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FUN/DIY

4th of July/ Holidays/Parties/ RECIPES

8 Crowd-Pleasing and Easy 4th of July Potluck Recipes

bowl of fruit salad for 4th of July potluck

I love a good potluck, and the 4th of July is a great time to make one happen!

Listed below are some of our family’s favorite potluck recipes, my go-to recipes to share with a crowd. They are easy-to-make, aesthetically pleasing and appealing to all ages!

 

8 Crowd-Pleasing and Easy 4th of July Potluck Recipes

bowl of pasta salad with broccoli, carrots and tomoates

 

THE ONLY PASTA SALAD RECIPE YOU REALLY NEED

This  Only Pasta Salad You Really Need  is a great potluck crowd-pleaser, can be made ahead of time, and tastes even better after sitting a day. Makes a LOT and is easy to double for even larger crowds. Red wine vinegar is the secret ingredient that makes this salad taste super special!

 

cupcakes with strawberries and blueberries

 

CHOCOLATE BERRY 4TH OF JULY CUPCAKES

Blueberries, strawberries, and chocolate are 3 must-haves in our family for the 4th of July weekend, and these Chocolate Berry 4th Of July Cupcakes have all 3! Cupcakes are always a great thing to make to share with a crowd or display on a table at a potluck.

 

bowl of ice cream with chocolate fudge sauce

 

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE SAUCE HEAVEN

This 5 Minute Chocolate Sauce Heaven is family recipe that we have been making for years. It is so much better than that stuff in the brown squeeze bottle!

It uses ingredients we usually have on hand and is a breeze to make. I am planning on bringing this and some fresh strawberries to top my Mother-in-Law’s homemade ice cream to our family 4th of July party.

I bought her an ice cream maker for Christmas, and we are all enjoying having her use that gift!

 

kale salad with dried cranberries and coconut bacon

 

KALE AND LENTIL SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES & COCONUT BACON

This Kale & Lentil Salad with Cranberries & Coconut Bacon is really delicious & reminds me of something you could order at an upscale vegetarian restaurant. This kale salad is full of beautiful.

It has gorgeous color from the cranberries & the kale itself. The texture is great with curly kale, chewy dried cranberries & crunchy coconut bacon. The cranberries are a nice sweet touch while the coconut bacon adds amazing smokey & salty flavor. It is a crowd pleaser for sure, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike!

 

Loaf of bread with lemon and raspberries

 

RASPBERRY LEMON LOAF

This Raspberry Lemon Loaf is made super moist and tasty with the addition of lemon yogurt. Lemon and raspberry are so fresh tasting and the perfect summer combination. Double the recipe for a large group, or to keep one for yourself to freeze.

 

strawberries stuffed with cheesecake filling

 

CHEESECAKE STUFFED STRAWBERRIES

Do you know what July and February have in common? The 4th of July & Valentines day both give us an excuse to eat lots and lots of  STRAWBERRIES! Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries are a super great way to celebrate a holiday.  They are special, beautiful, and a nice change from chocolate-covered strawberries.  Can’t give your Chocolate Covered Strawberries up? Then mix the 2 on a beautiful platter and get ready for the oooo’s & ahhhh’s!

 

fruit salad with honey lime glaze

 

HONEY LIME FRUIT SALAD

This Honey Lime Glaze is the perfect go-to recipe to make your fruit shine–literally!  I love taking a fresh fruit salad to a potluck, and this glaze keeps it just sweet enough and moistened.  It allows the fruit to show off its beautiful texture, color and flavor.

 

chocolate no bake balls

 

CHOCOLATE MUDBALLS

These Chocolate Mudballs just hit the spot!  They are great when you are wanting a bit of a chocolate treat, but use ingredients like wheat germ and oats to make them a treat that has some health benefits! You can whip them up in minutes, and they will please palates young and old.


What are YOUR plans for the 4th of July?

Do you attend a potluck style party?

What is your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?

FAMILY/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ Kids/Family

Throwing A Graduation Party for Over 200 People

Graduation Party Table Decor

It is quite a feat throwing a graduation party for over 200. Thank goodness I was not alone in it, as my 2 sisters-in-law also had graduates this year, so my Teagan and her cousins decided to do a joint graduation party.

This made sense because we have a large family and many friends in common, so it would save many of them from having to attend 3 different parties.

Thank goodness my gracious in-laws have an amazing space with a large patio, deck, and yard that we could use. It was the perfect venue!

We crossed our fingers for good weather and it turned out to be a nice day…cloudy but nice.

 

Planning a Graduation Party

My sisters-in-law’s and I used the convenience of group text to do most of our communicating.

We also used our monthly family Pizza Sunday tradition as opportunities to start planning and met together one evening at a coffee shop as the time drew near.

This was much fun and I find myself missing our constant group texts! I love the friendship we have and am so grateful for them.

My hope for you (if you are here reading before planning your own graduation party) is that hearing how we did it will give you some tips, tricks, and direction in how to plan yours!

 

My Anxiety Over The Graduation Party – What Not to Do!

I have to admit, I started feeling a bit of anxiety over planning a graduation party early in the school year.

Want to know my biggest dread? Finding and organizing photos from my Teagan’s lifetime. Seriously! I was so hard on myself for being so unorganized with photos.

I had visions of photos being perfectly filed away by year on my computer and put a ton of pressure on myself to have this done by the party.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Just when I think I have learned to let go of my perfectionist ways…something comes along and I get to practice letting go again!

I know I am not alone in having some photos tucked away in shoeboxes, some on disks, some on an old computer that has not been turned on for years, etc. Tell me I am not alone!

