A Couples Wedding Shower

A Couples Wedding Shower | www.thisgratefulmama.com

It was our pleasure to host a couples wedding shower in honor of our nephew Brandon and his bride-to-be, Lauren.

Our nephew grew up and graduated high school in MN but has since moved out-of-state. Lauren had never come to MN with Brandon to see where he spent his childhood, nor had she met some of his family and friends who live here. They were able to fit in just one short visit before the wedding – it was the perfect, and only chance to throw a wedding shower.

Since the couple came in late Friday and left on Sunday, Saturday was the only day available to throw a shower. We chose brunch so they could make the most of their only full day in town. Having the shower in the morning left the rest of the day open for the couple to explore his old stomping grounds.

This post includes the special touches to ‘shower’ the couple. I’ll follow-up in another post with the food we served for brunch.

For more shower ideas, check out another couples wedding shower we threw last year- A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower.

Invitations

DIY Network Shower Invitation Template | www.thisgratefulmama.com

The shower invitation was modified from this free invitation template from the DIY network. All text can be modified so it could easily be used for any type of event! Who would have expected to find free invitation templates on the DIY Network site? There are a few other options available – in fact, I almost picked this free Nautical template instead.

Date Night Idea Card

Date Night Idea Card | www.thisgratefulmama.com

A stamped note card was included in each invitation for guests to write date night ideas for the bride and groom. Guests came up with all kinds of creative ideas.

His & Hers – 10 Favorite Moments Together

His and Her Favorite 10 Moments

Before Brandon and Lauren arrived, we asked each of them to email 10 of their favorite moments together. Originally, I planned to display two short lists using a chalkboard or poster. BUT, they sent beautifully written paragraphs that told their story with genuine affection and honesty. Condensing their moments into a short list would have taken away the emotion and love their words conveyed. Instead of changing them, each paragraph was printed and posted on the wall for guests to read as they mingled.

DIY “We Do” Wedding Shower Photo Banner

DIY WE DO Wedding Shower Photo Banner

Every bride-and-groom-to-be needs a banner in their honor – that is just the way it is! We asked the couple to send us some of their favorite photos. Text and photos were printed on cardstock in black and white. The text flags were cut and lined with patterned tape. The same tape was used to decorate clothes pins. It was quick and easy – just peel and stick! I actually used the other side of the patterned paper decorated clothes pins used to hang the You Are My Sunshine photo banner. The flags and photos were strung using twine across our kitchen.

Coffee Station Photo Banner

Coffee Station Photo Banner | www.thisgratefulmama.com

I found this free printable about love and coffee (I lightened the exposure so it could be printed without draining our ink cartridges) to hang by the coffee station. Like the “We Do” banner, it was strung with twine alongside two more black and white photos using clothes pins.

Gift Table

Wedding Shower Cards Garland and Gift Table

Two banners were made for gifts – one hung on the gift table, and one hung above it for cards. Guests used a clothes pins to clip their cards to the twine and left their gifts and date night cards on the table.

I Have Found The One…Sign

I Have Found The One Whom My Soul Loves | www.thisgratefulmama.com

I love this verse from Song of Solomon, especially for a wedding shower. This photo (changed to black and white using Pic Monkey) was printed on cardstock and applied to an 8×10 canvas using Modge Podge. The sign was placed on the gift table in the entryway for the shower and will be hung in our bedroom.

A Couple’s Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch

Once upon a time, we hosted couples wedding shower brunch. And sometime this spring, over a year later, I  started writing about that brunch…now, in true procrastinator style, I’m posting it.

Better late than never?

(PS. This was written in April – No, I’m not pregnant again)

I’m going to blame it on pregnancy cravings, but I woke up this morning with brunch on the brain. Brunchy thoughts made me realize I never shared what we ate at the wedding shower…now almost a year ago.

One of they keys to hosting a stress-free brunch is to make as much of the food as possible, the day before. With a morning event, make-ahead recipes earn their value in precious sleep for the host.

Do the hard work ahead of time so you can be well rested and at your best on the big day.

