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swoon: we found spring’s prettiest blush for your table at kate spade saturday

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If you follow fashion trends at all, you know that blush pink is the color to wear this spring. Feminine yet earthy, it’s one of those tones that makes everyone look like they’re keeping a secret. In home decorating, the trend continues, which means pastels aren’t just for Easter. We spotted this lovely earthenware over at Kate Spade Saturday and thought it’s the perfect way to update your tabletop in the new hue. With clean lines and sturdy curves they’re a pink that even your male guests won’t mind clutching. Mix and match with other tones, such as celadon or grey and you’ll have a spread that’s worthy of magazine cover of its own. Glazed mugs, plates, and bowls start at $10 a piece at Saturday.com.

we’re ready for a spring party with oh joy for target collection

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We don’t need to wait for warm weather to have a tropical party at house, but Oh Joy‘s new collection of celebration goodies at Target has us dreaming about flower filled bashes bathed in sunlight. With bright pops of color, festive garlands and easy-to-mix and match patterns, the decorating and entertaining goods make hosting a chic and festive gathering a breeze. On our must have list: pretty 3-d wall decals that you’ll want to leave up all the time, and this minty green domed cake stand.

get ready: how to have a crazy fun oscar night party

Tonight is Oscar night! If you are having people over to watch the fun unfold, consider our method. The key is to get your guest to play for money and make them leave their cell phones at the door! This post was originally published in 2011.

There are few things I look forward to more than the Academy Awards. I’ve been celebrating them for years in both high and low ways. I’ve rented hotel suites and made customized cocktails (I recall a “Babe” martini with a pink grapefruit rind tail). I’ve been to viewing parties where no one paid attention, and I’ve been to viewing parties hosted by Elton John. Yes, I’ve even been to the Academy Awards themselves, albeit in the nose-bleeds, the last year they were held at the gorgeous Dorthy Chandler Pavilion. My current mode for Oscar night is what I like to call “cozy red carpet.” Comfort food, good friends, and fuzzy slippers. Best of all, I have discovered the secret tool needed to having a truly fun Oscar night party: a DVR. Here’s how it works:

Forget the ballots, go for live betting. Rather than have all your invitees fill out ballots before the show begins, engage in live betting throughout the night. We give out ballots for reference only, so people can keep their own score on what’s been unveiled and what’s to come.

Record the show and start watching it late. Nothing brings down an Oscar party more than too many commercial breaks. Record the Oscars but don’t watch them live — at least not a first. Don’t worry, you’ll catch up as the night goes on. This way you can dive right in and fast forward through the dull parts.

No cell phones allowed. Because you’re not watching the show exactly live, don’t let cheaters check twitter or text messages that may be revealing the winners before you’ve seen them. Make reasonable exceptions for moms worried about babysitters.

Pause the show right before the envelopes are opened. This is the fun part. Just as Natalie Portman is fumbling to get that envelope for best actor open, hit pause. At that moment, instruct everyone to write down who they think is going to win that award only. Hit play.

Reward everyone who got it right. We like to give out little toys as tokens. Your guests can take them home, so everyone is a winner.

Winner takes all! At the end of the night, the person with the most tokens, wins the pool! (We got zoo animals and gnomes from orientaltrading.com.)

The day after the awards last year, everyone was grumbling about how long the show was, and how dull it was — that is, everyone but us. We all had a such a blast placing live bets throughout the night that the three plus hours fly by.

Of course the other important component to a good academy awards night is the menu. My menu for Sunday is still being debated, but right now I’m eying spiced popcorn, mini quiches, bite-sized pulled pork sandwiches, some kind of chocolate pots. I also am on the hunt for the perfect cocktail to make by the pitcher.

What about you? Are you planning anything special for Oscar night this Sunday?

real life test kitchen: old fashioned lasagna bolognese

Here’s something worthwhile to do during the next snowmageddon: make lasagna bolognese from scratch. It will occupy hours of your time, make your house smell wonderful, and please your family more than a cup of hot chocolate.

