Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas Gift Ideas…part 2

I still haven’t done a great job with the Christmas gifts, but because I’m a freak and do things backwards, I’ve got a few kitcheny type gift ideas to share with you.

This first one falls under the “you’ve probably seen it on TV” categories. I’m gonna admit it. I am always dying to own those silly informecial type kitchen gadgets. It’s true. I can’t help it.  And there is one little gadget out there that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while.  (Don’t judge me.)

It’s the “Slice Solutions Brownie Pan” and it looks awesome.  A local tv station did one of their “Try it before you buy it” segments and featured this bad boy.  It got two thumbs up.  Oh yeah.

And this next one is just plain adorable. They are cupcake plates. And as hard as it is to believe, they make cupcakes cuter than they already are.

Visit CakeSpy Shop to buy these little cuties.

Now… go forth and shop.

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Christmas gift ideas!

Christmas will be fast upon us and if you’re anything like me, you’ve waited until now to start thinking about gift ideas.  So as I’m browsing sites, I’m going to toss some preciously adorable ideas at you.


Yes, they are dishwashing gloves, but they’re cute!
And don’t you want to look cute even when cleaning dirty dishes?
*can be found on etsy courtesy of fresh studio.

How about this “table for one dish”?


Head over to anthropologie for this one.

How about a beautiful cake stand?
I must warn you…yes,it is pretty, but it definitely isn’t cheap…just sayin’.

A few ideas to get you going. Come back soon for more holiday gift ideas.
I might even throw in a a few eclectic and silly ones.
After all, Christmas should be fun, right?

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Halloween Bars

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Halloween is getting close and I’m doing all I can to get in the spirit. The 85 degree temperature isn’t helping much, so I’m forced to buy cheap decorations and treats to get me in the seasonal mood.

That’s okay because I really do love the cheap decorations and the throngs of candy bars sitting in a big plastic bowl on my kitchen counter. And sometimes I just enjoy baking those Halloween treats. So that’s exactly what I did. I found a recent Betty Crocker mini magazine and scooped a recipe straight from it. This one was for Halloween Goody Bars, but I’ll just call them Halloween Bars. Even if they were super good.

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Ingredients
1 1/2 cup quick cook oats
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
1, 14oz., can sweetened condense milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup Reese’s Pieces (or if you have the patience, orange and brown M&M’s)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13×9 in. pan with cooking spray
In a large bowl mix oats, flour, sugar, salt, and 1 cup butter with a spoon. Stir in pecans. Remove 1 cup, set aside to use later as the topping.
Press remaining mixture into pan.
In a saucepan, cook condensed milk, chocolate chips, and 2 tbsp butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture has turned into a smooth and creamy goodness.
Spread chocolate mix over crust.
Sprinkle with candies and reserved oat mixture, pressing oat mix into chocolate mixture.
Bake 23-25 minutes or until set.*
Cool completely- around 2+ hours. Cut into bars.

*Mine took over 35 minutes to cook completely, then again my oven is almost as old as I am.)

Ps. these bad boys are rich.  Enjoy with a giant glass of cold milk.
Pps. I have about 10 sitting downstairs. Feel free to stop by and take them away from me. Like I need a chocolate covered buttery oat and sugar bar. Yeap, just like I need a hole in my head.

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Hosting a Dinner Party: Plan Well, Relax and Have Fun!

Yesterday, I admitted that I know absolutely nothing about hosting a dinner party.  And since I know so little, I enlisted the help of the incredibly gracious blogger/designer, Helen Young.  When I emailed her with my bizarre request, she responded back with an emphatic, “I do love to host parties!”

So friends, I give you Helen Young. Now go forth and learn from the master herself.
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I was so excited when Katie O. asked me to write a guest post on how to host a dinner party. I have loved parties since I was a little girl. I grew up with a mother and grandmother who love to entertain (and they both do it beautifully) and all that I know about entertaining I learned from them. As a child, both my mother and grandmother would let me help when getting ready for a dinner party – I got to set the table, pick out china, get out the cocktail napkins, put nuts in a bowl etc. My mom also let me be involved in the food selection too, a great learning experience. How I loved the anticipation before the party – and then all of the pretty dressed up grown ups would arrive! My brother and I would sneak around the party eating cashews and drinking the last sips in the glasses (we loved the taste of tonic water -still do!)

The most important thing to keep in mind is – HAVE FUN! Setting the stage and planning the party can be as much fun as the event itself. Give yourself plenty of time and make lists. A host or hostess who is having fun will have a relaxing, entertaining party. A stressed out host or hostess will have guests who can’t wait to go home. Hosting parties well takes practice. So if you start off small and work your way up to a big shindig, success will be yours. The old expression “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is appropriate here.

When I am preparing to host a dinner party the first thing I do is set the tone for the party. Is this a casual dinner party, a Sunday dinner with family or an elegant meal where I pull out all the best china and silver? Setting the tone makes all of the other decisions flow easily.

