Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Most Popular Posts From Hooked On Houses

Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2014 on
As we say goodbye to 2014, here’s a look back at the houses and topics that got the most clicks and comments this year…
How fake is Property Brothers on HGTV
Learning to Live in a Little House
Sarah Jessica Parker's West Village Brownstone
Friends TV Show Set Design
Micro Home by James Crisp Architects Connecticut
DIY Network Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis
Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld's Hamptons House InStyle
Closed Kitchens vs Open Concept
Craftsman Bungalow Featured on Rehab Addict For Sale in MN
Home Alone movie house Winnetka Illinois
It was the craziest thing. I woke up one morning last week to find that a post I wrote about the real Home Alone house back in 2011 had gone viral on Facebook. Blog insanity ensued.
The Real Home Alone House Today
If you had trouble getting to my site any time during the past week, it’s because there were literally millions of people trying to see the post from all over the world. Clearly, I’m not the only one who loves the Home Alone house, especially this time of year! :)
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who’ve been a part of the Hooked on Houses community in 2014, leaving thoughtful comments, sending me tips on fab houses to feature, subscribing to my newsletter, and visiting my Secret Blog. Wishing you all a very happy New Year! xo

Monday, December 29, 2014

Host a Last Minute, Cheap, Easy Bash to Welcome 2015!

I found this great article written by Cristina Silva in the International Business Times. I am feeling better about still not having plans set in stone for New Year's Eve. Say goodbye, 2014, I'm having a party for 2015!


It's New Year's Eve week and you and your posse still haven't come up with a firm plan for how to welcome in 2015. Instead of panicking, why not send out some invitations? Throwing a cheap, easy bash at home is a great way to avoid transportation hassles and expensive parties on New Year's Eve. Below are five tips for how to throw a last-minute party in style and say goodbye to 2014.
1. Make a plan. Figure out who you are going to invite, create a menu, decide whether you want a theme and create a decoration scheme before hitting the stores. Not only will this keep you from frantically searching for balloons at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, it could also help you save some cash. "You can find great deals if you give yourself enough time," Greg Jenkins, a co-founder at Bravo Productions, an event planning and catering company in Long Beach, California, told U.S. News and World Report. "Look for sales on various beverages. The holidays can provide a lot of bargains on wines, Champagnes, beer and so on."
2. Get people to RSVP. No one wants to confirm their plans ahead of time these days, but you somehow still have to let guests know when your party starts and then figure out if they are actually going to come. Some easy options include Paperless PostEvite, Facebook or even sending out an email. You will probably have to ask at least some of your guests several times to respond to the invite, and they still might not let you know in time. Get around this by preparing dishes that freeze well. If people don't show up, you'll at least have enough food to get you through the next winter storm. 
3. Create the perfect playlist ahead of time. To avoid having your most forceful friends take over the party with their random iTunes playlists, create a specific music plan that accounts for the natural progression of the evening. Start off with lively background music as guests arrive, then switch to loud, dance tunes to kick off the party. As things start to simmer down, clue your guests in with quieter, more soothing songs. DJ Jonathan Toubin of New York recommends old-schools jams such as “It Was a Very Good Year” by Della Reese and “Kick Out the Jams” by MC5.
4. Serve hearty snacks. You don't have to plan a four-course meal for your guests, but it's wise to provide something to eat to avoid a roomful of uncontrollable drunks since food can help keep alcohol use in check. You can serve anything from chocolate fondue, spiced nuts, a cheese selection, crudite and dips and pickled veggies, so long as there's enough for everyone. Here's a helpful guide on how much to serve per guest.
5. Create a special house cocktail. You probably don't have a fully stocked bar at home. No worries. Fool your guests into thinking you went all out for them by creating a specialty cocktail using only a few ingredients. This will also help you save money. Sangria is always an easy fix, but you can find more challenging recipes here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Year Of Mantel Vignettes

A beautiful year it has been for Alice Wingerden, of Thoughts From Alice. She has compiled her year's worth of mantel vignettes, which will inspire you and delight you, as her creativity sparks your light within.

