Tea partyThis post is a week late but better late than never, right? And I really think this postwas worth waiting for. I love all the bright, colorful photos…the bright, femininity of it all.

In my opinion, there isn’t a whole lot better than sitting around the table with family, sipping tea (or mimosas) and noshing on tea party fare. My mom is especially a big fan of tea sandwiches so I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

We kept things relatively simple with store-bought desserts, minimal decor and potluck style food. Everything turned out delicious and most importantly, we all had a great time.

read more

9 comments

NespressoI am pumped about the HUGE giveaway in this post. Be sure to scroll down to enter for your chance to win one of these beautiful Nespresso machines!

Last Saturday I hosted a cookie baking party. There were five of us gals, two toddlers and one newborn. We had a busy, fun day. And while the day was far from successful from the baking perspective, it was an awesome time laughing and hanging with friends.

Isn’t that what the holidays are really about? Celebrating with friends (and family) and laughing through all the chaos that the holidays bring? In our case chaos came in the form of one cookie baking disaster after another. I loved that we were able to laugh our way through the day and have a great time. The holidays can be stressful and I’ve learned to embrace the imperfections along with all things merry and bright.

Now onto the really good stuff. 

Nespresso contacted me to partner with them on a post to share my thoughts on what a Tasteful Holiday Season means to me. I already had this cookie baking party planned and I thought an espresso table would go nicely with all the treats we would be baking up that day.

I covered a small table with a festive, red tablecloth and added a small chalkboard to label the drink offerings. I lined up coffee mugs, the Nespresso machine, coffee capsules displayed on a small cake stand and chocolate wafer cookies as an accompaniment to the coffee.

To add a little sparkle I lined the back of the table with holiday lights. They provided a lovely glow especially as the day turned to evening.

NespressoI received a Pixie Aluminum Nespresso machine plus the Aeroccino milk frother a week ago and I’ve made a latte every day since. I am a huge lover of coffee (did you know that I used to be a barista for a short stint in my mid 20s?). I drink coffee each morning. It starts my day off right and my caffeine need is real and it maybe is weird to say but isn’t caffeine such a beautiful thing? Warming my hands on a hot mug of coffee…well, that just may be one of my favorite things ever.

I’m no fan of stopping in the coffee shop every day and spending all that money on an espresso drink. But I still enjoy a latte every once and a while and always view it as a special treat. Now that I have this this Nespresso I can enjoy a latte every. single. day. And in just about 30 seconds I have a smooth cup of espresso and perfectly frothed milk. And the Aeroccino froths almond milk wonderfully. I tend to add unsweetened vanilla almond milk to my coffee but let me tell you that frothed almond milk takes things to a whole new level.

Make your way to the end of this post because I am giving away a Pixie Aluminum Nespresso plus an Aeroccino milk frother to one lucky reader. This is a huge value of $330!
NespressoOther than making really lovely cups of espresso, the machine itself is beautiful. The design is sleek and small and seriously competes with my Kitchen Aid Mixer as one of the prettiest kitchen appliances that I proudly display on my counter top.
NespressoHow awesome are these? My friend Sarah brought over adorable hot chocolate, marshmallow and Bailey’s in a mason jar to pass out as favors. These make awesome hostess gifts. They were a very nice touch to the coffee table set-up.
NespressoIn addition to baking a cookie recipe, each of us provided an appetizer to share. Sarah brought this delicious shrimp and avocado salad and Libby brought hearty lasagna dip with bread.
NespressoI made this creamy, awesome warm kale and asiago dip. I found it really satisfying to mix a bunch of mayo, cream cheese and asiago cheese with super food super healthy kale. Because honestly, the holidays are not about being super healthy, are they?  NespressoI always have a simple cheese tray at any gathering. This is a jalapeno havarti.   NespressoSarah is anti-bake so she made pretzels dipped in almond bark and different toppings like peppermint, chocolate chips and heath toffee.  NespressoThese were great and a huge hit. They make festive favors if you add a bunch to cellophane bags and wrap with a ribbon.  NespressoNespresso also sent me these Grand Crus which each have different aromatic profiles. There are also a few flavored espressos and so far my favorite is the Vanilio (vanilla flavored).  Nespresso Nespresso NespressoI love this holiday download, from Lindsay Letters. I display it on my mantle, but for the party I added it to the espresso table.

So about the cookie chaos…Deanna made sugar cookies with a peppermint Hershey Kisses and Libby accidentally sent every single cookie flying onto the floor when she knocked over the cooling rack they were on. Oops. Deanna brushed it off saying the cookies didn’t turn out that great anyway. Well, we’ll never know if they were or not!

Then Libby’s cake pops were a huge disaster. First of all, the cake pop pan she purchased produced weirdly shaped cake pops and then none of the pops would stay on the stick. Then the white chocolate frosting was all clumpy and weird. Those ended up in the garbage, unfortunately. They still tasted great but Libby was not pleased and wanted all evidence of the failed attempt gone. I’ve tried making cake pops once and they didn’t turn out at all. Tasted fine but were super ugly. It really makes you appreciate those beautifully made cake pops that you see on Bakerella.

That left my cookies, which actually turned out alright but I wasn’t happy with how dark the bottoms of my gingersnaps got. Overall though, they were pretty good. Summer made chocolate chip cookies beforehand and those were delicious.

So not the best results cookie-wise but still so much fun. We laughed and laughed and had a wonderful time. Now that, to me, are what the holidays are all about.

Be sure to enter this AMAZING giveaway! The giveaway will end at midnight on December 22 and the winner will be announced on December 23rd. Eligible to US residents only. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: this post was made possible by Nespresso. I was provided with Pixie Alumium and Aeroccino machines for my own use and also to giveaway. All opinions are my own.

60 comments

Holiday appetizer partyMy family gathered for a holiday appetizer party a couple weekends ago. Instead of sitting down to a full dinner, we mingled and ate apps the entire time. It was awesome. My family is big on appetizers and always tend to fill up and then get too full after the meal. An appetizer party is the perfect solution.

I’ve written a couple posts on my recent experience with Aldi. I’ve continued shopping at Aldi the past couple of months and have totally incorporated it into my weekly routine. There is no doubt it saves money and I completely love their organic selection and organic prices.

Be sure to read to the bottom of this post because I am giving away a $50 Aldi gift certificate. And believe me, $50 goes a long way at Aldi.

I shopped at Aldi for the holiday appetizer party for my family and was pumped to see a ton of awesome holiday entertaining-style food options. And for really great prices.

I set up a pretty little table just for the occasion.

Holiday appetizer partyAldi had cranberries for .99 cents a bag. I use cranberries for so many things over the holidays; decorating, drink embellishments and cooking. They are so versatile and with the right dish, taste awesome.  Holiday appetizer partyAldi has a great variety of cheese. I purchased a double creme brie ($2.99), havarti ($2.99) and an herb goat cheese ($1.69). I added crackers for just $1.49. A cheese platter is a great party appetizer because it’s always a crowd favorite and requires minimal effort from the host/hostess.
Holiday appetizer partyMy sister-in-law brought a cranberry cream cheese dip and it was the hit of the party. I had no idea how amazing cranberries taste paired with cilantro, jalapenos and cream cheese. It’s the perfect combination of flavors from salty to sweet to tart plus a hint of spicy.  I’m going to make this for my next gathering with friends.  Holiday appetizer partyWe gathered on a Sunday evening so we opted for sparkling juice ($2.49 per bottle).  Holiday appetizer party Holiday appetizer partyI made these green bean casserole quiche bites from this recipe on Aldi’s site. These were very popular with my family and a nice departure from the traditional casserole. I’m not usually a big fan of cream of mushroom soups from the can but for the holidays I make an exception. This is an awesome holiday appetizer.

My sister Katie brought mashed potatoes in a huge crockpot. We had a mashed potato bar with all the fixings (cheese, sour cream, bacon). You can never go wrong with potatoes of any kind, in my opinion.
Holiday appetizer partyI made amazing turkey meatballs. They were seriously the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Instead of the Italian seasonings the recipe calls for, I substituted rosemary, thyme and sage (2 teaspoons of each). The meatballs tasted like little bites of Thanksgiving. I served these with a small roll and gravy so people could build turkey meatball sandwiches. My brother’s fiance brought stuffed mushrooms. They were tasty and I was glad we had leftovers the next day.

I loved hosting this appetizer party and I think it may be a new tradition. When done potluck style it can be a stress-free party to host. And when getting the items from Aldi, it can be a very affordable party.

Do you want to check out Aldi or are you already a loyal shopper? Either way, be sure to enter to win a $50 Aldi gift certificate. The giveaway will be live for a week and I’ll announce the winner on December 12th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure - I am participating in a sponsored brand ambassadorship with ALDI. As always, all opinions are my own.

26 comments

Last Saturday I hosted a brunch with my girlfriend Shannon, Emily and Natasha. We drank cocktails and had a wonderful spread. The food is always amazing and the drinks are always flowing and the company is always awesome when I am with these gals.

Smirnoff contacted me a couple weeks ago and asked if I wanted to try their new flavors of infused vodka. Typically I like mimoas with brunch but after trying these infused vodka recipes I have a few additional cocktails that I will definitely be adding to my brunch regime.
I wanted to add some light, colorful touches to decorate my home for our girl’s brunch. I kept it easy and used lemons in tall cylinder vases and bought a bouquet of pink tulips and placed them in small mason jars and glass vases.  My entertaining philosophy is to keep things pretty simple. I add special touches here and there but I try not to go overboard, and I don’t spend a ton of money. I also always focus on serving good food, which doesn’t always mean homemade. And I always, always have alcohol.

Another entertaining philosophy I have is to divide and conquer. I am a big fan of hosting events but not necessarily providing everything. My friends and family are awesome and without fail, offer to bring something. I take them up on it almost every time.
Smirnoff sent me three bottles:

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Mango Passion Fruit
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Raspberry Pomegranate

We made three different cocktails with each of the vodkas. You will definitely want to check out these recipes at the end of this post. Two of the three of bubbly and perfect for brunch. The other is made with coconut water and is light and refreshing. Overall, this vodka has less calories than other dessert-inspired flavored vodkas. Plus, it’s infused vodka, not flavored and it tastes way better.

The menu:

Strawberry bread
Fresh fruit
Bacon and egg strata
Bagels and goat cheese
Fruit tart
Cocktails!

Emily made an awesome strawberry bread and Natasha and Shannon made a beautiful plate of fruit with pineapple, strawberries, papaya and peaches.  Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pomegranate Punch (recipe at the bottom of this post) and gluten-free bagels with goat cheese.

I purchased this bacon egg strata at Byerlies the morning of the brunch. It was delicious.The whole brunch spread. Let’s just say none of us gals went hungry. I also purchased this beautiful fruit tart for dessert. It was calling my name at the bakery counter of Byerlies. I set up a little Smirnoff cocktail bar on my foyer table. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini and Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch.

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

1.5 oz Raspberry Pomegranate Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2 oz Diet Ginger Ale
1 oz Cranberry Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass (I like using champagne glasses but martini glasses would work too)
_________________________________________

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini

Ingredients

1.5 oz Mango Passion Fruit Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2 oz Coconut Water
1 oz Pineapple Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass
_____________________________________________

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

1.5 oz Lemon Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2.5 oz  Diet Sprite
1.5 oz Pomegranate Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass
_____________________________________________

What an awesome brunch we had. Thanks to Shannon, Emily and Natasha for such a great time. Can’t wait to do it again soon.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Smirnoff Sorbet Light. As always, all the opinions are my own.  

3 comments

My husband and I are going to be the matron of honor and best man in our friend’s, Libby and Biffer’s wedding so we threw them an engagement party this weekend. The party was fall-inspired; outdoors, casual, cozy, comfort food, s’mores, a bonfire and lots of fun.

We hung the above branch heart from an arch as guests entered our backyard.  I found it at Michaels for $4.99 and thought it fit right in with the theme.

read more

36 comments