Quick recap: my holiday gift #1 post featured bags by Baboon to the Moon. See the post here.
As the holidays approach, I’m taking stock of things I see and things I love…things I think will make the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. The second item I’m featuring this year is a fire pit from Solo Stove. I actually mentioned this item in a post last holiday season, but because we get so much joy from our Solo Stove fire pit, I’m featuring again this year. It would be a great gift for Dad or even for Mom, if she likes to spend time outdoors in the evening like I do. Or maybe you have a college student or other adult in your family who lives in a house and likes to entertain?
We have the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, which is their most popular size of fire pit. According to the website, it’s perfect for backyards, and I can attest to that fact. My husband and I have cocktails or coffee out on our patio…just the two of us or with friends…almost any night we are home, and in the fall, winter, and early spring the Bonfire 2.0 is the perfect smokeless fire pit to keep us warm. It is about 19.5 inches in diameter and heats about 5-6 people. We love the warmth and ambiance it offers when we are out there stargazing, and we love that, when our daughter is home, she and her friends enjoy gathering around it too.
With a chrome finish, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is attractive and useful. Plus, because it’s not too big, it’s easy to clean…easy to dump the ashes. Always wait till there is no sign of heat or fire before dumping the ashes. We usually wait till the next time we are ready to use the fire pit to empty the ashes. That way, we know we won’t be inadvertently starting a fire in the garbage can, in the yard, or anywhere else.
Is it actually smokeless? For the most part, yes. My husband would not want to use it if it created a smoky fire. He hates the smell of smoke more than anything. When I first purchased the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, he was skeptical. And when I first built a fire in it, it seemed like a fail. It was smoky…at first…but once the fire took hold, the fire pit did what it’s supposed to do, and we had a smoke-free fire. However, because my husband gets nervous about burning ashes flying through the air from wood fires, we went in a different direction and purchased Duraflame logs to burn in the fire pit. I was skeptical, but after I realized how easy they are to light, I was sold. And the fire with the Duraflame, because it doesn’t require smoky kindling, starts out smoke free.
Solo Stove makes several different sizes of fire pits, so if you think the Bonfire 2.0 is too large or too small, there are other sizes that could work for you. Their Ranger 2.0 fire pit is 15 inches in diameter, so it’s a little smaller, so it’s most portable. For a larger fire pit, they offer the Yukon 2.0, which has a 27-inch diameter, making it more easy to accommodate up to 13 people!
And if you’re wondering about pricing, the Ranger 2.0, at the time of writing, is on sale at the Solo Stove website for $199, a savings of $100 off the regular price. The Bonfire 2.0, the one we have, is on sale for $239, a savings of $160. And the Yukon 2.0 is on sale for $439, saving the purchaser over $300 off the original price. To see the website, click here.
Because we enjoy our Solo Stove fire pit so much, this gift goes in the category of “highly recommend.” You can’t go wrong with it, and if you do things the easy way, like we do, and get the Duraflame logs, it’s super easy to have instant warmth and ambiance on your patio any time you want it.
But I don’t know how long the sale will last, so if you’re considering it, go ahead and purchase it now! I believe the recipient will think it’s a great gift, and they will thank you for years to come!
It’s party season! That means you’ll be on the search for good hostess gifts (which can also serve as great gifts for neighbors). Let’s take a look:
Neiman Marcus Holiday Platter. I have been a big fan of these for years, and if you look in my kitchen cupboard, you will learn that quickly. Because I love them so much and find them useful and decorative, they are my traditional gift for some family members and friends…and they make great hostess gifts too. This year’s holiday platter is a lovely shade of green and features a nutcracker. I can hardly wait to add one to my own collection. Priced right now at $30 (down from $40), they make great hostess gifts. Order now and take one to the hostess of the next party you attend! Purchase here.
Appoline Measuring Spoons. A fun, little, colorful gift that’s useful in any kitchen! Who wants boring measuring spoons when you can have these little cuties? Get the colorful set of four from Anthropologie for $18 here.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Set. From Verve Culture, a great hostess gift…a set for making authentic Mexican hot chocolate. The set includes two clay mugs, a whisk, Villa Real hot chocolate tablets, and recipes. Priced at $45 at The Grommet, it’s a little more expensive than some hostess gifts, but it’s fabulous and memorable. Your hostess will thank you! Purchase here.
Frosted Cup Set. I love receiving plastic frosted cups as hostess gifts! Swoozie’s in Charlotte and online has a great selection of different ones. They come in sets of ten cups for just $12.95, and they can be holiday-themed or just about anything else! Purchase them at Swoozie’s here.
