Inspiring Creativity Through Celebration

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2011 29 September

Moving on up

Hey hotties, I’ve decided to do you a favor.
All my entertaining content is going to be ported over to
(You didn’t like visiting two sites anyway, I could tell.)
((It’s not your fault! I am learning too!))

The new site is launching next Monday.

I’ll turn this into a redirect after that time.

Don’t worry!
I’ll let you know a few more times before it happens.
I’ll still be illustrating the entertaining tips!
I’ll still be updating.
Just from one spot.

Oh! And although I’ll still update @HJEntertains on Twitter with entertaining tips, you can just follow @helenjane for everything in one place, entertaining tips and everything HJ.

Promise, I’m saving you time because I like you.

Comment happily

Posted in | Updates

2011 20 September

Avoiding Fear of Entertaining

Strawberry loveMost reluctance around entertaining is based around fear. It’s terrifying to attempt new things in front of guests. Even scarier when it’s about entertaining. You’re doing it wrong in public!

I sure know that fear.
Fear of doing it wrong.
Fear that that twenty dollar cheese you just invested in is Gross and Wrong and Embarassing and not only did you waste your money, you have put your shameful ignorance on display.
Fear that they’ll talk about you.

I hear you sister.
But you’re wrong.

So how do you get over it to bold and fearless entertaining?
I take one of three routes to overcome my fear of entertaining (FOE).


If you are reading this on the internet, you have access to a great deal of humanity’s collective wisdom. You can find video tutorials on how to make gumbo, detailed instructions on how to give a toast and illustrated guides on how to open a bottle of wine all over this internet. Do it.


Don’t know how to open a bottle of wine? Research high quality screw tops or boxed wines. Done and done. Relying on tried and true recipes instead of the latest culinary fad gets you quickly on your way. Find ready made foods, glass soda bottles and great napkins to help shore up your confidence. Find entertaining mentors that know good shortcuts. (And remember: We’re all faking it in some way or another.)


I’ve found that my favorite (and most successful!) approach is to say, “I have no idea how to do [insert task here].” You’d be surprised how a simple admission of what you don’t know can break down barriers you didn’t even know were standing between you and your guests.

Really. What would your reacction be to a friend that admitted that?
Anger? Mockery? Highly doubtful.

You’re a reasonable sort, I can tell your reaction would be one of caring and helpfulness.
(Just like your friends.)

Have any latent fears keeping you from having people over to your home?
Let’s bust through that FOE together!


Posted in | Parties, Tips Tagged , |

2011 16 September

Fast and Cheap, Fast and Good


You are as rushed as I am, I can tell.
So let’s plan ahead.

The easiest way to throw a party in a wee amount of time is to have planned ahead. This means, the last time you made a lasagna, you made two.

Or the last time you made macaroni and cheese, you made three and froze two.

But what if we’re behind the gun, people are coming over tonight and we have a full day of work ahead of us?

What’s that they say about having two of the three?

Fast, cheap or good?

That applies here.
Since we’re only playing with Fast here, I’ve put together two dinner party menus.

Fast and cheap

If someone else is making this food, you can’t go wrong with a pizza party. Buy premade salad bags and turn it into a right fancy affair.

However, if you’re looking for a homier vibe, this is when we turn to the broke-ass foods of our childhood, the canned foods and the basics.

Fast and cheap menu
Black bean soup
Cheese quesadillas with all the fixins
Taco bar
Red rice (RED RICE)

Get some Tecate, lemons and limes (or Jarritos!) and you’re good to go.

Fast and good

Oh, I love this category. We can buy quality pre-made items.
Order in!

Takeout is my savior here, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, just call that restaurant and have them deliver. Your favorite restaurant probably offers take out.
Pick it up. It’s okay! They’ve got it!

If you’re not that adventurous, you can assemble a fancy respectable dinner out of meats, cheeses and fancy breads.

Olives and pickled onions round out the veggie portion.

Fast and cheap.
Fast and good.

You have this one.

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Posted in | Parties, Tips Tagged , , |

2011 13 September

Quick and delicious cheese plates

It’s September, or as I like to call it, “the perfect cheese platter time of the year.” I know, it’s a mouthful, but that’s just how I feel about September and cheese.

Since September is also the holy-goat-we’re-so-flipping-busy time of year, cheese platters are good for quick entertaining. Cutting all those summer veggies can be mighty tedious. It’s a heck of a lot quicker to slap three cheeses on a platter and call it a day.

So how do you maximize your cheese plate chances of success?
You taste, you find your favorites and you learn about these three guidelines.

1. Most cheeses come from one of 4 categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue.
(And if you just giggled when you read that list, welcome to my brain.)

You can pick one cheese from every group and your speedy cheese plate appetizer wins.
You can also pick a selection of cheeses from one category for comparison’s sake (all soft cheeses! all blue cheeses… on second thought, all blue cheeses is too much for most cheese enthusiasts).

