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Holidays/Parties

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?

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?

RECIPES/ Seasonal

10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

10 Must-Try Slow Living Summer Recipes -- A collection of simple recipes to help savor a slow summer!

I recently looked at what posts on New Nostalgia were getting the most pins on Pinterest and noticed that many fell under the category of what could be called Slow Living Summer Recipes. It made me smile to see what was resonating with readers and what was being repinned. They are all my summer favorites!

I feel like I must thank you all for the inspiration to title and write this post. You show me what is most appealing to you by how you save and share posts, and it makes me giddy to see what we have in common.

Thank you for reading, pinning, sharing and liking. Without you, I could not do what I do!

10 Slow Living Summer Recipes

Slow living often inspires healthy living. It takes a slowing to be purposeful in how time is used and what is put in and on the body to create healthy living.  Slow summer living makes me nostalgic and I want to get in the kitchen and make everything homemade with simple, healthy ingredients. I don’t have the time to do this all day every day, so I’ve learned to collect recipes that have simple ingredients and are easy to make.

Healthy Fresh Lime Soda + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

Fresh & Healthy Lime Soda

This Fresh & Healthy Lime Soda could not be more simple and is so refreshing. I love to sip slow while sitting on my porch swing. Even if it is just a few short minutes in the middle of a busy day, it always pays off take a few deep breaths and slow!

Delicious Baked Cinnamon Sugar Peaches + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Baked Peaches

Peaches scream summer. I just stopped at a local produce stand yesterday and bought the most delicious, juicy sweet peaches. I ate 3 already and am heading back to buy more today. They are so sweet that I may have to cut the brown sugar even more in this recipe.

These Brown Sugar Cinnamon Baked Peaches are simple but make quite an elegant dessert. Pick up and eat with your fingers when alone, or serve on a dessert plate with a mint leaf for added color when serving to guests.

Simple Tomato Salad + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

Simple Tomato Salad

Tomatoes and basil are a duet of food that I just cannot get enough of in the summer. I love making this Simple Tomato Salad as a quick lunch or as a no-cook side at dinner. Add a small slice of toasted sourdough because, why not?

Blender Zucchini Bread + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

Best Ever Zucchini Bread

I didn’t grow any zucchini in my square foot garden this year and now I’m regretting it! I will just have to take full advantage of the zucchini at our local farmer’s markets. My youngest daughter already has asked me when I’m making this Best Ever Zucchini Bread, she knows it is a tradition during the summer months. She also asked if it was “healthy.” Well, it DOES have a vegetable as the base, but I told her we put it in the dessert category due to the sugar in the recipe.

This recipe whips up so quickly in a blender. Make it and bake it. Grab a magazine and sit slow while it cooks and cools.

No Mess Oven Roasted Corn + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

Oven Corn on the Cob

I picked up some corn at the produce stand yesterday along with my peaches and will be roasting them in the oven tonight. I LOVE this method of making Oven Corn on the Cob, you shuck the corn until AFTER it roasts. This makes for very easy removal of the silks as they steam and clump together for easy removal.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Oats + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

No Cook Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Oats

No Cook Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Oats can be thrown together the night before which makes your summer morning nice and slow. We love chia oats, especially in the summer when a hot breakfast just sounds too heavy. These are delicious, filling, full of fiber, protein, and omegas.

DIY Lemon Sugar Face Scrub + 10 More Slow Living Summer Recipes

2 Ingredient Homemade Lemon Face Scrub

How about a recipe for your face? This 2 Ingredient Homemade Lemon Face Scrub works! It has sugar and lemon in it and leaves the skin so very soft and smooth. The lemon has the power to lighten age spots and the sugar is a nice exfoliant. Don’t forget your lips! Mmmm…tastes like summertime lemonade!

Cheesy Tortelinni Crockpot Soup + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes

Cheesy Tortellini Crockpot Soup

I love to get my slow cooker out in the summer. The oven stays off, the kitchen stays cool, and I can find some moments to relax while dinner simmers away unattended. This Cheese Tortellini Crockpot Soup is very popular with my readers and on Pinterest. It has been shared over and over again!

30 Minute Sloppy Joes + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

30 Minute Sloppy Joes

During the summer months, I often will keep dinner super simple by making one main item, like these 30 Minute Sloppy Joes, on the stove. I then turn off the stove and oven and keep side dishes fresh and raw, like cucumbers and hummus, cut fruit and a green leafy salad. 30 minute meals are GREAT for giving more time to enjoy those long summer evenings.

Honey Lime Glazed Fruit Salad + 10 Slow Living Summer Recipes From New Nostalgia

Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Glaze

Fruit is so refreshing in the summer, and the perfect item to include in a summer picnic! Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Glaze is really beautiful and delicious. The glaze gives the fruit amazing shine and the little specks of lime zest give a pop of fresh flavor to the fruit and is super pretty! This salad is great to take to summer parties and potlucks.


So there are 10 of my Summer Slow Living Recipes. Let me know in the comments which ones look good to you!

What are some of your favorite summer recipes?

What are some of your ways to live slow in the summer?

