September 12, 2018

Creative Ideas for Better Breakfast Month | September

September is Better Breakfast Month and every year I try to take this as an opportunity to reset my breakfast habits. Growing up, we ate a lot of those little pecan spinwheels or cereal, of which neither were the greatest options for keeping a kid full. Plus, they were high in sugar and just not too healthy.

I've heard my entire life how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps me think more clearly and just puts me in a better mood.

According to WebMD, the basic formula for breakfast is carbs + protein. The carbs give your body energy to get started and your brain the fuel it needs to take on the day. Protein gives you staying power and helps you feel full until your next meal. So I'm trying to branch out a bit with my breakfasts. A girl can only eat so much fruit and oatmeal, am I right?

Here are a few options that might inspire you to eat a better breakfast during September and beyond!

Take Your Toast to the Next Level 

I promise this isn't another blog post featuring avocado toast. I, too, jumped on the avo-toast bandwagon for awhile, but there are so many other options to take your toast to the next level! 

I'm loving the new flavors of hummus from Lantana, including beet, edamame, and white bean. They are great on toast and packed with protein to help you feel full longer. I also recently tried pumpkin seed butter, which was pretty tasty and great on toast as well. Sprinkle on a bit of shredded coconut or flax seed for added flavor. 

Not a fan of toast? Try a whole grain toaster waffle with nut butter or another spread. I promise you, there's a combination that you'll just might have to get creative to find it! 

Yogurt Parfait with Pizzazz 

Instead of your usual yogurt parfait, why not try a yogurt breakfast cone? I was inspired by Van's Foods for this one and it is delish! 

All you need is your favorite yogurt (I like the plain Greek kind from Fage) and some fruit and toppings. This is just about as easy as it gets y'all! And so easy to take on the go. But safety first....please don't try to eat it while driving! 

Egg Bread Boats 

My final Better Breakfast recipe is one that's apparently made the rounds in the blogosphere, but I haven't tried it until now. French toast has always been a favorite of mine, but this recipe gives it a new twist. Hollowed out french bread filled with egg, cheese and veggie goodness....what's not to love? 

(Image credit: The Kitchn Christine Han)

August 8, 2018

Treats for National S'mores Day!

There's a holiday for everything, including one of my favorite summer treats: S'mores! I don't know who came up with this near perfect combination of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate but I hope they know how grateful we all are for their contribution to the world.

In honor of National S'mores Day, I've got some fun and simple ways to enjoy this classic treat, but with a twist!

Unless you go camping often or have an awesome fire pit at home, it can be hard to make traditional s'mores on a regular basis. That's why I'm thinking outside the box for these fun ways to enjoy a delicious flavor combination.

S'mores Trail Mix 

Who's to say you can't enjoy s'mores in a less messy, less flammable way? S'mores trail mix is a great option for back to school snacks or lunches. Plus it's fun to make so the entire family can get involved in the process. 

All you need is your favorite graham cereal (Golden Grahams or something similar), mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Stir it together and voila! You could also use chocolate covered peanuts or raisins for a bit of a different flavor. This cute blogger also added pretzel sticks - full recipe here. 

S'mores in a Bowl 

Another fun and less messy way to enjoy s'mores is in waffle bowls made for ice cream! Fill with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips and broil on low for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on them and don't let the marshmallows burn! You could also make these on the grill with a little bit of foil. Inspired by the archives of blogger Jane.  

S'mores with a Twist 

Finally, why not consider changing things up a bit? You can make s'mores with any type of cookies, chocolate and marshmallows you want. 

Three combos I tried were: 

Strawberry marshmallows + chocolate graham crackers + cookies & cream white choco bar
Coconut marshmallows + shortbread cookies + caramel candy bar 
Maple marshmallows + oatmeal cookies + classic choco bar 

The folks at Campfire marshmallows have even more flavor combos to consider! Click here to try them. 

July 30, 2018

Loss is a River

Loss is a river that flows inside you, making its way as only water can, with unrelenting pressure that keeps it always moving on its journey. When a barrier presents itself, the river creates new paths and channels that weren't there before.

To live with loss is to learn how to navigate these waters.

