Three Berry Lovely Hostess Gifts

Chocolate-covered raspberries from Sweet Nothings.

One of the best things about summer is getting together with friends. With less carpools and craziness, it’s nice to hang out and catch up. I love that the day seems longer. Last night, we left a concert in our town’s park about 9pm and it was still light.

Summer invitations mean hostess gifts. Here are three berry-lovely ideas.

I found this adorable strawberry basket filled with chocolate-covered raspberries at Sweet Nothings, a chocolate shop in Summit, NJ. How easy is this to make yourself? All you need is a basket, filler “grass,” and candy or berries. How about making a berry mix? Wrap the mix in plastic wrap and nestle it inside the basket. Tie a bow and off you go!

Hand-thrown berry bowls filled with local berries.

Berry bowls aren’t just pretty, they’re practical since they are small colanders. I made the two ceramic bowls above, but I’ve seen them in several stores. How sweet would it be to give the hostess a berry bowl already filled? Want to make it even sweeter? Bring along whipped cream and (dare-I-say?) chocolate sauce.

Photo of Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries from

I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture the last time I made Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries. Click here for a recipe. Know what’s fun about making these? Finishing up the leftover melted chocolate at home.


Sources: Sweet Nothings  and


Manly Scarf

Manly Scarf

Manly Scarf

Hubby modeling the Manly Scarf.

Hubby modeling the Manly Scarf.

Nephew trying on his Holiday gift.

Nephew wearing his Holiday gift.

Despite its name, I worried this scarf wasn’t manly enough. Maybe it was the yarn or maybe it was the stitch, but I wondered, “Does this scarf look masculine?” I wasn’t convinced until Hubby tried it on. Yay! It looked great, and was ready to be wrapped as a gift for my nephew.

Happy knitting, hon!

Manly Scarf

Stitches are cast on for the entire length of the scarf, which is knit from side to side on a circular needle. Tip: Place stitch markers every 20 stitches (or however many stitches you like). This makes keeping track of the total stitches much easier. 

Yarn: The yarn used in the pattern on Ravelry was Manos del Uruguay Handspun Semi Solids, skein of 100g: 138 yards/126 m

4-5 skeins of main color

1-2 skeins of contrast color

Needles:  One US 10 (6mm) circular needle (as long as possible). Change needle size if necessary to obtain gauge.

Notions:  Stitch markers. One yarn needle for weaving in ends.


In stockinette stitch, 10 cm/4 inches = 14-18 stitches

In pattern stitch, 10 cm/ 4 inches = 10-12 stitches

Pattern Stitch

Row 1:  Knit all stitches.

Row 2:  Knit 2 together to end.

Row 3:  Knit into front and back of every stitch.

Row 4:  Purl all stitches.


Cast on 250 stitches. Work in pattern stitch until scarf has desired width. The stripe pattern is 3 pattern repeats in the main color, then one in the contrast color like this:

MC x 3


MC x 3


MC x 3

Cast off.

Notes:  Click the link under Source to see the original pattern, where the author of the pattern explains how to substitute the yarn. I used a different yarn than the one shown on Ravelry and since–gasp–I detest making swatches, I winged it, casting 250 sts and knitting to a width and length I thought looked good on a guy. (I know, very scientific!)

Source: Ravelry, pattern by Johanna K Sarten


DIY Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Wrapped and ready to give out.

Wrapped and ready to give out.

Go from this…


to this…


in four easy steps!

Four-Step Favors

Need a quick and easy idea for favors, goodie bags or stocking stuffers? These sweet-n-salty snacks are so yummy, my family couldn’t wait to eat the duds and broken pieces.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels


pretzel logs

chocolate discs (click here to see Wilton’s Candy Melts)

sprinkles, cookies to crush and/or sparkly sugar

wax or parchment paper


Pour sprinkles into pans with sides. I used several 9″ x 11″ dishes for different sprinkles. Line baking dishes with wax or parchment paper so finished pretzels can dry.


  1. Melt chocolate discs in microwave according to package directions. I used several flavors and melted one flavor at a time. (Tip. I microwaved the discs a little less time than recommended and stirred to finish melting the discs. Over doing it in the microwave causes the chocolate to get “sandy” and then it’s not usable.)
  2. Spoon melted chocolate over half a pretzel log.
  3. Immediately either roll the chocolate part in the sprinkles or spoon the sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Rolling is more efficient, but the melted chocolate drips into the sprinkles and makes the sprinkles globby. I ended up spooning decorations on top of chocolate.
  4. Line pretzels up on baking dish to dry. Drizzle melted chocolate over the bare half of the pretzel.

