4th of July – how to celebrate!

Another holiday means another round up of ideas, trips & tricks for all of those who might be hosting {or co-hosting} a party! While we won’t be hosting this year, I spent some time perusing the web to make life a bit easier for y’all : )

As always, feel free to leave suggestions/tips/ways to not go crazy in the comments!

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Food & Drink

4th of July Recipes {via Food Network}

4th of July Food {via Southern Living}

Healthy 4th of July Recipe & Menu Ideas {via Eating Well}

Throw a Kid-Friendly 4th of July Party {via She Knows}

4th of July Drinks {via Food & Wine}

Red, White & Booze: Awesome Drinks to Sip on {via Cosmopolitan}

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Decor

4th of July Party Decorations {via Good Housekeeping}

Easy 4th of July Decorations {via Better Homes & Gardens}

Simply Chic 4th of July Decorating Ideas {via HGTV}

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Games & Activities

10 Outdoor Games to Try at Your BBQ {via Huffington Post}

4th of July Ideas for Kids {via Disney Family}

Drinking Games for the 4th of July {via Drinking in America}

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Happy planning, y’all!

memorial day ideas

Can y’all believe that MEMORIAL DAY is just around the corner?!

I for one cannot – I mean, it’s almost June already! For us, this holiday means the start of the summer season…think grillin & chillin, lawn games, time spent at the river, and all sorts of fun outdoor activities and get-togethers. I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorites {our go-to articles, websites, etc.}, in case anyone out there needed a bit of inspiration for their Memorial Day bbq/party time. Here ya go – enjoy!

Alicia xoxo 

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Food & Grilling

Summer Grilling

BBQ Tips

Memorial Day Side Dishes

20 Desserts to Make for Memorial Day

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Fun & Games

Memorial Day Games – For Kids of All Ages!

Fun Adult Games

…Outdoor Games for Adults!

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Festive Beverages

Memorial Day Drinks {adult}

10 Cocktails for Drinking Outside

Fun & Refreshing Drinks {many kid-friendly!}

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Happy celebrating, y’all!

how to: a romantic date-night in

…I’ll admit, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a “how to” kick lately! But it’s also something that I feel is important to take the time to do – as busy people {whether working, parenting, or being a student} with extracurriculars and other daily activities that take up much of our time, it’s a breath of fresh air to be reminded to have fun; setting time aside for ourselves is just as necessary, no? 

With a lot of trips/visits/activities packed into our schedule over the past two months, the hubs and I have prioritized a weekly “date night” practice that really has turned into, I’ll admit, somewhat of a new tradition. We pick one weekend evening where we stay home and go through all the musings: nice outfit, special dinner, cocktails and drinks. Heck, I even put some music on while I’m preparing dinner and the hubs is on the other side whipping up drinks! It’s the little touches that make nights in so much more special; today, I thought I would detail a bit more of our routine : ) 

-Alicia xoxo

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How To: Have a Romantic Date Night In

  • as i mentioned above, get dressed up for the occasion! it might not feel like it matters much, since you’re at home, but i’ve found that it really helps elevate the mood. when you feel good, you look good!
  • set up a designated “happy hour” from the point where you and your significant other are both “ready” for the date; enjoy a few cocktails or, perhaps your beer lovers – make a point to run to the store beforehand to pick up some specialty craft beers you’re both dying to taste!
  • music. have some fun tunes playing lightly in the background – it gives you more of a restaurant/bar vibe, but since you control the channel, you both will always be happy with the selection! {we even like to switch genres to a more subtle tune for when we sit down to dinner}
  • candles. i am a HUGE fan of candles, and have them lit whenever possible. i may go a bit overboard for occasions such as this, but it really adds a special touch; plus, the lighting is super warm and inviting…much nicer than bright overhead lights! & keep the blinds in your home up for bonus natural light.
  • when it comes to dinner, we gravitate more towards a tapas-style approach. i think small bites are more fun, not only because you can enjoy more of them {hehe}, but it makes preparation much easier! i focus on one larger place {think crab dip, or wings} then  set out lots of little snacks with it – olives, nuts, a nice block of sharp cheese, dried fruits, crackers. that way, you can build and customize your plate exactly as you’d like.
  • pick a fun activity for post-dinner. whether it’s watching a movie you’re both itching to see, playing some board games, or even just sitting down and catching up on the week, make sure you end date night on a high note!

