How to Host a Fun & Easy Ladies’ Morning

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #DunkinatGiantEagle #CollectiveBias

Have you been beyond busy the last couple of months?  With a new writing project, our big yard improvements and the usual busyness of family life, my head has been spinning.  I have been running here and there with no end in sight.  And in what often seems like so much chaos, I needed some time to slow down and connect with friends.  So I threw together a fun and easy ladies’ morning get-together.  And when I say “threw,” I am being literal.  I did this whole thing quickly and simply because that is all I could tackle right now.

And do you know what?

It was simple.  It was easy.

And it happened!

Plus, it was so much fun . . . and exactly what I needed.

Here is how I did it and how you can, too!

Pick a Simple Menu

While there are times for baking everything yourself and setting up fun food and beverage bars, for this little party I needed something more practical.  And that is where the new bottled Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee came in!  I thought this would be the perfect treat for a ladies’ morning.  Served alongside baked goods, the iced coffee took center stage at our casual breakfast!

Even though I was going simple on my menu, I still wanted to offer choices to my guests because in my world of menu planning for a party, variety equals fun.  Here is where I was able to do it.  I offered four flavors of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee:  Original, Mocha, Espresso and French Vanilla.

Each bottle is a refreshing beverage with a smooth, flavorful coffee taste . . . one that can keep you going throughout your day.  I drank the French Vanilla and it was delicious!  Whether you’re enjoying Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee at breakfast or any other time of day, it will give you that boost to help get things done.  And we all could use that!

Go Store-Bought and Pre-Made!

There wasn’t time to do any baking last week.  So in keeping things ultra simple, I bought prepared breakfast foods from Giant Eagle.  It was perfect!  Between the iced coffee and baked items, Giant Eagle was my one stop shop for this little gathering.   Entertaining becomes less difficult when you only have to run to one place for all your needs.

I served plain and asiago cheese bagels, biscotti, nut bread and muffins.  Can you tell I was going a little more savory than sweet?  If you’re serving bagels, don’t forget to have butter and a toaster available.

Send Text Messages to Keep Invitations Simple

Since we are not planning a formal soiree but rather a casual get-together, text messages are completely fine to use to invite your guests.  I texted friends the evening before saying something like this:  “Things have been crazy busy lately and I would love the chance to slow down even for a brief time and connect with some friends.   If you’re free, stop by tomorrow between 9:30am and 10:30am for some Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee and savory carbs.”  One run to the store and several texts later, our fun was underway!

Shop Your House to Create a Cute Buffet

You may be amazed what you can come up with to put on the buffet if you just walk around your house.  I used my galvanized bucket for the iced coffees, a reclaimed wine barrel tray for my food, a bird cage for added decor and my refinished tea cart to hold everything.  I also found this cute circle banner to add “a little pretty” as a backdrop.  Do you have old birthday decorations you could repurpose and reuse to add interest to your tablescape?

Keep Set Up Easy

When time is precious, don’t worry about pre-plating everything on different platters.  Line a tray with a napkin and put all your food in one place.  It will look bountiful . . . plus you’ll have less to wash afterwards.

If you’re using a big tub for the iced coffee like I did, don’t try to fill the whole thing up with ice.  Place an overturned bowl at the bottom and put a plate on top of that.  You’ll need a lot less ice!

Once you have your set-up complete and have arranged the food and drinks, don’t forget to start a playlist to set the mood for your party.  Decide whether you want something relaxing or more upbeat.  For our ladies’ morning, I played beautiful instrumental music . . . it was warm and inviting.

I love it when things look good, taste great and are stress-free.  All of this allows me more time to focus on connecting with my guests.  For this ladies’ morning, everything was kept simple but it was perfect for a busy hostess and her friends.

Wondering where to pick up Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee?  Here is where you can find it at Giant Eagle:

Do you need to carve out time to connect with friends?  Keep things simple and yummy with Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee and already prepared foods from Giant Eagle.  Click this link to find a store around you.  

