It's that time of year when you feel like you are constantly finding to find the perfect gift without breaking the bank, especially when who you are supposed to give to seems endless!
Bringing your favorite bottle of red, white or bubbly might seem un-original, but adding something fun to go with it makes it a perfect choice. Like gift #1,2,3,4 or 5.
Home body? Give them a festive winter candle and tie on #8 to make it a little "extra".
Coffee or Tea lover? Grab a holiday blend of coffee or tea and pair it with gift #9 or 10.
Something "just for her"? then gift #11 or #12 would be just the thing.
Hoping you can find something on this list to brighten someones Christmas.
1. I love glasses and mugs with cute sayings, it makes me smile when I reach for them. Giving just one of these wine glasses would be fine, add a bottle of wine or gift #2 or #3 with it for more. Click HERE for wine glass. $15.95
2. "Which one is my glass?" This no longer needs to be a question. These wine glass markers allow you to write someones name on it to prevent them losing it! The marker comes off in the dishwasher which is an added bonus. Click HERE for wine glass markers. $8.99
3. All summer long when I was insta storying from the lake I was drinking from these and getting all sorts of questions asking where they were from. Sturdy, un-breakable and pretty make these a great gift option. They don't even have to be used for wine, they're just that pretty. Click HERE for white glasses. Set of 4, $41.99
4. I mean... these little guys hang over the rim of your glass and serve as drink markers (if you don't want to use the wine glass markers). Each is wearing a speedo with his name written across his bottom. These are sure to get a laugh while you are serving drinks - fyi... they stay in place! Click HERE for drink markers. $9.29
5. This would be beautiful tied around a wine bottle with a ribbon - just to add a little extra. It's like a piece of jewelery that makes any bottle sitting on a counter look gorgeous. Click HERE for wine stopper. $28.00
6. Can I get one in each letter of the alphabet? They're all just so pretty! Again, you could just give one coaster with the receivers first or last name initial or you could do a set of 2, 4 or 6 if you're feeling generous. These coasters would be a great gift combo with the wine stopper above. Click HERE for coasters. $16.00 each
7. Ahhhh let me count the ways I adore this candle.... and everyone else who walks into my house while its burning ;) I promise this candle is wonderful for the winter season. Pair it with gift #8 for an added bonus. Click HERE for the NEST Hearth Candle. $42.00
8. Once you use the Wickman you'll never blow out a candle the same way again! It eliminates the black smoke that comes from the wick when blown out and the big ball that sits on top of your wick that when lit ignites a big flame. Trimming the top off the wick with this tool catches the ball in its clasp until you empty it in the garbage. No more smokey candles! Click HERE for the wickman. $10.95
9. The most efficient and stylish travel coffee mug there ever was! Available in 3 different sizes, all fit your drink holder and all eliminate the "tin" flavor that comes from drinking hot coffee or tea from a metal travel mug. Adding a bag of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee or a Coffee Shop gift card to this would be a cute and appreciated gift by most! Click HERE for travel cups. $23-$28.00
10. Again.. for the tea or coffee lover. These quick ship gorgeous tile mugs would match perfectly with a great bag of coffee or box of tea. Adding the receivers initial just makes it more personal. Click HERE for mugs. $10.00 each
11. It's all the rage and yet a lot of women wouldn't take the time or spend the money to do this for themselves, which..... makes it the perfect gift. Salons have popped up everywhere that are open strictly for washing, blowdrying and styling your hair. A gift certificate for just one or even a package (many places will sell a 5 pack punch card) is a great way to make someone feel appreciated! I can't link one specific place here because they will vary by city. The large chain here is called BLOWOUT, google search for one in your area and make a trip over!
12. Going on 10 years of remaining my all time favorite hand cream. Also, if you have a store near you they do a beautiful job of wrapping! Again, this is something a lot of women wouldn't spend the money on so being gifted it is a perfect way for them to feel pampered. Click HERE for hand cream. $29.00
So you've offered to host a shower for your friend and her upcoming bundle of joy! It's exciting but it can also be stressful because you want it to be perfect for her right? Here's my take on hosting a shower with little stress and enjoying the process along the way.
There are some important decisions you need to get out of the way before you even begin. I would recommend you leave these decisions to the mom-to-be. You are there to host and maybe even guide, but not decide.
