Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Baking With Kids - Made Easy!

This post is in partnership with Christmas Tree Shops andThat! All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

'Tis the season of baking! I'm not usually one to enjoy being in the kitchen, but there is just something about the holidays that makes me want to break out all the cookware I received eons ago as wedding gifts and channel my inner Betty Crocker. 

My kids? My kids are the complete opposite. One of them loves baking. So much so that this year she requested a baking birthday party. Complete with a gift request list full of baking items. Clearly this is a skill set she gets from her father. 

No those of you with young children know that baking with them isn't always easy. 

Or clean. 

But it's the holidays and 2020 - and fortunately there isn't a wine shortage. 

Bring on baking with the kids! 

This year I've been able to find some cute and fun ways to make baking easy for me and fun for the kids. All with the help of one of my favorite home decor stores

A girlfriend and I decided while the kids were in school to meet up and do a little Christmas decor shopping. She had never been to Christmas Tree Shops andThat!, and I was shocked! It is one of my favorite go-to places for all things home related. They always have on trend home decor items and gorgeous high quality seasonal decor - but for a price that doesn't break the bank. 

Not surprising - when we entered the store we were immediately in love with all of the sparkly baubles and festive holiday necessities. 

Also not surprising - we both left with two carts full of purchases and phone calls from our husbands asking if really needed two more flocked trees in the house.

Um, yes. Yes we do.  

But the best part was that they had a TON of baking goodies on hand! Not only did andThat! have a great supply of treats and all the ingredients needed (even gluten free options!), they had an amazing assortment of bakeware, holiday dishes, and gifting baskets. 



I was going to take the price tags off for photos, but then kept them on because I was shocked at how inexpensive everything was! Under two dollars for a porcelain holiday dish?! Amazing! 


My friend and I were able to stock up on all of our holiday baking needs for the entire season - all in one spot! 

While also buying an entire collection of bottle brush trees for our mantles. 

And some additional mommy baking prep...




If that's not the definition of a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is. 


It was so fun shopping for all the things at andThat!, but it was even more fun surprising the kids with the baking goodies set I created to kick off our holiday baking season. 


I even found these adorable "Official Cookie Tester" matching fleeces for the girls at andThat!



How cute are they?!

The kids had a ton of fun last week while we were on break putting together the gingerbread houses I found. The Ninja-bread cookies we plan on doing one day this week. I'll share because if you have ninja-loving kid the cookie cutters that came with the kit are so fun! 






Now to get crackin' on all the holiday baking gifts. Get excited - neighbors/friends/family! Me in an apron in front of an oven only happens one time a year! 


All home decor items, baking items, and treats in this post came from Christmas Tree Shops andThat! To find a location closest to you and learn more about the store - visit here!



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Monday, November 30, 2020

How To Host a Supper Club

Every year on the blog we used to share a few goals for the year...anything from reading more, completing house projects, making time for ourselves, etc. One of mine a few years ago was to host friends/family for dinner at our house. I love hosting, but our busy lives just made it hard to find time to do it so that is one goal that didn't really get accomplished that year. 

It may have taken me a few years, but now I finally have a good thing going.  I feel so lucky to have some amazing girlfriends who felt the same way I did so we decided to start a supper club.  It has been THE BEST THING for all of us.  

Once a month we pick a date, call our sitters, and make time to get together without our kids.  We dress up, we set pretty tables, we drink good wine, we eat amazing food, and we laugh into the wee hours of the night.  


Our supper club is something we all look forward to every single month. We've all grown to be very close and these are the friends we do life with. We vacation with these friends, we have a constant text thread going, and our kids are all friends. They hate feeling left out when we go to "the club" but I feel very strongly that time away from the kids is SO good for the soul. 

I know several friends who are also a part of supper clubs and everyone has their own rules, but I thought I would share how we do it: 

Pick a date. 
Unlike some supper clubs that plan to meet the 3rd Saturday of every month regardless of who is available, we pick a date as a group when we know that everyone can attend. You know that old saying is true the more the merrier and honestly we would all have major FOMO if we couldn't make it. 

