Monthly Archives: September 2013

Chili & Cornbread In-A-Jar Recipe

At the Fall Friendship Swap I hosted this last weekend I experimented with an idea I had pinned on Pinterest called Chili & Cornbread In A Jar. The basic’s of what I read included buying mason jars, making chili, making cornbread and baking it in the oven. Didn’t sound too hard right? Plus I already have an easy delicious chili recipe up my sleeve! So after experimenting once,  I duplicated the idea and was able to feed twenty eight women in an easy-super-cute main dish that was a hit!

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So, how can you make this too? It really was pretty simple… I think the idea of baking a mason jar just seems scary… at least that is what scared me. Would the glass break? Would the corn muffin rise? As it is I wouldn’t call myself a naturally gifted person in the kitchen. Okay so here are five easy steps you can follow…

1. BUY MASON JARS

I assume if you are going to put together this cute dish (instead of just making chili and cornbread like usual) you will probably make it for more than just yourself. So you will need some mason jars.

In my experience tracking down mason jars, I didn’t like the Ball selection at Target (the Target I was at only had the quilted glass look which wasn’t what I was looking for) although they did have a variety of sizes and you could buy them in bulk at 12 for about $10.

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Michael’s had the jar I was looking for by Kerr in the 16 oz size but they only sold them individually for $1.49 each. Boo! Keep in mind I needed 28 jars. Thankfully a women in line told me that Walmart sold that brand in bulk… and thankfully the Walmart was just at the other end of the parking lot.

Walmart carried the Kerr 16 oz mason jars in a pack of 12 for $8.49. Winner!

2. COOK CHILI

Any chili recipe will work! Cook the desired amount for the number of people you will feed. Keep in mind that you’ll need to fill a 16 oz mason jar per person, which is a large serving size. It took us about 8 tablespoons to fill the jar to just under the lip of the rim which is where you want it.

If you do not have a chili recipe… I have the easiest and mighty tasty (award winning actually… Brian took my chili to an office party and it was voted Best Main Dish and Best Overall Dish of the night) chili recipe you can’t screw up! You want to know why? Because it only has four ingredients and it’s got McCormick’s stamp of approval!

The first time I set out to make chili about four years ago I picked up a McCormick’s Original Chili Seasoning Mix at the grocery store, looked on the back of the packet and followed the directions. When I made it everyone loved it and wanted the recipe. To this day I haven’t changed a thing (maybe I add a little Tapatio to make it spicier since we can handle our spice) and people still think it is amazing!

Great Griffins (McCormick’s) Award Winning Chili Recipe 

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (we use ground turkey)
  • 1 package McCormick® Chili Seasoning Mix, Original
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes undrained (we use a can of tomato sauce because I don’t want to bite into a gushy tomato when I enjoy my chili)
  • 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) kidney beans undrained

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Directions

  • Brown meat in large skillet on medium-high heat. Drain fat.
  • Stir in Seasoning Mix, tomatoes and beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with assorted toppings, if desired.

That is it! A winner every time… dinner is on the table.

3. MIX THE CORN MUFFIN MIX

So I don’t have a Corn Muffin recipe… but I am sure you could make one from scratch if you desired to (but remember I am not naturally gifted in the kitchen). I bought Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix 8.5 oz and just followed the instructions on the box. Also a really easy thing to whip up because all you needed was the box mix, an egg and 1/3 cup of milk. Once you mix the ingredients together you want to set the bowl aside and fill your mason jars with chili if you haven’t already done so.

4. FILL THE MASON JARS

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Let’s zoom in on that so you can see where the Chili line should be and where the Corn Mix should be. The key is that you don’t want the Corn Mix to fill the jar to the rim… you want room for it to rise (like how you would only fill a muffin tin with mix about half way so it can rise into its little muffin shape).

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5. COOK

Pop the jars in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. I placed mine right on the rack when I did the test batch (pictured). The next day, when I made 28 jars, I placed 8 jars on a baking sheet on the top rack and 8 jars on a baking sheet on the bottom rack of my oven and then had to cook a second batch after that.