Sometimes you sit quietly by the river's banks and lose yourself in thoughts of something altogether lovely, even while the pain it carries keeps rushing past. You hear the sound of the water and maybe even feel a splash or two on your arms and face, but remain at a distance.

Then there are times when the water calls to you. So you kick off your shoes and peel off your socks, leaving them in a heap in the grass while you step carefully into the shallows. The cold sensation feels invigorating for a moment, but the sharp rocks hiding in the murky riverbed bruise your tender feet.

Other times, the sheer force of the loss you feel causes the river to burst from its banks and spread over the adjacent land or floodplain.

No stranger to this occurrence, the floodplain is low lying ground which exists solely for this purpose...waiting to catch the flood and the debris it carries with it.

Floodplains are not made of just one material, but instead all kinds of different things that have been carried from where they began, which is often an indeterminable source, and deposited after having traveled a long journey.

The loss we feel doesn't play by any rules, especially not social constructs of time and space. The river can be millions upon millions of years old and travel hundreds of miles. And it can carve out a gorge right through your very being that rivals the Grand Canyon.

But life finds a way to go on. And the river flows. Sometimes it's a mighty rushing force. Other times just a trickle across a dry and dusty riverbed.

July 25, 2018

Simple Ideas for a DIY Shark Party

Sharks are basically the rock stars of the ocean world. Brooding and mysterious. Elusive and unpredictable. And what a dedicated fan base! In honor of Shark Week, which is basically like a national holiday, I've got some fun and simple ideas for a DIY shark party!

For some simple treats, how about blue jelly beans and fish shaped candies? These look great in small paper cups, for a bite-sized serving (get it, BITE?).

Or what about a candy made from sharks' favorite water? Salt water taffy of course! Served up in some cute cups topped with these shark party favors is simple and fun!

Sandy Toes & Popsicles shared this awesome Shark Bark, which seems like it would be pretty simple to make. What a cute idea! Get full recipe here.

Other food ideas include "Seaweed Dip" (spinach dip) with blue corn chips, which look a little like shark fins or cheese wedges aka shark teeth (both inspired by Craftiness is Not Optional).

And of course you need a signature drink for any good shark party! I got inspired by the Suburban Soapbox with this Shark Attack Cocktail....kid friendly and delicious! You could also pick up a cheap glass fishbowl (I found one at Hobby Lobby for less than $10) and use that to serve your punch!

Want to make your own DIY party treat bags? I whipped these up in just a few minutes using scraps of paper and a glue stick. The bags are from a local craft store and you could get gray or another shade of blue if you prefer.

I hope these ideas inspired you to throw a 'fin'tastic shark party of your own!

July 11, 2018

Simple Ways to Be Happy

Are you happy? Like truly happy? There's a big difference between feeling happy on a particular day and having a general feeling of happiness all the time. 

The good news is that even if you find yourself feeling less than happy, there are always things you can do to increase this feeling. 

I recently read a book called "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People," written by Meik Wiking. Wiking also wrote a book about hygge the Danish phenomenon of coziness. The book was a great little read, with lots of simple and practical tips that I felt like I could do. 

Here are my suggestions for a few simple ways to be happy: 

Make Something

Creativity is closely tied to happiness for me because I just feel happier when I am creating. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece of art or writing. Just a little simple Pinterest-inspired craft can really go a long way towards making me feel happier. 

There's something about exercising this creativity muscle that gives me a lot of joy. 

Some of the projects I've done recently include custom canvas tote bags decorated with iron on glitter letters and Sharpie pens, as well as some little art canvases that feature a few of my favorite quotes. 

You don't have to do anything with the things you make. You don't even have to show them to anyone. Give it a try! 

Do Something for Someone Else 

When I'm feeling blue, a surefire way to feel happier is by doing something for someone else. This past year, I've been trying to get more involved in my community and looking for ways to do something for my neighbors. 

This search for a place to give back led me to Girls Inc., a mentoring organization that I volunteered with during the 2017/2018 school year. Just one hour a week allowed me to spend time with some amazing 3rd, 4th and 5th grade young ladies. 

We did arts & crafts, chatted about life and got to know each other. This was truly one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a place to get involved. 

