It has been a true pleasure…and a heck of a lot of work. This past year, we’ve spent more time cleaning up after these events than actually enjoying them. So, we’re pulling back the reins a bit. We still love entertaining and plan to do so in the future. House parties though are happening at a much more manageable size; and big numbers will be moved to an outside venue. Not our zoo, not our monkeys…that’s what I’m always sayin’.
Most importantly, I must strive to find the good in the world. With terrorism and gun violence running rampant, it’s difficult to stay optimistic and keep faith in humanity. But there is good to be found in this world. Look at the people taking in refugees. Look at the homes that opened their doors to harbor strangers during the Paris attack, or the countries around the world that lit up their landmarks with the colors of the French flag. Yes, there is evil all around us. Let us shed light on that evil and stand in solidarity against it.
headliner image c/o Essence Photography by Martha
2015 started off much smoother this year than the previous one with an elegant shindig at our place. At our 2014 NYE party, several partygoers ended up nursing a case of the flu the following week, including Greg. Being in good health this time instantly put all of us in good cheer!
Dress Code: all came dressed to the nines. The gents sported jackets or vests & ties while the ladies sparkled in cocktail dresses & bright-hued gowns.
Food: I popped some potato skins in the oven along with smores brownies & set out a shrimp tray. My generous friends supplied the remaining dishes, including barbeque chicken wings & Italian meatballs. Most years, I opt for a theme with the hors d’oeuvres relating, but with everyone volunteering their efforts, we all went for favorite foodies to share with everyone! & of course, we offered a champagne toast to our guests just before midnight.
Games: I created a fortune game, encouraging each guest to write down a fortune to be pulled out of a bowl at random after midnight. Guests could write one for a specific person (with no guarantee they’d get it). The answers ranged from sweet to funny, including ones like “Taylor Swift will write a #1 hit song about you this year” and “you will become engaged this year!” We thoroughly enjoyed unwrapping the creative fortunes & they helped us all look forward to the fun we shall have in 2015!
Cover photo C/O of Martha Dahl at Essence Photography by Martha.
c/o Martha Dahl at Essence Photography by Martha
I hope you had yourself a very merry holiday this year filled with all sorts of festivities. We always make a point to celebrate with our close friends before family comes into town. It is quickly becoming a tradition of ours to do a small gift exchange rather than stress over affording every friend a gift. Greg’s parents host & we get to enjoy Christmas in our own quirky way.
The “white elephant” gift exchange is a simple gift-giving tactic that packs a whole lot of fun. Choose a low dollar amount & have each guest purchase one item to bring wrapped to the party. Suggest a gift anyone can appreciate like gloves designed to be used on smart phones. …Or you could opt for our route: picking something funny & unexpected. This year, we all knocked the white elephant tradition out of the park.
Our friend, Aaron (above), landed our contribution to the party: a bag full of unknown books, which turned out to be all mystery books! Martha (lower right) won our other gift, a disc shooter in the shape of a spaceship that shoots out foam discs at rapid-fire speed. Casey (lower left) was clearly thrilled to unwrap The Best Cat Book Ever full of comical cat portraits. Others brought zany games & gag gifts, including a velcro helmet to throw fabric doo-doo at & poo-tanium to leave a more pleasant smell in the restroom.
The key to hosting a white elephant gift party is to make the exchange a game. There are multiple ways to play it, but make your guests gamble for their presents before a single one is unwrapped because that is where the real fun happens. We play with dice and pass them around the table. Whoever rolls doubles gets to grab a present from the middle of the table. If you roll doubles multiple times, you can grab another gift from the pot or steal from another guest. Set a timer somewhere in the ballpark of fifteen minutes, & once the time is up, the game is over. It’s a smart move on the host’s part to keep some extra gifts available (like an elf hat or candy cane headbands) so everyone will undoubtedly receive one at the end of the night.
This year, we added a dress code to our holiday party. Everyone came wearing a colorful, overly decorated holiday sweater to encourage the festive mood. From a Home Alone inspired shirt to a hand-crafted mini-elf sweater, our friends got creative with their attire. Some even decorated their clothes with duct-tape & package bows! Looks like we’ll be bringing the ugly Christmas sweater theme back next year. What holiday traditions do you have with friends & family? Don’t forget to stop in on Friday for my latest muse moments!
Jim Halpert of The Office
Four years ago, Greg & I hosted our first Halloween party. We had just gotten a new apartment, & as I had made the move across the Missouri state, I wanted to make new friends & catch up with old ones. I found cheap decorations & sent out e-vites, & much to my surprise, the party was a smash! Every year since then, we’ve continued to host Halloween & I’ve learned quite a few things along the way. Here are my top tips for hosting your own Halloween party:
1. Put thought into your costume.
If you expect others to show up in costume, then you had best deliver on your own disguise. Share creative ideas with your guests to take the stress off of finding something. Some guests will surely impress with their own creations, but others will lack the inspiration & need a nudge in the right direction. Seeing you & others have fun playing the part will only encourage everyone to get in the spirit of Halloween.
