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 bettycrocker.com.

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.

Berry-yummy!

Sources: Sweet Nothings  and bettycrocker.com

 

Off the Grid in Italy

Morgan and me in Tuscany.

Mom and daughter trip to Tuscany.

Tuscany is Bellissimo!

I haven’t posted in awhile for a very good reason…I was in Italy! I was practically off the grid with unreliable Wifi and no phone plan. My daughter became our navigator with her grasp of Italian and her own data plan. Look forward to lots of pics and posts about Venice, Bologna, Siena and Rome.

I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. Where to next?

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Easy DIY Summer Treasure Jars and Highlights Article

Decorated Mason Jars.

Decorated Mason Jars.

DIY Summer Treasure Jars

Camp visiting days are an opportunity for kids to show and tell. They’re also a great source of craft ideas. This year, I was particularly excited about the Treasure Jars so I included them in my Highlights article, 12 Ways to Reboot Your Summer. My daughter said the camp provided glow-in-the-dark paint. Turn out the lights and let summer memories shine!

Supplies:

–mason or mayonnaise jar

–any combination of stickers, pom-poms, paint, paint markers, permanent markers, colored tape and feathers

–craft glue that adheres to glass

Directions:

–Decorate jars.

–Add summer keepsakes such as seashells, souvenirs, movie stubs, show stubs, cards, letters, etc.

–For a personalized touch, label with name and year.

Party Favors or Take Home Party Activity:

How fun would these DIY Treasure Jars be as a take-home party activity for ages 8 and up? Or, decorate smaller jars, fill with candy, and hand out as party favors. Come to think of it, that’s just what I did a few months ago. Check out Quick and Easy Candy Jars to see how I carried the middle school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, theme through the candy jars. Hon, you know I love a theme!

Colorful tape, stickers, paint markers, paint, pom poms and thread were used to decorate these jars.

Colorful tape, stickers, paint markers, paint, pom poms and feathers were used to decorate these jars.

 

Canyoneering in Utah, Harnesses & Helmets, Hook (Part 1)

Mt. Carmel, right outside Zion National Park, Utah

Mt. Carmel, right outside Zion National Park, Utah.

Guess what I did last week?  One of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.  Hubby, Teen Daughter and I were up for an adventure.  We went canyoneering in Utah, right outside Zion National Park. We hired an experienced guide, James Milligan at Zion Outfitter, for our first time rapelling and scrambling around canyons.  Teamwork was essential, the canyons were gorgeous and the physical challenge was thrilling.

Hon, you know what?  Once you’re in the canyons, you’re really in!  There’s no turning back.

First, we geared up with harnesses, helmets and hooks. We learned how to control the friction of the rope that connected to our hooks.  Holding the rope taut, you stayed in place.  Letting it out, down you’d go.  Finding a foothold on vertical rock was difficult, so you “walked” down cliffs letting rope out a little at a time.  Jumping down into water and quickly finding a place to stand was tricky. Squeezing through narrow canyons was the easiest thing we did. What I want to know is…

When can I go again?

Hubby and Teen Daughter

Hubby and Teen Daughter

Me and Teen Daughter

Me and Teen Daughter

It was hot and dry, so water was a must.  Bees buzzed around the water at the bottom of the canyons, but they wanted to drink and didn’t bother us. Hawks circled, lizards slithered, and white streaks on red rocks were evidence of large birds that call the canyon home.

“Hanging Gardens” are greenery that sprouts from canyons walls and drapes down.

When James, our guide, mentioned quicksand I asked, “Is there really such a thing as quicksand?”  I’m here to tell you it sits on the bottom of canyons under water and its for real!  

Looking down into the canyon.

Looking down into the canyon.

Gorgeous Red Rocks!

Gorgeous Red Rocks

Have you ever gone canyoneering?  Would you go again? Comment by clicking on Word Bubble next to Title of Post. Thanks, hon!

Summer Blooms

I love the way the Swallowtail's wings curve ever so slightly towards the Cone Flower.