Another local organization I have gotten to know is Sunshine Industries & The Arc Knoxville. The Arc Knox County is a non-profit organization that offers programs and services for people with intellectual disabilities in Knox County. 

They were gracious to invite me to do a craft project with them and I had so much fun, I have already made plans to go back! 

Eat Something Delicious

Did you know there are foods that claim to make you feel happier? I'm not sure if I fully believe it, but I never said no to something delicious so I'm willing to give it a try. 

This article lists several foods to eat for increased happiness, and includes dark chocolate, coconut and Greek yogurt. 

I decided to combine these to create a little happiness parfait....even if there's no scientific proof, it tastes great! 

Using ingredients from Trader Joe's, I made a greek yogurt parfait with dark chocolate pudding and included a bit of coconut granola, shredded coconut and raspberries. 

Tasty and easy to make! 

Happiness is relative, meaning that it looks different for each of us. Sometimes happiness is being surrounded by the ones we love and other times it is a peaceful quiet with tea and good book. I hope whatever makes you happy is plentiful in your life right now! 

July 4, 2018

Free to Be You & Me

"Freedom lies in being bold." -- Robert Frost

What does freedom mean to you? There are so many freedoms we take for granted, but for me the biggest area of struggle when it comes to freedom is being myself.

Do you feel free to be yourself all the time? If the is answer is yes, I'm jealous. Oh I have moments where I can be myself. Times spent with certain people who give me permission to let my little weird flag fly. But like Cookie Monster says about his favorite treat, for me freedom is a "sometimes food." I only let myself indulge in it when the conditions are just right.

And then I wonder if I even know who 'myself' is anyway. While there are things we all share as humans, I've always felt like I was just a bit different than the rest. And definitely not in a "I'm so much better than the rest" kind of way, just in an "I feel like the rest doesn't always get me" sort of way.

For example, did you know my favorite show to watch as a kid was one where a lady taught cursive writing on a big chalkboard? I can still hear her voice as she instructed viewers to "close the loop" on certain letters.

Something else you might not know about me is that I have gone through many periods of obsession about different topics, reading as many books as I could to learn as much as I could. Some of these topics include but are not limited to: Elvis, the Holocaust, and being in the mafia.

It wasn't hard for me to make friends as a kid, but often I found myself going along with the crowd or doing things to try and fit in. The dearest friends I've made over the years, who were like little beacons of light dropped out of the darkness, are the ones I didn't have to compromise myself with.

Even if they didn't always understand my little oddities, they just let me be. But life happens and we've found ourselves flung to opposite sides of the country, or at least 100 miles away. And my friends who live close by are also dear to me but we don't always get to see each other as often as I'd like.

And now it feels oh so much harder to make friends as an adult.

I have some wonderful friends in my world, but you can always use a couple more, right? I shared this on Instagram, which felt really scary and vulnerable, but apparently others feel this way because it sparked a conversation.

I definitely feel free to be myself with my husband, thank goodness. I can't imagine trying to keep up that sort of a charade 24/7. And I think he feels free to be himself with me. But I'm sure there are people who think they know us, or some version of us. And they'd probably be surprised by what they don't know.

Like how after our most beautiful, magical wedding that we'd waited more than a decade for, we had the hardest year of our relationship on record. Our second year was only somewhat better because we were committed to seeing it through, with the help of an amazing counselor who is part of the reason we're still in it to win it today -- for real.

I've heard friends make snide or belittling comments about someone they know who is "in therapy." Like you're some sort of failure if you need to seek help. Total BS.

Our couples' therapy helped us start learning about who we are and maybe more importantly, how to start communicating in healthier ways....which we DID NOT learn from our parents (sorry mom & dad). They didn't learn it from their parents either so it's totally not their fault. We don't always get it right, but who cares? It's a work in progress.

I also see an individual counselor who has helped me look at all sorts of things to try and figure out who I am and who I want to be. A big theme that keeps coming up is this desire I have to be in a community, whatever that looks like. And this is what got me thinking about friends, and connection, and authenticity in the first place. So I'm trying to be more connected. To make more of an effort to get together with the friends I already have as well as seeking a few new ones.