Ghirardelli Premium Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix. This comes in a two-pound bag that says right on the front “just add hot water for instant decadence”! Indeed! Where do I sign up?!? It’s fabulous, as most things from Ghirardelli are, and any hostess would love this gift. Priced at $22.99 on Amazon. The hostess and all her family members will love it! Package it in a gift bag with a lovely ribbon. Purchase here.
Wine Condoms. Yes, I just mentioned these in the stocking stuffers list, but what a fun hostess gift! The package contains six wine “condoms” you can slip over the top of the bottle to preserve the bottle for later. Priced at $14.99 on Amazon, this is a useful gift that will get some laughs! Purchase here.
Grecian Bust Pot. I love these planters, and I would love to find one in a gift bag after hosting a party! No, it’s not a hint. It’s just the truth. Made of hand-painted cement, they come in two sizes. The small is 6.5 inches tall, and the large is 10.75 inches tall. I think they make lovely gifts. Priced at $16.30 for the small and $30.80 for the large, the price point is perfect too! Purchase from Anthropologie here.
Eucalyptus blooms. Sounds crazy, but a friend told me someone gave her eucalyptus blooms recently, and she loves them! Your hostess can display them in her home for a pretty accent with a fresh scent, or she can hang them from a shower head in for a spa experience! For those of us who live in Charlotte, we can shop locally with Eucalyptus Blooms, a local company. For those who live elsewhere, you’re in luck too. They ship! See the website here.
Bath and Body Works. When my daughter was a little girl, she was obsessed with Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers, and that’s when I became familiar with their hand soaps. I had to kill a lot of time in our local store while she decided which hand sanitizers she wanted. They’re inexpensive ($7.50 for a single hand soap, or six hand soaps for $27.00) and come in lovely packaging. Plus, they smell really good! Someone gave me one last week as a hostess gift for a little party I hosted, and I love it! Purchase here.
Flour Sack Tea Towels. I love flour sack tea/kitchen towels. They’re soft. They get the job done. And they can add a little color to a kitchen! I’ve given them as hostess gifts in the past, and I’ve given them as party favors too. I found some on Amazon that are priced right at $18.99 for four towels measuring 28″ x 29″ each! You can gift all three or break up the set and just gift one. Either way, they’re nice, inexpensive gifts. Just tie a pretty Christmas ribbon around them! Or you can wrap a hand soap from Bath and Body Works in one and tie the whole thing with a pretty ribbon! Purchase here.
Terra Studios Art. Terra Studios is the home of the Bluebirds of Happiness I’ve written about before…small bluebird figurines that represent happiness, love, and hope. You can read what I’ve written here. But Terra doesn’t just make the Bluebirds! They have lots of different art pieces made of different media for sale on their website, and they make lovely hostess gifts! The prices are incredible, starting under $20, and I love browsing their site. Check out their offerings here.
So if you think you’ll be attending some holiday parties this year, start shopping for hostess gifts now. If you take any of the above, your hostess will love it!
For the past few years, I have hosted at least one spring brunch for friends at my house, but this year will be different. No spring brunch, unless I get creative. My friends will need to be creative too, but maybe I can find a few who are willing to do a virtual spring brunch while we’re all “social distancing.” I talked to a lady at the bank (on the phone, of course) who told me she’d enjoyed a virtual cocktail hour with friends the night before, so why not a brunch?
Here’s what I’m thinking:
I’ll pick a future date (but not too distant) that might be good for a few friends. We can use the Zoom app to all “get together.” But how do we do brunch together through the app?
First, we all need to set a dress code. Personally, I think it should be spring luncheon dress…pretty dresses or blouses that will cheer us all up. I have a Saloni dress I got for Easter last year that would work perfectly. The fabric is bright pink, blue, orange, yellow, and green flowers on a white background. It has ruffles and looks very happy and seasonal. So I will encourage everyone to wear a happy, spring dress or blouse.
For decor, I think it will be fun to let everyone decide their own decor for their space, but make it as happy and springlike as possible! I will likely use my mother’s Desert Rose china and decorate my “space” around that…pink and green…with whatever I can find around my house. Or I have some other pretty spring china of Mother’s that’s blue and green…that could be pretty too. I’ll definitely use my sterling silverware instead of stainless…just to make it feel more special. And crystal glasses. If I can find some pretty flowers outside in the neighborhood, I’ll use those too.
