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A Mexican Inspired Brunch Menu

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I’ve been wanting to write about a Mexican inspired brunch menu for awhile. I love brunch. Seriously, if someone wants to see me on a Sunday, I’m going to suggest brunch. Occasionally I even cook it myself. Me being who I am, when I do host brunch, it has to have a theme. I can’t just throw breakfast and lunch food on the table all willy nilly. Now, when I say Mexican inspired brunch menu, I want to be clear about something. I do not mean Mexican dishes. No, this menu is really just typical American food wearing tortillas. It’s still delicious though, so bear with me.

This is not the first time I’ve done this particular theme, but I did change up the recipes so we didn’t get bored. I actually was hosting a brunch, so my food is not really photography pretty, but that’s what real food looks like. Who needs every plate to look fabulous? Crazy people and professional chefs, that’s who. I also have a little secret I need to tell you all… I don’t follow recipes very well, unless they’re baking. In fact, the only one I followed in this Mexican inspired brunch menu is the muffins, and even those I got a little crazy with at the end. Mostly I just look at pictures and do what I want. I’ll tell you what I did, but I recommend just doing whatever tastes good.

Mexican Inspired Brunch Menu

The Egg Dish

I might do a different theme for every brunch, but I follow the same basic rules every time. You have to have an egg dish, so for this meal I chose sausage taquitos. You can see a recipe here or here. I didn’t read either, but they looked pretty. What I did was cook up some eggs with a little bit of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne. Then I put the eggs on a tortilla, followed by cheese, and then a sausage link. I rolled them up and threw them in the oven for 15 minutes. That’s it. I was going to put in green peppers too, but chopping stuff, ick. That would require chopping. Another option: breakfast burritos. My only reasoning for making taquitos instead of burritos is so I didn’t have to roll them.  Who has time for that?

The Meat Dish

Next up is the meat dish. I saw these barbecue pork nachos on Pinterest and they looked amazing, so I had to try them. And I did… several years ago. This time I just cooked up some pork and whipped up a little queso blanco, then fried an egg on top. The rest would have been too time consuming. I did get a chance to use a pretty awesome gadget though. My crockpot broke about a month ago and I hemmed and hawed about what I wanted to replace it with. Then on Amazon Prime Day the Instant Pot went on sale. I snagged it since it had 19,000 mostly amazing reviews. I wasn’t sure I would need a pressure cooker, but it was awesome, and everyone should have one.  Anyway, I didn’t even season the meat. Yes, I was being that lazy.

The Sweet/Fruit Dish

I actually made two different dishes for this, but they were really the same thing. We had a blueberry quesadilla and a strawberry one. You can see actual recipes here and here, but all I did was slather some tortillas in cream cheese and then throw in the fruit and fry it up in a pan. Actually, I also sprinkled sugar on the strawberries so it would seem like I put in a little effort. They were pretty tasty though, I was a little surprised. As you can see, my Mexican inspired brunch menu had really left Mexican cooking behind by that point, but who cares? The last time I did this theme we had apple pie taquitos, which are honestly delicious, but also a ton of work.

Bonus Dish – Bread

So, I don’t make it a big deal to have bread at brunch, but I think that might be because I always have bread anyway. But, in this situation there was no bread since everything was some sort of tortilla dish. To remedy that, my sister helped me make the most amazing churro mini-muffins. I do follow the rules when I’m baking, so my only difference here was the very end. Instead of separating sugar and butter to make it all pretty, we mixed it up and dumped it on top. So much faster, and seriously addictive. Thanks for the recipe, Flavor Mosaic!

Drink Ideas

We didn’t serve drinks this go round since I’m nursing and my sister is pregnant.  Yes, I’m aware there are drinks without alcohol in them.  That doesn’t mean I care to serve them! Plus everyone else would have put alcohol in them anyway, and who wants to see that? The first time I followed a Mexican inspired brunch menu, I served tequila sunrises. They were too strong for me on a Sunday morning, but you could try them if you want. I also saw this and this, and I think they’d be perfectly acceptable and easy enough. Well, I hope this menu helps you have your own “Mexican” brunch. Enjoy!

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How to Manage Time if You Hate Schedules

I hate schedules. I shouldn’t. I’m busy all the time, and it would make sense for me to schedule my days out.  But the truth is, what works for me isn’t what works for most people. As a virtual bookkeeper, my schedule rotates throughout the fiscal year. I barely worked last month, but I was full time in February and March (tax season) and I will be again in August and September. I now have two kids under two who have evolving sleep schedules. My dad, who helps me out when he can, is on shift work so even my child care is inconsistent. Oh yeah, and this blog? It takes up time too. I could quit, but I enjoy it, so it stays on my to-do list.

Despite all I have going on, the fact that I hate schedules hasn’t really hurt me, even though all the experts agree you need one. I’m good at changing things up – actually, I used to do that in offices anyway, just to keep myself entertained.  But, I get that not everyone is.  I decided that since my upcoming fun hosting posts don’t have pictures to accompany them yet (I didn’t want to do too much on my two week maternity leave – I’m not that much of a slave driver) I’d go ahead and talk about my strategies to avoid scheduling. I’ve read approximately half of the 250 million time management theories, so obviously I’m super qualified.

Use a To-Do List

One of my more easily accomplished lists.