As part of that effort, last night I invited a dear friend to join me for a swim at our neighborhood pool. I've really tried to get more involved in my community this past year or so and that includes in my neighborhood. Joining the pool last summer helped us meet some neighbors so we decided to join again this summer.

My pal and I were swimming and chatting with a neighbor lady who shared with us that a couple weeks prior she had lost her son to suicide. I think she just needed someone to talk to so we tried to be good listeners while I sobbed silently under my sunglasses.

She said he always felt like he didn't belong. That he could never quite find his place to fit. But that at his memorial service, nearly 200 people attended and shared how much he meant to them. "If only he had known how much he was loved," she said.

She said she felt like telling his story was a way to honor his life and also a way to possibly help someone else who might be in pain. And I think she's right about this. So I'm telling you. He was only 36. An age that used to sound ancient but now that I am here, feels like practically still a kid.

There's so much I don't know. So many things I haven't even begun to fathom. But this is something I do know for sure. We were each created with something beautiful to add to the world. And even though I believe there's life after this one, when that beauty is gone from this world, it's such a loss. To all of us. I've already been thinking about this a lot after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I wanted to write something about it but really didn't know what I wanted to say.

I hope you feel free today. Free from pain and self-hate. Free from loneliness and isolation. And free to be your most beautiful self. The one you were created to be.

June 21, 2018

Things to do on the first day of summer

Today (June 21st) is the first official day of summer. It's already been hot in Tennessee for a little while, but as far as temperatures and humidity goes....we ain't seen nothing yet.

The first day of summer doesn't quite have the same feeling as it might have had at one time.

Most school kids have been on vacation for weeks now. Nearly everybody I know has been on or is about to go on some vacation. So in some ways, the first official day of summer feels like an afterthought.

To make it feel a little bit more special, here are some easy ways to celebrate the first official day of summer. Pick just one from the list, or maybe select several. Make it fun. Start summer with a bang! 

:: Wear a tube top. 

:: Set up a lemonade stand in front of your house. Or better yet, buy a cup of lemonade from a neighborhood kid. 

:: Eat one of those giant dill pickles from the gas station. 

:: Watch the film Gidget starring Sandra Dee. Daydream about who you'd rather have a summer fling with...Moondoggie or Kahuna. 

:: Run into a local laundry mat and leave a big stack of quarters on top of one or more of the washers as a nice surprise for someone doing their laundry. 

:: Read the poem Fat Southern Men in Summer Suits by Liam Rector. 

:: Listen to the Boys of Summer by Don Henley. Sing along. 

:: Eat Popsicles for breakfast and popcorn for dinner. Do not feel one bit guilty about it. 

:: Move your couch into the garage underneath a window air conditioner. Fall asleep as the cool air blows on your skin, just like it used to when you'd nap at your grandma's house during childhood. 

:: Find the nearest pool and go for a dip. 
:: Call up your best friend from high school and reminisce about the way you used to spend the summers of your youth. 

:: Eat cold spaghetti out of a bowl while standing in front of the refrigerator. 

:: Shoot off some fireworks (but be careful -- those things can burn you or put out an eye). 

:: Find a giant silk scarf and tie it around your hair like a turban. 

:: Don a pair of running shorts with stiletto heels for an impromptu trip to the grocery store. Buy the fancy mustard, a jar of expensive olives and three different kinds of imported cheese.

:: Spread out a beach towel (or blanket) on the floor of your living room. Have a late night picnic. Serve the aforementioned snacks. 

:: Fill your yard with pink flamingos. 

:: Create a signature cocktail using wacky ingredients and swear to drink it all summer long! 
Here are some ideas if you need inspiration: 

3 Summer Drink Recipes | Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake | Mint Tea Moonshine | Bee-tini

:: Tap into your inner drama queen/king with a recitation of Catherine's monologue from the Tennessee Williams play Suddenly Last Summer. Do it with fervor. 

:: Take a boat ride. Or a train ride. Or a bike ride.

:: Sit on your front porch and wave to the passersby like you are a visiting dignitary. 

:: Wear your good perfume. The expensive one you only save for special occasions. 

:: Make up a silly dance and see if you can convince someone to do it with you. 

Have a WONDERFUL Summer!

