Easy Graham Cracker “Gingerbread” Houses

Gingerbread houses a cute and fun to decorate.  However, here is a quick and easy way to make a “gingerbread” house.  My daughter, her husband and I made these easy graham cracker houses about two years ago.  I loved them so much I actually sprayed each of them with a clear coat of shellac-type spray paint to try to seal them so I could keep them for many years!  We were not planning on eating them so we cheated a little and hot-glued the graham crackers together first and then had fun decorating them with royal icing and many different kinds of candies and marshmallows.  I think they turned out super cute and it only took about two hours total to make them.   It was fun to see how we each put our individual touches on our houses.

Last year I displayed them on my coffee table and this year they are on my kitchen countertop.

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How to Create a Simple Christmas Coffee Bar

Do you entertain guests during the holidays?  What better way to have guests be able to help themselves to a cup of coffee or hot chocolate than with a coffee bar?  This season I decided to create my own Christmas coffee bar for guests (and let’s be real, for ME to enjoy too!).  It has been so fun coming up with ideas and making sure it was cute and functional.  If you are French Press or only brewed coffee person, you may want to close your eyes!  This is for those that like a quick “Cup O’ Joe.”

Every coffee bar has to have some cups and since it is the holidays, why not get cute “Christmasy” ones?  I found these cute mugs at Pier 1 Imports.

However, you can also find cute, cheaper mugs if you keep your eyes out at the Dollar Store – – like these!

I found this three-tiered stand at Homegoods ($29) to put all the cups and supplies on.  I added some green pine sprigs for a holiday touch on each tier.  I found the plaid runner at Ross for about $8.  Check out my last blog on how to make the coffee bar sign.

Of course, the quickest and easiest way to get a hot cup of coffee is with a Keurig machine or some similar machine.  My friend bought me this Cuisinart coffee maker as a gift to replace my older Keurig that was black.  It holds 72 ounces of water so you are not always refilling the reservoir.

It is handy to have all the K-Cups available but out of sight so I picked up this storage drawer at Big Lots for $15.  The coffeemaker sits on top of it and stores all the supplies which are easily accessible by pulling out the drawer which holds 36 cups!  I have some ideas for making it lighter (instead of black) down the road but that will have to wait until after the holidays.

For those who don’t drink coffee or tea, I also included a hot cocoa stand with a couple flavors of cocoa packs in a little wooden box.  The sign is from Hobby Lobby.

On the top tier of the stand, I put sugars, spices and other fun toppings.

Next to the coffee machine, I needed to have a place to put the used K-Cups so I got this small, tin bucket at Hobby Lobby.

Here is my final coffee bar for the season. I am thinking of keeping it up even after the holidays and just using my regular cups and a non-holiday runner.

Are you ready to create your own coffee bar?


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Invite People Over to Your House – even if you can’t cook!

Having people over to my house for a meal is not a gift I come by naturally.  Frankly, it has caused lots of mini-anxiety attacks just thinking about doing it.  My husband is an extrovert and I am the introvert so he is the one who always wants to invite people over for a meal.  Despite the fact that I’m an introvert, there have actually been many birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners and social parties at our house.  I have had to break my own barriers to attempt to grow personally in this area.  I know that everything always works out just fine, but I am always hesitant to entertain initially.

So here is the main point of the blog.  Having people over to enjoy your home IS very important.  There is nothing more special than being invited to someone’s home.  It’s personal.  It’s private and “in your space” but that is why is becomes more memorable and meaningful. People just don’t do it much anymore.  Our lives are filled with so many activities that we feel we do not have time.  I grew up in a rural setting where there were little to no restaurants to eat at.  We ate at home or at someone’s house all the time.  Yes, it takes planning ahead, but it can be done.  The feeling of sitting on a couch, drinking an ice tea and sharing laughs and friendship just becomes special.

My lame excuse for not inviting people over is NOT that my house isn’t clean or looking nice.  Let’s face it head on – – I’m pretty much a neat freak and my house is mostly tidy at all times.  I love my home and feel great about how it looks.  The problem is usually – – I don’t think I can cook and I’m afraid that the food won’t be edible.  For many years, I stopped having people over because to me it is mentally draining trying to come up with a safe menu that won’t flop and leave my guests hungry or disappointed.  Lame excuse, I know.

I also struggle with what type of food to make that everyone will eat.   After all, it is so much easier (and sometimes even cheaper) to go out to a restaurant and everyone can pick what they want.  I also feel the pressure of some of my excellent family and friends that make it seem so effortless to whip up a delicious five course meal with things they just happen to have in the fridge that day.  How do they do that!??  It takes me a week to decide what to make, go to the grocery store and to prepare the meal!

A good place to start is with entertaining your immediate and extended family – but in small numbers!  Your family should be the most forgiving if something goes bad with the meal.  It may even bring laughs to some future family meals.  I’ve undercooked the crescent rolls (yes from a tube) and dumped them in the wastebasket because I burnt the outside but the inside was doughy.  No bread for that meal!  Lesson learned.  Test out all your new recipes on immediate family.  If it doesn’t turn out, just apologize and try again next time.  At least you’re trying, right?  What’s the worst that could happen? You order some pizza delivered to the house?

There are many other options for entertaining guests.  For one – go to COSTCO or some other supplier that makes premade meals.  The pressure is off!  You don’t have to make something from scratch. There are places that actually make pre-ready meals that you can just pop in the oven and bake as an entree’.  I also discovered that a simple green salad (even it’s out of a bag) with some extra added vegetables such as a fresh tomato can serve as your “greens” for the dinner.  Now how much thinking do you have to do to open up a bag of spinach?!  Put out a couple different dressings and BAM!! you’re done.

