Ain’t No Party Like Book Club Party


Guest Post by Emily Belden

Since my memoir, Eightysixed, came out in 2014, I have been to my share of book events. Whether I’m doing a reading, signing, or Q&A, I have become exceptionally fond of one of America’s favorite pastimes: Book Club.

Not only are there usually ample amounts of wine and tasty little yum-yums, but there’s something very warm and nostalgic about a group of people coming together to discuss how a book impacted their lives. No matter if the topic is the down fall of literary icon Gatsby or the life lessons learned in Eightysixed, it’s always a treat to provide an environment for people to talk freely about books.

Speaking of that environment, here are few tips to nail your next book club event – or to provide inspiration to start one!

Wine time

Let’s be honest. Book Club is synonymous with Wine Club (amiright?). When you host Book Club, invite guests to bring two of the exact same bottles of “the cheap stuff”. Open one bottle for guests to try, and keep the other as a reserve. When your meeting is over, everyone leaves with a bottle of something they didn’t bring!

Book Club

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Head to the thrift store and grab some 50 cent books. Tear pages out, hot glue them together in an abstract, “leafy” line, and create a wordy runner for your coffee or dining room table. Also, color block similar looking spines and stack candles and snacks atop for a fun display!

Give a book, take a book

Similar to the wine idea, everyone brings a book that’s a personal favorite. Wrap it in brown paper and write three lines about the book, not revealing the author or title.

Book Club

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Snacks and things

If you’re looking for something for the wine to wash down, think about:

Gummy worms = book worms

Instead of tortilla roll-ups, fold them over instead. On the front and down the “spine” use edible frosting pens to write the name of the book you are reviewing


One of the best ways to spark discussion is for everyone to write down a question or thought they had on the book. Put it in a jar and take turns picking out a question to answer as a group. When it comes time to choose the next book, let everyone chime in title suggestions or even just “themes” (transparency, acceptance, fear) and let the host choose.

Check out my Pinterst pin-board to see some of my favorite book club ideas and moments. What have you experienced?

Emily Belden

Emily Belden is the best-selling author of Eightysixed. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two rescue dogs.

This entry was posted in Party.

Engagement Party Tips for the Bride

Engagement Party Tips for the Bride

A few weeks ago, my sisters and friends threw Sutton and me an engagement party. We had so much fun celebrating our engagement with friends and family. You probably know if you’ve kept up with my blog that I love to throw parties, so it was hard for me to take a step back from the planning. As much as I tried to butt in, my sisters and friends tried to keep everything a surprise and I am so glad they did. Your engagement party should be something you get to enjoy and not stress out about. So, I’ve compiled some engagement party tips for the bride’s.

Engagement Party Tips for the Bride

Who Hosts?

If you are recently engaged, just know an engagement party is not necessary. My sisters and friends wanted to throw us a party so I happily obliged. Traditionally the brides parents will host and it is typically a meeting of the families. However, this really isn’t the case anymore. Often times friends will host this party or you and your fiancé could even host!

Engagement Party Tips for the Bride

Decor & Guest List

Since this party is being thrown by someone other than yourself, you most likely will not have much say in the planning. However, it is appropriate to give your opinion on the formality of the affair. If you don’t want an elegant, over the top party or a backyard bbq, speak now or forever hold your peace. Also, be sure you have a say in the guest list. You do not want anyone invited to the party that will not be on the wedding guest list (#awkward).

Engagement Party Tips for the Bride

To Gift or Not to Gift?

Gifts are not necessary at an engagement party. There will be plenty of other times for gifting so if you plan to opt out of this let your host know. They should inform your guests by printing “Please, no gifts” on the invitation. Or if you would like your guests to bring something other than gifts let your host know as well. Maybe you could have them bring a photo of their favorite memory of you and your fiancé or perhaps a donation for your favorite charity.

Engagement Party Tips for the Bride

What to Wear?

Don’t feel obligated to wear white. I planned on not wearing white to our party until the very last minute. As long as you match the theme, are dressed appropriately and feel comfortable, that is all that matters. Also, as my mom kindly reminded me, dress however you would dress around your grandmother because she will most likely be invited.

Remember this is a party for you and your fiancé. Celebrate and don’t worry about the details. Your friends and family will take care of everything. This is your time to relax and just enjoy the moment.

On a side note, I’m just now getting into the wedding planning swing. So, for all of you event planners and brides out there please leave your best advice below in the comments or send me an email!



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Holiday Cookie Swap

holiday cookie swap

A few weeks ago, Kaleigh from the Lively Table and I teamed up to share with you how to be the best holiday party host. Well, we are back together again to share with you how to host a holiday cookie swap.

