Jess Creativ Treasures

Cakes and cupcakes are all the rage at any given celebration we host since I love playing with icing and swirls and sprinkles, but this summer I put down the piping bag filled with buttercream to allow the work of my talented girlfriend, Jess, take the stage!

When we were celebrating Bradley prior to his leaving for Boot Camp, I was looking for something different and fun to add to the day.  I mean we all love sweets, but sometimes buttercream is just too much and not everyone is a fan of fondant.  While brainstorming ideas, I happened to catch a post from Jess in my social media and it clicked…

Cookies!

We needed gorgeous, fun, colorful and themed cookies for the perfect addition to our party!

I have long admired Jess’s handiwork…. Y’all, she is so talented! Decorative cookies take a A LOT of patience and quite a bit of time; each one is a work of art. These aren’t your everyday cookies from the Publix bakery, no, these are special and made with care. From baby showers to my US Marine, Jess does a wonderful job making sure your cookies are not only delicious but the perfect centerpiece for your dessert buffet!

I can assure you these cookies are fantastic and delicious as they were completely wiped out in a matter of minutes!

And if these beautiful & intricately decorated USMC cookies don’t convince you cookies are the perfect decorative dessert, check out a few more of Jess’s fabulous treats!

If you’re interested in cookies for your next event, Jess will meet you in metro Atlanta, but she has shipped before as well! Check out her Facebook page … Jess Creative Treasures … for more information or to order cookies for your next event!!

Spring Entertaining

Easter weekend swiftly passed and spring is officially arrived in my book!  Time for open toe shoes, bare legs, sandals, white and cute hats to finish up the most casual or dressy of an outfit!

It’s also a great time to entertain guests; both family and friends.  Between Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, graduations, and in our family birthdays galore, there are so many reasons to open up the door!

Looking ahead to a season of hospitality, I thought it would be fun to share a few tips to help you organize your next event with little stress.

img_6704

It’s really quite easy to pull together a dinner to welcome spring or celebrate those you love, despite the desire to be just like Martha Stewart!

**First, the menu, which isn’t as difficult as it seems! While you don’t have to go this route, traditional spring meals often include ham, lamb or chicken.  These can be prepared several ways (I love variety) and carved right up for serving.  Spring vegetables include asparagus, fresh leafy greens, artichokes, radishes, avocado, Vidalia onion and broccoli, which should be at their freshest and of course most flavorful time.  Shopping for food that is in season immediately takes a load off of your mind because you aren’t searching for elusive veggies or disappointed in the taste!

img_6703

**Speaking from experience, prepare foods your familiar with so that you aren’t upset and fretting over how a new dish has turned out.  Save the experiments for family supper one night.

 **If you are hosting family (and plan to prepare it all), think of and prepare recipes that they know and love … in our house it’s three cheese mac and cheese and roasted green beans on the menu.  Between shopping seasonal and preparing family favorites, your menu should come together fairly fast.

**Knock out most of your prep work and make desserts the day before, leaving just the main course for the day of a gathering.

img_6707

**Any dinner you host doesn’t have to be formal; a wonderfully prepared buffet or potluck dinner can be just as elegant.  I always loved the spreads at my aunt and uncle’s house over the years as she ordered everything, from Costco, Sam’s or Honey Baked Ham; laid out a beautiful sfeast and enjoyed the entire day with the family!  Aunt Jean knows how to entertain stress free; let me tell you!

{Sometime’s it is just worth it to let someone else do all the work.}

**Don’t be afraid to delegate; typically guests are more than happy to bring drinks, and appetizer, a side dish, or dessert.  Take a load off of yourself.

**If entertaining families, have games and toys for children to play with, or ask parents to bring their children’s favorites.  This will help entertain little ones and maybe keep them from being bored.

img_6701

Grocery store Blue Willow dishes collected in the 1990s are probably my favorite dishes to use!

**Decorating your table is a wonderful and memorable way to make your guests feel welcome. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to set a pretty table.

**Mother’s Day, a birthday dinner, or the Easter holiday is the perfect time to showcase your best dinnerware, glassware, flatware and linens if your desire.  I love to pull out my Noritake china purchase at an auction years ago by my mother-in-law, but I also adore  a basic white plate topped with a fun salad plate. With either choice of plate adding the crystal glassware that belong to Audley’s grandparents is such a special touch.

img_6706

Simple white rimmed plates from Pottery Barn match absolutely everything!  Here they are paired with bunny plates from Williams Sonoma.