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THE COOL DOWN

After we pulled the jars out of the oven we let them sit on the counter for 10 minutes… checked on them and the jars were still piping hot. The only place on the jar that was cool enough to comfortably touch was the top rim where the cornbread was. We honestly waited 30 minutes before trying to hold the jar to eat and the chili was still hot.

When I baked the larger batch the next day I took them out of the oven and immediately sat them on the counter in front of a fan to help the jars cool down quicker. Adding the decorative strip of torn cloth, for the sake of presentation, also made handling the hot jar a little more manageable.

EATING NOTES

So I just wanted to comment on eating your chili this way. My husband and I were about half way done with the jar when we were completely out of cornbread. We thought that maybe having a regular chili bar with fixings would have been nice because then you could have dolloped some sour cream and sprinkled some cheese and kept enjoying. But we both agreed the chili is good enough to continue eating on its own too.

I could only get through 3/4 of the jar and I was full. My husband ate the whole thing and was satisfied. It is a large portion of chili when you fill a 16 oz mason jar.

MAKING THIS RECIPE FOR A LARGE GROUP

To feed 25-30 people, I made 8 batches (or 8 pounds) of the chili recipe I share above. I used 5 boxes of the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (8.5 oz) but Target had a Pack of 6- 8.5 oz boxes for $2.99 and they probably sell larger boxes of the mix I just didn’t search very hard.

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This is what is leftover when you feed that many people, though, so be aware of the clean up. I left them soaking overnight and thankfully my sweet hubby got up, scrubbed all the jars out and ran the dishwasher for me.

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CAN YOU SAVE AND REHEAT?

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Great question! We had the same question too. So we saved a couple jars by simply wrapping the top of the jar with tin foil and putting it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day when we wanted to eat we removed the tin foil and put a wet paper towel on top of the exposed muffin top. We then hit the “Reheat” button on our microwave and within a couple of minutes the microwave ran that it was done. And it was!

The corn bread remained moist (not hard from being reheated because of the wet paper towel) and the chili was warm enough to eat right away. The jar did feel hot but the chili inside wasn’t piping hot again… but warm enough to enjoy with no cold spots in the chili. I would hit reheat again and give it another 20 seconds if you like to blow on your chili and enjoy it hot.

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Hope you enjoy this fun twist on serving chili and cornbread this Fall season! I’d love to hear how this turns out for you if you make it… so please share.

Fall Friendship Swap

In my previous post I shared the Friendship Swap (How To), with all the details that were involved in pulling together this fun event. In this post I would love to highlight the event itself and share all the lovely details of how the night actually played out.

Can I just start by saying this event far exceeded my expectation. All the ladies who participated went above and beyond displaying many of their talents in the Fall baskets they created. Here is most of our lovely group of ladies!

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It was a great night to be outdoors, especially since I encouraged the ladies to dress in Fall attire and it gets chilly at night. I had a lot of fun staging my backyard patio into a lovely seating place for the ladies, display tables for the baskets and even adding photo backdrop for pictures.

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The display tables and photo backdrop were really easy to put together. The smaller hay bails came from Michael’s and the larger hay bail came from East County Feed & Supply (and if you can believe it the larger hay bail actually cost less than one of the smaller hay bails).

The orange damask print for the background is just a piece of fabric from JoAnn’s that I actually had leftover from a bulletin board I helped decorate last year. It is simply stapled to the wooden posts as is the leaf garland up top which also came from Michael’s.

The stage was set and ladies were encouraged to grab some food, take their basket to the back, pick a number for their basket and place it on the display tables.

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Take a look at  the transformation the display tables took once all the ladies had their baskets on the table! Simply gorgeous.

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I mean WOW, right?!

How would we ever decide who would win the award for Best Presentation?! Let alone who would be awarded Best Overall Value, Best Homemade Item and Most Creative Item. Thankfully the ladies would present their baskets one by on throughout the night.

But first we did introductions and everyone got to open a personalized letter from “Martha Stewart” her self as way to start off our evening. The letter and Godly encouragement I shared for the night came from a section of a book I had read called The 10 Best Decisions A Woman Can Make by Pam Farrell.

