Link Love: Memorial Weekend

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hey, no pushing around the pool, people! Photography by Helmut Newton

Who isn't already falling for summer? Memorial Weekend always feels like the intro into warm weather, and we couldn't be more ready. Whether you're heading out of town or enjoying a nice staycation, here are a few links to get you inspired this three-day weekend.

Martha Stewart shares easy breezy grilling recipes. Perfect for impromptu gatherings of friends and family around the patio.  

Before you can throw together an impromptu party, you might want to get your hands on a few pantry essentials. Julip Made has just the right list to get you started.  

Just in case summer is sneaking up on you (like it is us!), get your slim on with these Vim + Vigor juices at Number One in HP Village. Yum! 

With all the devastation in Oklahoma, our thoughts and prayers are still with those rebuilding their lives and digging through rubble in Moore and Shawnee. It's nice to see humanity shine through the storm in videos like this. Don't forget, you can still donate much needed funds to the survivors through the Red Cross.

Don't three-day weekends call for sugary sweets? They do in our book. SMP Living has the best recipe for baked cinnamon and sugar donuts.

We're still pretty pumped about being nominated for D Magazine's Reader's Choice Poll for Best Party Rentals. You can vote for us every day through June 2nd by going here. Thanks for your support!

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Beyond Tabletop: Imagine If

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ms. Bonnie Swanson, the founder of Designs by Imagine If (center), and her vast array of staged events.

When planning an event, you want someone whose excitement is infectious and work ethic holds up to the highest standards. When you're in Midland, Texas, that means you want Bonnie Swanson. Ms. Bonnie, as she's called, didn't even have event planning on her radar as the mother of six children. However, with a strong maternal sense of investing in the lives of others, Bonnie took on a friend's wedding, followed by a church event, and on and on until fifteen years of festive fetes snowballed into a successful event planning and staging company. You know you're bringing your wildest dreams to life with a company called Imagine If... and Ms. Bonnie doesn't disappoint. For over six years, Imagine If has transformed country clubs, community centers, backyards, and hotel ballrooms into dreamy backdrops that transport guests to the Renaissance Age, winter wonderlands, Noah's Ark (yep!), and crystal gardens. Imagine If creates events that have to be seen to believed, and we have a few photos to share with you today. Plus, Ms. Bonnie herself is sharing her tips and inspiration. 
Ms. Bonnie can really do it all! Love the crystal entry way (center).

Tell us about Imagine If...
Our amazing team is dedicated to creating uniquely designed weddings and events that capture our client's vision, reflect who they are, and exceed anything they've dreamed of. Our motto is to bring life into your dreams and make the ordinary extraordinary.

What's your favorite thing about your job?
Peeking inside the lives of clients and sharing special moments with them. Once a design is complete, the feeling I get when a client sees their dream brought to life is priceless.

What kinds of events do you do?
We are honored to be a part of weddings and receptions, anniversaries and holiday parties, as well as more unusual events like the annual Renaissance Madrigal Dinner and Broadway shows. We work in all kinds of venues, from community centers and churches to backyards, ballrooms, and auditoriums through Midland, Austin, and DFW.

What is something that makes you stand apart from other planning firms?
I love that Imagine If doesn't do packages. We get so many inquires regarding packaged events, but we prefer to do custom designs that are unique to our client's tastes. We want to get a personal idea of who you are, what you vision is, and how you want guests to feel when they walk into your event. Once we understand that, we design around shared ideas to create lasting memories and relationships with our clients. You can't really "package" that.

What are a few memorable events?
There are so many! Each client is special to us, but we have had a few stand out. For example, rolling out the red carpet for a 60th anniversary dinner for an amazing couple; creating a sparkling crystal wedding and reception with a crystal clad ceiling for a sweet bride; transforming a petroleum museum into a jazz club to celebrate 75 years of history..the list could go on and on!

What are a few Do's and Don'ts for clients?
Do arrive at your planning meeting with some idea of the budget you're considering. 
Do be realistic in your thinking - creating an over-the-top event may be more costly than a stylish intimate event, but depending on the elements used, we can often come closer than imagined.
Do share who you are so that reflection can come through in your event.
Don't try to micromanage your event. You hired a planner so you could enjoy the event without worrying too much about details. (But that's why you should choose your planner carefully!)
Don't save decor as the last item to check off your planning list. Allowing planning time for the event ensures you can get the items you want. 

Now for a few personal questions with Ms. Bonnie.

