How to Host a Stress-Free Brunch

Hey There!

Since Mother’s Day just passed, and I hosted 13 people for brunch that day I thought I’d share with you my tips on how to make it as stress-free as possible.

1. Tidy up your house the prior week.

I had gotten really behind on housework the week leading up to the brunch and did not have everything as tidy as I would’ve liked. That meant I was scrambling to clean, along with cook right up to the first knock on the front door. The food portion was the easy part.

2. Make a plan.

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It’s far better to over plan and nix a few things than to have no plan at all and forget things. When I started planning brunch, I originally wanted to make those cute succulent cupcakes on Pinterest. That was quickly crossed off the list. I wrote down the guest list, what I wanted to serve, what things I could make ahead, and the grocery list. As the old adage says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

3. Cut a few corners.

Or in my case, most of the corners. Don’t be afraid of box mixes or pop-open biscuits. When you’re cooking for a group, sometimes quick and simple is better so you can just relax and enjoy the time of fellowship.

4. Make what you can in advance.

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Breads and biscuits will hold for a day or more. You can also make things ahead and freeze them (like I have done with my most recent batch of scones). I cooked my bacon in the oven probably 3 days out and kept it refrigerated.

5. Borrow, don’t buy.

I have a ton of stuff for hosting meals from our SCA adventures and the wedding. Honestly, they are a bit of a pain to store. If you don’t have something, check with a friend! There were a few things I borrowed like my mother’s coffee pot. Yupp. I don’t own one. Well, I do own a pour over pot, but for this many people, it was not going to work. I also borrowed her 2-tier pie rack to serve plates of cinnamon rolls.

6. If you do buy, buy cheap.

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 I love the Dollar Tree. I had this carafe that I bought a while back at TJ Maxx, and when I was at the Dollar Tree recently I found the exact same one. For $1 I snagged two and had a mini juice bar!

7. Presentation is key.

See number 5. I have a ton of hosting stuff. The majority of that though is rustic wooden trenchers and baskets. When we have company, I pull out our long wooden trencher and fill it with snacks like pretzels and Wheat Thins. Biscuits and baked goods go in baskets lined with flour sack tea towels. It’s quick, easy, simple, and I think it’s pretty.

7. Figure out seating in advance.

I didn’t bring up extra seats on some bad advice until after people had started getting food and finding seating. I wish I would’ve gone with my gut and brought up extra chairs earlier. I also wish that I just owned folding chairs. Our families are so large when they are together that seating is always a struggle.

8. Relax.

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Don’t make it obvious that you’ve done a  ton of work. Be gracious and enjoy your time with your guests. Dishes will wait to be cleaned, and if something doesn’t turn out quite right, it’s ok. It’s the company and the feelings they had on that day they will remember!
What are your best easy hosting tips? Help a girl out and let me know in the comments below!
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50s Murder Mystery: Who Done It?

I had a fabulous weekend last week, and I promised to share it with you. We went to our murder mystery and visited with friends and had a jolly old time. So many people have asked me questions about murder mysteries that I wanted to give a few answers. A friend hosted us. She went to Party City and bought some 50s party decorations to up the atmosphere.

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We all opted to dress up because, why not? I finally got to wear this great Stop Staring dress I picked up at a yard sale several years ago. I had to go on quite a quest to find a tiara, which surprised me. I tried Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree, but struck out. I finally found a 5-favor pack of tiaras at Hobby Lobby that were cheap. I decided to go ahead with the pack because I have an idea for where they may come in handy later.

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I’ve gotten a lot of use out of the tiara as well. I maaaaay have been wearing it around the house a good bit. (The Fellow just shook his head at me.) One night I wore it while doing house work, which makes it a much more entertaining enterprise.

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Anyway, back to the plot. Murder mysteries come in kits with character packets and usually a CD (although this one was so old the CD track said, “Turn tape over for next part”). Each character packet has specific information that leads the story in the right direction. This one had scripted pages that each person read to ensure key plot points were covered. Once you go through all the scenes and listen to all the clues, everyone makes a guess as to who they think is the murderer.

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Both times I’ve done a murder mystery I’ve ended up being the killer. I will say, if the script reveals that you’re the murderer and then you have to guess who it is, it kind of steals a little bit of the fun (and is tricky if you have no poker face like me!), but overall it’s such  an awesome time!

Weekend Plans

I’m excited to have a three-day weekend. I’m planning to work on things for the wedding. I need to take a trip to the venue to figure out placement and determine table linen sizes. (Any suggestions for where to get table cloths?) Then we’ve got a BBQ, river float, murder mystery, and a visit with friends. Very busy but fun!

A friend has the murder mystery game for us to use, but we’re hosting. It has a 50s theme, and I can’t wait. I love any excuse for a good costume!

If you’ve never participated in a murder mystery, you’re given a character with costume suggestions and a packet of clues with instructions/rules. You follow the prompts and script to play through while learning more about the murder as you go. Most of the time you don’t even know that you’re the murderer until close to the end. A good thing too – last time I played I was the murderer, and I have NO poker face whatsoever!

For this game, the Fellow will be a Russian scientist, and I’ll be a pageant queen with long evening gown and a tiara. I lucked out with a super clearance dress with a broken zipper from Gabe’s that I’m going to doctor up to fit the part.

I’ll post pictures from the weekend in next week’s blog.

My Mother, the Mobster

Mama likes to keep to herself and doesn’t want any Internet presence. She stays off Facebook and just last year updated to a Gmail address from her old school Juno account. So I had to ask her permission to share this story with you.

Ever have one of those days when you’re just tongue-tied? You think one thing but say another, and it comes out twisted?

Well, recently my parents and I were up in PA to run some errands and visit with my grandmother. Daddy wanted to swing by this antique shop we had stopped at in December to see if they still had a wrought iron chandelier he had passed up. Their plan is to use it at my brother’s wedding and then again at mine before finally hanging it in their “outdoor living space.”

We stopped at the store, and the chandelier was still sitting out front, but the store looked like it had gone out of business.

After doing some Internet research, we found a number associated with the store and my mother called them. The call went straight to voicemail so she left a message: “Hello. We were in your store in December and saw a chandelier which we were interested in and saw today that it is still there. We live nearly two hours away and are in town for a short while today and would like to purchase it from you. Could you please give us a call on this number to discuss if you want to get rid of us?

Not – “if you want to get rid of it” but “get rid of us” – nothing mildly frightening or cryptic about that sentence. Daddy and I asked her if she realized what she had said, and she swore she said “it.” We laughed so hard about that, just imagining this antique dealer getting this bizarre threatening message about a chandelier.

Thankfully, she got the message’s  meaning, and they were able to arrange a meeting to get the chandelier on a different trip.

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“Endorphins Make You Happy – Happy People Don’t Kill Their Husbands.”

I’ve started running again and dragged a few friends into it with me. Our goal is to run a half marathon in November. (If I can find time to train, and my legs don’t give out. I’m feeling pretty sore!)

I headed out this morning, deciding to try to find a safe place to run outside instead of the treadmill at the gym.

I ended up walking most of the time instead of running – I’d forgotten what a difference those hills actually make. In addition to the hills, I’d forgotten how enjoyable it is to walk and think.

There were many miles I walked with a portable cd player and my “Les Miserables” sound track in high school.

On this walk, I mulled over some things in my current reality: living in an apartment and yearning for a house, work, and the Fellow and I’s wedding next year.

After pondering some wedding invite and logistics details I’ve been struggling with, I thought about an article my boss had sent me. This particular article spoke about keeping yourself from falling down the “rabbit hole” of a bad mood. The author often goes for a walk to puzzle through issues or lift her mood. It was sent to me as a suggestion for our Wellness Wednesday email blast for the week.

I love that this is something that my employer wishes to share with her employees, which got me to thinking about mindset and the way we handle life experiences and the choices we make. I am very grateful for certain influences in my life. My parents, work and employer, the Fellow, and a few key friends spring to mind immediately.

Everyone tells you that “Communication is Key,” but no one teaches you ways to healthily communicate. My fellow does a wonderful job of not letting me fight and making us talk things out. One of the things we covered at my work orientation was the concept of “Choice.” Every day we are faced with choices. If we get stuck in traffic, we can choose to meet the frustration with a gentle acceptance or let it color our entire day.

I struggle daily and still find myself falling down the rabbit hole sometimes, but I’m grateful for the people, places, and experiences that have shown me that unhealthy communication isn’t the norm and the importance of actively working to communicate in a healthy way. My life and relationships have been drastically changed for the better because of them.

There’s A Ring On The Carousel

“There’s a Ring on the Carousel and It’s Yours If You Only Grab It.”

My gal pals (who I had tea with the other day) wanted to do a girls’ get-away.  If we all recollect correctly, S and K had gone to an amusement park together, as did K and I, but we don’t believe the three of us had ever before went together. This past weekend we piled in the car and headed up above Harrisburg to Knoebels Park.

I remember going to an amusement park with a giant, old carousel where you could still grab those brass rings as a kid. I had thought that the park I went to as a child had closed down, but as it turns out I had combined memories and Knoebels Park is still thriving!

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Knoebels is a no admission park; you pay by the ride – like a carnival. It is similar to Dinosaur Land in that it has some walk-thru attractions and a lot of figures/props made from fiberglass. We went on the carousel, an old wooden roller coaster, the haunted house, tilt- a – whirl, Ferris Wheel, and the tea cups. (because really, when would I ever pass up an opportunity to get inside a giant teacup?).  I’d forgotten how much I love roller coasters!

 

But for me the big pull was the carousel. Carousels are one of those things like birdcages, chandeliers, skeleton keys, and grandfather clocks that I have a soft spot for.

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There is something magical about the music and the intricate carved horses and reaching out for that brass ring!

I can never pass one up, I find them romantic. As a matter of fact, the girls and I were discussing how cute a carnival-themed engagement shoot would be at this park!

 

Mother’s Day

“What makes mother’s all that they are?Might as well ask what makes a star.”

Have I mentioned I’m a total Disney fanatic? Peter Pan has such a lasting quality to it. I’m slightly obsessed with Disney villains so Captain Hook makes Peter Pan a top runner on my favorites’ list. I keep waiting for there to be a Captain Hook movie. I had high hopes with Pan, but it was a total disaster. I’ll probably end up with an Evil Queen movie before I see a good JAS Hook film, which I wouldn’t mind too much as I adore the Evil Queen. I even wrote a psychoanalysis of her in college. Disney has some mommy issues, but still, the above clip is such a cute scene!

Speaking of mothers, Mother’s Day was Sunday.

(By the way, my mother was very concerned that I started a Mother’s Day post by talking about evil stepmothers.)

Anywhoo, on Saturday, my parents picked me up and we headed up the road to PA where we picked up my grandmother. We went out to eat at a restaurant that Grammy likes; then went out to visit an old cemetery with some family graves. We also tried to find our way back to a graveyard we had visited 2 years ago with my aunt (who has since passed and was the one who knew how to find it), but we couldn’t find it. For some reason, my mother was relying on me to recall the way to this cemetery which isn’t even marked on Google Maps.

It’s a running joke in my family that I have a terrible sense of direction. My father once told me, “Now C- on the east coast mountains run north to south which means that the valleys run east to west and moss always grows on the north side of a tree, so you should never be lost.” To which I responded, “That may be true, but by the time I’m out of my car looking at the moss on a tree we’ve got bigger problems.”

So I’m not quite sure how they thought that I was going to locate this, but there we were trekking off to Narnia. When I realized  that they were looking to my internal compass to get where we needed to be, I figured that this was better a trip for another day and had them head back towards WV. We’ll leave that trip for another day when I have time to Google the route.

I’m sure that that trip will have plenty of laughs, but in the mean time I’ll leave you with the cute Mother’s Day treats I made for everyone -sunflower trail mix Mason jars.

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Originally the jars were to have tags which read, “Nuts about you,” but my computer was acting up.

Items needed:

  1. Mason Jars
  2. Mixed Nuts, Granola, M&Ms
  3. Ribbon
  4. Flowers
  5. Hot Glue

This is a quick, easy gift. Fill the Mason jar with your trail mix or granola, put the lid on, tie a bow around the jar, and hot glue a flower to the bow.

(I say easy, but for some reason at 11 o’clock the night before Mother’s Day I couldn’t tie a bow to save my life.)

 

You Can Do Anything For An Hour

There is a festival every year in the area where I work. It is a huge deal with a giant televised parade, tons of events, crafts, a carnival . . . the entire town shuts down.

Somehow, I’ve never experienced this event, so when my work sent out memos about joining in the festivities, I signed up – for everything.

When I was in college, I started running and I ran a 5K. I ran on and off after that and did a scavenger hunt 5K, but that was about it. The running has really tapered off this last year, but for some reason when work sent out an email about the festival 10K, I thought, “I should totally do that!” Now, a 10K is 6.2 miles, and quite frankly, my sedentary self has a hard time meeting my 5,000 steps-a-day Fitbit challenge, but I signed up for the 10K. I also conned a buddy into signing up as well.

My thought process went something along the lines of, “Well, I can run about 2.5 now, and I’ve got 6 weeks, so I’ll train and bump it up and be good-to-go by the end of April.”

However, none of that happened. I ran maybe 4 times and went into the race pretty much cold. Thankfully, I’ve been doing the 21 Day Fix and race day was Day 21, so I had been doing strength training and cardio along with an evening walk.

I don’t think my buddy stuck with his training too much either, so there we were, bright and early on a cold, damp, rainy day with 6.2 miles stretched out before us and only determination to get us by, and we had a blast.

We had never run with each other before, so I assumed that we would start together, separate during the run, and meet up afterwards to compare times, but he stuck with me the whole way which was good because I almost gave up in the last mile.

 

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Look at us go!

 

Now, as if running 6.2 miles wasn’t enough for one day, I also invited my folks up to walk around the vendors/food in the park and signed up to be on my company’s float in the parade. (That’s called overkill.)

Tired from the race, I walked all over the park with my folks and due to the weather and the point in the weekend; there wasn’t too much to do so we went out for lunch. Here is where things started to get stressful. My town is full of one-way streets, all of which were blocked off due to the parade. When I suggested lunch, I meant in town; my father assumed I would want to go to a little diner I like on the edge of town. We didn’t realize where he was taking us until we were almost there. We ate in a hurry and started back into town to the float-loading point.

There was no getting there. Every turn was blocked and no one could give us directions. I started to panic, and finally my fellow just had my parents stop the car and let me out so that I could walk. Except by that time I was so late, I ran. I had my mother’s GPS and my cellphone, and my poor legs, weary from the race, ran another half mile. I literally vaulted over a small child and arrived to the loading point two minutes before the float arrived.

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Smile and wave!

The weather didn’t improve at all throughout the day, and it was cold riding on the float, but it was so much fun! My cheeks hurt from smiling so long. My cousin snapped this picture and her son was in one of the bands in the parade with us.

After the parade, the fellow and I went to a potluck for his fraternity then over to friends to play some games. They graciously made me a cup of tea, and I promptly passed out on their couch. Straight fell out. I can’t remember the last time I was so tired.
I think I am going to try to keep running especially in race settings as they make running so much fun! I hope to run a half marathon in October. I also want to do a dirty girl run and a color run; those are usually 5Ks so I can handle that. A goal of mine is to someday run the Disney Princess Half Marathon, because really, who doesn’t want an excuse to wear cute outfits and a tiara?

Dinosaur Land!

Do you ever just get fixated on doing something and nothing will make you happy until you do it? I get a bee in my bonnet like that from time to time and this weekend was no exception.

It was pretty and I was tired of being cooped up indoors, and I wanted to go on a picnic.

A while back, the fellow and I came across a couple having a yard sale giving away a bunch of stuff including some wedding gifts (Shhh . . . Don’t tell!). Included in their pile of goodies was Disney’s Tangled on Blu-ray, an electronic fondue set, and this awesome picnic basket!

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I’ve been wanting to use the picnic basket for a while, but we hadn’t gotten around to it. So I made some turkey sandwiches and an impromptu apple cinnamon oatmeal dessert, and we headed to a nearby park. It was so nice to just sit and eat and chat outside. Next time I think we will make a morning of it and head somewhere where we can spread a blanket on the ground. I need to find a nice cloth buffalo check tablecloth!

On another note, recently at work my boss was talking about a local landmark, and then a friend mentioned it as well: Dinosaur Land.

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Somehow in my 24 years of bizarre trips, I had never managed to hear of Dinosaur Land, let alone go there. As a child, I remember going to Dutch Wonderland and a few small amusement parks. We’ve gone on history jaunts and driven to Gettysburg just to get a cup of tea. I’ve seen giant rocking chairs and the World’s Largest Tea Pot, but I somehow missed this classic gem.

However, all that changed this weekend. Ladies and gentlemen, I made it to Dinosaur Land!

A friend was going down to the Shenandoah Valley Flea Market on Sunday anyway and was shocked to learn I’d never gone to Dinosaur Land, so we made a day of it and went to both. Nothing I love more than cheesy road trips and flea markets or antiquing so I was in!

What is Dinosaur Land, you ask? It is a remnant from the past. A roadside attraction from the ‘50s featuring fiberglass models (and informative signs) inviting visitors to step into the world of the prehistoric past, “turning back the pages of time to the Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs were the only creatures that roamed the earth” (so sayest their website). For $6.00, you wander a gravel path twisting through time. There are also some great photo ops with Jaws and you can even sit in King Kong’s hand!

We wandered around and took so many pictures!  Even the Fellow joined in in the fun.

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