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Then ladies were encouraged to group up with other ladies who had the same colored leaf on their name tags and together figure out at least two things they all had in common. This was a lot of fun and it allowed time for ladies to meet new friends and intentionally get to know each other better.

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Then the much awaited time of the night had come: the time to swap baskets!!!  Everyone put their name tags into a tin.  Ladies were called one by one in the order of numbers they signed up for to present their baskets to whole group. They told us what was in the basket and they were to tell us a little bit more if they wanted any of their items to be considered for some of our awards (like most creative or best homemade). Once they presented they drew a name tag from the tin and that person received their basket!

The anticipation was fantastic and I am so glad I ended up choosing this way to decide who would get whose basket. Here is a picture of everyone with their basket as they presented… having them stand up to present also helped us take a look at their Fabulous Fall outfits for voting when it came to the Fabulous Fall Friend award.

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Only one friend wasn’t pictured because she had to leave early but we presented her basket for her and collected the one she was given. Overall I don’t think anyone left feeling jipped by a bad basket because I think every basket offered something unique and was lovingly put together by a friend.

The night ended with some quick voting now that we had heard about all the great items in the baskets. We tallied the results as ladies enjoyed a last sip of Pumpkin Spiced Coffee or Apple Cider and then we presented the awards!!! Here are our winners:

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In order from left to right: Leslie took home the Best Presentation Award, Lauren took home the Overall Best Value Award, I took home the Fabulous Fall Friend Award, Sondra took home the Most Creative Award and Lily took home the Best Homemade Gift Award.

What’s in the bags? I am glad you asked! Each of our award winners won a Loofah, Advil On-The-Go, a Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, a package of Lindor Chocolates and a Spiced Apple Cider Mix from Trader Joe’s. We are ladies after all!

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Oh I almost forgot to tell you about the food! The Chili & Cornbread In-A-Jar Recipe I used was a hit. These were the dishes at the end of the night… and they make me so happy because it means ladies were filled with Fall goodness as my heart had envisioned. I left them soaking overnight and thankfully my sweet hubby got up, scrubbed all the jars out and ran the dishwasher for me.

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Many of you asked about the expense of the night and yes, creating the ambiance and little gift bags like these did add up. To aid with the cost of throwing the event I asked the ladies to make a donation towards the event for food and such. Thankfully almost everyone was able to chip in which made a nice dent in the cost.

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But to tell you the truth every penny spent was worth it for me because God was glorified that night and a whole community of friends, old and new, had their relationships strengthened. Praise God!

Can’t wait to host again next year!

Friendship Swap (How To)

I love hosting events as a way to build community… so I wanted to share with you a wonderful event I hosted yesterday called the Fall Friendship Swap!

The original idea was passed along to me by my MIL two years ago when she read a post on a blog called Vignettes  (whose original blog post may no longer exit or I can’t seem to find right now) about the Fall Friendship Swap. Kristin, the blogger, wanted to gather fellow bloggers and followers around the country in a fun way. Her idea was simple: you just fill a box full of Fall goodness for your swap partner (whom she paired you with and had a rule of keeping it under $15), mail it to them, and get a fun box in return!

I originally planned to host this two years ago, but due to circumstances beyond our control (mold found on our rental property) I could not host the actual swap night and ladies were left to swap on their own or simply keep their basket. I was so sad to have to cancel the night.

This year, however, I was determined to bring it back! I couldn’t organize a swap all around the country, but I could have fun with the all my lady friends in San Diego. So I put together an invitation with my own take on what a Friendship Swap should look like… and the fun took off from there. Hopefully after you read this you’ll be inspired to host a Friendship Swap with your friends no matter what season it is! But since we are going to work through how I planned my event, for the sake of presentation, this is my take on a Fall Friendship Swap. 

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———— THE FACEBOOK INVITATION ————

FALL IS (almost) HERE!