See why I had to let go of my perfect vision of perfectly perfect digitized, alphabetized, organized by year photos? Too many photos in too many places.

Thankfully this was much less of a hassle than I thought it would be. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I realized it was not going to be as big of a deal as I thought.

My Teagan took the initiative in gathering her favorite photos, and I decided to let go of perfection. It was a joy to see what memories and photos she was personally drawn to and her choices really showed her character as they were full of meaningful people and occasions.

She found treasures in that photo shoebox, and we used an app called Photomyne that digitizes them in minutes, by taking a photo of several hard copy photos. It then scans them and you have digital photos in seconds!

We used these digital files to make a quick iphoto slideshow to play on my laptop next to her grad table. It was a nice personal touch and people enjoyed standing there watching our girl grow up right before their eyes.

I let go of perfection which means we did not have a photo of her for every single year and stage of her life, but we had so, so many precious memories to remind us of what a blessing she has been to raise and parent.

 

 

The Layout – Decide Where and What

We talked early about where we would put the food table, beverage table, dessert table and 3 grad tables. These were all kept indoors just in case of rain.

We put 5 round tables outside (3 on the patio and 2 on the deck) which was enough to seat about 40 people.

The food buffet table was in the dining room, the dessert table was displayed front and center as we knew it would be beautiful and we wanted it out for all to enjoy.

The beverage table was kept near the dessert table. We did talk about putting it outside, but then decided we didn’t want to worry about cups blowing away.

Our graduate display tables were all in the main living room area, and there was also extra seating in there with several couches comfy chairs and benches.

Tips:

  • Keep the weather in mind and plan accordingly.
  • Think about how you want the ‘flow’ of the party. Where people will walk when they enter, how they will get to the grad tables and food tables.
  • Keep the pretty tables front and center! Our dessert table was so pretty that it was like one big giant decorative element.

 

Graduate Tables

The graduate table is the perfect place to get personal and let your graduate’s personality shine.

My Teagan had some great ideas for hers, letting me know she wanted a pallet to hang some photos in a creative way, also that she wanted her love for succulents to show and help beautify her table.

She shopped at local thrift stores and found a fun gold tree with branches to hang her wallet senior pictures on, and we used elements from nature, like wood (simple wooden cutting boards from our kitchen became display boards), airplants and succulents.

{Do you love the wooden airplant holders? They are from Outpost Love and for purchase}

She had envelopes with directions for people to leave their address so she could thank them for coming. She also had a journal sitting out with a sign that said: “write a note to the graduate” which ended up being such a special keepsake.

She chose the photos she wanted to display, and we framed one large senior photo and had framed collage of photos of her growing up, along with a slideshow playing nearby on my laptop.

She also had her college acceptance letter, different scholarships and certificates displayed, and all her marathon tags gathered on a ring.

A candle and string lights added some nice sparkle to her table. It was so fun to take the elements she gathered and create a table that reflected my girl!

Tips:

  • Think about your graduate’s personality and what they love, and reflect it in the table decor
  • Shop thrift stores and your own home for items that have the look you are going for, think about bringing in an element from nature and different textures to add interest.
  • The element of light can make a table warm and welcoming. A table lamp, battery operated string lights or twinkle lights and a candle can create nice ambiance on your table.

 

Graduation Food Table

We decided early that we wanted to have a burrito bowl buffet from Chipotle and ideally would cater in the chicken, fajita veggies, and rice. 

We would then get the toppings from Sam’s and Costco. This would allow us to have more control over the toppings and would be cost-effective, but we would not have to worry about cooking.

Chipotle has a policy where you have to order their entire buffet (including toppings) and would not allow us to order individual entries.

We ended up using Qdoba catering instead, and they did an amazing job, provided delicious chicken, fajita veggies, and rice, set it all up for us in a timely manner and made us very happy!

We rounded out the buffet by purchasing our own toppings (guacamole, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream.)

I can’t tell you how yummy these burrito bowls were, and the addition of the fajita veg made it very vegetarian-friendly.

Also, by going with Qdoba instead of Chipotle, we cut the cost by 2/3rds without compromising on taste.  When you are providing food for 200-300, this is a substantial amount of savings.

Tips:

  • Don’t hesitate to call around for different prices of food, and be flexible with initial plans. By doing this we saved hundreds of dollars and you can too! 
  • Decide what is worth paying for. It was huge that we didn’t have to worry about cooking and allowed us to really enjoy the process. 
  • You don’t have to cater the entire meal. Decide what makes the most sense (and save the most cents, if that is a desire) for you and your situation. 

 

Graduation Dessert - Macaroons & Cupcakes

Graduation Dessert Table

This was the fun part! We decided to bring all our white or clear glass platters and cake stands. Between the 3 of us, ended up having so many beautiful things to create a beautiful dessert table.

We each decided what dessert we would bring, and our graduates had a good say in this!

My Teagan decided she wanted cupcakes because she knew her little sister had mad skills in decorating them and would make them pretty!

We made 150 cupcakes, which really was a breeze because we used boxed cake mixes and homemade frosting. I baked the cupcakes the night before, and my youngest daughter, Avery, rocked the frosting the morning of the graduation party.

My one sister-in-law brought macarons, which make any dessert table look instantly delicious and special!

She also took some brownie bites from Sam’s (the ones in the shape of mini muffins) put a bit of chocolate frosting on top to help hold on a fresh raspberry. Oh, the cuteness of these! I thought it was a brilliant idea and a great way to provide little bite-sized beauties for a large crowd.

My other sister-in-law covered our gluten-free crowd, as her son eats gluten-free. She made her famous gluten-free Carrot Cake into cupcakes and they were a huge hit with the crowd. So delicious!