And how about the menu? Should we all have the same things? That could be tough, since we don’t all have access to the same things. But it will be interesting to see what everyone has! I know I have plenty of pimiento cheese, so I can make some finger sandwiches for my meal. I have some strawberries, so I can have those. Maybe I’ll make a Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole from the Hungry Girl website. (Click here for recipe.) I’m having to think in terms of what I actually have on hand. For my beverage of choice, I’ll go with Prosecco…I have a lot on hand. If I have any fruit juice on hand, I’ll make a froufrou drink, but if not, I’m cool with Prosecco. And for dessert, I’ll have cupcakes from Baked By Melissa (click here), because I know I have an order arriving soon. They’ll add some color!
This pandemic is certainly not fun, because these are trying times, but it’s OK to look for a little happiness where we can. We’ll say some prayers for those who are sick and their families, and we’ll pray for those who have lost jobs or businesses. A little bit of “virtual” happiness might make us feel better for a little while. I think I’ll send out some virtual invitations today!
It’s that time of year! College football (my favorite) is over, and there are just a couple more weeks of NFL games…division championships and the Super Bowl on February 2, Groundhog Day. This year, it’s Super Bowl LIV…that’s 54 for those of you who can’t read Roman numerals. Plus, it looks kind of cool that it’s LIV…makes me think of LIVE! I’m probably the only one thinking that, so I’ll move on.
Once the Super Bowl is over, we have to wait months for football to start up again, so let’s have a party!
I remember lots of past Super Bowls. The earliest one I remember is Super Bowl XII, between the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach playing quarterback and Tom Landry coaching, and the Denver Broncos and their “Orange Crush” defense. I had likely watched other Super Bowls, because my parents were big sports fans, but that’s the first one I remember…maybe because it was the first one played in prime time? And boy, was it hyped! It was also the first one played in a domed stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, and the Cowboys won 27-12. I remember others too, and I wish I remembered Super Bowl X, in which Kenny Stabler, at quarterback, led the Oakland Raiders to victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but I don’t remember it. I remember Super Bowl XXXVIII for the wrong reason: Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. I remember it, because we were at a friend’s house who had previously played for the Carolina Panthers, and the Panthers were playing the Patriots. I had a 3-month-old baby, and I was tired, but I wanted to go, so I took the baby with me. I took the baby home right after the wardrobe malfunction, but that night lives on in my brain.
So this year, we don’t know yet who will be playing, but we can at least start planning our menus for parties! Since it’s just two weeks ago, I need to wrap my brain around a few recipes for the big day. I don’t go all crazy with a gigantic spread, but I want to have a few tasty snacks. Using Hungry Girl as my guide, here are a few I plan to use:
Buffalo Chicken Chili. Sure, I could make regular old chili, and I’m sure most folks would think it’s great, but why not change it up a bit? You can make Buffalo Chicken Chili in your slow cooker, and will be gobbled up by all your guests. It takes two things sports fans love, chili and Buffalo chicken, and mixes them together for a unique flavored chili that’s super easy to make. You can see the recipe here.
Cheeseburger Meatloaf. Not gonna lie…anything with “cheeseburger” in the title sounds good to me, and this is no exception. Cheeseburger Meatloaf? Yes, please! And have no fear…just because these are better for you than a normal fatty cheeseburger, they’re still delicious! I’ve made these several times, and the flavor is incredible. Plus, they are made in muffin pans, so the portion sizes are perfect. In fact, you can eat two of these and still stay under 200 calories! Mmm mmm good! Every man at the party will thank you for these hearty, flavorful treats. See the recipe for Cheeseburger Meatloafhere. Hungry Girl has other great cheeseburger-y recipes too. Maybe you’d like to make the Layered Cheeseburger Dip (recipehere)? Or serve the Air Fryer Cheeseburger Egg Rolls (recipehere)?
Veggie Chips. Nope, not the packaged ones you buy in the store. Hungry Girl has some great recipes for veggie chips made in your air fryer! I love the Air Fried Ranch Zucchini Chips (recipehere), and even my daughter liked them. Trust me, she’s a picky 16-yr-old; if she likes them, they are really good. Or maybe you love fried pickles at your favorite sports bar. Make a healthier version of them, Faux Fried Pickle Chips, in your air fryer with this great recipe from Hungry Girl (click here)! If you don’t have an air fryer, you need one. I just moved into the 21st century myself and purchased one…greatest invention ever!
Faux Fried Pickle Chips
Healthier Super Bowl Spreads. Everybody knows that for a Super Bowl Party, you need to have dips, and Hungry Girl doesn’t disappoint in this category. I’ve made several of the recipes on the site, and one of my personal favorites is in her book, Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry Obsessed. It’s called the For the Win Spinach Artichoke Dip, and the flavors are fabulous. You can purchase the book at Amazon here. In the same book, she has the Ultimate Ate-Layer Dip, a healthier version of the seven layer dip we all know and love. I highly recommend the book, and you can still order it in time to make the recipes for Super Bowl. On the website, though, she has Turkey-rific Taco Dip, a great mixture of flavors (see here), and Buff Chick Hot Wing Dip, which has been a big hit when I’ve served it. See the recipe here.