 

 

 

 

How to Make a Delicious Waffle Bar Your Guests Will Love

How to Create a Delicious Waffle Bar Your Guests Will Love

 

If you are looking for a fun and easy breakfast idea, look no further.  This waffle bar is it!  It requires only basic prep work before your guests arrive and the build-your-own style menu is fun for all.

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a Norwex Party with friends and family.  Are you familiar with Norwex?  It is a company that makes products for cleaning your home (and more) . . . all chemical free.  You only have to add water to their cloths and they clean whatever you are tackling.  My favorite is the window cloth.  Wet the Enviro cloth, wipe the glass and then rub dry with the window cloth.  Amazing!  My windows have not looked this good since we moved in.  (Want to learn more?  Here is my friend’s link.  If you happen to place an order and wouldn’t mind, please add a note to your order that you are coming from Kristen’s blog.)

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Back to waffles!  I was searching for something fun for my guests to enjoy after we heard about the Norwex products.  Since our party started at 10am, I thought a delicious waffle bar would be the perfect treat.

A waffle bar worked well for several reasons:

  • Options are fun.  Guests can pick and choose, having complete control over what they put on their waffle.
  • When hosting a direct sales type party, your guests can come to the buffet when they are ready.
  • If you are using a Belgian Waffle Maker, you can only make one waffle at a time.  Having guests trickle in to the buffet table after they have placed their order or asked their questions, makes a belgian waffle bar very doable.

I love our Belgian Waffle Maker!  I received it as a bridal shower gift oh so many years ago and have used it many times.  If you’re shopping, here is one nearly identical.

Toppings to Make Your Waffle Bar Delicious:

 

 

Mmmm, toppings!  I wanted to offer healthy and sweet tooth options for our waffle bar.  I did have a couple guests tell me they tried a little of each topping just for the experience.  Oh, how I love them!

This is what I offered:

  • Three sauces (chocolate, caramel and maple syrup).
  • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pecans, chocolate chunks, crushed Heath Bar, chopped Kit Kats, colorful sprinkles, ICE CREAM and whipping cream.

Waffle Bar Logistics:

I would have loved to have a pump from which my guests could get the batter (like they have in the hotels), but that would have added significant cost and isn’t something I’ll make enough use of in the future to warrant the expense.  So a clear glass pitcher worked just fine.  I put the pitcher and the measuring cup on their own plate to help keep things neat.

Many belgian waffle makers come with a measuring cup so you can pour the proper amount of batter on the griddle.

Presentation & Creating a Pretty Table:

If you’ve been with me for awhile, you know that I am always talking about creating different levels on your buffet table to create visual interest.

By using a turned over drawer, a wire basket (filled with a linen-wrapped box), cake pedestal, empty frames and fabric garland, I not only created different levels but also different textures.  This turns a table into a tablescape.

The frames are cheap garage sale finds, now boasting many colors of spray paint under the current light and dark blues.   The fabric banner was something I made years ago for our Peter Rabbit party.  Check this tutorial to learn how to make the fabric banner in three steps.

Let’s talk ice cream . . . my favorite topping for belgian waffles.  I didn’t want to have a gallon of ice cream sitting on the table making a mess as it dripped all over my blue checked fabric.  My solution?  Decant softened ice cream the day before into my galvanized tin ICE BUCKET.  Not only did it look great, but it held up very well during the party.  (Store overnight in the freezer.)

Signs can be another way to add fun and interest to your table top.  I tied in Norwex cleaning with my waffle bar by framing this text, “Now, you’ll love cleaning a WAFFLE lot.”

More fun:

Because our party was focused on cleaning and I had several guests who did not know each other, I asked my guests to fill out a name tag and write the cleaning task they enjoy the least.  It was fun to hear the answers.  We even had one person who really loves to clean.  Say what?!

