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

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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Easy Christmas Snack: A Merry Mix Up

Easy Christmas Snack recipe

Putting together your own snacks mixes takes just a few minutes, and you have complete control over the ingredients. Substitute dried fruit and nuts of your choice, add cereal pieces … it is all up to you! This seasonally–minded mix is perfect as a festive nibbler for those holiday parties. It pairs well with everything from hot mulled cider to sparkling wine!

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. bag of pretzels (use the square waffle-like pretzels; they catch more chocolate)
6 T. butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
1 ½ t. cinnamon
½ c. cinnamon sugar* (see below)
1 c. white chocolate chips or melting disks
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. shelled pistachio nuts

Directions:

1. Pour the pretzels into a large microwave-safe bowl. (I divided them into two large mixing bowls.)

2. Whisk together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the pretzels. (Divide the butter mixture evenly if you’re using more than one bowl for the pretzels.) Gently stir the pretzels until they are completely coated with the butter mixture.

3. Microwave the pretzels on high power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave for another 45 seconds.

4. Pour the pretzels onto a parchment-lined tray in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with the reserved cinnamon sugar. (If you have any leftover cinnamon sugar, save it in an airtight container and sprinkle it on toast or oatmeal.) Allow the pretzels to cool completely.

5. Microwave the white chocolate morsels or disks in a microwave-safe bowl on high power in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until almost completely melted. Stir until it’s completely melted.

6. Using a tablespoon, drizzle the melted chocolate generously on the pretzels. Top immediately with the cranberries and pistachios, so the toppings stick to the chocolate. When cool, break into pieces and pile into a serving bowl or divide to use as favors or gifts.

*To make the cinnamon sugar, combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar and 1 t. cinnamon in a small bowl.

Gift ideas:

  • Make it a party favor: package the mix in clear cellophane bags tied with a festive ribbon and a Christmas poem or verse.
  • Package the mix in mason jars; use scrapbook paper to make labels; top it with a bow.
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Create a Thanksgiving Cocktail

One of the secrets of effortless hostessing is to create a signature cocktail for your party. This reduces the amount of mixers and liquor that you have to purchase, helps reinforce a party’s theme, and makes it easier to mix and serve beverages.

This cocktail combines the flavors of fall in a rich and creamy, slightly spicy concoction. I call it the “Chai Thanks-a-Latte.” Get it??

 

Chai Thanks-a-Latte Chai Cocktail

1 c. Chai Cream Liqueur
1/2 c. vanilla vodka
1/2 c. half and half, cream, or milk
Cinnamon sugar (optional)

 

Combine the liquid ingredients over ice in a large cocktail shaker and shake well to blend. (Alternatively, mix the cocktail in a pitcher and shake/strain individual servings as needed.) Strain into martini glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar if desired. Serves 4.

Note: This recipe may be easily converted to single servings; simply use a 2:1:1 shot ratio for the ingredients. So, for every 2 shots of Chai Cream Liquer, for example, use 1 shot of vodka and 1 shot of cream.

To make cinnamon sugar, combine ½ c. granulated sugar with 1 T. cinnamon. Spread a layer of sugar on a saucer or luncheon plate. Rub the rim of a martini glass with a lemon peel, an apple wedge or dip in water. Immediately coat the rim with the sugar.

Any leftover cinnamon sugar may be stored in an airtight container and used in tea, on cereal and grapefruit, or broiled on toast.

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