Fall is seriously my favorite season… love the colors, the weather, the decor… all of it. A couple of Falls ago my friend Dianna Schroeder brought me a Fall scented candle just to wish me a lovely Fall season. I was so surprised by the small token of friendship she passed along that this year I want to experience that with more of you. To my surprise my mother in law found a blog with a really cool idea called the “Fall Friendship Swap.”

If you are a lover of all things autumn and you enjoy making new girlfriends, then you are invited to my swap! Would you like to join the party?

HERE IS HOW IT WORKS:

  • Sign up for the swap by RSVP-ing for this event.
  • Start shopping for (or making) lots of delightful little fall goodies for a “new” friend (limit of $15-20 spent please… I realize everyone’s budget is different so I hoped that by getting this invite out early everyone could fit it into September’s budget and have more time to take advantage of sales… this amount should include the cost of the box, basket or bag you will be putting your goodies in to present to someone at the swap… and remember you get a basket of goodies worth the same amount in return).
  • Plan to come to the culminating event “Fall Friendship Swap” with your basket of Fall goodness on September 28th (the first weekend of Fall), and you will receive a basket in return from a new friend!

WHO WILL GET YOUR BASKET:

I have decided (per the recommendations and opinions of a few of you I have polled) to HAVE YOU DRAW THE NAME OF THE FRIEND YOU WILL GIVE YOUR BASKET TO LIVE at the event. So instead of pre-pairing you with someone before hand, at the event once you have presented your basket to the group, you will have the opportunity to draw the name of one of the lucky ladies present and give them your basket! I think it will make for an exciting night and it will avoid the problems involved should anyone have to back out last minute (which I sincerely hope none of you do).

What do you think? Sounds fun right!

WHY SWAP AT ALL?

If I am buying Fall things for someone and getting Fall things in return… wouldn’t it be easier to just keep the things that I bought for myself? Well… I suppose it would be easier… but certainly not more FUN! This event is meant to bring friends together in a unique way. Not to mention the added suspense of not know what fabulous Fall stuff you will receive. Plus you may make a new friend or two!

Need some ideas? Think: scarves, socks, hats, stationery, jewelry, pens, candy, soaps, snacks, drinks, candles, mittens, art, lotion…you get the idea…anything that makes your heart feel cozy!

I LOVE THIS IDEA! Who’s in?!

———— FROM INVITATION TO EVENT ————

I sent the Facebook invite out a little over a month from the event date which gave ladies plenty of time to shop/make the items for their baskets. In the mean time I posted on the event page whenever I saw a good sale, a cute basket idea or if I got an item for my basket to get the ladies excited and thinking about their own baskets.

In the process of trying to inspire the ladies to be as creative and thrifty as possible I decided to add an extra component to the event and create “awards” that would be voted on the night of the swap.

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For added fun we will anonymously vote and awards will be given on the night of our swap for the following:

Best Presentation– This award will go to the lady who has the best overall basket/bag/box presentation at the swap. 

Best Overall Value– This award will go to the thriftiest of our ladies, who stretched her $15-20 the farthest, and we all agree we’d be getting some serious bang for our buck from her basket.

Best Homemade Item– This award is to encourage us to channel our inner homemaker and force us to think about what unique gift we could offer in our basket then we didn’t simply go out and buy. 

Most Creative Item– This award will go the lady who really got creative with an item in her basket and we all agree “I didn’t think about putting that in my basket but that is a really creative thinking to include for the Fall!”

Fabulous Fall Friend– Got a cute outfit that just screams Fall! This is your chance to wear your fun Fall attire (perhaps for the first time this year) and we’ll throw in an extra award for the most fabulously dressed Fall friend!

Hope you’ll play along with the fun! If you could care less about an award then don’t sweat any of this just bring your Fall goodies to play… but if you are competitive like me then hopefully you are just eating this up!

———— FOOD FOR THE EVENT ————

A long time ago I pinned a really cool looking idea to my Pinterest board, Throwing Events: Food, called Chili and Cornbread In-A-Jar. It looked so amazing I wrote on the pin, “This Chili and Cornbread In-A-Jar idea makes me want to throw an event just so I can serve this!”