For beverages, I served strawberry and cucumber infused water, two juices and coffee.

Yum!

How do you like our Waffle Bar?  What is your favorite topping to put atop waffles?  

Shop this look:

Developing Your Entertaining Goals

developing your entertaining goals - free printableIt’s a New Year!  Did you do anything fun for New Year’s Eve?  We stayed home, celebrated with fancy glasses, sparkling grape juice and an early midnight. We played, relaxed and enjoyed some great snacks.

Have you made any goals for this new year?  Maybe you wrote goals to be more focused, to simplifyget organized or to simply have more fun in the coming year.

But if you like entertaining, hosting gatherings and planning parties, have you thought about jotting down some goals for this area of life?

There is the practical side of entertaining . . . the logistical side.  We will talk through that and common hindrances in entertaining.   But we will also look at the heart of welcoming guests into our home.  Because to me, it is impossible to separate the hospitality aspect from entertaining.

When I have guests over, I want them to be comfortable, at ease, have a meaningful time and hopefully a lot of fun as well.  Placing value on your guests and their time in your home is at the heart of hospitality.  This molds the way I plan a party or gathering in my home.

Below you will find a set of questions to spur on thoughts for setting your own entertaining goals.  If you’d like a printable copy, you can grab it at the bottom of this post.  It has plenty of space to write down notes and thoughts.

Help for Developing Your Entertaining Goals
(Both practical and hospitality-minded.)

How many times a month or year do you usually open your home?  _____

Do you want to host gatherings in your home more often?  Is entertaining something you would like to do with regular frequency?  _____

What keeps you from entertaining?

□   The Work of Cleaning

□   Struggles with Cooking/Food

□   Time

□   Money

□   Other:  _________

What could make a difference with this? (See ideas below.)

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

If Cleaning:  When you have an event on the calendar, can you plan on doing a little each day for a week before your party to avoid the craziness of cleaning the whole house the day of the event?  If you are planning on entertaining more regularly, can you implement a cleaning routine to accomplish your work in a little time each day so that nothing gets out of control?

If Cooking/Food:  Work on finding a couple recipes that can become your go-to meals that are family (and guest) favorites.  Ask friends and be sure to try recipes in advance.

If Time:  Have someone clean for you or pay your kids to do extra chores.  Buy pre-made food or ask guests to bring a dish (but only if you haven’t already asked them to bring a gift.)  Simplify your menu.  You don’t need three different desserts.  Choose just one.

If Money:  Become good at coupon shopping or scouting out the grocery deals.  Try freezer cooking to help save money and time.  Keep menus simple or like above, ask guests to bring a dish to pass.

 

Who would you like to invite over?  Is there a family you would like to get to know better, a group of friends or a club/team you to which you belong?  List those you would like to include in this year’s gatherings.  __________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

What do you enjoy most about entertaining?

__________________________________________________________________

 

Do you enjoy entertaining more at a particular time of year (seasonal, holidays, outdoor entertaining)?

__________________________________________________________________

 

Is there a particular holiday (even the silly ones) that you would like to expand into a party?  We hosted a Pi Day Party on March 14 (as in 3.14) last year.  It was simply an excuse to get a group of friends together and eat pie.

Our friends who host the annual Cider Party are already planning a Back to the Future Party on October 25th (the day Marty McFly goes back to the future).  Isn’t that fun?

Once for my Father-in-Law’s birthday, we hosted a “Drowning in Milk” party and all desserts were perfect accompaniments to a glass (or bowl) of milk.  Let’s just say that I married into a family not of dunkers, but put-your-dessert-in-a-bowl-and-drown-it-in-milk kind of people.  So we made it into a party!

Make a big deal out of something silly.  What would your friends and family have fun with?

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

On the practical side, what would make entertaining easier?  Do you need to save up for more dishes, tables or chairs?  (See this post on creative seating if space is a problem for you.)  Do you need a beverage dispenser or set of serving utensils and dishes?