She also provided little bite-sized cheesecakes also from Sam’s. Again, so delicious and huge cute factor when displayed on white pedestals.

Our dessert table was amazing if I do say so myself. It was delicious and super appealing to the eyes and stomach!

If you are wanting to keep your party simple, might I suggest just doing a dessert table? Plan it at a time when people are not expecting a meal (like 3:00 in the afternoon) and go to town with desserts!

Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of using store-bought items! The cheesecakes and macarons were so well received! 
  • Dress up store-bought brownie bites to make them super special like we did –custom brownie bites! 
  • Using homemade frosting on cake mix cupcakes is a great way to make easy, delicious cupcakes. 
  • Keep color scheme for platters and pedestals simple! Stick with one or two colors. Keeping ours white or glass with no patterns allowed the desserts and centerpiece flowers to shine!

 

Graduation Beverage Table

We had 2 dispensers, one filled with lemonade and one filled with ice water.

We put sliced lemons in the lemonade to make it pretty, and sliced fruit in the water for extra flavor and a special visual touch.

Simple confetti on the table, a flower arrangement, and clear plastic cups made for a pretty beverage table

Tips:

  • Just say no to brightly colored cups, unless they match your color scheme. 
  • Keep beverages simple. No need to have 10 different choices. 
  • Floating fruit is a super inexpensive and easy touch that adds instant beauty and flavor to beverages.

 

Graduation Party Decorations

This was another thing that we kept simple. Potted flowers on tables outside were heavy enough to not tip or blow away and could be given away as gifts after the party.

Arranged flowers indoors made for beautiful natural beauty indoors.

The flowers and greenery were from Trader Joes and they were gorgeous! My sister-in-law and niece did a great job arranging the flowers.

We all brought whatever glass or white vases we had from home, and had plenty between the 3 of us.

We had gold confetti, a gold sequined “HOORAY” banner hanging over a mantle in the dining room, and a “CELEBRATE” gold banner to greet the guests as they walked into the main room.

My sister-in-law found a fun chalkboard arrow sign that happened to have 3 arrows to write the 3 graduates names. It was stuck in a pot on the front patio to greet the guests as they arrived.

Outside we hung round white paper globe lanterns (borrowed from a friend and sister) from a tree which made quite a statement and the perfect backdrop for a simple but elegant photo booth.

Tips:

  • Figure out a color scheme. Keep it simple with only 2-3 colors. You don’t have to use school colors if they are not your favorite! We had 3 graduates from 2 different schools and they didn’t love their school colors, so we didn’t focus on that.
  • Borrow items from friends. Look through party decorations you already have. Our ‘congrats’ sign and ‘celebrate’ sign were not specific for graduation parties. Our paper lanterns were borrowed.
  • Do not be pulled in by all the different graduation decor you can find at party supply stores and online. Oftentimes it can look cheap, cheesy and just too much. Find decor that is tasteful, classic, and that you can use again in a different party setting.

 

Graduation ball lanterns

Graduation Party Photo Booth

If you search Pinterest, you can find all kinds of ideas for photo booths. It can be as simple as hanging twists of crepe streamers with washi tape, or much more elaborate.

The most important thing to think about with a photo booth is lighting. Natural light is best. If indoors, by a window. If outdoors, somewhere protected and even shaded, as the sun can give harsh shadows on the face.

The second most important thing to think about is what is going to fit in the frame of a camera.

The whole purpose of a photo booth is to provide fun, special photos, and memories, so the background should add to that, not distract.

We used nature and the simple beauty of paper globes as our graduation party photo booth.

My daughter’s boyfriend and my brother-in-law were super helpful and climbed ladders to help hang the globes the morning of the party.

We placed a shabby chic bench that Grandma already had sitting in her yard in front of a tree, and voila! A photo booth.

Tips:

  • Grab your phone and look into the lens for a photo…see what shows up in the frame and that is the area you want to decorate.
  • Most young people are sharing photos on SnapChat or Instagram, so square or vertical images are the ones that you want to think about and allow room for.
  • Lighting is key. Natural light is best! No harsh overhead sunlight, unless you want all of your guests to have shadows under their eyes! 

tray of macarons on a dessert table

Tables & Chairs for Graduation Party Guests

We were able to get tables from the organization that my husband Todd works for. We brought in 3 rectangular tables for the grad tables, and 5 round tables for guest seating.

Grandpa has a truck so my Todd and Teagan picked the tables up the evening before the party and we stored them overnight in the garage.

We set up the 3 grad tables indoors the day before, so we could focus on the outdoors the day of the party.

My mom-in-law had a small fold-out table for beverages and we used her two dining tables, one for the burrito bowl buffet and one for dessert.

We rented white linens for the tables for $6/cloth. It was well worth it! You simply pick them up and they are pressed and ready to spread. After the party, we simply gathered them into the provided cloth laundry bag and dropped them back off. So convenient!

We also rented chairs. We decided to pay a little more and chose white wooden folding chairs over white plastic folding chairs. It was a nice touch and didn’t cost a whole lot more.

My nephews helped set up the chairs. They brought Grandpa’s loaded truck right up on the lawn to unload which made me smile. This was for sure a family joint effort!

Tips:

  • Borrow as much as possible and use what you have on hand. We borrowed tables and Grandpa’s truck, paper globe lanterns, Grandma’s folding table and well…her whole house!
  • Use your local party rental stores. Rent chairs and linens. Search online around at different sites for the best price. We saved $.50 a chair by comparing prices, which adds up when you rent a bunch of chairs!
  • Know when to save money and when to spend a bit more. This all depends on what is important to you and your budget. Comfortable, classy seating for our guest was important to us, so we went with more sturdy wooden chairs.

