July 30, 2015

How to Throw a Slumber Party

When I was growing up in the late 80s and 90s, slumber parties were the thing to do on Friday nights. My then group of girlfriends was known to have them regularly, each of us taking turns convincing our parents to host gaggles of silly giggling teens for the evening.

This was all before social media (thank goodness!) and the advent of today's technology, so I like to think that our shenanigans were pretty innocent. The activities varied depending on whose house we happened to be staying at.

My friend Cayce had a big rope swing that provided much outdoor amusement. At Beth's house, we played cut-throat games of Monopoly until the wee hours of the morning. And Lindsey's mom always made beignets for breakfast. But the central focus of most of the slumber parties I attended was something called "The Dance Game." We'd divide up into teams and choreograph dance routines to perform. We went all out with costumes, musical soundtracks, hair & make-up, the works. And all of this was done without iPods, without YouTube, without any way to even record that it happened.

Sometimes I long for those simple days. But there's nothing to say we can't re-capture some of the magic of it. Why not throw a grown-up slumber party for your best friends?

Summer is wrapping up as students where I live head back to school. I'm stopping by Fox43 to share some simple ideas for an "End of Summer Slumber Party." I hope it inspires you!

1) DIY Popcorn Station

What goes better with staying up all night gossiping than popcorn? I went to a lovely girls' night out party recently at the home of blogger Decorella and she set up a popcorn bar, complete with toppings of all kinds. I was so inspired by her idea that I decided to adapt it for a slumber party!

All you need is plain popcorn, oil spray and some different spices. Decorella Danielle used store-bought coconut oil spray to mist the popcorn before sprinkling on various spice toppings. Or if you happen to have an oil mister, that works too.

Some examples of spices to have on hand for your guests to try:
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • Garlic Salt
  • Cumin
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Ranch Seasoning
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Lemon Pepper  
Yum! Such a perfect slumber party snack!

2) Slumber Party Treats

image & inspiration via 
Instead of spending your time in the kitchen, why not serve up some of your favorite old fashioned candy? Nobody really thinks about slumber parties as dinner parties....it's after dinner and late into the night when all the real fun takes place. 

I had the most fun shopping for all my favorite candy that I enjoyed during my teens. Things I never eat now, but just for a special occasion like a slumber party. 

Some old school candy to try at a slumber party - 
  1. Sweet Tarts
  2. Nerds
  3. Bubble Gum
  4. Twizzlers
  5. Cotton Candy 

3) Girl's Night Spa Masque 

As we get older, it's time we were taking better care of our skin. At the slumber parties of my childhood, I never thought about washing my face before bed. But now, it's a different story. To help ease the transition, why not try a DIY facial masque at your next sleepover! 

Start with bananas for a simple mask, because they are inexpensive and really pack a punch for your skin. Not only do bananas contain Vitamin A to help diminish dark spots, blemishes and rough skin, but they also have Vitamin B and Potassium which may delay aging and moisturize. You can use bananas alone or with other key ingredients to really treat your skin's unique issues. 

Here's the skinny on various combos to try - 

Plain Banana (mashed) - Apply to face for 15 minutes and rinse with cold water to have more glowing, evenly toned skin. 

Banana (mashed) + Honey - This combo (same application as above) rids your skin of bacteria, helps eliminate acne and brightens skin. 

Banana (mashed) + Turmeric - Great antibacterial properties to keep blemishes away. 

Banana (mashed) + Greek Yogurt - Tightens skin and lessens the appearance of larger pores.

What other ideas do you have for a memorable slumber party? I hope you are inspired to throw a slumber party soon! And when someone's bra or panties end up in the freezer, you'll know the party was a success! 

July 16, 2015

Celebrate Blueberries with 3 Simple Recipes

July is National Blueberry Month and what better way to celebrate this adorable fruit than by eating them? Did you know that when it comes to health, blueberries really pack a punch. They are jam packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can run rampant in your body. Plus, they are a great way to get Vitamin C and fiber. They may help lower blood pressure and could improve your short-term memory. What's not to love? 

I'm joining my friends on Knoxville's Fox43 to share some simple recipes that you might want to try as you are eating more blueberries this month and on into August. This is definitely their time of year to shine, so take advantage of the great selection in stores and at your local farmer's markets now! 

1) Artisan Bread w/ Blueberries & Ricotta 

I tried a similar version of this recipe at Marche in East Nashville, except it had peaches in place of the blueberries. It left such a lasting impression on me because it was just so darn beautiful when the server brought it to the table. Plus, it was decadent, but also wholesome...that might seem like a strange combination. But it was! 

To make it, all you need is some good quality artisan bread, blueberries, ricotta cheese and honey. 

Now if you have time, I'd recommend making your own homemade ricotta. Here's a good recipe if you'd like to try your hand. Otherwise, just pick some up at the grocery store. I used Trader Joe's store-brand for this recipe. 

Grill or toast a few thick slices of bread. Spread thickly with ricotta. Apply blueberries and drizzle with honey. It's so simple, and such a great way to eat up all these blueberries this season. 