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I had been wanting to try Bon Appetit’s October cover story for some time, and actually decided that this was the perfect dish to serve at the Christmas pot luck we attended. I followed their instructions faithfully, but decided NOT to make my own noodles. Perhaps another year.  The results were outstanding, and tasted even better as leftovers the next day.

First, make the Bolognese sauce — which honestly is wonderful enough on its own to serve over pasta for a week.
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What you need:
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground pork
4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

How to Make:
1. Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add beef, pork, pancetta, and vegetables; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until moisture is almost completely evaporated and meat is well browned, 25–30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
3. Add wine to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated, 8–10 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls if sauce looks dry, until flavors meld and sauce thickens, 2½–3 hours.
5. Let sauce cool, then cover and chill at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.

Second, make the bechamel sauce — a good technique any home chef needs to know.
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What You Need:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Kosher salt

How To Make:
1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.
2. Whisk in warm milk, ½-cupful at a time. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until the consistency of cream, 8–10 minutes; add nutmeg and season with salt.
3. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto surface; let cool slightly.

Third – Assemble the lasagna!

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1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 13×9” baking dish with butter.
2 Cook your noodles — don’t use the no-boil kind. Be sure to make them al dente. When finished, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Try not to overlap them, or they will stick together.
3. Reheat the sauces if needed. Combine Bolognese sauce and remaining 1 cup broth in a large saucepan over medium heat, and heat until sauce is warmed through.
4. Meanwhile, if you made the béchamel ahead of time, heat in a medium saucepan over low heat just until warmed through (don’t let it boil).
5. Spread 1/4 cup béchamel in the prepared baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles, spread over a scant 3/4 cup Bolognese sauce, then 1/2 cup béchamel, and top with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
6. Repeat process 5 to 7 more times, starting with noodles and ending with Parmesan.
7. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake lasagna until bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 50–60 minutes.
8. Let lasagna sit 45 minutes before serving.

More Shelterrific lasagna recipes can be found here!

tea & crumpets anyone? we’re gearing up for downton abbey’s return!

It seems like ages since we’ve visited the regal halls of Downton Abbey. We’ve gotten over the devastation of last season‘s tragic ending, and are ready to don our long white gloves and lift our pinky fingers with the Crawley clan once more: Season four kicks off on PBS this Sunday, January 5th. To celebrate, we thought it might nice to add a little faded Edwardian charm to our homes — or menus. Here are a few ways you can give your own abbey a bit of Downton-ness.

1. Have a proper cup of tea like Lady Mary.

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It amazes us how many people in America don’t know how to make a proper cup of tea. Restaurants are the worst culprits when they bring the teapot full of water and a cup with unopened tea bag on the side. You have to pour the boiling water directly onto the teabag, people! In the teapot! Also, as recommended at Yorkshire Tea‘s site, you should use two teabags per four cup pot. Let the tea brew about five minutes before serving. Having a dainty little cup like Mary’s to sip out of is nice as well. This Noritake Crestwood Gold China set has a very similar elegance.

2. Bake yourself a Bundt cake in a beautiful vintage pan.

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The wall of copper cake and tart molds on display in the Downton Kitchen is enviable, but you can start your own today but doing a simple search on Etsy. Acquiring the pan is only half the step. Next you need to whip a lovely cake like Daisy, above. We have some favorites, like this peaches and cream cake, but this ginger one made with molasses and stout by Melissa Clark has been on our bake-soon list for sometime. How very, very British!

 3. Dine by candelabra light.

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Few things could transport us to post-War England more than dining table lit by candelabra’s. This set from Hawksworth Eyres & Co are heirloom quality. But for a quick fix that won’t break the bank, try this one from Food Service Warehouse for less than $60.

Are you having a Downton viewing party at your home? Tell us how you are celebrating and what you’re looking forward to in the next season. For more inspiration, see our previous Downton posts here.