Food has to obviuosly be one of the largest staples to any shindig whether big or small. With all of the other preperations included in party planning slaving over a hot stove can be the last thing you want to do before your event gets underway. Take the  hassle out of food prep and wow party goers at the same time with these 4 simple DIY food stations thst your guestts  will be sure to love.

Bagel Station

 Build-Your-Own Bagel Station

Gathering for brunch? A bagel bar with lots of options and all the fixings ensures everyone is a happy camper.

You’ll Need: Fresh, day-of bagels; a variety of cream cheeses; thinly sliced veggies (tomatoes, radishes, onions, cucumbers); capers; fresh herbs (dill, chives, basil); smoked salmon; and coarse sea salt (to sprinkle over the vegetables).

Waffle Bar

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Fluffy, soft scrumptious treats that everyone loves to each. There are so many ways you can have make your waffle bar lovely. 

You Will Need. Different waffle flavors to tons of topping options. Add fresh fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, and peaches. Sweet toppimgs like sprinkles, chocolate chips, and whipped cream. Using cute containers to display them in which really bring the waffle bar to life. Adding a variety of lovely flavored syrups will really be the cherry on top for this brunch delight.

Make Your Own Taco Station

Make-Your-Own Taco Table

A taco bar is one of the easiest ways to feed a large group of people and keep it super casual and fun. It works just as well for a daytime or dinnertime gathering!

You’ll Need: Taco shells, proteins (skirt steak, chicken, shrimp, etc.), vegetarian options (roasted veggies and beans), different salsas, queso, guacamole, chopped vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, radishes), sour cream, chopped cilantro, and sliced limes.

 

Bruschetta Bar

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Want to make your spread seem utterly bountiful, without committing to hour-long preparations? Stock up on all sorts of bruschetta toppings, arrange in the manner of an Italian feast, and watch everyone go to town. Easy peasy.

You’ll Need: Grilled bread, lots of chopped vegetables (tomatoes, artichokes, arugula, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, etc.), various meats (prosciutto and salami) and cheese (burrata, ricotta, goat cheese), a variety of sauces (basil vinaigrette, red pepper sauce, tomato confit, pea pesto, etc.), lots of small bowls, and small plates.

DIY Food Stations are a great way for guests to customize party food to their personal tastes. So try out these simple party food fixes for your next event.

Happy Hosting,

Cocoa

 

 Summer has long been gone but hosting never stops. Winter is jam packed with events and the holidays aren’t the only reason to celebrate. A good host knows that a great cockail is the staple to any celebration so ee’ve put together this list of amazing winter cocktails that you just have to try!

 

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Pomegranate Mimosa

Sweet and slightly tart, these ruby-red mimosas are classy for any party.
TOTAL TIME: 
PREP: 
SERVES: 4
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 c. sweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1 bottle champagne
  • Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
DIRECTIONS
 In champagne flutes, fill with 1/4 cup sweetened pomegranate juice and top off with champagne. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

 

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Holiday Spice Mulled Wine

TOTAL TIME: 
PREP: 
SERVES: 4
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle Entwine Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur, optional)
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Star anise, oranges, lemons, and cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)
DIRECTIONS
Combine wine, honey, cider, orange liqueur, sliced fruit, cloves, and cinnamon sticks to a sauce pan and heat to medium high heat. Once simmering, reduce to medium-low heat and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.Strain and serve, garnished with more fruit, star anise, and cinnamon sticks if desired.Enjoy!
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Apple Cranberry Moscow Mule

Prep time: 0:
Total time:  0:
Serves: 2
A gingery “Mexican” Mule updated with the Autumnal flavors of apple and cranberry!
INGREDIENTS
  • ice
  • 4 ounces Tequila
  • ¼ cup cranberry juice
  • ½ cup sparkling apple juice
  • 2 ginger beers
  • fresh cranberries for garnish
DIRECTIONS
Fill two large glasses with ice. Add the Tequila and cranberry juice. Add the sparkling apple juice and then fill the rest of the way with the ginger beer. Stir gently to combine and serve immediately.
Cranberry And Lime Margaritas

Cranberry Lime Margarita

TOTAL TIME: 
PREP: 
SERVES: 4

INGREDIENTS

3 cups cranberries
1 cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup agave
3 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 1/2 cups Tequila
1 cup orange liqueur – Triple Sec
Ice
Extra cranberries for decor
DIRECTIONS
 In a large pot bring cranberries, water, lemon juice and agave to a boil until all the cranberries have swelled and burst. Then blend them. Put the cranberry mixture through a strainer twice to make sure you only get the juice and no chunks! Combine homemade cranberry juice, cranberry juice cocktail, lime juice, tequila, and orange liqueur. Add ice and pour into a salt rimmed glass.
Garnish with extra cranberries and slices of lime and ENJOY!