Over the years, I have been building up my supply of white serving dishes and pedestal cake plates.  Food looks gorgeous on white!

Is there an item you’d like to purchase in the next year for your parties?

__________________________________________________________________

What stresses you most about entertaining?

__________________________________________________________________

How can you lessen this stress?

__________________________________________________________________

Do you need to start your preparations earlier so you have more time?  Have you thought about taking a cooking class, locally or through Craftsy (affiliate link) to learn a particular skill or great recipe?  Maybe you need to abandon your do-it-alone mentality.

 

What makes you most comfortable when at someone else’s house for a gathering?

__________________________________________________________________

How can you focus more on hospitality when you entertain?

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

Other Thoughts on Your Entertaining:

__________________________________________________________________

 

Download Your Printable Copy Here

 What is something you want to focus on this year in your entertaining?  

Developing Your Entertaining Goals with Free Printable

5 Attitudes to Have When Entertaining Over the Holidays

5 Attitudes to have when Entertaining over the Holidays . . . and why!

Thanksgiving is upon us and you may be preparing for guests over the holidays.  You’re writing menus, decorating the house, setting tables.  But hosting a successful holiday meal is more than good food and a clean bathroom.  Your heart has to be ready to receive your guests and extend these five attitudes to those surrounding your dinner table.

 5 Attitudes to Have When Entertaining Over the Holidays

 

~ Love ~

Love is an action; it is demonstrated in words and deeds.  Love is doing the best for the person loved.  When your family and friends are around the kitchen counter or chatting at the dinner table, how can you show love to your guests?

It may be through heart-felt conversation and showing genuine interest in someone else’s life.  It may be through the care with which you prepared food for your loved ones.  It is seen in a serving heart as you care for those in your home.  It is demonstrated as you share what God has blessed you with.
 

~ Grace ~

No matter what family you have around the table, there is no such thing as a perfect family.  Simply put, because there is no one who is perfect.  When we are tempted to start judging someone because of their choices or behaviors, this is the time to extend grace to others.  Grace is unmerited favor towards the recipient.  It is offering something undeserved.  It may show itself in an act of kindness, forgiveness or simply space to let a person be themselves.  Grace is something I always hope to receive from others.
 

~ Assertiveness ~

There are three types of communication:  passive, aggressive and assertive.  A passive communicator doesn’t stand up for one’s self. They let the opinions of others rule and may see themselves as less valuable than other people.  On the other end of the spectrum is aggressive behavior.  The aggressive communicator dominates, intimidates and works to control others.  A blend of these two, called passive aggressive, often reveals itself as sarcasm.

Assertive communication is the goal.  A person acting assertively has a healthy knowledge of self-worth and can establish boundaries in relationships.  An assertive person can speak openly in a conversational tone.  He sees others and himself as having equal value.

Where do you stand in your communication style?  How do your family members fair?  During your holiday dinner, keep to an assertive style of communication.  This shows not only in how you talk to others but also in how you respond to the opinions of your guests.  How are you conveying your thoughts?  Are you condemning?  Are you sarcastic?  Do you need to speak up more?
 

~ Flexibility ~

Ah, flexibility.  Someone is going to spill something.  Someone is going to be late.  If you’re like me, it is probably one of your recipes that isn’t going to turn out quite right.  Maybe you have a family member who takes action without considering others.  This is the day to be flexible.  When your house is filled with guests, be flexible.  Instead of getting irritated or upset, go with the flow.  Be ready to alter your plans if necessary to accommodate your guests.  And if it makes my fellow Type A’s anxious to think about this, just plan in a little flexibility.  Yep, write it on your list.  😉
 

~ Hospitality ~

How do you want your guests to feel when they are in their home?  How can you make them comfortable and put them at ease?  Hospitality welcomes your guests, it values your guest.  It is not about impressing others with your fantastic garlic mashed potato recipe.  Rather hospitality opens the heart and invites guests to dwell in peace, love and . . . fun.
 