What inspires you?
Listening to the dreams of others, history, art, architecture...basically the world around me.

What's on your playlist?
It's a pretty eclectic mix of praise and worship, piano and acoustic guitar, country, and soundtracks from my favorite movies.

What's your favorite thing about living in Midland?
People are friendly and courteous. Guys still hold the door open for you! I love watching gorgeous sunsets for miles and miles in the distance - there is no claustrophobia here!

Where are your favorite places to eat around town?
I'm always in the mood for Italian, so I love Venezia's. There is a relaxing patio for dining as well as intimate seating inside, plus great food and service.

What's your favorite thing to do on a day off?
What's that? Haha. I enjoy lunch out just for fun or mani/pedi's without work conversations. Maybe a bit of shopping that's not for an event. 

What are a few annual events around town you love?
I help with the Renaissance Dinner held by the LHS music department. We transform my favorite country club into a 13th century castle comple with a king's court and magical dinner theater. The costumes are authentic period pieces hand sewn with lacing, bloomers, petticoats, and hats. It's truly a walk back through time. It's amazing to work with the staff of the Green Tree Country Club, directors of the LHS choir, and amazing students and parents. It's unforgettable!

Favorite moments around the table?
Often it's the chaos of getting there. I love cooking the food and setting out classic white dinnerware as a foundation to bring in color with napkins and fun serving pieces. My centerpieces are often memorabilia from the past and present mixed in with floral and other textural elements. It's always a special time to sit and share with family and friends. Around the holidays I set a proper table, just like Mom taught me. Time around the table includes what is most important - sharing time together. 

What do you like about P.O.S.H.?

P.O.S.H. has become one of my favorite places to turn to when planning events. I love the staff and their cheerful help. I love the chiavari chairs; they transform any event from ordinary to extraordinary. I love finding fun, exclusive liens and the classic white china to set the foundation for a beautiful table.
Left, a Imagine If wedding. Right, Simply Ivory China Collection, Natural and Fruitwood Grand Chiavari Chairs.
Thanks for sharing with us, Bonnie! 

Beyond Tabletop: Jennifer Ellison

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
We have a soft spot for our friends in West Texas; they have strong ties to the local scene while embracing a global world. Perhaps no one embodies this philosophy towards living more than Jennifer Ellison, Director of University Events at Abilene Christian University. The ACU grad was hired at her alma mater in 2005 for a year of event planning for their Centennial celebration, followed by a stint at Aramark, and finally, her journey came full circle back to the college where it all began when the Director of University Events position became available. We love the amazing designs she and her team come up with (like this award-winning tablescape featured on Tabletop Tuesday), so we knew we needed to get inside her head and share her inspiration and planning tips with you. See why she's our kinda gal below.

1What’s the best aspect of your job?
I have a great team of coordinators that are exceptional.  We also hire student interns who are interested in pursuing careers in event planning.  I love teaching and mentoring our students and giving them real experiences that creates a great resume once they graduate.  My job also allows me to be creative and to think outside the box.  I love the challenge of events.  It’s an ever changing industry that demands vision, imagination, and ingenuity; but my favorite part of event planning is creating a “wow factor.”  That moment when guests walk through the door and gasp with amazement.  The moment when a client says “The event could not have been better.”  When guests are still talking about the concept and creativity six months later.  When someone asks me, “How will you ever top this event?”  That’s why I love my job. 

 What kind of events are held at ACU?
We’ve hosted everything from dinners, lunches, and receptions, to concerts, tailgate parties, car shows, carnivals, sporting events, conferences, weddings…you name it, we’ve probably planned it.  However, not all of those events are ACU sponsored.  We have a lot of community events on campus.  We allow off-campus clients to rent our facilities, so we’ve had clients from all over the U.S.  Our facilities include sports arenas, auditoriums, ballrooms and conference rooms.  We also have multifunctional spaces on campus.  For instance, Teague Special Events Center is actually three indoor tennis courts, but for large events, we bring in carpet, tables and chairs and can seat up to 1,400 people.  One of our most popular event spaces is the Hunter Welcome Center which hosts over 200 events each year.  The HWC was actually nominated two years ago as Event Solutions’ Event Site of the Year during their annual Spotlight Awards.

 What tips can you give to brides or hosts holding events in your facilities?
Book as far in advance as you can.  ACU’s venues book fast.  Know your budget and have ideas about what you want but also be flexible.  We can help you create a simple, tasteful ceremony or an extravagant reception…and everything in between.