Here are some simple, low maintenance ideas if you are hosting a brunch, of any kind. Make the food ahead of time and allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the day and your company.

Couple's Wedding Shower Brunch | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Is it just me, or does every brunch need a balanced combination of sweet, savory and fresh items?

Now I’m hungry…

Something Sweet:

French Toast Bake:

A Couple's Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch - French Toast Bake | thisgratefulmama.comThis french toast bake may be my favorite comfort food, ever. Growing up, it was served on most holidays. It needs to be assembled the day before, which ensures you’ll be free to do other preparations while your home fills with the mouth-watering aroma of french toast. Golden brown, and topped with fresh strawberries – beautiful, and delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 13″ Loaf Stale French Bread, cut into 1″ slices
  • 1/4-1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 4 Tbs Sugar
  • 1 & 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 & 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup (or more) blueberries
  • Topping:
    • 3/4 cup flour
    • 9 Tbs brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 5/8 cups margarine or butter, melted
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
Recipe:
  • Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Spread butter on each side of the sliced bread. Arrange slices in the dish (there should be enough slices that you have to squish them into the pan).
  • In a separate bowl, whisk to combine eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk. Pour mixture over the buttered bread.
  • Spread blueberries over the top (1 cup or more – as many as you like).
  • In a separate bowl, prepare topping by combining flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and 5/8 cups melted margarine or butter. Spread topping on top of blueberries and bread in the pan.
  • Cover pan and refrigerate overnight.
  • In the morning, preheat oven to 375F while allowing the pan to warm on counter.
  • Bake a 375F, uncovered, for 50 minutes.
  • Allow to set for a minimum of 10 minutes before serving.
  • Top with sliced strawberries to serve.
YUM!

Apple Cider Donut Holes

A Couple's Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch - Apple Cider Mini Donuts | thisgratefulmama.com

Thank you, Feastie.com, for this recipe for Baked Apple Cider Donut Holes, made in a mini-muffin tin. Bite size, tasty, and a big hit!

To make ahead, bake the day before but wait to roll in sugar and cinnamon mixture until the day of the event.

Something Savory:

Cheesy Hashbrowns:

A Couple's Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch - Cheesy Hashbrowns | thisgratefulmama.com

This Easy Hashbrown Casserole recipe from MyBlessedLife blog may be the only one out there in internet-land that does NOT use a canned cream of something soup.

Delicious. You know you want these.

 

Mini-Frittatas with ham:

A Couple's Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch - Mini Frittata | thisgratefulmama.com

You can’t go wrong with a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. Her Mini Fritattas are made using sliced ham and are uniquely flavorful with the addition of parmesan cheese and parsley. One recipe makes 40 individual fritattas, and they cook in a mini-muffin tin for just 10 minutes, you can prepare these in a flash.

Either make them the day before and reheat in the oven just before serving, or prepare the egg mixture the day before and cook them the day of the event.

Fill those muffin tins without a mess: Mix ingredients in one of these Rubbermaid Mixing Bottles. Seal and shake to evenly distribute ingredients. Open the lid and pour into each well in one row of the muffin tin. Shake and pour into the next row, and so on, until the pans are full. Easy-peasy.

Something Fresh:

Fruit Salad:

A Couple's Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch - Fruit Salad | thisgratefulmama.comPick your favorite seasonal fruits. This simple, beautiful, and healthy side is sure to please even the pickiest eater.

 

 

 

 

Veggies and Dip:

A Couple's Wedding Shower: A Make-Ahead, Crowd-Pleasing Brunch - Veggies and Dip | thisgratefulmama.com

Chop an assortment of vegetables and serve with dip, or consider serving a green salad instead. A Strawberry spinach salad (sub pumpkin seeds for almonds for a nut-free salad), or Greek salad works great for brunch. Just toss with dressing just before serving.

 

 

Now, is anyone else hungry for brunch?