 

Parking for Graduation Party Guests

This is another area where my nephews came in so handy!

They were our official parking attendants, on scooters to boot! Grandpa and Grandma live off of a two-lane dirt road, so parking had to be on their property.

They have a lot of land and a nice long, winding driveway with 2 parking lot areas, so as long as people parked in an organized way, there was enough space.

This is where my nephews on scooters came in. They directed people to exactly where they needed to go, and made me grin from ear to ear as they did it!

Tips:

  • Think about parking ahead of time and do your best to accommodate your guests.
  • Ask family members to help. Many hands make for a successful graduation party!

 

Paper Products

This is another area we tried to keep as simple as possible.

Clear cups for beverages. White plastic forks. White disposable bowls that were not too big but not too small.

We tried to stay away from styrofoam and set out a recycling bin for the plastic.

Napkins are one area we decided not to go with plain white. We knew it would be an easy way to add beauty to the tables and a bit of style.

We found some fun grey napkins with gold- foil confetti shapes on them at Target.

They added a hint of style and shine but were still neutral enough to let the color of the flowers arrangements pop instead of competing with them.

Tips:

  • There are many paper plates in stores that have patterns and colors but we purposefully stayed away from them. Instead of bringing visual busyness with the cups, bowls, and forks, we wanted them to blend and almost go away visually.
  • Use tasteful napkin design to bring in a pop of color and style. 

 

Accommodating Families and Children

This is another area where my in-laws home made it so easy for us!

They have a wonderful backyard with a playground area for kids, a large grass area for kids to run around, and swings that appeal to the kid in everyone!

They also have a toy room in the basement that my little niece and nephews took full advantage of.

Tips:

  • Think about those with young ones. Simply providing a table and chairs will help them unload their plates and feed their littles.
  • If outdoors, have games like Cornhole sitting out for kids of all ages to play.

 

How Many Guests at Your Graduation Party

It was so hard to figure out how many people would show up at the party. It seems like it is a guessing game, and really it sort of is!

When I met with my sister-in-laws one evening at our local coffee shop, this was the first thing we tackled.

We started with writing down family members we would invite. Obviously, we had a lot of them in common so we were able to condense our lists.

We then wrote down family friends we thought would come and saw that we had many of those in common too.

The last step in estimating how many guests to plan for was to check out our kids’ Facebook invite. This is how they invited many of their school friends, and it was helpful to see the number of ‘accepted’ invites there were.

Even in doing all of this, it was still a bit of a guessing game. We overestimated a bit on the food numbers, but much of the food was returnable as were the paper products.

Tips:

  • Don’t open all of the paper products at once. You may not need all of them and will be able to return some.
  • Create a Facebook event page to invite friends and family. This is one great avenue to get a feel for who can make it.
  • Remember that people often have multiple graduation parties to go to, so buy smaller serving bowls and plates. They will eat less than you might think.
  • Be mindful when buying food that non-refrigerated food with long shelf life is returnable. We were able to return pantry stable jars of salsa and unopened bags of tortilla chips.

 

Enjoy The Graduation Party

After all the work of planning the party, do your best to enjoy it! I was overwhelmed with the feeling of gratitude I felt when I saw who came to support our girl.

There is nothing like other people loving on, investing in and showing up for your kid. It was a beautiful feeling.

I was taken by surprise by how much I was drawn into just talking to those who came to support my girl, and I’m so very thankful for my Mother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law, and my Sister-in-Law’s Mother who all kept the food, beverage and dessert table running and filled up.

I was not able to do it myself, so it was such a meaningful gift to watch them step in and surround us with support by serving!

Tips:

  • take in the moments, they are fleeting
  • enjoy watching your graduate engage those who came to love and support them, and join in!
  • arrange people to help with refilling the food tables so you are free to greet your guests.

I hope these tips are helpful and give some direction and vision if you find yourself planning a graduation party or a party and this large in scale.

Let me know if you have ever thrown a grad party or if these tips are helpful to you!

 

You may also be interested in…

Gift Ideas For Teen Girls

Creating Space For Teens & Their Friends In Your Home

Tips For An Effortless Outdoor Late Summer Party

Graduation Party Decor

{For Your Pinning Pleasure}

ANTI-PROCRASTINATION/ FAMILY/ Holidays/Parties/ Kids/Family

Graduation Open House Party + Anti-Procrastination Weekly Update

{follow me on Instagram}

Last AP Weekly update I was talking about prom. Now I’m sharing about our graduation open house party!

This life of teenagers is a full one, and we are experiencing so many milestones all at once. It is crazy busy, but I’m finding pockets of time to slow, inhale and recognize how precious all of these moments are.

water dispenser with fruited water on a table with confetti

white globes hanging from a tree for photobooth backdrop

We celebrated our Teagan’s upcoming graduation and along with her 2 cousins who are also seniors this year. I had such a great time planning this party! It was a joint effort with my amazing sisters-in-law’s! We made a great team.

My wonderful Mother-in-Law opened up their home and hosted the party for us, which was no small gesture as we planned for 200-300 people to come.

pallet with pictures hanging on it for a graduation open house

table with items to celebrate a graduation open house

There was much planning to do, from figuring out parking (my 2 nephews on scooters did the job beautifully and made me smile while watching them) to seating, tables, tablecloths, flowers, grad tables desserts, food & decor.

