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how to Throw A Disney Themed Dinner for ADults

How to Host a Fancy Disney Themed Dinner Party

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them I will receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

 

Well, friends, I finally had my Disney themed dinner party. It may have been a month late, but it happened, and that is the important thing. We did have a few little issues getting it all together, but for the most part it was a lot of fun and we got to hang out with some new people. They even appreciated the silliness of a Disney theme at an elegant adult party, with one of my guests bringing crowns for all the ladies. You can’t get much fancier than that! I did learn one thing about my fancy dinner parties – hosting them while 7 1/2 months pregnant with a toddler is just a teensy bit exhausting. Try it. You’ll see.

Anyway, let’s get on with it. Hosting a fancy dinner party is a ton of work, and I usually only do it once a year because that’s how long it takes me to figure out everything I want to do. Hosting a fancy Disney themed dinner party took me a little over a year, and I’ll be honest, I still want to try fifteen more recipes to see if it is possible to come up with the most perfect Disney dinner anyone has ever seen. Of course, I did eventually have to give up and go with what I had, or I’d never have another dinner party again, and I simply can’t have that.

The Invitations

Surprisingly, the invitations were my first problem. I used Punchbowl to create some free online ones (I wasn’t a very green hostess for the most part, but I tried to have at least one thing not ruin the earth). They had Disney character invitations you could use for free, so that was about perfect. I picked a Beauty and the Beast one because it said “Be Our Guest,” and not “Birthday Party for a Small Child.” The invitations actually worked fine for a Disney themed dinner party, although I was a little worried about sending something pretty childish to strangers. That’s where the real problem was – strangers.

I’ve lived in Knoxville less than a year and I work from home, so I have a pretty small circle of friends right now. We usually have about seven to ten people at our dinner parties, and we were set for six this time around. I had to special order the meat (venison) for this particular dinner, so I waited as long as I could to get RSVPs, then ordered for eight. I really didn’t think we’d wind up with anyone else. The two people I already considered friends couldn’t come, and our guest list had two people we legitimately didn’t know even at that point. But, my husband operated in the shadows and somehow we got us to ten after I’d already ordered. Luckily only nine showed, but still, we were a little short on meat. Lesson: Don’t let your husband know where the invitations are.

The Decor

Hey, did you guys notice I put “fancy” in my post title? That’s right. This was not a Disney themed dinner party with little Disney figurines all over the place. Plus I’m super lazy when it comes to decorating, because, well, more decorating more cleaning, which means more time out of my day. So I stuck with very simple table decor. I had already planned on using Beauty and the Beast for this because I’d left poor Belle and Co. off the menu, and when I found those Punchbowl invitations I knew it was meant to be. Now, if you have a bunch of old candlesticks or some fabulous rose holders lying around, you can probably do a better job than I did, but I’m okay with that.

My main goal here was to get a yellow table runner and some roses. Everyone knows Belle wears that fabulous yellow dress and the whole movie revolves around a single rose, so I thought it would be pretty easy to get the theme across. I found some bright yellow fabric at Walmart, when I wasn’t even looking for it, which is not surprising at  Walmart. I could have made it into an actual table runner, but my sewing machine is broken and I want a two-sided one anyway, so I just left the thing folded up long ways and put it on the table. Then I put a single rose in three different vases and sprinkled some rose petals around. Wah-lah. Super easy, but still both Disney and grown-up.

The Disney Themed Dinner Party Menu

Here we are. The most important part! If you’re going to throw a Disney themed dinner party meant for adults, it’s all about the food. I mentioned that we had strangers at our party, but I’ve previously mentioned you should not invite picky people.  How would I know if they were picky if I didn’t know them? Well, in this case, the strangers were my mom’s coworker and her sister-in-law, who came knowing what kind of food was going to be served. We got really lucky with the rest, and now I have new foodie friends. Hooray! Anyway, it was really important they not be picky, because my menu included beets, venison, and sushi.

I add recipe ideas to my to-do list all year long. Eventually I’ll give them a try or delete them.

How did my menu come out with such a strange assortment of dishes?  Blame it on Disney. First, I went through all the films I could think of and wrote down specific dishes that were already in the movies. Next, I wrote down different foods that appear in the movies. You know, bananas in The Jungle Book, corn in Pocahontas, porridge in every single Disney movie ever, and don’t forget the variety of talking animal meat (muhuhahaha). Then came practicing, combining, and ultimately deciding on the dishes I felt would best fit the theme that I could also cook. They were not all literal. I’m sharing my menu, but there are so many more options. I barely scratched the surface. If you decide to try this, if you can come up with a dish that fits a Disney name, that’s really all you need to do.

The Menu

Disney Themed Dinner Party Menu

Appetizers

Alice’s Trippy Stuffed Mushrooms (Alice in Wonderland)

Was Alice on mushrooms when she went down the rabbit hole? I don’t think that’s what Lewis Carroll meant, but either way she eats them. These have some spice to it to give them a little kick. It also worked to kick off the Disney themed dinner party with a classic character since most of my guests weren’t up to date on all the new movies (and neither am I).

This Could Have Been You Sebastian Crab Cakes (The Little Mermaid)

Remember the scene where Sebastian escaped the cook’s pot? Well, I used imitation crab, so I know it’s not Sebastian, but still, it could’ve been. These were also spicy and served with an aioli sauce.

Drink pairing: The Enchanted Rose Cocktail (sweet to counter all the spicy)

Amuse-Bouche & Bread

Bruce’s Fish are Friends not Food Nori Rolls (Finding Nemo)

Amuse-bouches typically aren’t put on a menu, so you won’t see them on mine, but they did get served. I have no recipe to link because I just made them. It’s a nori sheet, sushi rice (here’s a recipe for that), cucumbers, pickled radishes, and avocado. There’s no fish so I didn’t worry too much about serving sushi, but it is really important to practice this one if you’re going to try it. Oh, and I drizzled this sauce on top to look pretty.

The Tramp’s Scavenged Breadsticks (Lady & the Tramp)

Also not on the menu, this is the one thing that was already on the table when I started serving. I used a copycat Olive Garden recipe and made the dough in a breadmaker. Also, if you don’t have a good non-stick surface, I recommend these non-stick silicon mats. My grandma got them for me and I love them. I used them for the nori rolls too.

Salad

The Evil Queen’s Definitely not Poisoned Apple Salad (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)

I made this recipe myself when I got obsessed with using beets and my husband wouldn’t eat them. My plan must have worked because only one person left the beets on the plate, and it wasn’t even Hubby. I do tell everyone it’s okay not to eat everything, by the way. I certainly don’t.

Drink Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc (earthy to go with beets – also served it for the nori roll)

Soup

Pocahontas Grows a Lot of Corn Soup (Pocahontas)

Serving soup when it’s hot is always a concern of mine, so I choose something with fresh veggies. This one’s spicy. And you guys, Pocahontas totally does grow a lot of corn.

Drink Pairing: Riesling – a little sweet to go with the spice

Main Dish & Side

Bambi’s Mom (Bambi)

What? Too soon? Not soon enough, I say. She died in 1923, you guys, unless the book was supposed to take place in the future. No meat needs to age that much! I don’t have a recipe for this either. It wasn’t venison season so I ordered it through Highbourne Deer Farms, and it was delicious. I only used olive oil, salt, and pepper to season, then grilled it. Just don’t make my mistake and overcook half of it, I was getting tired of getting up and down by then.

Remy’s Ratatouille (Ratatouille)

This is the only dish specific to a movie that made it onto my menu. Weird, huh? You could use any version of this, but I’ll be honest, I did not practice enough to make it look beautiful. It tasted fine though. Roasted vegetables, not really that hard.

Drink Pairing: Pinot Noir – I wanted rioja but my sister couldn’t find it, so we went with the next best choice for red meat and roasted veggies.

