I love a huge fully decorated Christmas tree, but living in the city we’ve never had the space for one of the big ones! On top of that I never seem to have the right amount of ornaments to fill my tree. Halfway through decorating the tree I realize I’m running out of ornaments so the back half of the tree is completely bare.
In my head my tree always resembles that of the ones I see at Crate & Barrel with the perfect color combination and each ornament placed in the ideal location on the tree. In reality I’m in a hurry pulling out all my decorations throwing them on the tree claiming “next year” I’ll go full on Martha Stewart with Christmas.
The silver lining is that over the years of my Christmas tree mishaps I have come up with several tips & tricks to make my decorations seem more impressive than they really are!
My favorite is adding small mirrors inside the tree to accentuate the Christmas lights making the tree sparkle unbelievably!
Add a dab of super glue to the backs of two mirrors. Place an ornament hook in between and squeeze closed for at least 30 seconds.
Fill the insides of the tree with these after putting on the lights, but before putting on the ornaments. The sparkle will be tripled! For my tall skinny tree, I used 20 ‘mirror ornaments’.
May your tree sparkle like a department store tree 🙂 !
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Turn a bottle of wine into a perfect festive Christmas gift with these printable wine tags!
My gift a choice to give a party host is always a bottle of wine. Not because it’s easy (which it IS), but because it’s practical. I know everyone will use it no matter how predictable. But with the holidays approaching, handing over ANOTHER bottle of wine amongst all the adorable DIY Christmas-y host gifts feels a little weak.
Although I’m standing by my decision to give wine, I’m sprucing it up a bit!
These Festive Christmas Wine Tags will add a little pizzazz to your gift while ensuring your host remembers which bottle you brought! It will also encourage your host to put the bottle aside instead of adding to the party beverage stash.
Simply print out the download on thick white paper (ideally paper stock), cut out along the solid line & fold on the dotted line. I used my craft paper cutting tools, but you can definitely do this with just a scissor.
The holiday season never seems to last long enough for me. I’m always running around with last minute details no matter how far in advance that I plan. This is doubly true with holiday house guests! So instead of planning for weeks in advance for my holiday house guests, I came up with the top 10 last minute prep ideas to make your house guests feel at home. It’s true that my fridge may not be clean and my baseboards will definitely not have been dusted, but these 10 items provide the most bang for the buck if you’re strapped for time!
1 Consider the room temperature of your guest room. No host would ever be able to make both Joe & I happy on this one! I’m always cold and he’s always warm. Knowing that, for my guest room, I include extra blankets at the base of the bed and a fan on the dresser.
2 It’s so easy to forget which towels are yours when staying with guests, especially if several people are sharing a bathroom. This is why I set out a different color set of towels for each guest so everyone will remember which towels are theirs. I like to give each guest two towels, a hand towel and wash cloth. You’ll notice all my towels are dark colors too, which is intentional to mask any stains that just won’t go away in the wash (please tell me I’m not the only one). Also, it’s a good idea to clear out any existing towel in the bathroom towel racks to make room for your guests.
3 As a guest there’s nothing worse than having to ask your host time and time again for items they may need or have forgotten. I like to put out sample size toiletries in a pretty glass container for my guests with sunscreen, shampoo, soap, conditioner, etc.
4 Nothing feels more like a hotel than tripping over luggage. Our guest closet is used for storage, but I always keep a small space cleared out with hangers available for guests. Clearing out a drawer or two in a dresser is also an excellent option. Since we don’t have a dresser in our guest room, I keep a small stool available for easy access to their suitcase.
5 I don’t clean every room of the house for guests, but one room that I do spruce up is the living room. Our living area is right off our main entrance so it’s often the victim of clutter…. shoes, work bags, jackets, you name it! Declutter the living area so guests don’t feel like they’re taking up too much space. I also remove some of the couch pillows so that there’s easy access to seating, add a couple magazines & a blanket/throw.
6 I skip the full house cleaning, but do a thorough wipe down of key areas including the guest bathroom. Even if you’re house isn’t spotless (when is it really?) make sure the bathroom looks like you’re walking in to hotel room. Nothing is grosser than someone else’s dirty bathroom! I clear out my personal things so they’re not tip toeing around my stuff. Make sure toilet paper is restocked and garbage cans are emptied. I also like to put out an extra hair dryer and straightener for my girl friends.
7 I tell my guests that their best meal will NOT be eaten at my house as cooking is a skill I’ve yet to master. But no guest of mine will go hungry. I make sure the fridge and pantry are stocked with the basics: easy breakfast food, mid day snacks, produce & wine. Although my guests always know to help themselves to anything in our kitchen, I’m intentional about offering snacks throughout the day to ensure no one goes hungry!
8 I’m one of those people who writes EVERYTHING down. So naturally I love written instructions (and hopefully my guests do too!) I keep a sheet with our wifi passwords, instructions to use our TV/Netflix/Amazon Instant Video (why is it always confusing to use someone else’s TV?), and how to use our coffee pot (oddly ours is confusing).