I’ve spoken of my to-do list before. I currently use Wunderlist for myself and Trello for my clients, but I can’t plug either of them. Microsoft bought Wunderlist to do away with it, which crushed me, but I’ll survive. I could move everything to Trello, but honestly, it’s not for me. I like a simple checklist. When did everything go to boards? It’s kind of dumb. Anyway, the point is if you’re not going to use a calendar, you need to have something else to keep you on track. You may not check your emails precisely at 10:00 A.M., but you do need to check them at some point. Put that on a to-do list, cross it off when you’re done, have one less thing to worry about doing. Sometimes just having the to-do list makes me work quickly simply because I want my list to be shorter.

Choose Your Priorities

Honestly, my kids run the show. I don’t work from home because I hate people or because I can’t get a job. I work from home so I can be with my children. Once they’re in school I’ll start the job search again. I’m not full time, but having the clients I do prevents gaps in my resume so I don’t get charged a higher mommy tax. Hopefully. Anyway,  they’re number one, so I won’t have client calls while they’re awake. But… those little rugrats don’t pay me. So sometimes, unfortunately, I have to skip an art project and do some accounting instead. Returning phone calls has to take precedence over laundry. If you hate schedules, you have to accept that sometimes you can’t get everything done. Either have a makeup day once in awhile or just let it go.

Be Strategic with Sleep

Basically I just test my pillow for firmness and then wake back up.

What a weird thing to say, right? Sleep is super important. Everyone knows this. But I don’t have time to do what I do and sleep the recommended amount of hours, at least not at once. Before you start freaking out that I’m advising you to be unhealthy, remember that I have a newborn so my situation is a little different. If my first is any indication, my next full night of sleep will be in late 2018. That doesn’t mean I have to be tired all the time. It means I have to have a plan. It is possible to switch up your own sleep schedule, and that’s what I had to do.

I didn’t change my schedule up a lot. Actually, it was only a one hour difference. Instead of going to bed at midnight, when I could barely function enough to do any work, and getting up at six with my son, I started going to bed at eleven and waking up at five. Wah-lah. That’s an extra hour by myself in the morning, when I’m refreshed and ready to work. You might not be a morning person, so maybe you will need to change your sleep the other way around or add naps or something, but a little change in sleeping habits might go a long way.

If You Hate Schedules, Stop Scheduling

Freeeeeeddddddooooommmmmm!!!!

I have a client who has used every scheduling system in the book. Every. Single. One. For whatever reason, he thinks that there will be some magical scheduling device that forces him to do what he is supposed to do during the day. Like me, he’s a self-employed parent who prioritizes his kids. Unlike me, he refuses to simply say, “I hate schedules and they don’t work for me.” People, don’t believe everything you read. Not working set hours isn’t going to kill you. It’s not going to make you less productive if you’re not producing anything anyway. If all you do all day is rearrange your schedule because you’ve gotten behind on something, give it up.  Go on, tear that schedule up, delete it, whatever. Don’t you feel better already?

 

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Ideas for a Star Wars Themed Nursery

Considering a Star Wars themed nursery? Or just wondering why a blog about entertaining would be talking about nurseries? Well, friends, I’m sitting here on my due date for baby #2 very aware I’m not going on time, and I haven’t thought of a single thing to write about this week. So nursery it is! My daughter’s isn’t done yet, but I always planned on sharing that one. It’s a Harry Potter theme for girls and I couldn’t find anything with the vibe I wanted when I searched, so I figured I’d help other people out. Of course it’s not done yet – they don’t call me the Frenzied Hostess because of all the spare time I have for DIY projects, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I know plenty of people have done the Star Wars themed nursery thing before, so this isn’t as original as the Harry Potter one will be. But, guess what I have over those other people? I’ve done the whole dang thing twice. Yep, we designed my son’s room when we lived in North Carolina, then did it all again when we bought our house in Tennessee. Fun, right? So, enjoy the pictures, and feel free to contact me or comment with any questions you might have while designing your own Star Wars themed nursery.

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The Walls

Tennessee Walls – a little brighter, a little less wacky ceilings

This is the only reason doing the nursery twice gave us a headache. We decided on sky blue walls with a dark blue border. Fun, right? Not if you’re the one measuring it! Actually, it really wasn’t that bad. We used a paint stirrer stick for the length. First we did the light blue, not bothering to get up to the ceiling since we’d just be painting over it anyway. Then we used the stick and a level to go around. It’s actually not that even of a line – the ceilings in both houses seemed to slant a little. I don’t think you can tell.

North Carolina walls – If only I’d known they would like kind of like R2D2

Now, you’ll see the North Carolina house had some funky walls (sorry about the picture quality, by the way – these were not taken with the intent of publication). We looked for picture example but couldn’t find any. So, we went with what we thought was best. It was a little bit more of a hassle, but I love how it turned out. We also had Star Wars fighter ship decals I found on Etsy on only one wall. I loved those too, and I might order them and put some up here too eventually. Baby girl needs a put together room first.

The Furniture

The crib and dresser were Amazon purchases, and they have been great. We chose white since it went with the trim, but we also considered black. My son has his own little Darth Vader chair, as all evil toddlers should. It’s not where it’s supposed to be right now, but it exists I swear. As for the grown-up chair, I don’t know if you really need one or not. My  husband refused a glider so we got a super comfy recliner instead.  It never made it upstairs in the NC house, but I love having it now that he’s old enough to play in his room. We got it at Haverty’s if you want one like it.

The DIYs

Not to toot my own horn, but I did most of this stuff myself.  If I got directions from somewhere else I’ll link to them.