Set a menu. 
You could decide to divide up the dishes to be prepared and let everyone bring something, but we've decided to let one person do all the work.  Sure, it is a lot on each couple when they are prepping for their month, but it sure is nice for the other couples who can just show up and enjoy the night. Plus, everyone takes a turn so it all works out. 

Buy lots of wine and cocktail ingredients. 
It's a given that the wine consumption will probably exceed what you are expecting it to always get more than you think you'll need. We always plan ahead and Uber! 


Set a pretty table. 
It's so fun to have a reason to pull out your pretty dishes. You know all the things that you don't use on a day-to-day basis, but that you have hidden in your cabinets for the special occasions. Well this is it!  Dust off the china and use it! 



Dress up.
Especially these days finding reasons to put on something other than leggings and sweatpants are far and few between. Dressing up isn't required, but I like to have a reason to dress up and it helps make everything feel a little more fun and festive when you dress for the occasion. 

We hosted the last supper club and we had a fun surprise for our friends. The Mr. had recently gotten THIS griddle for his birthday and we had been putting it to good use.  We did a hibatchi night for the kids one night and they loved it. I immediately knew that would have to be our next Supper Club meal! 


After all of our friends arrived and were enjoying some appetizers the Mr. came in dressed, in character and ready to entertain. I even got him a chef hat to complete the look. 



He put on a good show complete with the egg roll trick, flipping shrimp into the air for friends to catch, and the famous onion volcano! 


It was SUCH a hit and SUCH a fun night.  Everyone not only loved the entertainment, but the food was really good, too!  


We ended the night with fortune cookies and that was the icing on the cake. It was fun (and easy) to have a theme for the night so I might just have to come up with another one for our next time to host! 

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Friday, November 13, 2020

Lordy Lordy Look Who's 40!


I turned 40 last week and I guess I'm now officially over the hill!  For over a year now we had been planning a big trip to California with our friends to celebrate our 40th birthdays. We were going to do Napa for a few days and then golf and spa at Pebble Beach for a few days. Needless to say, thanks to Covid we cancelled those plans.  It was going to be too difficult to get childcare for the kids because at the time we didn't even know if they would be back for face-to-face school and with all of the limitations it just made us lean towards to canceling. 

However, it was certainly the most memorable birthday I have had in a long time. On my actual birthday I got surprised with balloons, champagne, gifts, and more.  

It was a low-key day and I was home, in my pajamas, with wine in hand before 8 PM (which NEVER happens). We got takeout for dinner and just enjoyed a quiet night at home.  

I got the sweetest note from my little guy and my favorite Halloween candy from the kids.  People joke that this is the cast-off Halloween candy, but they are my favorites so it works out for everyone. 

The next day some of my closest girlfriends planned a special lunch for me.  They went above and beyond to help me celebrate.  

Cards, balloons, cake, flowers...

And they made all of my fortune cookie dreams come true. 

 

A few weeks before we were at our house for supper club and I had fortune cookies kind of as a joke. When I opened mine it said: 

A new pair of shoes will do you a world of good!

I was all excited to have that good fortune, because who doesn't love a new pair of shoes, but my friends were secretly kicking each other under the table because they had already planned my birthday gift and little did I know that the snuck that fortune off of my plate and put it in my birthday card. 


They surprised me with a pair of shoes that I had been eyeing for a few years now, but would never buy for myself.  I was SO surprised and texted them all later saying that I know material things shouldn't make me that happy, but those shoes really do make me that happy. 


I feel so blessed and thankful to have such amazing and thoughtful friends who made my birthday extra special and made turning 40 super fun!  I was kind of dreading it, but kept reminding myself that I have never been happier.  My family is healthy, I'm surrounded by the sweetest and most supportive friends, and despite the crazy year this has been, life is SO good. 

  

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Book Club: October

It's Book Club Day!!!  How are we already almost half way through November?  The first two weeks flew by and now we are looking at Christmas right around the corner.  We definitely need to get on it when it comes to Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, and just prepping for the holidays in general, but we'll worry about that later because day the talk is about books! 


