June 29, 2016

Simple Ideas for a 4th of July Celebration

There are so many things to celebrate about July 4th. Our nation's independence is the main thing of course, but it also means summer is here, life feels a bit less hectic and there's just time to relax and take it slow.

Planning a July 4th celebration for your family and friends? Don't stress! Here's a rundown of some of my favorite simple 4th of July party ideas and treats from around the web. There are so many incredible blogs and bloggers out there. Who says we can't all get inspiration from each other? 

Sweet July 4th Decorations

via Crafthubs
Decorations for a July 4th party don't have to be fancy or expensive. A classic red and white checkered table cloth makes a cheery backdrop for your Independence Day festivities. Give your table some sweetness with mismatched containers filled with red, white and blue candy. Add some mini American flags for even more patriotic flair. 

That's a Wrap - Picnic Cutlery

Liven up your plastic forks and spoons by wrapping them with some quirky ribbon or craft paper. Don't go out and spend a ton of money....just raid your scrap bag or junk drawer. Old bits of red and silver Christmas ribbon? Perfect. Blue strings that you snipped from a set of curtains? Great. Use what you have and get creative. 

Don't have anything on hand that will work? I found some great raffia and other trimmings in the Target Dollar Zone. Spend a little for maximum impact at your July 4th celebration. 

Toast with the Most - A July 4th Breakfast Treat

via Taste and Tell

I loved this idea the moment I saw it. Such a cute way to enjoy the fruits of summer! I opted a loaf of the mini rye and made my version more of appetizer, but you can make yours however you like.

Spread cream cheese on a slice of toasted bread. Top with blueberries and other fruit. Drizzle with honey and enjoy!

Retro Drinks in Red & Blue

via HGTV
No matter how old I get, summer always brings back memories of childhood. Homemade ice cream, spending the night with my grandparents and being allowed to stay up late, and getting to drink all sorts of sugary drinks that I wasn't supposed to have.

In honor of those memories, I decided to incorporate some fun red and blue retro sodas into my July 4th festivities. No, they aren't really that good for me but sometimes it's fun to splurge on something that reminds me of being a kid.

Check your local grocery store for some retro drink options. I was surprised to find several different flavors and brands at my local neighborhood market. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and World Market are also good sources.

We All Scream for Ice Cream on July 4th

via Noble Pig
Ice cream is the currency of summer. There's just nothing like it, whether homemade or store-bought. Jazz up your frozen treats with these sprinkled cones. What a great idea, and so easy to make! 

I used white candy melts and an assortment of sprinkles. Dip each cone first into the melted candy coating, and then add your favorite nonpareils and sprinkles. 

Happy July 4th to you and the ones you hold dear! I hope whatever ways you choose to celebrate, you have a memorable holiday. 

June 21, 2016

Things I miss.

I was recently writing in my journal with a pencil and, after filling up one complete page, noticed that the heel of my hand was covered with pencil smudge. The sight took me back to elementary school and all the times my hands would end up smudged from using a pencil to write an essay or story. Funny how I spent so much time in the lower grades of elementary school excitedly anticipating the day when I could trade in my pencil for a pen to do my schoolwork.

And now I'm grown and often choose a pencil on purpose because of the nostalgic feeling is gives me. 

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Defined as "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past" it applies specifically to times and places that we have happy personal connections with. I've written about this feeling before, a certain homesickness we have for places and people we hold dear.

There are other things I miss besides using a pencil to write all my secrets. 

I miss being little and staying with my grandma during the day, watching educational programs on public television, including a show where a lady taught me how to write in cursive. I miss waiting for my grandpa to come home from work. I miss the smell of his uniform, his Kroger butcher's apron covered with bits of meat, the remnants of his day. I miss how he'd sit in the corner of the kitchen, where the yellow Formica snack bar counter met the wall, a pair of half frame reading glasses perched near the end of his nose. I miss being small enough to fit on the kitchen counter lying down, my head dangling into the sink while my grandma washed my hair.

I miss how safe and sound my world felt. How nothing bad even crossed my mind because I didn't think there was anything bad to get me.

I miss the days of not knowing how good I had it. Of not having a clue how much hurt and sadness there was in the world.

I miss standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with a grown-up, and my only concern was whether I'd get a candy bar or a pack of gum, depending on who I was with and how generous they were feeling.

Now I stand there unloading my shopping cart, looking at the magazines on the racks placed perfectly at eye level. The stories of the Orlando shooting, the faces of the victims. My husband points to one face and says "that was the mom who was out dancing with her son. She died trying to protect him."

And now I'm weeping and can't pay for my groceries. And missing the days of candy bar or gum.

I don't want to be one of those people who romanticizes the past. I know there were plenty of hurts and problems back then too. But I didn't know about them yet.

There's a freedom that comes from not knowing. And on the flip side, a responsibility that is paired with awareness. Sometimes the responsibility feels so heavy, because it seems like no matter how hard we try, it makes such a small difference in the world.