After all the pretzels are decorated, refrigerate them until the chocolate has hardened. Since I made these at night, I refrigerated them overnight (although they’d probably be fine in an hour) and wrapped them the next morning.

Melt chocolate in microwave.

1. Melt chocolate discs in microwave.

Spoon chocolate over half of each pretzel, then spoon sprinkles over melted chocolate.

2. Spoon chocolate over half of each pretzel.  3. Spoon sprinkles over melted chocolate.






Line pretzel logs on a baking sheet. Crushed cookies and sugar were used as well as sprinkles.

4. Line pretzel logs on a baking sheet. Crushed cookies and sparkly sugar were used as well as sprinkles.

Drizzle melted chocolate over bare half of pretzels.

4 continued. Drizzle melted chocolate over bare half of pretzels.








These were such a hit, I’ll definitely be making them again!

Happy Holidays, hon!

Warm and Cozy Knit Infinity Scarf

Honey Cowl.

Honey Cowl.



I made this Infinity Scarf, called a “Honey Cowl,” last year and wanted to knit it again. This time, I followed the pattern for the shorter version. The Simplicity yarn color “49 Shades of Gray” has a hint of mint green and is a Merino wool blend. It was a pleasure to work with.

Happy knitting, hon.

Infinity Scarf, Honeycomb Cowl

Finished Measurements:  22 inches in length by 12 inches in width for short version (44 inches in length by 12 inches in width for longer version)

Yarn:  55% Merino Superwash merino, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon, 140 yards (128 meters), 2 (4) skeins (double check amount of yarn needed depending on type of yarn and yardage.)

Needles:  One US 8 (5.0mm) 26″ (66 cm) circular needle for short version or One US 8 (5.0 mm) 36″ (91 cm) circular needle for longer version.  Change needle size if necessary to obtain gauge.

Notions:  One stitch marker for beginning of round. One yarn needle for weaving in ends.

Gauge:  5 sts = 1 inch (10 cm) in honeycomb pattern.

Notes:  For an in-between size, 1 skein and 160 sts will create a 32 inch long by 8 inch wide cowl.  2 skeins at 160 sts will create a 32 inch long by 16 inch wide cowl.

Pattern Stitch:  Slip Stitch Honeycomb

Note:  When working rounds 2 and 4, slip as if to purl and keep yarn in front)

Round 1:  Knit

Round 2:  *Purl 1, slip 1 wyif* repeat across round

Round 3:  Knit

Round 4:  *Slip 1 wyif, Purl 1* repeat across round


Cast on 110 (220) stitches.  Being careful not to twist stitches, place marker and join for working in the round.  Knit 4 rounds.

Repeat the 4 rounds of “Slip Stitch Honeycomb Pattern” above until work measures approximately 11 inches.  Make sure that you have enough yarn left over for the following:  Knit 3 rounds and bind off loosely.

Source:  Ravelry,


Time for Pie (Gluten Free Dough)

Gluten Free Baking cookbook by Michael McCamley.

Gluten Free Baking cookbook by Michael McCamley.

Inspiration Photo.

Inspiration Photo.

Do you need a good gluten free dough recipe? 

This gluten free pastry dough recipe can be used for pie, quiche or other baked goods.  In this post, you’ll find ingredients and directions for making an Apple Pie as well as a link to a How To video I posted on You Tube.

Raw gluten free pastry dough doesn’t have the same sweet, buttery scent of regular dough but, once baked, the crust is flaky and delicious. Trust me, when this is served, there are no leftovers!

Happy baking, hon.

My Gluten Free Apple Pie.

My Gluten Free Apple Pie.

Click HERE to watch–Ta Dah!–my second, and short, How To Video.

Gluten Free Pastry Dough Ingredients

3 2/3 cups gluten-free flour, plus extra for dusting

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 stick butter, plus extra for greasing (I used Crisco vegetable shortening.)

1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)

Apple Pie Filling Ingredients

6 cups apple slices (I use a combination of Granny Smith and other varieties)

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

approximately 1 Tablespoon flour

dash salt

1 egg, beaten (used to brush on top of crust before baking)


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degress F.

2.  Combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, salt and spices.  This mixture will give off a lot of liquid so use a slotted spoon when spooning into pie crust, allowing you to spoon the apple mixture without the excess liquid.

3.  To make the pastry dough, combine the flour, xanthan gum, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter (or vegetable shortening) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the egg and milk (or almond milk) and combine to make the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

4.  On a gluten free floured surface, divide the dough in two and roll each piece out to form a large circle*–one to line the pie plate and one to go on top of the pie. Line the pie plate with one of the pasty circles and add the apple filling.