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Once the tone has been set the next decision is whether or not to have the party be a sit down affair or is it walk around with plates? This is usually dictated by the number of guests and how much seating you have at the table. If you have room to seat everyone, they will be more comfortable and don’t forget that you can always rearrange your living room, add a card table or two covered with table cloths and you have doubled your seating. For this post let’s assume we are hosting a seated dinner party for eight. Eight guests for dinner is a wonderful number – lots of recipes work for eight, eight guests fit at most tables, eight guests work for multiple conversations or one at the dinner table. Let’s also assume that we are hosting an informal affair. Guests will dress festively, but not coat and tie – so the table will be pretty, but we won’t pull out the best china, silver and crystal (a formal dinner party is a whole other post – and so are invitations – which BTW let’s assume the invitation was by phone).

At this point I also decide where to set up the bar. My parents’ parties always had bartenders (but everyone drank the hard stuff back then so it was more necessary). If I am hosting a big cocktail party or really formal dinner party then I will hire a bartender and someone to help me in the kitchen, but for an informal dinner party I usually set up the bar in an area we designed specifically for this in our house -it’s my office when not being used for a bar. For a party, I take away all of the office paraphernalia and bring in the glasses, trays, cocktail napkins, wine buckets, and bowls for the nuts (I always have a bowl of nuts on the bar).
My creation

If you don’t have a designated bar area, then pick one that is in the middle of the party if possible, and also has at least two ways to access the area ( that way you have less of a traffic jam). At my Christmas party last year I set up two bars to keep people moving – congestion at the bar does not make people merry and bright!

The next step is to plan the menu. If you don’t know the guests well, when inviting them on the phone be sure to ask if they have any allergies. If there are no allergies, then the next thing to consider when planning the menu is weather and time of year. You wouldn’t want to serve a big Beef Wellington, no matter how delicious, on a 100 degree summer night. In Summer I tend to keep the menu light and flavorful and in the Fall and Winter the food can be heavier and more filling. A word of caution – do not cook a new recipe for the first time at a dinner party. I have done this – and it doesn’t always turn out so well. For dinner parties I tend to cook recipes that I am comfortable with and that appeal to many people. If you must try a new recipe, then test run it the week before the party to make sure you know it will be successful. Once you have picked the main course then pick complimentary side dishes and appetizers. Also, remember to factor in how much oven space you have when planning the menu(if you have two ovens this should not be a problem). You will want to think through the cooking times and recipes at this stage to make sure you can have all of the dishes ready at the same time. I will frequently make side dishes that can be made ahead and popped in the oven if I make a stove top main dish. Unless you are a very accomplished chef, managing three or four stove top recipes at a dinner party will make your blood pressure go up.

Next decide on table decorations. Think about the occasion and what is appropriate and then pick your place mats,napkins, china, flat wear and flowers. I think fresh flowers, herbs or plants are a must on a dinner table. They don’t have to be fancy, just fresh and simple will work fine. I like to arrange flowers, so the floral component of a party is one of my favorites.

Make a list of everything you need for the party from the grocery store to Party City. Shop for paper goods or table setting components early so you don’t forget anything. I usually set the table two days before the party to make sure I like the way it looks and so if I have forgotten anything there is plenty of time to correct that. I shop for the food the day before the party so everything is fresh, including buying fresh flowers.

It’s important for your house to be clean and fresh for a party, so don’t forget to plan a cleaning day or two within a few days of the party. Make sure the powder room is sparkling and stocked with hand towels and soap for your guests.

The day of the party I first arrange the flowers early in the morning. Then I set up the bar and get all of the bar items in order. Next, I cook anything that can be done ahead so I can be relaxed later in the day (hardly ever happens though – I am always adding finishing touches right up to the first guest’s arrival). Any other food prep that can be done should be done now too. Mid-afternoon you should get off of your feet and rest for half an hour or take a short nap. It will pay off later.

An hour before the party get appetizers ready (heat in oven or take cheese out of frig) and make sure bar is stocked. When your guests arrive you should be ready to greet them and pay attention to them and not have to take care of anything in the kitchen for awhile. If you have a husband, wife, partner, better half, be sure to ask him or her to help you handle drinks and be available to help. If you know you have a willing helper you will be more relaxed. A few minutes after the first guests arrive I immediately offer them a drink and have the appetizers ready to go.

For a casual dinner party, I have begun to mostly serve the food in the kitchen on my island (I let the guests serve themselves). Growing up we never did this, and at parties guests were always seated and then served at the table. But since casual entertaining is the norm these days (and most of us don’t have serving help), the serve yourself mode seems to work best. You can also serve off of a side board or console in the dining room if you don’t want people in the kitchen. I do still like to clear the table for guests between dinner and dessert and will enlist the help of one guest to help me. If you can, keep the other guests at the table while clearing, it will be much smoother. Get the same guest who cleared to help you serve dessert and coffee. (Remember serve from the guest’s left and clear from the guest’s right).