What attitude do you need to demonstrate most when entertaining over the holidays?  Is there something you would add?

Check out the Hospitable Hearts Series and 15 Tips to Become the Hostess with the Mostess for year-round entertaining.

How to Host the Perfect Soup Party

how to host the perfect soup party

Well friends, I have found another kind of party that I LOVE.  A couple Sunday’s ago, I hosted a Soup Party for Dan’s family of 20.  It was the perfect theme for a cold, winter day.

Have you been experiencing freezing or colder than usual temperatures?  We have had our own little arctic freeze in Ohio, even cancelling school here and there (which I love too).

Soup is such a great winter remedy.  The hot, soothing, “comfort food” . . . and did I mention, a big pot can last several days?  So why not turn a great soup (or soups) into a little party.  Invite your friends, your family or your neighbors and serve up a delicious soup.  Add the great conversation, an atmosphere demonstrating the love of Christ and you are set.

Tips to Host the Perfect Soup Party:

1.  Start your soups a couple days prior.  Not only do you not want to be going crazy at the last minute, but soups always seem to taste better on Day 2.

2.  Offer a couple options for soup.  Ok, I went a little overboard on this.  I had trouble picking which soups, so I offered four:  Chicken Tortilla, Split Pea, 4 Cheese Minestrone and Ground Turkey and Vegetable.  (See below for where the recipes came from.)

3.  Choose soups that freeze well.  I planned on making more than I needed and froze a decent amount of soup.  And guess what?  I just pulled soup out last night and have a couple dinners of soup all ready to go.  Love the convenience of freezer cooking!

soup party labels

4.  Label your soups so your guests know which each soup is.

5.  Have a fabulous assortment of toppings.

6.  Get a little creative.  Which toppings will go best with which soup?  Tell your guests.

suggested toppings for soup party

As you probably know by now, the creativity and design of a party are my favorite parts.  Yes, if I could cater every single party I host, I most definitely would!  Leave the cooking up to someone else and the decorating and little touches up to me.

7.  Sour cream makes any soup creamy.  Be sure to include it among your toppings.

Soup Party Sides

8.  Keep the sides simple.  Serve with salad and a delicious assortment of breads.  My family brought the sides and desserts, which allowed me to focus on the soups.

9.  Think about how your guests will manage everything.  I decided to use a chinet plate as a sort of tray.  With my Cameo, I cut a piece of scrapbook paper and added “Soup’s On.”  The soup bowl, the salad bowl and bread just fit, making it easy to carry.

I also ALWAYS like to put the silverware and napkin at the end of the buffet line.  Why carry silverware through the line when your hands are needed most?

soup party plate

 10.  When it is all done,  be a blessing.  Package up a bowl or two of soup (ziploc freezer bags work great), grab bread and deliver to a sick friend, a family with a new baby or someone going through a rough time.  It is a thoughtful and easy way to serve others.

Where My Soup Recipes Came From:

Chicken Tortilla –

Don’t Panic–Dinner’s in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead

Split Pea Soup & 4 Cheese Minestrone –

Don’t Panic–More Dinner’s in the Freezer: A Second Helping of Tasty Meals You Can Make Ahead


Ground Turkey –

Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly Revised & Updated: 600 Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker

These three cookbooks stand out as among my favorites!  I can recommend all of them.

What is your favorite soup for a cold day?

 

(This post contains an affiliate link.  Please see the About page for more information.)

Lessons From Our Tables: The Heart of Conversation

Lessons-from-Our-Tables1 (1)

 

Have you experienced it?  The “oh dear, the guests are coming soon and I’m not ready” panic.  For me, it usually sets in when I realize something is cooking too fast or too slow, or has completely flopped.  Maybe it is that the kids have “re-arranged” the room yet again or my husband is running late from work and I need his strong back to take care of a couple tasks.  Silly, I know.  But I like things to be in place when my company arrives.  I like my table, my house and the food to look nice.