Wishing you lots of

June 13, 2018

Father's Day Gifts for $25 or Less

Father's Day is a special occasion to celebrate the truly special guys in our lives. And there are so many different ways you can celebrate dad, from a home cooked meal to a nice dinner out, or even a picnic in the park.

Beyond treating dad to some good eats, you may also want to present him with some sort of gift for the occasion.

Today, my friend posted her grievances on social media about how it seems like Father's Day advertisers have stereotyped dear ol' dad with a short list of gifts which fall into certain categories...

In her post, she said her husband doesn't "play golf, go fishing, eat steak, grill out, or care about football."

I agree with her that we could expand our horizons just a little bit. Not all dads fit into one category or another. Each is individual and unique. But sometimes it's easy to lump them all into one group.

I'm sharing some gift ideas for a few different kinds of dads, but hopefully these go beyond the typical grilling, golf or football-loving dad options.

Gifts for the Laid-Back Dad

So maybe your dad is kinda laid back. He probably loves casual clothes, easy Sunday afternoons, and carefree fun. This sort of dad might enjoy a retro graphic t-shirt (by Well Worn) or even the quintessential Father's Day option that says "Best Dad Ever." 

The laid-back dad doesn't take himself too seriously, which is why he's stoked to wear matching socks with his munchkin (designed in Portland, via Pair of Thieves). Maybe he wants to enjoy his favorite tunes while hanging out at the he can with this cool waterproof wireless Bluetooth speaker by Buxton (bottom left). 

And who says he wouldn't enjoy a six pack of his favorite beer, served up cold in his own wooden caddy, with a bottle opener right on the side? For the DIY Dad, there's even a "build-your-own" version. Or you can always opt for ready made. 

Gifts for the Active Dad

So this is the dad who never sits still. Maybe he's always training for that next ultra-marathon. Or perhaps he just enjoys weekend hikes with the family. He's probably the first to be up for any adventure, whether it's camping out or hopping in the car for an impromptu road trip. 

Gifts for the active dad might include a portable LED lantern for that next great camping trip. He might also like a hydration backpack, great for having water on the go. Or maybe your active dad needs a new Kleen Kanteen, in a cool dad-approved color like olive drab. 

I even found a really cool line of candles from Upper Classic, in fragrances that even dads would enjoy. The "Rugged" variety smells of cedar and citrus, while the "Brilliant" version (shown below for the jet-setter dad) has the essence of green tea, ginger and lemongrass. 

Gifts for the Jet-Setter Dad

This dad is a little less Old Spice and a little more Calvin Klein. He travels. He enjoys the finer things in life. He wants to look good and feel good. This is why he always carries a handkerchief. Add to his collection with this three pack (top center). 

Harry's Men's Razors (bottom right) are a great gift for the jet-setter dad, plus they offer a subscription option to get refill blades delivered to dad at home. The gift that keeps on giving! 

And if dad isn't so much about shaving, but is more about taming his colossal beard, then maybe Maestro's Beard Care line is the right choice. This product line boasts its water solubility, to bring moisture to the skin and hair. They claim to give you results such as instant soothing and a less itchy beard. 

Maybe dad also needs a new dopp kit to hold all his ultra luxe toiletries. This great one from Swiss Army is sleek and sturdy, with lots of compartments for keeping everything in order on even the bumpiest flights. 

Each of these gifts (or combination of gifts - for example the Maestro's beard care products) are $25 or less. I found them at Target but you can find many of these products from other sources. I wasn't compensated to feature products from's just one of my favorite places to shop. 

I hope this has inspired you a little bit to think outside the box for dad on Father's Day this year. There's no reason you can't give dad a memorable day/gift without breaking the bank. 

May 30, 2018

Simple Summer Drink Recipes - Southern Style

Summer is almost here and it's a popular time for parties and other get-togethers. Don't just serve your guests boring beverages...think outside the box with some creative concoctions!

Here are three fun and simple drink recipes you might want to try this summer! They are perfect for everything from a backyard barbecue to a fancy bridal shower and everything in between.

Blackberry Lemonade 

There are a couple different ways you can make this delicious summer drink, one is a bit more labor intensive and the other is easy as can be!

