Effortless Entertaining: St. Patrick’s Day with Style

Hello, La Dolce Vita readers!  Erin from Fig + Cotton here with your roadmap to a chic, nontraditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner party.  If you are like me, having a few wonderful friends over for a beautiful dinner beats fighting the crowds of drunken faux Irishmen on St. Paddy’s Day.  I love the idea of the holiday, and I think it can definitely translate into an elegant and modern affair…all effortlessly, of course!
1/ A dinner party is only as successful as the fun its guests are having, but the food is a close second.  Here is a great menu for your soiree.


2/ What is St. Paddy’s Day without whiskey?  Well, I think that is what my husband would ask, at least.  To keep the men happy, put together a quick whiskey bar.  This does NOT need to be elaborate; they are dudes, after all. All you need is 3-4 different whiskey varietals (at least one Irish!), multiple highball or larger shot glasses, and some cute signs giving them a little information on each.  Here is some great inspiration.


3/ Ah, flowers.  While I love a white palette for dishes and linens (see #5 below), flowers are where then fun is for me.  For this dinner, think lots of greens (obviously).  I love this modern take on a centerpiece using items you can find in your backyard or in the greenery “filler” section of the supermarket floral department.  If you are thinking you want something a bit more classic, look here for inspiration.


4/ Now, so you won’t get pinched (who thought of that anyhow??), you need some green in your party hostess outfit.  Since I like to keep my wardrobe simple and comfortable when I am entertaining, I would throw on some comfortable flats in a perfect hue and pair them with a black shift or distressed skinny jeans.  I adore these flats from Nordstrom.


5/ I usually entertain with white dishes and linens, but I do like to throw in a pop of color when I can. This place setting inspiration is an easy way to keep your table clean and elegant while bringing in the color of the holiday.


6/ For another easy pop of green, try simple green place cards.  These are precious and very easy to recreate.  All you need is some green card stock and a white pen!


7/ For dessert, you don’t need to go green. This indulgent Irish cream bread pudding will be the perfect finishing touch to your evening!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Effortless Entertaining: Beautiful Blooms

Hello!  It is Erin from Fig + Cotton, and I am here today to share my recipe for gorgeous floral arrangements on a budget. Beautiful arrangements — for your home or for your soirees — need not be fussy or expensive.   I tend to lean towards shades of white and green, but your choices are endless. A quick trip to your local supermarket — everywhere from Costco to Whole Foods — can easily provide you with drool-worthy arrangements in no time.  This post will give you five no-fail tips on how to do just that.

When perusing the floral department in your local supermarket, look for blooms that are in a similar color palette.  You can use flowers ranging in price, but keeping them in the same hue will give your arrangements a look of luxury.

Think outside the box when choosing what to arrange your blooms in once you get them home.  I love using my collection of mercury glass candle holders (below), burlap-wrapped vases, mint julep cups, or vintage milk glass.  Think silver tea pots, colorful canisters, pretty bowls, compotes, your favorite stemware, and even candle holders of all sizes and shapes.  This simple tip can add a lot of interest to your simpler budget blooms.

Choosing blooms in varying sizes, heights, and shapes helps keep it interesting.  Try a non-traditional flower — such as a billy ball or spider mum — or an unfamiliar flower that is locally grown.  Or choose just one high-dollar bloom — such as a peony — among some less expensive flowers to get more bang for your buck.  Flowers of all shapes and sizes grow right along side each other in beautiful gardens and landscapes, so keep that in mind when making your selections.

I love starting with big hydrangeas.  I often begin with white hydrangeas then add in white roses inside and around the hydrangeas.  Beginning with the largest blooms, grounds your arrangement.  From there, keep moving on to the next bloom until you are ready for your small greenery and “filler.”

With such classic blooms like roses and hydrangeas, adding a bit of whimsy to your arrangements can be done through filler greenery.  In the arrangement below, Bells of Ireland fit the bill beautifully.  In addition, hydrangeas have large, dark green leaves that were a perfect contrast to the white petals.  Eucalyptus, aspidistra leaves, heather, holly, banana leaves, myrtle, hypericum, and ferns are great fillers as well.  Herbs such as rosemary and lavender can also add something very special for a low cost.