The Name Sign

This I did see online, but it didn’t come with any instructions. It’s pretty easy. Get a sheet of balsa wood from Hobby Lobby. Your size might for either the wood or the font might vary with name length, but the type of wood is easy to hang. Paint it your background color first. Then download a Star Wars font (I used this one), print your baby’s name (I did print out 2 Ds instead of reusing one to make sure the spacing was correct), and then tape the letters on and trace them. Make a 1-2 inch border and paint that and your letters with some leftover wall paint. Then I used a paintbrush to give the letters some depth and flick paint all over.

The Wampa Rug

You can see the details here. It was pretty easy, though time consuming, but it has been beaten up since I made it. My dogs are apparently Wampa hunters.

The Mobile

I ordered this plain mobile on Amazon, along with some Star Wars Itty Bittys from Hallmark. They had both old school and new school Star Wars, and I wanted a combo so I got new since I already had a lot of old. I went with a black and white Force Awakens fabric and used a scrunchie tutorial to make a cover for the arm. To put it all together you should sew some ribbons to the characters’ heads and then do some serious knotting through the mobile holes to get them to stay. My son pulls at them all the time, and they haven’t fallen, though I have had to adjust a few times.

The Pillow & Blanket

Not much to say here. I sewed the Force Awakens fabric around an old throw pillow. Done. My aunt made the blanket out of a no-sew fleece kit.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

I found a cute, small version of this on Etsy but I really wanted something to fill this frame I had lying around, so I bought a Death Star poster and drew on the frame’s plastic cover with a chalk marker. Doing it on the frame instead of the poster means he can keep the poster if he likes it when he grows up because the chalk marker will wipe off. There are a lot of twinkle stars drawn on the Death Star, but it’s hard to see since it’s reflective. So just go crazy with them.

The Book Shelves

Not Star Wars related, but I painted some Ikea spice racks white and used them for books. They’re cute but they don’t fit enough for my book-loving child, so I am putting a full bookcase in my daughter’s room for the overflow.

Other Star Wars Themed Nursery Items

There’s honestly a lot more Star Wars themed nursery stuff in my son’s room than I thought. It doesn’t feel overwhelmingly Star Wars when I’m in it, which is something I was afraid of. There are so many good ideas online it’s hard to tell yourself to stop! But a lot of these other little details came as gifts so I threw them in the mix too. We’ve got the tin art, a Build-A-Bear Chewbacca, a talking R2-D2, some Star Wars books, and a tiny little Star Wars toy box that has always come in handy for quick cleanup. If there’s no link, I’m sorry – I really don’t know where they came from!

 

 

 

 

By the way, if you’re wondering… Yes, the Star Wars themed nursery was my idea. I gave my husband the choice between this or lumberjack. Surprisingly, the Star Trek fan went with this. Last week I talked about how hard it is to get along when discussing politics, but friends, if a Star Wars geek and a Star Trek nerd can work it out, perhaps anyone can.

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Tips for Surviving Political Conversations at Parties

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Have an upcoming occasion where surviving political conversations seems impossible?  Like, say, a lazy Fourth of July party, or, I don’t know, a fancy dinner.  If so, this is the guide for you. I grew up in a purple state, and after I got bored of moving around that one I moved to another purple state. It was nice, pretending like my vote mattered. But now I live in a solid red state in a city that sometimes votes blue, and I have to tell you, sometimes I’d rather jab a fork in my eye than talk to anyone about my political leanings. I’m an American, but I have a feeling some of our European friends might feel the same way right about now.

I’m not a political blogger, so I’m not about to force my political views on you.  But I am less than a week from giving birth (hopefully) and I will be on a hosting hiatus for a little while, so I thought I’d share how I manage to leave gatherings without any fork marks on my face. I consider myself independent and my husband is a registered libertarian (they exist!) so we often leave dinners and parties rolling our eyes, but I’ve never actually been offended by anyone. Well, except that one girl who thought we should bring back slavery and spend more time executing the gays than ax murderers. That’s got to be an extreme though, right?

Surviving Political Conversations 101

Perfect Your Table Dive

I swear guys, she was right here.

This one is very important and not at all facetious. Every other Thursday or so, I have to go eat with a large group of people who have at least twenty years on me. Okay, I don’t have to. They’re my husband’s coworkers and we choose to. Most of them are lovely, normal people, or we wouldn’t go. But, a couple of them are very staunch Republicans who like to make their opinions known about everything. Let me point out that them being Republican is not the issue – if I was in California instead of Tennessee it might be the staunch Democrats who bother me – but surviving political conversations is a lot harder when every single comment is political. So, enter the table dive.

That’s right. Just drop off your chair and roll under the table. Wait it out, at least until there’s food or you can get a server to bring you booze. Now, you can try and do this in secret, but chances are your companions are going to notice when you suddenly throw yourself at the ground. They may even acknowledge it by asking if you’re okay. Ignore them until the topic has changed. If it appears it’s not going to change, others at the table may soon join you. Hopefully one of you thought ahead and brought something fun to do like, playing the board game Taboo until they get the hint or tying people’s shoelaces to their chairs so they realize what they’ve done.

Avoid the Bozo

This one’s slightly more serious. Any Saturday Night Live watchers? If so, you probably know who I’m talking about. We’re looking at Drunk Uncle or Girl You Wish You Wouldn’t Have Started a Conversation With at Party. These people know nothing. They’re probably drunk. The combination of the two things might make your head explode if you attempt to engage them. Don’t go thinking you’re going to get an easy win for your political team either. The bozo is not going to believe you won any debate, even if all they did was ramble, “MAGA!” over and over.

