Easy Entertaining for July 4th

 

 

I LOVE a patriotic holiday. Whenever these special days come around, I can’t help but swell with pride in my country- in the men and women who fight for my free life. What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than spending it in the great outdoors with the people you love?

Growing up, the holidays were held special by my 50+ member family. Our traditions always centered (and still do) around my grandparents at their home on the lake. And it’s not a holiday without memaw’s famous chip dip. Living away from family now, I want desperately to continue these traditions with my own family when we can’t make it to the lake.

My grandmother is the epitome of a gracious southern hostess and her door is always open to any and everyone. I’ve never met someone as warm and inviting as my memaw. More than anything, she continues to teach me to not sweat the small stuff when entertaining; just love on people and the small stuff won’t matter. That’s welcome advice considering I’m still getting the hang of cooking. Here are some fun and easy things I have planned for July 4th this year. I hope you can grab some ideas and use them for your family and friends!

 

◊ DECOR

Getting my porch ready for the Fourth is about function- I want a space for people to pick up plates, napkins and silverware for whatever I am serving. How cute are these little glass jars that will serve as “to-go” containers? I got them for next to nothing at Old Time Pottery.

 

 

◊ FOOD

This Berry Trifle is the easiest thing you’ll ever make. You will need:

  • a Trifle bowl or another large glass bowl
  • one container of strawberries- sliced
  • one container of blueberries
  • 1.5 tubs of Cool Whip
  • one bundt container of angel food cake (already baked @ Publix bakery)

Start with a layer of angel food cake, torn into pieces. Then add dollops of Cool Whip and spread in an even layer. Top with berries then repeat the steps 2 more times. Enjoy!

 

 

◊ STYLE

I love this vintage tank from ILY Couture

Also, these festive shorts from Target are a steal!

 

♥ I hope you have a safe and happy Independence Day!

How to Make the Most of a Sick Day

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is for the birds! As I pulled into daycare on Tuesday morning, I noticed a sign on the door warning parents that there have been 4 cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease discovered in 2 classrooms (one being John Luke’s room). My thoughts immediately went to the small rash that had popped up on JL’s face that morning- one I had attributed to skin irritation from our new laundry detergent. No such luck. After we let his teacher know, we turned around and went home, for what would be an extended stay. After exhausting the crayons and cartoons option early on, I decided to get creative and try my best to brighten little man’s spirits (as well as my own). In the process, I was inspired to share the ideas I came up with that made the whole thing a little more fun for everyone. And I didn’t even need a trip to Target!

◊ GET GOURMET

This one was more for me but the guys benefitted from it, too!

Ever find yourself staring at the same recipes on your Pinterest feed and thinking, “I’m totally going to make that soon!” Well, here’s your chance! Based on what I already had in the pantry, I went the breakfast route and tried out 3 different recipes. I usually like to involve my little one whenever I cook but since he was sick, I let him sit this one out. Kirk and I started with French Toast, but not just your run-of-the-mill French Toast. I’m talking the gourmet, crusty bread, knock your socks off kind. Here’s the recipe.

 

 

The next day, we moved on to the breakfast sandwiches that have been on my Pinterest recipe board for a couple of years. Recipe here.

 

 

We ended on a Parisian note with strawberry and chocolate crepes. I cheated and used pre-made crepes from Publix (located by the strawberries at my local store) and just added my own filler. Fore more ideas, there are a few recipes on the back of the package.

 

 

After these 3 splurges, I was in the market for a healthier treat. I decided to try out a “detox” water I keep seeing on Pinterest. How much of a detox effect does this have? Probably not much but it’s delicious nonetheless. All it takes is 1 liter of filtered water, 2 sliced lemons, and half of a cucumber before you’ll be thinking you’re at the spa! Now, if it could just wipe away the previous calories I’ve consumed, that’d be greaaat.

 

 

 

◊ GET ADVENTUROUS

This one is all about the kiddo! Like I said earlier, it didn’t take long for him to become bored of coloring and cartoons. Building forts was so fun for me as a child so what better thing could I do for my sick boy who can’t get out of the house? Take him on an adventure within his own room! While he was coloring in the living room, I assembled my best fort and strung up garden lights in his nursery. Within the fort, I set up stations for activities: a puzzle station, cooking corner, animal house and puppet show. For the cooking corner specifically, I used a cookie sheet, bowl and spoon for mixing, muffin holders and dry egg noodles to inspire pretend cooking. He loved it!

 

 

 

◊ GET SCHOOLED

Nothing kills boredom like actively pursuing a new subject. I’ve read a few books in the last year that have inspired me to pick up more biographies on random people I admire. Learning from others’ actions offers insight that you can’t get just anywhere. Also, we just learned how to play chess and have become hooked, even playing during dinner some nights. Learning new things keeps it interesting in my home. It’s also the PERFECT cure for boredom on sick days or rainy weekends. The same holds true for little ones. Opening their minds to new places or things can be fun. This week, JL was able to discover the world of walruses. After watching a video from Nat Geo, he learned that mama walruses hug their babies like we do! Who knew! There’s one last thing I want to share. My sister-in-law sent me a Pinterest pin on an awesome activity to help toddlers learn ABC’s. I’m waiting on my supplies (tongue depressors) to come in from Amazon before we can try it out but I’ll link the Pinterest pin here!

 

I hope this post will encourage and give you plenty of ideas for those not-so-fun-days! These activities made all the difference for us!

Teacher Gift Idea

It’s the end of May and many of you are wrapping up the school year. With that in mind, here is one way to thank your teachers for all the hard work they’ve done. This is the perfect last minute gift and it’s almost embarrassing how easy it is to create.

Since we started taking John Luke to daycare, we’ve been blessed by some amazing teachers. Each time he moves into a different room, I get sad and think that there’s no way his new teacher is going to take care of him like the last. Each time, I’m wrong. I like to do a little something to show my appreciation each time he moves up. I’ll do doughnuts, cookies, gift cards, but the succulents were by far my favorite!

 

 

I found these super cute dessert bowls from Target and thought they would make the perfect little pots for a plant. I’m a huge fan of succulents so I went and picked up some from Lowes. There is no need to add dirt if you get a small enough “pot” to put them in.

 

 

Next, I grabbed some gift tags and wooden skewers I had lying around and made little signs. But, you can get creative with whatever you have around your own home. By folding and taping the tag to the skewer, I was able to display my typed note.

 

 

The best part is that John Luke’s teachers can re-plant the succulents at home and keep them for however long their green thumb will allow. One of his teachers said that she put it in her kitchen window and it makes her happy to see it everyday. Sweet!

 

 

 

Nursery Update :: Part One (Decorating on a Budget)

The last time I decorated my son’s nursery was about 2 years ago, right before he was born. It’s crazy how fast time flies! Since we’ve moved, I haven’t been happy with his room and, honestly, it’s taken a backseat to other home updates on our list. Like most people, our home budget allows us to focus on one project at a time. Right now, we’re working on our living room (before and after pics coming soon). In the meantime, I want to revamp the nursery using what I already have. My ultimate goal for this nursery update is to create a fun and put-together play space for John Luke. Here’s what I’ve been able to do so far. The best part is that JL loves it!

Tips I used:

  1. Neutral Color Scheme as the Base
    • It’s not too fussy
    • It’s the perfect foundation for ever-changing styles
  2. Find a Theme That Fits
    • For kids rooms especially, themes can compliment their personality
    • Themes can be changed out as the child grows, especially with a neutral backdrop
    • I love a subtle theme, nothing too overwhelming
    • For JL’s room, I went with a fish and boating theme because we’ve been introducing him to life on the water.
  3. Mix Textures
    • Different textures add a lot visually
    • In JL’s room, the metals and wood complement the soft fabric curtains and dust ruffle, giving the room a masculine vibe
    • Hang décor on the wall besides picture frames. Inanimate objects (like the wooden buoys I used) will help make a huge impact in small spaces. You could use woven baskets, wooden airplanes, a kite with complementary colors, etc. for unexpected wall décor.
    • Joanna Gaines always inspires me to use what I already have when decorating so I pulled these curtains out of the closet and made my own version of a canopy bed. Here are some other cute ideas for canopy beds:

What’s Next:

For Part 2 of the nursery update, I want to focus less on the décor and more on creating a functional and clean place for my little one to play in. Here are my plans:

  1. Create an activity area
  2. Set up a reading nook
  3. Bring in plants
  4. Create storage

Even though I only made minor adjustments to JL’s room, he was thrilled! His face lit up as soon as he walked through the door and he started running around and laughing. I remember that feeling, too, when my mother would rearrange my room. It always felt like I had been given a new bedroom. I hope this inspires you to tackle that one room in the house that bothers you and know it can be done without breaking the bank. Sometimes the simplest additions make the most impact. Check back for Part 2, which is coming soon!

 

Friday Finds :: Smith & Hawken Jar Candles

 

There’s nothing I love more than being welcomed into a fragrant home. Similar to how the smell of fresh baked cookies can transport a person back to childhood, certain smells just make me feel at home. No matter what your favorites are, from warm vanillas to crisp lemony scents, a candle can add a lot to the hospitality of your home.

My personal favorite candles are those that illicit the thought of something delicious baking in the oven (even if it’s not). I’ve noticed that my taste changes based on the time of year- with cinnamon and vanilla scents taking a backseat during the warmer months of spring and summer. For the warm seasons, I really appreciate a cleaner, lighter fragrance. Subtle scents from different plants and herbs can be inviting because they make the home feel fresh and clean when it’s hot and muggy outside.

With all that being said, I want to share with you one of my favorite “Friday Finds”- Smith & Hawken jar candles. These soy candles are made with a variety of essential oil blends and come in five different scents that are perfect for spring and summer:

  • Lavender Vanilla
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Moss & Thyme   *Favorite*
  • Rosemary Mint
  • Waterlily Aloe

These candles are the perfect find on a budget! They can be purchased at Target for $12.99. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! TIP: Place your candle at the entryway of your home where it will have the most impact. We all know how important first impressions can be and the same concept applies to the home.

 

My Boating Lesson

 

When learning something new, there’s nothing quite like being thrown in the deep end. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to learn how to operate a boat from a very patient and knowledgeable boat captain. Going in, I let Captain Larry know that I had zero experience. This course needed to be as beginner level as it could be. He was so kind to say that teaching someone from the ground up was the most rewarding part of his job.

So, here we go out into the Intracoastal Waterway, which I’m not very familiar with since we’ve only just moved to the area. We were doing the training exercise in a ski boat and I was half expecting to be in a pontoon boat or something slower since I was a beginner. Nope. As I’m headed out into open water, he lets me know that in order to be fuel efficient, it’s important to get the boat up to max speed. This allows the boat to “plane” on top of the water and from there I will be able to ease back to a more comfortable speed. Keep in mind, I’ve NEVER operated a boat before. Here I go at maximum speed in this ski boat when all of a sudden Larry yells, “Watch out for the crab traps!” I don’t even know what crab traps look like on top of the water! With the noon sun reflecting off the water, it took some adjusting to notice the volleyball size trap markers dotting my path. Talk about an adrenaline rush!

After dodging all the landmines, I was able to complete a series of tests, like how to do a 360 degree turn (in open water and in the marina)- which I aced. After a slightly stressful but fun day manning a boat, I can say I’m excited about going back out. I’m ready to show Kirk up with my 360 turn.

 

 

Captain Larry taught me about navigation maps and the history of the Canal or the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). I had no idea that the ICW ran from Boston, Massachusetts to Brownsville, Texas. It was constructed around the time of World War I in order to protect cargo ships and domestic travel from the hazards of the open sea. Because entrance can be made from many different directions along the ICW, it doesn’t follow the standard rule-of-thumb “Red buoy on Right means Returning from sea.” For the Intracoastal specifically, the red buoys and beacons will always be on the land side and the green buoys will always be on the sea side.

 

 

This learning experience has given me a new appreciation for boating and navigation. There are many layers that I just didn’t know about, including a pretty cool history. I can’t wait to learn more and share with you as I go!

 

Our Move to the Beach

 

Something about the beach rejuvenates me. It always has and I’m sure others feel the same way. Recently, I received an amazing opportunity to work in Orange Beach, Alabama so my family and I packed up and moved to a place we had always dreamed of living– the beach. Even though living in Fairhope meant we were only 45 minutes away, this move would make it possible to have the water within our view every day.

After hearing word of the job offer, my husband and I immediately began searching for a place to live. We looked at houses, townhomes and condos along the gulf coast. We came to the conclusion that while our son was young, we’d be able to live in a condo and enjoy all the amenities that condo living has to offer. Because really, how much would a one-year old miss a back yard? I think the sand and water make the perfect “back yard” anyway!

We found our dream condo in Perdido Key, Florida, just 5 minutes past the Alabama/Florida line. Since we’ve lived here, life feels more balanced. I can’t wait to share what beach living is like as I transform this outlet of a blog into something that fits our new lifestyle. I think the best part for me, though, will be sharing the fun with our family and friends!