  • Change out your water in your vase regularly.  When the water becomes cloudy, switch it out.
  • Add a few drops of bleach in each vase to keep the bacteria from taking over.
  • Don’t be afraid to “clean up” your arrangements so that they last longer.  I frequently go through a pull out blooms that are not holding up well and rearrange the existing blooms.
  • Make sure you trim all your stems before placing them in the vase.
  • In a pinch, use all identical blooms.  Sometimes the most beautiful arrangements are the simplest.
  • Strip off all leaves that will fall below the water line.  This helps keeps the water fresher longer as well.
  • Use odd numbers in your arrangements.
  • Look around your yard.  Magnolia branches and wildflowers can make the most inspiring arrangements.



Effortless Entertaining: An Ideal Holiday Meal

Hello, La Dolce Vita readers! Erin from Fig + Cotton here today for your holiday dinner edition of Effortless Entertaining!

I don’t know about you, but with all the gift shopping, card mailing, and party going, sometimes the holiday meal can be left to the wayside for me.  Even though I truly love nothing more than cooking for my friends and family, the stress of putting it all together can be somewhat daunting!  I am here to help.

1/ The best way (well at least in my family) to de-stress is with a yummy cocktail.  I LOVE this simple white sangria from from dear friend, Katie of Spray Paint and Chardonnay.  And, it is quite beautiful to boot!

2/ I love an appetizer that I can place on the counter or coffee table and leave unattended for a while.  Holiday gatherings can be stressful for a hostess, and placing a delicious meat and cheese platter out when your guests start to arrive is the perfect solution.

3/ Holiday tables need not be fussy.  I adore a perfectly set table just as much as the next gal, but there is something so comforting for my guests when the table decor is minimum and casual.  Now, this doesn’t mean that my table won’t be beautiful and memorable.  I love these rolled napkins donned with fragrant rosemary and cinnamon.  I will bet your guests will too!

4/ Start your meal with a gorgeous winter salad.  This beet beauty is the perfect start to any meal.

5/ Ah, beef tenderloin.  Even though this cut of meat is fairly pricey, it could not be easier to cook.  Coat it with a simple rub and stick it in the oven.  Seriously, that is it. Do yourself – and your family – a favor and make this the star of your holiday dinner!

6/ Roasted vegetables are my favorite side, especially during colder months.  This roasted asparagus recipe is definitely a winner.

7/ What is a holiday meal without something just sinfully delicious.  This creamy Potato Gratin fits the bill, and it is even better the next day.

8/ Now onto dessert.  Since this is for a special occasion, a souffle always makes everyone feel like you went the extra mile.  However, it can be our little secret on how easy this Chocolate Souffle really is.  I won’t tell anyone.

9/ Finally, send your guests home with a little treat.  Keep it simple.  No need to bake, package, or DIY…give them something they will use…mini bottles of bubbly!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with love and laughter!  See you in 2015!



Effortless Entertaining: Thanksgiving Edition

Hello, La Dolce Vita readers and happy fall!  Erin of Fig + Cotton here with a recipe for an effortless — but also gorgeous and memorable — Thanksgiving.

This is the first year for Mat and me to host Thanksgiving in our home, and I could not be more excited.  I hope these tips help you transform your holiday into one for the memory books…without being completely overwhelmed!

1 /  The centerpiece for most Thanksgiving dinners is the bird.  This will be my very first time to cook a turkey, and this recipe looks like a winner.

2 / Never forget the kids table.  I can’t wait to make some fun (and simple) personalized place mats for Rex and his cousins.  Here is some fun inspiration!

3 / Our Thanksgiving holiday is always pretty casual, as far as attire.  I think this outfit of skinny jeans (a little stretch never hurt anyone), a button down, and a comfy cardigan is a winning combination.  For more fashion inspiration, visit Fig + Cotton’s Pinterest page.

4 / For your centerpiece, chose uncomplicated florals in neutral colors.  This photo is actually from a Thanksgiving post coming soon on Fig + Cotton, and I simply cut some pretty magnolia leaves from the neighborhood and placed them in a big jar for a gorgeous — and free — centerpiece.

5 / Elegant and rustic table settings are my favorite.  Since we are no-fuss family, I love the simple white linens, rosemary, and twine-wrapped flatware for this year.

