Men’s Style: New Year’s Eve…

In my younger days, I was never a huge party animal.  I preferred a dinner party to a keg party.  And that hasn’t changed much as I have gotten older but……..

Every once in a while, I feel like dressing up and cutting loose.    Drink one too many.  Dance a little too wild.  Sing at the top of the lungs.  In these situations, a suit and tie won’t cut it.  You need something a bit more bold and daring especially if you are going to welcome the new year in it!  Sometimes a boy just needs to let his hair down and do a heavy dose of ……

Rocking Out Lead

I like to think of this look of what would happen if a young Ebenezer Scrooge opted to go wild for just one night and let out his inner rock star.  This outfit is where Charles Dickens and Iggy Pop collide — definitely a story for the books……

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[outfit: pants: burberry // moto vest: macys inc // shirt: karl largerfeld // hat: zara// bow tie: h&m// boots: dsquared]

To see the entire Men’s Style Holiday Edition, visit here, here, here & here.

[photo credit:  aubrie pick//styling: courtney lake]

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Cocktail Party Nibbles …Keep It Simple!

I have a habit of excess.  The more the merrier.  The bigger the better.  Honestly, it has become a problem from my closet to my pantry.  I love to indulge and to indulge those that  I love.  Parties tend to be exhaustive affairs with plates of food and drinks overflowing – it’s something I love doing so don’t think I am holding a grudge.  But this year, I am holding to my holiday promise of keeping it simple.  However, simple doesn’t mean boring!

I plan on making the three signature champagne cocktails I shared yesterday for my gathering, but otherwise I am going to keep things low-key when it comes to my nibbles.   I turned to my good friend and professional chef Alejandra Ramos of the famed food blog Always Order Dessert for some guidance.  Alejandra agreed with me that since guests are coming after their respective dinners, there was no need for heavy finger food.  “The drinks are the stars of the evening so make everything else easy, quick and delicious. NO COOKING!”  She suggested that I stick with the tried and true cheese plate….

Ramos Quote 1

Cocktail Cheese Plate

But Alejandra stressed that while the snacks can be simple, they shouldn’t be boring……

Ramos Quote 2

Taking her advice one step further, I wanted to up the “wow”factor and do something as easy but even tastier…..herbed truffled popcorn!  Aside from being super easy to make in large quantities, the popcorn is a delicious and unexpected pairing to accompany the cheese Alejandra recommended….

Herbed Popcorn

Herbed Truffle Popcorn Recipe

Last, Alejandra said I should think about presentation when it came to planning my menu…..

Ramos Quote 3

I interpreted Alejandra’s advice as why not have your drink garnish be an appetizer?  Rather than simply dropping one or two raspberries into my drink as a garnish, I skewered them onto rosemary to create fruit garnishes that could also double as an appetizer….

Raspberry and Rosemary Skewers

Thanks to Alejandra I am now fully prepared for my party and not nearly as stressed.  With these quick and simple tips, I can now focus on enjoying my party rather than worrying about running it.  Which in turn gives me more time to drink….and oh…hang out with my guests too!

Wish each of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

[Credits] Styling: Courtney Lake// Photography: Adrienne Aubry

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New Year’s Eve Entertaining With FOLK Magazine….

I think everyone should have a signature drink.  For myself, my usual “go to” drink is an extra dirty vodka martini with 3 olives.  Maybe it’s my inner James Bond trying to get free but this drink of choice has been my main stay for several years now and I don’t envision it being dethroned any time in the near future.

However, when a special occasion does arise…..say New Year’s Eve, I typically find myself with a flute of champagne in my hand.  But a whole evening of champagne can be a bit boring.  So when FOLK Magazine asked me to contribute a piece for their blog I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try out three new champagne cocktails my mixologist friends have been raving about….

Festive Champagne Cocktails

I am sharing three recipes for champagne cocktails that even your champagne purist friends will love.  Go over to FOLK Magazine and check them out!  Cheers!

Credits – Styling: Courtney Lake//Photography: Adrienne Aubry

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Year End Review…..And Looking Forward

So the last day of the decade is before me and as I sit and ponder what 2011 holds for me, let me take a quick stroll down memory lane….

January: I quit my rather stable and well-paying job.  For what? Because I hated it, I hated it with such a passion that I would have rather been intimate with a cactus than continue working there. Actually, I hated my boss…the job was fine.  My boss was wacko.  Sorry Boss Person…you are a good person outside of work, but in the four walls of our office, you were belittling, didn’t know the concept of work/life balance and at times just plain mean.

February – June: I floated around the house doing various projects to occupy that hole formerly occupied by work. I posted everything I did on my Facebook page and my brilliant friends told me that I should start a blog.

July: I started CourtneyOutLoud.wordpress.com.

August: I started culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA. On my first day I was harassed by an instructor and heard my neighbors having very loud sex.

September – November: Questioned my decision to attend culinary school all the while writing about all my experiences on the blog.

December: Quit culinary school after the epiphany that I love cooking, but not being a chef.  I love setting a beautiful table, cooking a nice meal and entertaining friends and family. Find me a business model that lets me do the without going $70K into debt thanks to schooling and allows me to pull in what I was making as a marketing manager, and I will gladly pay you $10K for your efforts!

