Elegant Lifestyles Magazine, which shut down during the pandemic, debuted its return with a Winter 2021 Holiday Issue. Two of my articles appear in the magazine: “Ready, Set, Glow! Creative Hosting Ideas: Gatherings with Family and Friends” and “Seven Healthy Habits–(Self Care During Stressful Times).”
For the feature article, I thought about how winter holidays appeal to our senses and researched fun ways to add warmth and welcome from the moment guests step in the door. Can you tell I enjoyed coming up with section titles? “Let’s Take an Elfie” = sight. “Happy New Ear” = sound. “Spice it Up” = Scent. “Warm and Toast-y = taste. “Fleece Navidad = Touch. So many ideas to make get-togethers even more inviting and special.
As soon as it gets dark at 5pm and morning frost hardens blades of grass, I crave a hot drink every night. Hot chocolate is my favorite winter aperitif, so when researching ideas for an upcoming magazine article on creative hosting ideas, my favorite idea was–you guessed it–a Hot Cocoa Bar!
Easy Kids Activity: Why not ask older kids and tweens to participate? Set up a separate table with a wintery tablecloth or a cleared countertop. Supply mugs and spoons, mix-ins and containers, and labels and markers, and let the kids set up the display with a place saved for the hot cocoa. After you add the hot drink, they can be in charge of introducing the Hot Cocoa Bar to the rest of the guests.
Perk of the “job?” They get first dibs!
Supplies and Ingredients:
mugs, saucers, spoons
carafe of cocoa or hot water and powdered cocoa
containers with or without labels
mix-ins such as cinnamon sticks, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, toasted coconut, crushed toffee or whatever are the fan favorites
whipped cream and marshmallows
Note: Depending on diet preferences, ingredients may be parve (dairy free), gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan.
When Aline and Cherie asked about throwing their wedding at our house, they wanted to know if we had any giant games. We used to have giant Pick Up Sticks and a picnic blanket-sized game of Checkers but, nope, we don’t have Cornhole or a giant Connect Four. They rented both and also brought bubbles. The games were a hit, and the bubbles were the best!
If you want to add giant soap bubbles to your next outdoor event, here’s what you’ll need:
giant bubble solution
sense of magic
*Wands and giant bubble solution can be purchased or made.
Aline and Cherie’s flowers, cake and chuppah were as sunny as the day! What made everything even more beautiful? The love and affection flowing from friends and family to the two brides. I loved the flowers–yellow and white with soft green accents, Aline’s lace dress, Cherie’s blue suit, and the couple’s matching sparkly sneakers.
Aline and Cherie’s friends built a chuppah out of birch logs. Wishes from friends and family were printed on green paper, cut into leaves, and laminated. Shout out to Aline’s sister Gavi for sewing the leaves onto the fabric that created the roof of the chuppah.
The gorgeous, rustic-looking, strawberry shortcake wedding cake was baked by Cherie’s sister Cristal. Shout out to Cristal for maintaining her focus and composure while the house and yard buzzed with people setting up and arriving from out of town.
It’s amazing how tents, tables and chairs can transform a space, especially after tables are decorated. At my niece’s wedding in our backyard, a pretty and relaxed tone was set with gauze runners, long boughs of eucalyptus, small and medium bud vases, wood-framed photos, and wooden coasters. Hon, you know I love texture and color, so I found the play of filmy blue fabric, soft green leaves, sharp wooden edges, smooth clear glass, and bright yellow flowers a pleasing combination.
Tents, tables and chairs created places to gather and eat.
Set on top of light blue gauze runners, eucalyptus boughs encircled wooden frames, bud vases and wooden coasters.
My niece created DIY decorations/favors by modge-podging photos onto wooden coasters.
Aline and Cherie’s dog, Mochi, may have been with a dog sitter, but she was there in spirit.
My niece got married in our backyard this past Saturday, so this week is Wedding Week–pics of the beautiful event!
You know what happens when I get an idea in my head? It swirls around, taking up space and not letting go, until I write, do, or make the thing! This goes for story ideas, preschool crafts, store displays, party favors and so much more. Maybe this is why I feel compelled to take on multiple projects–the only way to stop the swirling and get a good night’s sleep is to act on the ideas. Call is creativity overload!
My niece didn’t ask, but chocolate wedding favors got in my head, so I bought molds, melties and favor bags and got to work. And how nice was this? I called my favorite source for molds, cookie cutters, melties and sprinkles and the like, Sweet n Fancy Emporium in Cranford, NJ, to check that they had the molds I wanted in stock. I was running late but the new owner, Amanda, had a hunch I was still on my way and waited for me before she closed! So-umm-sweet!
DIY chocolate favors are so easy. Here are the steps:
Melt chocolate melties or chips in the microwave, first on 50% power for 30 seconds and then full power for 15 second intervals, stirring in between. Chocolate is ready when it’s shiny and liquidy.
I’m re-posting thisEasy DIY Winter Kids Craftbecause it’s quick and creative. Though my K-2 After School Enrichment students enjoyed making their ownFelt Mitten Bookmarks, pre-schoolers can also assemble them (Supplies for my Two’s are portioned out in our “Virtual Learning Bin.”) Don’t have suggested supplies? Use what you have. Set up a workstation, fill bowls with decorations, and invite kids to assemble, glue and decorate.Fun and done!
Felt Mitten Bookmarks
felt (or a thick fabric), small pieces will do
grosgrain ribbon (or satin ribbon), about 14 inches per bookmark
small googly eyes
any other things to use for decorating such as glitter glue, thin ribbon, foam shapes, sparkly stars
craft stick (or cotton swabs)
newspaper, wax paper, tin foil, or cloth (whatever you don’t mind getting glue-y)
Set up craft area with newspaper, wax paper, etc.
What size book is the bookmark being made for? A picture book? A chapter book? Measure the book, then add 6 inches to that measurement, which will allow ribbon to stick out of the top and bottom of the book and to be sandwiched between the felt. For example, if a book measures 8 inches, I’d add 6 inches and cut a 14 inch piece of ribbon
Draw mittens on the felt. Cut 4 mittens out of the felt, making sure they are the same shape so that when they’re glued together, they match up.
Match up the felt mittens, figuring out which will be the fronts and which will be backs. Using craft sticks (or cotton swabs), spread fabric glue on the insides of the mitten. Sandwich 1 inch of the ribbon between the fronts and backs. Press to help glue adhere.
Decorate mittens, either one side of each mitten or both, there’s no right or wrong.Let dry.
Tips: Trim excess felt. Check seams for gaps and, using craft stick (or cotton swab), add extra fabric glue where needed.
Ours was wonderful, not only because the unseasonably warm weather allowed our family to spend the day outside, but because it started with Hot Mulled Apple Cider. Shout out to my daughter Morgan who whipped up this delicious and festive Fall drink. Want to make your own? Check out this easy recipe from Ina Garden for Foodnetwork.com.
16 cups pure apple juice or fresh apple cider
Four 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 oranges, peels and juice
8 whole cloves
6 star anise (Morgan used whiskey instead.)
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and serve.
Posting about pumpkin carving with pre-schoolers led me down a crunchy leaves lane of nostalgia. Decorating our house and preparing costumes weren’t our only Autumn traditions. Cherished were our drives to Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJ where we’d take a hay ride to the pumpkin patch, pick as many pumpkins as we could carry, and load up on apple cider, doughnuts, and honey sticks. After saying hi to the farm animals, we’d head home. Every year, Hubby got increasingly skilled at carving pumpkins. (Check out his haunted house below.)