1) Will the shower be only women or co-ed? This definitely changes the direction. The one I hosted was women only. Also, often there will be more than one shower, if she is already having a co-ed one or an all women one try to offer the opposite.
2) Date, Day of the Week and Time. Personally, I like the shower to be about 6-8 weeks from her due date but sometimes schedules get in the way and you go with what works. Sunday afternoons tend to work because they are usually free of obligations with kids sports or Friday and Saturday plans. I chose the Sunday afternoon slot, 2-5pm. If it's co-ed you may want to go with a Friday or Saturday night and make it more of a party.
3) Kids or no kids? I put this out there because once you set the rule it's easy to put out there. We chose no kids because we didn't want to distract from the mom-to-be's day. Also, this is her first so it wasn't like she had her own to bring. And let's be honest, give a young Mom an option to have an afternoon kid free (with Champagne) and you'll get the fastest RSVP in history ;)
So now you have your foundation for your shower. These answers will help give you your direction.
Paper or Evite? Yes paper is beautiful but man we have gotten lazy and you are much more likely to get a RSVP if you give guests an easy, electronic way to respond. Plus if you have any changes you need to make it's the easiest way to relay information. You can also attach a link to any on line gift registries she may have.
I sent the mom-to-be a link of baby girl shower invitations from Paperless Post and asked her to pick her 3 favorites. Some women like to be surprised but I wanted to give her the option to pick a direction.
Make sure to send your invites out 4 weeks before the shower date. Follow up with people who are taking their time to respond.
Ask the mom-to-be to give you her list, remember this is for her, not you. She can also help you collect email addresses for people you don't know.
See the options from my favorite on-line evite site Paperless Post HERE
Colors / Themes
If you know the gender of the baby you're half way there.
Think about the mom and what her style is. Yes it's your house but it's her shower so try and tailor it to her style.
Start with the invitation and let it be the guide to the rest of the shower decor.
Try and keep a constant color theme throughout, from the flowers to the balloons to the napkins to the icing on the cake.
I found the "Welcome to Sarahs Baby Shower" and "Mom-osa Bar" sign on Etsy and used the colors on the flowers as a guide for the rest.
You can find this etsy shop HERE
Personally, I love balloons and flowers - who doesn't? It's the quickest way to make your house feel like a party!
I went to a local party store that I adore, Welcome sign in hand and had them play off those colors for the balloon choices.
Balloon garland has become my newest obsession and it just has a magical feeling about it.
The hand painted balloon with the baby's name was done by the shops owner, Lauren. I had it placed in my foyer for when guests arrived and then moved it behind my friend while she was opening her gifts. She took it home with her, hoping it lasts forever!
My front porch with the "Welcome" sign and the balloon wreaths with BABY & SHOWER attached were the perfect way to welcome people. I gave my friend the wreath that said BABY to take home and they will hang it over their mailbox or on their door once the baby is born to let people know.
I also did bunches of plain latex balloons with weights that I just placed in each of the rooms I knew we'd be in.
If you live anywhere close to Franklin, TN you have to take a trip to Rock Paper Scissors, located on Main Street. They have the most beautiful invitations, party supplies and of course, balloons.
You can check them out HERE
or on Instagram @therockpaperscissors
You may have seen me on my stories taking my vases straight to the florist. This is helpful if you don't have a green thumb. That way you don't leave with too many or too little flowers. Again, I played off the color theme with the flowers.
I got my flowers from Garden Delights in Franklin.
You can check them out HERE
Food & Drink
Here's the thing that's pretty much a given with women, at an all female party. They aren't going to be shoving large items of food into their mouths. They won't want to put large portions on their plate, I didn't make the rule, it's just what it is.
With that said, go for small, bite size food items.
Offer a meat and vegetarian option. Offer a vegetable, a fruit, something crunchy and of course dessert.
After scouring through Pinterest I found these great ideas to serve fruit and vegetables. It's a way to have a bit of everything but only requires your guest to add one object to their plate.
These veggie cups are visually pretty, allow you to put multiple vegetables in and most importantly - double dip!
Fruit skewers are another great choice as you can put a cube of different fruits all on one stick.
We offered 2 kinds of sandwiches which we served on small Hawaiin rolls. Chicken Salad and Pimento Cheese. Both of these were made ahead of time and then we just assembled them onto the rolls before the shower.