**For outdoor gatherings and those gathering for the guys, an old fashioned cookout is perfect! With all the variety in paper and plastic products now, setting up a table or theme is as simple as ever.

**Maintain a beautifully simple color scheme.  Spring inspired plates, patterns and a touch of greenery make for an unforgettable table setting.

**Keep the table uncluttered by using a buffet to display and serve drinks, side dishes or desserts.  Decorate it to match the theme of the dining table.

**Bring your home to life with flowers and glowing candles; both of which create a welcoming mood.  Seasonal flowers in April and May include tulips, daffodils, and lilies which bring the beauty of spring inside. Some of these you may be able to cut from your own yard, or you can usually find these popular flowers at your local grocery, very inexpensively!  Candles are plentiful at the Dollar Store or clearance at Target.  I love to buy them when on clearance to put up for later use.

img_6702

Table decorated with tea-lights and succulent pots.

 **For an easy springtime table, bring the outside in with greenery such as grass, ivy, fern, or even succulents.  Fresh yellowbell branches from the yard are stunning on a buffet or mantle!

img_6708

**Decorating can be done in advance: set the table, arrange the centerpiece and add special touches a day or even two days before.

img_6705

The glassware I’ve used here belonged to Audley’s grandparents; the etched flowers fit the season nicely!

It doesn’t take a lot of stress and money to treat your family and friends to a celebrations they will long remember.  Just take on what you know you can handle, use what you have, and make plans to celebrate the spring!

img_5691

Savoring Christmas

The house is so very quiet today.

There is no rushing around finding or wrapping the last gifts, planning menus, baking sweet treats or preparing for guests.

Audley has returned to work, Samantha has returned to Tennessee, Michael and MacKenzie have returned to South Carolina, Madeline is delivering pizzas and Bradley is engulfed in any number of college bowl games down in the den.

 

It’s really quiet.  And as I sit here on the sofa, twinkle lights on the tree, listening to a little Dave Koz I’m at peace thinking what a wonderful Christmas holiday it was.

christmas-kids

Almost all of our kiddos plus the grand-dogs

We’ve always traveled for Christmas, but the last couple of years has found us at home for a quiet celebration with just part of our family.  This year we were blessed to have all four of our children and one son-in-law (the other is a police officer who sacrificed his holiday to serve), as well as my parents in for Christmas Day!  It was all so exciting for me.

The dynamic of holidays change as the kiddos get older, head off to college and get married.  It’s not bad, but it is a huge change from being woken up at 6 AM to check out what Santa brought, to sleeping in and casually opening presents around noon.  Instead of toys littering the living room floor it’s tools, clothes and hammocks, and fitness gear.

While some would cry over the changes, it’s still all so beautiful to this mom who savored every moment.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

~Burton Hills~

Watching my son open Peach Bowl tickets that he had no clue he was getting was pretty sweet, too.

Y’all he had tears in his eyes.

(The video flips correctly when you hit play; turn it up for his reaction!)

We’ve started a few of our own Christmas traditions in the last couple of years which include our fully set Christmas table in the dining room.

twinkle-light-christmas-dining-room

simple-christmas-centerpiece

skinny-tree

christmas-eve

Here we lovingly serve up homemade pizzas that everyone has assembled and cooked before.

christmas-dining-room

christmas-pizzas

christmas-day-family

We also all take in a movie together.

Go see the Greatest Showman.

maxresdefault

Really.

01-the-greatest-showman-hugh-jackman-vogue-september-issue-2017

Go.

I loved watching my kids (hubby included) play games together.

family-bonding

“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”

~Peg Bracken~

I loved cooking with my girls.

christmas-eve-cookies

And I loved watching my kiddos spend time together.

decorating-sugar-cookies

Despite time swiftly passing and our babies becoming adults, some things never change, and I truly treasured every moment of our holiday.

santa-cookies

The kids still leave cookies for Santa out…. Apparently he has quite and appetite! 

And I’m also savoring the quiet!

post-christmas-relaxation

I hope your holiday was blessed and memorable as well!