You should also be aware if you have somehow become the bozo yourself. Did you have too much to drink? Are you suddenly quoting Donald Trump tweets to anyone passing by? Please, do the rest of the party a favor and hide out somewhere until logic returns, or at least until you have a stronger urge to dance than to speak.

Know Your Stuff

Surviving political conversations is much easier when you read.

You know what’s worse than an alternate fact? Nothing. So, if you’re going somewhere that surviving political conversations seems necessary, and you’re sick and tired of all those terrible lies you hear, do your research. Favorite some of the news items you read in your phone and be prepared to whip them out. I’m not kidding. But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use media sources like Huffington Post or The Blaze to prove any point. If you’re looking for facts, find actual facts. Take a look at this news breakdown. It shows the slant of major news sources. Try to use sources in the middle, or even better, academic ones.

This is honestly super important. We’re all getting less and less willing to compromise because we search out news that backs up whatever we believe, and the internet makes it possible to find a source for that, no matter what it is. Here’s a site about Walmart being a site for FEMA prison camps, for example. You still think the earth is flat? Yep, there’s a site for that too. So, when you’re arguing whatever point it is that gets you all riled up, use non-biased sources if you want anyone to listen to you. If it’s a topic you know nothing about, it’s probably one you don’t care about all that much, so just don’t get into it.

Don’t use the Words Racist or Snowflake

This may be you.

Okay, I admit snowflake might be a personal pet peeve of mine. It’s just stupid. Does anyone actually get insulted when you call them a snowflake? What’s the issue with individuality? And finally, why are the ones who use this word so often the ones who are always crying about people not agreeing with them? I digress. The point is, these are words that show you haven’t put any thought into what you’re saying. You’re spouting out talking points from the TV or Facebook, and that only makes surviving political conversations even harder. 

A little note about the word racist – I am well aware racism exists. I live in the south. But I’m also well aware that it shuts down a conversation faster than anything else so you will have to think of another way to get your point across.  If you’re at a party where everyone suddenly puts on white hoods, you can go ahead and assume they are racist, but I would wait until you get home to talk about it – and I’d get home immediately.

Remember, You Aren’t Going to Change Their Minds

Sigh. I wish this wasn’t the case. It would be great if somehow we could get through to each other and have meaningful conversations that end with both parties feeling like they’ve learned something. There’s actually a pretty great book  (Tribe by Sebastian Junger if you’re interested) that talks about how people are better off when everyone wants to work but also wants to provide for those that can’t. Sounds like if Democrats and Republicans formed one mutant human, right? One day, maybe, we’ll all get along. But until then the most basic rule of surviving political conversations is accepting that you’re going home feeling disappointed, no matter which side you’re on.

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Quick Guide to a Maid of Honor Budget

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Ready to really look at your maid of honor budget? I have to warn you, it’s going to be scary. You might not like what you see. Let me go ahead and tell you now, the average amount of money a maid of honor spends on a wedding is a little over $2000. Yep. $2000 and you aren’t even the one walking down the aisle. Kind of a bummer, right? It’s okay though. I’ve got this all figured out for you. A while back I mentioned I’d been a maid of honor three times already and had two more times upcoming. Well, those two upcoming weddings have both been canceled (one for a happy reason, one not, if you’re nosy), but I was already planning the parties so I might as well share what I know.

You may have noticed that in general I’m less concerned with cost than I am with time. That’s not because I’m not good at budgeting. My husband and I met working at a bank. I’ve also worked in financial aid, and I’m currently a bookkeeper, so I know where my money goes. I just get really, really frustrated when people ask for my help getting their budgets together and then  completely ignore me. But, I figure in this case I will never know if you stick to your maid of honor budget or not. So I will pretend you all walk away from this not spending a dime more than you meant to. Hooray! Now let’s get to everyone’s favorite topic: math.

Know Your Responsibilities

Okay, MOHs. Have you already said yes? Did you do so before or after checking on what all your bride expected? This is super important for your maid of honor budget, and if you got really swept up in the moment and said yes right away, you might be in trouble. Let’s get a list going. You’ve got to buy your dress, any accessories the bride wants to force upon you, pay for your hair and makeup if she demands it, throw a bridal shower, travel if it’s out of town, buy gifts for both the shower and the wedding, and, of course, throw the bachelorette party. That’s a lot, right? Less than the men spend. Their average is only about $1300. Still crazy, but not as high as it is for the ladies.

Maid of Honor Budget

I have attached a worksheet  above to help you get started. Go ahead and look at it. The first column is the average spent per item, not anything to do with your actual maid of honor budget. But, the unfortunate thing is your bride isn’t going to know how much she wants you to spend on a lot of this stuff up front. She should know if she’s having a destination wedding (you’ll obviously know if you live in different places), and she’ll probably already have thought about dresses and bachelorette parties, but she’s not going to hand you a guide to all of it, unless she’s Bridezilla, in which case you should run now. So, when you first start planning, I would estimate high on the things you don’t control, like the dress. Then pick the total you want to spend and spread it out from there.

Start with a General Maid of Honor Budget

Did you pick your total? Good. I’m not going to give you a specific number here because I don’t know your budget. You might be able to throw away $5,000 for funsies, but maybe you’ve got $500 max. You have to decide what works best for you and your wallet. Now, if you only have $500, you should make your bride aware of that right now. Seriously, right now, go call her. I forbid you to go into debt for the most important day of someone else’s life. Most likely your bride will either get you some help or agree to some money-saving items somewhere. I can’t help you if she doesn’t. I’ve never met an unreasonable bride. Seriously, I haven’t. I know they exist, but in my experience it’s always been more important to have the people we love around us than to have matching $300 wedding shoes.