We also did a tray of toasted Phyllo pasty shells that were stuffed with Chicken Salad.
HOW DID I NOT TAKE A PHOTO OF THE SANDWICHES???!!!
For something crunchy we stuck with tried and true Chips & Salsa.
The dessert? Well you saw me talk about my favorite Petit Four's from The Brentwood Flour Shop Bakery. You can find their page HERE
I used a 3 tier glass desert stand and filled it and kept the remainder in a box and replenished as needed so it didn't look overcrowded.
Again, large cakes get messy when cutting. I would for sure recommend sticking with bite size dessert.
Because I like to do "stations" I had the dessert on it's own little counter. Complete with plates, forks, napkins and this adorable Floral Letter I found on Etsy. The flowers looked real but aren't, they are attached to wood and come with a hook on the back.
Taking the first letter of the baby's name, I used it as a decoration and then gave it to my friend to take home with her. It would look cute tucked into a bookshelf in a nursery.
You can check out the Etsy shop I purchased the letter from HERE
Let's Talk About Drinks and Dranks!
Alrightyyyy! You need to cover your bases. Start with your non-alcoholic drinks.
I chose: Water, Unsweet Tea with Lemon Slices, Soft Drinks and Tea & Coffee when we had dessert.
And just because the mom to be can't have a fun drink doesn't mean the rest of you can't!
I filled a large bucket with white wine and my new favorite rose to serve at parties, BABE Rose! The cans are adorable and the saying on the back is hilarious. I found some cute paper straws at Target to go along with them.
And now to the biggest hit of the Shower! The Mimosa bar, or in our case, The MOM-Osa bar. What a fun idea this turned out to be and let's just say there was no champagne left behind ;)
The Mimosa bar consisted of a cute sign I found on Etsy (same as welcome sign site, I just asked her to make me one with the same colors) explaining to people what to do (really more for decoration than actual instructions).
* Important to note you should add the champagne before the juice to prevent overflow!
I ordered great Champagne flutes from World Market that came in a set of 12 for $24.99 in a storage case which makes them easy to store in a closet for when you aren't using them.
The local liquor store recommended this champagne to me when I told her what it was for. She said it was their best seller for events and Mimosas because it was a great quality at a great price point. She was right, it was awesome!
I purchase 3 glass carafes from Target to hold 3 different juices. I did orange, pink grapefruit and cranberry-pineapple.
Then I had 3 small glass bowls for fruit to add to glass. I chose strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
I found chalkboard stickers at Hobby Lobby and used a Chalkboard marker to label all the jars.
* I would suggest pouring the champagne yourself and keeping the glasses on a tray to limit the amount people are pouring and to prevent a big mess!
Click HERE for the Champagne Flutes
Click HERE for the Glass Carafes
Click HERE for Chalkboard Stickers
Step 5. To Game or Not to Game?
Ahhhh the dreaded Baby Shower game / activity. They can be cheesy but they're also a good way to fill in time. I found this cute one and ordered it from Amazon. I had my friend and her husband answer the questions before hand, everyone filled out their card and then I read the questions and then the parents to be's answers. The funny conversation came from the crowd not agreeing ;)
You can purchase this game HERE
So all of the above were the "foundation" of the shower we had.
Invitations, Decorations, Food, Drink and a Game (or not) were the necessities.
Something to remember is that if you are the host than YOU are in charge of keeping things moving along. You can't expect people to just start eating, or pour themselves a drink, or the mom-to-be to start opening presents.
I knew we had 3 hours. I gave the first 45 minutes for people to arrive and get drinks. Then I moved them on to food, literally take people and start pushing them towards the food line. Once I noticed plates were done I handed out the game sheets for them to fill out.
Give them a couple minutes warning to finish and move them into another room for a change of scenery. We played our game and then let our friend begin opening her gifts. It was during this time we served dessert and coffee.
I hope this has given you a little help with planning a shower in case you needed it.
Honestly, at the end of the day, making the mom-to-be feel special and "showered" with attention and love is what is most important.
Good food and drinks and some pretties are all you need to make it even better.
All this baby talk is making me feel a little nostalgic, and envious of all that she has to look forward to and it almost makes me want another.... almost.
Furniture shopping can seem overwhelming, I speak from years of experience. Decorating the Lake House will be my first time decorating a house on my own - start to finish.