Signature

A Thanksgiving Timeline

The excitement of the holidays is upon us and I am relishing every moment!  This year not only will we travel to see my family, we will also be hosting my mother and father-in-law here for a Thanksgiving celebration!  There is so much to do, but I love the busyness of the season.  Sometimes it’s challenging not to let that busyness consume me and take me away from the things that really matter.

Whether you travel or host for Thanksgiving, the short weekend that comes along with it can often create for a little extra chaos in our already busy lives.  It’s a long weekend, but oftentimes not quite long enough accomplish all we want, plus enjoy the time with family or friends as well.

Why plan a holiday celebration if you can’t experience the joy that goes with it?

And, if there is no joy in what you are doing, your gratitude will often slip away as well!

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with Praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!”~Psalm 100:4 

DSC_0590 (1)

Being the control freak planner and organizer that I am, my family knows when November begins I’m attached to my planner and lists so that I can do what needs to be dome as the wife and mom, but still have fun as well.

While we do not host a big meal every year, I have a lot of cooking on my agenda (I am totally the Queen of Turkey roasting in our family), and make some pretty good deserts as well!   I’ve learned over the years, that the key to stress-free entertaining (and traveling with food to prepare) is to plan ahead.

DSC_0611

Don’t let a lack of organization and unnecessary stress steal your joy and rob you of a memorable and fun day with family. As wives, mothers and even grandmothers our mood often sets the mood for the entire home whether we intend for it to or not.  The Enemy loves to attack us in the sneakiest of ways and I think a stressed out wife is the most horrible of attacks!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it.”

Psalm118:24

Besides living in the Word, preparing and planning ahead is a great way to help prevent that unwanted attack from happening! By doing much of the prep work in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the company of your family and friends on the day of the feast!

DSC_0601 (1)

Here’s my simple timeline for Thanksgiving (& other major holidays) planning:

1 to 2 Weeks before Thanksgiving (This would be now y’all):

*Confirm the number of guests you are planning to cook for, whether at home or away.  Then plan your menu.

*Make arrangements for your turkey.  If you want a fresh one, order ahead.  I won’t go   into detail, but trust me, order early so that it is ready when you want to put it in the  oven.  Go ahead and pick up your frozen turkey early as well so that you aren’t searching feverishly for one large enough to feed 15 people two days before.

*Plan your table settings, serving dishes and decorations. If you want china, use your china.  If you prefer paper plates by all means use them and don’t apologize!

*Read through your recipes to determine the food and items you will need for cooking.  This is perfect to accomplish while watching Hallmark Channel movies in the evening.

*Make your shopping and to-do lists.

*Shop for nonperishable food items, plus anything else you need for cooking and setting the table.

DSC_0617

A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

*If you are planning to brine your turkey (which I am this year), prepare the brine, cover and refrigerate.  Do not add the turkey yet.

*Prepare any food that can be done ahead of time, such as pie crusts and cranberry sauce.

*If your turkey is frozen, place it in the refrigerator to thaw.

DSC_0606

The Day Before Thanksgiving:

*Complete any shopping for food that you have left.

*Make plans to pick up your turkey if your ordered one fresh.

*If you are brining your turkey, place it in the brine and refrigerate.

*Prepare any dishes that can be made in advance, such as cornbread for dressing, soup and pies.

*Chop vegetables for the side dishes (if you have preteens and teenagers, this is a perfect opportunity for bonding in the kitchen), then refrigerate in covered bowls or Ziploc bags.

*Set the table.  This is also a great project for kids; give them a diagram of how to set a table properly and you have a learning experience as well!

DSC_0593

Thanksgiving Day:

*Prepare and stuff (I use fresh fruit & veggies in mine) the turkey for roasting and put in the oven at the determined time. Remember most turkeys take several hours to cook.

*Peel and cut potatoes (if you are using them for a side dish); place in cold water and refrigerate.

*Prepare the dressing and other side dishes.

*While the turkey roasts, you can make mashed potatoes; while the bird rests, make your gravy and finish (or reheat) any side dishes.

*Carve the turkey and call your guests to the table!

*And most of all, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

DSC_0587

Besides being easy to follow, the best part about this timeline is that there are several opportunities to delegate.  Use those to your advantage.  When you start to feel overwhelmed, step back, take a deep breath and regain your focus.  This is a holiday about family and remember THAT is the most important part of the day, even if you drop the turkey!

DSC_0608

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Galations 5:22-23

Signature