One thing I love about holiday parties is the food, more specifically dessert! Cookies are such an integral part of the holidays. Everyone has different family recipes that they make during this special time and I love the idea of sharing those with friends. A holiday cookie swap is so fun because not only are you letting your friends take part in your favorite recipe, but you also get to indulge in theirs. This is one party where you are reaping rewards for days after the soirée is over.

But, before you send out the invitations here are some recipes and hostess rules to get you started-


holiday cookie swap

Guests will need ample time to plan for this party. Since you are asking your friends to bring cookies be sure to give them enough prep time. Also, on the invitation, be sure to determine the amount of cookies you would like your guests to bring. Depending on the number of guests you invite will influence the amount of cookies you ask each guest to bring. I would say for a small party a dozen cookies each will be ample, and for a larger party two dozen will suffice. When guests RSVP for the party, ask that they send you the type of cookie they will be making and the recipe. You can type up the recipe and create a small cook book as a take away gift.

Party Prep

holiday cookie swap

As the hostess, it is very important that your cookies are homemade. Also, be sure you bake more than one type of cookie in case a guest shows up empty-handed.

I’ll let Kaleigh step in and tell you all about her favorite cookie recipes.

My favorite cookies to make every year are these Perfect Sugar Cookies. They have been in my family for generations, and they are an absolute must at any holiday gathering!

Gingersnaps are always a welcomed addition to any holiday party! The warm ginger and sweet molassses are fabulous with spiced cider or mulled wine! And at only 45 calories each, you can feel free to indulge without regret.

Snowballs are another family tradition that my aunt used to make every year. She would always gift each of her neices and nephews a box of them with a Christmas ornament. Snowballs always remind me of her. Plus, they couldn’t be easier to make!

Cranberry Bliss Cookies are inspired by the Starbucks holiday treat, the Cranberry Bliss Bar. They are loaded with cranberries and white chocolate, and perfect this time of year! You can find all of these, plus many more cookie recipes on my blog, by clicking on the links!


holiday cookie swap

Besides baking delicious cookies, you will need to get goodie bags or tins for your guests to take their delicious baked goods home with them. These cardboard containers are inexpensive and adorable, these gift boxes and these structured gift bags are perfect for stacking cookies. Also, since you are asking your guests to do a little prep work, be sure you help them out by providing platters to place the cookies on, name plates for each cookie and the printed recipes.

Party Rules

holiday cookie swap

The party rules are fairly simple. You don’t want to complicate the party with too many rules which might cause confusion.

  1. Set ground rules – When sending out invitations, be sure that the guests are clear on your expectations. If you want all of the cookies to be homemade or holiday themed, let your guests know so that they can abide by these rules.
  2. Cookie Count – Since you are pre-determining the amount of cookies each guest should bring, this will help you decide how many of each cookie guests are allowed to take. Make sure that everyone is able to grab at least two of each cookie.

Feel free to add more of your own rules but these are the two most important.

Now that you are all prepped, set a date for your party, send out those invitations and get to baking! I would love to hear your take on the cookie swap party down below in the comments!


Jill and Kaleigh

This entry was posted in Party.

How to Be the Best Holiday Party Host

Holiday Party Host

It is getting so so close to the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love the holidays. I love that everyone is so cherry, I love giving gifts and I especially love getting together with friends and family. This time of the year is all about togetherness and celebrating so it only makes sense to throw a party! Being a hostess is no easy job. Decorating, feeding and keeping your guests entertained can be quite taxing. My friend Kaleigh from Lively Table (previously mentioned here) has joined me to share some tips on how to be the best holiday party host!


Holiday Party Host

Anytime you are planning a party it is extremely important to determine your theme at the very beginning. Once you come up with a theme you then can begin to plan out the rest of the details. Everything from your invitations, food, music, and especially decorations will be based off of your theme.

I personally think that decorations can really enhance the feel of a party, especially a holiday party. From the moment you walk into the party, you notice the decorations and they create the mood. During the holidays, decorations evoke emotions of cheer and fellowship.

Holiday Party Host

Christmas Tree | Tree Topper (From Michaels, Similar Style Here) | Ribbon (From Michaels, Similar Style Here) | Ornaments (From Michaels, Similar Style Here) | Tree Skirt, Old (Similar Style Here)

Holiday Party Host

Table Runner | Tablecloth | Christmas Tree Plates

Holiday Party Host

Merry Pillow | Nutcracker | Santa

For this get together, I chose to go with a rustic winter theme. I wanted to use lots of neutral tones with gold and silver accents in the decorations. Also, I wanted to bring in elements of wood and burlap to add a little texture.


Holiday Party Host

Drinks. Arguably the other most important part of the party. At minimum, you should have a red and white wine, and a light and heavy beer. Champagne is also encouraged. An open bar is not advised unless you want people over until 4am and you have a clean-up crew the next morning. Also an unlimited budget helps for this option.