I love the way the Swallowtail’s wings curve ever so slightly towards the Cone Flower.

Happy First Day of Summer!

I’ve used up all my “Bmore Energy” throwing a huge party.  Last weekend, we welcomed guests from as far as Colorado, New Mexico and Nashville to help us celebrate a family milestone.  It was beautiful!  It was wonderful!  I’m exhausted!

Planning a weekend of festivities for over 200 guests took all of my time, so my blog simmered on the back burner.  My house is in clean-up mode and my energy needs to be recharged.  Tomorrow’s plans?  A hike to clear my mind.  After that?  DIY decorating blog posts.

In the meantime, here are some photos to welcome summer.  I took them at Ringwood Manor State Park.

When I say I have "Hot Pink Hope," I'm thinking of this Zinnia's color!

When I say I have “Hot Pink Hope,” I’m thinking of this Zinnia’s color!

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Two Swallowtails flitted around the flowers.  I was so excited to capture both feeding at once.

Two Swallowtails feed at the same time. The angle of their wings seem to form one continuous line.  Exquisite!

 

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Teen Daughter and fellow photographer.  We were snap happy in the gorgeous gardens.

Teen Daughter and fellow photographer. We were snap happy in the gorgeous gardens.

Happy Summer, hon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Blanket Bingo (Embarrassed in France)

Nice, France, 1988, I'm on the right in the black whole piece. Ilene is wearing a white t-shirt.  The blonde guy in the Speedo was someone we met that day. The other three people are other student backpackers.  Peter is not pictured in any of these photos.

Nice, France, 1988, I’m on the right in the black whole piece. Ilene is wearing a white t-shirt. The blonde guy in the Speedo was someone we met that day. The other three people are other student backpackers. Peter is not pictured in any of these photos.

Sunbathers in summer of 1988.  Nice, France

Sunbathers in summer of 1988. Nice, France

Rating of this post:  somewhere between PG-13 and R, depending on which country you live in, what year you were born, if you are a direct descendant of Puritans, your Zodiac sign and personality traits.

Warning: If discussing the body makes you uncomfortable, you can find recipes under the category “Call Me Cook.”

Intro:  If you read about my trip to Jamaica in April, then you might remember how surprised I was when I met a couple of nudists.  After I posted “Birthday Plus Suit Equals ?, I comprised a list of my Top Ten Questions For Visitors To The “N” (as in Naked) Resort.  The whole subject reminded me of one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. Friends, if you’ve already heard this anecdote, skip it!

Back story:  In 1988, after graduating from college, a girlfriend (shout out to Ilene) and I backpacked across Europe.  We wound our way to Nice in the south of France where we planned to sunbathe and relax. For the entire backpacking trip, we asked each other one question: “Should we or should we not go topless in Nice?” We spent much emotional energy discussing this topic.

You know the whole “When in Rome” argument?  Well, a lot of French women don’t wear bathing suit tops and we wanted to be like them.  Then again, our modesty combined with skin that had never seen the light of day weighed heavily on our minds.  But, we were on an adventure (Writer friends, can you name which one of my characters is on an adventure?  But, I digress.) and were young.

Scenario:  Walking to the beach, we stopped at shops to browse.

Me:  “Look at the baskets of bikinis!”

Friend:  “There are only bottoms!  That’s it.  Let’s do it.”

Me:  “Okay, but we’re wearing whole pieces.”

Friend:  “Once we lay down, we’ll roll them down. At the same time!  Anyway who are we going to see?”

Me:  “You’re right.  Who are we going to see?”

I interrupt this story to tell you that we had met up with some other students (pictured above)  backpacking in Europe.  The girls were having the same dilemma as us and we weren’t interested in the boys “like that.”

After we set up our beach towels…

Friend:  “Tell me when you’re ready.”

Me:  “One the count of three:  one, two, three!” (Much giggling ensued!)

After awhile we got used to the exposure (pun intended) and sat up.  Then from a bunch of beach blankets away…

Peter (former football player and biggest jock in my high school):  “Naomi, is that you?  Hi!”