Buff Chick Hot Wing Dip
Turkey-rific Taco Bean Dip
Pitcher Cocktails. I find it’s easier to make cocktails by the pitcher to save myself running back and forth to the bar. Hungry Girl has some great options for that too! The Sassy n Spiked Pink Lemonade Pitcher is a great choice…who doesn’t like spiked lemonade? See the recipehere. And I also love the Sparkling Sangria…also made in a pitcher. See the recipehere.
And don’t forget, to keep it fun but healthier, you can always serve veggies for dipping instead of chips. See in photos above that Hungry Girl has carrots, celery, and bell peppers for dipping.
Happy Super Bowl! And as Hungry Girl would say, “Chew the right thing!”
***All photos courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com. To sign up for daily emails from Hungry Girl, click here. On the pull-down menu asking where you heard about Hungry Girl, click HG Ambassador, and enter my name (Kelly Mattei). Thank you!***
Y’all know I’ve loved Hungry Girl for a long time, and I really love the breakfast recipes, because it can be difficult to get creative with breakfast and keep it on the healthier side at the same time. Who wants the same old thing every day? So, if you’re ready to change things up a bit in 2020 while sticking to your resolutions for the new year, read on. I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite recipes and provide links, so you can make breakfast a little more exciting at your house too. They’re great for when you have houseguests too! They’ll think you’re the most creative host ever!
Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. In a hurry every morning and think you don’t have time to worry about changing things up? Well, you do. Hungry Girl offers lots of recipes for overnight oats, but my personal favorite is the recipe for Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. It’s easy to make, and it doesn’t leave you feeling flat an hour later like waffles and pancakes do. And these have way more nutritional value than a muffin. My daddy would have said overnight oats “stick to your ribs.” With just nine ingredients, many of which you always have in your cupboard, it’s easy to throw this together the night before and stick it in the refrigerator. On your way out the next morning, just grab it and go! I love blueberries, but I also love that these oats have a little almond/cinnamon flavor. You’ll love it, and your picky-eater kids might even like it too! My picky teen loves it. See the recipe here. And see the recipes for other overnight oats here.
Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com
Breakfast Pizza Mexicali. Wanna spice up your mornings? The Hungry Girl Breakfast Pizza Mexicali will do it! It’s easy, with a prep time of just five minutes, and the cook time is only ten minutes! I prefer this one on weekends, when I have time to sit down and enjoy it. It’s a big hit with guests who like spicier foods too. I’ve had some who even added a little hot sauce! With just four ingredients (plus one optional garnish), it’s super easy to make, and it just makes me happy! See the recipe here.
Breakfast Mexicali Pizza…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com
Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug. Sounds unhealthy, I know, but stick with me. Because this recipe is totally portion-controlled, it’s easy to stick to a lower calorie count…and no joke, it’s as delicious as it is easy. It’s basically made by adding the listed ingredients to a mug before adding the pieces of bread…then stirring and heating before garnishing. Make it for the kids, and they will think it’s a treat. Make it for yourself, and well, you’ll think it’s a treat too! If you like French Toast, this is an easy way to have it without all the calories, as each serving has just 145 calories! See the recipe here.
Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com
Healthy Superfood Breakfasts. If you want to supercharge yourself with some healthy superfood breakfast choices, these two options are easy, delicious, and super healthy! I’m listing them together, because Hungry Girl lists them together. One is the Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise, and the other is the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl. You might think those sound like obvious choices, but Hungry Girl adds extra flavor, so you will want to make these again and again. The Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise is easy to put together and chill overnight, so you can grab and go in the morning. In fact, it’s so good, I might have it again tomorrow morning. And the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl, while simple, is crunchy, juicy, healthy, and delicious…all in one bowl. See the recipes here.
Try a few of these recipes and let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, take a moment to sign up for Hungry Girl emails here. And after you put in your email address, where it asks how you heard about Hungry Girl, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador,” and then enter my name, Kelly Mattei. I’d love for them to know you’re learning more about them from me!
***For more great Hungry Girl breakfast recipes, click here.***
If there’s someone on your holiday gift list who loves receiving home gifts, you’re in the right place. Or if you’re planning to go to holiday parties in folks’ homes, you need to be prepared to take some hostess/host gifts. Either way, I’ve done lots of research, so you don’t have to. Need some ideas? Every year, I take great pride in finding gifts that are unique. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody loves a good candle more than I love a good candle, but I also love to give unique gifts.