Dessert

 How ‘Bout a Little More Baklava Cheesecake (Aladdin)

Yes, that’s right, I remembered one tiny little line in one song in Aladdin, and it turned into my whole dessert. I can make baklava, but it’s not as pretty, so I turned it into a cheesecake. This recipe works fine, but I cut the honey, cooked it about twenty minutes longer than suggested, and skipped the whole topping. Instead I sprinkled plain walnuts then drizzled honey for looks. Also, if you’re not  phyllo dough expert, it is not going to stand up as beautifully as the recipe creator makes it seem. Mine only had one piece left standing and I considered that highly successful.

Drink Pairing: We had both Port and Sparkling Wine – cheesecake is impossible to pair with, and baklava’s not much better

Organization Tips

I am a huge advocate for properly planning your Disney themed dinner party in advance, but I totally messed up this time. My son would not sleep Friday night so I didn’t get anything done in advance. That meant I had to get up at 6:00 A.M. to make up for it on Saturday. I also would not have survived if my mom hadn’t come to baby-sit. My sister came to help cook, but she wound up taking over baby duties after my mom left. I did manage to get everything done in time, but the dinner took longer than it normally does and we did not get a chance to clean at all. For the record, my husband was in class all day, so he actually couldn’t help. He did clean everything the next day though!

To alleviate some of the dish pain, we had to reuse our forks and knives, and we used the fancy Costco disposable plates for each course, in different sizes of course. Each person got a real wine glass, but a plastic cup for water. I usually plate dishes in advance, but I didn’t have room in my fridge, so I did feel rushed. Overall, though, it was a great party. We got to make new friends and even played a little Cards Against Humanity afterwards (come on – we served Bambi’s Mom, you knew we were awful people). I hope this menu helps you out and you enjoy your own Disney themed dinner party one day!

tips for hosting a housewarming party

Five Tips for Throwing a Housewarming Party

Throwing a housewarming party as an adult homeowner is a different ordeal than throwing one as a college student who moves to a new rental every two months. I mean, it’s fun either way, but when you’re young and don’t actually own the property you’re living in, housewarming parties are really just an excuse to drink, aren’t they? Whereas when you’re an adult, you want to say, “Look at this piece of construction I purchased! It has four walls and a roof and I actually care about cleaning the carpets!” You may even have transitioned to real, grown-up furniture. You know, pieces that were clearly purchased to complement each other and require a coaster. Either way, throwing a housewarming party really doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. Here’s five tips to get you started.

1. Don’t worry if you’ve lived there a while.

This only works up to a certain extent, but it took me two full months from our move-in date to even start thinking about throwing a housewarming party. No one seemed to think that was odd. Actually, no one even mentioned it. Throwing a housewarming party should be fun and you want to show off your house; if you can’t do that, what’s the point? We are a very busy family, plus I’m pregnant, so unpacking and all that jazz took quite a bit longer than it’s taken me in the past. We also needed to do some projects that took precedence (building a fence, installing a dog door, etc.), schedule around my husband’s Saturday school, and pick a day when I’d have a baby-sitter so I could prepare. I’m surprised it only took us two months to throw it, actually.

Of course, there has to be some sort of deadline on this. I don’t think throwing a housewarming party six years after you’ve moved in will make any sense. Could you call that a barbecue instead? It might ruffle less feathers. I checked a few websites, but there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on how long is too long. For us, we took a couple of months because of packing, but perhaps you’ve moved into a fixer-upper and need a little more time. If I knew you were hard at work, I wouldn’t mind waiting a year to go to your housewarming. On the other hand, if you want to throw it before you take stuff out of boxes, kudos to you. Does anyone actually care what’s in the boxes? Not unless you’ve been recreating Seven, probably.

What’s in the box?!

2. Invite your neighbors.

Neighbors? Do people actually talk to their neighbors these days? Yes! I do, anyway, and I totally recommend it. Do you know how nice it is to have someone next door to borrow a tool from or a babysitter down the street? Those are a couple of benefits of neighborhood friendships, but there’s also the possibility you could wind up becoming, I don’t know, actual friends. Think about it. You chose the same neighborhood. There’s a good chance you have a similar income. If you both have kids, you found the same school district to be worthwhile. It can’t hurt to find out what you have in common.

The possibility of friendship is not the only reason to invite the neighbors though. Ever had an awful neighbor? Yeah, they exist too. You might as well find out who they are right away. I’m not suggesting they’ll show up to your party; they won’t. Awful neighbors never do. But, they’ll know you’re having a party, so if they have issues with parking or noise or anything like that, they can let you know beforehand. If the awful neighbors don’t out themselves, maybe some of the other, nicer neighbors, who do show up to the party will fill you in. They’ll also let you know if the neighborhood has a Facebook page and other things like that.

3. Don’t decorate.

I mean this sincerely. If you’re throwing a housewarming party, don’t decorate. Put the balloons down, Becky, I see you trying to sneak them in your cart. No, not even for the mailbox to let friends and family know which house is yours. If they can’t read the house numbers already on your house or mailbox, you need new friends and family. If you don’t have house numbers somewhere, you should get them, or you’re never going to be able to order pizza.

Still concerned? Try an address sign like this.

My reasoning for this is pretty simple. When people attend a housewarming party, what do they expect to see? A house. They want to see how your regular decor is done, not whether you are a streamer or plastic tablecloth kind of person. If you have a fixer upper and there’s something you’re trying to hide, put some boxes or a plant in front of it. Or, hey, leave it out in the open and see if you can get any suggestions for it. I did put a plastic tablecloth on my dining room table when I threw my party, but that was not for decoration. That was so people could spill whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t have to clean it.

4. Serve a combination of packaged and homemade food.

Speaking of spillage, you should serve food and drinks at your party. Depending on where you are in your life, you might want more food or more drinks, but you’re going to have to serve something. You may already have twenty fabulous recipes figured out, but even if you do, throw something store-bought out on the serving table. Why? Remember how I told you to invite those neighbors? Well, you’re probably a completely new person to them. They might not trust your cooking just yet. You know there is always someone who participates in the office potluck that just shouldn’t,  and it makes everyone wary of eating strangers’ cooking unless there’s a health inspector grading them on it.

Baby cup for baby guests only, pasta salad for all.

Personally, I’m a big fan of homemade dips, and they’re easy to make, so that’s always a good option. This Chili’s queso knock-off was a big hit if you want to give it a try. As for the store stuff, Costco brownie bites worked really well, and of course we had the standard fruit and vegetable trays. I made sliders (turkey and barbecue) for the main dish, since they’re both pretty easy and I’m always in a time crunch. Your menu doesn’t really matter here, as long as you choose things you know you will eat if your guests don’t. But, the reason you need to feed those guests is pretty simple. They’re probably bringing a gift…

5. Don’t ask for gifts when throwing a housewarming party.

Crazy, right? You don’t ask for them and they show up with one anyway. I think back in the day there was some sort of etiquette rule about gifts and housewarming parties, but I could not be bothered to look that up. Just don’t ask for anything. Is it your first house? They’ll bring you decor things, whether you want them or not. Are you quite young? They’ll probably ask you what you want. Did you just get married? Then you just had a whole registry they chose from, don’t be greedy! For everyone else… Be prepared for plants and wine. Seriously. I wound up with more wine than what I started with, and the only reason I had any wine at all was to serve to our guests. Not that I’m complaining; once I evict this baby next month, that wine is all mine!

Empty pre-party, stocked post-party. Only at housewarmings.

Your younger friends and your neighbors probably won’t arrive with gifts, but that’s fine. It is not anyone else’s job to furnish your house. You don’t buy friends gifts when they purchase cars and other expensive items, do you? I thought not. I don’t think it matters if you mention anything about gifts on your invitation or not. When people see the word “housewarming,” if they’re the gift-giving type, they’re going to show up with something even if you specifically ask them not to, so just leave it alone and don’t make it awkward later. Well, that’s about it. Congrats on your new house, go out and have a fabulous party!