I lookeded in his direction and half-waved, half-covered my now burnt-to-a-crisp upper body (applying sunscreen would have been doubly mortifying so, alas, we didn’t).  I realized not only was Peter sitting a few blankets away, so were some other boys from Baltimore!

Two thoughts went through my mind:

1)  “What are the chances boys from Baltimore are sitting on the same beach I am at the same time I decide to roll down my top?!?

2)  The biggest jock from my high school, who I was never friends with, never had classes with and who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation, knew my name?  Wow!

Friend:  “You know him?”

Me:  “I can’t believe it!!”

Peter:  Waving and pointing me out to friends.

Me:  “Cover me!”

Friend:  Blocked view of me while I quickly rolled up my top.

Me:  I stayed on my towel and waved back, but I did’t go over and say hi!

Friend and I decided it was best to be occupied.  We ran to the water, grabbed a paddleboat and stayed out in the water for a long time.

That was the beginning and end of my “When in Rome” adventure!

Two more things happened after that:

1)  Peter gave me a big hug when we ran into him in Monaco the next night. (OMG!)

2)  My friend and I were in pain for a week.

Moral of the story:  Don’t roll down your top if you’re too embarrassed to apply sunblock! 

Do you have any embarrassing moments you’d like to share?  

My friend and I went paddleboating after the embarrassing incident.  We stayed out in the water a long time!

My friend and I went paddleboating after the embarrassing incident. We stayed out in the water a long time!

Sexy sand sculpture!

Sexy sand sculpture!

 

Lemons and Limes Inspired Party Decor

Triplets at their high school graduation party.

Triplets at their high school graduation party. (Notice the watermelon fruit basket.  How to make it was in the previous post.)

My three big kids graduated from high school last year.  Were we going to have a party to celebrate?  You bet!

Since my kids were little, I enjoyed coming up with party themes and color schemes.  I am passionate about parties. Hon, welcome to a new Bmore Energy category called “Party Central!”

Most of my kids’ parties have been at home.  People often say, “Wow, how can you handle all those kids at your house?”  (I have triplets plus one, duh!)

Maybe they think I’m trying be Martha Stewart.  (Well, I do like her ideas….)

Maybe they think I’m a Domestic Diva (Ummm, did you know my nickname is the “Laundry Wench?”)

Maybe they think I’m crazy! (Aren’t we all a little bit crazy?)  

The real reason I prefer parties at home?  CONTROL.  I like to be in control (hubby is nodding his head vigorously).  There, I said it!  If I throw a party at my house, I can be in charge of when the party starts and ends, when food is served and what activities there are.  Now you know one of my flaws–or–assets, however you look at it.

The party decor for the triplet’s high school graduation party was inspired by lemons and limes.  Not only did I use green and yellow for linens and paper goods, I incorporated the fruit in the centerpieces.  The whole house smelled like Lemon Pledge!

I have a collection of glass vases (Hubby, thanks for the Valentine’s flowers over the years!) that I use any chance I get.  I rented two tents, tables, chairs and linens.

Menu:

Cheese-n-crackers, crudite, chips-n-dip

Wraps:  veggie and tuna

Salads:  caeser, tossed, crunchy mixed veggies, pasta

Sides:  noodle kugel (homemade by moi, three big trays eaten up!)

Dessert:  two sheet cakes:  one vanilla, one chocolate, homemade chocolate chip cookies,    candy tray and fruit

Drinks:  lemonade (of course), water, soda and a guest brought alcohol-free mudslides

So fun!

Food tent.

Food tent.

I used alternating green and yellow linens.

I used alternating green and yellow linens.

I offset the lemons and limes and yellow Gerber Daisies with a lavender ribbon around each vase.

I offset the lemons, limes and yellow Gerber Daisies with lavender ribbons around each vase.

Pretty and fresh-scented centerpieces.

Pretty and freshly-scented centerpieces.