Now that you’ve decided on a number, you can break it down. If you have to travel, add that in first. It’s non-negotiable for the wedding, so if you need flights check Google flights or Southwest to get an idea. I monitor flights all the time with Airfare Watchdog, and you could try that for a couple of weeks to see what you’re looking at, even if you aren’t ready to buy. I’ve been getting their alerts for years, and honestly, there’s not a lot of variance. Summer travel is more expensive. So are Fridays and Sundays. If you see a really good deal, you book it, and if not at least you know the cost. Gifts will run you at least $100. Whatever’s left, split between your bridal shower and bachelorette.

The Bridal Shower

Do you really have to throw a bridal shower? I don’t know. I didn’t throw one for my sister. It didn’t make sense to. She lived in California, I lived in Nevada, my parents lived in Tennessee, her in-laws lived in Arkansas, and the rest of our family was in North Carolina. It would have been a very small shower, so we skipped it. For one I did a combination shower/bachelorette. So I’ve actually only thrown one separate bridal shower. My own MOHs (yes, I had two) threw me a surprise one the weekend of my bachelorette party, but I never asked for one or expected it. I think this kind of depends on your age and your distance from family. Typically this is the thing moms want to go to, but young friends don’t care as much.

If you are throwing one,  you need to ask if the bride’s family will be helping you. If you’re the bride’s sister, it’s a good bet, but iffy otherwise. Some mother-of-the brides want their hand in everything, others would get annoyed if they had to participate. I wound up being able to use the MOTB’s house.  She cooked all the food, while I brought all the games and prizes. If it turns out you’re co-hosting or the family is splitting it with you, you can half your budget. If you’re on your own, it is what it is. You can DIY most things and cook on the cheap if you need to. But, if you’re printing out a bunch of games and using your own ink, it might be cheaper to buy them. Etsy has some, but you can get a bundle like this on Amazon.

The Bachelorette Party

You need to know as soon as possible – will you be traveling for the bachelorette party? If so, your maid of honor budget just exploded. The good news is you are not responsible for paying everyone’s travel costs. That would be insane. If none of the other bridesmaids can afford it, you shouldn’t be traveling. You can split the cost for things like gas, hotels, and meals. Unfortunately, you’re still going to be in charge of any decor, snacks for the party, games, and activity costs for both you and the bride. The other girls might offer to help and it’s fine if you take them up on it, but you shouldn’t expect it and you need to budget up front.

If you’re not traveling, you’ll likely have a bigger crew to entertain, but cut out the hotel costs. You’ll still need to come up with a transportation plan if you’re all drinking. If you’re going out on the town, it’s reasonable for the girls to pick up their own bar tabs. If you’re staying in, you’ll be expected to provide the libations and food. One other consideration is the ever so popular bachelorette party shirt. If your bride really wants them, I say get them, but you need to get that money up front from the other girls. Otherwise you might wind up with thirty shirts you don’t need. Also, you know I’m not a fan of decorating anyway, but the dollar store is more about bridal showers than bachelorette parties, so if you’re budget doesn’t allow, just skip it. But, don’t forget a sash for the bride.

Adding it up

Let’s check out that maid of honor budget worksheet again. We’ve got five columns. You don’t need to do anything with the first two. I used what I could find for the averages, but I did have to do a little bit of guesswork. Research showed the average total was $2062 and my guesswork gave me $2053, so we’re at least in the ballpark. One note, I put travel costs on bridal shower, but not bachelorette. If you have to travel for a bridal shower, you should plan for the bachelorette at the same time so you don’t pay for transport twice. If you’re traveling for the bachelorette but not the bridal shower, you can use the activities column to estimate your costs.

Okay, so now the important columns. For the third, you’re going to work backwards. You already picked your budget right? Go through and estimate your costs so that they add up to your budget.  It’s a good idea to estimate high on all the major purchases, like the dress and shoes. Then once you actually start buying things, you can use the fourth column. Once that’s somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 filled out, redo your estimates on the remaining items. If you managed to estimate high on all the first purchases, you can always up the budget for the parties or gifts. If you’d rather save your money and those parties seem to be staying within your maid of honor budget, you save money. Hooray!

 

 

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How to Make Easy 4th of July Table Decorations

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First, let me say if you want really easy 4th of July table decorations, go buy out the Dollar Store’s patriotic section. It’s there, trust me.  I do acknowledge that pre-made things already exist. But, like I talked about last week with simple red, white and blue foods, sometimes you want to participate in all the crafting fun the world has to offer. In this case, we’re going to go red, white and blue again, but instead of using twenty-five million tiny American flags, we’re going to look at the fastest ways to get junk on your table and make people think you’re creative.

The first rule of easy 4th of July table decorations is to keep it really simple. Why are you decorating your table at all? Probably because it’s going to have food on it, right? That, or you’ll be eating on it. Either way, if you cover the entire thing with decorations, you’re going to run out of room. I love looking at those beautiful tables from professional party planners, but they’re always so crowded. We don’t need a whole garden or miniature Revolutionary Battle field to feel festive. The second rule? Don’t stress too much. My Easter brunch table took me literally five minutes, without thinking, and it got lots of compliments. Sometimes I think busy people get graded on a curve, and I am totally okay with that.