A few of the things I’ve learned from watching the professionals over the years would be:
Don’t buy for a room on a piece to piece bases. Don’t say well I love this couch and then I loved this lamp and then I REALLY loved this piece of art. You have to think of the room as a whole. Start with your anchoring piece, the big one, your favorite one that the rest of the room will work to compliment.
Stay in the same color pallet but use various shades of it. Instead of mixing too many colors in a room mix your materials instead to give the room some texture.
Always be mindful of what other rooms have a view of the room you’re decorating and make sure they don’t fight it on the color spectrum.
Invest in pieces that will get the most use (couch, coffee table) you can get amazing accessories at home goods stores that are really inexpensive.
Buying a sofa in a neutral or at least solid color allows you to change the look of the room just by switching out throw pillows or a blanket.
Adding green house plants or trees gives a room a whole new life.
Lighting is EVERYTHING in a room! And I don’t mean the fixtures. Put a dimmer on a switch and watch your room transform! All your ceiling light fixtures and can lights, dim them! Use soft, low watt bulbs for your lamps.
If hiring a professional decorator isn’t in your budget you still don’t have to be on your own. Most large furniture stores offer free design services where they will help you measure your space and recommend items that will fit the room and go with each other, take the help!
Can’t wait to show you the Lake House, we are so close to being done. My husband and Arnolfo deserve some praise as well. I keep wishing we had filmed the whole thing bc it would have been half renovation show and half comedy.
ps* My favorite interior wall color has always been Benjamin Moore White Dove and more recently Benjamin Moore China White.
THE VERY BEST CARROT CAKE
For real. I did not invent this recipe, let me be the first to say this - I would probably be a millionaire if I had. I can however; make it like a pro! It's the kind of dessert that you can't wait for everyone to go home so you can be left alone with it! It's ridiculously moist (so sorry for that word but Lord knows nothing describes it better) and it really is like eating something straight out of a famous bakery! The crushed pineapple is what really makes it I think so DO NOT omit this ingredient! You can choose to add chopped walnuts to the icing or leave them out, your call!
There are 3 parts to making this cake - Cake, Buttermilk Glaze and Cream Cheese Frosting
INGREDIENTS FOR CAKE:
2 Cups Flour
2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Cinnamon
3 Large Eggs
2 Cups Sugar
3/4 Cups Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tsp Vanilla extract
2 Cups Grated Carrot
1 (8 ounce) Can of Crushed Pineapple, drained
1 (3 & 1/2 ounce) can Flaked Coconut
1 Cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (optional)
DIRECTIONS FOR CAKE:
Spray 3 (9 inch) round cake pans with cooking spray
Stir together first 4 ingredients - set aside
Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed until smooth
Add flour mixture (that you had set aside) beating at low speed until blended
Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients
Pour even amounts of batter into pans
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until fork comes out clean
Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze (see below for recipe) evenly over layers while still hot
Cool in pans for 15 minutes
Remove from pans and cool completely
Spread cream cheese frosting (see recipe below) between layers and on top and sides of cake
INGREDIENTS FOR BUTTERMILK GLAZE:
1 Cup of Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Cups of Buttermilk
1/2 Cup of Butter
1 Tbsp of Light Corn Syrup
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
* Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large pot over medium - high heat. Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla
INGREDIENTS FRO CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
3/4 Cups of Butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package of Cream Cheese, softened
1 (3 ounce) package of Cream Cheese, softened
3 Cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract
* Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beat until smooth
"Are you going to do it Mom?"
"I think so."
"Are you nervous?"
"Yes, terrifed actually"
"Then why are you going to do it?"
"Because as nervous as I am, I know that if I don't do it I will look back one day in the not too far away future and wish that I did. I will wonder what I had been thinking when I had said no."
"That's a good reason Mom."
Good enough for me. Good enough because 13 years ago my husband asked me to be in one of his music videos and I said no, I let another woman take the part.
I said no because I had just had two babies in a row. I said no because I wasn't back in my pre-baby shape. I said no because I thought I looked tired. I said no because I thought someone else would do it better than me. I said no because I didn't understand that real, unshakeable confidence doesn't come from a number on a scale, a reflection in a mirror, a false approval from strangers.
How many times has someone wanted to take a photo of you and your kids or you and your husband or (gasp!) you alone and you have expertly averted the situation and got yourself out of that photo op? We become pros, us women, at taking the spotlight off ourselves when we don't feel how we think we should look.