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So I sent a message to the ladies RSVP’d for the event:

So ladies, question… I have been thinking about food for the event… and I was wondering if you guys would be willing to chip in like $5 for food? The event is kind of right at dinner time or maybe slightly after dinner time for some of you. I have finger food/appetizers and some of you have said you could help with appetizers/desserts as well. However, what I would really LOVE to do is try to make this CHILI & CORNBREAD IN A JAR for all of us to enjoy… I pinned it like ages ago and actually wrote on my pin, “this idea makes me want to throw an event just so I can serve this!” Guess what?! Now I have the event without even realizing it!!! Can you tell I’m excited about this?!

Okay one problem… Dave Ramsey… that man ruins a lot of my fun ideas… what I mean is that it is the end of the month and we are rapidly running out of funds thanks to the “B” word, our BUDGET… you know since I didn’t really have a Fall Friendship Swap envelope for me to simply pull cash from. So it’s a little lame, but just so you know, I am going to put out a “DONATIONS” jar for you guys (or y’all if your a little bit country, excuse me, Southern as I was corrected) to help with the cost of food. Believe me I hate asking because you already spent money on this event but as one of you pointed out… in theory you get your money back because you take home a basket too… great point! Sorry, maybe it’s just me, but I feel awkward asking because I didn’t mention this up front. So if you can put in a donation that would be greatly appreciated… that way all our tummies are full of Fall goodness my heart envisions and my husband does’t kill me for going over budget. Thanks friends!

———— THE PLAN FOR THE NIGHT ————

The last thing I want to share with you is the rough outline I made for the night. Since there were so many ladies coming (28 RSVP’d) I wanted to make sure the night ran smoothly and on time so I could respect everyone’s schedules. Here were the components I wanted to be sure to include:

Group Picture… can you arrive on time? I sent this message to the ladies:

I would love to take the large group picture FIRST while we have the best lighting since the sun will go down on our event. Please try to arrive on time and lets congregate out front of my house between 6:30-6:45 and then take a picture. I will have a bench and some pumpkins for props set up for us and then we can move to the back and continue with the fun. I will take more pictures throughout the night but PLEASE make it to the large group one if you can. Thanks ladies!

Introductions (yes… I wrote this out before hand… event nerd I know)

Hello Ladies! Welcome to the Fall Friendship Swap. Tonight there are three things I would love to accomplish: to encourage you with a little Godly perspective, turn my backyard into a Fall Wonderland and to help you make friends (either closer ones or new ones). What I would love for us to do is to quickly stand up one at a time and tell us your name, what you do for a living, and one thing you are really good at.

  1. Name
  2. What you do for a living.
  3. Something you are really good at that you might consider a personal gift.

Encouragement

I wanted the night to be more than just a bunch of ladies getting together… in some way I wanted to challenge and encourage my friends… so the Lord jogged my memory and in pondering what to share I remembered a funny section of a book I’ve read,  The 10 Best Decisions A Woman Can Make by Pam Farrel, called The Martha Stewart Syndrome. I’ll never forget it because I was so encouraged by it and the conclusions Pam helps us draw after you read a comical letter from “Martha Stewart” herself:

The “Martha Stewart” Syndrome

Because we all have friends in our lives who seem to have a knack for creating a wonderful atmosphere around them, we sometimes think we must also have that same ability or we’ve failed. A friend with two small toddlers at home emailed me this letter to help us both lighten up a bit on our own expectations:

A Letter from Martha Stewart!
Monday, 9:00am

Hi, (Your Name Here):

This perfectly delightful note is being sent on paper I made myself to tell you what I have been up to. Since it snowed last night, I got up early and made a sled with old barn wood and a glue gun. I hand painted it in gold leaf, got out my loom, and made a blanket in peaches and mauves. Then, to make the sled complete, I made a white horse to pull it from some DNA I just had sitting around my craft room. By then it was time to start making the place mats and napkins for my 20 breakfast guests. I’m serving the old standard Stewart 12-course breakfast, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t have time to make the table and chairs this morning; I used the ones I had on hand. Before I moved the table into the dining room, I decided to add just a touch of the holidays. So I repainted the room in pinks and stenciled gold stars on the ceiling.