It was so much fun but I must be honest and say I’m relieved it is over and needed a slow Mother’s Day to recover, which thankfully I got!

macarons and desserts on a decorated table

tray of macarons on a dessert table

My favorite part of the day was watching our Teagan welcome her guests so graciously and with poise. I could go on and on about the emotions I felt throughout the day, and may just write another post about how felt that day and also how we planned the party.  Let me know in the comments if you are interested in this!

 

Weekly Update

#NNThankful Challenge

I am going to keep the #nnthankful challenge going because it changes me!

It forces me to stay present, see all the beauty in the busy, have a slow mindset and notice all there is to be thankful for. It also gives the best mood boost!

Join me? Use the #nnthankful anytime you post something you are thankful for on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I will see your posts and it will let me know I’m in good company with finding my thankful in the busy seasons of life! I will also feature some of my favorites on my Instagram stories.

 

Anti-Procrastination Free Printable

A Visual Encouragement to Reach Your Goals

 

Anti-Procrastination Free Printable

{want this FREE printable? keep scrolling}

 

Weekly Goals

MEAL PLAN — grocery list +5 meals

DATES — my Todd, my girls, one close friend

DO A PIN — The Well Organized Linen Closet

 

stacks of linens organized on shelves in closet

 

Daily Personal Health Goals

SPIRITUAL — journal, Scripture, pray, meditate

MOVE BODY — walk/jog; yoga or strength training; Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor

HYDRATE & NUTRIENTS — water (80 oz a day); leafy greens & berries, vitamins, powdered greens, seeds

READING — Dr. Fuhrman’s Super Immunity,

HOME GOALS — everyday home chore systems to keep my home clean in minutes a day.

 

Photograph of a senior and geometric planter

Favorite Things

Did you see my post from last week called Creating a Spring & Summer Hygge Home?

I shared all my favorite items to create Hygge ( a Danish term that is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”) and gathered them all into a Maven board for you!

You can purchase them through the board which will give me a small kickback, or you can find them at your local Shopko.

Recipes Goals

Recipes I Want To Make This Week

Eat All Week Chopped Vegetable Salad

Spaghetti with Zoodles

Detox Rainbow Rollups Dipped in Peanut Sauce

Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole

Pesto Chicken Kabobs

‘Cheesy’ Kale Chips

Pancakes & Eggs for Dinner

Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

Lemon Bar Fat Bombs

Best Lemon Balsamic Lentil Salad

Watch my Instagram Stories to see some of these recipes. I often capture my cooking process!

 

Essential Oil Recipe of The Week

Rocky Mountain Oils are my oils of choice. I just love them–their scent is so pure and I really appreciate the free shipping!

My favorite spring blend for the diffuser:

2 drops lavender 

2 drops lemon 

2 drops peppermint 

 

Weekly/Bi-Weekly Staple Recipes

Instant Pot Yogurt

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats

Instant Pot Quinoa

Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

Instant Pot Black Beans

Restaurant Style Salsa

Stove Top Granola

Homemade Almond Butter

 


WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What are you wanting to get done this week?

What recipes are you planning on making?

Are you on Pinterest? Share a favorite pin you want to accomplish.

Christmas/ Holidays/Parties

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees + Tips To Keep Holiday Gatherings Simple

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees

Christmas is almost here! If you are like me, you are aching for simplicity this Christmas season. I want simple, meaningful, festive and cozy and don’t want to break the bank or spend a ton of time prepping for guests! However, I want them to feel loved and special.

I recently had some friends over and was able to create a super warm and welcoming holiday feel.

I didn’t spend much money or time, but by being purposeful and thoughtful with just a few simple details, (like napkins folded into Christmas trees!) I was able to reach my goal of making my guest feel welcomed & my home feel festive.

In this post I will share with you how to make these cute folded napkin Christmas trees, and also share tips on how to keep holiday gatherings simple so you can greet your guests feeling refreshed and ready to connect!

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees

These folded napkins take just minutes and add a wonderful touch to the holiday table. It is amazing how one festive element (like these folded festive Christmas Tree shaped napkins) can make a very simple table feel super festive!

The technique is super simple, but the process is shown best in a video. I used the one below and found it to be informative and very easy to follow.

Like I said above, I like to keep my holiday table basic but festive. I use the same everyday dishes we use during the week, add some special touches like these napkins which created a super festive, special table for my guests! A fun detail like this takes just minutes, and the napkins can be reused, unlike holiday paper napkins, which I love.

I’ve been wanting some nice cloth napkins for a while now. I purchased these napkins from HomeGoods right before Thanksgiving. They were 6 napkins for $9.99. I was careful to choose a print that would be appropriate for all occasions and holidays. I was tired of paying money for paper napkins but didn’t want several sets of cloth napkins sitting around for different seasons or holidays. One set is perfect and all that I need.  A simple, minimal mindset is so important when shopping, and I was very happy to find these pretty cloth napkins.

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees + Tips To Keep Holiday Gatherings Simple

TIPS TO KEEP THINGS SIMPLE

Use What You Already Have On Hand

I did this by using our everyday white dishes, glasses & mugs. I buy very plain dishes & mugs so they will look great in my kitchen, and on my table no matter what the season.

With minimal being my goal, I do not want to store different sets of dishes for different seasons. I want to be FREE of having to store anything extra! This is a personal mission of mine and the closer I get to my goal of “minimal everything,” the more time and freedom I have. I just love pursuing simplicity, but I want to go even further in this area. A minimal 2018 is my goal!

The majority of food and drink that I served at my holiday gathering also came from the food I already have on hand in my pantry and refrigerator. The key was setting them out on my table in a way that is attractive, allowing guests to help themselves. Again, white dishes serve me well. The food pops from the white and looks beautiful.