 What are the perks of an event at ACU?
A lot of our pricing is inclusive.  The rental fee, for many of our spaces, includes tables, chairs, sound equipment, projectors and screens.  Our on-campus caterer provides exceptional service, is familiar with our facilities, offers competitive pricing, and provides many amenities other caterers cannot. 

 Any memorable events you’d like to share?
One of my favorite events to plan is ACU’s President’s Circle Dinner.  It’s an annual event hosted by our president to say thank you to ACU’s major donors.  Each year, I’m in competition with myself to create something bigger and better than the last year—constantly trying to create a new, innovative approach to the event.  Our exceptional creative partners, POSH, AFR, Ambient Stage Lighting, and Aramark work with my team to bring together an original concept each year.  It’s a true collaboration. Not only do we plan a substantial number of events in Texas, but we also get to travel quite a bit and design events in places like Atlanta, Nashville, and Malibu.  It’s tough to beat a reception overlooking the Pacific Ocean!         

 Any trends you see for the rest of 2013?
We’re still seeing a lot of color being used in events.  Bright colors are highlighted in linen and china selections.  Even the food service providers are using bright, fresh ingredients.  Perfect for spring and summer!  Bringing the outdoors in is also something we’re seeing a lot—using outdoor furniture indoors, creating picnic style dining with southern flare.  We’re also still seeing the small bites trend sticking around with tasting menus rather than full, heavy meals extends the normal food station into an experience rather than a traditional buffet, encouraging guests to walk the room and interact with each other.
What are a few DO’s and DON’Ts you can give clients for working with ACU or other vendors?
DO go in with a budget in mind, but DON’T expect something for nothing.
DON’T be afraid to ask for help.  Be honest and up front with your creative partners (vendors) about your expectations.  Give them as much flexibility as you can and be open to their ideas.  They often have the pulse on what is coming next.  They go to market, they go to tradeshows.  Take advantage of their knowledge.  DO maintain good relationships with creative partners.  It’s super important to have great contacts.

NOW for the fun stuff. Just to spread a little more West Texas love, these are more personal questions.

What inspires you?
So many things inspire me.  There’s the obvious: Pinterest, blogs (love the POSH blog), magazines, etc.  Fashion trends also provide a source of inspiration; what designers are sending down the runway, what’s being highlighted in the fashion world.  I’m also inspired by places I visit.  Architecture, hotel lobbies, restaurants, art, colors.  I travel a lot and am constantly inspired by new places.  My team is also inspired by other event professionals.  We have great creative partners who share ideas, explore new looks, and research what is hot and what will be trending in the near future.  We love going to conferences and trade shows and getting a glimpse into what the next creative concept will be.  Then we bring those ideas back to Abilene, make them relevant to our audience, provide our own touches, and create a cutting edge event.  

What’s on your playlist?
My playlist…oh goodness!  Music is another thing that inspires me!  I have playlists for pretty much every event, every mood, every trip and they’re all different.  Currently, I’m listening to a little bit of Lana Del Ray, Muse, Sia and Phoenix.  Throw in some Dolly, Pink and Rhianna for girl power.  Toss in some Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, and The Beach Boys for my old soul, and I think I’m good to go! 

 What’s your favorite about living in Abilene, Texas?
Abilene has a great small town feel, but also has qualities of a larger city.  The people are friendly and very family oriented which gives Abilene a great sense of community.    

Give us insight into the local scene:
a.     Favorite place to eat:
This is a tough one because I have so many favorite places!  Perini Ranch Steakhouse, The Beehive, Los Arcos, Heffs.  I love supporting the local restaurants.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against chains.  I come from a family who owns a restaurant in East Texas, so supporting the small, locally owned eateries is important to me. 
b.     Favorite place to spend a day off:
If I’m spending my day off in Abilene, I like to stay home.  Catch-up on sleep, clean a little, cook a lot, spend time with friends and just relax.   
c.      Any annual events you look forward to?
I always look forward to ACU’s Homecoming and Sing Song.  They’re two of the largest annual events at ACU that bring back thousands of alumni and friends.  The Abilene community also hosts fun events such as City Sidewalks and the West Texas Fair and Rodeo.
d.     Favorite weekend trip and what does it entail?
A lot of my weekend trips are spent in Dallas at a fun downtown hotel, eating at great restaurants, visiting friends, seeing shows, and enjoying the energy the city provides.  I also spend a lot of time visiting family in East Texas and San Antonio.  If I have a free weekend, you can bet I’m traveling somewhere!  