6 / Oh, the sides.  I do love a turkey, but I really think the sides are my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.  Try this Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash recipe, my aunt’s savory cornbread dressing, and this decadent macaroni and cheese to round out your meal.

7 / Last Thanksgiving, I wrote about some last minute holiday ideas.  These artichoke place cards are still some of my favorite.

8 / I don’t know about you, but in the Sanders/Hodges household, but we do like a good bottle of wine with dinner.  I am a Rose fan, and I love the way a dry rose pairs with turkey.  Here are some fun suggestions.

9 / Oh, and how can we forget dessert.  Williams Sonoma lays out their pics for the perfect Thanksgiving pies.  You can find some winners here.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and I will see you next month!

Effortless Entertaining: Tips for a Stress-Free Dinner Party

It’s Erin from Fig + Cotton with some more Effortless Entertaining tips!  Today, we are tackling the dinner party.  I love a good dinner party, but preparing food and fun for more than my little family can sometimes be daunting.  Over the years, I have come up with some pretty good go-tos on throwing a good gathering.

Here are my tips for a stress-free dinner party.

How To Host a Magazine-Worthy Dinner Party

Make a plan

  1. Be prepared and organized.  I go a bit overboard on this front, but just jotting down your menu, making of list of what needs to be done on what day and time (think “Friday PM: set table, grocery shop”), and making a grocery list well in advance will make your party prep go much smoother.
  2. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Set your table the night before, and make sure your grocery run is done the day before the party.  Nothing is worse than running around to the butcher, Whole Foods, and the flower market hours before your guests arrive.
  3. Plan to have the kids out of the house, if you can.  I know this may sound extreme, but you will thank me once your parents come get the kiddos for a sleep over.  You will be so much more relaxed.
  4. Ask your guests about any allergies or food aversions.  Most hosts forget this step, but it will make things much easier if you know in advance.
  5. Send out an invitation.  I love a good paper invitation, but a digital invitation (Paperless Post and Evite are great resources) can just as good in a pinch!  Sending something a bit more than a regular email makes your guest feel special.
  6. Less is more.  Less food choices, less fuss on the table, less stress for the you.  But, where wine is concerned, more is more.  That is important to remember while shopping.
  7. Hostess closet.  Like I have said before, a well-stocked “hostess closet” can cut down on all of your entertaining planning.  Keep pretty linens and dishware at an arm’s length, so you aren’t stressing about each place setting. See this post here where I outline what I keep in mine!
Plan the menu
  1. Keep it simple.  Simple, beautiful food is always a hit.  You don’t need to create a super fancy, four course meal for people to enjoy themselves.  Keep it classic and simple, and they will be happy and comfortable.
  2. Do what you know.  Don’t use a dinner party as an excuse to try something new.  Cook what you love to cook.  Use that knock out recipe your husband requests every year for his birthday.  If you are at ease cooking it, you will be at ease while people are eating it!
  3. Don’t try to do it all.  Pick up sides from your specialty store, a cheese plate for a quick appetizer, or dessert from your local bakery.  You don’t have to make each and every piece of your dinner party meal.  No one will know…or if you invited the right people, they won’t care.
  4. Pick at least one item that you can throw in the oven.  Whether it be a roasted tenderloin, baked mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables, pick at least one dish where you are hands off.
  5. Make ahead moments.  Run through your recipes a few days ahead and see if you can find any “make ahead moments” where you can cut down your day-of time in the kitchen.  For example, you can chop veggies or brown bacon (just keep the fat!) the day before for easy dish assembly.
  6. Here’s a good idea of a winning dinner party meal:
salad  –  chicken  –  brussels sprouts  –  gratin  –  pie (store-bought!)
Remember that friends are the focus, not the food
  1. A relaxed host is the best host.  Don’t stress over dinner.  Your guests are the stars of your dinner party.
  2. Jump out of the kitchen. Make sure you are pretty much out of the kitchen when they arrive, so you can meet them at the door with a glass of bubbly.
  3. Set the party mood.  Light your favorite candle, turn down the lights, and put on some great music.
The Dos and Don'ts of Hosting a Dinner Party

I hope these tips help you create a lovely stress-free dinner party soon!  For more recipes and entertaining inspiration, visit Fig + Cotton or Fig + Cotton on Pinterest.