SPICE ME UP

TOTAL TIME: 
PREP: 
SERVES: 1 

INGREDIENT

2 oz bourbon
.5 oz allspice dram
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
Angostura bitters

DIRECTIONS 

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake well. Double strain into a rocks glass with a big ice cube. Garnish with a lemon segment on top of the ice cube.

 

Step #1 Set the Guest List Early. Send out invites at least three to four weeks in advance. Give longer notice for more formal affairs and more popular dates like New Year’s Eve.

Step #2 Don’t Leave the Details to the Last Minute. Create your “to do” list at least a week in advance including the menu, drinks and quantities, decorations, and party events.

Step #3 Tidy Up. The day of the party, get the public areas of the house tidied up and don’t forget that the bathroom will need to be well stocked with fresh hand towels and the like. If you’re using a bedroom as coat closet, make sure it’s presentable. Keep the lights off and doors closed to the rest of the house to signal to your guests they are off limits.

 Step #4 Set the Ambiance. Turn off the overhead lightsLet lamps, sconces, candles and sparkling conversation illuminate the party.

 

Step #5 Sort Cocktails and Drinks: As long as you have drinks ready as guests arrive  the party will start well. Give options but not too many choices. Serve one cocktail. Bourbon and cider are nice at this time of year, plus champagne and wine.

Pro Tip: To keep bartending simple, you can pick a drink of the night, set the fixings out on the bar along with the recipe/directions, and let the guests play bartender.

Step #6 Set Up a Simple Spread. “Appetizer parties are definitely the easiest. A great cheese plate goes a long way. A party staple and one of the most chicest, easiest appetizers to asemble. Just grab a few cheese options, some italian meats, some olives and voila instant hit.

Pro Tip: Let guests help themselves. A dinner party is more fun to throw and attend when it’s buffet style. People can cater to their own tastes and eat on their own time. Plus you can mingle and mix it up. Just be sure to label the foods — people like to know what they’re eating.

Step #7 Give Guests an Assignment. One sure-fire way to get people mingling is to give them assignments, like having one person check on everybody’s drink or having someone hand-pass hors d’oeuvres. People may be shy and your task will give them an excuse to talk to strangers.

 

Step #8 Care less. Entertain more. Enjoy the moment, you only get now once!

Happy Hosting,

Cocoa

14 Flavor-Packed Fruit Infused Water Recipes

 Strawberry Mint Water

Put this fruity water in a pitcher at your next party, or fill up a water bottle for the next time you hit the gym. Simply slice a few berries and drop in a few mint leaves. Expert tip: Tear the leaves before you add them to the mix to release even more robust flavor.

 

14 Flavor-Packed Fruit Infused Water Recipes

 Citrus Mint Water

This recipe features thick slices of antioxidant-rich grapefruit. Snack on the slices while you hydrate and you’ll get a dose of immunity-boosting lycopene. Lemon rounds out the citrusy taste, while mint and cucumber deliver a note of freshness.

 

14 Flavor-Packed Fruit Infused Water Recipes 

Mojito Water

Come happy hour, nix the alcohol and opt for this mojito water instead. Mint and plenty of lime (the more, the better!) team up for a light and tart beverage that won’t leave you with a hangover.

 

14 Flavor-Packed Fruit Infused Water Recipes

Rainbow Citrus Water

For this recipe, you can add as many different types of citrus as you please. (Think: Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes!) The result: A gorgeous spectrum of color filling your glass to the brim.

 

Strawberry, Basil & Cucumber Water

This recipe includes 3 basil leaves, roughly chopped, 1 strawberry, sliced, 3-5 slices of cucumber, Ice and Water. Combine all the ingredients in a large glass, and let sit for at least 5 minutes before enjoying.

Raspberry & Lemon Water

Add 2 cups organic raspberrie, 8 cups spring or filtered water, 1 large organic lemon, cut into half-inch slices,  1 gallon clean glass jar with lid 1. Place raspberries into the bottom of your jar. Add the dates, then layer the lemon slices on top. Pour water into jar and place lid on top. Place water into the refrigerator and let infuse for 1 hour.

 

Pineapple & Ginger Water

1 cup fresh pineapple pieces (crushed for a sweeter taste/ 1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced. 2 quarts filtered or spring water/  Add the pineapple and ginger to a 64-ounce mason jar or pitcher. Pour the water over top and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice

Who doesn’t love wine. Wine conossieurs everywhere can now rejoice. FOOD & WINE Magazine has put together this expansive list of 50 affordable wines all under $20. So whether it’s for your next dinner party or simply a night in grab a bottle and pour it up.