A GUide To Mother's Day

A Mother’s Day Guide for Dads

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation. 

Welcome gentlemen! I’ll be up front. This Mother’s Day Guide for dads is not a “buy this,” “go to this particular restaurant” kind of guide. I don’t know your wife, probably. How would I know what she wants? What I do know is this: moms have a lot on their plate. We get crap from everyone – you guys included. Working moms get judged, stay-at-home moms get looked down on, and that’s just the start. I’m personally a work-at-home mom who will either say “I do a little bookkeeping from the house,” or “I’m a small business owner” depending on who I’m talking to.  Seriously, I do that.  I’m ashamed both of working and of being at home. Thanks, society!

So, why does that matter to you? Here’s the deal. Once a year, one measly day a year, you should acknowledge how much work the mother of your child does, and how much pressure the world puts on her to be the perfect mom. I’d like to think this is not an issue and every dad knows Mother’s Day is a big deal. Unfortunately, after speaking with some friends, I discovered their husbands don’t even acknowledge it’s a holiday. Yet, the women would rather celebrate Mother’s Day than Valentine’s Day. Makes you think, huh? My own husband, thankfully, would not dare to forget such a holiday…. for me. His own mom, on the other hand, gets a card. That’s about it. I have to FaceTime her so she can see her grandson. Her own son may or may not participate on the call. That brings me to my first point.

Mother’s Day Guide

Part 1. Don’t forget your mom.

Fellas, seriously, don’t forget your moms! They birthed you. They deserve some acknowledgment too. If my son grows up and decides not to call me, I will be hunting him down and forcing a family dinner upon him, or even worse if he’s moved far away. Like, a week-long visit  where I just nag him the whole time. That’s right. Don’t forget Mom or you will feel her wrath! You can start with a card. A call is better.

Now, I don’t know your relationship with your mother. Maybe a gift isn’t warranted. Maybe you will be having a fabulous brunch with her and your siblings. That part is all up to you. Just don’t forget completely.  I will say, if you’re going to go with a generic gift, do it for your mom, and not for your children’s mom. I would pick something like a picture frame. Here’s one I like for newer grandmas. Or here’s a mug that could work for any grandma. I don’t own either of these, obviously, since I’m not a grandma, but they are both things I’ve picked up for my mom. They’re really simple gifts, and they’re probably fine for your mom too. The difficulty comes in deciding what to do for your woman…

Part 2. Spoil your wife.

I was going to write  wives/girlfriends/etc., but it looked silly. Don’t get offended. Family dynamics are all different, and I don’t particularly care if you’re married to your child’s mom or not. But, if you’re together, this mother’s day guide says you should be doing something for her. If you’re not together and your child asks for help, you should probably also be doing something for her. Unfortunately, that’s not something that I can help you with, as my child is too small to attempt any sort of gift giving. So, first question. Do you have to give a gift? Well, again, I don’t pretend to speak for other women on this subject. But…

If she says no flowers, don’t buy flowers.

No means no, guys.

Women occasionally play games (sorry ladies – but you know they know this). Telling you she doesn’t want flowers isn’t one of them. Some women really like flowers, and others really hate getting them. I’m pro-flower, but I get the anti-flower sentimentality. They can cost an awful lot of money and they don’t last very long. That’s why some women would rather have you hand them $40 or whatever you were going to spend than get that bouquet delivered. Now, me, I’d wind up spending the money on groceries or something, so I’d rather get a nice $8 bouquet from Kroger or whatever and not feel like I blew my gift on household necessities I would have gotten anyway. You don’t have to guess about this one. If your wife hasn’t ever told you whether she likes flowers or not, just ask.

Take over the chores.

See a block, pick up a block.

Yeah, I know this one sucks. But as a mom, one who does 95% of the household chores and has to listen to her husband whine about the other 5%, I can tell you it’s a biggie. I know some dads are already awesome at doing the chores. Kudos to them. But, I’m guessing those dads either aren’t the ones who need to read this, or they’re reading this Mother’s Day guide for dads for some other reason. So listen up messy dads. You don’t have to do anything crazy. The house doesn’t have to be spick and span. What would your wife be doing? Maybe a quick vacuum? Dishes? Go ahead and take over her responsibilities, and take it over without asking (unless it’s laundry and you’ve been told specifically not to do it – then ask first). Then, if you can handle it, wait to complain until she’s not in your presence. Perfect!

Alone time is important, but not for everyone.

mother's day guide
Ah, the before noon pile.

Working moms have it tough. They have to do their jobs away from their kids and help out the household. Stay-at-home moms also have it tough. They have to watch the crazies all day, clean up, cook, and do it all without adult interaction so they start to lose their minds. I could absolutely see working moms wanting to see their kids, but stay-at-home moms wanting to get out of the house. I have no evidence to back that up, but you can probably tell if your wife needs a break. If you can’t, ask questions like, “Hey, want me to take the kids while I run some errands?” or “Do you think it’d be a good time for a family outing?” Maybe she’d like time to rest, or maybe she’d prefer a trip to the zoo where you push the strollers and deal with the gift shop.

Regardless of whether your wife wants to get away from her delightful family or not, at the very least, if you have a little one, take over diaper duty for the day. Some women might not mind doing chores, but NO ONE wants to do diapers.  I admit, this mother’s day guide is skewed more towards younger parents since my friends and I aren’t parents of teenagers yet, but if you are, there’s probably a fill-in for diaper duty. Perhaps you could sit and listen to your teenagers tell awful stories about the high school mean girls or be the one who has to nag them for two hours just to come out of their bedrooms? Those sound like things a mom would like to get out of for a day.

Most importantly…..Just Listen to her.

None for me, thanks.

What? The most important thing is not to buy her fancy jewelry or send her to the spa? Nope. Because not all women want those things. Let me tell you a little story about my birthday. I know this is a Mother’s Day guide, but it’s the same principle. First, let me point out I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining why my husband thought he was going to get  a, “Wow!” and what he really got was an, “It’s the thought that counts.” On the morning of my birthday he woke up early to cook me breakfast – bacon and pancakes. Sounds nice right? Here’s three reasons why it wasn’t:

  1. I don’t like pancakes.
  2. I can’t stand the smell of bacon while pregnant, which I am.
  3. For two months before my birthday, all I talked about was wanting to sleep in. He had to wake me up at 5:00 A.M. to give me this breakfast.

So, nice thought? Absolutely, and I ate my burnt pancakes and terrible smelling bacon with a smile. But the thing is, he wasn’t thinking about what would be nice for me. He was thinking about what would be nice for women in general. If you take anything out of this mother’s day guide, it should be to think about your wife, not any old woman. If she won’t tell you what she wants, don’t go pool the office ladies who don’t know her. Think about what she likes to do, whether she’s been tired a lot lately, whether she’s been hinting at something she likes, and if she’s had any complaints. Too much trouble? Then good luck with those generic gift guides!

 

Make a DIY Kentucky Derby

10-Minute DIY Kentucky Derby Hat

I’ve never needed a DIY Kentucky Derby hat for the Kentucky Derby, but  I have needed one on the quick before. Back before I was an overworked bookkeeper, I was an underworked financial aid officer. The other gals in my office and I decided we were going to have a Derby hat day. The timing was weird; the derby had already passed for the year; but it made for a fun day at work as we all looked quite ridiculous dressed as southern belles for no apparent reason. I actually live pretty close to Louisville now, so maybe one day I’ll make it there and need a real hat. Until then, my makeshift easy hats will have to do, because those real ones are super expensive.

