Easter 101: Baskets, Decor and More

Easter rabbit on fresh green grass

Easter is almost here! And that means, baskets to be assembled, tables to be set, and spring cleaning to be tackled.

 

iphone april 2012 053No basket? No problem! Get tips for alternatives to a plain ‘ol wicket basket that adds to the gifty-ness of this year’s Easter treasures. And some non-candy gift ideas, too!

 

 

 

 

Powder and basket 018Basket brush-up: Once you’ve got that basket (or non-basket!) use these principles and tips to create professional-looking gift baskets.

 

 

 

 

Easter centerpiece collageTable time: Need a quick and cheap centerpiece! Try this $12 idea!

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow TulipsFlower power: Keep spring flowers fresh as a daisy with these pro tips.

 

 

 

 

 

March 2014 030Last minute decor: Add a splash of color to your Easter festivities with scarves!

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Africa Studio/Fotolia

Clean it up: Get tips on spring cleaning, although maybe just a tidying up before Easter. It’s early this year after all, and nobody’s going to see the garage. I hope.

 

 

 

 

Need more inspiration? Browse all my Easter articles here for bits of history and even some extravagance.

Rabbit photo copyright levranii/Fotolia.com.

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7-Layer Quinoa Salad

7 Layer Quinoa Salad pin

A favorite 7-layer dip recipe from my mom circa 1978 inspired this healthier version. It’s a perfect side dish for a backyard barbecue or beach party.

My friend Jennifer and I like to use each other as test subjects for new recipes. It’s a wonderful excuse to get together and catch up. I recently had her over for an afternoon by the pool, and came up with this twist on a 7-layer dip. In my childhood, it was a frequent guest at a “bring a dish” party because it’s easy to assemble and nearly universally liked. This version, however, substitutes protein-packed quinoa for mushy refried beans, and there are no tortilla chips needed.

I served this with simply marinated grilled chicken breast and it was a hit! My attempt to reproduce Starbucks’ lime refresher was not as effective, however. Always tactful, Jennifer politely declined a second helping of the beverage, but went home with a container of this flavorful salad.

What You Need:

1 c. uncooked quinoa
2 c. chicken stock or vegetable stock
Olive oil
2 limes
1/2 t. each dried cilantro, oregano and parsley
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 7 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 c. prepared tomato salsa
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
1 small can sliced black olives, drained

 

What You Do:

1. Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions, substituting the stock for water. Place the quinoa into a large serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. (Stir in the oil and if it seems a bit dry or sticky, add a bit more oil.) Add the juice and zest of 1 lime and the herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let the mixture cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the corn, cherry tomatoes, shallot, jalapeno and the juice of 1/2 a lime. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream with the juice of 1/2 a lime and set aside.

3. To layer the salad, add the ingredients in this order, but do not stir them into the quinoa:

Layer 1: Black beans

Layer 2: Corn salsa

Layer 3: Diced avocado

Layer 4: Tomato salsa

Layer 5: Cheddar cheese

Layer 6: Limed sour cream

Layer 7: Sliced black olives

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Once the dish is presented, gently mix all the ingredients in with the quinoa so every spoonful has a little bit of everything.

Serves 6 to 8

 

 

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Dorm Checklist Tops Pin List

Recently I participated in Dawn Mena’s Captivating Copy Blog Summer Camp to get fresh ideas for blog articles. One of her tips included a recap of most popular articles. I’m using that tip for this look back at my top five most pinned and repinned original non-holiday ideas in the last year.  (Stayed tuned for Halloween pins next month!)

 

#1 College Dorm Checklist

 

Dorm life checklist

 

When my nephew Mitchell graduated high school last year, I came up with a “college dorm checklist” to include with his gift. My brother was impressed with the checklist and encouraged me to post it online. (Click the image above to download the pdf.)

Lo and behold, as of this writing, the checklist has been pinned more than 1,000 times from this blog! On Pinterest, the pin has been been repinned 19 times, and liked 2 times. It is by far my most popular offering. Who knew?

 

#2 College Survival Kit

 Dining and labor 083

 

Continuing the college theme, the College Survival Kit gift bag idea has been pinned 65 times from this blog, repinned 77 times on Pinterest and liked 18 times. It’s hard to find a camo gift bag, but the graphic I designed is easy to print and adhere to any gift bag for a similar look.

