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Now that the holidays are over, the Christmas bills have started arriving and the weather is dreary, everyone could use a fun pick-me-up.

Why not host a fun party? Provide the time and place for your loved ones to forgot about the January blues and have a couple hours of unbelieveable fun. You can pull together a great winter-themed party without breaking the bank and it will be just the thing to bring out smiles and warm some hearts!

Here are a few ideas:

* Snowman Party – The fun can snowball in a hurry with a creative theme. Use a simple menu like Snowman’s Soup (Potato Soup), Snowman Rolls (shape biscuits or rolls into a snowman shape). Cut your favorite white cheese with a small snowman cookie cutter, and place on top of  nice green salad for Snowman  Salad. Finish the meal with a snowman shaped dessert, easily made by stacking varying sizes of cupcakes, covering in white frosting and finishing with coconut or by dipping Nutter Butter Cookies in melted white chocolate and adding a face and a hat with frosting. Use snowman decorations left over from the holidays to highlight the theme. You can even make an easy centerpiece out of white styrofoam balls (available at craft stores) placed in a pretty glass bowl.

* Snowflake Party – Get the kids in on the decorating for this party. Have them cut as many snowflake as they can and hang them all around your serving and gathering area. Chiffon, organza or even tulle can be a great and affordable way to carry out the theme, especially when you combine white and icy blue. Layer white lights under the chiffon for a warm glow. For this party you could make snowflake soup (tomato soup with a sour cream snowflake floating in each bowl – fill a sandwich bag, clip a corner and pipe it on!) and snowflake sandwiches (grilled cheese sandwiches made by alternating a dark bread like rye with a lighter bread like sourdough or white. Cut out snowflakes from each then put the cut out of one bread into the cut out area of the other.)  Serve Candy Cane punch (1 liter cranberry or strawberry juice, 2 liters of lemon-lime soda, 2 quarts peppermint ice cream. Just before serving, put chilled  juice in punch bowl, scoop in ice cream, top with chilled soda. Garnish the bowl with mini candy canes) with snowflake sugar cookies for dessert.

* Skating or sledding party – use mufflers and mittens for your decorations. Use mitten shaped invitations to spread the word. Serve hot cider and hot chocolate (if you are serving hot chocolate make sure you have fun add ins read like marshmallows, crushed peppermint, mini chocolate chips and long peppermint sticks to stir with), snack mixes, and something simple like  mac and cheese with warm bread and salad. Make ice skate brownies for dessert. Cut a small skate shape our of cardboard for a template then cut out brownies, flipping the template over for half so the skates or heading different directions. Frost with white icing, make laces from red icing and the skate heel from a touch of chocolate frosting. Add a mini candy cane on the bottom for the skate blade.

* Winter Animals  – this theme works well and is most fun for younger children. Using the theme of animals that make you think of winter, it can be a really fun meal for little ones. Penguins can be made from hand-boiled eggs with olive heads and arms (use a whole black olive for the head and the tip of a mini carrot for his beak. Cut an olive into quarters lengthwise for arms and use tips of mini carrots for the feet. Toothpicks will anchor on the head and limbs. Be sure someone removes the toothpicks for younger ones before eating!). How about polar bear sandwiches? Just cut bread slices in the shape of a polar bear. You could do peanut butter, grilled cheese, meat, whatever you want. Serve milk as “artic punch” and have popcorn balls for reindeer cookies for dessert.

* Escape to Paradise – for the adults who are tired of gray skies and freezing temperatures, tell everyone to come dressed in their tropical best. Turn up the heater, play the luau music and put out a feast featuring “warm, sunny” foods and drinks like tropical fruit salad, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken and veggie skewers, crab pasta salad, orange-avocado salad atop mixed greens and tropical sunrise drinks (orange juice and ice with a dash of pomegranate juice). Make sure everyone has a lei to wear. A parting gift to each guest could be a votive that smells “tropical” like pineapple or coconut, as a a fun reminder of the evening. Tie it in a circle of tulle with a bright ribbon and it makes a lovely little gift!