Many of you may think you have no reason to make a DIY Kentucky Derby hat, but if you are ever in the need of a quick theme party, I would go with this one. Obviously I’m not particular about my derby timing, but if you are, think about this. You could do a derby party instead of Cinco de Mayo. Do you really want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo anymore? Tequila and sombreros. Blech. That’s for college girls. Grown-ups like myself get sloshed on mint juleps while wearing sunhats with flowers on them. This kind of party could be particularly fun. I’m a fan of gambling, so make a little sports bet and party on! Plus the race is over super fast, so you can kick everyone out whenever you feel like. Anyway, here’s my suggestions for a hat of your own.

DIY Kentucky Derby Hat Instructions

Option 1: Permanent DIY Kentucky Derby Hat

What you need:

hat
ribbon
hot glue gun
scissors
fake flowers
feathers (optional)
other decorations (optional)
tulle or netting (optional)

What to do:

  1. Measure ribbon around the center of the hat. Cut the ribbon slightly longer than you measure, just in case.
  2. Hot glue the ribbon to the hat.
  3. Pick what you want to decorate with.
  4. For flowers – pull plastic stems off. Glue flower to ribbon. More in one spot is better, instead of around the brim.
  5. For feathers – these should go after flowers if you have them. Put a bit of hot glue on the end and stick it behind the flowers. If you decide to do all feathers instead of flowers, cut the stem down to an appropriate length and glue as many as you want to the ribbon.
  6. For any other decorations – glue away! Wherever you see room, go for it. These are ridiculous hats after all.
  7. For tulle or netting – Measure how long you want it to go around the hat. Typically they’ll only be in front of the face. Cut the amount you want. Bend a small piece over and glue it to the bottom of the brim. If the tulle looks too log, trim it down.
Measure and glue your ribbon.
Pull stems off of flowers.
Start gluing your flowers to the ribbon and hat.
You can glue flowers to each other to keep wild petals down.
Stems will start to show, so make sure to glue more flowers with stems facing the opposite way.
Now the stems are hidden.
Now the fun begins. Add whatever else you like, such as feathers. Glue behind flowers.
Woohoo! A completed Derby hat.

Option 2: Temporary DIY Kentucky Derby Hat

What you need:

hat – Since you’re reusing it, I suggest something nice for the beach, like this one.
ribbon
fake flowers
stapler
scissors

What to do:

  1. Measure ribbon around the center of the hat. Cut the ribbon a couple of inches longer than what you need.
  2. Wrap the ribbon around the hat and staple it where it feels tight enough. You can trim down any extra. Then slide the ribbon off the hat.
  3. Pull plastic stems off flowers.
  4. Staple the center of the first flower to the ribbon, preferably where you’ve already stapled. Then put the  ribbon back on the hat.
  5. Staple any other flowers you want to the first flower. You’ll probably see some green, so it’s a good idea to staple two opposite petals to either a flower or the ribbon.
  6. You can add other decorations if you want, but try not to overload or it’ll fall apart before your party is over!
Measure your ribbon by putting it around the hat. Easy!
Staple where it’s tight and leave a little extra.
Pull the ribbon off, trim, and straighten staples if necessary.
Begin stapling stemless flowers to ribbon.
Do the bulk of the stapling before you put it back on the hat.
Put the ribbon back on the hat.
Add more staples or flowers if necessary to hide stems and reshape.
Maybe not as fancy as the first, but totally reusable!

Notes:

These are pretty similar. The main difference is that you can add a lot more to the permanent version without worrying about it falling apart. Could you pull hot glue off your hat and make it a temporary version? Sure, I guess. Sounds like a messy hassle to me though. Could you leave your staples on your temporary hat forever if you love it? Probably, if you don’t plan on wearing it very often. Making a DIY Kentucky Derby hat is really a piece of cake, plus it’s fun to dig through your craft box and see what all you have. Now get out there and bet on the horses, you fabulously hatted gal!

 

The Evil Queen's Apple and Beet Salad

The Evil Queen’s Apple & Beet Salad Recipe

Apple & beet salad with a Disney twist! Let me apologize now.  Some of you are surely here for a kid-friendly beet recipe. You can try to get your kids to eat it – I certainly won’t stop you – but it was actually created for an adult dinner party. I’ve been discussing how to host a fancy dinner party over the last couple of weeks (part 1 and part 2 if you’re interested), and I had this lovely plan to culminate it with a discussion of my Disney-themed party. However, my party got rescheduled, because I am nothing if not frenzied, so for now I’ll just drop this little tidbit in here.

I found this really beautiful apple and beet salad on Food and Wine when I was searching for salad ideas for the party. It was an instant obsession. Everyone knows who the evil queen is, right? She wanted poor, beautiful Snow White to eat her poisoned apple. She also had a thing for ripping people’s hearts out, which is a little bit on the evil side, but to each their own I guess. Anyway, I looked at this salad and saw the beets, which look a little like hearts, had dyed all the apples red. They looked a little… poisoned. So that was it. I knew I had to serve apple & beet salad at my party. Unfortunately, my husband hates beets and he’s my tester, so I revised the whole recipe to make it less beet-heavy. Here’s what I came up with.

Recipe for Apple & Beet Salad

Serves 2-4, 15 minutes active, 75 minutes cook time

Ingredients

2 green apples
1 beet
walnuts
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about 2 inches on the bulb. Save the greens for later. Next, put the beets in an aluminum foil-lined pan and roast at 450° for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  2. When the beet is ready, pull it out and let it cool. While it cools, cut the apples into slices and take the ends off the greens.
  3. Peel roasted beet. The skin should come off easily with your hands or a towel.*
  4. Chop beet into small pieces, about 1/2 inch. Try to retain as much of the juice as you can.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix the beet pieces with apples. The apples should start turning pinkish-red.
  6. In a separate bowl, toss the beet greens with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  7. Put greens on plate, followed by apples and small beet chunks.
  8. Add walnuts and goat cheese. Then you’re ready to serve!

 

apple & beet salad

Notes

*If you are not a regular beet chef, here’s a great tutorial on roasting beets. It’s how I learned. Also, if you didn’t gather from the pictures that beets turn everything red, beware – they turn everything red. You might want to wear gloves. I don’t personally, but I do wind up washing my hands a LOT, so it’s something to consider. The less you like beets, the smaller the beet pieces should be. I enjoy them, but the hubby doesn’t, so I make them small enough to be mixed in with an apple bite. You can toast the walnuts up if you want to. Just put them in a pan on your stove. Nice and simple. In fact, all of this is simple! But it looks pretty nice, so I think having an apple & beet salad at my dinner party will work out just fine. Enjoy!

fancy dinner party

Five Steps to Perfect Fancy Dinner Party Timing

Fancy dinner party timing can be a real hassle. Last week I talked about the basics of hosting your party, but if you want it to be successful and not pull your hair out, you will need to be a timing pro. You’ll want to write things down. I mean with a pen and paper. Do you remember those? You probably have some in a drawer somewhere. You may glance at them every once in awhile and think of throwing them out, but you never do. And now, vindication! You can use them! I know you’re wondering why someone who frequently talks about her automated to-do list suggests paper, but think about this. You’re going to be cooking all day. Your hands are going to be gross. Do you really want to constantly check your iPad or Galaxy or whatever gizmo you have?

time to write our your fancy dinner party timing
This is what paper and writing utensils look like.

That’s not to say you won’t need your gizmo – you probably will, unless you are a recipe printer. I’m not. But it’s just easier to have a piece of paper stuck on the fridge or taped somewhere when you only need to do a quick glance. Memorize it if you prefer, but you risk a really long gap between meals, or something burning, if you don’t. So, there’s that little tidbit of advice. Now let’s talk about the good stuff. I do have a Disney-themed fancy dinner party coming up, but I’m going to use last year’s French menu as an example for now. Feel free to steal it.

