Mom, The Gracious Hostess

In recognition of my Mom’s birthday today, this post is dedicated to her…

I have realized that any foundation I have for being a successful hostess is thanks to my Mom, because she is the best.  We have a large immediate and extended family.  Gatherings for our immediate family regularly average about 15 people and extended family gatherings up to 40+ people.  Mom has played the part of hostess for everything from Holiday dinners of every sort, to graduation parties and even picnics served out of the back of their SUV for our family canoe & tubing trips.  Even on a whim for  a regular evening meal, she has always been willing to make accommodations for extra last-minute friends or family members.  Mom exemplifies the concept of  “the more the merrier” mentality and embodies what it means is to be a gracious hostess.

What stands out in my mind more than anything else is that she never seems overwhelmed or stressed by the task of hosting, and I believe this comes from her approach.   Mom never sat me down to teach or instruct me how to bee a good hostess.  However, through observation I have learned a great deal from her…

Plan & prep ahead:  I think this is of the utmost importance.  Mom is a list maker (so thankful I got that from her) and she starts by making a list of what she plans on serving and then follows with a grocery list for ingredients needed.  She starts this process sometimes weeks in advance, and usually shops at least a few days in advance so everything is on hand.  Mom does any prep work possible before the day of the meal of the event.   This may include browning meat, chopping vegetables, baking cookies, etc.  The more that can be done ahead of time the better, this helps cut down on the potential of any last minute stress.

Keep it simple: Everything Mom serves is delicious without having to be too fancy or complicated.  She makes a point to have a variety of things so that every person will have something they will like.  Depending on the meal, she usually has a mix of sweet & savory dishes, and incorporates fruits & veggies whenever possible.   Due to the size of our family, the most practical way to serve such a large group is usually to have a buffet full of things that can be dished out & enjoyed easily.  An added benefit to serving buffet style is that once everything is set out everyone can serve themselves and she can enjoy time visiting with everyone.

Details make a difference:  Even for a buffet style meal like mentioned above, Mom doesn’t forget the details.  She still serves on nice trays and dishes and also coordinates matching paper products to fit the occasion.  These may seem like small gestures but they add a special touch that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Remember favorites/allergies:  There are certain family favorites that Mom includes time and again, and they have become tradition.  (Some of ours include Grace’s jello salad & cheese-ball, monster cookies, Dad’s rolls, haystacks, etc.)  Also, she makes minor adjustments to certain dishes due to a food allergy in our family so no one has to miss out.

Enlist help when needed/available:  Mom always found a way to involve me when I wanted to help.  She would have me set the table or arrange the cookie display, anything I could handle.  Dad has also always been more than willing to help shred, chop, stir where needed.   Let me just say, he is an equally admirable host.  The two of them operate like a well-oiled machine  when it comes to serving large groups.

I wholeheartedly believe that my love for entertaining and striving to be a good hostess, stems from my Mom.  She makes it seem effortless, even when I know it is not, and truly enjoys herself and her family in the process.   Enjoying each other is really what it is all about, and we appreciate her for always making it special.

Happy Birthday Mom, Love you lots!

snacks brunchspread

A few pictures I had on my phone from past family gatherings

Etsy Obsession

Perhaps obsession is a strong word…but when it comes to online shopping, especially for my home, there is one site that I consistently return to more than any other.  At the very top of my list for online shopping sites is…Etsy.  I have purchased so many wonderful things on Etsy including: jewelry, clothes, gifts, wall art, pillow covers, a window valance, a dog collar, soaps, and I’m sure that I’m missing plenty of other goodies.  It is a great resource for both ready-made and custom products that you won’t find anywhere else.

Discover items you can’t find anywhere else

For those of you that have never heard of or just aren’t familiar with Etsy…it is an online marketplace on which you can purchase a wide array of handmade and unique items directly from the designers, artisans and craftsmen that create these items around the country and the world.  These sellers set up their online shops through Etsy.   You can add items to your cart from different shops and checkout all at one time.  Most shops accept major credit cards and PayPal, I have not encountered any shops that don’t.

