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27 Jan

My Valentine’s Birthday Party with Jill Fortney Productions

On Valentine’s Day 46 years ago, my mom got the best gift imaginable: ME! That’s right – Valentine’s Day is my birthday. This year, I would love nothing more than to celebrate in a big way, with all my girlfriends, glasses overflowing with Champagne and a yummy vegan meal. Or maybe we skip the meal and go directly to dessert. It doesn’t really matter — Covid has put a damper on the party scene, so for the moment, being safe is more important than celebrating big.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying the chance to reminisce about past parties that brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face. It’s even helped me get into the party spirit to plan SOMETHING, even if it’s not the soirees. (Here’s looking at you, 2022!) So as I sit here coming up with party ideas that pair well with social distancing, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite memories for my 40th birthday bash, which was an amazing Parisian-themed party de résistance.

About a year before I turned 40. I mentioned to my parents that it was time for them to throw another fab blowout party in honor of me officially turning old. At first, I got the rolling stink-eye of “you’re joking, right?!” But it only took a millisecond after that for my mom to jump all over the idea and start proposing fun ideas for an unforgettable event. Besides, my mom’s love language is entertaining, and it’s hard for that woman to say no when it comes to cutting checks in the name of fun!

My parents asked me what I had in mind, and all I could think about was something big. It had been quite some time since I had a blowout celebration, like when I made my debut in 1996 and 1997 or when I married Jason in 2000. I was dreaming of another fabulous event to drown my wrinkled sorrows away.

First things first, I knew it had to be special enough to hire an event planner. In true Cowtown fashion, we decided to keep it local and go with none other than the ultra-talented luxury event planner, Jill Fortney, of Jill Fortney Productions. If you have never attended a Jill Fortney Production event, then you are in for a real treat — including plenty of eye candy-filled photos below.

Jill was not only the planner who made my Big 4-Oh so special, she’s also a friend. So I reached out to her for her thoughts on what takes an event — any kind of event, from a family affair to a birthday bash — to that next level. She was gracious enough to share her strategies  — I hope they inspire you to start planning your own amazing party!

Jill Fortney’s Top 6 Tips – Expect the Unexpected

1. The Invitation

A dazzling invitation creates a sense of anticipation. It sets the reason for the celebration as well as the tone of the event. A flat piece of paper with typestyles, ink colors, paper textures and shapes, pictures, and ribbons can transform your imagination of the event. By letting the guest know with a spectacular invite, “ This is going to be a party I do not want to miss.”  Tell your hubby I am going to a girl’s party, and I will not be home for dinner.

2. Select a Theme

Make sure the theme fits the occasion … formal, fancy, fun. Take a formal idea and make it fun. Carry out the color scheme throughout the evening with drinks, napkins, party favors, food presentation, entertainment, flowers, and décor. Give all the areas a new twist … create eye candy for the guests. Show them something they have never seen or experienced.

3. Create excitement throughout the event

Introduce something new at least every hour. Offer different appetizers and do not keep passing the same ones all evening. Do not pile food on the tray; use smaller trays, use different vessels and refill often. Make the presentation of the tray connect to the item served. That is, if serving crab cakes, put a whole crab on top of a mound of seaweed on the side of the tray.

 

Entertaining is an expression of love for your friends. Make each experience memorable. Nothing says festive like polished silver. Use lots of silver everywhere … from candelabras to cups for cocktails to silver objects at the bar.

4. The Food

Entertaining is not about the food, but the fellowship! Always lean on the classics; cocktails, satisfying starters, filling main courses of familiar food and decadent desserts. Make sure the food is presented in an artful, beautiful way. Add delicious garnishes that enhance the presentation. An example, if you are serving a roasted vegetable soup, roast plum tomatoes, slice matchstick thin and sprinkle in the middle of the bowl as it goes out of the kitchen.

 

Another idea is to toast flavored croutons (homemade) with a little parmesan cheese or garlic and sprinkle in the bowl or pass tableside. Try to master one food item you are known for so guests will look forward to one of your food offerings.

