To top
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.

AD1V3544

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
22 Nov

SoFortWorthIt’s Holiday Gift Guide

holiday gift guide

Welcome to my FIRST annual Holiday Gift Guide, a curated collection with something for EVERYONE on your list. In the spirit of full disclosure, this list began with me shopping for you, but it quickly turned into me shopping for me! I literally have, want or I’m about to buy each one of these amazing items on this list.

Gifts for Her

From me time to bee time, these gifts are sure to delight any lady in your life.

 

I am a huge fan of the three beauty brands on this list: Origins, Kiehl’s and Tata Harper. These travel-sized kits are a perfect way to test out a new skincare routine without going all-in just yet.

 

I recently purchased The Mexican Home Kitchen and Holy Cocina, y’all! It’s the best! Start off with the salsas – you’ll never open another jar again. Also, I can’t get enough of The Defined Dish. My family goes gaga for the healthy Whole 30 recipes.

 

Staying healthy isn’t just about what you eat, it’s also about your environment. I’ve been mindful about this for years, and this holiday season, I am hoping Santa brings me a set of clean and green ceramic pots and pans from GreenLife. (Did you get that, Santa Jason?)

 

If you love your fancy with a dash of awkward – and really, who doesn’t? — then Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina candle is for you. And yes, I already own this and trust me, it’s a real conversation-starter!

 

There’s been a lot of buzz about this gift; a… wait for it … a personal beehive kit! I have dreamed of raising bees and harvesting my very own organic honey, but the process and responsibility seemed daunting. Enter the FlowHive, a genius kit that simplifies the entire process, making it easy and fun to host a hive.

Gifts for Him

It can be a challenge to find perfect gifts for guys. I kept my husband in mind when I compiled this list of must-haves for the man in your life. 

 

The Otto Wilde Griller will make your man embrace his inner carnivore. A game-changer for grillers, it makes grocery store steaks taste like they came from a big-bucks steak house in five minutes flat.

 

Who doesn’t need an electronic docking station? We keep ours in the kitchen, and it holds all of our devices, keeping them organized as they charge. Remember to buy an extra pack of cords to go with it — trust me, you’ll need them!

 

These On Cloud shoes were the #1 seller on my Father’s Day Gift Guide, which didn’t surprise me. Our whole family has become obsessed with them ever since my brother Scott gifted them to all the guys for Christmas last year.

 

And speaking of obsession, this Mark & Graham waterproof roll-top backpack has been on my mind ever since our good friend Warren brought one to our lake house. Fill it with ice and beverages and you’re good to go for the entire day!

MIZZEN + MAIN is officially my husband’s very favorite shirt brand in his entire closet. They don’t wrinkle, and you can wash and wear without ironing. The website does a great job of walking you through their sizing chart, too.

Gifts for Tweens and Teens

Your teen or tween may not say thank you IRL, but they’ll definitely share their appreciation with their Instagram and followers. These post-worthy presents are sure to please even the pickiest Gen Z-er.

 

The Apple Airpods Pro doesn’t suck. Enough said!

 

Growing up with Mrs. Pac-Man in my childhood game room, I have an affection for arcade machines. This tabletop version has all the feels of the arcade version, without the crazy price tag – or the coin slot.

 

You won’t have to worry about too much screen time with these Razor rides. They’re the ultimate in grab-and-go outdoor fun! (Accessorize with a helmet and pads so you don’t end up swapping screen time for scream time.)

AND FOR THE HYPEBEAST … 

My kids have gone BAPE for Stockx, an online marketplace for streetwear like sneakers and hoodies. From standard gear to the most exclusive collabs, it’s the SUPREME site to pick up anything that’s dropped.

But wait there is more…

These are the gifts that you never knew you needed! I hope they bring you as much joy as they brought me.

Just remember, when in doubts: gift cards for subscription services, food, and clothes will please anyone on your list.

 

I know it’s super easy and convenient to buy everything over the internet, but if you can shop local as much as possible, I know our Fort Worth retail business sure could use your support for this holiday season.

 

Also, in case you missed it, I just published my Ultimate and Best Christmas Events and Activities in DFW AND the best dang Advent Calendar List you have ever seen.

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and remember, Jesus is the Reason for the Season! Enjoy shopping for you and your loved ones! xoxox

16 Nov

Advent Calendars Aren’t Just For Kids

Advent calendars

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and you know what that means … time to bust out the Advent Calendars! 

I’ve had a long-standing obsession with advent calendars since I was a little girl. I always loved the combination of anticipation and reward – not only did each day bring me closer to the Big Day, but each day brought its own little treat, a tiny surprise hidden behind a tiny door. And the person buying the baubles that brightened each December day was none other than my mom. She poured her heart into giving us the most creative and fun-filled Advent Calendars in all of Ridglea. Back then, I knew Advent Calendars were magical, and I still feel the same way.

Now that I’m an adult, I often think about how amazing it would be to level up and indulge in the Grand Kahuna of Advent Calendars: Like this one made by Tiffany & Co. in 2019. This colossal calendar stands four feet tall and contains 24 individual Tiffany blue boxes, each filled with a luxe treat and tied with white satin ribbon. What kinds of luxe treats are in those boxes? That depends on the depth of your wallet — the advent calendar price begins at $112,000. A girl can always dream, right?

But Advent Calendars don’t have to break the bank to capture your heart. I think the best ones are the most thoughtful, with themes that speak to something that interests you (or the person you’re gifting). That’s why I’ve come up with this curated collection of the best, most interesting– and yes, even affordable—themed advent calendars.

I’ve got boozy calendars, candy calendars and calendars for your precious little furballs. There are beauty calendars, candle calendars and even a jewelry calendar (hint, hint Jason!). But my very favorite calendars on this list are the classic wooden ones that you fill with your own goodies. Y’all have been asking me about them for years on IG, and I’ve finally sourced them just for you!

Enjoy shopping and spreading joy during this holiday season – one day at a time. xoxox

63 of the Best Advent Calendars for Purchase!

Ideas to Help You Stuff Those Calendars!

With all of the excitement of opening Advent Calendar surprises, I wanted to share some ideas and sources I utilize for filling our own children’s calendars. I’ve posted many links below to give you a head start, but here are my suggestions for sourcing all the fun for your little ones.

  • I always have the best luck at Dollar Tree, World Market, Oriental Trading and Froggies 5 & 10 in Dallas.
  • Party supply stores have a great selection in their party favor section.
  • Get some $2 bills, S. B. Anthony $1 coins, and other bills. A hundy is always fun to open.
  • Of course, you can’t go wrong with lottery scratch off tickets.
  • Candy from your local neighborhood convenience store.
  • Toys in 25cent vending machines at Walmart and grocery stores.