Here’s How To Host a Memorable Watch Party

Here’s How To Host a Memorable Watch Party

I pride myself on being a memorable host. “Hostess with the mostest” feels personal when my loved ones have complimented my parties for their stylish decor, funky music playlist, and delectable vegan appetizers. The heartwarming reviews aside — throwing parties and hosting game nights are an excuse to have my loved ones in one space and build community with my different friend groups.

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But watch parties differ from hosting, say, dinner parties. Paying attention to whatever is streaming is the bare minimum that could be done, especially if you’re a talker (embarrassingly, like myself). To me, gathering around a television with your friends while surrounded by a variety of sweets and drinks delivers a similar nostalgic feeling to the infamous house party scene in the beloved 1996 slasher film “Scream,” minus the Ghostface villain.

Since zietgeist-y shows like HBO’s “House of the Dragon” or the now-concluded “Insecure” draw in a massive amount of weekly viewers, a watch party is a chance to bond with your other pop culture-enamored friends. Here are my tips for throwing a good watch party, where everybody has fun.

If your guests are excited to binge-watch the latest popular series on Netflix, give them a heads up if you plan on broadcasting the show at your watch party. If you’re not feeling the task of handing out physical invitations, either send a detailed text about the party’s whereabouts or use a Canva template to create a digital invite. Facebook has an event feature that is quite handy for planning parties, especially when your guests are actually active on the app. Whether your guests receive an invitation a week in advance or a month in advance, collecting even some casual RSVPs will help with preparing the options for comfortable seating and an adequate amount of food.

Hosting can be expensive. Sure, everyone’s coming over to socialize and enjoy the show, but they’re definitely going to be hungry, at least for finger foods. Just remember that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help and turning the watch party into a potluck. If the thought of planning the evening’s menu causes stress, opt-in for serving the entree and requesting sides to build a hearty meal. As a host, I love providing a special themed alcoholic drink and a vegan-friendly appetizer. Often, guests will be open to bringing their preferred drink and a beloved snack, like a bag of chips or store-bought dessert. 

What’s the theme? If you’re watching the new “Game of Thrones” or “Lord of the Rings” spinoff shows, dressing up is half the fun. Perhaps, the theme of the evening will have less to do with outfits— maybe your menu is autumnal or everyone brings a school supply to donate because you’re watching “Abbott Elementary.”

Does everyone know which item they were delegated to bring for the potluck? It’s easy to end up with an abundance of drinks or desserts at a party, but it is an excuse to get a pizza delivered (something about ordering a pizza during a watch party feels like you’re stepping into an early 2000s movie). Either way, feel free to send a reminder text to your guests the day prior to your viewing party just to give them an extra heads up.

If your guests are dressing up, dress up your house, too! I know what you’re thinking, “Who has the time and money for that?” A little bit of arts and crafts has never failed me — and I’m talking about construction paper and reusable decorations from the dollar store. I’m a big fan of reusing decor from past Halloween and Christmas parties, so I’ve accumulated quite the collection over the years. But for a streaming party, the decor depends on the theme, so circle back to the previous step before creating an inspiration board on Pinterest.

Besides decorations, is your living room ready for the evening’s events? This fall cleaning checklist may give you an insight on the spots in your home that may need a little TLC before guests arrive. Once everything’s tidy, there’s no harm in double checking that your internet router, television, and streaming device are up-to-date and working properly to prevent any technical difficulties.

As a host, I’ve found myself running around preparing food, greeting guests, finishing a last minute costume detail, minimizing accidental spills, and anything else that prohibits me from actually enjoying the party. If you happen to be free all day prior to the party, create a simple checklist for yourself to use your preparation time wisely. Watch parties actually require attention, so don’t be shy and allow your guests to help if they offer and give yourself a second to relax.

Happy viewing!

How to Make Your Dreams of a Clutter-Free Bedroom a Reality

How to Make Your Dreams of a Clutter-Free Bedroom a Reality

Stephanie is a writer, editor, and full-time dog petter. As Apartment Therapy’s Cleaning & Organizing Editor, she covers all the ways to make your home sparkle with decluttering tricks, cleaning tips, and organizational hacks. Stephanie holds degrees in English and journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She lives in Hawaiʻi with her husband and dog.

Ideal Home is launching the first Home Energy Week to showcase the best energy-saving tips

Ideal Home is launching the first Home Energy Week to showcase the best energy-saving tips

Ideal Home is launching the UK’s first national Home Energy Week, together with sister brand Homebuilding & Renovating; a campaign to raise awareness of the changes that can make our homes more energy efficient and lower energy bills.

Energy prices will impact millions of households from October, despite Liz Truss’ energy price freeze. There has never been a better time to make energy-saving home improvements. 

Throughout National Home Energy Week, which runs from 26 September – 2 October, Ideal Home and Homebuilding & Renovating (opens in new tab) will be providing a wealth of information, including pragmatic and realistic solutions for homeowners to ensure you don’t pay more for your energy usage than you need to.

Grey chair in grey room with white radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Ideal Home’s Home Energy Hub will guide you through information such as the running costs of tumble dryers, as well as the best energy-saving products under £50 that could reduce your utility bills this winter.

It isn’t easy cutting through the hype and debunking the myths when it comes to greening up our homes, so our expert guides will help you learn what you need to know – depending on your budget and your type of home – to ensure you make your home more energy efficient.

smart meter on table with pot plant

(Image credit: Smart Energy GB)

National Home Energy Week runs from 26-30 September. You can follow our activity on Twitter and Facebook.

Get free tickets to the Home Energy Academy at the London Homebuilding Show

Home Energy Week will culminate in the Homebuilding & Renovating Show at ExCeL, London (30 September to 2 October 2022), to which you can pick up two free tickets now (opens in new tab). It will include two new features designed to give showgoers expert energy advice. 

One of these features is Home Energy Hour, where industry leaders including eco-expert David Hilton will be talking on topics including how to retrofit a house and make green home improvements such as installing effective draught-proofing.

Homeowners wanting individual advice will also be able to book a one-to-one session with an expert at the Home Energy Academy.

Watching TV Is My Favorite Form of Self Care — An Ode to Tuning In to Tune Out

Watching TV Is My Favorite Form of Self Care — An Ode to Tuning In to Tune Out

In my early 20s, I was new to big-city living and my anxiety would spike whenever I was in crowds. The first thing I’d do when I got home to shake off the fear of being crushed to death? Pop in my DVDs of “When Harry Met Sally” or “You’ve Got Mail.”

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Both films were essentially love letters to a less-rushed life in New York City, and once the credits rolled, I loved the city again.

These days, I’m a regular listener and fan of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” podcast, and at the end of each episode, the hosts will share what made them happy on screen that week. For as long as I can remember, indulging in feel-good films and TV have been a necessary part of surviving adulthood. I’ve watched and rewatched hours of small-screen entertainment because of the simple happiness it brings me when the realities of life feel too intense, like rush-hour commutes, work deadlines, and motherhood.  Hearing the NPR hosts talk about what they are watching assures me I’m not alone in using TV as a personal retreat. Typically, they don’t talk about prestige series, but rather the feel-good films and TV shows that bring the hosts more comfort than a cultural critique. I get it. These are the types of programs that help reset our mental capacity, often when we need it most. 

For me, 30 minutes of a feel-good sitcom is just as beneficial as yoga. Yes, I’m an educated professional who knows and understands the proven health benefits of practicing physical activities beyond the couch. But the instant cup of joy I get from rewatching “The Diamond Dogs” episode of “Ted Lasso” feels better than an extended downward dog movement for me.

Here’s the set up (for anyone who didn’t see “Ted Lasso” stars take home a bunch of Emmys): Ted is an American football coach who’s been dubiously hired to coach a Premier League soccer team in England. He’s a joke to everyone until he defeats one of his most visceral adversaries on their home court: the local pub. You can feel the anticipation of Ted upending the crowd as he (Jason Sudeikis) stops the shenanigans of being a poor dart player by calling out his favorite food: “barbecue sauce.” As his final dart hits a bullseye, Ted becomes a hero for underdogs and a White Knight for girls with horrible exes. The euphoria I feel after watching Ted prove his naysayers wrong week after week makes my spirit smile. In fact, this central plot point in the series — winning people over with simple kindness — always lifts my spirits, which is why I can’t think of a better form of instant self-care. No workout pants or soaking tub required.

I’m not alone in watching the small screen as a means of preserving and nourishing my daily mental health. Actually, it’s something I learned from my mama. When I was a young girl, she worked a late-night shift as an airline ticket agent. When she’d come home, she would immediately turn on the TV. Once I grew up and started juggling a job and family, I asked her how she kept her sanity working such long hours, especially coming home after midnight. She told me that she watched TV for an hour to unwind after a long night of answering a high volume of calls (this was the early 80s, long before online booking became the norm). It was her secret to finding peace, and one I eventually adopted, too. I went on to have a career as an entertainment editor in New York City, covering and reviewing TV and film culture for a living. You’d think after many hours of required screenings, celebrity interviews, and writing about entertainment, the last thing I’d want to do was actually come home and turn on the TV. Nope. I’d happily cue up whatever I had stored on my DVR or scroll the viewing guide until something signaled my brain to stop and watch.

Using TV as a soothing tool is nothing to be ashamed of. According to a 2020 Nielsen survey, TV occupies 80 percent of the time we spend consuming entertainment, still dominating app and internet viewing. While most sleep experts recommend no TV before bedtime and definitely no screen time while sleeping, New York based therapist Elisha Mudly, L.M.SW., encourages us to embrace watching a little evening telly if that’s what makes you happy. “A big thing that can be helpful is finding the tools that help you self-soothe and disengage [from work] in a healthy way,” she says. “For example, some folks find that no screens before bed is useful. I also, hypocritically, enjoy mindless Netflix shows sometimes. That helps me regulate and lower my anxiety levels.”

And just like that, Mudly takes the sting out of accepting TV as a healthy form of self-care: “Be really compassionate with yourself in what you need, don’t think and judge yourself for what you need to rest. For me, it’s watching ‘The Office.’ It just like puts me right to sleep.”

For many people, tuning in to tune out is as necessary to their daily replenishment as drinking water. When I posed the question on social media, I quickly realized that others practice self-care in front of the TV, too.  “I watch reality TV to turn my brain off,” says Isabella “Izzy” Persico, a 20-something publicity coordinator who pulls in long hours for a global brand. “’New Girl’ always relaxes me,” says Mikalah Thomas, a marketing and tech professional in Atlanta. “I like the style of comedy and I heavily relate to the Jess character, so it feels like I’m watching myself in another reality.” Steve Jones, an entertainment producer in Los Angeles, says “After a hard week, I look forward to Sunday as my day to escape inside of someone else’s story. Their ability to overcome obstacles by the end of the season reminds me of my ability to do the same at the end of whatever season of life I find myself in.” And Tiara Jackson, a senior marketing manager in La Plata, Maryland, says “I enjoy rom-coms for self-care. I need a relatable romantic story with fantasy and a happy, optimistic ending. Gotta keep hope alive.”

Same here. When I’m cozy in bed but my eyes aren’t closing fast enough, I search for a stress-free series that’s familiar but unlike anything in my real world. My sleeping pill: the BBC production of “Pride & Prejudice” with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Between the British accents and pageantry of the Regency era, the slow pace of early 18th century life lulls me to dreamland. TV programs that are mirrors of my life, or the lives of people I know and love, have the opposite effect on me. A year ago a friend suggested the Canadian series “Workin’ Moms” on Netflix. Instantly I dove in because of its irreverent take on how modern women navigate subjects such as abortion, cheating, and emotionally estranged kids with thoughtfulness and quirky humor. However, watching it before bed had my mind racing: What would I do if I was pregnant with my third kid and the weight of motherhood was crushing me? How would I handle my teen who’s the bad apple of the group? The questions kept coming and I needed to quiet the conversations in my head. Back to 18th century England I go.

When I’m not looking at TV as an escape before bed or winding down after hours on my computer, I’m tuning in for the warmth of cuddling with my loved ones as we watch a series together and make new memories. This summer we were late crashers to the “Stranger Things” party. We deep dived into Hawkins by watching three or four episodes a day until we were caught up for the fourth season. (I may or may not have broken my family’s circle of trust and watched the finale while I was traveling for work and my daughter was at camp.) We’re officially team Lucas and Max, and Erica is my avatar.

We were happily awaiting the return of “Abbott Elementary” because we cannot get enough of vice principal Ava’s antics. Speaking of Ava (Ava DuVernay that is), “Queen Sugar’s” final season starts soon, and the series continues being a love letter to Black women and Louisiana. After hours on Sunday, my partner and I are reliving the glory days of bonding over “Game of Thrones” with “House of the Dragon” (the verdict is out if we’ll stay in Westros.) And the next time I have a few hours of me time at home, I’m taking a trip to The Pink because I missed watching the second season of “P-Valley” in real time.

If a few hours of viewing pleasure a night helps to ease your mind, I say, go for it. Bobette Gillette, a media executive in Washington, D.C., says the repeats of procedural “Law & Order” take her to her happy place. “That dum dun gets me every time.” Sometimes it really is all about the little things.

Best Types of Wood Flooring for Your Home

Best Types of Wood Flooring for Your Home

From reclaimed hardwood to modern laminate, the texture and warmth of wooden flooring is a prominent choice for many homeowners. However, before you make a choice, you have to familiarize yourself with the best types of wood floors. In our wood flooring guide, we are revealing the best types and everything you should know about them.

Tongue-and-Groove Flooring

With tongue-and-groove flooring, every plank has an extending tongue at its ends that fit into the grooves on the adjacent planks. It can be quite complicated to fix tongue-and-groove together. If you get any angle wrong, you might displace the planks that you have already joined.

Laminate Flooring

Light wood laminate flooring in a home
Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

This is a compacted fibreboard plank, enveloped with a visual image of woods with a protecting overlay. Quality differs significantly, so it is recommended you purchase the best quality possible. The pros of laminate flooring are that it is quite cheap, easy to install, and there are many styles available. However, it doesn’t always look and feel real, and poorly installed laminate flooring can discourage homebuyers.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Every engineered wood floorboard consists of three or four layers of hardwood, lodged together to make a plank about 14mm thick. It also has an authentic wood veneer of about 4mm thick at the top, which means that it can be sanded down and treated to bring back its original finish when it becomes damaged, scuffed, or worn. Engineered wood flooring is quite stable and less susceptible to changes brought about by temperature. However, it is generally more expensive and difficult to install.

Solid Wood Flooring

Lovely solid wood flooring in a kitchen
Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

Every solid wood floorboard is created from a single chunk of wood, which is usually about 18-20mm thick. It is generally fitted using the tongue-and-groove flooring system. If it is damaged or worn out, you can sand it down to bring back its original finish. However, the amount of times this can be done is ascertained by how far down the tongue is fixed from the top of the floorboard. The pros of this flooring type are that it is quite appealing to homebuyers because of its classic feel and look. However, it decreases in dry conditions and increases when damp. It is also tough to install.

Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Reclaimed wood flooring is durable timber that has been used before on an older property but is being recovered to be reused. Many individuals wonder how to install reclaimed wood flooring. The process can be complicated so it is recommended you hire a flooring company. The pros of this flooring type are that it is eco-friendly, aesthetically appealing, and will get more valuable over time. However, it can be very expensive and could contain concealed dangers, such as protruding nails.

Flooring is an integral part of every home construction, and it has a big role to play in interior design. As aesthetically pleasing wood flooring can be, you have to go for more than just beauty. You have to consider other factors like cost, installation process, and durability.



Top 5 Autumn Design Tips For Your Home

Top 5 Autumn Design Tips For Your Home

Getting Autumn ready is more than just dressing in thicker layers, it can be having an autumnal transformation in your home as well to embody the spirit of the season. Decorations are not just for Christmas or Halloween, and even if you do not celebrate the two you might still want to add some tasteful decor to keep your home cosy for the whole season.

Autumn is about keeping warm as we see the drastic shift from the summer months, and incorporating different colours, textures, and decor features in your home will help to do just that. The colour schemes are easy enough to follow, just look outside and you will have your answer. Adding golden browns, maroon rustic reds, and pops of gold are really going to embody the browning, crisp leaves that are the ultimate autumn indicator. 

Dried flower wreaths 

An autumn wreath hanging on a front door
Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels

Once again adding the outdoor elements indoors, dried flowers are also a great way to add some vibrancy to the room whilst lasting for longer periods. You can even create your own dried flower wreath at home, starting with a basic oak leaf wreath and adding on various autumn flowers, dried fruits and some pampas grass. Maybe if you are celebrating the Halloween season, you might add on some mini pumpkins. Placing one on your front door lets guests know you are ready for the season, and doing it in style!

Autumn garlands

Incorporating a garland into your home decor is a great way to step into the changing season. Stringing one across your fireplace, around the stair bannister, as a table centrepiece, or even all three will reflect the spirit of the season. Go for an autumn leafy, berry featuring garland for that natural rustic feel.

Pumpkin displays 

Lovely autumnal display of pumpkins
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

It wouldn’t be autumn if we didn’t see pumpkins just about everywhere, they aren’t just great for baking but they can look amazing if displayed correctly. Of course, artificial pumpkins would be practicable for durability and to use year after year. You might opt for a candle display and therefore look for some pumpkin-style candle holders. To keep things safe you can also buy artificial candles, some even have timers so you can make sure they light up in the evening to bring in the cosiness just at the right time. If you are looking to tap into your DIY skills, you might consider carving your design into them, or even adding a collection of colour and painting each pumpkin different shades of autumn colours. You may already have your outdoor living essentials for comfort and style, but you can make it autumn authentic and create a pile of pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes, and adding some blocks of hay will make you the stand-out house in the neighbourhood. 

Change of wall art

With seasonal interior design, it is always useful to integrate decor that is changeable, which means changing the art of your walls can be a quick but effective way to do this. Perhaps if you have wall art that is modern and interpretive you might skip this one, but if you are looking to go full autumn mode and you have the space to store your seasonal art, this is a great step. Again choosing specific pieces that follow the foliage-inspired colour pallet, whilst using designs that reflect the comfort of your home in the cold seasons is what you should be aiming for. Different textured artwork will look luxurious whilst giving the harvest feeling to it. 

Update the throws and pillows

Cosy throw in an autumnal shade
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

As the days and nights get colder it is only right to get the cosy blankets and pillows out. If you haven’t attended to your pillowcases or throws recently then autumn is the perfect excuse to get everything updated. starting with the pillows, depending on the theme of the rest of the room and the sofa you shouldn’t make too much of a contrast, but if your sofa is a neutral shade go for warm, luxury cushion covers with gold tones to add some shine to the room. Complimenting this with a burnt orange blanket kept on standby for sofa movie nights, you will feel like you’re surrounded by an autumnal dream. A tip for your pillows is to simply change the covers if they are still plump and plush, saving money is key in the lead-up to Christmas.