A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate

A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate | thisgratefulmama.com

So I had these two problems that seemed unrelated…

Problem One:

We’ve been having a bit of a storage problem in our house. I bought this cloth basket with the intent of using it for either library books or blankets. I’ve tried using it for many things, and have stuffed many-a-library book into it.

Not Big Enough

Unfortunately, it is simply not big enough to really be functional – even though I wish it was.  So, it has been demoted to hold kids dress-up clothes until I find another functional use for it.

Back at square one, I am still in need of a storage solution to put under my living room end table for books or blankets.

Problem Two:

I like to use beverage dispensers when I host a large gathering – but I have no stands. I am always scrounging around before we host…for something, anything, that will raise the dispensers off of the counter.

Why not buy one? The sticker shock. Not only are they expensive,but they also serve no other purpose and take up space in my kitchen cabinets. They are not used often enough to justify it.

All that scrounging around for a solution always yields no results and I end up with the spigots hanging off the counter, with beverages dripping onto the floor.

Wet socks…sigh.

SO what do these two problems have in common? The solution.

Last week, while preparing to host a wedding shower, I stumbled upon this pin from The Better Half. Cleverly, they used a painted crate for a beverage station. Not only does the crate save me from floor puddles and lift the dispensers so they can be used, it also provides storage for the cups below – saving valuable counter space!

Genius.

On the same day (oh yes, this project was meant to be), the email title Easy DIY Library Book Crate from This Abundant Life caught my eye.

In a span of just a few minutes an inexpensive, multi-purpose problem solving solution was born – only I wanted mine to have two colors.

Lucky me, the unfinished wood crates were on sale and even less using a coupon at JoAnns. I bought the cheapest acrylic craft paint I could find ($0.69 per bottle) in two colors, and the project was funded and completed for under $10.

I used 2.5 bottles of white craft paint, and a half bottle of yellow. White paint was used as a primer below the yellow (becuase as I mentioned, I bought cheap paint and had no idea how well the yellow would cover).

A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate | thisgratefulmama.com

It took an hour to paint two coats, and then just a few minutes to seal it.

The painted crate was sealed with leftover indoor/outdoor Urethane sealer from the DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign I made this winter. Now the paint is protected from condensation on the dispensers, and won’t come off on the carpet.

I love a solution that solves more than one problem.

Beverage Station:

A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate | thisgratefulmama.com

Book Storage:

A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate | thisgratefulmama.comLibrary Book Storage

Blanket Storage:

A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate | thisgratefulmama.com

 

 

This post was shared on link parties at TheShabbyNest and ItsOverflowing. Check them out for many fun ideas worth exploring.

frugal fridayItsOverflowing-Button-150

‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – Simple Food So You Can Relax!

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

One of the most difficult decisions for me when hosting is picking the food.

In March, we celebrated our daughter’s second birthday. I’ve already shared how the house was decorated with a few strings of bird and sunshine garland, and a ‘You Are My Sunshine’ photo birthday banner, strung using patterned paper covered clothes pins.

Like most families, ours has a few special dietary needs (peanut and tree nut allergy, dairy intolerance, and at times gluten-free or low-carb needs). On top of all that, we want food that is well liked by both children and adults and prefer to make it all a day ahead. There were 17 adults or teenagers, and 3 children, for a total of 20 people.

Since this birthday party was for a 2-year-old, you won’t find any fancy recipes here. She is easy to please!

Plus, with small children, I often have other duties than hosting that require my attention – diapers, wanting to be held, injuries or simply a lot of people arriving at once are sure keep a mama in-demand. Make-ahead, simple food helps ensure a low stress level when I’m hosting and little ones need me. It also helps make it easy to delegate when people offer to help.

What’s the use in throwing a party if I end up stressed-out and cranky and then take it out on the very people the party is for? Keeping things low-key maximizes the time I have to visit with company and actually enjoy the festivities.

Why not keep it simple so everyone can relax?