5.  Add the second pastry circle as a lid and, using a fork, crimp the edges of the pasty all the way around. Pierce the pie in the middle a couple of times to let out steam during baking.

6.  Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden.

Serves 8

*I rolled out the dough by a)pressing dough ball down to flatten it, b)sandwiching dough between two pieces of wax paper, then c)rolling the rolling pin on top of the wax paper.  (Demo can be seen in the video.) If the dough sticks to the wax paper, you can spray the wax paper with non-stick spray.

**You can make this pie ahead and freeze it.  Let pie cool completely before wrapping in saran wrap and aluminum foil.  A couple of days before serving, defrost at room temperature.

Serving options:

Serve warm–after removing from oven, let cool about 20 minutes.

Serve room temperature–cool completely.

Rewarm defrosted pie– warm in a preheated 250- 275 degrees F oven, uncovered, until desired temperature.

American Flag-Inspired Cupcakes and Cookies

Hostess gifts idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. Wrap them in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

DIY Hostess gift idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. These funky melamine dishes are from SEED387. Wrap cookies in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

Need a patriotic-themed kid activity? Or are you in the mood to bake? Either way, enjoy this re-post.

Hon, you know what I like about a holiday besides spending time with family and friends?

 The built-in theme!

One of my daughters and I had fun taking the American flag colors to the extreme.  We baked red, white and blue sugar cookies and cupcakes.  Click here for sugar cookie and Royal Icing recipes.  My daughter decorated with flags while I tried my hand at tie dye effects. I used a toothpick to “drag” two or three icing colors from the center out, then swirled with the toothpick to create a tie dye look.

Patriotic Cookies

Patriotic Cookies.

Tie Dye effect.

Tie Dye effect.









Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Coloring on cookies.

Coloring on cookies.









Baking Day continued with red, white and blue cupcakes. 

We were inspired by Ziploc Bag’s Patriotic Piped Tri-Colored Cupcakes, but they turned out to be more challenging than they looked.  So, we abandoned our pastry bags and spooned the colored batter into baking cups.  The result?  Still patriotic, fun and delicious.

*Tip:  Wear plastic gloves because colored batter is messy and stains.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl vanilla.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl plain.








3. Transfer three bowls of batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored strips.

3. Spoon batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored stripes.



4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags at all.

4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags.




5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.


Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.










6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

American Flag Fun!

American Flag Fun!

DIY Graduation Party, Words of Wisdom

Proud of our grads!

Proud of our grads!

Miles of milestones.

Our Words of Wisdom Box was inspired by Advice Boxes on Pinterest. After the graduation party, one of my daughters Tweeted, “”Last night my backyard was basically a Pinterest board.” What can I say? I love a party and I love a theme. If I can combine both, even better!

Words of Wisdom Box


shoebox, wrapping paper, Exacto knife, index cards, scissors, pens, sign, frame, basket or other vessel


  1. Wrap a shoebox in wrapping paper.
  2. Cut index cards in half.
  3. Cut a slit in top of shoebox long enough to slip index cards through.
  4. Make a Words of Wisdom sign. (“Give advice to our new graduates.”)
  5. Set up box, pens, index cards and sign.
  6. Invite guests to be creative.
Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Words to live by.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

“Remember there are a thousand things you haven’t done yet.”

“Believe in yourself. Dream. Try. Do Good.
“Stay true to who you are.”

“Be confident. You are both great. (No tattoos!)”

“Always say yes to opportunities.”

“Never give up!”

“Find something to be thankful for every day.”

“Be a better student. Nevermind, you already graduated!”


Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guests know where to drop their words of wisdom.

DIY Graduation Party, Mason Jar Centerpieces

Mason jar centerpieces.

Mason jar centerpieces.

I admit it. I love mason jars!

I’ve decorated mason jars in the past and will use them again in the future. I collected centerpiece ideas on Pinterest, then Grad #1 and I put ours together.

Graduation Party Mason Jar Centerpieces How-To

  1. Figure out how many mason to use, and use your own or purchase jars at a craft store.
  2. Measure diameter of jars to figure out how much burlap, or other trim, will be needed. I decided to use a wide burlap ribbon on a tall mason jar to balance the size of the pennants.
  3. Design pennants and print out on card stock. My in-house graphic design guy, aka Hubby, used Adobe Illustrator. There are also sites that offer free, downloadable graduation designs. We found a variety of graduation designs on the site Lil Sprout (Greetings).Cut out pennants.
  4. Hot-glue dowels to back of pennants. Trim pennants to desired height with garden clippers.
  5. Decide on additional decorations. Red Gerber Daisies were a must for our centerpieces, and we added foam graduation sticker-decorated dowels. (Tip: I ran out of dowels but created new ones by hot-gluing craft sticks together. Call me resourceful!)
  6. Weight the mason jars and anchor the pennants with glass marbles. (Tip: I added a small amount of water to each jar so the Gerber Daisies wouldn’t wilt.)
  7. Set tables and enjoy!
Pennants printed on card stock and dowels.