Ideas for Easy 4th of July Table Decorations

The Tablecloth

Real frenzied hostesses don’t care about smoothing it out. 🙂

I’m not really a fan of the flag tablecloths, if I’m being honest. Too busy. You can probably find really nice reusable ones with less busy patterns, and maybe I’ll add that to my future goals, but right now my toddler likes to sit on the table and make a mess after everyone leaves. I’d rather throw said mess away. So, to start your easy 4th of July table decorations, you might as well start with some plastic tablecloths. That’s right, plural. Instead of picking one color and running with it, grab yourself one red, one white, and one blue. This will add a little patriotic splash without going overboard, and then you can use only one color of plates and silverware (or all patriotic ones) without feeling like you’re missing something.

The only issue here might be positioning. In theory, you should be fine to spread the three colors out evenly. That’s the easiest way, of course, and it’ll give you a nice balanced look. But, it is going to look a little like France’s flag if you go with blue, white, red. Okay, not a little. It’s going to look exactly like France’s flag. If your friends no nothing about foreign countries, that won’t matter. If they’re the type to call you out on it, you can point out France was our ally during the Revolutionary War. Or, you could simply put the colors in a different order. You can see from the picture that I did the red and white horizontally and the blue vertically. It took zero extra work. If you’re worried about overhang, just don’t unfold them all the way. Even easier.

Flowers

Fanciest flower arrangement ever, probably.

If I had time and energy, I would scour supermarket flowers until I found red, white and blue bouquets. That might be easy when it’s actually the 4th of July, I don’t know. I’ve never tried it before. I can tell you it’s definitely not easy in the beginning of June. You don’t necessarily need to get only red, white and blue. I mean, you can get a few different bouquets and pull out the ones you want, or just use colors that are close. Red is going to be easy. It’s the other two that are the problem.  There are probably plenty of blue and white flowers at a florist, but I can’t be bothered to go to a florist.

Luckily, there is always another option for flowers. That is, of course, fake flowers. Fake, fake, fake. I don’t even try looking for ones that seem realistic. They’re easy 4th of July tablecloth decorations, not your wedding centerpieces. You can buy a set of white, a set of blue, and a set of red, or you can find those specially made patriotic bunches. Then stuff them in a vase. You don’t need anything in the vase, even if it’s clear glass. But, if you’re scared of people seeing the fake stems, I’ve got one more idea for you.

Red, White and Blue Anything

No need to buy frosted glass vases when you have a paper bag to the rescue!

Great idea, am I right?  You can go to the dollar store and buy some of those balloon weights. They’re fancy. You can get yourself a cupcake stand and put the patriotic cupcakes you made in there, then stand it up like the beautiful centerpiece it deserves to be. Got some red, white and blue socks lying around? Get really crazy (and a little unsanitary) and throw those on there too. Who cares? What’s really important is what food you’re putting on the table, not what you’re decorating it with.

For the record, I don’t actually recommend socks as your easy 4th of July table decorations. I’m going with paper bags, no joke. They’re the kind I’m sure less busy people turn into luminaries or something, but they’ll just be hanging out on my table… with vases of fake flowers in them. Simple, right? It hides the fakeness of the stems while adding a little festiveness. You could also put the bags by themselves, or line them up. I tried all those ideas, but you are going to have to excuse my photography this week. I’m getting ready for maternity leave, so I’m extra swamped right now. I had about five minutes to get good shots, and it turns out I couldn’t do it. But hey, I could get the stuff on the table, so now you know they really are easy 4th of July table decorations.

Final Thoughts

You can wave your flag inside if you want – but please don’t serve food on it.

I know I’m a very busy person, but even if you’re not, don’t feel like you have to design a party people will talk about for years. Let’s face it, the only way you’re going to pull that off is if someone accidentally sets himself on fire. While that is pretty common, it shouldn’t be our goal. Out of my 31 4th of July holidays, I can only remember the decor from one of them, and that is because it was the first time I hosted the barbecue myself.  That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to make a party look good. It just means you don’t have to stress about it. And finally, if you only have time for one decoration, skip the whole table and wave your American flag. Yes, of course they’re available on Amazon.  Plus, it comes with a bonus: You can use it all year!

how to

4 Easy Red, White and Blue Party Foods

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Easy red, white and blue party foods seem like they’d be a dime a dozen, don’t they? The 4th of July is a major American holiday, and we also have things like Memorial Day and Veterans Day where we abandon all meaning and focus on burgers and other foods that have nothing to do with combat.  Okay, so we don’t all abandon the meaning – I personally live with a Marine who did three tours in Iraq, so our family does some actual memorializing on those other days. But no one knows anyone from the Revolutionary War, so if you want to focus on easy red, white and blue party foods instead of that guy who killed the other guy with a musket, no one’s going to judge you. Yet, it feels like our guests really will judge us for not having food shaped like an American flag, doesn’t it?

I’m positive this whole nonsense with color coordinated food became a thing because of Pinterest. As much as I think it’s nonsense, though, I kind of love it. It’s festive, right? But here’s my problem. I think my definition of easy is different than other people’s. I need a dish that’s going to be ready to go in five minutes. Earlier today I read an article that was supposed to be “last-minute” 4th of July ideas. Then it had Rice Krispie Treats prepared with Popsicle sticks dunked in frosting and sprinkled. What?! That’s not last minute.  And what’s the deal with dipping ice cream sandwiches in sprinkles? Seriously, who leaves ice cream sandwiches sitting out? Ug. This is why I have to post these obvious easy red, white and blue party foods ideas – so we busy hostesses can participate without getting carried away.