 Main Dish 

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

We made a warm shredded chicken dish using a modification of this crock pot turkey recipe. Instead of turkey, the meat from 2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens (Costco ones are huge!) were used. All ingredients (except parsley and chicken) were combined with 1 cup water in a large skillet on the stove instead of using a crock pot. The sauce was heated over medium heat while mixing to ensure even distribution of the cream cheese as it melted. Chicken was added and mixed until coated, then cooled and stored in the fridge overnight. The day of the party, the meat was warmed on the stove until heated through. Finally, fresh-cut parsley was mixed in just before serving. Note: It was easy to reserve a cup of plain meat for our daughter who does not eat dairy. 

Simple Sides 

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

Isn’t it great that the easiest sides are also often the healthiest? We served fresh-cut veggies and fruit, and a simple salted popcorn. It may not seem like much, but these simple sides are always a hit with our family. I count it an added bonus that they are low-budget and easy to prepare ahead of time.

 

 Dessert

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

This year I was unable to find a nearby bakery that could ensure nut-free cupcakes. Instead of driving across town the day of the party for two dozen, over-priced (but nut-free) cupcakes, I chose to make them myself. As some of you may know, baking is not my strong suit and often ends in disaster. However, for once, I managed to make some plain white cake cupcakes – and yes, I admit I’m lame and used a boxed mix and pre-made frosting. I’m somewhat proud of myself for attempting and not totally failing at piping frosting…Trust me, this is a victory. They sure aren’t fancy, but were of sufficient quality to please a 2-year-old (who smashed it as soon as she got her hands on it). From the look on her face, they were birthday-girl approved.

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

Happy Birthday, Sunshine-girl!

 

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Our son turned 4 on Halloween and we celebrated the occasion with a dinosaur birthday party.

Brunch is a great option for a kids birthday party. We invited 3 to 6 year old kids and their families, which included many younger siblings. Brunch allowed us to start at 10 am, and be done at 1 pm, just in time for afternoon naps. Brunch is also a good option because baked goods, eggs, and chicken salad can be made inexpensively, be made a day ahead, and provide a great variety for even the pickiest eater.

The meal needed to:

  • accommodate both kids and adults, including a few picky eaters…
  • be completely nut-free to accommodate a peanut and tree nut allergy
  • include some dairy-free options
  • be plentiful and filling enough to feed a crowd of 14 kids and 20 adults
  • be able to be prepared a day ahead, with minimal prep time
  • be easy to set out and finish up the morning of the party

Our dinosaur birthday brunch & dessert included the following foods and beverages – bold items are described in further detail below.

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Brunch

  • 4 Varieties of Muffins
  • 3 Different Egg Frittatas
  • Chicken Salad and rolls
  • Dinosaur Juice-Jello Jigglers
  • White Cheddar Pirates Booty
  • Veggies and Dip (cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots sliced thinly, and cherry tomatoes)
  • Grapes (because there were NO watermelons at 3 stores! Otherwise we were going to make a dino-head from the rhine like this one – sad it didn’t work out)

Dessert

  • Dinosaur Dig Jars and Gummy Dinosaurs
  • Brownies and rice crispy treats

Beverages

  • Mini Apple Juice boxes
  • Coffee
  • Sparkling Water
  • Ice Water
  • Orange Juice
  • Dinosaur Ice Cubes

 

Muffins

Cinnamon streusel, Lemon Poppyseed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Cinnamon streusel, Lemon Poppyseed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

We made Cinnamon Streusel, Lemon poppy-seed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins. Even though these could have been made ahead, we made them the morning of the party. It took under an hour using 2 ovens, and made our house smell delicious as guests arrived. Looking back, this was too many muffins; next time, for a group this size, I’d just make 3 flavors (skip the Lemon poppy-seed – the only flavor hardly eaten).

 

Egg Frittatas – Spinach & Sausage, Ham & Cheese, and Plain egg

Ham & Cheese, Plain, and Sausage & Spinach Egg Frittatas

Ham & Cheese, Plain, and Sausage & Spinach Egg Frittatas

Egg frittatas are inexpensive, simple, healthy, and look great on a platter. You can mix and match fillings to your liking. These can be cooked a day ahead; just cool, wrap with foil and store in the fridge. Reheat in the oven at 350 F for 15-25 minutes, or until warmed through.The recipe recommends to serve at warm or room temperature, so they’ll still taste great even if they’re not piping hot when eaten.