For the recipe that's a bit more work, you need to make a simple syrup of blackberries and sugar. You'll need about a pound of blackberries, 1 cup of sugar and a half cup of water.

Bring the berries, sugar, and water to a boil in a saucepan over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft, for five minutes. Then remove it from heat and let it sit to cool. You can pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing gently it in and tossing the solids. Or you can use it with the berries and all, it's your preference.

Now pour this blackberry syrup mixture into a pitcher and add lemonade. I like the low-calorie version from Trader Joe's but you can use your favorite store-brand or make it from scratch.

The simpler method for blackberry lemonade requires, of all things, blackberry jam! Since this is my favorite type of jam, I always have a jar of the homemade variety on hand. Don't go thinking that I make it, but I have positioned myself well among talented jam-smiths (is that a thing?) who keep my larders fully stocked.

Add a teaspoon of blackberry jam to the bottom of a glass and top it with lemonade. I actually prefer a fizzy lemon soda which makes this drink seem even more special.

Best Homemade Peach Iced Tea Recipe 

Okay, now I know you're probably thinking...what's so special about peach iced tea? Seriously, what isn't special about it? The refreshing perfection of brisk iced tea mixed with the sweetness of peaches ripened on the tree in the summer sun! Need I say more?

I have a great secret for making peach tea and it's so easy. Two words....peach nectar. You can buy great quality peach nectar at most fancier grocery stores. I got mine at the Fresh Market on the same aisle with the cocktail mixers.

Of course you can make your own peach syrup (similar to the blackberry syrup above) but if you don't have time, go the easy route. Basically you just mix the peach nectar into your tea according to your tastes.

Another trick I like to use is to freeze some of the peach nectar in an ice cube tray. Then, you can just drop the peach cubes into the tea and enjoy more of a hint of flavor as they melt.

Easy & Delicious Non-Alcoholic Bloody Mary 

I've never made a Bloody Mary but the southern beau and I had one the other day at a great local eatery and ever since, I've been thinking about trying it out at home.

I grabbed a bottle of Fat & Juicy Bloody Mary mix at the Fresh Market and while perusing the drink aisle, I saw a four-pack of Dry cucumber soda.

For a simple and tasty non-alcoholic Bloody Mary, mix equal parts of the tomato juice mixture with the cucumber soda and voila, that's all there is to it. You can add vodka if you want a more spirited concoction but I think it's pretty tasty without it. This recipe is great for a summer brunch or a picnic!

And there you have it...three simple summer drink recipes! Don't forget to liven up your summer parties with some tasty treats. And always drink responsibly!

May 16, 2018

How to Host a Royal Wedding Watch Party

Saturday May 18th is the day that Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle will say their "I do's." Will you be watching the Royal Wedding and hosting a Royal Wedding watch party? If you do watch, you'll be among an estimated more than 3 billion other viewers tuning in to witness Great Britain's Prince Harry wed his bride, Meghan Markle.

Since my invitation obviously got lost in the mail, I won't be in attendance at St. George's Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle. I paid a visit to this site on my first ever trip abroad, as a recent high school grad traveling with friends. I remember how lush and green everything was and how knowledgeable I felt after having just finished my senior year of high school honors English, which was all about British history. What a nerd I was/am.

Just because most of us none of us will be in attendance at the wedding, it doesn't mean we can't celebrate the occasion. Want to throw your own royal wedding watch party? Here are some simple, last minute tips to enjoy the festivities.

How to Watch the Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding will be shown on several networks, including NBC and PBS. Most coverage begins around 4 a.m. EST. 

Decor for a Royal Wedding Watch Party

Set the tone for your Royal Wedding party with some festive decorations such as Union Jack flags and anything with crowns, British symbolism or images of the monarchy on it. 

I found a cool clock at the thrift store that said "London" on the face and thought it would be neat to use that as a decoration for my party, set to London time of course. 

Food for a Royal Wedding Watch Party 

Rumor is that the Royal Wedding cake will be a lemon and elderflower confection, which sounds perfectly heavenly and just lovely for springtime. I wasn't able to find anything about the history of this particular flavor combination. However, the elder tree is said to be a symbol of transformation, and "the crossing of thresholds." So that makes sense. 