So how about picking up something from your favorite restaurant or caterer?  You don’t even have to cook.  Of course, this would be difficult if you live far from a larger town.  It works though if you have a favorite Italian restaurant in town that you can buy a take-home lasagna from.  Another idea is ask your Suzie-homemaker friend who caters if she would make something ahead of time for you that you can purchase from her.  Hey, if you know someone who is a great cook, why not put her to work and pay her for her talent?  Works for me!

Another more relaxed option (which I have used many times for much larger parties) is just ask each family to bring one item I call “fingerfood.”  It can be as simple as bringing a veggie tray.   Each party ends up being interesting as the guests arrive with their favorite appetizer, dish or dessert.  I don’t even ask what they are bringing which could be a bit risky, but for those type of parties it’s more about being together than having a balanced meal.  I make sure I have a “main course” type item such as a baked ziti or a meat platter with buns or something that would suffice if everyone decided to bring brownies.  Luckily, that has never happened and there is always way too much food left over.  It’s actually quite fun to see what people show up with.  Potluck is always a great experience!

I do think it is extremely important to establish and grow relationships and there is no better place to do that than in your own home.  Therefore, I am going to stop worrying about all the “details” and just keep trying.  I hope I’ve inspired someone to give it a try and start having people over.  It is really not as scary as you think.

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Making Mother’s Day Special Without Eating Out

Mother’s Day is about honoring all moms and since we just had Mother’s Day I decided to blog on it this week.  Most moms want to relish in that day as a day that they do not have to lift a finger or do any kind of work.  I get it!  I was like that until recently as well.  However, I am not a fan of fighting the crowds and waiting a long time for a table at a restaurant either.  We live in a busy, populated area of south Florida and everyone goes out to eat, especially on holidays.  This new tradition I am going to share seems to work out better for me and my family.  Maybe you will even try it next year.

For the past two years I have decided that it is more fun and easier in some ways, to entertain at our house and make it special for everyone without going out to eat.  I figured out that my home provides a more relaxed atmosphere where kids can run around, guests can nibble on appetizers and there is always dessert!  I happen to love my home and sharing it with others is always fun, even if there is a little bit of work involved.

Although it takes a little bit of planning and shopping ahead, it can happen pretty easily.  Last year I made a brunch with a couple of quiches, strawberry poppyseed salad, fresh fruit, Publix baby croissants and other goodies.  Many things can be prepared or even cooked the day before so all you have to do is heat them up or take them out of the fridge and put them on the counter.  Family and friends also help by bringing drinks, desserts and appetizers.  I always set the table the day before so I don’t have to do that on the actual day.  The more prepping ahead you do, the more you can just enjoy the day and not have to work too hard.  Once the meal is done, my husband always does the clean up and dishes for me which is so wonderful!  Here are some photos of last year’s brunch.  I messed up and didn’t get too many of this past Sunday’s lunch when I made pesto chicken, mac and cheese and the favorite salad mentioned above.  I guess it will have to be at every Mother’s Day it is such a hit!




Nothing Bundt Cakes and a coconut cream pie were this year’s desserts!

Some fresh flowers from my son added that extra special touch to the day!  Thanks, Dustin!

However you spend your Mother’s Day, make it special!  I will challenge you to give this idea a try on any holiday.  I’m sure your guests will appreciate it very much and have much better memories of the day.



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Why I Love White Dishes!

White dishes have been one of my obsessions for many years.  The reason I love them is they go with every season, event and holiday and you only have to have one set to store.  I have to admit that a great friend (you, Jennifer M.) shared this great tip with me over a decade ago and it just stuck with me.  You can simply add the colors of whatever season it happens to be to the table.  It is such a nice blank slate to start with and any color you pick works with them.  Forget storing many different sets for all the different holidays.  White is just more “practical”!

Pinterest Photo
Pinterest Photo


If you are a thrifty person like I am, you also probably keep an eye out for interesting dishes like the ones in the Pinterest photos here.





When I am at a thrift store or a garage sale, I am always looking for pretty white dishes.  In fact, my main every day plates were found (as a set with coffee cups, smaller plates, etc.) at a yard sale for $15 for the entire set (stack in front in photo).  I didn’t take the entire set out of the cabinets for the photo  – – sorry!  I’m not a fan of heavy plates so these cute lighter china plates are just perfect.

Recently, while shopping at Goodwill I found a second set of some cute IKEA white plates for about .69 each so I just couldn’t resist.  They are the ones in the back right in the photo.  I have to admit that after I got them home, I discovered they don’t fit in my dishwasher so they will have to be handwashed when I use them.  I guess the Swedes either don’t use dishwashers like Americans or maybe it’s just my dishwasher rack.  Anyway, I still love them and they could easily be mixed and matched with my other dishes when I need extras.

This little white tea set was my husband’s mother’s set.  Isn’t it just adorable?  I know it means a lot to my husband that I saved it all these years even though I never knew his mother before she passed away.  It rarely gets used but it is fun to have just as white decor.

I have actually sold of some of my white dishes recently because I just didn’t need that many pieces!  I’m fortunate that I live in an area that it is fairly easy to find a buyer for items that I really don’t need using Facebook Swip Swap sites.

I also sold this creamer/sugar set (didn’t need two sugar/creamer sets) and this Pottery Barn plate set (below) that I deemed too heavy after a few years of using it.  SOLD!


I’m almost embarrassed to say that even after purging my kitchen cabinets this year, I still have more white plates than I need.  Truthfully, I am sort of crazy about organizing my kitchen cabinets and keep all the white items in one space just for a nice consistent, organized look (see photo below).

I will try to remember to snap some photos of various holiday settings in the future and share them on a blog someday.

I think I am really needing a beach day soon…see ya!


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