Overall, these fritattas were liked by both kids and adults. Ham & Cheese was the clear favorite and was gone long before the others.

All three recipes were adapted from this recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s Healthy In A Hurry Cookbook, as follows:

  • Spinach and Sausage Frittata: substituted spinach for arugula, omitted the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and substituted rice milk for dairy milk to make it dairy free
  • Ham and Cheese Frittata: substituted 8 oz ham for sausage, and added 1 cup cheddar cheese (omitted sausage, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese)
  • Plain Frittata: omitted the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sausage and arugula.

 

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is a go-to recipe for me when hosting brunch and lunch. It is easy to prepare, can be made the day before (just wait to add the apple until the day-of), and can be eaten alone or on a roll as a sandwich. Using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise creates a great healthy option. Kids and adults will enjoy the fruit and veggies that make every bite a little different.

This salad was prepared using the meat from 2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens (from Costco – they’re huge!), 1 cup dried tart cherries or crasins, 1 chopped large apple (I used honey crisp), 2 diced stalks of celery, 2 chopped green onions (green only),  1/4 tsp dill weed, salt & pepper to taste, mayonnaise or plain greek yogurt to desired consistency, and a drizzle of honey, to taste. If you want it just a little sweeter, add some chopped grapes just before serving.

 

Dinosaur Juice Jigglers

Dinosaur shaped 100% Juice Jello Jigglers

Dinosaur shaped 100% Juice Jigglers

What child doesn’t love jello, especially when dinosaur shaped? When made with 100% juice, they’re a pretty great option for parents too. Two flavors of juice gelatin (100% White Grape Juice and Apple Cider) were made and cut out with T-Rex and Triceratops cookie cutters. In hindsight, I wish I’d used something with a brighter color so they looked a little more fun. Just buy plain Gelatin and follow the package instructions.

 

Dinosaur Dig Jars and Gummy Dinosaurs

Dinosaur Dig Jars with Pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy dinosaurs

Dinosaur Dig Jars with Pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy dinosaurs

I’m not much of a baker and it can be a challenge sometimes to find a cake that is nut-free, so I was really excited to see the idea for these Dino-Dig Jars on Two Prince Blog. We filled our cups with chocolate pudding, crushed O cookies, and put two Hairbo Gummy Dinosaurs (nut free if you buy the factory-sealed bag) on top. This no-hassle, nut-free dessert was a hit with the kids. We also set out the gummy dinosaur candy, brownies and rice crispy treats for parents and kids who didn’t want a dig-jar.

Tip: The only problem with this dessert was when my son went to blow out his candle, the Oreo cookie ‘dust’ blew back into his face and all over the table. May want to mix the cookies into your child’s cup if doing candles so they don’t blow cookie crumbs into their eyes.

 

Dinosaur Ice Cubes

Make Dinosaur ice cubes in a muffin tin

Make Dinosaur ice cubes in a muffin tin

Set out dinosaur ice cubes with clear cups with lids and bright colored straws

Set out dinosaur ice cubes with clear cups with lids and bright colored straws

I found this idea for dinosaur ice cubes on Pinterest. I found these tiny dinosaurs in the Dollar Spot at Target (20/bag-a STEAL compared to other stores), washed them, and made a set of 12 cubes for the party. These dinosaurs floated when water was added to the tin, so ice cubes were made by filling each tin half-way, freezing, then adding water and freezing again so the dinosaurs were mostly encased in ice.

Clear cups with lids and colored straws were provided so the kids could see their dinosaur melt from the ice during the party.

 

 

Our dinosaur party brunch was delicious, and required minimal effort the day of the party. The food was enjoyed by toddlers, preschoolers and parents. Here are a few more pictures of everything the day of the party.