So that brings me to the last day of the year. I typically don’t make new year’s resolutions because I am easily distracted.  I tend to like the new and the pretty rather than the old.  However, 2011 is going to be different from what I did in 2010, for starters I will be working part-time but also because I will be doing something I enjoy, blogging about design and cooking.  So for 2011, here are my top five goals:

2011 Resolutions

5) Continue to build relationships with my family and friends: I tend to be myopic in my scope when it comes to people in my life.  Out of sight many times meant out of mind but the blogging has taught me something different. I have met a vast number of people who I have never interacted with in person……but I think about them often. I care about their lives, their accomplishments and well-being.  If I can care that deeply about a group of people I never met, then I can definitely dig a little deeper and maintain connections with my existing friends and family.

4) Maintain me: No excuses. As a friend of mine says “Don’t let your big ‘but’ get in your way….” I need to take care of my needs on both a physical and intellectual level. On  a physical level, I need to seek out how to get my work out. Simply put, I want to take classes, in particular dance classes that will get me in active and in a group of like-minded people.  I also am going to give concerted effort to the vast array of workout DVDs I have in my collection.  On an intellectual level, I am going to take courses to continue my learning.  I am signing up for two courses through U of C Berkeley’s Extension program in their interior design certificate program.  If design is a passion, then I need to become educated on the topic matter.

3) To know my own self: I make no excuses that I have suffered from bouts of depression and at times anxiety. In 2011, I want to see what I can do to tackle these demons, because I honestly believe that they are a part (not the whole cause) of why I am not excelling to the level I believe I can achieve. So with that said, I am looking to enroll into ongoing counseling to address these issues head on.  I think it will be good for me to look at them head on …… these issues will no longer define my path in 2011.

2) Network: I need to network. I must network. I am going to network. By nature I am shy and the idea of approaching a random stranger and starting a dialogue scares the bejesus out of me. However, I need to do this if I am going to pursue a career in new media and design. I have decided that as part of this goal I need to attend three industry events and get business cards from 10 people at each event. Maybe its a bit ambitious to go from zero to 30, but I need to push.

1) Grow the blog: I love blogging. I honestly do. I love the feedback, sharing and the idea that I below to a greater community.  I started the blog as a way to share my journey through culinary school.  However, the blog helped me find a part of myself that I didn’t know existed.  The blog has given me focus, clarity and a sense of purpose; things I have lacked for a long time.  In 2011, I am looking to bring in more of my marketing and event background into the blog as well as challenge myself to do projects that scare (but also excite) me.

So there you have it…..my year in review as well as my year looking forward.  These last several months have been a whirlwind but I am honored that so many of you have decided to join me on this journey.  Thank you for your support and I am looking forward to sharing many more projects, mishaps, rants and the like in 2011.

Be safe, be well and prosper!

New Year’s Eve Dinner Party Table Setting

As promised, here is the “sister” table setting to the one I posted yesterday.  While yesterday’s table setting was a bit more relaxed perhaps even whimsical, this setting is more formal, hence why I think it suits a dinner party.  As I was putting the pieces together for this tablescape, it dawned on me that with all the crystal and white china, it looks like a wedding table……but then I thought isn’t New Year’s about joining the old and the new, so in a way it seemed appropriate.  But then I could simply be making stuff up to soothe my ego.

If you read the posting on the blog Living Livelier, you know that I tend to create back stories for each of the projects I do, even tablescapes.  I find creating these fictional characters and their fictional lives, help me better understand what the final product should look like. With this table setting, I imagined the party giver was my younger (imaginary) sister.  This sister is a little more traditional and reserved,  and while she appreciates my panache, she and her husband prefer something more traditional and classic in their home.  They enjoy scouring estate sales for silverware & crystal, adore mono-chromatic color schemes and appreciate timeless style.  She loves Max Mara, carries an understated Louis Vuitton bag (no monogram print for her) and reads Traditional Home on the weekend.  Her husband loves Ralph Lauren, owns a vintage Rolex and is saving up to buy a classic Porsche Boxster.

(Yeah, I sorta go overboard on this stuff….and to my real sister, I love you very much even if you aren’t this idealized version!!)

With all this in mind, I limited myself to shopping my existing pantry closet as well as the big discount stores (Dollar Tree, Marshalls & Ross Dress for Less) for anything extra.  In addition, I placed one extra restraint on myself in that I  could not go buy new flowers – I had to recycle the flowers I purchased for the original table setting.  Thinking a little outside the box when it came to my center piece, I think I was able to create a look that is classic and elegant….something that could be used for a dinner party, bridal shower or a formal lunch.

Breakdown:

Tablecloth: Custom made from fabric found on Fabric.com
Napkins: Crate & Barrel Outlet
Napkin Rings: Pottery Barn (part of their catering set they now sell)
Charger Plates: Ikea
Plates: Dollar Store
Crystal Goblets: Waterford Crystal (given to us by The Partner’s parents)
Wine Glasses: Ross Dress for Less
Centerpiece: It is a coffee filter wreath I made for $3 and tucked flowers into
Flower Vases: Crystal shot glasses – Ross Dress for Less
Crystal Candy Pots: Marshalls
Party Favor Bowls: Both sets of crystal bowls are from Ross Dress for Less ($2.99 each)
Party Poppers: Mix of homemade using paper towel rolls store-bought (Dollar Store)
Crystal Candlesticks: Pieces I have picked up from antique marts and discount stores – none over $10
Flatware: Mix of mother of pearl from eBay and everyday flatware from Costco
Champagne Bucket: CB2
Flowers: Recycled them from the other table…just cut them lower to fit the shot glasses & any leftovers got tucked into the wreath.

Hope this gave you inspiration to set your own fantastic holiday table!