We've got a wide range of books to share with you today! 



WHAT WE READ...

CARRIE BETH

As soon as Jen finished reading One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London she texted me to put it on my list and it was the very next book I listened to.  


I loved it!  This book was so cute about a plus-size young woman who ended up on a reality date show similar to the Bachelorette.  It focused a lot on on body image, showed a bit of what behind the scenes would be like on one of these shows, and had me rooting for the main character the entire time. She was very relatable, funny, and it was great to see her journey through this experience. I would definitely recommend this one! 

Next up for me was another book Jen read. I'm quite the follower this month if you can't tell. I'm not sure what I was expecting with The Inheritance Games by Jenniver Lynn Barnes, but I was pleasantly surprised. 
 

This book follows a girl named Avery who is homeless, living in her car, and going to school just to try to get ahead and all of the sudden she finds herself inheriting the fortune of a BILLIONAIRE she didn't even know.  However, in order to get the money she must move into the estate with the grandsons of the late billionaire. The story follows her interactions with them as they find and solve riddles, games, puzzles and codes throughout the house that their grandfather was known for. They believe these clues will help them find out why the money was left to Avery. It turns into a real life game of trying to solve the mystery and it kept me listening just to find out the back story.  I was SO surprised by the ending and the reasoning for her being the chosen one to inherit the fortune! 

The end of this month I binged The Royals book series by Erin Watt and this is my total guilty pleasure.  This series is classified as Young Adult Romance, but as I told Jen, there is nothing very young adult about this except the fact that the main characters are in high school.  


It's very rated R, very cheesy in parts, and has nothing to do with actual royalty like I assumed from the titles.  But, oh my, I could NOT stop listening and finished each book in about two days.  It was one of those that I listened to every second I possibly could just to find out what happened.  

Paper Princess is about a 17 year old girl, Ella, who grows up without a father and who's mother died of cancer a few years ago. She is living on her own, supporting herself by stripping, and all of the sudden gets swept away from her hard life by her new guardian, a friend of her father's that she never met. She finds herself living in a mansion with her guardian and his 5 teenage sons. They all have more money than they know what to do with and enough issues to match due to the recent overdose of their mother. Ella has a hard time navigating the super posh prep school she has to start attending and her new role as "sister" to these 5 boys. One of the brothers, Reed, she is drawn to and ultimately becomes romantically involved with. There is SO much going on in one book, but it is SO good! 

Broken Prince follows the the same characters, Reed and Ella, and switches back and forth between their points of view as their relationship develops.  More of the same as book one, and more for me to love.  Again, this book is for sure rated R for language and romantic content, but I couldn't put it down. 

Twisted Palace keeps the story going as Ella's gets introduced to her biological father (who everyone thought was dead) and the two of them try to figure out their father/daughter relationship.  Without giving too much away, one of the characters is killed and the prime suspect the police are targeting is Ella's boyfriend, Reed.  I couldn't wait to see how it ended up and the person who ultimately admitted to committing the crime shocked me. I got so sucked into these characters and just wanted to know more about their relationships and how things ended up for them so I finished them all very quickly. 

JEN

Last month I was on a reading roll. This month...not so much. I read two books and neither one of them I was really "wowed" about. They were good, but not "can't put them down" great. After last month's selection, I think my expectations were a little high. 


First on the reading list for the month was Troubles in Paradise. This is the third book in the series and I was excited to see how the story wrapped up for the characters. The plot follows Irene and her sons on St. John after they learn her husband/their dad died in a mysterious helicopter crash. The crash holds a lot of questions for them, including a secret family and millions of dollars. Intriguing right? The first two books I loved, but Troubles in Paradise kind of fell a little flat to me. I can't put my finger on why. I like how it ended, but getting there was kind of tough. I remember thinking throughout the series that the husband and his island girlfriend would just pop up at some point. But, everything wraps up in a nice little bow, and while not every question is answered about the mysterious crash, you do get a lot of closure on the story. 