A specialty cocktail is nice to have but not required. Try this Apple Cider Sangria for a festive holiday cocktail.


Holiday Party Host

Food is one of the most important things at your party. People always gravitate toward food, so if you want a holiday party to remember, make sure you have good food. If you aren’t hosting a dinner, make sure you at least have snacks. And no, not a veggie tray and cheddar cubes you bought at the store. How very elementary of you.

I recommend at least one meat-centered item, one veggie-centered item, and definitely something cheese-related for the savory foods. A charcuterie board makes it easy to not have to keep food hot, although meatballs are always a hit as well. For veggies, aim for a variety of colors and at least two types of dip. Or you could make a dip out of veggies, like my Hot Broccoli Dip. For the cheese, go with something sophisticated that combines fruit and a high quality cheese, like these Pear and Blue Crostini Bites.

Holiday Party Host

As a side note: Have something for everyone. You will always have somebody who is vegetarian or gluten intolerant, or allergic to nuts. It’s nice to have something for everyone to eat. You don’t want hangry (or too drunk) guests .

Finally, dessert. People like sweet stuff. Have something sweet available. Like these Neiman Marcus Cookies.

Set up food in an open area. People like to hang out around the food table. If it’s somewhere open where people can walk around it, your flow will be much nicer and people can mingle much more easily. If your food is in a tight corner, your guests will end up playing an impromptu game of sardines. And trying to eat with T-rex arms. Not fun.


Holiday Party Host

No one likes to be bored at party…well, at least I don’t! One sure-fire way to keep your guests from having a terrible time is to plan some entertainment. Whether you play a card game or create a dance floor, it is important to keep your guests smiling, laughing and having a good time.

For a holiday party, I think music is very important. It’s not really a holiday party without Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” playing in the background. I love creating playlists and I’ve created one to share with y’all on 8tracks!

Another great way to keep the mood lively is to play a game! Last year during our annual girl’s white elephant party we played the game Heads Up! If you are a fan of the Ellen show, then you have seen her play this game with her guests. You can download it for your iPhone or iPad here. I’ve also found a similar app here that has more holiday categories. This game is so much fun and will keep your guests intrigued.

Holiday Party Host

Hosting parties can get frustrating at times but always to remember to take a deep breath. Planning ahead will always be your best friend. If all else fails call a friend for help! Good drinks, yummy food, great decorations and fun games will always keep your guests having a great time! Do you have any great recipes or fun party games that are good for holiday parties? Share them in the comments below or shoot me an email!

xo, Jill and Kaleigh

This entry was posted in Party.

How to Make a Piñata

How to Make a Piñata

I have been seeing specialty piñatas and balloons all over Instagram and Pinterest lately. I of course have been obsessed with them and wanted one of my own. Thus, my latest DIY project. Since my birthday is on Thursday I thought “what better decoration than a specialty piñata?” I normally would say what the heck and just order one but I just knew I could make one myself.

Just a little disclaimer, I normally share quick and easy projects but this one turned out to take some time. Even though it took me a little while to complete, it was totally worth it. I have a feeling you will feel the same way too. Also, shout out to my baby sister, Sam, for helping me with this!

What You’ll Need:

Moving Boxes | Scissors or a Box Cutter | Tape | A Sharpie | Tissue Paper

How to Make a Piñata

Step 1: Trace

After determining your shape, trace it onto the flat cardboard boxes. I repurposed my moving boxes for this project to save some money. Your boxes can be any size and shape as long as they will accommodate what you are trying to make.

How to Make a Piñata

Step 2: Cut

Now you will want to cut out your shape using your scissors or box cutter. Make sure you cut through both sides of the box so you end up with two of the same shape.

How to Make a Piñata

How to Make a Piñata

Step 3: Tape

With the left over pieces of your cardboard, you will make your shape 3D. Use pieces that are similar in size to the ends of your shape. Doing this will reduce the number of cuts and jagged edges. Piecing your shape back together is kind of like a finishing a puzzle. Also, if you want to add candy or confetti to your piñata, do it right before you seal it up completely.

How to Make a Piñata

Step 4: Fringe

Now that your shape is 3D, cut fringe for the outside. You can make the fringe as big or small as you want. After you finish cutting your fringe, determine a pattern for your piñata. I decided on four gold rows followed by two pink rows and so on. Now tape them on securely.

How to Make a Piñata

Step 5: Have Fun!

Your piñata is all finished. You can use it as a decoration for your party or put it to its real use!

I don’t think I have ever had a piñata at one of my birthday parties so this is a first for me! It only took 24 years!

What’s your favorite birthday party decoration?