Food I Already Had On Hand:

Hot Tea

Coffee

Nuts

Popcorn

Clementines

Berries

Crackers & Cheese Slices

Tip: Have a variety of healthy and not so healthy foods.

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees + Tips To Keep Holiday Gatherings Simple

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees + Tips To Keep Holiday Gatherings Simple

Have Key Festive Touches

I found some spiced star-shaped cookies at Aldi for a couple of bucks. I knew they would look adorable an a little white platter. Well worth the money and they were delicious!

Another key festive touch for food were my Andes Mint Cookies. These 4 ingredient cookies whip up in minutes. I made them just a few minutes before my guests arrived. They are a shortcut cookie that uses a Devils cake mix, and a quick swirl of the melted Andes mint on top of the cookies make them extra beautiful! Click through to this post to see how festive they are!

The folded napkins in Christmas Tree Shapes were the star of the table and a key festive touch.

Bring in Nature

Cut some twigs from your evergreen bushes and put them in a mason jar. Add a cinnamon stick from the pantry. Even a wooden cutting board adds a natural wood touch and makes a great base for a cheese board, and also adds a touch of warmth when placed under a white platter or to gather smaller dishes.

Create Atmosphere

Light candles & plug in the twinkly lights! I might go a little overboard in this area, especially during the winter holidays, but I just can’t help myself! I love strings of battery-operated lights and have them all over my house!

Music is a great way to create atmosphere. It is fun to know your audience and play music that suits their tastes. I love Spotify. I used the below playlist from Beverly of Bev Cooks (take a peek at her blog! Love her!!) at my holiday gathering.

Crank the heat for a cozy atmosphere. Make sure your guests are comfortable. Being cold makes your guests tense up, and that is the opposite of relaxed and cozy. Have soft blankets around for guests to grab for even more comfort.

Have a fireplace? Light a fire! No fireplace? Search Netflix for “virtual fireplace” and turn your tv into virtual warmth! My sister-in-law came over for a cup of tea last night and I had the virtual fireplace going. She just sent me a message telling me she enjoyed our “fireside” chat last night. Ha!

Keep Things Inexpensive

I bought German mulled wine from Aldi for around $5. It was yummy! The cookies I made used very few ingredients. I used a lot of what I had on hand and I didn’t buy disposables but used our everyday dishes.

It kept our gathering very affordable and it made room in our budget to have more people over another time!

Mulled German Wine

Let Guest Self Serve

Have things sitting out for guests to help themselves– blankets to grab for themselves, buffet-style food & drink–this frees you up to be present instead of constantly busy serving your guest. Make sure they know they have the freedom to help themselves to more food and offer more to drink if you see glasses low, but also remind them to help themselves.

No Perfection Allowed

Don’t worry about the house being perfect. It doesn’t have to be white glove clean. Shut doors to messy rooms and keep the lights low to hide dust bunnies if you have them! Having people into your less-than-perfect home gives them permission to do the same for you.

Care about your guests. Hear them…listen well! Be present. Sit & don’t worry too much about everything being perfect. Slow down, sit down, breathe and enjoy them!

How To Fold Napkins Into Christmas Trees + Simple Holiday Party Tips

{for your pinning pleasure!}

I hope this post gives you the inspiration to have simple holiday gatherings, reminds you that it only takes a few touches to make things feel festive, and gives you permission to let go of perfect and just be.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!


What are your biggest hurdles in having holiday gatherings?

Do you have any tips for keeping things simple?

What do you think of these adorable Christmas Tree Shaped Folded Napkins?

Beauty/ Cancer Journey/ HEALTH/ Natural Products

My Every Day Health Decisions As A Cancer Survivor With Tom’s of Maine

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor

Thank you Tom’s of Maine for sponsoring this post.

I am a cancer survivor. This is the 7th year that I can say those words and every year I grow more and more amazed at what a gift life is. I work hard at not taking it for granted.  Life is so precious!

Because I know life is precious, there are decisions I make every day to help me live a healthy lifestyle.

Whether it’s using my favorite yoga app, switching my deodorant to Tom’s of Maine Natural Deodorant, or taking turmeric capsules, I am passionate about making decisions to live my best life!

I am not in control of what my future holds and whether or not my cancer will ever come back, but I do know it makes a difference in my everyday life to pursue wholeness and health in different areas, and boy does it make a difference in how I feel every day!

 

Here Are 5 Of My Everyday Health Decisions I Make As A Cancer Survivor

Move My Body

I am not an exercise fanatic, but I have learned that it is important to keep my body moving. I’ve read over and over that getting exercise every day is a great way to stay healthy and cut my chances of recurrence.

I keep it pretty low-key and walk or do yoga every day. When the weather is nice, I will walk our neighborhood or around my favorite local lake. When it is cold, I’m a bit of a wimp and use our treadmill instead. Lately, I have been multitasking and answering email while walking on the treadmill–I really like how productive that feels!

I also love how yoga makes me feel. It has been super important to keep my body stretched and flexible, as the ongoing cancer medications I am on cause joint pain. Yoga makes a huge difference and I feel amazing when I am done, especially my back, neck, and joints! I use the Yoga Studio app on my phone and I LOVE it!

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor

Supplements

I’ve taken several types of supplements throughout my survivor years, but the main ones I will not budge on are a Multi-Vitamin, Vitamin D, Turmeric, Fish Oil & Magnesium.

I take a Multi-Vitamin not to make up for a poor diet (because I eat quite healthy) but just as reassurance that I have covered all bases.

Vitamin D is something that most Americans are low in, and it is the one supplement my Oncologist was adamant that I take.