Pennants printed on card stock and dowels.

Decide on which width ribbon works on what size jar.

Choose ribbon based on size of jars.

Measure and cut burlap ribbon.

Measure and cut burlap ribbon.


Wrap burlap ribbon around jar and hot glue ends together.

Wrap burlap ribbon around jar and hot glue ends together.

DIY Graduation Party, Cookie Favors

Fun favors!

Favors ready to hand out. I tied (so punny!) the black and white check theme to the cookie colors and ribbon.

Graduation Hats.

Graduation Hats.










Fun Favors! 

Throwing a party? You might think favors would be last on the list of things to take care of, but if you plan on handing out cookies, make them in advance. They’re a lot of work, but worth it. Trust me!

Sugar cookies can be baked ahead of time and frozen, then defrosted and decorated OR the finished cookies can be frozen. Either way, set aside time if you are going to bag and wrap them.

Shout out to Michele Schonhorn, who showed me how to make the icing smoother and outline the design. Her sugar cookie recipe is slightly different than mine so I’m listing it here. Shout out also to my assistant baker, none other than Graduate #1.

Happy baking, hon!

Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe 


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (I used margarine to make recipe non-dairy)

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 egg

2-3 teaspoons flavoring such as vanilla or almond

2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cream together softened butter and confectioner’s sugar.
  3. Crack egg into a separate bowl and add flavoring. Add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until egg is thoroughly incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt, then add the dry mixture, little by little, to the butter/sugar mixture. (Tip-a paddle attachment works well. Dough will by sticky.)
  5. Roll out on parchment paper to about 1/4 inch thick, using flour for dusting as necessary. Cut and bake for 7 – 8 minutes.

Yield: 2 – 2 1/2 dozen cookies. The recipe doubled will yield approximately 4 -5 dozen.

Notes:  The dough DOES not need to be refrigerated, but it does need to rest a little after mixing. It will firm up a bit after a minute or two. Baking times are approximate so watch the cookies. If they are browning, they’ve been in a little too long.

Royal Icing Recipe


3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar

3 Tablespoons of meringue or dried egg white powder

6 Tablespoons warm water

Beat about 4 minutes by hand. Thin icing, if needed with extra tablespoons of warm water.

Add color in small amounts. (Tip–it’s easier to darken a color than lighten it.)

Related posts: DIY Graduation Party (Party Prep Step-by-Step)American Flag-Inspired Cupcakes and Cookies, Melted Snowman Cookies, Cookie Crazy, DIY Party Favors, Character Driven Gingerbread Cookies

DIY Graduation Party, Step-by-Step Prep

The church bells rang as I took this picture!

Church bells rang in celebration!

Handsome son and Hubby.

Handsome in dress blues!

Woohoo! Yay! Congrats! 

Two of my kids and their friends celebrated graduating at a backyard barbecue. Hon, you know how I love a theme? What was I to do when their school colors clashed? I wanted to throw a dinner party with a theme and/or colors that said “graduation, bbq, and dressy casual.” When I stopped at a party rental store for inspiration, black and white check linens caught my eye. Using burlap as an accent, I was off and running!

This will be a week of How-To’s, but first here’s what the overall Party Plan looked like.

Menu: sliders, hot dogs, chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, salad, french fry bar (french fries with a variety of dipping sauces), s’mores, cookies, fruit salad, candy bar

Linens: alternating black and white tablecloths, black and white check napkins

Tables and Chairs: this goes hand-in-hand with linens, how many and what size tables being used determines how many and what sized tablecloths are needed, we supplemented our own tables and chairs with rentals

Centerpieces: mason jars trimmed in burlap, school pennants, red Gerber Daisies

Game, Activities: Polaroid-inspired Selfie Station, Words-of-Wisdom box

Favors: graduation hat and diploma cookies

Decorations: banner,Tiki torches, party lights, balloons

Invitations: Evites (I usually prefer paper invitations, but it was much easier to collect, send out and track a large amount of graduates’ email addresses rather than street addresses, especially since most students were in transit between school and home.)

Great advice for graduates (and me)!

Great advice for graduates (and me)!