Category Archives: Hosting Events

Eliann’s 9-teenth Birthday!

This year Eliann turned nine years old! Her Dad told her she was about to start the last of her single digit years. It was true! I read a post by another Mom about her daughter turning nine stating that nine was the half way mark of a child. They have been in our care for nine years and we have nine years to go. Whhhaaa?! How can that be? Either way… it was also kind of true. Man my little lady is getting so old!

So this year when we bagan to talk about Eliann’s birthday we knew it would be cutting it close to our move out date for Italy. Thankfully we were still here for her special day so she could celebrate with friends. She really wanted this birthday to be a sleepover. I feel like it’s pretty much all the rage for kids around this age. She also wanted it to be a campout. We’d have to see how we would incorporate that since we had already moved out of our home and were living with Brian’s parents at the time.

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The 19th Birthday Idea

In talking to one of Eliann’s close little friends, Ella (they’ve been friends since Kindergarten, her Mom, Lisa, is Eliann’s Girl Scout troop leader and most recently they went away for a week long girl scout camp in the Summer), we discovered that both our families were considering the same weekend for the girls birthday parties this year. Long story short… we all decided it could be way fun to do a combined birthday this year since they share a lot of the same friends… so long as they could come up with a guest list of no more than ten girls. They got to work and so did we. Lisa and I divvied up the work and you know what?! That worked out pretty nicely in terms of logistics and planning. The girls excitedly explained it would be like they were “having a 19th birthday because Ella was turning 10 and Eliann was turning 9 so 10+9=19. That is even teacher approved!”

The day for the party arrived and we had all 10 little girls that had RSVP’d present… and then some with a couple of the girls siblings joining in for the fun. We had planned to heat the pool and swim, watch a movie with a candy bar, host a flashlight lollipop hunt (like we enjoyed the last time we went camping), play musical chairs to decide how we would hand out the party favors and call it a night for the sleepover. Let’s see how things really played out…

1. Pool time.

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2. Dried off and jumped into pajamas and played the Jelly Bean taste test game.

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3. Happy Birthday, bundt cakes and gifts.

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4. Grabbed our flashlights, paired up and took off to hunt for lollipops in the backyard. Over 180 lollipops in all!

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5. Took turns grabbing treats from the candy and popcorn bar to watch a movie- Cinderella.

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6. Watched about half the movie… got too squirmy so we went outside for some red light green light running around to burn off some candy fueled energy. Too dark for photos. There was only one instance of tears during the whole time we were together… running around at night might have been the culprit… and it may have been tears from my birthday girl.

7. Came back inside and finished the movie as well as said goodbye to a couple of the girls who weren’t going to get to sleepover. This was also right about the time my reinforcement came, the lovely Mrs. Allison Williard aka. the Tutu Fairy or Fairy Godmother for my Eliann.

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8. We moved on to the last officially planned activity of the night- musical chairs. We had these super cute party favors- sleeping eye masks- for each of the girls sleeping over, but to avoid drama over who would want which mask we made it a game. The girls had to play musical chairs and in the reverse order they were illuminated they would get to come choose their mask. The girls playing musical chairs was hilarious to say the least. Quite the competitors for sure. Syana was the musical chair winner.

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9. The musical chair fun led to the realization that although it was essentially midnight, these girls were no where near ready for bed. We had decided at this point that we would all be sleeping in the trailer for the sleepover, but if we would have put the girls to bed now they would have been up for hours chatting and being rowdy. So instead we decided to make them play even harder. We took turns doing a trick and then everyone had to try it. This meant everything from splits, to back-walk-overs, to doing the worm. It also included an epic dance break to Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ which just happen to play on Pandora. To end the night we did some team building activities like attempting a ten girl pyramid and four-square push up challenge. It was an amazing power hour of fun.

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10. It was now 1am. The girls were fully exhausted and asking to go to bed. Mission accomplished. Everyone went potty before heading into the trailer. Within five minutes the snickers and faint whispers ceased and they were in bed. Seriously couldn’t have planned that better. Me and Allison on the other hand might have stayed up a tad bit longer enjoying some fun pillow talk of our own.

11. 6:42am. That was the time the first girl made a peep. It was Ella. She wanted to know if they could go outside… like outside the trailer. The sun wasn’t even up yet… umm, no.

12. We finally got up, stretched a little bit and decided to pop in a movie in the trailer while we waited for Mrs. Lisa to bring bagels. Mary Poppins won the vote.

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13. The girls trickled out one by one as parents arrived to take them home. It was such a fun night and we were so glad all the girls could have this special memory together in honor of Ella and Eliann’s birthday. After all you only turn NINEteen with a bestie once. 😉

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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!