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and is a miracle worker for keeping my joint pain to a minimum. Fish Oil is to make sure I get all those good Omega’s, and Magnesium is the calming mineral, which is a great way to keep any of my worries and anxiety at bay.

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor

Slow Living

If you follow my Instagram & Instastory, you know I am big into slow living. I often snap my favorite slow parts of the day. Life is busy, but it IS possible to slow, even if it means just slowing your mindset.

Stress can be so hard on the body, and if I’m going ‘a mile a minute”, then I miss out on this precious life I have been gifted with. I find a lot of ways to slow down.

I meditate using the Calm App, I journal, pray, read, & listen to calming music. I light my favorite candle. I deep breathe during yoga and work hard at being aware and present in life moments.

I just started a daily journaling habit. It is called Morning Pages, and I simply put on some soothing music and write 3 pages in my journal. It can be absolutely anything, whatever is on my mind from deep thoughts to lists of things I want to get done. The key is not to censor and just write. I’m loving this practice so far!

I also make sure I get plenty of sleep. It is amazing with all that my body went through while fighting cancer–chemo, radiation, and multiple reconstructive surgeries; plus ongoing medications and treatments that I use to keep cancer away–that I still have so much energy. I believe this is largely due to the amount of good rest I get. I use essential oils (hello lavender!) and melatonin to quiet my body down at night, and I sleep like a baby most nights!

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor with Tom's Of Maine

Natural Products

I have been quite thoughtful about using products that are part of a healthy lifestyle and have ingredients that I can feel good about putting on my body. As a cancer survivor, I am especially aware of this when it comes to products I use every day.

How often do you look at what is inside products you use every day? Is the ingredient list simple and do you know what the ingredients are and what their purpose is? It is important to ask these questions.

Examples of everyday products I use for a healthy lifestyle are Tom’s of Maine Natural Toothpaste, organic coconut oil as a body moisturizer, organic makeup foundation and Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Natural Deodorant.

Let’s talk natural deodorant for a minute. I’ve made the switch to Tom’s of Maine Natural Deodorant. It is the #1 natural deodorant brand with a number of award-winning products among its deodorant portfolio–which contains 15 deodorants–in some of my favorite scents, including fresh apricot, wild lavender & tea tree.

Tom’s of Maine Natural Deodorant provides odor control in their aluminum-free formulas. That “aluminum free” part is why I love and am passionate about using a natural deodorant as a cancer survivor. I personally prefer not to have any aluminum in my deodorant.

There is controversy when it comes to what aluminum can do to your health, and I choose to stay way away from it.

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor

A Note About Natural Deodorants

Staying away from aluminum means staying away from antiperspirants because FDA guidelines state that an antiperspirant must include a form of aluminum as an active ingredient.

Deodorants are not antiperspirants and do not provide the same wetness protection as antiperspirants. I’m fine with that and my body has adjusted to it.

If you are switching from a conventional deodorant to a natural deodorant, it will take some time for your body chemistry to adjust.

Trying the deodorant for at least 7 days, including testing out different scents (or unscented), can help you figure out what is the best fit for your body’s unique chemistry.

Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Natural Deodorant uses the power of nature and fights odor using hops and natural fragrances, along with a blend of oils, organic aloe leaf juice, and other plant-based ingredients. It is free of petrochemicals, artificial fragrances, parabens, and preservatives.

I love and use the tea tree oil scent. I had a hard time deciding between the tea tree oil scent and the apricot scent–both smell so good. I often use tea tree oil in my everyday life for its antimicrobial properties. Bacteria on the skin can cause body odor, so I chose tea tree oil scent. It smells super fresh and clean.

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor

Nourishment

Last but not least, I focus on nourishing my body every day. I drink lots of water & green tea. I focus on eating plant foods in all colors of the rainbow (especially berries & greens) and snack on nuts & seeds.

I use a visual food journal app called YouAte App, an easy way to keep me on track and visually see how colorful my food is. I stay away from fake foods or overly processed foods & excess sugar, especially when eating at home.

My Everyday Health Decisions as A Cancer Survivor

{FOR YOUR PINNING PLEASURE}

Are you a cancer survivor? What do you do every day for your health and what would you like to add to your health habits? Do you know someone who is a cancer survivor? Consider sharing this post with them.

Have you thought about the ingredients in the products you use every day? Is the ingredient list simple and do you know what the ingredients are and what their purpose is?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Halloween/ Meals/ RECIPES

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili With Dark Chocolate

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate

This Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate has been a family favorite for a while now. I’ve wanted to make an Instant Pot version and did so last night. It turned out great and was such an easy process.

Last night was Halloween AND our first snow of the season. It was so pretty with great big snowflakes drifting down. I sent a group text to my three teens letting them know dinner would be ready at 5 and that Grandma would be joining us so that she could see their costumes.

My oldest and her boyfriend dressed up to serve little kids candy at a church party. My girl teaches Kindergarten Sunday School every Sunday and was hoping to see some of “her kids” there. It was crazy seeing my girl in scrubs–it may be a glimse into the future as she wants to go into the medical field.

My youngest 2 girls dressed up and went trick-or-treating and to visit their cousin. It may be the last time they trick-or-treat, and it was crazy to watch them drive away on their own. Halloween feels so different now that they are all grown up!

Todd and I bundled up and walked our neighborhood streets, reminiscing about how it seemed like just yesterday that we took our 3 little girls were trick-or-treating down the same streets. My Todd would keep them out until the last porch light went out and they would come home with gobs of candy and spend the next hour sorting and trading.

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate

Cincinnati Chili & Cinnamon Rolls

I knew my girls would be out and about on Halloween, so I was purposeful in bringing the family together early in the evening to eat some nourishing chili. When my Teagan heard we were having chili, she asked…”are you making cinnamon rolls?”