For a much simpler variation of this sweet treat, I opted to make lemon elderflower parfaits. 

All you need are some good store-bought Madeline cookies, which I crumbled up in parfait glasses. Then I topped them with a bit of blueberry jam and some lemon curd. Drizzle some elderflower syrup or liquer over it and top with whipped cream. 

As for other snacks, you might want to snag some authentic English goodies to nibble on. My local grocery store has an International aisle, but World Market is also a great place to visit for traditional British snacks and sweets. McVitie's Digestives, Hobknobs, and Walker shortbread are all tasty options. Here's a fun guide to British biscuits, in case you were wondering what's what. 

As for drinks to serve at your Royal Wedding viewing party, tea is a must have! I have been drinking PG Tips, a popular brand in the UK. Make sure to serve plenty of milk and sugar too. 

For a signature cocktail to enjoy during your Royal Wedding watching party, how about incorporating the elderflower again, which should pair nicely with the royal wedding cake. Belvoir is a good option and available at many grocery stores, including The Fresh Market and Whole Foods. Add a splash of Pimm's for a spirited cocktail or drink the Belvoir by itself. It's really tasty! 

Favors for the Royal Wedding Watch Party 

If your guests are good enough sports to get up early and come to your house at the crack of dawn, at least make it worth their while with some fun favors. 

Butter mints or Jordan Almonds in little wedding favor boxes might be appreciated. You could also make DIY scented sachets using dried herbs or rice and essential oils. 

I hope you enjoy the Royal Wedding festivities however you choose to partake. Some might think it's silly for everyone to get so wrapped up in it all, but there's a part of me that feels hopeful that something happy and joyous could bring so many people together. People celebrating love and wishing someone well...What's the harm in that? 

May 2, 2018

How to Throw a Dog Party

May is National Pet Month and around my house, 'pets' = dogs. In fact, my husband and I share our home with three of them. Our dogs, a yorkie, a chihuahua and a terrier mix, are all rescued from local shelters and are all fairly small. Having small dogs works better for us in our small to medium sized mid-century home.

But that doesn't mean I've never pondered the idea of living in even less space. And I'm not alone. Lots of people are embracing minimalism and even opting to live in tiny homes. My best friend's daughter, who is currently in middle school, already has plans of living in a tiny home one day, with a few dogs of her own.

So when I got the opportunity to throw a dog party, along with my BFF yorkie girl Ruthie, in a tiny home, I jumped at the chance!

Planning a Dog Party 

When planning a dog party, it's important to manage your expectations. Dogs are man's best friend, but partying with our pampered pooches might be a little unpredictable.

Consider your guest list before you send out any invites. Which of your pal's dogs are most likely to get along with each other and enjoy the party? Make sure to consider your space and keep things manageable.

Time of day matters when party planning too. If you have a party during what is traditionally a lunch or dinner hour of the day, your guests will expect to be fed a meal. If you plan on serving lighter appetizers or just desserts, time your party right.

Brunch parties are always fun too! 

Creating a Custom Invitation for a Dog Party

Invitations always set the tone for any party, since this is the first thing your guest is going to see to let them know what fun is to come! 

I love the look of classic cut-out silhouette art so I decided to recreate this style with my dog party invitations. 

First, I created a template in Microsoft Publisher, but you could use whatever program you prefer. If you'd like to access a PDF of my invitation, with fill-in-the-blank options, click here. I had mine printed at a local print shop on nice cardstock. I left the space on the right side blank so I could add a bit of my own style with the hand-cut dog silhouettes. 

To create these, I just gathered a couple small photos of dogs and cut out just the outline. You can also do a Google search for "dog silhouette" and you'll find TONS of options to use for inspiration. Once I had my dog silhouettes picked out, I created those same shapes in bright colorful cardstock. 

Ruthie supervised the entire process, but was really no help at all. 

Finally, I glued my cut-out silhouettes to the cardstock invitations. 

I really love the way these turned out! 

For the envelopes, I chose some plain brown paper ones and gave them a little bit of pizzazz with a stamp technique. Using acrylic paint, I added a bright pink puppy paw to each envelope. Like I said, the invites are really what set the tone for the party so your guests will know something fun is inside this envelope before they even open it! 