Beverages and dinosaur ice cubes

Beverages and dinosaur ice cubes

Dinosaur Themed Birthday Brunch for kids and parents

Dinosaur Themed Birthday Brunch for kids and parents

Desserts

Desserts

Happy Celebrating!

 

Check out the dinosaur birthday party decorations and favors in these posts:

DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party Decorations

DIY Dinosaur Tails, Dinosaur Spike Party Hats and Favors

Joyful Hosting: Letting Someone Host At Your House Is A Cinch

Have you ever ‘hosted’ a party where all you had to do was provide your space?

If not, here’s why I highly recommend it, especially if you have small children:

  • who doesn’t like a party?
  • you lighten the load of the ‘host’ by providing a clean space
  • since you don’t have to do all the food, it makes your preparation a cinch
  • we believe that biblical stewardship of our home involves sharing what it with others
  • if you have small children:
    • they can nap, and play with their own things
    • you don’t have to pack a diaper bag, snacks, toys, and basically MOVE into someone else’s space for a few hours
    • you don’t have to worry about being somewhere on-time or deal with car-ride drama

One of the reasons we purchased our new home was the open floor plan; we wanted a space where people could gather, and we wouldn’t feel claustrophobic. The layout of this house is great for entertaining.

our house

That in mind, when my sister asked if we could celebrate my niece’s first birthday with family at our house, I was happy to offer the use of our home, even before she told me her plans.

Sharing your space is SO VERY EASY, especially when it is with people who are and laid-back (and who do most of the work). The planning is minimal.

All you really need to know is:

  • date and time
  • how you can help
  • what food they are bringing so you can plan ahead with serving dishes or possibly pre-heat an oven for them
  • how many people are coming (so you have adequate seating, etc.)
  • what you can do to help make the day special

We set a time and date that worked well for both of us. My sister’s family brought in all the food, the cake, and arranged for others bring side dishes. They even brought the plates, napkins and cups so I wasn’t left with a bunch of dishes to wash.

I offered to make a salad and provide the beverages and asked if it was OK to put up some simple decorations.

Allowing someone to host at your home leaves minimal work for you:

  • clean the house (which has to be done at some point anyway)
  • provide serving spoons and dishes
  • provide your kitchen to prep food, and help warm up food as needed
  • provide adequate seating (in our case, set up one extra table and some folding chairs)
  • decorations (if desired)
  • be willing to take direction from them on how you can HELP without taking over

For decorations, I just made a simple birthday banner (because ALL birthday girls need a banner in their honor) from scrapbook paper and twine, and hung a few paper lanterns in the windows.

Happy Birthday Banner

I was amazed with how easy my sister’s family made hosting here look.

If you are thinking of a food idea so you can host somewhere else, a taco bar is a great idea; easy to prepare, inexpensive, easily portable, and needs little prep to do on-site.

The Taco Bar Included:

  • ground beef, already cooked, seasoned and ready to heat on the stove
  • shredded lettuce
  • chopped tomato
  • diced onion
  • shredded cheese
  • chips and salsa
  • taco sauce
  • sour cream
  • corn and flour tortillas

Others brought:

  • bean side dish
  • simple mexican salad
  • watermelon

From the time they brought everything into the house, it took 15 minutes to prep to serve the meal.

Not only did they bring all the food, but they brought the cake.

And seriously… just LOOK. At. This. Cake!

The Cake

It was made by the Buttercream Bakery in St. Paul, MN.

It had edible glitter, and the best buttercream frosting you’ve ever had.

It was absolutely as delicious as it was stunning!

 

 

 

 

After watching my niece smash her cake to bits, clapping frosting all over her face, and watching my children ‘HELP’ her open her gifts (aka…in her face and doing it for her…her parents are very gracious), all that we were left with to clean-up were a few serving dishes, and some garbage bags to take to the garage.

(Oh, and some crumbs and stray blobs of frosting, which somehow only landed on the floor. My niece has impeccable aim).