Mostly, remember a relaxed host or hostess makes a party fun – so enjoy yourself (and plan ahead)!

Stumble It!

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Hosting a dinner party

Go with me here kids…I’m taking a slight turn from the normal food path to discuss something that needs to be talked about.
Hosting dinner parties.

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photo courtesy of Helen Young

It hit me like a mack truck that I have no idea how to truly host a dinner party.  Our friend came over for dinner the other night and my kitchen looked like a bomb had been dropped smack dab in the middle of it.  Granted, I’d just finished cooking in that kitchen (and used every single mixing bowl, plate, utensil within an arm’s reach) so technically, I had an excuse I guess.  But let’s be honest, Martha Stewart would not have approved.  She would have gone all Catholic nun on me and smacked my knuckles with a ruler until they were black and blue….or at least until the kitchen was spotless.

As you all are probably aware, I’m an amateur at best in the kitchen.  The cooking and baking are things I’m learning to do as I go along.  So now we can add hosting to that list. Maybe some of you out there are like me. You have no idea where to begin. How do you plan the meal? Set the table? Keep the dogs from jumping on the counter and stealing all of the food? Unfortunately, I have no earthly idea, but I’m happy to report that my sweet blogger friend, Helen Young, of Whitehaven Interiors, does.  And luckily, she’s answered my cry for help and has kindly laid it all out so simpletons like me can understand.

So kids, stay tuned because tomorrow Helen is here to save the day! Oh and just in case you were wondering, Tuesday will officially be referred to as How to Host a Dinner Party here at YAWYEOR.

Stumble It!

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A Fabulous Fourth

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Hopefully, everyone has recovered from another festive 4th of July. At my house, we ate. And then ate some more.
And today, I’m still in a food come.
We didn’t do anything special because I’m a loser dork who doesn’t know how to throw a party. Instead, we kept it simple.  I did in fact make the Pioneer Woman’s bacon wrapped jalapenos.  Except I took it a step further and added a four cheese blend to the mix. Then, instead of baking them, we grilled them.
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To say they were good is an understatement. And did I mention, easy?

And there may have been some of this going on too.
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Don’t judge me. It’s tasty.

We finished the night watching the local fireworks display with a few thousand of our closest friends. As it turns out, the suburbs have a fantastic fireworks show. {Reason #22 why I love the ‘burbs.}
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How did you spend your 4th? With friends? Family?
Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend!

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Back to the daily grind.

Too bad it’s not coffee grinds. I could use some good coffee about right now. After having been on vacation for the past week, I’m beat. I tell ya, going on vacation is exhausting. I mean all that doing nothing really takes the wind out of your sails.

And while I’d rather be enjoying scenes like this:

and this…

I’m staring at this.

Thank goodness it’s Tuesday. I cannot even imagine the mood I’d be in if it were Monday.

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Happy Easter!

peeps

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Hope you have a happy, family filled Easter.

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the night sky

Today ended our Christmas visit up to Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m sad. Visiting family, (in this case for me, my in-laws), and then leaving, is always sad. Maybe it’s the fact that this week was such a relaxing and wonderful week. Or maybe it’s the sheer fact that I was on vacation….not working.

Either way, I’m blue that it’s over.

To my astonishment, Georgia, the state that is, apparently missed us because she welcomed us back with the most amazing gift….the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

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Alright Georgia, maybe, just maybe, I missed you a little too…
(just don’t tell anyone.)

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the greenbrier…pt 2

greenbriar ballroom

I know I know…Christmas is officially over, but guess what? The memories remain.
Just like that indigestion you got from eating.
And eating.
And eating some more.

And even though the festivities have ended, I still have more pictures to share.
Sit back and pretend you care.
For me.

The other day I posted the sweet treats the Greenbrier in West Virginia had to offer. Not to worry though, I did more than stare at the dessert tray. I actually toured the place. And fell in love in the process.
And took photos. Lots and lots of photos.

rhoob and nancy @ the greenbrier
Meet my mother in law (left) and her adorable sister (right).

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Now meet the carpet.
Yes, I do realize this is only carpet, but I’m seriously fascinated by it. Have you ever seen carpet this bold? Now just picture this carpet in a grand ballroom. Yeap, intense.

Meet my sister-in-law. She LOVED the chandeliers. And so did everyone else. By the way, that’s one hanging in the background. {Too bad I didn’t take more pictures of them. I could have bored you with a whole montage of those photos too.}
leigh at the greenbrier

leigh & katie at the gingerbread house
As for the silliness, my sister-in-law and I were just having too much fun with the giant gingerbread house considering neither of us has ever SEEN a gingerbread house this big. It vaguely reminded me of the infamous Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House. (And no, I promise I’m not being offensive. This is a real thing.)

Guess that’s better than trying to eat it..
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I think it’s safe to say we all had a great time.
Now if I could just get my hands on those desserts….

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