Second for the month was One By One by Ruth Ware. This story follows the board members of a music app on their annual company retreat. This year they decide to go to a French mountain chalet to enjoy skiing the Alps in between board meetings. An avalanche occurs and one by one the board members seem to be disappearing or dying. I enjoy Ware's books because the story usually keeps the murder parts pretty light (gruesome is not my thing), and keep you guessing until the very end about the whodunit part. One By One held to the same recipe, but I figured out the whodunit part about half way through the book. The cast of characters is huge and there are a ton of secrets and new information given as the story unfolds, but the murderer becomes obvious early on. I enjoyed it, but it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat like the last few of her books did. 

WHAT'S UP NEXT...

CARRIE BETH

I might sound like a broken record, but I'm 3 books in so I figure why not go ahead and finish series by Erin Watt.  Fallen Heir focuses on one of the other brothers, Easton. He deals with addiction issues, can kind of be a jerk, but is also lovable and wants to win the attention of a new girl in school. The new girl, Hartley, has no interests in him at all because she says he needs to grow up.  


Cracked Kingdom, the final book in the Royals series, follows Hartley's story.  After this one I might finally be able to get something else done in my life, but I have to finish it and see how things end! 



JEN

I had Nicholas Sparks' newest book - The Return - ready to go for last month, but I just never picked it up. I'm going to try to dig into that one over Thanksgiving Break. Until then I'm going to try to keep it light I think. I have this Audible ready to go...

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. It was recommended to me and after reading the synopsis, and seeing the reviews, I went ahead and hit "download".  


What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations for something we absolutely need to put on our reading list? Share with us! 


BOOK CLUB 2020

Follow along with us on Goodreads!


HAPPY READING! 


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Friday, October 30, 2020

A Spooky Charcuterie + Happy Everything

 

Whew - what a week! Hurricane Zeta left us all with a lot of tricks and no treats. But that's okay...from where I stand (and thankfully it's no longer in the dark) we still are having lots of spooky fun. 

Due to the hurricane canceling school, we found ourselves with a lot of extra playtime and Halloween activities we could sneak in. To make everything extra festive I decided to break out my favorite Happy Everything serving pieces and have a fun Spooky Charcuterie set up for everyone to snack on while the kids were busy turning their playhouses into haunted houses. 

| Black Stripe Bowl with Large Haunted House Attachment |

Even with the hurricane damage everywhere, this little spooky set up was super easy to put together. Most of the charcuterie items and drinks I already had on hand. And the Happy Everything serving pieces made my theme come to life with just a quick switch of the attachments

One minute these pieces were set for a football get together we hosted, but within seconds I had my spooky bat, large haunted house, and candy corns put on all my bases for a completely spooktacular setting. 


Charcuterie boards are always so fun to put together and they are usually crowd pleasers no matter what age the crowd. I also like the idea that you can do theme boards or mix and match different snacks to make holiday themed boards. 


For the Spooky Charcuterie I grabbed a variety of cubed cheeses and crackers as the base. Then I filled in with some pumpkin themed treats (Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter Pumpkin No-Bake Cookies) and some Fall themed candies (candy corns and pumpkin gum drops). It was a good mix of salty-sweet snacks that leaned a little more kid friendly. 



For the rest of the food we had Monster Funfetti cupcakes the kids decorated and a pretzel platter with both soft and hard pretzels to dip into mustard. This time of year it is so easy to find themed snacks. Just like the ghost chips above, I was able to find pretzels that were in bat and pumpkin shapes. 


Between the Happy Everything bases with fun attachments and the easy snack idea, I was able to put together an entire spooky spread with in minutes. I love being able to host, and when it is low stress - even better!

We are hosting another small gathering of neighbors Halloween night so all my Happy Everything plates and platters will stay in their Spooky modes for now, but after this weekend...

 Like everyone else, I'm tempted to get all things - even my serving pieces - ready for the holidays!



To learn more about Happy Everything and their line of fun bases and attachments, you can visit their online store or see where you can shop locally.  


Happy Halloween everyone! 



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