How to Plan your Fancy Dinner Party Timing

1. Pick when the guests will arrive.

Oh hey! Guests! When should they show up? You might think this should be the least of your concerns, but unless your friends love last minute invitations, you’re going to want to give them a heads up at least two weeks in advance. If you have an event with a dress code, make sure you give them time to prepare. They might also want to get a baby-sitter. I have no problem hosting kids at my dinner parties (they eat pizza), but I can’t watch them, not even my own. I also serve a lot of wine. My friends know this, so they don’t always want to drag the kids along. Maybe you don’t want kids there at all so you ban them. Whatever, it’s your party.

The reason this makes a difference in your timing is that once you send out those invitations, your start time is set. Now you know exactly how much time you have to get things done. Personally, I like to invite my guests to show up at 6:30 P.M. Most of them will be there by 6:45, and all of them will be there by 7:00, even the perpetually late ones. I will have the appetizers ready by 6:30, 6:35 tops. I will also be dressed, the table will be set, and the kitchen will be as cleaned up as it can be (the rest of the house will be clean, but I won’t do that – the hubby will). Anything else may or may not be prepared, but at least I have a goal time.

2. Write out your menu with active time & cooking time separated.

This is probably the most important step if you want to get your courses out at different intervals. Actually, if it’s your first time, you might need this step just to get everything completed before the guests show up. You may think you’re a great prepper, but you will find out otherwise if you’re trying to put together an entire salad while your guests are waiting on you. They may not notice – serve enough wine, they probably won’t notice – but you don’t want to be serving the last course at 11:00 at night. So, as soon as your menu is set, go ahead and write out this part.

My handwriting is strangely similar to the Excel font.

You may remember last week I said to practice practice practice. I hope you did! Sometimes when you use a recipe the timing will be completely off. Whoever wrote it may be able to make their cheesecake in ten minutes, but I sure can’t! The ones I find are the worst are vegetable-heavy recipes. These cookbook writers are obviously much faster choppers and dicers than the rest of us, so they can’t be trusted with times. When you practice, try to remember how long it takes you. You can copy times over from the recipe, but you can also tweak them once you’ve seen you in action.

3. Decide what to do in advance.

Now that you have a nice schedule of how long everything is going to take you, you can decide if you want to try it all at once or prepare in advance. My fancy dinner party timing is designed to take place over two days. Am I cooking the entire two days? No. But it gives me a break in between things, and who doesn’t want that? If possible, I like doing desserts entirely the day before. Once I picked churros, which have to be fried, and that was the worst decision I ever made at a dinner party. I was so tired of cooking by then, I gave up trying to make them look beautiful and just served blobs of fried dough. I did creme brulee last year, and it did have to be broiled at the last minute, but that was totally doable.

churros
These are my actual churro blobs. Don’t be like me. Serve nice churros.

One other thing I really like to do to keep my fancy dinner party timing in check is early morning vegetable chopping. That goes for all recipes. I’ll put them in baggies or bowls or something to keep them separated. For the most part veggies stay fresh looking after you cut them, so it’s one less headache later in the day. Soups are usually good in the slow cooker, so that’s another thing to think about doing early in the day. I rarely do the main dish or the side dish ahead, besides seasoning. Obviously this will all depend on what you’re cooking; a roast will go in the oven a lot earlier than something would go on the grill.

4. Set the table and get ready at the last minute.

Get ready at the last minute, you say? Are you crazy? I’m asking everyone else to dress up and I will barely have any time to look my best? Yep, sorry. Pro tip: You’re the one cooking. That means spills, flours, oil, sauces all over the place. Prolong the mess as long as you can. You can invest in an apron if you want, but taking it on and off every five minutes while you switch courses is going to get annoying. Also, this must be said – keep your hair back. No one wants a hair in their food. If you’re wearing an up-do, you can do that once you’re up for the day and it will stay. Probably. I don’t know your hairstyling skills. Mine are generally terrible, but I can still keep my hair in a bun.

Having perfect fancy dinner party timing isn’t really going to be affected by setting your table, but I would suggest doing it last, doing it first, or having someone else do it. I can’t do it first at my house because we’re a madhouse and something will mess it up, so I stick to last minute. If you’ve never read anything by me before, you might not know this, but I hate decorating. So my centerpieces will usually be something simple and a couple of bread baskets. Super easy. Waiting til the last minute doesn’t hurt me at all, although it might change how fancy my napkin folding gets. Yes, I use real napkins. I bought them for my wedding, so I might as well use them.

5. Keep your clock out while you eat.

You spent all this time scheduling it, now you have to keep your fancy dinner party timing perfect by watching the clock. Does that suck a little bit while you’re hosting all your friends? Yes, kind of. But someone always volunteers to help, so it could actually mean one-on-one time with people. Fun! You can have Siri or Alexa or whoever time things for you, but I feel like that would ruin the ambiance. Now, how long should you have between courses? I guess that’s up to you and how fast you eat, but I like about fifteen minutes between the end of one course and the start of another. I swear, it doesn’t make the meal last forever.

What? You think I own paper AND an actual clock? Don’t be crazy.

Let’s see how this works. I have people showing up at 6:30. My appetizers have to be ready to go. They have half an hour to eat them. Then at 7:00 I serve an amuse-bouche. No need for a fifteen minute break here; I tell them my rules (you have to try,  no offense taken if you don’t like it), then move on. So, we’re serving salad around 7:05. We have a lot to eat so courses are small. Assume everyone’s done in five minutes. That means soup needs to be ready at 7:25, a main course at 7:45, and dessert at 8:05. Everything’s done by 8:10 if I’ve planning my fancy dinner party timing correctly. That’s a great time to play a game or something, plus you only had to sit at the table for a little over an hour. Wah-lah! Dinner has been served.

Note:

I planned on keeping this fancy dinner party series on a week-by-week basis, but unfortunately I had to reschedule my Disney-themed dinner. How’s that for some crappy fancy dinner party timing, huh? This is probably not a huge deal to anyone, but I wanted to let you know in case you were eagerly waiting to steal my Little Mermaid soup or whatever I’m serving (hint: it’s not that). Don’t worry, it will be here sometime in May. Until then, I’ll have more frenzied ideas on the way!

 

 

 

Secrets to a Fancy Dinner Party

Secrets to Hosting a Fancy Dinner Party

I have a confession. I love hosting a fancy dinner party. It makes no sense for a busy gal like myself. I cook for days, I barely sit down even during dinner, and cleanup is awful. Yet I love it anyway. My cooking skills are on display for everyone to see and praise, plus I get to personally judge my organization and time management. Why is that fun? I don’t know. When you’re a self-employed person, I guess you start coming up with weird ways to assess yourself. I also serve a LOT of booze, so it’s like my guests are all reliving college, but in a fancier way.

My annual fancy dinner party is coming up soon, so I thought I’d write a little series about it as I get prepared. I’ve been doing this since 2010, and shockingly they’ve all gone quite well. My cuisine has gotten better, and my timing last year was about perfect, so I think it’s a great time to share my secrets. Do you need to know how to cook to host a fancy dinner party? Yes. Don’t kid yourself on this one. Your only other option is to have someone else cook it, whether family, friend, or caterer, but then they might as well host it themselves, right? Luckily, if you follow my schedule, you’ll have plenty of time to learn.

Secret #1 – A fancy dinner party is not a weekly event.

I said my fancy dinner party is annual, and I’m not kidding. You guys, it is so much work. I’m a bookkeeper and I work with CPA’s who try to smother me in paperwork every March and April. That’s why I celebrate the end of tax season with something nice. My husband and I invite over 6-8 of our friends, tell them to dress up, and then serve them dinner. But, I don’t have time to do all the cooking and prep work every week, and he would probably balk at the cleaning if I tried. I’m not saying you can’t do it more than once a year, but if you’re serious about providing good food that you yourself cooked, you’re going to want a break in between.

May I have 4 bites of lobster tail, please?