So if someone asks you to share your home so they can host a party, say YES! By offering your home, you save the host from having to clean theirs, AND you get to enjoy the party at your house, where you can put your kids down for a nap or distract with their own toys when they get bored.

 

Happy hosting!

 

 

10 Simple Tips to Help Out-of-Town Guests Feel ‘At Home’ in Your Home

In recent years, we have been blessed to have out-of-town guests. We love the chance to catch up, show them around the city, or to host celebrations. Our family has also been guests of many thoughtful and gracious hosts.

Whether your guests are family or friends, here are 10 simple ways you can help them feel ‘at home’ in your home during their visit.

10 Simple Tips to Help Out-of-Town Guests Feel ‘At Home’ in Your Home

1. Provide bulky items

If your guests have small children or babies, they may require use of bulky items (Pack N Play, car seat, or stroller). If you have an extra or know someone you can borrow extras from, offer! You guests’ sanity and backs will thank you! Be sure to inquire what items they will need ahead of time so everyone knows what IS and IS NOT available. If borrowing, do your best to have everything washed, and setup before they arrive.

Also consider asking if you can swing by the store to pick up bulky items like diapers. On our last trip out-of-town, our hosts picked up diapers and wipes and a few ‘baby’ necessities. We packed just enough diapers and wipes to get us there, saving space in suitcases.

2. Give a tour

One of the best ways to help your guests feel at home right away is to give a quick home tour. Include the entire house, and where your guests will be staying. It is a good idea to show where you’ve hidden extra towels and linens and any quirky things they need to know about your guest bathroom. My 3-year-old son LOVES to give our home tour and proudly parades everyone through the house. Guests think it is cute, and it lets them know where things are so they can start settling in.

3. Provide a ‘extras’ basket

Seems like every time I travel, I forget a simple necessity. We keep a basket of ‘extras’ for guests in the guest bathroom closet. We only take it out when guests are here, and replenish it with fresh stuff after they leave so it is ready to go for next time with minimal effort.

Create a guest ‘extras’ basket:

  • Q-tips
  • Mouthwash and small disposable plastic cups
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental Floss
  • A NEW loufa
  • Body wash (actually not in the basket: include a full size bottle in the shower)
  • Travel size shampoo and conditioner
  • Body lotion
  • 2 travel size deodorants (one men’s, one women’s)
  • Travel first aid kit
  • Chapstick
  • Travel tissues
  • Travel size lint roller
  • Disposable razor
  • Nail file

4. Buy grab-and-go snacks and containers

Whether your guests are visiting family and friends, working, or exploring the area, it is a good idea to have some foods and beverages that can be eaten on-the-go. I always set out disposable coffee cups and lids, and let guests know what ‘quick’ foods are in the house.

Grab-and-go ideas:

  • granola bars
  • bananas or washed fresh fruit
  • bagels or cinnamon toast
  • cheese sticks
  • lunch meat
  • cut up veggies and dip
  • sparkling water or soda
  • bottled water
  • disposable coffee cups and lids

5. Accommodate special diets

Do your guests have any food allergies or do they have a special diet need? It is a good idea to ask ahead of time so you can be prepared. Consider things like allergies, lactose intolerance, diabetes or Celiac. For guests with little ones, have some baby and toddler ‘friendly’ food on hand; asking if you can pick up a few of their children’s favorite items can help little ones adjust to new surroundings.

As a general rule when making food for someone with food allergies, save the packaging or set it aside for easy access so they can read the label themselves. Even if you are great at reading food labels, an extra set of eyes is never a bad idea.

6. Give them their own space – and stay out of it

If your house is ‘full’, this can be tricky. BUT, if you plan ahead, it can be done! If you have a guest room, set everything up ahead of time and move items you need to use during the week to other locations. For example, our guest room closet houses our vacuum cleaner and ironing board. I know I may need them while guests are here so I move the ironing board to the laundry room and the vacuum to the entryway closet.

If your guests are staying in one of your children’s rooms, grab a few outfits and their favorite toys so they aren’t likely to wander into the room, or want something in there while your guests are resting. IF you HAVE to go in, try to make it as little as possible.