Leaving you with a “sweet taste” in your mouth… and I’d love to know if 

you like to entertain and if you threw a party you were proud of? 

homemade chocolate chip cookies

homemade chocolate chip cookies

 

Watermelon Fruit Basket

Chilled watermelon fruit basket.

Chilled watermelon fruit basket.

Watermelon Fruit Basket How To:

1.  Start by outlining where to carve with either a watermelon carving tool (pictured on cutting board below) or a with a sharp (I would use a short) knife.  The handle will be approximately in the middle of the melon.

Incise a line half-way around the long part of the watermelon then up and around for one half of the handle.  Remove the knife.

Start carving again once you’ve decided how thick you want your handle to be.   Incise up and around for the other half of the handle and continuing half-way around the rest of the long part of the melon.

outline where to cut

Outline where to carve.

2.  Once you’ve carved all the way around, leaving one section as your handle, break off both top portions of the melon.  The watermelon in those portions will go into your fruit salad.

top part of one half of melon cut out

One top potion of melon cut out.

3.  Break off the other top portion of melon and cut out melon under the handle.

Both top portions of melon are broken off.  Melon under handle has been cut out.

Both top portions of melon are broken off. Melon under handle has been cut out.

4.  Scoop out the remaining melon.  Smooth the inside of the watermelon with a spoon. Cut scooped out melon into cubes.  Combine with other fruit.

Scoop out remaining melon.

Scoop out remaining melon.

5.  Pour out excess juice from carved out watermelon.  Place empty watermelon basket in freezer for about an hour (or more) so that the inside will harden a little and the basket will keep the fruit cold when serving.

6. When you are ready to serve, add fruit to you watermelon basket.  The thin layer of ice crystals that formed on my basket melted quickly once I placed it outside to serve.

Ready to serve.

Ready to serve.

Flip Flop Flap

Louie the hound dog.

Louie the hound dog.

I love flip flops!  

I’d be happy to wear them year-round. Except I live in New Jersey and would lose circulation in my toes when the temperature drops below 70 degrees F.  At University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was friends with a guy who wore flip flops year-round.  He wore them in the winter.  When there was snow on the ground.  And ice.  All while riding a skateboard.  He was from Hawaii.  I’d see him and say, “Aren’t your feet cold?”  He’d say, “Nope, they’re fine,” and skate away. But, I digress.

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This April, I stopped in my local Army and Navy store to check their flip flop selection.  For some reason, I only had the left shoe of my favorite pair.  Here’s my conversation with David, the manager of the store.

Me:  “Hi, I’m looking for wide-strap, black Reef’s, size 7 or 8.”

David:  “Didn’t your brother’s dog eat your flip flop last year?”

Me:  “No, I don’t think so.”

David:  “Are you sure?  I remember you coming in last year and telling me your brother’s dog ate your flip flop.”

Me:  “You must be thinking of someone else.”

David:  “Maybe, but I think it was you.”

Me:  “Ummmm…”

David:  “You told me that you took your flip flops off at dinner.  They were under the kitchen table but, after dinner, you could only find one shoe.  The dog had eaten the other one.  You were pretty mad because they were your favorite pair.”

Me:  “Hmmmm.”  (With all that detail, a pinprick of light shone in when the door to my Memory Room was opened.)

Me:  “Wait!  You might be right….”

David:  “You said you were going to ask your brother to pay for a new pair of flip flops!”

Me:  “I did?”

David:  “Yup.”

Me:  “Now I remember!  We visited my brother and his family last summer.  They had just adopted Louie and he did eat my flip flop! I can’t believe you remembered all that!”

Luckily, the store had my favorite flip flops in stock.  I  bought them.

Moral to the story:  Don’t leave your flip flops under the kitchen table where the dog is waiting for food to fall.

Look in Louie's eyes. You can' stay mad at him!

Look at Louie’s eyes. You can’ stay mad at him!

Louie the Lovebug says, "Pleassse scratch my belly!"to my niece.

Louie the Lovebug says, “Pleassse scratch my belly!”to my niece.