Who wouldn't want to attend what is sure to be a tail waggin' good time? Now that you've got your invitations taken care of, it's time to get to my favorite part of any party, the food and decorations! 

Decorations & Food Ideas for a Dog Party 

To really create a memorable dog party, it's important to set the scene. Contrary to popular belief that dogs are color-blind, they do actually see some colors, including blue and yellow. So Ruthie & I made sure to use plenty of those shades for our party, including a bright blue tablecloth as a backdrop for other punchy shades. 

Use party hats in bright colors instead of a big floral centerpiece. This will add lots of color to your table, but still be dog-friendly. I also found some multi-colored cardboard cake rounds from the baking section of my local party supply store. Then I snagged some cardstock circles in vibrant hues from the scrapbooking department. These are an inexpensive way to add more color to your decor. 

When planning the food for your dog party, consider delicious options that guests can eat in a couple of bites. Since your guests might have to double as dog wranglers, they probably don't need to try and eat anything too involved. No spaghetti please! 

Antipasti salads on wooden skewers are always a crowd-pleaser. I made mine with cured salami, pepperocini, green & black olives, and small mozzarella bites. 

When in a smaller space, I find that it helps to serve your food buffet style and create small stations where people can enjoy different things as they move about the party. 

I also grabbed a few doggie food dishes at my local Dollar store and used these (after washing them) as serving dishes for popcorn and other snacks. It definitely helped keep with the theme and made for a fun conversation piece. 

Another great dog party food option is some type of slider or mini sandwich. You can't go wrong with ham and Swiss on Hawaiian rolls with a pickle on top. I have said this before, but the secret to planning memorable parties is all about presentation. You can put out a few bags of chips and open some plastic tubs of dip for a so-so gathering, or you can put in a tiny bit more effort and pay attention to how things are presented, for a really wow-worthy shindig. 

Small plastic stemware from your local Dollar store makes a great way to serve some individual cups of guacamole with a few pita chips. I snagged some colorful doggie chew toys (including the cute braided rope pictured below) to use as an accent on my food serving station. 

Some other doggie chew toys from the Dollar store made a great addition to the decor, scattered around the table and food serving station.

For beverages, Ruthie & I decided on a variety of flavors of classic sodas, which we served in a big metal tub. You could also create a signature drink for your dog party, like this cherry soda mocktail, made with cherry syrup and club soda (or your favorite lemon-lime soda) over ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a brightly colored paper straw. Cheers!

And we can't have a dog party without at least one treat for the dogs! I found a great recipe for a healthy doggie treat made with pumpkin and peanut butter on the blog Pinch of Yum.

These were super easy to make and a BIG hit with the pups in attendance at our party!

Pet-Friendly Party Favors for a Dog Party

Something else you might want to consider when planning your dog party is what to give your guests as a favor to remember all the fun they had!

Ruthie and I had a blast making these fun custom tote bags as party favors for our guests. To make these, all you need is:

1) Plain canvas tote bags
2) Iron-on letters & shapes 
3) An iron 

We selected gold glittery letters in a classic font as well as a few pink glittery hearts. These, plus the canvas totes were purchased at my local craft store. Using the letters, we created bags that said fun dog-related phrases, such as "Arf," "Wag More," and "I (Heart) Dogs!"

You could also customize your canvas tote bags with the names of various furry friends in attendance at the party. What a fun favor to leave the party with!

Enjoying Your Dog Party! 

After all your party planning is complete, the best part is getting to enjoy your fabulous shindig. Our guests seemed to have a wonderful time. Even my Yorkie Ruthie, who is normally a refined English lady, let her hair down enough to hop up onto the table. Keep in mind that dog parties don't have the same etiquette rules as people parties and a dog on the table means it was a success!

We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our dog party in the beautiful tiny home. It served as the most beautiful backdrop for our event and with just 452 square feet, we had plenty of space for everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.

From planning and creating our dog party invitations to gathering our food and drinks, decorating for the party and entertaining our guests, this was a truly memorable experience for my adopted dog Ruthie and me. And finally, it was fun to send everyone home with their custom tote bags!

I hope your next dog party is as fun as ours!