2. Cheese comes from milk of the holy animal trinity: sheep, cow and goat.
Some cheeses are blends of different animal milks. Some are straight up sheep’s milk, cow’s milk, etc.

You can organize your platter by animal (e.g. a selection of cow’s milk cheeses). Or mix it up by offering one of all three.

3. You can find cheese made in most parts of the world. Take a tip from Cheesewhizzes and organize your plate by country of origin. (Spanish cheeses [cheethes]! Italian cheese! Swiss!)

Bonus quick cheese plate tips:

  • Generally, you want no more than five cheeses — let’s not fatigue our palates.
  • A good guideline is to buy one ounce per person per cheese. Then you won’t have cheese overload.
  • Label your cheese ahead of time so guests know what they’re getting.
  • Use a different knife for each cheese. Butter knives work well if you’re low on dedicated cheese knives. (Dudes, I run a cheese club and I never have enough cheese knives).
  • Add “Take the cheese out of the fridge about an hour before serving” to your to-do list — room temperature brings out all the good flavors.

Elsewhere: The imitable Joanne Goddard from A Cup of Jo has created some of the most instructive (and stylish) posts on the topic.

Speedy cheesing to you!

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Posted in | Recipes, Tips Tagged , , , |

2011 29 August

Heck yes, I work

Porch party, Cheers!

Holy cow, you guys.
I had no idea how hard it was to entertain and have a full time job.
Seriously, tough.
And it’s not like I wasn’t working full time before — but now that I’m physically out of the house — I just realized I was taking a lot of tips for granted.

I didn’t bring food to the last bocce game because I got back into town an hour into the first game.
There was no time for thoughtful snack curation.
Even less time for food styling or illustration.

Rather than make me disillusioned, this steels my resolve for tucking more social and fun moments in and around work, family and that endless administration that is home care.

Because we just don’t have time to print all that stuff out.
We just don’t have the money to buy stuff to store and we only pull out once a year.
We just don’t.

So we figure out how to work it into our weeks.
Cram it into the special moments that allow us to connect with — to host our people.

More entertaining tips — TIME SAVING entertaining tips — to come in the weeks ahead — thanks for your patience while I sort it all out!


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Posted in | Updates

2011 19 August

Tweet Round Up

Hey! This week, tweets are in their right and proper order!

  • Our second place chili winner is none other than our neighbor and teammate’s green pork chili. Malcolm’s Chili Verde of Love!
  • Best yet, Teammate Paul won first cornbread with his French Toast cornbread. He’s on a BBQ tour of Kansas. I’ll get the recipe.
  • The foxy ladies of @winesisterhood came early. Butcher paper tables and big jars of sunflowers. Took the whole event to another level.
  • There may have been a Pepto Bismol cocktail at the chili cook off. We care about our entrants.
  • The twenty-four chilis entered this year were a bit much. Next year we’ll probably have contestants sign up *before* the event.
  • What wine pairs with chili? Beer! Also wine spritzers are good because chili makes me thirsty and I’ll want to drink more.
  • Purple Cowboy wine just LOOKS good on the table next to the chili. cc: @winesisterhood
  • Another lovely @winesisterhood touch? Hanging pepper shaped pinatas from the tree. Festiveland.
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Posted in | Tips

2011 17 August

Bean a good year

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Posted in | Party-People, Updates Tagged |

2011 17 August

Malcolm’s Winning Cornbread Recipe

Several years ago, I picked up the second place award in the chili cook off.
My dear brotherfriend, neighbor and second place chili winner, Malcolm, won the first place cornbread award.
He got this recipe from an old job in San Luis Obispo.

It’s magically rich, buttery, cheesy and creamy.
You GO, cornbread.

Malcolm’s Winning Corn Bread Recipe
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
7 ounce can of diced, roasted green chilies, drained
1 12 ounce can of creamed corn
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 9” cake pan or prepare a muffin pan for filling.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. When the butter and sugar are all smooth, add in the eggs, green chilies, creamed corn and grated cheese.

Sift together the flour, yellow cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Gently stir the dry mix into the wet mixture. Transfer to the cake pan or the muffin pan.

Bake the speckled gorgeousness for about 25 minutes, depending on the size of the baking pan.

You’ll know you’ve done well when you see a light brown, toasty crunch on the top.

If I’d known perfection was that straightforward, I wouldn’t have spent so much effort on homework.

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Posted in | Recipes Tagged , , |

2011 16 August

Malcolm’s Chili Verde of Love

garlicMalcolm’s Chili Verde of Love recipe won this year’s chili cook off.

I know he’s good at making it because he makes it a lot. See, his daughter is allergic to almost every ingredient in the world EXCEPT for the ingredients in this chili.(I’m talking gluten, eggs, dairy, beef. This girl is ALLERGIC.)

Since Malcolm’s recipe is more of a collection of ingredients, I present to you Elise’s recipe for Chile Verde. (Because [understatement alert!] that Elyse a smarty pants when it comes to food, that one.)

Good work, Malcolm.
And kudos, Joanie Loves Bocce, we took this chili cook off right.

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