Also, this may not be a secret, but fancy dinner parties are expensive to throw. I coupon from time to time, but we do alright for ourselves and I prefer not to spend my precious time driving from store to store looking for the best deal. What kind of ingredients do fancy foods have? The pricey kind. By only throwing one or two a year, you save yourself the hassle of trying to cut costs for every course. There’s also cleanup to think about. I try to be a green hostess when I can, but my husband and I agree we will not be using dishes we have to put through the dishwasher. Think about it. Five courses for ten people is fifty plates. Kill me now! But we’re being fancy, so we have to get the high quality disposable plates to make sure it looks nice.

Secret #2 – Practice, practice, practice.

The other important part of hosting your fancy dinner parties sparingly is the time you have to practice your courses. I legitimately give myself a year to find the recipes I want and perfect them. Actually, I keep a list of potential menus in my to-do list, so I could potentially be practicing courses for years before I wind up using some of those recipes. Sure, you could cook the four dishes you always cook and call it “fancy,” but people aren’t going to dress up for that. You should be serving elegant dishes you wouldn’t serve all the time, and that requires more than day-of practicing.

With a little practice, I’ll make this soup beautiful!
With even more practice, you’ll be able to tell these are crab cakes! 🙂

You might also want to start practicing your plating skills. Have you ever been to a fine dining establishment? The food doesn’t look the same way it does when you go to Chili’s or Outback. Plating food is not a natural skill, and I’m still not all that great at it. But, I get better every year. That’s because  of practice! You don’t have to make anything fancy to practice plating. If you’re making a full meal one day, why not dress up the plate a little? By the time you get to hosting your party, you’ll have an idea of what you’re doing.

Secret #3 – Do not invite picky eaters.

Don’t invite the whole world, don’t invite people who couldn’t hold a conversation over their meal, and definitely, one hundred percent, don’t invite picky eaters. You are going to be so irritated if you spend a year working towards this beautifully plated meal and then your guests won’t even try it. I actually have rules when I host. I serve an amuse-bouche while I tell the guests the rules so it comes out nicer, but they’re pretty simple. Unless you’re allergic to it, you need to try it. I don’t care if people like it. I really don’t. What are the chances that ten people would all like every dish you serve? Not good, probably. But, oh man, if you won’t even try it, why did you come?

Good luck with the picky eaters when you serve them Moroccan cod with harissa!

When you’re making up your guest list, this will pop into your mind. Maybe you will feel guilty if you have one friend you really want to invite, but you know she’ll tell your other friend you don’t want there. Oh well. Be an adult, just tell the other friend you don’t want to do all that work for people who aren’t going to eat it. In the past, I’ve invited two out of three of my very close coworkers. I’ve invited one of my next door neighbors but not the other. If they get all bitter about it, you can make something up. Say you got to choose one friend and your spouse got to choose one friend and that’s all you can fit at your table. Whatever. Just don’t do all that work for people who won’t appreciate it.

Secret #4 – Put thought into your menu.

You can go willy-nilly if you want to. Serve a cucumber salad, borscht, fried chicken, and a flan. See how that goes. Hint: It won’t be the best. I had no theme at all for my very first dinner party, other than that I found all my recipes on Food and Wine, but I’ve gotten better since then. Last year it was French, the year before was spring. Spring was actually one of my most successful menus. Every course featured a beautiful fruit or vegetable. This year I’m doing… Wait for it… Disney! Yes, a Disney-themed fancy dinner party. Believe me, there was more thought put into this menu than any other one I’ve ever done. I’m going to write more on that specific meal in a later post, but I do think it will be great.

A spring asparagus soup.

It’s not just a theme that matters though. You should decide ahead of time what kind of courses you want to put out. I do appetizers and a cocktail while people arrive and I finish up my prep. I serve an amuse-bouche to tell people the rules. Then I have a salad course, a soup course, a main course with a side, and dessert. Everything from salad on gets it’s own wine. That’s the one thing I have guests bring, by the way. I don’t want them cooking and ruining whatever theme I’ve got going, but they can bring the type of wine I tell them to. Anyway, you don’t have to follow my plan, but you should have your own. Don’t serve three soups and a cheese plate. Just don’t.

Coming up: Planning and Organizing

I said at the beginning this was going to be a series, and I meant it. You don’t want to sit here reading all day, do you? Maybe you’ve already started thinking about holding a fancy dinner party, and now you know what will make it successful. Next time we’re going to talk in detail about planning and organizing the party, because if it’s going to be successful, that needs to be a category all its own. Unless you have two ovens, it can get really tricky to get everything out on time, and that’s just one concern. Enjoy your week and I’ll be back soon!

Food Trivia to Share atEaster Dinner

Trivia You Can Share When Hosting Easter Dinner

Hosting Easter dinner this year? Kudos to you! I’m sticking to a fun Easter brunch, but you dinner-hosters have my admiration. Do you have the whole family coming over? A bunch of friends? No one? Those are all fine choices, although I personally like the idea of someone hosting a fabulous Easter dinner and then refusing to invite anyone to it. If I wasn’t married…

Anyway, I’m not here to give you a whole bunch of tips on what to wear and how to decorate, although if you needed to know that I’d say clothes and minimally. Instead, I thought I’d provide you with a little information about food. Were you aware that Easter is a religious holiday? I bet you were! According to Gallup’s last Easter poll, about 60% of people in the US go to church on Easter. I will vouch for this. I used to live two streets away from a church, yet somehow on Easter my whole street would be filled with the cars of lost souls who forgot how to park at a church since they only attended once a year. Religious holidays come with all kinds of traditions and meanings, so if you’re going to be hosting Easter dinner, you might as well know what tradition you’re following.

Hosting Easter Dinner with Lamb

traditional Easter lamb

If you are serving lamb this meal, you’re serving the most Christian of all the traditional Easter foods. If there was meat at the Last Supper, this was it. It’s weirdly also the most Jewish of all the traditional foods, because it’s usually part of Passover. What I’m saying is, lamb at Easter dinner is a religious thing. Not religious? That’s okay. It’s still delicious. Personally, if I was cooking Easter dinner this year, I’d be going with lamb. My son is too young to care what he eats, so I might as well enjoy this tasty meat while I have the opportunity. Never cooked it? I suggest something like this basic rosemary recipe. It’s pretty common to season your lamb with rosemary, so you might as well start with the basics.

Why You’re Serving Ham

Americans ham Easter dinner

Eating ham this Easter? Oh hey! You must be American! If I’m not mistaken, Easter has something to do with Jesus, and that guy was a Jew. I bet he wasn’t eating ham.  So how did it get involved in all this mess? Basically, it’s just what was around. Easter takes place in the spring, and back before globalization and climate change, you couldn’t get everything fresh every time of year. Germans started serving ham because they could slaughter pigs in the winter and then keep it until spring. This spread throughout northern Europe, and they brought pigs over to the Americas, and we’ve been obsessed with pork ever since. If you’re going to cook one yourself, I say something simple like this would be fine. More time to work on your sides!

What’s the Deal with the Eggs

My sister is always curious about this one. I guess she forgets every year, because I have told her repeatedly. A long time ago, Christianity was not the dominant religion, so Easter wouldn’t have been a huge deal to everyone. But, that doesn’t mean non-Christians didn’t have their own religions. They did – and a lot of them celebrated spring. Once Christianity started growing, traditions started getting combined. There was one goddess of rebirth who had a symbol of a rabbit laying eggs. Her name? Eostre. So, Eostre became Easter, and now we’re stuck with this random goddess in the middle of a Christian holiday. Fascinating, right?

Alright! Now you’re pumped full of information about Easter. It doesn’t matter what kind of tradition you follow. Have a barbecue, skip Easter altogether, eat your lamb and ham and eggs, or cook up some dish that your family has passed down forever. What does matter is that you have fun and know more about the meal than everyone else.  🙂 Get out there, play smarty-pants and answer any food-related questions that come up while you’re hosting Easter dinner.