2) Blueberry Corn Salad

Is this simple summer salad that features blueberries, sweet corn, cucumbers, jalapeƱo, red onion, drizzled with a sweet honey lime dressing.

  • 3 ears fresh sweet corn, husked 
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries 
  • 1 cucumber, sliced 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion 
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon honey 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Bring water to boil in a medium sized pot. Cook corn for 5-7 minutes. After it is cool enough to handle, remove it from the cob.
2. In a good sized serving bowl, combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, and jalapeno.

For the dressing, stir together lime juice, oil, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3) Blueberry Fizz 

With all the ripe blueberries available now, I knew there had to be a great way to use them in a delicious summer cocktail! You could make this with or without alcohol, depending on your preference. 

You'll need: 
  • Vodka (I used vanilla flavored)
  • Blueberry Soda (I found a great version at Trader Joe's)
  • Lemonade
  • Fresh blueberries (for garnish)
Mix 1 part vodka with equal parts blueberry soda and lemonade. Garnish with fresh blueberries. You could even freeze some in ice cubes for something a little more special.

What's your favorite way to enjoy blueberries? They are perfect for smoothies, as a topping for a tossed salad, or just by the handful. Treat yourself to some today! 

July 10, 2015

How to Throw a Wimbledon Watching Party

This weekend the 129th annual Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament draws to a close, with the final matches set for Saturday and Sunday. I went to Wimbledon about fifteen years ago, during my first trip abroad as a naive 18-year old having just graduated from high school. I knew nothing about tennis, and wasn't sure what to make of it all, but the entire experience made quite an impact. 

While my travel companions staked out a courtside seat to watch Anna Kournikova, I wandered around and entertained myself people watching and taking it all in. I had strawberries and cream. I drank Pimm's and Lemonade. It was the quintessential Wimbledon experience. 

When my friends at Knoxville's Fox43 asked me to share some ideas for throwing a Wimbledon watching party for their special Wimbledon show, I was happy to oblige! 

1) What to drink at a Wimbledon Party? 

Nothing but Pimm's & Lemonade will do! Pimm's is a liqueur with a spicy, citrus flavor and it mixes perfectly with all sorts of things. My favorite thing to enjoy with Pimm's is plain old lemonade, but you can also use a sparkling lemonade or just add in some club soda. 

Apparently Brits take their Pimm's very seriously, especially when it comes to the addition of mint. Tennis star Andy Murray's mom Judy tweeted a photo of her drink at Wimbledon, complaining about it having too much mint, which caused the Pimm's company to issue an official statement: 

"No more than three British-grown mint leaves should be used to garnish each glass." 

While I must confess that my mint was grown in Tennessee, Pimm's was easy to find at my local package store if you'd like some of your own! 

Recipe for Pimm's & Lemonade (Pimm's Cup) - 

Tradition Pimm's No. 1

Add two parts lemonade (sparkling or plain) to one part Pimm's liqueur. Garnish with a slice of orange, lemon, apple, and cucumber. And don't forget the 3 required leaves of mint! 

Supercharged Pimm's No. 1

Add five parts lemonade and two parts Pimm's to one part gin. Garnish as above. 

2) What to eat at a Wimbledon Party? 

If you ever have the chance to go to Wimbledon, you must have strawberries and cream. There are many possible explanations behind the popularity of this sweet, red fruit and its association with the tennis event. 

Wimbledon's head public relations person said recently it probably had to do with the fact that all the way back through the years, strawberries are always in season while Wimbledon is being played. Plus, eating strawberries was de rigueur in Victorian England. 

For my strawberries & cream, I decided to take it even a step further with the addition of a traditional English biscuit (what we think of as a cookie) crumbled up on top. 

Recipe for Strawberries & Cream 

Rinse your strawberries and remove the green tops. Slice and/or quarter and put them into small bowls (1 bowl per person/serving). Pour heavy whipping cream into a metal bowl that has been chilled in the freezer (a trick that always helps me) and beat it until stiff peaks form. Put a generous spoonful of cream over each cup of berries and top with cookie crumbles (I used McVitie's Chocolate Digestives, a popular UK brand of cookies that is carried by my local grocery store).  

Check out this cool infographic to see just how many servings of strawberries were enjoyed at Wimbledon last year. 

3) Decorations for a Wimbledon Party 

The official colors of Wimbledon are green and purple, so I tried to incorporate that with my party decor. As with any sort of entertaining, I always try to use what I have on hand before buying a bunch of party stuff that I don't really need. 

Wimbledon is also known for white, that is the crisp white attire players are strictly required to wear.

White serving pieces look great with pops of color, especially green and purple. 

I was inspired by this gorgeous arrangement I found on Pinterest, and re-created one of my own with purple hydrangeas in a trifle bowl. I also made some place card holders by cutting a slit in each tennis ball and inserting a place card. Simple and cute! 

Will you be watching the Wimbledon finals? Who are you cheering for?