Ice Cream Cups with Red and Blue Fruit

Pro-tip: Ignore what I’m writing and use patriotic sprinkles on everything instead.

This is my take on all the colorful 4th of July desserts I could find on Pinterest. I don’t disagree the other ones aren’t easy; it’s more that they’re time consuming. Do you know what I’m going to be doing the week before the 4th of July this year? Giving birth. So I feel like there’s a good chance I’m not going to want to hang out in the kitchen. But my family will probably wind up over here since it’s easier than me packing up the kids and dogs and going there, so I’ll attempt to have some sort of sustenance. The gist of this idea is to skip skewering and lining up anything. I admire people who have the patience to put strawberries and marshmallows on fifteen different sticks, or alternate rows of pretzels and cherries to make an American flag. But I’m not that person.

Do you actually need directions for this, friends? I feel like you don’t, but here’s what you’re going to do:

1. Go to the store.
2. Buy vanilla ice cream cups and frozen red and blue fruits (like cherries, blueberries, etc.)
3. Take everything home.
4. Don’t let the ice cream melt.
5. When it’s time, take the tops off the cups and sprinkle with berries. Or, put the berries in a bowl and let everyone else do that, those lazy bums.

See?  I knew you didn’t need instructions. If you want, you could completely skip berries and do red and blue M&Ms. Or get any flavor ice cream with said M&Ms, as they make this lovely patriotic bag that you won’t have to sort through and comes with white ones. To each their own, I say.

Red, White and Blue Cupcakes

Could you put this in the shape of a flag? Sure. But I swear you don’t have to.

Do you want to make a glorious multi-colored, multi-layered cake? Well, then, go nuts my friend. You won’t find the directions here, but you can send me pictures in the comments and try to make your case as to why it’s faster than making regular cupcakes with different colored frosting. I will admit, this is not a last-minute idea. You need about an hour to make and frost cupcakes, right? I’m honestly asking,  I haven’t made them in one day in a long time. Even if they’re out of the box, which mine are, they have to cook and cool. I’m going to skip the sarcastic instructions this time, but as always, you have a couple of ways to do this.

The first method is to use some food coloring in a white frosting (bought or homemade frosting- no one cares), or separately buy red, white, and blue frosting.  The second method is to frost them all one color and use red, white, and/or blue paper wrappers. I either go with white frosting and red and blue wrappers, or white frosting with patriotic wrappers like this (I also use these for the Patriots at football parties – not a fan, I just love theme food for football). If you want to skip the wrappers all together, use a white cake mix. Now, if you want to tell me these aren’t ridiculously easy red, white and blue party foods, may I also suggest, once again, ignoring what I say and using patriotic sprinkles?

Cheesecake Dip with Strawberries & Blueberries

easy red, white and blue party foods
I always enjoy a halfway healthy plate.

There really aren’t a lot of naturally blue foods, are there? There’s more red, but nothing as vibrant as the strawberry. That’s probably why every red, white and blue food on Pinterest includes the two of them. Some are really lovely, like these white chocolate frosted strawberries with blue sprinkles.  But, come on. If I don’t have time to line up things in a flag formation, I don’t have time to dip all those strawberries. I don’t feel like stuffing them with cheesecake dip either, but… Cheesecake dip is actually really quick to make. Too quick, honestly, it’s probably responsible for a lot of unnecessary weight gain. So why not use it?

Here’s a really easy recipe. Then get out your serving platter, put a bowl of cheesecake dip in the middle, and set up your strawberries and blueberries as you see fit. Feeling crazy? Give it some sprinkles, why not. I think by this point you can see what the real point of this article is, right? If you want to make easy red, white and blue party foods, all you really have to do is make sure people can see all three colors at the same time. Sure, you can make them fancier if you want to. And one day, when your children are grown, maybe you will.

Red, White and Blue Pitchers

Easy Red, White and Blue Party Foods
I honestly don’t know where to put the sprinkles here. My world view is ruined.

Okay, so drinks may or may not count as easy red, white and blue party foods, but they’e still festive. Have you seen the patriotic drinks floating around online? They look cool, right? Well, they are. But there’s also a little problem with them that make serving them kind of pointless. The first couple of people to see it will get the full effect. Everyone else is going to see two colors, a purple blob, or somewhere in between. Of course, that’s if you put it in a pitcher. If you put it in individual servings, well, you’ve just signed yourself up for individual servings. Did you have any plans to enjoy your party, or were you cool with being a bartender all day?

My solution to this is 110% cheating. Just put the three different drinks in three different pitchers. Or, only serve one red drink and one blue drink, but use pitchers with white lids. You can even include a sign telling people how to make their own patriotic drink if you want to use ingredients in a recipe like this. Personally, I can live without Hawaiian punch, so I always use cranberry juice. There’s a bonus if you try it this way: your red drink can become vodka cranberries, if you don’t have sneaky kids running around. If you have no kids at all, you could go straight up alcoholic and mix a red cocktail, a blue cocktail, and a clear one. Fun!

Now go out and make some easy red, white and blue party foods!

4 Ways to Hold A

4 Ways to Organize a Copycat Recipe Potluck

Anyone ever held a copycat recipe potluck? I may throw a mean fancy dinner party, but heaven help me, I’d go crazy if I did it all the time. This week I thought I’d talk about something much, much simpler. So much simpler, you  barely have to work at all. In fact, you might even be able to convince someone else to host it. Lol. I haven’t actually done one of these yet, but I have been thinking about it for awhile. What do people love? Going out to eat. What impresses those same people? Cooking something from one of those restaurants they love eating at.

