Last Friday, we had our monthly Cookbook Club meeting. For the past couple months, one of the girls has offered to host a dinner party in their home and the rest of us bring one recipe from the pre-selected cookbook or cooking magazine of their choice. So far, each hostess has also taken the opportunity to write about their cookbook selecting process, what they did to prepare for their guests, or whatever else was on their mind. We were overjoyed when November’s hostess, Mary, took on this task as we know it will continue to give our readers a fresh new look at hosting and what this club has to offer. So without further ado, we introduce our friend Mary (Teacher, Pilates Instructor, and Hostess with the Mostess) …


Written by: Mary

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I was very excited to host our October Cookbook Club dinner party! There is nothing better than staying in on a Friday night with girlfriends, sipping wine, and devouring delicious homemade food. The best part is, I only had to make one dish! I chose the October issue of the Food Network magazine; a magazine I had never actually purchased before that was filled with hundreds of recipes! The recipes were appropriately themed for Fall and they appeared relatively basic. As soon as I purchased the magazine I knew I wanted a fun Fall theme to kick off the holiday season!

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This month’s cookbook club was exactly one week before Halloween so I incorporated a lot of miniature pumpkins and candy corn into the decor. Since it was 90 degrees in Los Angeles that day I kept the flowers light by mixing pinks and yellows into the otherwise orange color scheme. I picked up unscented candles and votives from Michael’s the week prior to add some sparkle and set the tone for the evening.

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As guests arrived we opened a bottle of Rose’ to start which seemed appropriate as we transition into a still-warm Fall evening. I announced to the guests that I set up a little game to play to get into the holiday spirit. I had filled a jar with candy corn and placed it next to a chalk board with the question “How many Candy Corn?” Each guest wrote down their estimate on the chalk board. This was a great way to entertain guests while I had the chance to do last-minute food preparations, fill water glasses, and to spark conversation.

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Our dinner menu was delicious! The recipes chosen were the Butternut Squash Risotto (pg 133), Apple Cheese Toast (pg 75), Celery Salt Fries with Bloody Mary Ketchup (pg 97), Baked Goat Cheese Dip (pg 94), and Roasted Fall Vegetables (pg 123). We all filled our plates with second helpings and were unapologetic about the mostly carb-filled meal!

We all gossiped and caught up until the wee hours of the morning with full tummies. At the end of the evening the winner of the Candy Corn game was announced. Every guest had under-estimated (who knew so many pieces could fit in that jar?) but Paige had the highest guess, closest to the correct answer of 312. Paige took home the jar to enjoy with her family. Congrats, Paige!

I am very much looking forward to next month’s Cookbook Club at Tami’s new apartment with Martha Stewart magazine!


As Mary mentioned, our very own Tami will be hosting next month’s Cookbook Club dinner party. We are so excited! Tami is also especially excited to finally be able to show off her new place (look for posts to come showcasing the finished product as well in the near future). Next month, we will be creating dishes from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living. We have made it extremely easy for you and your crew to take part. Don’t get up! Just click on this link and you can purchase the magazine right from home! Also, as this is intended as an interactive post, we would love to hear from you. Have you tried any of the recipes from the October issue of Food Network magazine? What did you make and what did you think? If not, join us for our November challenge … gather your friends and get cooking!


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This past weekend our brother, Aaron, turned 25! For this special birthday we couldn’t just do the normal family dinner. This occasion called for a bigger gathering. So two of Aaron’s closest friends (Erica and Jessie) and his siblings (ourselves and our sister, Rebecca) as well as our parents got together to plan a big surprise.

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Ever since Aaron was little, he has had a thing for wearing silly hats. In fact, we can distinctly remember him walking around the house in a top hat just for fun and his personal hat collection is larger than anyone else’s we know. Luckily, Aaron’s hosts know that when planning a party you must keep your guest of honor in mind, and  just like that a theme was born … Aaron’s Silly Hat Party!

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In preparation of this party, we sent our parents on a mission … to steal Aaron’s hat collection. They were successful! Although there were already many hats to choose from, most guests used this opportunity to wear their own favorite silly hat. Can you believe two people showed up wearing the exact same hat?

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Two of Aaron’s closest friends went through his Facebook and happened upon many photos of our brother in his many silly hats. They created this adorable photo banner using all of their findings.

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We were put in charge of snacks. We collected a few of Aaron’s favorite things; Goldfish crackers, our famous “mix” with a Halloween twist, and some chips and dips, as well as Aaron’s favorite drinks.

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In the end, Aaron was super surprised! In fact, we believe his exact words were, “If you asked me to list off a thousand things I could possibly be doing that night, having a surprise party would not have been one of them!” It was so much fun for us to get to celebrate this special day with our little brother and know that he had a great time as well. What else can you ask for? Well, if your answer to that question is karaoke … we had that too! Happy Birthday Aaron! We love you!


This has turned out to be a crazy busy month for Side by Side Design with the launch of our new website, two weddings, and the return of our yearly Halloween project (seen on our previous post: Haunted Circus). Not to mention work to be done on the Interiors side of our business. So it should go without saying that we have both been in need of some down time. As a working mom, Lauren tries to find a balance between work and family on a daily basis. She made a point, this month, to find some time to do something fun with her husband and her little girl.

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Ava had so much fun picking out pumpkins at their local pumpkin patch. Lauren and Scott were happy to be able to capture this first time visit for their family.

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In the past, we have decorated our pumpkins with our Craft Club girls (seen here and here). This year, Lauren thought it would be fun to get the rest of her family involved. She purchased black electrical tape and decorated a large pumpkin with a cool geometric pattern and a small pumpkin with one chevron stripe. She cut small strips of tape and gave them to Ava to place how she sees fit (or where Mommy’s hand helps direct her) and asked her husband to decorate the final and largest one. Decorating with tape allows even the least crafty individual a creative outlet.

With Halloween just around the corner, it is time to decorate those pumpkins (if you have not already done so). Why not get the whole family involved? We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Feel free to email photos to



Our new website is set to launch on Friday … until then our blog is under construction. Please check back with us on Friday!


Today is a really exciting day in the life of our blog as we are celebrating the Big 4-0-0! It honestly feels like yesterday that we began this journey, and now three years later we have written four hundred posts! We can’t believe it! In honor of this special occasion, we would like to take this opportunity to share some special posts from our past. Of course it is Friday after all and so we decided to keep it food related. In keeping with this theme, we are posting links to our top four (most viewed) food related posts. Please enjoy!

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#4: Summer Salads – This was our first official Food Fridays post. We are so excited that so many of you read it. Great pick you guys! Why wouldn’t you choose a post with three different recipes in one. We love getting more for our money as well.

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#3: Apple Tart – Personally this was one we would have loved to forget about. Somehow every time we try to bake something it turns into a disaster, and this recipe in particular we had to make twice just to get right (or as close to it as we could). Thanks for the support!

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#2: Spicy Sriracha Roasted Broccoli – A health kick turned into a delicious meal (inspired by Lauren’s March inspiration picture). We love this recipe too!

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… and the #1 most viewed food post: Turkey Burger Salad  – Sometimes you just have to copy a good idea! So we will admit, this wasn’t exactly our idea but it was delicious … and you loved it too!

Happy 400th Blog Post to Side by Side Design! Here’s to 400 more! We would love your feedback … What is your favorite type of post? We can only continue to grow as writers if we know what our readers want.