So here we go…for your viewing pleasure…gifts for the home!
Neiman Marcus 2019 Holiday Platter. I’m a big fan of the Neiman Marcus annual holiday platter, and this is a repeat from last year’s list. In fact, it will be a repeat every year. I get one for myself every year, and I get some for friends too. At $40, it’s pretty inexpensive, and the platters are always beautiful and well-made. And don’t forget useful…I use them all the time! This year’s platter is red, my favorite color for the holidays! You can purchase online here. And when you order from Neiman Marcus for the holidays, I always recommend paying the extra for the beautiful gift wrap. It makes the gift a little more special.
Custom Family Portrait. Sounds expensive, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. A friend gave me the cutest family portrait from Mrs. Best Co. shop on Etsy. Starting at about $40, these cute, whimsical portraits are fun and memorable! Anyone would appreciate this thoughtful gift! If you know someone for whom you’d like to do this, start thinking about doing it now! You can purchase here.Look around on Etsy at different versions. There are more detailed family portraits that are more expensive, but this one is fun!Tea/Dish towels. I love when someone gives me tea/dish towels. I love flour sack dish towels, and I love funny dish towels. And I especially love holiday themed dish towels, because it’s an easy way to “decorate” for the holidays. This year, I found some cute ones at Target. They’re inexpensive, and they’re festive. Some are Sugar Cookie-themed, while others are Hot Cocoa-themed or just general holiday themed. Purchase for $5.69 (for two!) here. Amazon has some great flour sack towels too. You can see those and purchasehere.
Coffee Table Books. One of my best friends loves Coffee Table Books more than anything. She knows I’m talking about her. While I don’t love them as much as she does, I enjoy them too. There are some great ones out there. Chip and Joanna Gaines have the coffee table book, Homebody, in Target Stores now for 30 percent off! Get it here. I also came across a lovely coffee table book earlier this year by Shayla Copas; it’s called Four Seasons of Entertaining, and while I would never be able to put together the things she pulls together, the book is full of great ideas and it is absolutely gorgeous! I actually met the lovely author at a signing in our local Neiman Marcus, and she was perfectly charming. Purchase the book here.
Knit Throw. Last year, I was all about the faux fur throw, and I still love them. But this year, I’m all about the knitted throw…especially the ones that are extra chunky. I could make my own, but frankly, the yarn alone would cost me more than purchasing a throw in a store. I found one in Target last night that I absolutely loved, and it’s under $70. I also found one at Amazon for about the same price. Does anything seem more cozy than a chunky knit throw? And they look beautiful too! Get one at Amazon here.
Mario Luca Giusti Set of Double Old Fashioned Glasses. Acrylic, acrylic, acrylic. These double old fashioned glasses are fun…the colors are fun…and the fact that they are virtually unbreakable makes them even better! I have lots of friends who would love these. For just $72, you can get these for your friend or family member at Neiman Marcus. And don’t forget the pretty gift wrap! Purchasehere
Custom Home Portrait. I want this. I want this. I want this. I think people love having pictures of home. And this is another good, inexpensive gift option. I have found some places on Etsy that do home portraits for as little as $25! Yes! You read right: $25! It’s hard to find any gift for $25 these days. Of course, some home portraits are more “custom” than others, so prices can vary. The photo below is from Bailemor Studio on Etsy and priced at $29. Look at lots of different options on Etsy here.Letter board. This isn’t something I thought I would ever recommend, but I’ve seen how friends leave positive messages for their families…in their kitchens, mudroom, etc., so I think they’re fun! And I think kids and teens like them too. Wandering through Target last night, I came across a few, ranging in price from $12.99 to $29.99. Look closely to decide which one will suit your friend or family member best. What a fun, inexpensive gift! See Target’s offeringshere
Glass lantern. A friend gave me a glass lantern during the holidays last year, and though I had never thought about one before, I absolutely loved it! She had tied a beautiful holiday bow at the top, and I put a battery-operated candle in it…it made for a lovely holiday centerpiece in my dining room. Therefore, I’ve decided glass lanterns make great gifts. And the recipient can change the bow for different seasons. I have several favorites. See photos below.
Decorative Dragonfly (or Butterfly, Bee, or Ladybug). These are just little tchotchkes, but they’re fun, and I think they make lovely, thoughtful gifts for the right person. For example, I have a friend who loves dragonflies…they remind her of her daddy. Another friend loves ladybugs, because she feels like they are good luck. They would love these little brass tchotchkes, and at $35, these are a bargain gift. Get them at Neiman Marcus.
