Monday, February 4, 2013

Ask Charlotte 3: Midwinter Makeover

Hello Chocolateers! 

This week, I’ll focus on a question I get often about making changes in d├ęcor at home without breaking the bank.

Dear Charlotte: We want to spruce up various rooms in our home but cannot afford a remodel, what can you recommend we do to give our home a facelift without the steep price tag of a remodel?- Hoping for Change

Dear Change, There are many ways to freshen up your home and stick to a very modest budget that’s nowhere near the price of a remodel. Here are a few tips:

Repaint your rooms Paint is a relatively inexpensive way to give your interior space a new look and feel. Choose a different color palette than you currently have. Another option is adding an accent wall with a deeper color.

Use accent pillows replace old throw pillows on your couch with new ones in a different shape, color, or texture. This will brighten up both the couch and the room. 

Change the furniture layout- another wonderful trick is to simply rearrange the furniture you already have in your home to shake things up a bit. Move your couch to another wall, angle it in a corner, or 'float' it in the center of the room.

Update the lighting- Adding a new floor lamp or side lamps will brighten any room. Adding dimmer switches to existing light fixtures or recessed lights also allows you to control the mood of a room. I also love candles and believe that you cannot have too many! Using a single color candle (white or creme, for example) throughout the space creates a unified look.

 Change the floor coverings- A new vibrant or monochromatic rug can liven up any space. There are so many rich textures and patterns to enhance your current furnishings and give them a new foundation. It is absolutely OK to layer a carpet with an area rug on top. 

Spice up the kitchen-changing the knobs on kitchen cabinet doors gives them an instant makeover. Also, adding a new light fixture in the kitchen can brighten the space. 

Hopefully, incorporating these easy tips will give your home a new look and feel, and inspire you to stay home and enjoy it!

Got a question for Charlotte? Reach out to or drop us a note right here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ask Charlotte 2: Referral Refusal

Hello again Chocolateers!

This week, we have a question from someone who tried to do a good deed and is now caught in a conflict between a client and a colleague.

Dear Charlotte: HELP!  My reputation among friends and clients hangs in the balance. Please let me know how to handle this.  I'm a seasoned, well-respected event planner working in a small town. A client, a well-known businesswoman in town, Mrs. B., asked me to refer a caterer for a private dinner party she was hosting for her granddaughter's college graduation.  I felt confident in my referral, as this caterer and I have worked together very successfully for years and she is well known in our town among the dinner party circle. Mrs. B. was not pleased with the caterer's work. She called me, very upset. This is the ONLY time I've ever heard a bad review. Not only is Mrs. B. annoyed with me, but she wants me to convince the caterer to refund her. 

Frankly, I don't think I should be placed in this situation. The caterer is well-loved and always gets business from this circle. All I did was make the referral. What is the extent of my responsibility, here?--Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck: I understand how you must feel. On the one hand, you recommended your colleague based on her strong reputation for good service. On the other, your credibility with Mrs. B. could be on the rocks. 

Your question is a good one and not uncommon: What is the extent of your responsibility? In my opinion, you did as you were asked, in that you recommended someone with good references and history and a standard of quality service. What Mrs. B. is asking you to do is to insert yourself into a business transaction that has proceeded without your earlier involvement, jeopardizing your relationship with the vendor, your colleague. You feel like you are being forced to choose sides, and you'd really rather not. You feel like there's no way out.

Given your unique circumstances, however, you would be best served to sit with each party separately, and chat in earnest with them. Listen to Mrs. B. and acknowledge her concerns. Sit with your colleague as well, making sure that you honor each parties' privacy. Urge them to sit with one another in a non-confrontational setting, where their different approaches can be shared, likely in the presence of a third, impartial party so that a fair resolution can be reached. Good luck!

How would you handle this if you were the one asked for a recommendation? Please leave your comment below.  Got a question for Charlotte? Reach out to or drop us a note right here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ask Charlotte 1: The Invitation Situation

Hello Chocolateers!