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon

4. Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

The H3 stands for Horse Heaven Hills, the remote Washington State region where the grapes for this perennially impressive value red are grown. It’s substantial, with ripe black cherry fruit and substantial but streamlined tannins—a great steak wine for less than the price of a great steak, in fact.

Foxglove Central Coast Chardonnay

5. Foxglove Central Coast Chardonnay ($17)

Brothers Bob and Jim Varner made their name with high-end, single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs before branching out under their Foxglove label to more affordable offerings. This Edna Valley offering always overdelivers, and is full of vivid mango and citrus fruit.

 

Hess Select North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

6. Hess Select North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($17)

Although most of the great wines of the world come from specific vineyards, most of the great affordable wines of the world are a blend of grapes from many different sites—as is the case with Hess’s spicy, black cherry–rich Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon

7. J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

One of the biggest growers in the Central Coast, the Lohr family farms more than 3,600 acres of vines in Monterey County and Paso Robles. The latter vineyards are the primary source for this finely made, incredibly reliable red. It hews to a a crowd-pleasing style, with sweet American oak accents and plenty of aromatic, juicy cherry fruit.

 

Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve California Chardonnay

8. Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve California Chardonnay ($14)

Here are two things to know about Kendall Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay: More than two million cases are made each year, and every single grape that goes into those bottles comes from vineyards owned by Kendall Jackson. (This is why, when you take a tour of the Kendall Jackson vineyards, you do it by helicopter.) Vineyard ownership means control over viticultural practices, and that’s why this wine—despite its vast production—remains delicious: rich but finely focused, its flavors suggesting ripe mangoes and pears.

 

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier ($15)

9. Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier ($15)

Year in and year out, this is one of California’s top wine values. Winemaker Michael Beaulac blends Chenin from the Clarksburg region with Viognier from Lodi, ages it in stainless steel to retain its freshness, and comes up with a white that tingles on the tongue, with vibrant mandarin orange and melon flavors.

 

Rancho Zabaco Heritage Vines Sonoma County Zinfandel

10. Rancho Zabaco Heritage Vines Sonoma County Zinfandel ($14)

Rancho Zabaco is one of many labels owned by Gallo. The company also owns a vast range of vineyards, including many long-planted to Zinfandel. Its Heritage Vines Zinfandel takes advantage of the old vines’ intensity of flavor, and while it may not be as inexpensive as Gallo Hearty Burgundy was in the 1970s, it’s still a steal.

 

Ravenswood Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel ($14)

11. Ravenswood Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel ($14)

Not so long ago, Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson remarked that when he started out, his wines were considered high-alcohol. These days, Ravenswood’s Zinfandels seem positively graceful compared to some of the galumphing Zin-monsters out there—and that’s why we still love them. Of particular note is its Lodi Zinfandel, a shade pricier than the company’s ubiquitous Vintners Blend, but with a depth of blackberry richness that’s well worth the few extra dollars.

 

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($16)

12. Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($16)

Though no longer owned by the Mondavi family, this is still one of Napa Valley’s defining estates, producing wines ranging from its age-worthy Reserve Cabernet to its citrus-scented Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. Robert Mondavi coined the term “Fumé Blanc” for his Sauvignon Blanc wines in 1968 (French Pouilly-Fumés are made from Sauvignon Blanc), and winemaker Genevieve Janssens still uses French techniques—partial fermentation in barrel, the addition of a touch of Sémillon—to add complexity to this zesty white.

 

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($19)

14. La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($19)

La Crema makes a range of subtly expressive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, but the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, one of the winery’s most widely available bottlings, is also one of its best. It’s round and rich, with ripe pear and caramel-vanilla flavors.

 

Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

15. Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

While Cloudy Bay is still the most famous Sauvignon Blanc made in New Zealand, the much larger producer Brancott Vineyards deserves recognition, too. With properties in regions on both the North Island (Gisborne and Hawkes Bay) and the South Island (Marlborough), Brancott turns out a broad range of wines, including this compulsively drinkable Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

16. Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($15)

Grapefruity and intense, with a distinctive peppery-lemon grass edge, this is classic New Zealand Sauvignon from one of the region’s top family-owned producers (Theo, Alex and Marcel Giesen founded it in 1981, after immigrating to New Zealand from their native Germany.)

 

Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon

Champagne wishes, Cavier dreams, Beer budget? No Problem. We’ve put together an amazing list of champagne favorites that anyone can grab, because these bottles are only $30 or less! Yes you can pop bottles without breaking the bank and for my budget concious we’ve put them in order from lowest to highest.

1.Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut

Spain

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$8.99

Another region of the world that shouldn’t be ignored is Spain, and Freixenet offers a quality taste with a terrific value. Their Carta Nevada Brut is refreshing, light and slightly sweet with fruit and vanilla flavors.