5. The Details

Keep the focus on your selected theme in front of guests during the evening. If “pink” is your theme, remove your entry hall rug and replace it with pink inexpensive carpet. Have waiters wear pink bowties, serve a pink drink, use pink ice or ice cubes with pink flowers with the first drink, put a miniature picture of the guest of honor on top of the pink dessert, mail in advance to guests your favorite pink lipstick and nail polish, car parkers with pink uniforms, dye your dog pink, all the flowers in shades of pink, rent pink glasses for drinks, serve pink champagne or rose wine, and of course, wear a pink dress. If the affair is formal, pin a pink boutonniere on the male guests and give the women a pink wrist corsage.

6. Above all else, be a gracious hostess!

Be the first person to greet your guests; be the last person they see as they exit. Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcoholic drinks available throughout the venue. For larger events (will we ever again??), remember lines are for Luby’s. Have one bar for every 50 guests and offer a variety of choices. Mix and match groups of friends and introduce people to each other that you think they might share something in common. Do not be so exhausted by cleaning the baseboards that you can not enjoy the party. If people are scoping out your baseboards … they are bored and need to go home! A good rule is 8 guests can seat themselves, after that use place cards … formal or casual.

 

Be a good listener and ask questions of your guests to get the conversation going. Be aware of certain dietary restrictions of guests and have an alternative in the kitchen. Do not try out a new recipe for your guests unless it is for two people on a Sunday night and casual! Use failsafe recipes you prepare or prepared by a caterer.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhilee Photography

Thank you for strolling down memory lane with me. No matter the occasion, grand or intimate, every Valentine’s Day should be a special one to celebrate. This year won’t be near as grand, which is totally fine with me, but I think I’ll get to work on what a teeny tiny socially distanced patio party might look like to ring in the big four-six. Stay tuned to my Instastories to peek behind the scenes of the process!

 

Special Credit to the following companies/vendors for my 40th birthday party!

  • FOOD: Grace Restaurant & Marky’s Caviar
  • FLORAL: Flowers on the Square
  • MUSIC TRIO: Debbie Brooks Group
  • DJ: Randal Stout
  • EVENT STAFFING: Dalan Sharpe
  • VALET: Rent A Frog
7 Oct

10 Tips on Organization For a Covid Garage Sale

In case you missed me on WFAA Good Morning Texas, here is the video! Enjoy my organizational tips below for a socially distanced garage sale.

Covid quarantine brought out that inner professional organization skills in all of us and I bet you, like me, have a ton of stuff sitting around to put money back in your wallet. Time for a Covid Garage Sale!

All of you know that garage sales are my jam but the real magic happens in the set up. Organizing and arranging stuff for the sale is my favorite part of a garage sale – it totally satisfies my OCD.

Christy’s Favorite 10 Tips for Covid Garage Sale Organization

1. Be sure to have lots of plastic folding tables and garment racks, even if you have to borrow some from friends and neighbors. This way people can be spread out and not bunched together.

2. Use cardboard boxes to hold bulk items.

3. You can buy signs or create signs to remind people to socially distance from each other.

4. If you have items with multiple small parts, put them into various sized ziplock bags and mark the price with a sharpie. This keeps things from getting separated when people rummage. This works especially well for toys with small/multiple parts. Plus is keeps the item sterilized.

5. Use a tagging gun for clothing. I like to note the size, price and also measurements if something has been altered like the inseam.

6.  Don’t forget the dough! The day before your sale, stop by the bank and get $100-125 in change per money handler. In order to keep money from exchanging hands you can even encourage people to use Venmo, Zelle or CashApp.

7. Have hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE. It encourages people to be mindful while shopping the garage sale.

8. Have paper grocery sacks ready to give to shoppers as they arrive to make it easier to shop your treasure trove. Save your bags throughout the year for ample supply.

9. Require people to wear mask. Have a box of disposable mask available to those who may have forgotten. We’ve all been there!

10. Champagne is still a must at any garage sale! The way to do it during covid is buy having baby bottles and cans for people to individually take.

Be sure to click HERE to find out how to be a full on Garage Sale Boss!

 

Feeling uncomfortable attending a garage sale in person? Then I highly recommend buying items on Facebook Market Place, or from local neighborhood Facebook groups. In fact, because of this exact reason, our family started the DUNAWAY LIVING-ESTATE HOUSE PURGE group where our families post times for sale from our estates. 

 

And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the know about our THREE GENERATION’S ESTATE SALE coming up. Cause it will truly be So Fort Worth It!