Christmas/ Holidays/Parties/ HOME/ Simplifying

How to Slow Down & Cozy Up While Online Shopping

Ways to slow down and cozy up your space while online shopping

I have a cozy chair in my bedroom that I have found myself sitting in quite a bit lately. It is a new experience to be sitting so much during gift-giving season, but online shopping has given me the gift of slowing down and cozying up in my chair, while buying for those I love. It has been so wonderful!

You would grin at all the things I surround myself and my chair with while I shop. The chair is up in our bedroom and my Todd will peek his head in and just smile at me sitting comfy in my chair surrounded by all the things I love. He knows I am all about marinating in good atmosphere!

Ways to slow down and cozy up your space while online shopping

{view from my cozy bedroom chair}

Ways I Slow Down & Get Cozy While Online Shopping

~comfy chair (of course) with feet up

~twinkle lights hung on our bedroom window, lights low so they can show off

~a small table next to my chair to hold all- the- things within arms reach

~a bluetooth speaker for ambient Christmas music

~a warm drink by my side, always!

~an electric mug warmer to keep my drink warm – a birthday gift from my Avery and I love it!

~ journal & favorite sharpie pen to jot down notes & check my Christmas list

~my laptop

~ phone close and on the charger, to keep the world at my fingertips

~ a soft, fuzzy blanket & fuzzy socks on my feet!

~my favorite new diffuser from Frankie & Myrrh to bring a calm scent to the room.

Ways to slow down and cozy up your space while online shopping

Online Shopping with Frankie & Myrrh

I generally buy gifts for others while online shopping, but I did find just a couple for myself along the way! One of my favorite purchases was from a little shop called Frankie & Myrrh. How great is that for a shop name?

They are a small business who is known for ‘aromatherapy made fun.’ Yes, they know fun and showed on their website, in their products and in the packaging. I am just now getting into aromatherapy, so I just couldn’t resist making a purchase for myself.

a·ro·ma·ther·a·py | əˌrōməˈTHerəpē | noun. The use of essential oils and natural plant essences to achieve balance, harmony, and psychological and physical well-being.

essential-oils-frankie-myrrhh

Products

I bought their Bamboo Diffuser and 3 Essential Oils –Cinnamon, Serenity Now Blend, and Frankincense.

I sprinkled some of the cinnamon essential oil on pinecones in our enclosed porch, to welcome my holiday guests. It smells so festive! ‘Serenity Now’ is a calming blend that has spruce, orange, and frankincense is amazing when diffused my new Bamboo Diffuser and makes our home smell like Christmas! I’ve been mixing the Frankincense oil with some grapeseed oil and using it on my face as a moisturizer. I love it!

Frankie & Myrrh  have what they call ‘rollies’ (essential oil mixed with a carrier oil and in a small glass jar with a roller–so convenient to just roll on!

They also have aromatherapy sprays with really witty names like:

“Serenity Now” with frankincense, spruce and orange for silent, restful bliss

“Study Buddy” a peppermint and rosemary spray for mental focus

“Hello Sunshine” a citrus and rose -a feel good spray

Their shop name and fun product names and offerings had me, but when the box came in the mail the packaging make me fall for them even harder. This is something I love about a small business shopping. Their attention to detail and their appreciation for each and every costumer really is priceless. This sure was the case with Frankie & Myrrh.

Ways to slow down and cozy up your space while online shopping

{HOW DID THEY KNOW?! (snicker)}

Packaging

I opened the box and the sticker on the bubble wrap made me laugh. It said “Reduce Your Stress, POP ME!” I then saw a note that was signed by hand. While I was admiring the note, a wonderful scent hit me. I pulled a little sachet full of dried lavender out of the package, a free added touch that made me so happy! Everything in the box was packaged carefully and cute; it just felt so personal. The labels on each essential oil made me smile, as did the witty little suggestion on their bubble wrap. All of these touches made me eager to send an order from Frankie & Myrrh to one of my friends so they could experience all of these touches, too.

Frankie-myrrh-lavender-package

PayPal

Frankie & Myrrh made it super easy to shop them. One thing I’m always looking for when online shopping is PayPal paying option, and of course, Frankie & Myrrh had it. They seem to think of everything! When I’m online shipping, the last thing I want to do is get up and get my wallet or credit card, so I especially love it when small businesses offer PayPal.

PayPal has an option called One Touch that allows you to pay for items in your shopping basket without having to enter credit card or billing details. Do what I did, and activate it here, then you won’t have to get off the couch, out of bed or out of your own comfy chair to find your wallet!

My Todd and I have been using PayPal for years now. It is easy to use, fast, painless and has always been a safe way for us to shop online, send money and receive money. We love it! PayPal always goes the extra mile–example? This holiday season, PayPal is offering free return shipping called Return Shipping On Us on its up to $30 for up to 11 purchases. So convenient!

frankie-myhhr-aromatherapy

How About You?

Did you do your Christmas shopping online? Do you have any small businesses that your love to support? Did you buy anything for yourself? Have you tried aromatherapy? Are you a PayPal fan?

Share with me in the comments!

easy-online-shopping

{FOR YOUR PINNING PLEASURE!}

 

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

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