Do your best to make your the room comfortable, even if it is not a dedicated guest room. Remove as much clutter as you can so they have room to just BE. If using your child’s room as a guest room, consider buying a few nice guest pillows and ‘adult’ bedding during ‘back-to-school’ sales or Home Goods or TJ Max. Use a large plastic storage bin to store loose items and some favorite toys; it makes room for guests, and gives your child access to some of their favorite things they may want to go into the room to get.

Additional guest room items include:

  • alarm clock
  • extra blankets or pillows
  • hangers
  • an extra universal charger for a phone or computer, if you have it
  • portable fan (We live in a new housing development and workers begin clunking around at 7 am. A good fan can create some much-needed white noise and drown out sounds of kids and allow guests to cool off if they get warm during the night)
  • pass code for wireless internet
  • mirror (full length is a bonus!)
  • spare key or garage code
  • large or bulky items, if needed (Pack N Play, etc.)

7. Offer use of appliances

When guests stay, I make it clear that the washer, dryer, iron, hair dryer and anything else appliance-related is available to use. No one wants to wear dirty or wrinkly clothes, or have wet hair!

8. Work around their schedule

Most travelers have an agenda to accomplish during their visit. They may have special errands, sight-seeing, or appointments for work or with friends. They have made a special effort (and spent money) to come and stay with you, so whenever possible, adjust your schedule to theirs.

  • Meals: If they aren’t sure how their schedule will work out ahead of time, pick up a few easy meals that can be made quickly and don’t require a set timeline. I usually grab some lunch meat, chips, fruit and vegetables for lunches, and grab buns for hot dogs, burgers, frozen chicken, and a few easy sides. This way, regardless of their schedule, we have food on hand, or can have freedom to choose to pick up food or eat out.
  • Your schedule: If YOU have set appointments, work, kids who nap and/or go to bed early, or other scheduled activities, let your guests know your schedule. Your guests can then CHOOSE to make adjustments, if needed. If you stay home like me, let them know if you can offer use of your car or be available to pick them up or drop them off somewhere. A spare key or the garage code will allow them to come and go as needed.
  • Sleep: Do your best to reduce noise during the evening and early morning when your guests are sleeping. Regardless of the purpose of your travel, it is nice to think of any trip as VACATION from home. One perk of vacation is sleeping until YOU are ready to get up. I listen in the morning for my kids so I can quickly bring them downstairs so they don’t wake our guests.
  • Events: Don’t schedule anything for your guests. If planning a large event while they are visiting, consult them on the timing of that event. It is not your job to pack their schedule or to pressure them to do what YOU want to do. Too much in too little time can leave everyone exhausted and reduce the amount of time available to have some quality conversations and actually enjoy their visit.
  • Expectations: Don’t expect anything from them. Be glad they are here, and be grateful for WHATEVER amount of time (large or small) you have with them.

9. Provide distractions for little ones

If your guests are traveling with kids, a small basket of toys in their room, or in the living area where everyone is visiting can help the parents relax and the child get in some play time. Even better, go for quality time with the kiddos and play with them so the parents can get ready in peace, take a nap, or visit with other adults!

10. Enjoy your time with them

Remember that being a good host isn’t all about food, cleaning, or organizing! While it is great to have a clean house and do nice meals and events, the best thing to do with your guests is RELAX. Enjoy them.

Do what it takes to keep your house from being FILTHY, but feel free to allow a few dust bunnies or crumbs to stay on the floor. Accept help when your company wants to hang in the kitchen with you and help you load the dishwasher. Your friends and family did not come all this way to watch you cook and clean. They came here to spend quality time with you and your family. Plus, if your house is TOO clean, they won’t feel like they can LIVE in it.

No matter how long or short the visit, be grateful for what time you DO have with your guests. Don’t preoccupy your thoughts with when they are leaving or coming back again so you can be present in the moment.

 

What other tips do you have for hosting guests?

10 tips for making out of town guests feel at home in your home