Duff Man, The Joker and Harley Quinn
Captain Malcolm Reynolds vs. Mario, the Sith Lord
2. Set the mood with good, lively music.
Everyone has different music tastes & this can be even more true amongst friends. There is no way to please every palate, so focus instead on sharing popular songs from different genres that your guests appreciate & that the majority is likely to accept. The key to any good party playlist is to feature rhythmic & energetic tunes to keep the flow of the event going. Create a cool playlist using apps & sites like iTunes or Spotify. If you aren’t even sure where to start, plug a couple of good songs into Pandora & be sure to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” songs to get a good groove started. & if you are wondering what songs I chose for my perfect Halloween playlist, I included the likes of Black Keys “Howlin’ for You” & Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” alongside throwbacks like Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping.”
Monk & gender-bent Nun
3. Create photo ops to capture the fun.
Find or make a good backdrop at whatever location you host so you can easily capture your guests at an opportune moment. Be careful not to post any potentially embarrassing photos later because you want your guests to feel comfortable in front of the camera & at your Halloween party. Photos are worth the hassle though because capturing the fantastic costumes & great friendships on camera bring back memories for your guests of all the good times they shared with you at your shindig.
Of course, the biggest ingredient to hosting a successful Halloween party is relaxing & enjoying the festivities yourself! Make time to partake in the fun & enjoy celebrating this holiday with your friends.
Cue the spooky music, carve the pumpkins, & prep the candy bowl…it’s time for Halloween, ladies & gents! Whether you will be handing goodies out to trick-or-treaters or celebrating in style, here’s some costume inspiration for you from past shindigs we’ve hosted:
Featuring: two creepers inspired by the Lonely Island Boys music video, “The Creep.” Leeloo Dallas from The Fifth Element. Batman & Catwoman. One scrub, one Kermit the Frog, Bowser, & Ash from The Evil Dead.
Starring: Schrodinger’s Cat, Indiana Jones, Red Riding Hood & one frightening clown.
Introducing: the Terminator, Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction, & a seriously spooky zombie teen. One caveman, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, one I-don’t-even-know-so-we’ll-go-with bubblegum, & the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.
& my personal favorite: the crew of Serenity. For you fans of Firefly, you likely recognize Kaylee Frye, Crow, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Inara Serra, Badger & YoSaffBridge. What clever costumes have you created for Halloween? Hope you have fun (& stay safe) this holiday!
My husband turned 27 just last week, so we invited a small number of close friends & family to come celebrate the occasion over the weekend. The theme was simple: drinks & desserts. You could bring a dessert or a drink, but most importantly, bring yourself! With very little planning & the help of some pretty amazing in-laws, Greg’s birthday was a huge success!
The dessert line-up included cookie cake, coconut creme pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie & homemade nutty pumpkin cake.
My mother-in-law (pictured above on the right) set up an impromptu photobooth in our garage so that we could capture funny photos of the guests using her fancy fish-eye lens.
The results were marvelous.
Above: me, my father-in-law Clint & the birthday boy!
Above: Greg squares off with the prankster of our group, Grant.*
*All photobooth images courtesy of Martha Dahl at Essence Photography by Martha.
Welcome to the beautiful weekend! With Fall right around the corner (it starts officially on Monday!), I’m appreciating the last few days of summer while embracing the autumn season. After all, what’s not to love about the pumpkin flavor, pulling out the boot collection or leaves turning brilliant hues in their final defiance? Make the most of your remaining summer days, ladies & gents, & I’ll see you when the new season begins! Until then, enjoy my latest muse moments from around the web:
Next Wednesday marks our 4-year wedding anniversary! (Can we still be considered newlyweds?!) Greg & I won’t celebrate till next weekend, but it doesn’t mean we’re not feeling the romance now. After stumbling upon this beautiful wedding photo, I think that should we ever do a vow renewal, we’d have to get married in a library. We’re both book-lovers (so much so that we’re building a library right inside our house!) & this wedding picture simply sealed the deal.
These ornate shades have a little steampunk essence to them with some glam & mad scientist rolled in. I go through sunglasses like crazy since I wear them nearly every day (& maybe I’m a little klutzy…), so I think these will have to be the latest addition to my quickly depleting collection.
Ever struggle with the balance to look professional & stay fashionable? I love being a woman. & I love dressing the part. I like feminine cuts & button details & bright colors & lots of lace. I’m always on the search for inspiration for my work wardrobe so that I can bring in those girly touches & rock it like a boss.
With one final farewell to these glorious summer days, I’m reminiscing about our recent beach bound adventures & still dreaming of those days when I lounged around by the sea, absorbed in the latest Game of Thrones novel.
It’s that glorious time of the year again… We all get to dress up as our favorite characters or classic monsters or what-have-you & toast to All Hallows Eve. Greg & I host a big Halloween shindig every year & I am getting excited the closer we get to the celebration! I’ve got my costume planned…how about you?