I’d love to hear how you make your nights spent in with your loved ones{s} special! Leave me a note in the comments! 

hosting 101

I don’t know about y’all, but our summer months are usually filled {happily} with an influx of visitors. Some from nearby, others we may only see a few times a year – regardless of whom is coming, I like to make sure that each and every guest feels as welcome and at home as possible. The hubs and I have owned our home for 5 {!} years next month, and I must say that we’ve done a pretty upstanding job of making sure our home is always guest-friendly with little to no extra time/effort involved. I’ve come up with a list of my favorite tips & tricks, as well as some helpful articles, that have been useful for us both in the past and present; hopefully, they’ll make life a bit easier for you!

c/o a good hostess

c/o a good hostess

*feel free to share: what are some of the ways you love to make your friends and family feel at home, while in your home?*

-Alicia xoxo 

Helpful Articles:

Some of my Favorite Things to Do:

  • last minute guests dropping by? I always find it helpful to carve aside 20 minutes after work, just a few days each week, to do a quick vacuum and spot check of the house; tidy up any loose ends on tables, clean up any pet spills/nose marks on the windows, straighten the curtains and throw pillows. The house will instantly look fresh and well-kept.
  • Candles! I am a huge fan of candles; not only do they add a wonderful ambiance to any room, day or night, but the crisp and fresh smells really bring the home to life. I try to pick ones that match the season – think bright floral notes for spring and summer, spicy and warm aromas for the cooler months.
  • On that same note, be sure to be mindful of guests’ allergies. Are they bothered by pet dander, or sensitive to certain aromas? Try to remove any offensive items a few days beforehand, to make sure that everyone will be comfortable. Non-scented odor eaters can be a lifesaver.
  • Fresh linens are key! Make sure that your guest bed{s} look cozy and inviting; I tend to layer on extra blankets so that guests can pick and choose what they like. The same goes with pillows; the bigger the selection, the better chance of ensuring comfort.
  • Pick up a few of their favorite food/drink items so that they feel welcome from the start; no one wants to be running to the store at the last second! 
  • Finally – HAVE FUN!

Happy Hosting!

easter dinner: what to make!

With Easter dinner right around the corner, it’s high time we start nailing down those menus! Our celebration will be a bit different this year than others in the past, but nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it! Here are some ideas for those who will be entertaining – from tablescapes to treats, I do hope you find some inspiration in what’s to follow!

Beverages:

VOGA Sparkling Spring Sangria [RECIPE]Sparkling Spring Sangria

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Champagne Limoncello Cocktails

Champagne Limoncello Cocktail

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Black Rose

Black Rose

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Limoncello Collins, Hatfields• Los Angeles

Limoncello Collins

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Dishes {mains & sides}

 Honey-Curry Glazed Lamb with Roasted Grapes and Cranberries Recipe

Honey-Curry Glazed Lamb

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Roasted Ham with Cherry-Chutney Glaze

Roasted Ham with Cherry-Chutney Glaze

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Shaved Vegetable Salad with Toasted Almonds Recipe

Shaved Vegetable Salad with Toasted Almonds

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Cheese Grits Soufflé with Mushroom Gravy

Cheese Grits Souffle with Mushroom Gravy

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Easy Three-Seed Pan Rolls

Easy 3-seed Pan Rolls

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Desserts 

Carrot Cheesecake

Carrot Cheesecake

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Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries recipe

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

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Apricot-Coconut Cake

Apricot-Coconut Cake

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Decor:

carrots in large vases, c/o valentinexday

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1442

mini cadburry eggs in hurricane glasses, c/o holiday central

 

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egg cups & shells used as name cards and food labels, c/o lushhome

Happy Easter! xoxo

st. patty’s day ideas!

Top o’ the morning, all!

With St. Patrick’s Day {and its collaborative foodie celebration} right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite recipes with y’all – both from a food & cocktail perspective. Some of them gear towards traditional, while some others are a bit of a…twist…but regardless, they are are equally delicious! I’d love to know – how do you like to celebrate this holiday,  if at all?

For the Table:

Boxty

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Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

Smoky Cheese & Potato Soup

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Beef, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

Beef, Onion & Mushroom Tart

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Mussels in Irish Cider

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Apple & Bramble Cake with Bushmill’s Custard

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Irish Cream Bundt Cake

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For the Bar:

How to Make an Irish Martini - Steve Brown Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Irish Martini

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Sweet Hospitality Group's Irish Farmhouse Cocktail - Photo Courtesy: © Sweet Hospitality Group

Irish Farmhouse

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Irish Coffee

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Blarney Stone

Blarney Stone

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Time for a Drink: the Emerald

The Emerald

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IMG_1820

Milk Punch

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Slainte, everyone!

compound butter

Compound butter is a lost, often-forgotten about ingredient for many people today…myself included! There’s something to be said about folding a few flavors into a perfectly soft stick of unsalted butter; it is transformed radically, bursting forth with flavor, color, and life. It comes together in just a matter of minutes, requires no prep work, and only uses up one or two dishes. Simply combine your desired ingredients, roll into a log, and chill until ready! I mean, these are the recipes that we live for, no?

I’m keeping it simple today and sharing some of my favorite ways to jazz up that stick of butter; perhaps you’ll find inspiration for your next brunch, sandwich spread, or simple piece of toast. Savory combinations or sweet, it’s the perfection offering for any meal. I often find myself not really measuring the add-ins; rather, I prefer to taste as I add them in, tweaking as I go along {sometimes, a little extra butter isn’t the worst idea!}. I’d love to hear – what are your favorite combinations to use?

Compound Butter

The perfect way to elevate anything – from a simple piece of toast or fresh baguette, all the way to a beautiful tablespace for a brunch or dinner party. Embrace the beauty of this dish, and make it your own!