But then I think about the people who made such a significant impact on my life, through just the tiniest kindnesses: My grandparents who loved me like there was no tomorrow; my 4th grade teacher who hung my artwork on the board for all to see; my mom's PBS colleague who touched my face and said I had the loveliest peaches and cream complexion.

There are many more of these kindnesses, too many to count, and I've been on the receiving end of them throughout my life. And they have made me a better person. So it was more than a small difference. I try to remember that each time I have the chance to make a small difference in someone else's life. I don't always rise to the occasion. But it feels good when I do. 

June 15, 2016

Last Minute Father's Day Gifts for Different Types of Dads

Father's Day is Sunday June 19th and if you've waited until the last minute (again!), don't despair. There are plenty of great last minute Father's Day gifts for all the different types of dads in your life. No two dads are alike and there's no one size fits all gift. But when you put some thought into it, and choose a gift that comes from the heart, it's sure to be perfect for the recipient.

I'm sharing some Father's Day gift ideas that might be great for the special dads you're shopping for. Hopefully this will inspire you on those last minute mad dash shopping trips!

Father's Day Gift Ideas for the Cool Dad

Is your dad a city mouse? Maybe he appreciates the finer things in life. Or perhaps your dad is more of an Everyman and you feel like he needs a bit of sophistication. Either way, these gifts for the cool dad bring lots of style and just the right amount of swagger. 

[Clockwise from top L: Rocks Glasses; Spherical Ice Mold; Straw Fedora; Matching Socks] 

Father's Day Gift Ideas for the Traditional Dad 

Maybe your dad is more traditional. He's fun loving and appreciates things that stand the test of time. This dad probably skips the gelatto and goes straight for vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. But don't be fooled, there's nothing boring about him. He just knows what he likes. 

Here are some classic Father's Day gifts that may be right up his alley. 

[Clockwise from top L: Lawn Dice; Retro Plaid Thermos; Vintage Style Alarm Clock; Pour Over Coffee Pot] 

Father's Day Gift Ideas for the Health Conscious Dad

Finally, there's the dad who's trying to get healthier. Maybe he hasn't always made his health a priority so now he's looking for easy ways to incorporate healthier habits. 

Make him feel like you're rooting for him with these gifts that inspire health. 

[L to R: NutriBullet Smoothie Maker; Gaiam Deep Tissue Massage Roller] 

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Whether you give a homemade or storebought gift, just put lots of heart into it, and your dad will be sure to feel really special. 

June 1, 2016

Celebrate National Donut Day with Simple Treats to Make at Home

Friday is National Donut Day, and around here it's a time for celebration. Actually, I don't need a special occasion to eat donuts, but it's nice to have one anyway. 

In honor of National Donut Day, I've got three simple treats you can make at home for your family. And don't worry....they don't involve baking. Now, if you are a baker, each of these could be made from scratch. 

It's just that I'm not much of a baker, so I take the easy route. But I love taking something store-bought and giving it a little extra oomph. Case in point, turning chocolate cake donuts into whoopie pies with the addition of some basic whipped vanilla frosting. 

Chocolate Donut Whoopie Pies

via Gluten Free Canteen

These great looking donut whoopie pies were featured on the blog, Gluten Free Canteen. Don't they look tasty? If you want to make that recipe, check it out!

My version is much simpler. First, I picked up a half dozen chocolate cake donuts from a local donut shop. Then, I sliced them down the center. Next, I filled them with a fluffy vanilla frosting (also store-bought, but you could make your own). Put them back together as sandwiches and, voila! Donut whoopie pies.

Banana Pudding Filled Donuts

via Lauren's Latest - plus check out the other great donut ideas!

Next I set out to jazz up a simple bakery pudding filled donut. What's a more quintessential summertime southern dessert than banana pudding? I can't think of one. To turn boring old pudding filleds into banana pudding masterpieces, you need cream cheese frosting, bananas and Nilla wafers.

Start by frosting the tops of the donuts with the cream cheese frosting. Then apply a layer of banana slices. Finally, add your nilla wafers. Feel free to top it off with a squirt of whipped cream. Simple and delish, am I right?

Easy Chocolate Sauce for Mexican Cinnamon Shortbread Donuts

Finally, while exploring my neighborhood, I stumbled upon a Mexican bakery with some amazing wares. While they are different from what you might think of as a donut, these crunchy, flaky treats are perfect to enjoy for National Donut Day!

Based on my research, they are called Rosquitas de canela, which I believe translates to cinnamon shortbread. Similar in taste and texture to cinnamon Churros, I have seen these served with a chocolate dipping sauce, so I whipped up an easy version to drizzle on my bakery treats. Melt some chocolate chips on low in a saucepan, without letting it burn. Drizzle as much or as little as you like, and eat up!

Don't forget to celebrate this Friday, June 3rd. Hope your National Donut Day is good and sweet!