However you decide to entertain this month, have fun, smile and enjoy the time spent with the people who are most dear to you!

Happy Entertaining!

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cutting boardI am in love! And yes, Hubby is aware of the infatuation.  This love affair is with the next best thing since sliced bread – crock pot liners!

OK, so I can get pretty excited about some very simple things but I just tried the liners for the first time yesterday and absolutely loved them. No mess, no scrubbing out baked on food. Just lift out the liner, toss, and rinse out the crock pot. So quick and simple.

When you are entertaining at home, make your prep work as quick and simple as possible. It will take less time and energy to clean up and give you more of both to devote to enjoying your guests.

Line pans with foil or parchment paper before baking (depending on what you are making) for easy clean up afterward.

Use resealable plastic bags for mixing messy ingredients, marinating meat or veggies. You can mix just about anything in a bag my massaging it. It also works great for squeezing our frosting and fillings. Just fill the bag, seal, trim off a corner and you are ready to roll.

Invest in at least one quality piece of heavy-duty cookware and one top-drawer piece of cutlery. The cookware will not only cook better and faster, it will also be easier to clean up. The cutlery will make your prep work go faster and you might even have more fun doing it.

Have a couple of good cutting boards. Keep the one you use for raw meats separate from the one you use for everything else. When you purchase a cutting board, look for one that has a gutter around the edge – it will keep runaway juices contained and save time on clean up.

Keep a bowl handy in which you place all peelings, trimmings, etc., in when you are doing prep work. It saves cleaning out the sink or scraping piles off the counter later.

Use paper cupcake liners to grease pans, or save the wrappers from cubes of butter to use when you need a pan greased.

Make clean up after the party simple, too, by having adequate containers out for guests to toss their garbage. If you are entertaining outdoors, you can even have a container to collect flatware, plates and glasses.

Think about the things you can do that will save time on clean-up and make entertaining even easier. If you have a favorite mess-free tip, please share it here!

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Easy Quiche

When I was in college living in a co-ed dorm and getting an education in things that had nothing to do with either my major or minor, a bunch of us girls got together and decided to have a nice party before we all left for the holidays. We all were supposed to contribute one thing to the meal and it needed to be “girlie” food.

I called Mom in  panic with no idea what I could make. She saved the day when she sent me this easy quiche recipe. It was a hit at the party, and every time I’ve made it over the years.

Wonderful for breakfast, brunch, luncheons or dinners, it is so good and simple to make!

Quiche
3 eggs

1 1/2 cups cream

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup shredded cheddar or colby-jack

1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon or diced ham

1/2 tsp. onion flakes

Prepared pie crust in 9 inch pie pan. Beat the eggs, add in cream and salt.  Sprinkle cheese and bacon over pie crust. Pour egg mixture over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite cooking memory from your college days? Share it here!

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Before 21 beforeA few weeks ago Julie Anne Jones and Krista Green teamed up to offer a fabulous free telecourse called “Organizing 101.” The class highlighted how to bring clarity from chaos in your office space.

Krista talked about how clutter is a stagnation of energy that prevents it from flowing and how our home office space should bring us positive energy.  I was so inspired by the call, I knew it was time to finally give my office the makeover it so desperately needed.after 3

Check out the before and after photos! I’m loving my “new” office space. It is peaceful and beautiful and a fun place for me to be.after 1

That got me thinking, so many people avoid entertaining because there is an area or room in their home that is a catch-all for clutter. Because of the chaos, they put off entertaining, waiting for the “perfect” time.

Here is the newsflash… there is no “perfect” time to entertain. So clean up the clutter, bring some new energy to your home and start inviting people over.  Remember that people are much more interested in spending time with you than noticing the things that are less than perfect in your home. If there is a certain area that is holding you back, fix it. Don’t squander the gift of time wishing your kitchen was painted, your living room redecorated or your office space decluttered. Declutter, paint, move some furniture around and start enjoying life!

If you want to get inspired to bring some clarity to your own space, Krista and Julie Anne are teaming up for a six-week “Chaos to Clarity” class that begins this Thursday, Sept. 17. For details, go to Julie Anne’s website here.

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