Archive for the ‘Seasonal Entertaining’ Category
I love dining outdoors, and with 300 days a year of sunshine in Colorado we try to take advantage of every opportunity to share a meal al fresco. The key to enjoying a great picnic is to give the occasion a little forethought and planning. Here are my favorite tips for hosting an unforgettable outdoor meal:
1. Pack or purchase a beautiful picnic basket. Organizing a dedicated bag or basket with unbreakable plates, cutlery and servers, cups and glasses, salt & pepper shakers, a corkscrew and napkins will make spontaneous picnics a breeze. Just add the food and drinks and you’re good to go!
2. Consider your location ahead of time, and arrive early to set up. An area with big trees will provide both shade and sun for changing weather. If children are coming, a picnic area in a park with a play structure gives kids something to do which may in turn make the picnic more relaxing for adults. An on-site picnic table is ideal, and I like to cover it with a colorful tablecloth and arrange soft, folded blankets on the benches. In a pinch, you can spread a waterproof tarp on the ground and top it with a blanket.
3. Choose food that keeps and transports well like salads, sandwiches and finger foods. (Here are some fresh picnic menu ideas from the Food Network.) Prepare everything ahead of time (cut up the ribs, slice the watermelon, etc.) so you can relax at the picnic site.
4. Chill out. Pack everything in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice packs, and set up the picnic in the shade. Or freeze water bottles the night before, and they can serve as ice packs, and later, drinks.
5. Games like Frisbee, croquet and badminton can easily accommodate varying ages and groups of people.
6. Don’t forget bug repellent. If it’s especially buggy outside, you may want to pack citronella votive candles to place on the table.
7. Bring trash bags, paper towels or cloth dishtowels and disposable wipes or damp washcloths packed in zip-lock baggies for cleaning up after the picnic.
Are you picnicking this summer? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Easter is one of my favorite holidays, but if you have children it can be challenging to manage the hunt for Easter eggs and also serve breakfast all in the same morning. The following quiche recipe is perfect for a mid-morning brunch; it’s kid friendly, and easy to prepare. The hash browns form a crispy crust which is topped with a ham and egg mixture. Feel free to add or subtract filling ingredients depending on what your family likes. Sometimes I arrange asparagus spears or chopped artichoke hearts on top before adding the eggs, and I’ve also substituted cooked, crumbled bacon for the ham.
- 1 24-ounce package frozen hash browns, thawed
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
- 1 cup shredded Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese
- 1 cup diced cooked ham
- ½ cup half and half
- 2 eggs
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Press thawed hash browns between paper towels to remove moisture. Arrange hash browns into a greased 9-inch pie plate, forming a solid crust. Brush the crust with melted butter, including top edges. Bake for 25 minutes; remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Sprinkle cheeses and ham evenly over bottom of crust. Beat half and half with eggs and salt and pepper. Pour over cheeses and ham. Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until eggs are set and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. 6 servings.
If you have any favorite recipes or Easter traditions, I’d love to hear about them!
If you’ve been married for as long as I have, you’ve come to realize that the most romantic of dates are not necessarily on February 14th at an overpriced restaurant with a prefixed menu. Besides, how can one ever compete with the doe eyes, forced giggles, and hand feeding that often accompanies these evenings?
I prefer loud company, a hearty, well-priced meal and the genuine laughter that comes from a romantic dinner with the kids.
To create a fun and relaxing evening with the family, I change things up a bit by turning our living room into a five-star eatery. I hang curtains at the doorways, remove or push back most of the furniture, and bring in a card table and chairs. By covering the table with a nice cloth, lighting some candles, and adding a flower or two and some Chris Botti CDs – viola! – it’s the perfect dinner in, no reservations required. I’ll prepare a nice Italian meal for my husband and me, and a box of my kids’ favorite mac and cheese (garnished with parsley for that little something extra). Our tradition has always included a new pair of PJ’s and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert; after they’re all sugared up, we send them to bed a smidge early.
After the kids are down, we grab a nice bottle of wine, a couple of the remaining chocolates, and a ton of warm blankets — and head outside. While watching our breath and a few small stars, I give my husband what I call the verbal Valentine’s card. I tell him all the reasons I love him and love our life. (The memory of this lasts longer than a card).
Happy Valentine’s Day,
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…..
- 12 Drummers Drumming
- 11 Cousins-a-Bickering
- 10 Lords-a-Leaping
- 9 Kids-a-Shouting
- 8 Maids-a-Milking
- 7 Aunts-a-Meddling
- 6 Brothers-a-Quarreling
- 5 Golden Rings
- 4 Sisters Prying
- 3 French Hens
- 2 In-Laws-a-Ranting
- 1 Drunken Uncle
…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!
Ahh, nothing says “holidays” like a good, old -fashioned family feud. The holidays can be tough, and not every gathering is grand –or even peaceful, for that matter. The added stress of stretched finances, packed schedules (more…)
Halloween is so much more than an occasion; in our household, it’s an event!
I love anything in the name of Halloween that diverts some of the attention away from the candy and back towards the innocent shrieks and spooks of the holiday. In the spirit of playing on your kids’ imagination and curiosity, create your own friendly ghost invasion. Here are just a few simple, not-so-scary little tricks to play on your small people this Halloween: (more…)
Looking for a simpler, shorter, summer soirée? I love the typical seasonal BBQ, but occasionally I am looking for a way to gather friends and family with less of a commitment to time and effort. So consider a sundae buffet. Invite your friends over — Pj’s and all — for a sweet nightcap and some stargazing.
Start with a covered table and three staple flavors of top-shelf ice cream: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Put out four types of sauce; fudge, caramel, strawberry, and the much-loved marshmallow creme. The added toppings can be as simple or elaborate as you want; chocolate chips, gummy bears, sprinkles, cherries, marshmallows, cookie crumbles and chopped nuts (check for allergies) are a must! Both adults and children love this dessert-only party. For a slight variation for adults, consider making ice cream floats or malts with your favorite liquors and liqueurs.
To bring something unique to the evening, lay out a group of blankets and grab some binoculars and a telescope if you have one. Download some basic constellation maps, lay back, and enjoy exploring the summer sky.
This month, hundreds of thousands of kids will be graduating from school. From preschool to college, this great achievement is cause for a great celebration. I don’t think you can ever start too young or too early in encouraging continuing education. It is possibility the single greatest factor in determining future success. That’s why I’m throwing my preschoolers a graduation party this year. The theme: career day. (This can work for much older kids as well.) I plan on hosting sixteen adorable future firemen, princesses, astronauts, veterinarians, Spidermen, teachers, horse trainers, actors, and so on, and commemorating each of their accomplishments.
We’ll take pictures and create time capsules to open at their college graduation. I will make a special card to add to the capsule, and every year I’ll write down some of the highlights and personal achievements as well as their latest thoughts about what they want to be when they grow up. We’ll sing, dance and feast on a not-so sophisticated menu, and celebrate this first important educational milestone.
This Mother’s Day I want to gather together the three little loves of my life, to celebrate everything they have brought to my life. I want to celebrate the unwavering and unconditional bond that continues everyday, every month, every year to get stronger.
Each of my girls has walked a line closer to dying than living more times than I care to remember. So many nights have been spent waiting ’til the medicine kicks in, or for the doctor to pick up the phone or the ambulance to arrive. It changes you; it changes your perspective and your priorities. It makes it easier to laugh off the sleepless nights, the temper tantrums and the ridiculous notion of ear piercing at the age of five. I pray that with age (theirs and mine) my worries lessen; I pray that with time, I gain wisdom, patience and understanding. I pray for a restful night’s sleep and a laundry fairy, but most of all, I pray to never wish away a single moment of any day – good or bad. Because without one toe in each, you’d never appreciate either. So come May 9th, I want to spend a whole day devoted to my children. I’d like to think it would be spent flying a kite, building sand castles at the park or baking cookies, but I know them better than that.
It will be a perfect day at Build-A-Bear, watching the latest Barbie movie, and at the local ice cream store.
I’ll try on that day — as I do every day — to remind my girls that their very presence in my life is nothing short of a miracle. ..my single greatest gift in life.
Maybe a royal tea party with all the usual stuffed suspects will do.