6 Oct

10 Tips for Total Garage Sale Domination

Be a Garage Sale Boss

Who doesn’t love a bargain? I certainly do, which explains why I’ve collected so much stuff over the years. Toys. Clothes. Kitchen Gadgets. Between my parents purging their leftovers onto me, whatever it is, I’ve probably owned two of it. It slowly piles high and takes over everything in my house, and when that happens, it makes me feel anxious and slightly – OK, seriously – overwhelmed. And that’s when I know it’s time for another garage sale.

Longtime readers will recognize these warning signs from the last time clutter made me almost institutionalized in a straightjacket (read about it here). And just like the last time, there’s only one thing to do: Let it goooooo like Elsa: And as I always say, if you don’t love something, set it free. And offload it in a giant tag sale.

I’m no stranger to selling stuff en garage. Honestly, my first memory of front-porch peddling was at the age of four when my parents had a garage sale in their first home. And my grandparents Sally & Punkin Dunaway were the master garage-sellers of all time. I guess this is where I got my knack, so I started hosting my own garage sales beginning in college when I attended SMU. I mean, a woman’s gotta purge when a woman’s gotta purge, amIright?

Over the years, I’ve honed my techniques to speed up sales and maximize profits while minimizing looky-loos and randos trying to sneak five-finger discounts. So, in the spirit of sweet deals, I’m going to give you my Top Ten Tips for Epic Garage Sales, absolutely free, so you, too, can be a Yard Sale Boss!

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Christy Dunaway Smith’s Top Tips on How to Host an Epic Garage Sale

1. Plan Ahead

Epicness doesn’t just happen. It’s a process. Throughout the year, I collect merchandise around the house, price it, and then toss the unwanted and unused stuff into a few boxes that I keep in the garage. Usually, I start with the small stuff. Not everything gets set aside – I do sell some items on local FB pages, but I always make sure to keep plenty of fabulous big ticket items for my Epic Sale.

2. Monitor Quality from the Start

My garage sales are EPIC because I don’t sell junk. Before I toss stuff into the box, I make sure it works, it’s unstained, it’s got all the parts, and the batteries are still good.

3. Be a Great Hostess

I always serve Champagne and OJ at my garage sales. People love hospitality, and you’d be surprised what people decide they need to buy after chugging a Mimosa!

4. Get Your Family Into the Act

My sales always include lots of items donated from my parents home (they purge too), and sometimes the boys will sell donuts, kolaches, and lemonade. It takes a village to sell stuff to villagers!

5. Be Social but Stay Safe

I genuinely love people, and I genuinely enjoy chatting with strangers, and dogs for that matter, from all walks of life. Through all the years I’ve been hosting garage sales, I’ve only experienced a few instances where someone has stolen from me. It sucked, but at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. Most important are my kids and ensuring their safety. If they’re on-site, they never leave my sight.

6. Sweeten the Pot

I always keep a 25¢ box filled with small toys and trinkets for kids to get a little something extra while rummaging with their parents. When adding up the total that people owe, I throw in a few of these tiny treats. It makes the parents feel like they got a bonus, and the kids love getting something new.

7. Make it Easy

I always mark my house with balloons and place a few signs at nearby intersections. In the past, I’ve hired off-duty police officers to manage crowd control and traffic flow – nothing kills a shopping mood like a bottlenecked traffic jam. We just invested in street cones to control the parking situation.

8. Getting the Word Out

When it comes to advertising our sale, I turn to social media. It’s effective, and the price is right! (Free!). I post on my personal FB page, in a few buy/sell and mommy forums on Facebook and on Next Door. I also create an event on FB to help guide people to our location, which becomes a reminder for them right before the sale starts.

9. Enlist the Troops

Never host a garage sale without several friends helping, especially during the first few hours. These thrifty shoppers come in droves and swoop in on all your slashed-to-sell goodies as soon as you open the gates! I always have 4-6 people helping me with the sale, and I pay them in $100 credit towards their purchase of my seconds.

10. Be Smart about Pricing

Here’s my unofficial pricing method: Depending on the age and condition of the items, we usually mark things between 50%-90% off retail. If it’s a brand new item with or without tags, or something super unique or vintage, I do a little research to see what that item is selling for on eBay, The Real Real or 1stDibs. And then I mark accordingly to align with a similar price point that was listed.

Check out my bonus tips and tricks on how to organize and plan a garage sale during a pandemic, HERE!

 

And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the know about our THREE GENERATIONS ESTATE SALE coming up. Cause it will truly be So Fort Worth It!