In theory, you could do the whole meal yourself, but sometimes a busy girl just needs a break. And sometimes a super pregnant girl just needs to eat and not stand on her feet cooking all day. I’m currently both, but even if I was only one or the other, I think this is the kind of party where sharing duties would be very comfortable. Copycat recipes are usually easy to find, easy to follow, and come out tasting pretty darn good. Even if your friends can’t cook, they can probably come up with something for a copycat recipe potluck. At the very least they can buy it from the restaurant and try to pass it off as theirs. Why not give it a try?

Option 1: A Copycat Recipe Potluck Free-for-All

What do I mean by this, you may ask? It’s simple. Put absolutely no limits on what people bring. Any restaurant, any course, any particular dish. It doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a tasty cocktail.

Copycat Happy Hour domestic beer mugs, everyone’s favorite.

The Drawbacks

My main concern with a copycat recipe potluck free-for-all is that you’d wind up with fifteen batches of Olive Garden breadsticks. But I guess that could be fun, right? You can judge each other harshly and pick one person to look down on for their poor attempt at fresh bread. Okay, kidding about that last part. Don’t be mean. They might not own a bread machine or have the time to knead bread. Why they chose breadsticks in that case, I don’t know. Your hypothetical bread baking friend clearly wants to be an overachiever. But I digress.

The Benefits

Honestly, what are the chances you wind up with fifteen batches of breadsticks? I bet there will be a couple of overlapping dishes, but for the most part it’s likely to be a surprise. Some people probably won’t even think of chain restaurants – they’ll use copycat recipes from their home towns, or some restaurant they visited once in New York. Plus, most of them will be glad not to have a restriction. You’re making them bring you food, and you’ve already put one theme on it. Adding more might stress them out.

Option 2: An Email Chain of Organization

What did people do before email? I mean, I lived without it for part of my life, but I can’t imagine trying to organize events now. Anyway, once you decide who’s invited you can start an email chain. Send it to all your guests, enjoy the necessity of the reply all button.

Yum, cheesecake copied from any old restaurant should be a winner.

The Drawbacks

One word: Delete.

The Benefits

This one is better for groups of friends who do not like surprises, like to stay organized, and prefer feedback before they choose a dish. They sound like a high maintenance group of friends, but they’re not really. They just don’t want to make a Cheesecake Factory dessert if no one’s going to eat it. You can’t blame them. By making sure in advance that everyone knows what everyone else is bringing, you’ll get a nice, cohesive meal and all the really bad ideas will be vetoed from the get-go. It might take a little more time up front, but it will soothe the indecisive people who don’t know what to fix.

Option 3: Assigned Restaurants

You can assign restaurants one of two ways. First, individual assignments. Everyone is either told their restaurant or they pick it from a list. Second, you pick three or four restaurants and assign groups.

Copycat Chili’s fajitas – maybe make more than one serving though, if you want to be nice about it.

The Drawbacks

There’s really only one drawback to this, and it’s that your friends may not agree with your choices. Generally when you have a potluck you’re telling people to bring their best food, so if you start putting restrictions on them left and right they might not want to participate. A copycat recipe potluck should be fun, not stressful, and not everyone is going to have the same taste as you. Of course, if you keep it really small to just close friends, you probably know exactly what restaurants you all like and this could make it super easy.

The Benefits

Anyone have a least favorite chain restaurant? I do! I mean, I had a gift card to this place for three years before I finally caved and bought a beer there. So imagine if everyone I knew brought a dish from that restaurant. Shudder. This way you’ll be sure you’ve got people bringing food from less questionable restaurants, plus for people who don’t want to think about what they’re bringing, you’ve really narrowed down the options.

Option 4: Assigned Courses

Instead of telling people what restaurants they should be copying, you can tell them what course to bring. Or, again, you can have them volunteer. Volunteering is fine, it’s just a matter of who you speak with first. You might want to suggest a course to people but be very flexible if they want to trade.

copycat recipe potluck
Copycat Panera soup, anyone?

The Drawbacks

The main drawback here is that you have to do a little more organizing than if it was a free-for-all.  The secondary drawback is that you should probably assign yourself the main course, if you choose to have a main course instead of a smorgasbord of sides and desserts. I don’t know that you really need a main dish, but if you do, it’ll probably be meat and probably cost more to serve a whole bunch of people. If it’s at your house and you’re the one doing the inviting, I would go ahead and take that hit yourself unless someone else actively wants it.

The Benefits

I mentioned breadsticks earlier, but I don’t really think you’ll get that much bread. I do, however, think you have a real chance of getting a whole lot of dips. It might be a huge variety of dips, and that might be a very fabulous party idea in itself, but is that what you want for a potluck? Probably not. Assigning courses at least guarantees you’re going to get a full menu.

If you’re feeling like a regular potluck isn’t the way to go, a copycat recipe potluck would be fun to try. Personally, I’d go with the free-for-all, because I just don’t have time to deal with organizing all those guests and their food. I will happily give suggestions, though, if they ask.  If you are going to throw one, I would go through a copycat website or two and be prepared with a few options that seem simple enough. CopyKat Recipes is a good place to start, but you can do a quick Google or Pinterest search and you’ll get plenty of ideas. Now get out there and make your friends cook for you!

how to Throw A Disney Themed Dinner for ADults

How to Host a Fancy Disney Themed Dinner Party

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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!