5 Tips for an Awesome Easter Brunch

5 Tips for an Awesome Easter Brunch

Making an awesome Easter brunch honestly isn’t that difficult, because even a regular brunch is awesome. I’ve talked about the basics before, and we’re going to stick with that outline, but add a theme. Easter’s kind of a strange holiday to figure out, isn’t it? Not the religious part – that part’s pretty easy. But the rest of it is just weird. We’ve got a giant bunny who for some reason delivers eggs. Who knows who he’s stealing all those eggs from, because I went to a biology class one time and I’m pretty positive rabbits don’t lay eggs.

Anyway, that’s not even what I’m talking about. I mostly mean it’s a Christmas-like holiday, but people don’t make it a travel priority if family isn’t close. Sometimes it coincides with spring break, other times it doesn’t. I didn’t do anything for Easter for many years because I didn’t have anyone to do it with. Now I’m close to my family again, and I have my own family to entertain, so I can make my own traditions. Brunch is definitely going to be one of them, whether I ever get around to making an Easter basket filled with bizarre bunny eggs or not. So, without further adieu, here are my 5 tips for an awesome Easter brunch.

1. Find a cool centerpiece – But don’t overdo it.

I’m not a super fan of cheesy decorations, but unless you’re going straight up Christian traditional only, Easter seems like a good time to be a little silly. Like I said, it involves an egg-laying bunny. I’ve seen many cool centerpieces online over the years. One simple one I like is just carrots in a vase, but you can get much crazier than that if you have time, especially if you already own a bunch of Easter decorations. Here’s another idea, and another. All fun, none too difficult. I moved a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very excited to have my dining room table out of storage, so I’ve already practiced my own. Let me know what you think, so if it’s terrible I have time to find something else!

Step 1: Buy junk at store. Step 2: Put junk in vases.

 

So, cool centerpieces are a must. But that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with the decorations. This is the Frenzied Hostess you guys, not the I Have So Much Time I’ll Knit Placemats for Every Attendee Hostess. If you’ve got that nice Easter wreath, I’m sure that’s already up, right? Or a few little decorations the kids put up, they’re fine too. That doesn’t mean you have to spend an extra hour or two of your precious time getting ready for one meal. Set the table, have a little fun with it, and let your awesome Easter brunch menu be the shining star.

2. Have an awesome Easter brunch menu.

Ha, bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? You can serve one thing for brunch. You can do potluck. Or, you can knock it out of the park, and have your fruits, your sweets, your eggs, and your meats covered. Okay, skip the meat if you’re vegetarian. And the eggs if you’re a vegan. And the food if you’re a zombie. Don’t want to leave any eating plan out now. But the point is, have a few dishes that provide different tastes, and don’t skip the dessert, even if you are a zombie.  That doesn’t mean you need four complete dishes that will each take all day. It just means variety is the key.

Shockingly, I will have a little spare time this Easter because it coincides with the end of tax season. I will be as stressed as possible on Good Friday, but by Easter everything should be handled. Don’t worry, you still have until that Tuesday to file your taxes. Just don’t ask me to do it. I need a break. Anyway, since I have more time than usual I can actually focus on making something nice. But, I know that’s not the case for everyone, so to help you out I’m including three different cohesive menus. We’ve got the traditional, the fancy, and the fun. All of them have options for make-ahead on at least one dish. Still need help? You can always count on Martha Stewart.

Awesome Easter Brunch Menus

The Traditional

Biscuits with Jelly
Deviled Eggs
Ham
Hot Cross Buns or Pound Cake

Time Savers & Alternatives

You don’t have to hand make the biscuits, friends. Or the jelly. Just buy these things. Deviled eggs can be made the day before, morning of, whatever. They will be smelly either way, right? The hot cross buns can be done the day before in two different ways. One, you can cook them and warm them up on Easter. Two, you can make the dough, refrigerate it, and cook them the day of. I actually think this menu is the least time-consuming, even if you do have to use your oven a lot. But, if you really are in a pinch, combine your meat and egg dishes and have a ham scramble.

The Fancy

Fresh Fruit
Cheese and spinach quiche
Smoked salmon bagels or chicken salad croissants
Crepes

Time Savers and Alternatives

No time for quiche? Just do a casserole. Less fancy, same taste. Although, you can technically make quiche ahead if you want. Just form it and freeze it sometime before Easter and you’re good to go. Smoked salmon bagels are quite easy even though they look fancy, but I know not everyone’s a fan. If you prefer to do chicken salad instead, you’re in luck. That can be done the day before as well, and you have my permission to buy the croissants. Crepes sound complicated, but honestly, they’re pancakes, and no one needs to make pancakes in advance. You can skip fresh fruit altogether if you do a fruit filling with your crepes, and you can do the filling in advance. Extra time? Fancy up the fruit and put it in individual serving containers.

The Fun

Fruit kebabs or fun shaped fruit platter
Eggs in a hole
French toast sausage roll ups
Monkey Bread or Dirt Cake

Time Savers and Alternatives

First thing’s first:  If you’re a Pinterest user, look up “Easter fruit” to see what I’m talking about with that. Next thing: If you’re out of time, scrap the fruit platters and put it in a bowl! Eggs in a hole are pretty easy to do if you bake them. You can cut out the bread the night before. If your kids don’t like those, just scramble something up. Both monkey bread and dirt cake can be done in advance, but they’re also both super easy so you might not have to. The worst here is the french toast sausage roll ups, so if you’re really short and time but determined to do this, why not buy prepared pancakes and roll them around the sausage instead? It’s close enough.

3. Don’t forget about the drinks – alcoholic or not.

Do people usually drink on Easter? I don’t even know. I won’t be, but I’m knocked up, so I don’t count. My family members aren’t huge drinkers either, so I don’t think I’m going to be in a rush to buy a bunch of liquor. But, if you are, no judgment from me. My only concern is that you serve something nice. Now, I don’t like to invite people over for events and expect them to bring food, unless we specifically decided a potluck would be fun, but I do think it’s perfectly reasonable to have them bring drinks. It takes no effort to buy a carton of orange juice. Slightly more to buy a bottle of champagne if your ID doesn’t easily slide out of you wallet, but still, nothing too taxing. So don’t feel bad about assigning people drinks if you want.

Having other people bring them, doing it yourself, alcoholic, non-alcoholic, none of these things are terribly important. What is important is that the drinks are special. Sure, you can serve plain orange juice and milk. But what’s awesome about that? You don’t have to do anything complicated, but adding a little splash of color or something will certainly make for a more entertaining meal. Here’s a few alcoholic beverages that look exciting, and here’s a few that you could make for the kids. Serve one one fancy drink to go with your regular choices, and your guests will be dazzled. Or they’ll yawn, and get kicked off the guest list for next year’s awesome Easter brunch.

4. Use the good dishes. Make someone else clean them.

Hey, you’re doing all this work to make sure everyone has an awesome Easter brunch! Why should you have to cook and clean? I never use my good dishes. Literally, I mean never. They’re still in packaging. So this year I’m pulling out all the stops and embracing the terror that is allowing other people to use my nice things. (I’m just kidding you guys. If I trust you enough to have you for a meal, I trust you enough to hold a plate like a normal human being.) If you have your own nice dishes, might as well use them for this special occasion too, right? Even though paper plates would be so much less of a hassle…

But, here’s the thing about not having potlucks. It means the people you invited didn’t cook, they didn’t set out the beautiful centerpiece you found, and they aren’t going to be stuck with a pile of dishes. So it’s not so terrible to ask for a little help. Now, I wouldn’t ask my friends to clean up after themselves if it was a dinner party, but for Easter it’s my family. My husband and mom will probably do the dishes without being asked anyway, but if your family isn’t that way, perhaps you could print this Slate article and leave it strategically on your table before the meal starts. That will show them how to be a good guest. Trust me, if you can get someone to help you clean up, it will be a much more awesome Easter brunch for you.