Then, while the homemade bread was rising, I took the antique candle molds and made the dishes to use for breakfast. These were made from Hungarian clay, which you can get in almost any Hungarian craft store. Well, I must run. I need to finish the buttonholes for the dress I’m wearing for breakfast…

Love, Martha

I don’t know who wrote this original caricature of Martha, but the author understood the “Martha Stewart” syndrome of high expectations we all experience…The bigger question is: Why do we, as women, feel bad about ourselves when we see a woman using her God-given gifts and talents well? Why do we sometimes feel that if we are not doing the same thing in the same way, we must be a failure? Why do some of us fall into a pattern of jealousy or, worse, apathy, if our life isn’t what we see in others’ lives? Decide to decide that you will not fall prey to the negative but rather choose to make some positive changes to gain the life you have always dreamed of, or, better yet, the one God has dreamed up for you!

I don’t want to give away too much more from the book, because you should really grab a copy it was such a good read with great ideas, but I read this and another section of the book entitled We Are More Than A Resume. I thought this was the perfect encouragement for ladies attending a crafty swap… and I wanted to remind ladies that we all have gifts that we can use to glorify God (which is why I had them share something they thought they were really good at during introductions).

Some of my gifts include hospitality and community building. Hence my love of this event! But often when I host an event friends leave telling me, “Marghee, I could never pull together something like this. I wish I could… (fill in the blank) like you.” I want to say… Nooo… that is not how I want you to feel. This just happens to be something God has gifted me in and its not meant to discourage you. But I am guilty of it too. Sometimes I say those exact words to other people who have talents I don’t poses. So I think this excerpt from Pam’s book was perfect for our night together… so we wouldn’t be discouraged by some one else’s ability to make a fabulous basket.

Connection

Before the event was over I wanted to be sure and allow time for ladies to get to know each other better. A  lot of the ladies at our event knew me but not necessarily each other. So while I was making name tags for everyone, so that in case the ladies didn’t know each other they could still address each other by name, I noticed that there were only four colors of leaves on my pins:

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I didn’t tell the ladies before hand, but during this time of the event, I planned to have them group together with ladies who had the same color leaf on their name tag as they did. Once the ladies found each other… I asked them to figure out at least two things they ALL had in common… forcing them to get to know each other and find a common bond. This portion of the night didn’t take too long but I think it definitely added to the night as ladies had a time to intentionally get to know each other better. By the end of the night group pictures were being taken yelling, “Team Orange! Group Picture!”

Swap Time & Voting

As people arrived, they were asked to place their baskets on the display tables and choose a number to place on their basket. They signed up on a sheet of paper letting us know which number they chose. Throughout the night as ladies voted they could simply vote for the number they liked instead of trying to figure out whose basket belonged to who (there ended up being 27 baskets total so this helped us stay organized).

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Then when the time came to present and swap the baskets, everyone put their name tags into a tin.  Ladies were called one by one in the order of numbers they signed up for to present their baskets to whole group. They told us what was in the basket and they were to tell us a little bit more if they wanted any of their items to be considered for some of our awards (like most creative or best homemade). Once they presented they drew a name tag from the tin and that person received their basket!

The anticipation was fantastic and I am so glad I ended up choosing this way to decide who would get whose basket.

After all the baskets were presented ladies were encouraged to quickly finish voting. There were small sheets of blank paper available for them to write the numbers/items/people down on to be placed in the appropriate voting tin.

We tallied the results as ladies enjoyed a last sip of Pumpkin Spiced Coffee or Apple Cider and then we presented the awards!!!

Phew! What a night. Loved every minute of it!

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Check out my next post (Fall Friendship Swap) where I post pictures from the actual event so you see how my planning above actually played out (since this was more of a how-to behind the scenes of the event)… you wont want to miss the amazing quality of baskets my friends put together. A-mazing!

So… can you think of a group of friends you’d love to organize this for?