Did you know that is a ‘thing’ in Nebraska? It is. My local grocery store was out of cinnamon rolls and the grocer said…” sorry…I’m all out…lots of people eating chili on this snowy Halloween!”

The combination of chili and cinnamon rolls reminds me of the popular combo of chicken and waffles. Salty, spicy & sweet. I do think chili is a great excuse to make cinnamon rolls, but it seemed a bit much on Halloween when sweet candy will be in abundance, but my girl asked for it, and it IS tradition, so I stopped at another store and bought some, and that made her very happy.

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate

Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate

Cincinnati chili is typically served over spaghetti noodles and topped with cheese, onions, and crackers. We skip the pasta but enjoy a bit of cheese and crackers on top.

The reason I LOVE Cincinnati chili is that the flavor is so rich and complex, thanks in part to dark chocolate. It also has cinnamon, cloves, allspice, a bay leaf, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in the recipe. These layers of flavor make the chili dark and delicious!

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili with Dark Chocolate Recipe

I love having an Instant Pot version of this recipe. It pressure cooks for 10 minutes, then uses a natural release.

You can make this in a pot on the stove, but it will need to simmer for 3 hours. If you make it in the crockpot, it can cook for 8 hours on low and 4 hours on high.

Instant Pot Cincinnati Style Chili with Dark Chocolate

{for your pinning pleasure!}

Instant Pot Cincinnati Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 
Recipe Type: Meals
Servings: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp oil (I use avocado oil)
  • 2 small onions or 1 large chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 cans beans I use kidney black, and pinto
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 1 oz square dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart water more or less depending on the consistency you would like
Instructions
  1. Saute onions in oil on saute function on the Instant Pot until translucent. Add garlic and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain if needed.
  2. Drain and rinse beans in a colander.
  3. Add beans and the rest of the ingredients into the pressure cooker (can eyeball the water and use more or less depending on desired consistency) and stir well.
  4. Pressure cook for 10 minutes, then use natural release. Open the instant pot and stir. If you need to thicken the chili, set to saute and let bubble until desired consistency.

Have you tried Cincinnati Chili? What do you think of chocolate and cinnamon in your chili? How about Chili and Cinnamon Rolls?

Beauty/ FUN/DIY/ HEALTH/ How-Tos/ Natural Products/ RECIPES

2 Ingredient Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub

DIY 2 Ingredient Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub

I make this simple homemade 2 ingredient lemon sugar facial scrub about once a week.  It is so easy to throw together, and it leaves my skin very soft, smooth, & exfoliated.

Start by juicing a half of a lemon.  I like to use the lemons in my refrigerator that are on the verge of being too ripe to eat.  This is a great way to use those lemons up!

DIY 2 Ingredient Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub

AN EASY WAY TO JUICE YOUR LEMON

Don’t underestimate the power of a simple fork!  I have several fancy lemon squeezing gadgets, but when I am just doing a lemon half, I grab a fork.  It is amazing how much juice a simple fork can extract! Just stick it in the lemon half and give it a twist while squeezing the lemon with the other hand. Rotate the lemon and repeat.

It is amazing how much juice a simple fork can extract! Just stick it in the lemon half and give it a twist while squeezing the lemon with the other hand. Rotate the lemon and repeat.

This lemon facial scrub has organic sugar and organic lemon juice in it. That is it! I squeeze 1/2 a lemon right into the jar, add about 1/8-1/4 cup of organic sugar and stir.

I like to use organic pure cane sugar. Regular white sugar has been bleached and I don’t want that in my body or on my face!

This makes enough for several applications, but in time the sugar dissolves, so I usually let my girls know that I have homemade lemon facial sugar scrub. I’ve been making this since they were young and loved doing “facials” with it.

I remember when they were little they would end up putting lots around their lips so they could lick it off.  Tastes just like lemonade!

It is delicious and ends up being a great lip scrub, too!  You could also take leftovers in the bath with you for a great body scrub.

DIY 2 Ingredient Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub

HOW TO USE LEMON SUGAR FACIAL SCRUB

I put some of the mixture into my palm, and rub in circular motions all over my face.  It feels so good!  I love a good scrub!  I then let it sit on my skin a few minutes until it gets sticky and feels a bit hard.  Then I get a washcloth nice and hot and just lay it on my face for a few seconds.  The steam opens the pores and softens the sugar mixture.  I then wipe off and rinse well.  I will often follow with a dab of coconut oil for moisture.

I let it sit on my skin a few minutes until it gets sticky and feels a bit hard.  Then I get a wet microfiber facial washcloth — nice and hot — and just lay it on my face for a few seconds.  The steam opens the pores and softens the sugar mixture.  I then wipe off and rinse well.  I follow with moisturizer.

Lemons do have a lightening quality about them and I notice it has faded sun damage that I have on my forehead.  It is also great for breakouts.  It seems to really help with blackheads and just clearing the junk out of my pores.  I love it!

DIY Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub

2 INGREDIENT LEMON SUGAR FACIAL SCRUB

1/2 organic lemon
1/8-1/4 cup organic sugar

Juice 1/2 lemon using a fork into a mason jar. Add the organic sugar and stir.  Apply to face in circular motions and gently allow the sugar to scrub your skin.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Use a hot washcloth (I love a microfiber facial cloth–it is great for gently wiping away smudged mascara under the eyes) and lay on the face to steam for a minute, then use it to wipe of scrub.  Rinse well & moisturize.  Use the lemon sugar facial scrub once a week.


DIY 2 Ingredient Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub

{For Your Pinning Pleasure}

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