A Year of Mantel Vignettes

Today, I thought it would be fun to share all of the mantel vignettes that I created this past year. I love changing out the decor of our mantel season to season. I am still on my blogging break but got this post ready for you before, so you could enjoy it now!
Our mantel currently resides in our dining room and has for the past few years. We purchased it at an architectural salvage store right after we moved into our current home. It was painted dark brown then, but because the paint was literally chipping right off, we sanded it down and gave it a rough coat of white. Click on each of the links below to be taken to the individual posts to see all of the vignette details. I hope you enjoy this "mantel recap"!

Skip The Club On New Year's Eve And Host Your Own Ritzy Affair!

Shelling out thousands on bottles of Cristal in a club so loud you can’t even hear a pal wish you happy New Year is a good way to start 2015 — if you’re looking for a splitting headache and an empty wallet.
But there is another option: You can throw a party at home.
Dana Cowin knows her guests expect a lot when she has a bash at her Upper West Side apartment — she’s the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine and author of“Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.”
“I wish I could say, ‘Oh, I don’t care at all,’ but when I’m planning a menu I want to be sure that my guests are well-fed and they’re not like, ‘My grandmother could have made that.’”
And for Vicky Wang of Dinner Bandits, a service that helps your party by supplying décor, sourcing a chef and finessing details (prices begin at $75), “the key to a great party is personalized touches.”
For a New Year’s Eve fête that feels both lavish and personal, that means splurging where it’s needed, taking a few shortcuts, and tying it all together with a dash of good humor.
Here are simple tips from the pros to make your party a success.

Serve buffet style

Cowin says, “I never do plated food, because by the time the last person is served, the first person’s plate is cold. It seems more elegant to serve plated food, but in the end, it’s just not.”

Buy prepared foods (but splurge a little)

“The answer to a seamless, enjoyable party is to buy two-thirds of it,” says Cowin. “Especially appetizers and dessert, premade, and to know when other people can do something better than you can.” When you do make something, she says, “Pay all of your attention to the quality of the ingredients instead of going for an overly complicated recipe. You might want to get some American caviar from Russ & Daughters — to go with their blinis — or oysters. Get the best of whatever it is.”

Wear something that sparkles

You can welcome a glittery New Year with the right outfit. “I have a silver sequin jacket that I can wear over my daily uniform of black on black,” says Cowin. “It’s really nice to get just a little dolled up, because there aren’t that many nights I feel that way. Basically, anything that will look good while you’re holding a glass of Champagne.”

Don’t buy new décor

“I actually scout through my entire apartment before setting up my dining room,” says Food & Wine mag editor-in-chief Dana Cowin. “I have a lot of candlesticks that are all clear, whether it’s glass or crystal. Some are modern, some are from the ’50s. I add white candles so it feels very glowy and sparkly.”

Lighting is key

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Photo: Zandy Mangold.
“Buy a lot of tea lights and place them all over the space to create a warm and inviting glow,” Dinner Bandits’ Vicky Wang suggests. “Another way to personalize the dinner is to wrap the outside of candle votives with notes inscribed with your favorite memories from the year,” says Wang. “New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate new beginnings while also paying homage to all the wonderful experiences you’ve accumulated over the past year. It’s also a great way for guests to reminisce, and it works as a fun conversation starter.”

Go crazy on the sides

When Cowin throws a party, she makes five side dishes that can be served at room temperature, like a beet or a grain salad. “I think it’s a much more modern way to eat than to have one big meat and one big starch. There’s something for a vegan, for a vegetarian, for a very hungry person, for a very picky person.”
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You can go both gregarious and green when you host your own party.Photo: Zandy Mangold

Don’t be too serious

Kitschy is in for Cowin. “With a serious prime rib and caviar and Champagne, it’s nice to have something that undercuts that seriousness and that makes it a little less sweet,” she says. “When you have 2015 glasses on, everyone’s having a good night.”

Go green

“In place of expensive floral arrangements that can cost anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars, cut off small branches from your Christmas tree and place them in vases to dress up the table with green centerpieces,” says Wang. A sprig from your tree placed on a plate is another festive — and inexpensive — way to decorate.

Make It Personal

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Photo: Zandy Mangold
Partygoers at Cowin’s place might find vintage postcards on their table settings, each card with a personal note.“Of course you have to be careful,” she says, “because people will compare notes. So one message can’t be, ‘You’re my dearest friend on the planet,’ while another just says, ‘Happy New Year!’”