5. Hide an egg, kids or not.

What’s more Easter-y than hiding some eggs? If you have kids attending, go throw them all over your yard. Seriously, just toss them around. It’ll take two minutes, your yard will look extremely festive, and it will entertain them while the grown-ups sip on whatever fancy drink you concocted and you finish the dish that inevitably took too long. Tell them they’re missing one if they find all the eggs too fast. There are other Easter games, I’m sure, but I don’t remember them. An Easter egg hunt is just so simple, why bother with other things? Of course, if it’s cold you’ll have to hide them inside, so make your boundaries VERY clear for those little weirdos.

No kids coming to your brunch? So what? Hide a “golden” egg somewhere and give the guests a prize. You don’t have to play a serious game of hide-and-seek with the egg. It can be a raffle, or one of those gold star on the chair sort of prize giveaways. It just adds a little bit of fun to have a prize at the end. Admit it, you hate those cheesy office Christmas parties, but you love it when they give out the prizes. Same idea. If your guests are drinking, I say hide it good and see what happens. It might be hilarious for everyone. Well, that’s my thoughts on having an awesome Easter brunch. Stay tuned – next week we need to talk about Easter dinner!

100g almond flour200g confectioners' sugar120g egg whites40g caster sugargel food colouringfilling of your choice

A Guide to Creating a House Cleaning Plan

I need a new house cleaning plan. Last week I wrote about moving. This week my new house is a disaster and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s double the size of the rental I’ve been in since my child became mobile. I tried to get ahead of myself and create a new plan before I moved in, but I very quickly got overwhelmed. Why do I have a house with four bathrooms? Seriously, what am I going to do with them? Do I have to clean all of them frequently even if we’re not using them? What about the guest bedroom? The baseboards? Cabinets? Ahhhhh! I’m tired just thinking about it.

So, what am I going to do? Preferably find a nice housekeeper and call it a day, but I’m pretty sure my husband will frown on that. I may have mentioned it before, but when you work from home, people think you should be cleaning your own house, watching your own child, and working at the same time. I’m not sure when you get magical powers after signing a telecommuting agreement, but I haven’t got mine yet, so that’s a bummer. Anyway, I’ve got to have some kind of house cleaning plan in place soon or I’ll fall back into my old ways and forget about my beautiful checklist that keeps me on track. Let’s see what I can come up with.

Guide to Making a House Cleaning Plan

1. Decide what you will actually do.

Sure, there are plenty of lists out there that will help you figure out what you need to do and how often you need to do it, like this or this. Unfortunately those lists won’t clean the house for you, so they’re not necessarily the best way to make your own house cleaning plan. I want to have a clean house, I really do. I also want to keep my sanity. Since those two things don’t always go hand in hand, I can’t follow the perfect mom guide to a spic and span life. Let’s see. I have to do the floors. Have to. I should dust the fans – but I won’t do it regularly. So instead of making it part of my routine cleaning, I’ll wait until I accidentally hit it with something and dust falls like snow.

Making some things a priority doesn’t mean you’ll let the rest of the house go to the wayside. It’s more about feeling accomplished and not overwhelmed. I know I’m going to vacuum. I know I’m going to clean my kitchen and toilets. Making them the main focus of my plan is a good thing because the chances of me throwing in the towel on these things are really slim. Perhaps for you it’s dusting or mopping – we all have chores we don’t mind or dirty spots we can’t stand. Build off of those chores to start, and you might feel like it’s not so bad doing a little house cleaning.

2. Write it down – but make it easy to change.

My floors, always. Schedule says…..It doesn’t matter, they obviously have to be cleaned.

 

I don’t mean you actually have to get out a pen and paper, although you can. I use Wunderlist for everything, so that’s what I’ll stick to. But, having a list of what to do, whether written or electronic, helps you remember what’s due when the rest of the world has tried to fry your brain. I only mop every other week because if it was on my to-do list every week, I’d sincerely have to move to a shack with no floors. But if I didn’t write it down,  I wouldn’t remember if I’d done it or not. Can I look at the floor and tell if it needs mopping? Yes. Am I going to do it if there’s 8 million other things I did commit to in writing? No.

Of course, I do need the ability to change my list without throwing off my entire house cleaning plan. My new house is new new, as in, I’m the first person to live here. I wonder about baseboards. How long are these things going to stay clean and beautiful? Should I wait until they’re really dirty or do it every so often to make sure they never get dirty? I haven’t decided yet. I’m going to put it on my to-do list for two months from now, and then I’ll decide if I want to stick with a two month time frame or not.  It can go for frequent things too – I switched vacuuming days based on the dogs’ schedules, and I do that every other day. Sticking to it is important, but if you can’t change it for the better, you might not want to follow it.

3. Decide if you’re a weekender or a day-by-day cleaner.

Honestly, my schedule doesn’t have  a lot of differences between the weekends and the weekdays. There’s not much point in me loading all my cleaning up on one day since no day is free. But, that might not be the case for you. What’s more likely – you getting two free hours on Sunday, or you getting ten free minutes seven days a week? Some things you might like to do more than once a week. Forget about them for a minute. Think about your once a week, once every other week, and once a month items. What would it be like if they all landed on the same day? If you think that’d be better, load them all up on the weekend. If you think that giant list would cause you to ignore all of it, spread them out.

4. Not everything has to be on a to-do list.

You know what I have never considered putting on my house cleaning list? Laundry. Washing dishes. Picking up toys. That doesn’t mean they won’t get done, but I don’t know when I’m going to do them. Probably when I run out of pants, fill up the dishwasher, or every fifteen minutes respectively. Putting them on the list would be irritating to me, and if your house cleaning plan annoys you, you aren’t going to do it. You have to figure out which chores you’re going to do, but might need reminding, compared to chores that you’re going to do anyway and a reminder would only waste more of your precious time.

5. Share the load.

Make a to-do list for the rest of your family too. Ha ha ha, I’m just kidding. Does anyone have kids or spouses that will help out? What’s that like? Do you all marvel at how awesome you are when you’re done with chores and then take adorable family photos? Or is it, like, really stressful and you all walk around on eggshells trying not to disturb any of your pristine home? I’m fascinated, please share in the comments. Of course, families like that probably aren’t reading lists like this, but still, maybe you’ve heard rumors of these odd creatures. Share that.

6. Whine away – but still do the list.

I try to start my day with fives minutes to myself for breakfast, but usually the baby beats me up. I spend the morning chasing him around, occasionally picking up after him, and then furiously cramming as much work as I can into his morning nap. We eat lunch and do a chore. Just one. If my to-do list has more than two things, I can’t get them done. Because after that, we have to climb the stairs fifteen times, dump all the toys out of every closet, put them away, repeat, and then walk the dogs. Sometimes I can do a little more work in the afternoon, but most likely it’s not going to happen. Then my husband gets home, I cook him dinner, the baby wants to play some more, and eventually they all go to sleep so I can do more work. That’s seven days a week.

Do I whine about cleaning the house? Yes. Good lord, yes. Do I do it anyway? Of course. Who wants to live in filth?  My house is currently a disaster, but eventually we’ll get moved in. Then I’ll start my checklist back up. One day it won’t be so bad. I won’t be pregnant, my husband won’t be in school, and my kids will. I would sincerely hate if my house got ruined in the meantime because I felt like it was too much work to wipe my bathroom down once a week. I’m as tired as the next gal or guy, honestly, but it’s part of being adult. Articles like this are fun to read and relate to, but they’re not helpful. If you’re serious about creating a house cleaning plan, you don’t have to follow the rules of Good Housekeeping. You do have to follow your own.