9 In a perfect world our kitchen would be spotless right as guests arrive, but that only happens in my dreams. But a clean sink & dishwasher can exist outside my dreams. Nothing says ‘dirty kitchen’ like a pile of dishes in the sink. And nothing is more frustrating when hosting a meal than a dishwasher that’s already full of dishes. I like to start out any holiday weekend with a clean slate.
10 I’m a natural planner and a little (errrr.. a lot) anxious when I don’t know what’s happening next. Although most of my guests likely don’t have their planners booked each hour, I do think they appreciate knowing what to expect when staying at my place. Specifically, I make sure to let guests know what to expect the next morning (things such as the bathroom is all yours in the morning, breakfast is at 9AM or I will put cereals and spoons and bowls out on the counter!)
Hope these tips make your holiday hosting a little less stressful!
Since moving to Seattle two years ago, we’ve spent the last two Thanksgivings locally with new friends instead of flying across the country to be home with family. Not wanting to expose my lack of cooking skills to my new Seattle friends, we’ve typically contributed wine, a salad or store bought dessert to the big meal.
Before you get too excited, no I haven’t spent the last year learning how bake (baste?) a turkey, but I have learned some fun festival holiday cocktails that will be more impressive than bringing another bottle of wine.
Regardless of the type of beverages your guests prefer, this recipe can accommodate! Three different festive drinks can be made from this one simple syrup concoction. All you need is about 15 minutes and a couple standard ingredients.
2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen (8 ounces))
1 cup regular sugar
1 cup water
Bring cranberries, sugar and water to a simmer over medium heat in a saucepan. Then reduce heat to low and cook until cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. You can’t really mess this up, but you don’t want the cranberries to burst. If that happens, just remove the saucepan from the heat. It’s done!
Let cool for 5 minutes and then pour through a strainer separating the cranberries from the liquid (which is your simple syrup). Keep both. Store in the fridge until ready for use.
4 tablespoons Simple Syrup
1 shot of vodka
1/2 cup seltzer water
Stir together all ingredients and add ice & a couple of the extra cranberries for garnish.
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup
1 glass dry white wine
Mix simple syrup in to wine glass with wine. Add a couple of the extra cranberries for garnish.
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup
1 glass champagne
1 lime wedge
Mix simple syrup in to wine glass with wine. Add a couple of the extra cranberries & lime wedge for garnish.
These Thanksgiving cocktails will be the best “dish” of the holidays without having to cook a thing!
Anytime I bring a homemade food item over to a party, I panic that no one is going to eat it. In fact, I’m typically the one having 5 servings of my dish just to make it appear popular (and edible).
On the contrary, one of my best friends Alison is a not only a natural host but an amazing cook as well. She makes it all appear effortless as she’s opening her oven pulling out something amazing right as the guests arrive. And to top it off her husband makes the best cocktails. They’re literally the most perfect party hosting couple ever.
Meanwhile at my house before a party I’m running around like crazy, unnecessarily cleaning areas that guests will never see, making Joe fix my destroyed concoction in the oven, and likely with a glass of wine to calm my nerves.
I asked Alison to share her recipe for her famous bacon wrap appetizers. This is probably my favorite party appetizer ever especially because it’s so simple to make!
Whole water chestnuts
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup hot sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
Cut bacon strips in half, roll chestnuts in bacon and secure with toothpick. Place on a cookie sheet (with a lip for grease) and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min-1 hour until bacon is crisp.
Mix mayonnaise, brown sugar and hot sauce. Pour over cooked wraps!
May you appetizer be so popular that you never have to chow down on it again!
I am NOT good in the kitchen. I repeat I’m good in the kitchen. My husband jokingly reminds of ‘that one time’ when I couldn’t find prosciutto at Trader Joes so I bought a different type of cheese instead. Yes, you read that correctly. I thought prosciutto was cheese. And yes, this was only a couple years ago.
But what I am a pro at is finding good dishes that save time, money & stress. And this breakfast casserole checks off all three. Plus it’s great for a brunch with friends or to make on a Sunday and portion out for breakfasts for the week ( = time saving during the week). And an extra time saving plus is that you compile the ingredients the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning. Doesn’t get much easier than that. Well, besides going out to a restaurant for brunch 🙂 , but that would be cheating.
So here goes…..
9 slices of white bread (cut in to 1 inch chunks)
3 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb bulk sausage (you can use chicken sausage) chopped up in 1/2 pieces
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Mix eggs & milk in a large bowl. Add in bread, salt & dry mustard. Mix again. Finally add the cheese and sausage. Cover bowl and put in fridge overnight.
Wake up the next morning. Grab a coffee. Bake covered in a 9×13 pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Try with different types of cheese! Anything you have in the fridge.
Replace white bread for French bread (I’ve even mixed in a couple left over hamburger buns).
For the last 10 minutes in the oven, I take off the cover and bake sans cover. My oven seems to bakes at odd temperatures. (or at least that’s the excuse I keep telling everyone 🙂 )
With all that extra time you save in the morning, grab yourself a mimosas!