 

You see, I used to be a professional wedding planner.  My job was to make things look perfect, to hide the messes and to cover up any problems that arose.  My clients paid me to make sure the mechanics of the evening appeared flawless to the masses and to attend to all the details.  But hospitality in the home is quite different.  It is about the people, the individual and truly, the heart.

 

My favorite part of entertaining in the home is the moment the guests walk in the door.  It is at that moment that my focus easily changes.  It is not about my failed attempt for the best meal ever.  It is about my guests and the opportunity we have to connect.  It is the moment conversation begins.

 

>>To read more about the heart of conversation, head over to Desiring Virtue where I am guest posting today.    Hope you’ll visit!

31 Days to an Awesome Party (Day 10): When things go wrong

party problems

 

It is inevitable.  Things go wrong at parties.  Even with all the best planning in the world, no party is exempt from problems.  Now, the level of “disaster effect” on your party may vary greatly, but I have rarely had an event, no matter what size, run without any complications along the way.  Rain for the outdoor event, food mishaps, broken dishes, guest complications . . . let’s just say I’ve faced it all.

In my professional wedding planning career, I had to switch more than one outdoor ceremony to a plan B location, to the great disappointment of the bride.  A florist was nearly struck by lighting while on a metal ladder arranging a chuppah when a storm broke loose (which meant grumpy florist . . . as if was his day! -totally joking!).  I have even put out a small fire during a reception when a guest left their napkin a little too close to a candle.  This only starts my list!

And let’s not even go into the number of times I have been cooking for my own parties only to ask myself the obvious question of WHY I cook.  I have felt the disappointment of changing plans because of rain.  And sure enough there have been little things that I intended to do, but simply forgot about in the heat of the moment . . . yes, even with my extensive lists.

One thing I have learned:  if you go into a party expecting that things may not go perfectly, you will be better prepared to handle the issues when they arise.  Even doing weddings, there was no perfect wedding.  Something always came up.  But what was more important was how resourceful, resilient and flexible I could be . . . not to mention to do whatever it took to keep the problem from revealing itself to others, especially the bride.

What are you to do when something goes wrong for your party?

Really, there are only a couple things you can do:

1.  You can cry!  I’ve been there and yes, probably even done it a few times for my own parties.  But honestly, it gets you nowhere.

2.  You can take it in stride, be resourceful and problem solve your way to a decent outcome.  Make use of back up plans, rearrange your table top to hide spills and if nothing else, send your husband out for replacement food.  Be creative.  Make your solution look intentional.

3.  Move on and forget about it.  For many problems, no one except you and those you share it with will even know about the issue.  You are probably your worst critic.  Focus on the reason of your event, your guest of honor and the guests themselves.  Pray for perspective.  Smile and enjoy what is working.

Just like life, things don’t always go as planned.  Situations arise, problems reveal themselves.  The key is your attitude and how you handle it.

Your Turn to Share:  We want to hear your stories of what went wrong at your parties and how you handled it.

Related Posts:
>Start at the beginning of our 31 Days to an Awesome Party.
>Check out my post, Boiled Down Hospitality, to find out what hospitality is really all about.  Or start at the beginning of the Hospitable Hearts series with Melissa of Hive Resources.

Hospitable Hearts: 20 Reader Recipes that Feed an Army

Thank you to all our readers who gave such a great response to the Hospitable Heart series.  Melissa and I had so much fun and hope you did you too!  We pray that our hearts are better prepared to open the doors of our homes and offer hospitality to all our guests.

Before we wrap up, Melissa put together a batch of 20 Reader Recipes that Feed an Army over at Hive Resources.  You’ll want to check these out for your next party, gathering or dinner.

And don’t forget to enter our fun giveaway for a Creative Chics Hostess Apron!