 

2.Poema Brut Rosé Cava

Spain

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$12.99

Rosé, like prosecco, might not be a traditional wedding beverage but this Spanish cava’s tasty aromas of strawberry, raspberry and rose petals, not to mention to pretty color, make it worth including.

 

3.Korbel Chardonnay Champagne

Sonoma Valley, California

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$14.00

The drinkable sparkling wine combines the flavors or apple and pear with warm, buttery flavors. It’s the kind of champagne wine lovers love to drink because it blends champagne with a traditional table wine.

 

4.Gruet Blanc de Blancs

New Mexico

  • gruetblancdeblancsbshrjpg_91$15.99

    New Mexico isn’t the first place that comes to mind when I think of great wine states, but Gruet Winery has been getting some good buzz lately, particularly for this affordable sparking wine. Its mature taste has a core of pear, apple and tropical fruit.

    5.Martini Prosecco

    Veneto, Italy

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    $16.99

    Most people don’t think of prosecco as an option for wedding toasts, but it is a lovely, gently sparkling wine. This is a drinkable clean, crisp and light sparkler with a mix of fruity peach and apple.

6.Chandon Sweet Star

California

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$21.99

My absolute favorite Champagne on the market right now. Sweet Star is a sophisticated and vibrant sparkling wine that enlivens all occasions. Sweet Star pops with aromas of bright peach, nectarine, grapefruit and tropical fruits complimented by floral notes. The fruit aromas extend onto the generous palate which is rich and sweet but with a distinctive, refreshing acidity that brightens the mouthfeel. You can find this bottle for as low as $19.99 but I tend to find around $21 to be the average price.

 

7. Roederer Estate Brut

Anderson Valley, California

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$21.99

This delicious California sparkler starts off toasty and nutty, then reveals flavors of citrus, green apple, and pear. Incidentally, Roederer is also the same company who produces the champagne of choice for celebrities, Cristal, making this a rock-star champagne for a rock-bottom price.

 

8. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige

Napa Valley, California

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$22.00

A crisp, dry sparkling wine that combines the flavors of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mumm Napa exudes flavors of creamy vanilla, citrus and melon, and it finishes off rich and smooth. It also pairs well with all types of dishes.

9. Argyle Brut 2011

Oregon

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$27.00

One of the most respected sparkling wines in this country, this champagne features coveted small bubbles and hints of spice, citrus blossoms and toasted brioche. A sophisticated sparkling wine, it’s fruity with only a hint of sweetness.

 

10. Belaire Rose

France

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$29.99

Feeling like a boss? Go for Belaire. Made popular by rap artist’s and clubs alike this bottle is definitely a top tier option and it only costs $30. This rosé is handcrafted from a blend of three grapes. Aromas of fresh strawberry and blackcurrant, an elegant effervescence, and a striking deep pink color combine to make Belaire Rosé a uniquely exquisite experience, with a perfect harmony of aroma, taste, body, and finish.

So live it up, Do it up. Now there is no excuse.
Happy Bottle Popping,
Cocoa 

Trend #1 Retro Color Palettes 

Don’t call it a come back! Muted color palettes like dust pink and sage were all the rage in tthe 50’s and 60’s. From exterior paint, to interior walls and everything in between retro colors along with all things vintage are making their way back around to our homes and our hearts.

Trend #2 Velvet Furnishings

Before vintage was vintage velvet was created in the Far East around the 13th century. Becoming immensely popular during the Italian Renaissance among royals there’s no wonder that this fabric is so clasically timeless. Velvet looks and feels super luxurious, giving any room a glamourous upgrade, so it’s a trend we are loving for 2018.

Trend #3 Agate Wallpaper

 Everyone is going crazy for crystals and stones in the age of the Aquarius. So it’s no shock to us that geodades and agate are making thier way into home decor from paper weights to wall paper. Specifically, these beautiful agate patterns are creating a unique splash in the homes of nature lovers everywhere. To be quite honest you don’t even have to love nature, these wall paper patterns are just plain cool. Want to give your walls a unique flair try these wallpapers on for size.

Trend #4 Brass Accents

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Move over metallics, Brass is making a solid statement in 2018!  Brass originally suited for hardware started making it’s way back into homes as a much needed breakaway from traditional sterling silver fixtures. Now home decor designers are using Brass for everything from door knobs to light fixtures, to tables and chairs this trend is nothng less than solid gold.

Trend # 5 Bold Prints 

New year, New me, 2018 is all about being bold and brilliant! Prints have a way of making anything stand out.  Brighten up any room when you add a bold print into the mix. Whetther it’s an arm chair or a patterned wall paper using a print will turn your home decor from drab to fab.

Try out some of these amazing trends to give your home a fresh new take in 2018

Happy Home Styling,

Cocoa