 

#3  Summer Fruit Salsa

 Memorial day 023

 

This is one of my yummiest pins so far … a light and easy summer fruit salsa with cinnamon sugar tortilla chips. Pinners are eating it up, posting it 47 times from this blog and repinning it another 37 times. Three have liked it. (Note for Pinterest users: The “like” button is a great way to save ideas without adding them to a particular board.)

 

#4  Baby Shower Gift Wrap

 

Embellished gift 020

 

Rounding out the top five are a couple of gift giving solutions. The first is a simple embellishment idea that people seem to like for baby showers: tie a rattle on the gift with the bow. Easy and fun! It’s been pinned four times from this blog, repinned 12 times and liked once.

 

 #5 How to Make a Gift Basket

 

Powder and basket 014

 

Gift baskets are a great way to give a lot of small or theme-related gifts at once. A few simple guidelines ensure anyone can put together a gift collage like a pro. This article has been pinned seven times from the blog, and repinned 11 times and liked once.

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It was fun to revisit these blasts from the past, and it inspired me to add to my Gift Giving Solutions board for August birthdays, too. Be sure to check it out if you need any gifts in the next month.

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Flag Inspired Fruit Pizza

Fruit Pizza

This “pizza” is a quick and festive option for a 4th of July dessert. I make it in a glass baking dish and serve it right out of the dish. It really doesn’t get a lot easier than this.

 

Flag Inspired Fruit Pizza

1 roll (16.5 oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese  (regular or light), softened
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 dry quart strawberries
1 dry pint blackberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Break apart the cookie dough in the dish; press dough evenly in bottom of the dish to form a crust. (It’s okay if the dough comes up the side of the dish a bit.) Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack.

Wash and dry the fruit; slice the strawberries and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, marshmallow creme, lemon juice and zest with an electric mixer until fluffy. Spread mixture over cooled crust. Arrange fruit in rows over cream cheese. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Serves 16 to 20.

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Setting a 4th of July Table

When I was growing up, every year–come rain or come shine–we’d have a cookout on the 4th of July with paper plates held in wicker cozies and plastic utensils. Then we’d pile into dad’s car and head over to a fireworks show where I’d “oooh” and “aaaah” like I’d never seen anything like it.

Well I still like to cook on the grill on the 4th and fireworks still amaze me, but my table has grown up a bit. Here I’ve set the table with everyday place settings with just a few additions from the party store and the dollar store. It’s an easy, fun patriotic look.

4th of July placesetting

Rethink table linens.

My red table cloth looked really Christmasy, so instead of a table cloth or a runner I used red and blue napkins. Three blue napkins form a “runner” while four red napkins serve as “placemats.”

Combine old and new.

I love using seasonal luncheon plates with my everyday white china. Here I’ve combined blue plates from the local dollar store for a punch of color. They’re small enough to pack away without a lot of fuss and come out just when I need them.

 

Summer 12 031

Make napkins nifty.

Blue and white striped cotton napkins from a discount store are tied with red twill tape. For a little fun, I stuck a red foil pinwheel pick into the folds.

 

Summer 12 020

Red, white and bloom.

A bouquet from the grocery store can be made into a patriotic centerpiece. Combine red roses (clean off all the greenery) with white carnations in a low, clear vase. Add a pop of blue with a sparkly party pick from a party supply or craft store. Tuck a few additional picks under the vase to bring more festivity to the table.

 

Summer 12 033

Stars and stripes aglow.

Make easy patriotic votive candle holders from ribbon, paper and punches.

 

Choosing even just one of these ideas will certainly make your table more festive this year. Wishing you a safe and happy 4th of July!!

 

 

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Answer to a Holiday Entertaining Question

 © John Saunders – Fotolia.com

© John Saunders – Fotolia.com

Just in time for holiday parties, a reader sent in a frequently asked, and sometimes tricky, question about entertaining. AM in Michigan writes:

Q.:

I’m tentatively planning appetizers for an “around the world party” – how many different apps. should I have for 4 adults (and 1 child)?  One adult has a severe food allergy (no dairy, and no most kinds of meat), so I want a least a couple options for him, but I do like cheese so I want other things as well.

A.:

What a great theme!!

A great rule of thumb for a cocktail party is, “make 3, buy 3.” So 6 different apps gives a good variety while not being overwhelming for either the hostess or the guests. Plan at least 4 pieces of each app per guest – more for the options that your allergy guest can consume, since he will have fewer options.

Hope this helps!! Enjoy the party!

If you ever have a question about party planning, home decorating, gift giving or smart living, please post your questions on the Facebook page.

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