Ingredients:

1 stick of organic, unsalted butter…room temperature is best for mixing

mix-ins: {cinnamon and sugar} {chopped fresh rosemary} {macerated berries} {sun-dried tomatoes and basil} {sage and parmesan cheese} {lemon zest and julienned fresh mint} {dried cranberries and orange zest} {horseradish and chives}…for the herbs, I tend to start with several tablespoons. the macerated berries will be close to 1/4 cup. grated cheeses and citrus can be done to suit personal taste. 
To Prepare:
Lay a piece of parchment paper or piece of seran wrap onto the surface of your countertop. This is going to become the “vessel” for storing the compound butter.
In a large mixing bowl combine the softened butter with your desired mix-in ingredients {you can either do this by hand, or with the paddle attachment of your standing mixer} until well blended. Make sure to scrape down the sides.
Transfer the mixture into the center of your parchment paper/seran wrap, shaping into a log form with your spatula. Fold in the sides of the paper, using it to tightly pack the butter into a firm shape*. Place in the refrigerator and allow it to set before serving. Be sure to re-seal it between uses.
*alternatively, you can simply spoon the compound butter into a serving dish and use right away. 

valentine’s day ideas & inspirations

That oh-so-sweet and wonderfully romantic day is almost here…Valentine’s Day, of course!

I am a total romantic, and love getting swept up in the allure of this holiday. Granted, it’s a become a bit commercialized; shouldn’t we celebrate those we love all year long? But for me, I like to see it as yet another opportunity for me to spoil those I love.

One of my absolute favorite traditions about Valentine’s Day is ::you guessed it:: the food! The hubs and I like to go out for a fancy-schmancy dinner around this time, but I like to view it as an opportunity for me to whip up several dishes for a really special meal spent at home. I’ve been pouring over recipes {both savory and sweet} to provide inspiration for this year’s menu. While I certainly have locked it down yet, here’s what has caught my eye!

And of course, a few tried and true favorites:

 

…I’ll leave my hubby on cocktail duty ; )

happy celebrating, everyone! xox

superbowl snacks!

Are you ready for some football??

I must say, I am super excited! It took me quite some time to develop my love for the sport, but ever since college {go hokies!} I’ve been rather fanatical. On any given Sunday during the season, you’ll find the hubs and I curled up on the couch flipping between the games. I absolutely love it. And let’s not forget – the football food! Snacks galore, y’all.

As always, I try to balance the unhealthy with the healthy. So that means enjoying dips with crunchy vegetables instead of chips; spritzers and wine instead of the {oh-so} delicious dark beers that we love in our house; lightened up sweet versions. So with all that being said, I thought it would be fun to do a recipe round-up of what to prepare for the game!

Appetizers & Snacks:

Entrees:

Drinks:

Desserts:

 

Happy SuperBowl Sunday, y’all!!

healthy recipe substitutions

With the start of the new year, many of us are in post-holiday recovery mode. Perhaps we overindulged at one too many holiday parties, or had one too many cocktails on more evenings that we should. Regardless of your reason, let’s work on a fresh start, and let’s do it together! I’ve put together a list of my favorite recipe tips, tricks and healthy hacks to share with y’all – and if you have any please feel free to share in the comments! Cheers to good health :)

Healthy Swaps {cooking and baking}

  • plain, non-fat greek yogurt can be used to replace plain or low-fat sour cream
  • vegetable oil can be replaced with equal parts of applesauce; I prefer unsweetened
  • natural honey takes the place of sugar in many recipes; and because it’s sweeter, you can use less than the amount of sugar called for
  • avocado puree can replace butter
  • bread crumbs can be replaced with rolled oats; you get the benefits of whole wheat flour
  • 2 egg whites take the place of using 1 egg

Replacements {side dishes, entrees}

  • try making mashed cauliflower or mashed turnips instead of mashed potatoes; significantly less carbohydrates, and you get the benefits of vitamins
  • swap out iceberg lettuce with my favorite mix of power greens: kale, spinach, swiss chard, and arugula
  • make zoodles {zucchini noodles} rather than pasta to serve with your favorite sauces
  • bake fresh corn tortillas in the oven to serve with your favorite dips and salsas, rather than reaching for the bag of fried flour tortilla chips

Sips {virgin and non-virgin drinks}

  • replace tonic water with soda water
  • ask for just a splash of juice in your favorite drink; you get all the flavor without all the calories {think: vodka-soda with a splash of pineapple juice}
  • make a wine spritzer rather than indulging in a whole glass, if you know you will be having more than one
  • enjoy your favorite liquor straight up or on the rocks; you’ll sip it slower and really enjoy the flavors
  • make a big pitcher of water infused with cucumbers/lemons/limes and leave it in the front of the fridge; you’ll reach for that instead of the soda
  • almond milk has significantly less sugar and carbs than dairy milk, and can be easier to digest if you have a lactose intolerance

Some of my favorite healthy-cooking sites:

Again, feel free to share your favorite tips and tricks in the comments! Happy healthy living!