Shop directly from people around the world

My “favorites” list consistently has at least 100+ items on it at all time, and probably 25+ shops.  I can honestly say I have been satisfied with each and every one of my Etsy purchases to this point, and don’t foresee that changing.  The quality and selection of handmade items on Etsy is unbeatable.   I have experienced great communication with shop owners and the transactions couldn’t be easier.   The best part about shopping on Etsy is that you can get one of a kind and custom items that you can’t find at any local stores.

Below is just small sampling of both ready-made and customized products that I have purchased for our home on Etsy.


Peacock Canvas Print (11×14) from Carolyn Cochrane Fine Art Photography

Visit Shop Here

laundry sign

Smoky Green Wood (5.5×12) Laundry Sign from The Sign Factory

Visit Shop Here

welcome pillow

Burlap Bench Pillow (80×28) from Take Flyte Farm

(Customized with special font/text color request different from above)

Visit Shop Here


 Ikat Pillow Covers from Castaway Cove Decor

(2 Custom sizes in bottom 2 fabric choices)

Visit Shop Here


Fresh Linen Mini Soaps from Ginger Grey Soaps

(I also purchased their Milk & Honey and Gray Skies Mini Soaps)

Visit Shop Here

 Go check out Etsy today to see what treasures you may find!

*I am not affiliated with Etsy or any of the listed shops, just a big fan!*

A Treat, No Tricks Needed: Pumpkin Cake Balls

I had an inclination to try making some type of cake balls (or cake pops) for a while, but I was slightly intimidated at first.  When my husband told me his work was celebrating Halloween with a carry-in, and we were invited to a party the following day, it seemed like the perfect time to try them out.  I decided a few weeks before to do a trial run to make sure it wouldn’t be a complete disaster.  To my pleasant surprise, they weren’t as difficult as I had thought.  There are a few steps in the process so they do require some patience but the end result is well worth it!  They may not look “perfect” the first time or two but they will get better with some practice.

Pumpkin Cake Balls (about 2 dozen)

  • 1 box pumpkin cake mix balls1
    • Eggs, vegetable oil & water needed with mix
  • 1 package vanilla almond bark/candy coating
  • 1 container of cream cheese frosting
  • Sprinkles/decorations of your choice
  1. Prepare the pumpkin cake mix according to box directions balls2just as if you were baking a cake.  Let cool completely, I recommend making it the night before
  2. Crumble the entire cake into a bowl, a fork helps break it up and mix with 3/4 to 1 whole container of frosting. Roll mixture into small balls (approx 1-1 1/2 in. diameter) and place on parchment paperballs3
  3. Chop up the almond bark/candy coating and melt over low heat stirring regularly until smooth.  Gently dip in each ball and use a fork to turn/coat completely.  Once coated, place back on parchment paper to set.
  4. While coating is still “wet” add sprinkles or decorations you desire.  I usually dip about 6-8 balls and then add the decorations, if you wait finalballstoo long the coating sets and the sprinkles won’t stick.
  5. Once the coating is set trim off any excess drippings or coating that has pooled around the bottom, add to mini cupcake wrappers and VOILA!

Why I love these… (aside from being delicious)balls4

  •   Pumpkin is perfect for Halloween & Thanksgiving, but you can use a variety of flavor combinations of cake/frosting/coating that will work for any occasion including Holidays, Birthdays, etc.
  • These can be made a few days ahead of time, they stay fresh & moist thanks to the hardened coating
  • Cake balls are perfectly portioned, individual servings, that are hassle & mess free to transport & serve…what more could you ask for in a treat?



Fall Inside & Out

I love fall.  As a native Michigander, I believe this is in my blood.  Fall is beautiful here in Indiana also, and right now the colors are magnificent.  I have been thinking recently, what exactly is it about fall we all love so much?  And how can we bring it inside?  Fall has impact on each of our senses.  We can easily (and inexpensively) mimic what is going on outside with simple changes inside to enjoy regardless of the weather.


  1. Sight: Fall is all about COLOR.  Changing out or adding a few throw pillows, vases, or other accent pieces in warm hues of red, orange & gold is an easy way to translate what is going on outside your window into your decor.  Also, if you focus more on colors and patterns instead of a specific holiday theme (not skeletons & witches or turkeys & pilgrims), you can enjoy your seasonal decor for several months at a time.  Go ahead and tuck away the pastels, fresh blues & sunny floral prints for now, you will enjoy them that much more again in the spring
  2. Hearing: This one may be a little more subtle than the others.  I don’t exactly want the sound of Canadian geese honking overhead as they fly south playing in my house.  However, the sound of a crackling fire is one of the most relaxing that I can imagine.  Don’t have a wood burning  fireplace?  Or any fireplace? (I have a gas fireplace but it doesn’t have the same effect as wood burning)  There are now candles made with crackling wood wicks to mimic the sound of a real burning fire, and they come in a variety of colors & scents.  *WoodWick brand candles available at Kohls are great & often on sale* 
  3.  Smell:  Even if you do not feel like baking pumpkin pies every day, you can still enjoy similar smells all season long.  There are endless options when it comes to how to bring the scents of fall in your home including traditional & flameless LED candles, wax warmers, oil diffusers and room sprays. Personally, I tend to lean towards woodsy or crisp fragrances, but there are plenty of sweet and spiced options that can fill your home with the smells of something fresh out of the oven.  Changing out fragrances to reflect the season is a must for me, and I enjoy trying out new scents each year.  Current scent in my wax warmers: Mahogany Cedar
  4. Touch: For me this is all about texture, you can get same feeling from a throw blanket that you do from your favorite sweater.  Cable kblanketsnits, flannels & faux fur are all great fabric options that can give your space instant warmth without a big commitment.  The best part is not only will it add to your decor, but there isn’t a better feeling than curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket on a cold and rainy day.
  5. Taste:  This one is pretty obvious and does not need much explanation.  You have probably seen or heard about “pumpkin spiced everything” which I think is wonderful, because it only happens once a year.  I also have a constant craving for hot apple cider with a fresh donut this time of year.  And of course, there are all of the Thanksgiving staples we have to look forward to.  *Keep an eye out for blog posts under the food category for some of my favorite things to make in the fall


I hope you have a wonderful fall season full of everything you love inside & out

Football Food


Now that the season is in full effect, weekends are synonymous with football at our house.  It is the perfect time to bring out the slow cookers that have spent most of the summer in hiding.  Now is the time for some simple snacks that are perfect for watching the game, taking to a Halloween party, or spending gloomy fall afternoons inside.

Let me begin with a couple of disclaimers: 1) Many of the recipes I make for watching football, parties, or any other special event are very rarely low calorie and are probably full of preservatives  2) These are by no means gourmet, and will probably not blow anyone away as far as difficulty or exotic ingredients.

These recipes are nothing more than simple, easy to find ingredients that when mixed together result in a tasty finished product.  We make an effort to eat well during the week but also don’t mind splurging once in a while.  We cannot and do not eat like this all the time, I believe the key is moderation.  That being said, certain occasions call for yummy food that is easy to prepare, can be scaled appropriately for the number of guests, and can hang out in the slow cooker for a few hours.  These recipes are perfect for such occasions.

Here are 2 of my go-to recipes that I have made countless times, and have my husband’s seal of approval.  Both of these recipes are good for about 6-8 people depending on how much other food will be served.

Sweet & Savory Meatballs

  • Slow cooker
  • 1 2lb bag frozen fully cooked meatballs (I use homestyle)
  • 1 12 oz bottle chili sauce
  • 2 tbs BBQ sauce (any flavor or variation you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup grape jelly
  • 1 1/2 tbs Light Brown Sugar

Crockpot IngredientsCrockpot

Combine the entire package of frozen meatballs, chili sauce, BBQ sauce & grape jelly in the slow cooker.  Make sure to give it a few stirs to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Set slow cooker to low and let cook for about 5 hours stirring occasionally to redistribute.  After about 4 hours sprinkle in the brown sugar, stir again and allow to cook for the remaining hour.  Then turn slow cooker to “keep warm” setting if it has one, and they are ready to serve!

Finished meatballs

Substitutions/Variations: Turkey meatballs, honey in place of brown sugar, add more or less of each ingredient to make more sweet or savory, use a few dashes of Sriracha for unique flavor

Easy Queso

  • Small slow cooker
  • 3/4 lb Velveeta (comes in 1lb block) nothing out there works better!
  • 2/3 of 9.6 oz package of crumbled cooked sausage
  • 1 10 oz can diced tomatoes w/green chilis (Original Rotel)
  • Tortilla Chips (Tostitos Scoops work great for dips)

*Optional: Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (not pictured)

Queso IngredientsQueso crockpot

Cube the Velveeta & add to slow cooker, add in the drained can of Rotel and the sausage crumbles, stir to combine.  Set on low for 1-1.5 hours stirring occasionally & you are ready to go once all the cheese has completely melted.

*At the very end I like to stir in a couple of dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for a little extra kick

Finished nachos

Substitutions/Variations:  turkey sausage crumbles, cook & drained spicy sausage or chorizo, Rotel with fire roasted tomatoes, Queso Blanco Velveeta, Fritos Scoops

Hopefully these snacks will be as much of a hit with your family & friends as they have been with mine.  GO PACK GO!

My Favorite Things: Part 1

There are some elements of design & decorating that I find myself consistently drawn towards.  I love a combination of items that are warm, timeless, and can be incorporated into a variety of styles.  Here are a few of my favorite things…

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed WoodI contribute my appreciation of real wood over the faux alternatives to my Dad.  This was instilled in me as a kid “helping” him with projects around the house and has evolved into a true adoration of reclaimed wood.  Whether it comes from an old barn, a park bench, railroad ties, or any other number of places, I don’t think there is anything that can match the beauty of reclaimed wood.  Every scratch, dent and scrape contributes to the character and simply cannot be artificially created.  Reclaimed wood can be transformed into furniture and other design elements that range from rustic to modern, shabby chic to industrial.  Best of all, the story behind the origin of the wood can give meaning to a piece or space that simply can’t be manufactured.  So please, always keep an eye out…that seemingly desolate barn could be a goldmine full of beautiful reclaimed wood ready to be given new life.

Subway Tile

In my opinion there are few things as classic and timeless as white subway tiSubway Tilele.  It can be used for bathrooms, kitchen backsplashes, accent walls and more.  Instead of white being the only option for grout now there are variations of grey and black that can completely transform from the traditional look.  Another option for a twist is adding a band or accent of colored tile to white subway tile (photo).  Added bonuses are that subway tile is readily available at most home improvement stores and is typically a budget friendly option. It may not be the hottest new design trend but I don’t think it will ever be out of style.

Glass Coffee Mugs

Coffee CupThis one may not be as closely related to design but I think it still applies…and I LOVE coffee.  If you look in my kitchen cabinet you will find an assortment of mugs, I’m sure many of you will find the same in your own kitchen.  There may be some mugs tucked away up there that are sentimental and mismatched and you will never get rid of…the same goes for me.  However, my favorite mugs are made of clear class and come in an assortment of sizes and shapes.  The best part is that you can mix and match for a simple and beautiful collection that is a nice touch when serving coffee (or tea, hot chocolate, etc) to guests.  Also, glass coffee mugs are affordable and typically dishwasher & microwave safe.  I purchased mine from Target ranging from about $2-5 dollars each depending on the size.  The best part is that you never have to worry about trying to coordinate with your place settings or serveware because they go with everything!

What are some of your favorite things?



I have been considering starting a blog to organize and document all of the ideas and inspiration I have rattling around in my head, and finally decided there is no time like the present.  Today happens to be the first day of fall, which is the season I absolutely adore most.  As the weather turns and we begin to spend more time inside I feel like it is the perfect time to focus on and share some of the things I love including design & decorating, DIY projects, cooking, writing and anything else that strikes my fancy.  I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this as much as I know I am going to enjoy sharing with you.

Please stay tuned, there will be much more to come.

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