I will be the first one to advocate taking care of your health and you in general - you look good you feel good right? Absolutely! But the confidence that comes with looking good on the outside when the inside is a complete contradiction is short lived, it's surface level, it's easily shook and it's always fleeting.
As much as we begrudge the aging process because of the physical challenges it presents to us, it brings something we don't have in our 20's, for some of us even our 30's.
It brings us the gift of experience. Experience brings knowledge. Knowledge brings power. And power is what brings unshakeable confidence.
The power to internally feel like you can walk into any situation with a "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" attitude. It's not abrasive, it's not boastful. It's quiet, it's humble, it's an internal peace I spent years looking for.
At 43, I may have moments when I wish my skin looked younger and my body kept weight off with one trip to the gym like it did when I was 30, like it did the first time I said no to being in a video. Like it did the time I let someone else take "my" place.
At 43, I have found an inner confidence that I wish I could go back and shower my younger self with - from the inside out, not the outside in.
I wish I could tell her not to put so much value in what others say. Others will talk about you, others will come and go in your life, let them go - the ones worthy of you will stay.
I would tell her that no one is as hard on her as she is on her self. I would tell her that no one sees the flaws that she does. I would tell her that her husband doesn't focus on the fact that she hasn't lost all the baby weight, he is too focused on how well she is doing being a new Mother to their children.
Have you ever looked back on a photo and thought, "wow, I looked good back then?" Did you really feel that way about yourself at the time though? Or were you too busy picking apart your appearance?
How about if you looked at that same photo and thought, "wow, look what a great Mom/Wife/Daughter/Friend I was being in this photo"???
Do you remember when I posted over Fall break saying I had gone in the ocean with my kids more than I probably ever had? I had my photo taken with them IN MY SWIMSUIT! Because at 43, I realize that when they look back on these photos one day, it won't be their Moms body they will picking apart, it will be the memory they will be reminded of.
When we let our insecurities run our lives we miss out on experiences we don't get back. We miss out on making memories, we miss out on documenting those memories to have to look back on one day. We watch our lives from the sidelines.
When we lead with confidence as Mothers, Wives and Friends we give the people around us security too. How can we tell our children to reach for the stars when we aren't sure we deserve them ourselves?
At one point during the video shoot, a guy on the crew (who was from Argentina) gave someone in our group a compliment that she didn't accept (in his opinion ;) and he said,
"in Argentina, if we ever hear a woman put herself down we immediately have to tell her she is wrong, it's our job to build them up." he followed with,
"it can make it hard to find a woman who thinks you are good enough because they are all so confident" haha.... he wasn't kidding.
His statement reminded me of something I have watched since our daughter was born 8 years ago.
I've always said to my husband, "her expectation for a future man in her life is going to be completely unrealistic, she will never find anyone that treats her as well as you do."
Although I'm pretty sure that may be part of his plan to keep her at home forever, I think he may be on to something. At 8 years old she has a confidence that I am often in awe of. There is nothing she thinks she cannot achieve, no obstacles she cannot overcome and Lord help anyone who tries to bring her down.
I think it's unrealistic to think that at some point in her life her confidence won't take a hit, I can only hope that it will be momentary.
When the day finally came to shoot the video of course I was nervous. For real though, it lasted about an hour, it lasted until my husband showed up. And it wasn't just because he told me I looked good (although that was an added bonus).
The nervousness was extinguished by the confidence, internal confidence I had within me that no one else could take my place, no one else belonged there more than I did. I knew there was no one else he would rather have there so why not act like it?
The things that give me confidence may not be the same things that do for you. I may hold value in things that you may not and vice versa.
What I know today though is that I only listen to the opinions of people I care about - and I mean REALLY care about.
I do the best I can to take care of myself and exercise so I can be healthy and strong. For ME, exercise gives me a mental & physical confidence that's hard to explain. It keeps me feeling in control, stable, powerful.
I try to be the same (no wait...better) woman that my husband married 17 years ago. Being confident isn't always about doing things for yourself, sometimes it's in knowing what you can do for someone else.
When your husband gives you a compliment, say thank you.
When your kids have a momentous experience, get in the photo with them.
When your kids ask you to get in the water, swim.
And when their Dad asks you to be in his music video, say yes.