Green and White – A Dinner Party Tablescape

As an ode to the quickly waning days of summer, and the fresh, lush feelings that the season evokes, I decided to decorate my table for a recent dinner party in the cool shades of green and white.I opted to forgo a tablecloth and started with bare wood, some of my white dishes, and three cloth napkins down the center. Everyone should own a set of white dishes by the way…you can mix and match them with everything! Definitely a hostess’ best friend 🙂Then I went out in my yard, and cut some greenery – with a little white for accent: Chameleon Plant, Ferns, Eunomous (sp?), buds from Sedums and Butterfly Bushes, Queen Anne’s Lace, Boxwood, and still-green Beauty Berries. Oh, and lots of English Ivy! The ivy went straight into a sink full of cold water. This cleans it (since I was putting it onto my white napkins) and hydrates it – so it can last arranged for days out of water.While I was waiting for the bathing ivy, I set up the rest of the table. Small, low arrangements of the greenery.Even got my water into the coordinating act!A few things to remember when you’re decorating your table:

  • Have low arrangements so guests can easily converse over them
  • Make sure any tall elements are thin or transparent
  • Leave plenty of room for food if you plan to serve family style
  • Include a water pitcher on the table or nearby for easy refills
  • Make sure candles are enclosed or high out of reach (like tapers) to prevent napkins catching on fire or any skin burns from guests reaching across for food or water
  • Don’t use very fragrant flowers, and always use unscented candles – let the smell of the food take center stage

I love having guests over – sometimes informal feels right (paper plates and roasting dogs over the fire pit) – but sometimes it’s fun to have formal get togethers too…especially if it’s something you enjoy planning for. I really enjoy formal dining – and planning the tablescapes for it! It’s becoming a lost art, and your guests will feel pampered and cared for, and maybe even a little nostalgic when the evening is over. But, it’s certainly not for everybody!

The key here is: entertain in your own style! You’ll feel more relaxed, and the tone and body language of the hostess is truly what sets the tone for the whole evening.

Happy Entertaining!

Lemon Basil Frozen Yogurt

Ok, who isn’t on the fro-yo train yet this year??? In our town, we’ve had two new frozen yogurt shops open up this summer alone! While I have respect for the classics (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc.), what really catches my eye -and taste buds- are the risk takers!Imagine my delight when I tried a lemon ginger froyo for the first time…so very refreshing! A little tart, a little sweet, a little spicy…just perfect! So when I heard of a lemon basil version (my basil had been thinking that I’d forgotten all about it for awhile there – apparently I had “basil-ed out” my husband with my exuberance earlier in the summer …), I had to try it. Might be super weird, but heck, it’s worth a shot! Ginger is a little spicy…basil is a little spicy… why not?And to my utter delight and amazement, it was delicious! I’m so addicted! My version is a bit tart, but that’s how I like my lemonade. If you’re a sweeter person, you can add more honey or agave (or sugar) to taste.

Beware. The first bite is strange. Your taste buds won’t be sure what to think. It’s a phenomenon they have never experienced before. But give ’em a second shot, and they’ll start to sing!Fruit and herbs. Who knew?

Here’s the recipe (a printable version will be available on the Victuals website):

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave
1/2 cup basil – washed
The juice and zest of one lemon
32 oz of fat free vanilla greek yogurt

Place everything together into your blender. Blend until creamy and smooth. Pour into ice cream maker, and process as usual. You’ll have soft serve right out of the maker.Or freeze to harden. When I’m ready to eat, I let mine thaw on the counter for about 20 minutes to make it perfectly scoopable.

A favorite combo my inventive hubby discovered: A few scoops of Lemon Basil Froyo, a few scoops of plain ol’ vanilla froyo, and a dusting of cardamom over the top. Divine!

What’s your favorite flavor or combo of frozen yogurt?

 

It’s the Simple Things…Treat the Ones You Love

Recently, a fellow food blogger’s husband died very suddenly of a heart attack. We are never guaranteed tomorrow girls – or truly even our next breath – so we  must strive everyday to live a life with no regrets! Love those you’ve been given to love with your whole heart. Don’t just dream – live the life you dream of living. You. Can. Do. It. Incidentally this very motto is sparking some rather exciting changes around our home/land…little teaser there (remember THIS post?) …stay tuned…

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But back to the sweet soul who lost her husband: When people asked what they could do, she asked that they make a Peanut Butter Cream Pie (her husband’s favorite) in his honor, and share it with someone they love. People by the thousands, from all over the world, made peanut butter pies that day.

Is there something that you know your loved ones, well, love? A favorite dessert? A back massage? Something you usually reserve only for birthdays? Something that they’ve been requesting, but you just haven’t made time for?