Don’t lose your glass

Who hasn’t misplaced a wine glass at a party? Cowin threw a recent party with the Dinner Bandits who, she says, printed a piece of vellum with a personal message for each guest. “You punch a hole in it and tie it to the stem of your wine glass with kitchen twine.”
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“Nothing says party and celebration like sparklers,” says Wang, who tops dessert with them “for an added element of surprise.”Photo: Zandy Mangold

The perfect playlist

Jonathan Toubin (above), a DJ (, says the secret to the perfect New Year’s Eve playlist is “setting an upbeat, celebratory mood, one that keeps people dancing.” He’s deejaying in the New Year at LES club Home Sweet Home “till 7 a.m., so you can’t really have too many contemplative songs.” These are among the old-school tunes he’ll be spinning — “all on the original 45 rpm records, of course.”
♦ Della Reese, “It Was a Very Good Year” (1966)
♦ MC5, “Kick Out the Jams” (1969)
♦ Carl Holmes, “Soul Dance No. 3” (1966)
♦ Charlotte Leslie, “Les Filles C’est Fait Pour Faire L’amour” (1967)
♦ H-Bomb Ferguson, “Midnight Ramblin’ Tonight” (1961)

The toast

When it comes to public speaking, Adam Wade knows what it takes. The New Hampshire native has won 18 Moth StorySlam championships (essentially, the Olympics of open-mike nights) in the city and teaches a storytelling course at NYC’s Magnet Theater. Here’s what he says it takes to get the New Year’s Eve toast just right.
Keep it short
“Don’t talk too long, try to get to the point, and don’t oversell your speech.”
Try to make eye contact
“It’s a tough thing with social media and everything, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to have the greatest speech ever if you are actually looking at people. If you can connect, you’ll own the room.”
Don’t use cheesy quotes
“Don’t quote [someone like] Deepak Chopra. If you need a jumping-off point, pull from something like ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘Anchorman.’ If you do something that’s a bit less serious, you can get away with being more heartfelt in the rest of your speech.”
Be specific
“New Year’s Eve is just about appreciating the little things. Let’s face it, those little moments are as meaningful as the big triumphs; they’re the stuff that keeps you going. You might not have gotten a big bonus this year, but hey, there’s a woman at work who brings you a couple of chocolates now and then. Mention her in your speech. Why not?” — Sarah Horne


Roasted Peppadews stuffed with tuna and white bean tonnato dip

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Photo: Zandy Mangold
One 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
One 7-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for sprinkling
¼ teaspoon crushed
red pepper
Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Stuff into roasted Peppadews, available in the antipasto section of stores like Zabar’s or Dean & DeLuca. (Serves 8)

Salmon sliders with giardiniera special sauce

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Photo: Zandy Mangold
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup finely chopped giardiniera (pickled vegetables, available jarred or at the olive bar in Italian markets)
1 ½ tablespoons giardiniera pickling liquid
1 ½ tablespoons ketchup
9 slider buns
9 store-bought salmon cakes
Stir ingredients together in a small bowl. To assemble the sliders, place a dollop of sauce on each bun, along with some arugula. Use store-bought salmon cakes to keep things simple. (Serves 9)

Smoked mussels and caper berry skewers

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Photo: Zandy Mangold
1 container smoked mussels (from Zabar’s)
1 jar caper berries
24 skewers
Cut the caper berries in half; add 1 to each skewer, then 1 smoked mussel.

Shrimp salsamole

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Photo: Zandy Mangold
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 cup finely diced seeded cucumber
¼ cup finely diced
white onion
½ jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fine salt, or more to taste
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
2 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and roughly diced
tortilla chips for serving
2 cups cooked and tailed shrimp, roughly chopped
Put the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and lime juice in a medium bowl and toss well. Add the avocado and shrimp and toss well to combine. Season to taste with more salt and lime juice if necessary.
Serve with tortilla chips. (Serves 6)
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Photo: Zandy Mangold

French 75 cocktail

1 ounce gin
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
4 ounces Champagne
Combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail glass, and top with Champagne just before