Hostess Gifting 101

With Fall right around the corner (thank the LORD) I thought it’d be fitting to share some of my favorite hostess gifts. After all, with Fall comes the start of the holiday season and that means lots of things including parties! I absolutely love entertaining and I find it so endearing when people come bearing a thoughtful hostess gift … not that they have to by any means (gosh I sincerely hope I didn’t just scare off people from ever coming over to our house gift-less), but isn’t it a super sweet gesture when they do? I’ve been to my share of shindigs over the years as well so I’ve had a good bit of experience picking out some fun gifts myself. Below I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 – all under $30 and guaranteed to make the hostess smile. And if not feel free to send them my way 🙂

1 – Candles

Who doesn’t love a good candle? The fun thing about these is that no matter the season, there’s a candle for that. Or keep it to a year-round smell and gift them with a Corked Candle. These fun 100% soy candles come in a repurposed wine bottle with a huge cork stopper which puts out the flame – how clever is that? Sangria has been my go-to scent lately (and let me tell you, I’m super sensitive to smells so I honestly shy away from many candle scents) but this one is seriously so lovely smelling. Check out their website for other fun scents and styles.

And better yet, use code HOUSEOFLOVE to get $5 off yours!



2 – Hand Cream

Everyone uses hand cream, right? I go through it entirely too fast because my hands are always thirsty it seems. My go-to is Beautycounter’s Citrus Mimosa hand cream. The smell is to die for and something I think everyone would be a fan of. The plus side – Beautycounter is known for their safe ingredients and they even have a “never list” of over 1500 harmful or questionable ingredients they refuse to add to their products!



3 – Succulents

These are all the rage right now (have been for some time actually) and I don’t think their popularity will die down anytime soon. Plus, you don’t have to possess a green thumb to keep these suckers alive. Go a step further and gift the hostess with a succulent inside a gorgeous pot. My favorite? See the super unique handmade ceramic planter below ~


4 – Essential Oils / Diffusers

Like succulents, diffusers and essential oils seem to be all the rage right now. Know for a fact the hostess already has a diffuser? Gift them with an oil – peppermint and lavender are my go-to’s but there are so many different options out there it’s quite amazing. For even more fun (and to help with the decision-making process), gift them with a variety pack!


If you know the hostess doesn’t have a diffuser, there are many options below $30. I’ve personally been slightly obsessed with the wood-grain looking ones.


If they already have a diffuser or you’re just not sure, play it safe and gift them with a mini diffuser (save some bucks too). There are several options but I stumbled upon this one and thought it was just so gosh darn cute.



5 – Wine

When all else fails, wine. Simple as that. I tend to lean towards Pinot Noir for a red or Sauvignon Blanc for a white, but that could just be because those are my favorites. I am, by no means, a wine expert. It all tastes pretty darn good to me.


Hopefully this list will come in handy for some of you this upcoming party season. I’m about to go stock up on some of these so I’ll be ready for any party that may come our way. Plus … Christmas isn’t that far off. Just sayin’ 🙂





Cocktails from the Garden

I keep hearing praises and hallelujahs about how Fall is right around the corner and I’ve even seen pumpkins and Halloween decor at our local stores, but come on, it’s still hot as I don’t know what when you step outside and the AC is cranked up way too high for all that. Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE Fall but can you seriously imagine putting a pumpkin outside your door right now or a Halloween costume on your body? I can’t. That sounds like rotten pumpkins and lots of sweat. So in the meantime, I’ve got a fabulous way to help you enjoy these pool days that aren’t going away anytime soon and to help you beat this not so desirable heat. If you’re one of those lucky ones who actually lives somewhere where Fall weather is truly around the corner, fear not, these drink recipes I’ll be sharing with you know no season … and I’m a little jealous of you.

A group of ladies and I got together a while back and raided our gardens to come up with some creative and refreshing drink recipes and they’ve agreed to let me share them with you! I’ve tried several of these and they’re not only super fun to make but so darn good (and most of them have adult adaptations if you catch my drift). And no worries if you’re not a gardener or if your garden is half dead like mine, you can find all these ingredients at your local grocer. See below for some deliciously fun cocktail recipes, from lemonade to margaritas!

First up –

Raspberry Cucumber Mint Lemonade – props to Julia @juliaterpstra



Puree in blender:
12 raspberries
1/2 cucumber
2 sprigs mint
4 Tbsp lime juice


Fill glass with ice
Add 2 tbsp puree and top off with lemonade
Garnish with fresh raspberries, sliced cucumbers and fresh mint

Adaptations – sub blackberry-cucumber LaCroix for lemonade. Add 1.5 oz vodka for some fun!


Blueberry Coconut Splash – props to Cindy @princetonparklife

3 cups blueberries
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup coconut water (or rum)
2 1/2 cups ginger ale
Muddle blueberries and strain using a fine mesh strainer
Add lemon juice and coconut water (or rum)
Add ginger ale and stir
Garnish glass, fill with ice, pour in blueberry coconut splash and enjoy!

Fresh Lavender Lemonade – props to Kate @kateaiellodesign

6 or 8 lemons
2 big handfuls of fresh lavender
2-3 sprigs of fresh stevia (or replace with sugar)
Vodka, if you like 🙂
Place lavender and stevia into pot of approx 3 qts water and bring just to boil
Turn off and allow to cool
Tea mixture can be jarred and kept in fridge for several days
Place ice in a pretty glass
Almost fill with lavender tea
Squeeze in 1 whole lemon per glass, more to taste
Throw in a splash of vodka, if you like 🙂
Garnish with lavender


Blackberry Peach Tea – props to Zamira @zamirat79


3 ripe peaches
2 cups blackberries
2 cups sugar
1 gallon + 2 cups water
10 unsweetened black tea bags
Put cut fruit in a pot with sugar and 3 cups water
Simmer for 10 minutes, mash and simmer for 10 more minutes
Let cool and add to blender
Mix and put through sieve and you’re left with a fruity syrup
Make tea to your preference
Either add syrup to entire pitcher or add to each individual glass
Pour over ice and garnish with fruit or mint!


Orange Dreamsicle Smoothie – props to Terrie @decorateandmorewithtip


1 large peeled orange, cut in chunks
1 peeled banana – cut in chunks
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup of ice
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth!

Infused Ice Cubes – props to Chantal @peace_garden_life


Add your favorite berries & herbs (like mint)
Sliced cucumbers and limes are perfect too
Combine in ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze