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I want to challenge you this week to surprise them with that special treat. Just because. I’ve already asked my husband what favorite dessert he’s been craving that I haven’t made for him in a long time (my husband’s love language is food 🙂 ), and it’s now on the menu.

It’s the simple things girls…it’s the simple things.

Friday’s Foto Felicity and The Last Winner

And now to announce the very last winner from last week’s giveaway…I’ll turn it over to my very capable Giveaway Manager:

Ok, thanks Chester, and congratulations Kelsea! Send me your mailing address so your new book can sail right over to you!

Thanks to everyone who helped to make the Blog Warming Week so much fun! I’m glad you participated!

Have a wonderful weekend everybody…
Signing off,
~Kristin, Chester, and Caroline

Commenting From The Heart

100_8126A few questions for you today:

Do you ever leave comments on the blogs that you visit? (Show of hands please)

Do you often leave comments on the blogs that you visit? (Again, raise ’em up if this is true)

Do you often leave thoughtful comments on the blogs that you visit? (Still lots of hands up for this one?)

Are there some blogs that you read, that the author has no idea that you’ve ever been for a visit because you’ve never left a comment? (Wait, do I see a few in the back?)

Last one: If you are a blogger…how does receiving comments make you feel? (hypothetical…no hand raising necessary)

Girls, I know I’m probably one of the few “old-fashioneds” under 60 left in this world-and call me what you will, but I still believe in the power, graciousness, and elementary good breeding of a kind, heart-felt thank you.

There are all sorts of occasions where a thank you note is in order – to let your host know that you appreciated the delicious meal she fixed for you, to let your friend know that you appreciated the thoughtful birthday gift, or even just because somebody said something sweet that made your day. Thank them! Who wouldn’t want their life marked by gratitude?

In my mind, a comment is the blogospheric equivalent of a thank you note. It takes just seconds, but it lets the host of a linky party or giveaway know that you appreciate the time, effort, and often money that they put into making such an opportunity available to you. On just an everyday blog post; if what you read inspired you, made you think, encouraged you, taught you something, made you smile, whatever…taking time to thank the one who shared it with you will MAKE THEIR DAY!

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I know that I speak for many bloggers, both new and well-seasoned,  when I say that hearing back from our readership is a large part of what makes blogging worthwhile! Blogging should be (as most optimistically hope when they start out) a two way street. Bloggers like to talk, engage, and get to know people. That’s what blogging is all about…the community! Now, I know that there are those who simply have a blog to document their life for posterity, and perhaps this isn’t your goal in blogging. But for the rest of us I venture to say, it’s true. I’ve heard even from huge bloggers that they still read and cherish every single comment they receive (even though it’s impossible to respond to them all), and you just never know when a new friendship might sprout up from one simple message!

Much could be written about commenting, and others have said it far better than I ever could. For example: Amanda over at Serenity Now wrote a whole series on commenting…you should check it out!

But for now, I’ll just leave you with a few parting thoughts:

*Do you have word-verification turned on for commenting at your blog? If so, please for-the-love-of-all-that’s-Holy turn it off! Don’t know how? Just ask. – It is the nemesis of all well-intentioned commenters…

*Please, if you do choose to leave comments, don’t leave the same one on every blog you visit. You will be discovered. Tacky.

*Please don’t use commenting as a way of promoting your own blog. For example: “I love your blog. Please come visit my blog now. Become my follower. Join my party. Enter my contest. Here is my address.”

*Lastly: I’ve been known to say that coming to read a blog on a regular basis and not leaving a comment is the equivalent of peeking into someone’s window and then sneaking away, instead of coming to the front door and yelling in a cheerful “hello” so you don’t get labeled a stalker!

Disclaimer: I am not a comment guru, expert, or aficionado. Like everybody else, I have situations when I’m blog reading and can’t leave a comment (like when I’m in bed with my netbook and hubby is trying to sleep…he hates keys tapping). I do, however, try my best to make a conscious effort to say hello to the girls at my regular visiting spots at least once a week, and I just want to encourage the rest of the world to do the same! Let’s spread a little comment love around, shall we?

EDIT: We had a great comment/question today from Stacey (see first comment) who asked about how to best respond to comments. My advice is to e-mail a response! Set your comment preferences to “send comments to your inbox”, and then if the commenter has an e-mail address linked to their account (please link an address to your accounts ladies – ask me how if you don’t know!) then all you have to do is click “reply” and your reply will be sure to get to them. If you’re sneaky like me, I make you enter your e-mail to leave a comment so I can respond (heh, heh) 😉 Infinitely better than leaving an unrelated or personal message on their latest post, and speaking for myself, I have never once gone back to a blog to check if the author has responded to my comments in her comments (I barely have time to read posts in the first place my reading list is so long!)

Another comment was about SPAM and word verification. Two things to say: 1. Read THIS article by Amanda and 2. Blogger has recently implemented better automatic spam filters and WP has plugins you can install. You can also take word verification off and alternately moderate comments. As Amanda says in her article, I have TONS of times written a very long, thought-out comment, and clicked submit – the screen refreshes, so I think it’s gone through, and just as I’m clicking over to the next blog, I see the word verification flash for a split second, and my comment is GONE (because I had clicked away thinking it posted). Super Bummer. But I don’t have the time or heart to go back and write it again – so there goes another comment lost to WV.

 

Retail Me Not!

Are you a coupon-er? I sure am! I love sites like SouthernSavers.com for doing all the hard work of matching up coupons to the current sales every week so we can get things for a steal or even (gasp!) FREE sometimes.

BUT, do you look for coupons online before you go to buy clothes? Or candles? Or bath products? I don’t get the Sunday newspaper, so I miss out on the weekly offers that come with the circulars. That used to be a detriment to my money saving quests. Used to be.

Enter: Retail Me Not!   Through this magical website you can find printable coupons (as well as coupon codes – should you prefer shopping online) for millions of stores! Fabulous, right!?

Here’s an example of how I recently used it. – I was headed out for a day of shopping, and I knew I was going to hit Old Navy who was having a huge sale on jeans (tis the season!), Kirklands (who just opened a new location in our area) to see what fun fall decor ideas they had out, and Yankee Candle to get a new fall-scented candle for the house. Can you sense a theme in my shopping?? 😉 Yes, I was in search of FALL!!!

Here I am in my "Ode to Fall" outfit...ready to go search out the sweet cinnamony scent of the coming season!

So before I even put on my lip gloss, my first stop was Retail Me Not, and low and behold I found a coupon to get BONUS Crazy Bucks on my ON purchase, a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase at Kirklands, and a coupon for $10 off a $25 purchase at Yankee Candle. – SCORE!

I found fall at Kirklands!

Armed with my coupons, I was off! And enjoyed taking advantage of each one of them. As an aside, this can also help keep you off tons of mailing (and e-mailing) lists because most of the coupons stores would send out, can be found for the printing at Retail Me Not! I don’t know about you, but anything that helps de-clutter my inbox is a good thing.

So next time you’re headed out to the shops, you know where to start!

And now for the giveaway winner of the FREE Month of Ad Space on Yellow Songbird: Chester? Chester? Where are you???Congratulations Jessica!

Question for the day: Do you have any money saving tips for us on items other than food?

Banana “Soft Serve” – Best Dessert Evah!

Hello Dear Peaches,

I hope you’ve all survived Monday tolerably well, and are now hitting your weekly stride. I just realized that we’re almost to the end of summer, and I haven’t yet shared with you a very exciting discovery I made this year:

Banana “Soft Serve”

Allow me to delineate a few of the reasons that make it oh-so-very-worthy of your giving it a try: It’s amazingly creamy, rich, fat free, natural, has no sugar (except what naturally occurs in a banana), you can try all kinds of variations, it’s technically upcycling (because you use super overly ripe bananas), you can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert with absolutely no guilt, and oh, did I mention it’s delicious!?

All summer, if you’ve been to my house, you’ve probably seen a few of these hanging around:Oh yeah, and a few fruit flies to keep them company (ick)

They are constantly being tenderly nursed to a brown ripeness for either THESE muffins, or this sweet little recipe I’m sharing with you today. Ready to get  your soft serve on? Here’s the “scoop”:

First, you take your over-ripe bananas, peel them, put them in a Ziploc bag or container, and throw them in the freezer. – I try to keep some frozen at all times…you never know when the mood will strike! Once they’re good and ready (you know, all froze up – it’s fun to talk like a redneck sometimes – go ahead and try it – you know you want to!),  take them out and place a few in your food processor.Turn it on, and let it whir for several minutes. You may have to scrape down the sides occasionally. Marvel at the amazing consistency the bananas are rapidly attaining.Serve and enjoy!You can also add other fruit (or spices) to the mix. So simple. So delicious. So easy. So natural. That’s a winner in my book! What do you think? Worth a try?

If you’ve posted this summer about a favorite summer-y treat of yours, leave a link in the comments. We’d all love to hear your ideas!

And now, Chester (My Giveaway Manager) has drawn and is announcing the winner of an autographed copy of The Reluctant Entertainer’s book:

Congratulations Tammy! A copy of the RE book will be in the mail to you soon!

Remember, there is still time to enter the Organizing Magnets Giveaway, the Dry as Rain Giveaway, and the Ad Space Giveaway!