Louis Sherry Chocolates. I have loved Louis Sherry Chocolates since the first time I had them at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York. They come in lovely tins, and the chocolates are unforgettable. I wrote a piece about them in September. You can see it here. These make great hostess gifts for the holidays, and this year, Louis Sherry is offering a limited edition Nutcracker tin. Get the 12-piece tin of chocolates for $35 at Neiman Marcus here.Or order directly from Louis Sherry, where they are priced at $40. Mason Jar Indoor Flower Garden. I saw this on Uncommongoods.com and immediately ordered it for a friend who loves flowers as much as I do. Flowers are beautiful and brighten anyone’s day, but what’s even better? Edible flowers! Using just this kit and some water, the recipient can have a lovely windowsill garden! Priced at $20, it’s a lovely hostess gift or holiday gift for a friend or family member. Get it here.
Anthropologie. This is a first. I normally don’t just list a store in my gift pieces, but Anthropologie has lots of little, unusual, home gifts. Some of my favorites are their Agate Cheese Boards and their bud vases. But I highly recommend you just go peruse the site…clickhere to see their home gifts.
The Buttercup. If you live in Charlotte or find yourself in the area, visit The Buttercup on Providence Road for more great home gifts. See the website here.
Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts. In Fairhope, Alabama, shop Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts for lots of great home/garden gifts. Located at 11983 E State Highway 104 in Fairhope.
And those are my selections/suggestions for HOME GIFTS for 2019. I hope you’ll find something that will help make your holiday gifting easier! If you’d like to see last year’s selections for more ideas, you can click here.
UP NEXT? GIFTS FOR TEENS/COLLEGE STUDENTS…COMING SOON!
In North Carolina today, the sky is a little more clear, and the wind is a ever so slightly more dry. Maybe it’s a cold front moving in, or maybe I’m imagining it, but since today is National College Colors Day, I know it is officially football season.
I love all kinds of football…high school, college, professional…well, I don’t really like to watch bad, messy football (like that Florida/Miami game last week), but I will even take that over no football at all. I get it from my mother. The woman loved football. Interesting that the start of football season usually falls around her birthday. She is gone now, but I know she would be excited if she were here. In my house, you had to like football. You also had to like to watch baseball and basketball, or you were going to be watching television alone. We watched sports year round. I don’t watch baseball and basketball like I used to. I still like them, but I just don’t watch them much anymore. But football? Bring…it…on!
And with football, there are gatherings of friends and families. Where there are gatherings, there must be food. I’m not talking tailgating…that’s food on a whole different level. I’m talking football gatherings at home…like the one I’ll have this weekend when Alabama plays Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. I’d normally go to that game, but my teenage daughter has big plans for the weekend, and I didn’t really want to go without her.
So here are a few of my favorites to serve at football parties at home:
Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves. This is a recipe from my very favorite source, Hungry Girl. I’m an avid follower of on Instagram, and I subscribe to the emails and check the website regularly. These Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves are simple to make and require only a few ingredients. You won’t believe you didn’t think of these yourself. I’ve served them several times, and every time, they disappear quickly, so make a few batches. See the recipe at hungry-girl.com, here.
Photo from hungry-girl.com
Toasted Pimento Cheese Rounds. Super easy to make. Purchase a sliced French loaf at your local grocery store. Spread your favorite pimento cheese spread over the rounds. Crumble a few pieces of cooked bacon over the top. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees, and remove when cheese is bubbling. You can add a small 1/4 slice of tomato to the top or not. I prefer Palmetto Cheese brand (see it here), and I like the jalapeño pimento cheese for an added kick.
Photo from pimentocheese.com
Veggie Dip. I love the flavor of dill in a dip, and I’ve found a great recipe for a veggie dip. It contains onions and dill, and it’s fresh and tasty. It’s just a few ingredients and super easy…but super tasty. Get the recipe here. Serve with your favorite raw veggies. I prefer carrots, broccoli, and cucumber slices.
Herbed Parmesan Popcorn. Popcorn is always a good snack for game days, but sometimes it’s fun with a twist. I found a recipe for Herbed Parmesan Popcorn that’s easy to make…notice a theme here? I don’t do complicated recipes. I’ve served it twice, and both times, it was well-received. Get the recipe here.
Seasoned almonds. My friend, Mary Ann, introduced me to some gourmet, seasoned almonds recently, and I haven’t been able to stop eating them. I think they are great to have in bowls around the room for a ball game. Made by Blue Diamond, I find them in my local Target. My favorite flavors are the Pink Himalayan Salt and the Rosemary. I like the Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil ones, but I have a feeling I will love the Black Truffle flavor too! See the Blue Diamond website here. You can purchase them in grocery stores, or you can order directly from Blue Diamond via the website.
And if you’re not up for preparing your own game day snacks, I recommend picking up from these two places:
Chick-Fil-A. I wrote recently about the Chick-Fil-A One app…don’t forget to use it if you pick up a tray of nuggets, chicken strips, cool wraps, mac and cheese, or cookies. And you must order in advance! I do all my ordering through the app, and I get those valuable points too! My person favorite for game day? A nugget tray with Chick-Fil-A sauce, a fruit tray, and some chocolate chip cookies. They’re always a hit. See the Chick-Fil-A website here.
Zoe’s Kitchen. I love Zoe’s. I discovered it when we moved our little family to Alabama for a couple of months in 2006, when my daddy was sick. Everything they offer is delicious. Their hummus tray is great for gatherings, and I love their pita trays too…a different kind of sandwich tray with a Mediterranean flavor. And if you just need some side items, I highly recommend their slaw and potato salad. See their website here.
There you have it…my recommendations for game day snacks. Let’s get this football season started! I can hardly wait for lots of games to be on every weekend.
A few weeks ago, I hosted a brunch at my home for a committee I chair at our daughter’s school.
It was on a Monday, so I had Sunday to prepare. I did the usual de-cluttering of the house, which my husband loves, and I started getting the food ready. I opted not to hire a caterer, but I did get the flowers done professionally by a local florist, The Blossom Shop, and they did a beautiful job.
Anyone who has ever attended a meeting led by me knows I love prizes. Doesn’t everyone love to be a winner? For the brunch, I opted to have bundtlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes for the party favors. If you’ve never had them, you should try them. We have a few stores here, so it’s easy to get them in Charlotte. But since I love prizes, we had a few giveaways too. I had ordered a few of my favorite things and wrapped them the night before.
Just because I think prizes are fun, I’m going to share some prize options, in case you plan to have a gathering of friends this summer:
Comfy. This lovely prize is one of my favorite things. It’s a giant, cozy, one-size-fits-all blanket sweatshirt. Yes, I have one, and I love it! Priced at about $35-39, you can purchase them online from Amazon here or in Target in the “as seen on TV” section.
Burt’s Bees Soy Candles. Scented candles are great, but when they’re soy candles, you can use them to soften your skin too! People thought I was crazy when I said that, but it’s true! While it’s still warm (not hot) after burning the candle, stick your finger into the candle and scoop out a little to rub on your hands…making them super soft! These were just $5.99 at my local grocery store, but you can also order them on Amazon here.
Hungry Girl Simply 6. This recipe book, by one of my favorite people, Lisa Lillien, is a great gift. It contains recipes, all with six ingredients or less, that are low in calories. Get it at Amazon here.
Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer. It’s an old favorite. If you’ve read some of my old posts, you’re familiar with it. I know…it’s crude. But it’s funny. Admit it. It’s funny. Everybody needs a good laugh every now and then. I purchase it from Amazon.com.
Poo-Pourri. Great stuff, no doubt, and it works. Ever seen the lengthy youtube commercial for it? See it here. The “commercial” is crude…not kidding…but if you have a sense of humor and can handle it, watch it. Get Poo-Pourri at Amazon here.
Blue Q Novelty Dish Towels. I find them at Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, but you can order online. One friend went home with one yesterday that said, “Do one thing every day that scares your children.” You can order from Amazon here.Blue Q also makes cute oven mitts. I have one that says, “I’m Not Bossy. I’m the Boss.”
Fred and Friends Good Measure Cocktail Pitcher. Another old favorite, this one was a popular prize at the brunch. It’s a pitcher with recipes for cocktails by the pitcher…pure genius. We’ll be using them out by our pool all summer. I used two of mine at the brunch, so everyone had seen them as I poured up Bellinis and Mimosas, but they had no idea one of them would be the proud owner of one. One lucky friend took one home! Get it at Amazon here.
Whitman’s Sampler Spring Collection. I’m a sucker for a Whitman’s sampler…have been since childhood. I think folks of my generation see them and think of their grandparents or their own childhood. You can find it in your local grocery store, Target, or Walmart.
Anne Taintor Products. Anne Taintor products are fun. Get them at annetaintor.com. From trays to napkins to kitchen towels…they’re fun. I have a coffee mug from Anne Taintor that proclaims, “I love not camping!” And there’s this fun one:
There you have it. A few fun ideas for prizes or giveaways when you have a gathering of your girlfriends. Like I said…I love giving away prizes. And who doesn’t love being a winner?!
Recently, I wrote about my delay in closing my mother’s estate. She passed away in December 2017, and I am just now getting around to closing it. I’ve been delaying it, because it’s depressing to think about the finality of it, but I’ve decided to look at it as a positive. I am going to host a champagne brunch to celebrate the closing…something my mother would love.
I haven’t set the date yet, but as soon as I do, I will invite some friends over for brunch to celebrate with me. I’ve already been planning the menu with some of my favorite recipes. All the recipes listed can be found online; the links are included.
Ham-It-Up Egg Cups. hungry-girl.com. Low in calories and high in protein, these yummy egg cups are simple to make and look cute too! Plus, they promote portion control! Your guests will rave. Get the recipe at hungry-girl.com here.
Photo from hungry-girl.com
Hashbrown Casserole. Betty Crocker. I would go to any party if I knew hashbrown casserole was being served! This recipe is pretty easy and has a lot of flavor, but since it contains potatoes, sausage, and cheese, there is nothing low-calorie about it. Personally, I would count this as my splurge for the day and enjoy it! Get the recipe here.
Photo from bettycrocker.com
Biscuits. Lots of southern ladies have their mother’s biscuit recipes, and they don’t share them. I have my mother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but it’s a no-share item. But if you want some good southern biscuits without having to start from scratch, Mary B’s Biscuits, from the Florida Panhandle, are delicious. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.
Photo from homadefoods.com
Fruit. You must have fruit. It’s spring, and it’s nice to have one cold item, I prefer fresh cut fruit, but I think I will make the traditional Southern Fruit Salad for my brunch. It adds a different look, and even though I never ate it when my mother served it, there must be something good about it, because it used to show up on southern tables everywhere. If you’re not from the south, you might balk at it, but try it just once! Get the recipe from Southern Living here.
Photo from southernliving.com
Dessert. I love pound cake, and my cousin gave me my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake recipe a couple of years ago. I think it’s perfect for a spring brunch, and I will serve it with a macerated-berry topping from Martha Stewart. While I’m not willing to share my grandmother’s recipe, you can make a classic pound cake from the Martha Stewart website. The recipe ishere. And the recipe for the macerated-berry topping ishere.
Beverages: Coffee, Water, Prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes. Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz: over ice, combine equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco. Add a splash of club soda and an orange slice. Drink up!
After we’ve dined and enjoyed our Aperol Spritzes, we’ll have some door prizes, because Mother loved to win prizes! I’m not going to divulge those secrets till afterward. We’ll also have some take-home party favors to talk about afterward.
Planning an engagement party this spring? Shutterfly can make it easier.
Before you plan the party, think about the effort that goes into planning the actual wedding. Then, take a deep breath and thank the Lord the engagement party is easier to plan! Unfortunately, though, we can’t just twinkle our noses or flip our ponytails and make a party happen…it takes thought, time, and planning.
There are lots of details, but one thing’s for sure…millenials love photo opportunities. With the invention of the smart phone, everyone takes photos of everything, and parties are special photo opportunities. They want them to be cute. They want them to be fun. And they want their pictures to be perfectly shareable…with their own hashtag, no less. Shutterfly can help.
In 2003, when I had a baby, I discovered Shutterfly.com was the perfect place to store and print my photos and photo gifts, and I haven’t stopped using them since. Shutterfly was great for my baby pictures, but recently, someone told me about something else they offer: printable engagement photo prop ideas and photo shoot tips. With this, the site offers lots of fun props and lots of fun ideas, as well, to turn your engagement party into the perfect photo op for friends and family. The printable props they offer come in a variety of styles, from vintage to fun to rustic…even fairytale style!
You can see their printable engagement party photo props here.
And Shutterfly is great for even more for the engagement party. You’re going to need invitations. The bride and groom will send you the names and addresses of friends and family, but you’ll need to pick an invitation, have it printed, and send it out. Shutterfly offers lots of ideas for that, as well. They offer a wide array of engagement party invitations, some that include photos, but some that don’t, as well, making it easy for you to choose what you want and order them online.
You might even find some personalized party favors for your guests on the site. Shutterfly offers party favors starting at $5.00 for a personalized bottle opener…could be popular with the young couple’s friends!
But one of my favorite things offered by Shutterfly is their page dedicated to Ideas and Inspirations, which is dedicated to helping the consumer with party planning, decorating ideas, and more. You can see that pagehere. It even offers a wedding hashtag generator! Just enter the bride and groom’s names, and Shutterfly will generate hundreds of hashtag ideas for the wedding! That’s important to millennial when they share all their photos on social media. It’s pretty awesome! See the wedding hashtag generator here.
So, while it can be daunting to start preparing for and planning an engagement party, Shutterfly can make it a little easier. I’ll be using the site for any parties I plan…starting with a spring brunch at my home next month. I’m absolutely amazed at the ideas they offer.