Let's talk tabletop!
a.     Favorite moments around the table
The phrase “around the table” brings so many memories to mind, all around my parent’s table in their breakfast nook.  Memories of eating with my family, laughing with my siblings until I cry.  Memories of playing games around that same table or dying Easter eggs, or feeding my niece in her high-chair, or wrapping Christmas presents or talking about the future.  A table in my family is so much more than just a dining surface.  It’s a place where we’ve laughed and cried and celebrated and shared.  It’s where memories are made. 
b.     What’ your personal preference for setting the table at home?
I love to set a formal dining table for special occasions, holidays, or whenever the mood strikes!  I think great china, stemware, and flatware is fabulous.  It adds such life to a table.  However, sadly, due to my hectic schedule, most of my meals are in restaurants, on the go, or are on plastic.   
c.      What kind of traditions (revolving around sit down dinners, brunches, etc.) do you uphold for family and friend dinners?
Holiday meals are always considered traditions in our family.  Everything is homemade, serving dishes full of our favorite foods passed home-style around the table, with lots of laughter and chatter and enjoying family time.  If you want to get a true sense of my family and one of our favorite traditions, you would have to visit us at Thanksgiving.  My mother, an amazing cook, builds a buffet of traditional (and not so traditional) Thanksgiving foods that extends the length of the kitchen island.  Plates are filled until they nearly overflow, and then we retreat to the living room where everyone finds a seat on a couch, recliner, or the floor and we proceed to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Every Thanksgiving.  It truly kicks off the Christmas season for our family.  No elegant china.  No formal dining room.  We laugh every year as if it’s the first time we’ve seen the movie.  And love every minute of it.      
What are your favorite POSH pieces?
We’ve had fun with the Mottahedeh Tree Collection, love the look of the Jan Barboglio copper chargers, the elegance of the Silver Lace Glassware, and the flexibility of the Vintage Carnival Glassware.  I could go on and on about favorite POSH pieces.  We see something new every time we’re in the showroom!

Thanks, Jennifer! We had a blast getting to know you better. 

Tabletop Tuesday: Industrial Design

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two different place settings for optimal effect. Both glam settings incorporated a mix of metals and textures. Left: Chocolate GEO Charger, Simply Ivory Dinner Plate, Silver Barcelona Salad Plate, Elise Cut Crystal Glassware, Silver Rimmed Goblet, Parisian Flatware. Right: Jan Barboglio Hammered Charger, Silver Barcelona Dinner Plate, Mottahedeh Tree Salad Plate, Birch Hall Flatware

Today we share a little West Texas love with one of our favorite group of planners. The University Events team at Abilene Christian University designed this showstopper for the 2013 Catersource/Event Solutions Tabletop Contest in Las Vegas. Their concept, inspired by great industrial design coupled with a masculine edge but feminine touch, moved the judges to award ACU with the Most Viable Concept Award. We love the mix of couture patterns, metallic tones and historical allusion for a truly modern tabletop.  This is nearly an androgynous look, begging to be recreated for posh events. Jennifer Ellison, Director of University Events, led the team and will be on the blog tomorrow to share what inspires her. Be sure to check back!

We love the mixture of stemware: Vintage Carnival Parisian Glass in Clear, Silver Rimmed Water Goblet, Silver Lace Wine Goblet, Elise Cut Crystal Hiball
This tabletop has an almost Gatsby vibe with it's luxe linens, cigar trays, and glamorous bar.

Do you love this as much as we do? Thanks to Jennifer Ellison and the University Events team for sharing, and congrats on your award. Check back tomorrow to hear more from Jennifer.

The art of dressing up

Monday, May 20, 2013
Left, Mui Mui shoes / Right, A tabletop inspired for the girls with the perfect pops of pink and gold.
Playing dress up begins at five and never truly ends is an understatement. We feel the same way about our tabletops. After all, Mom said not to play with your food, not with your china and patterns. With love a calculated break from tradition, a sudden pop of color, and anything that sparkles when we're celebrating a night worth really dressing up. Inspired by these cool Mui Mui shoes, this tabletop embraces pink with a look that's fit for a princess but chic enough for the adult tables when paired with gold. All it's missing is the girls. Tell us, when you plan for a girls night in, how do you dress up the table?

Get the look with P.O.S.H.: Simply Ivory China Collection, Gold Beaded Glass Charger, Dynasty 24 Karat Flatware, Gold Lace Glassware