I get questions all of the time about etiquette and planning. Here is a question from a busy daughter caught in a difficult spot in planning her Mom's birthday. 

Dear Charlotte: I am having a surprise party for my mother's 65th birthday in a week. I tried to do the right thing by sending out invites three weeks ahead and asking guests to respond at the latest two weeks ago. I invited 200 people, and only 30 have responded! I have to get numbers to the caterers in 2 days. If I order too much it will go to waste. If I don't order enough, it's embarrassing!
I tried to call and email some of her friends, but I'm just too busy during the day at the office. How can I get them to tell me if they are coming so I can plan this better? What should I have done differently? - Desperate Daughter

Dear DD,
I can imagine your frustration! You just wanted to plan something nice for her milestone birthday, and things are going off course. Here's the short answer: 

You--or someone you trust--must start making those calls immediately. You have to figure out your numbers. Use a simple script: "I'm calling to follow up on the invitation we sent for Mom's Birthday Surprise, and we would like to include you in the number today. Will you be able to make it? Thank you."

There's no need for this                                      ...for you to achieve this!
For future reference, know that for a party that size and your busy lifestyle, you may wish to consider hiring an event planner.  It all seems doable, until this sort of thing arises. Remember, we specialize in details! 

If you are doing it on your own, remember a few tips:
  • 'Consider your audience': think about the people on your guest list, then decide the best way to invite. Do your guests prefer email or social media, or are they more suited to written invitations? E-vites require 3 weeks advance, while paper invitations should be sent out 4 weeks in advance. There's also a cost difference. There are e-vite choices that can be customized for very little, or for free. Paper invitations can range from less than $1.00 per (pre-printed) or up to $15 for made-to-order invitations. There is also delivery time and postage cost to consider for paper invitations. Also, make sure that you give guests a clear method and date by which a response is requested, be it a phone call, email, or response card. The only time a 'yes' response is NOT needed is if an invitation says 'Regrets only'. Otherwise, a response is needed for planning purposes.
  • 'Consider the event': do guests have to travel into or out of town for this? If so, you may even want to send a 'Save The Date' 6 weeks in advance.
  • 'Consider the refreshments': if you are ordering food from a caterer or a restaurant, make sure you know just how close to the event date you need to place your order. Make sure that your response date is a week prior to that, to avoid last minute headaches and changes.
Good luck, and remember my most important entertaining rule: celebrate the moment, not the mishaps. You are blessed to be able to do this for your Mom, and she will be thrilled you did it to honor her. Enjoy your celebration with her! 

Got a question for Charlotte? Reach out to or drop us a note right here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tips for Easy Entertaining

Welcome to my blog!

This is a space where you can come to us for tips, advice, recommendations, and ideas. It's a sharing space, so please feel free to comment and ask questions in the comment section below. We thought it would be a good idea to start off with basic tips for entertaining. Please keep the following in mind as you plan your special get together.

1.    Keep it festive, simple and fun. That's the point, right? Everyone is there to enjoy themselves. Including YOU.

2.    Plan ahead and prep and set up as much as possible the night prior. There will always be enough to do on the day of your event.

3.    Use the very BEST of everything you own, including glassware, wedding china, and silverware. What are you waiting for? The occasion is special because YOU make it so.

4.   It is absolutely OK to mix and match. The result can be fabulous.

5.    Create a memorable experience. You want to look back and smile at the memories.

6.   Dress the table and layer it. Personalize it by creating a 'tablescape', using flowers, stones, candles, fruit, and/or ornaments.

7.    Create a theme/concept. Think of the occasion, such as a holiday, anniversary, or birthday, and build your theme around the occasion

8.   Add ambience with various candles of different sizes. Enough said.

9.   Sometimes, less is more. All you need are the most basic elements.  

10. Most importantly, celebrate the moment, not the mishaps.

Now go forth and be inspired, Chocolateers! 

Don't be shy. Share your experiences, please. Let us know how you applied these simple guidelines in the comments below. Don't forget to visit me on my website, too!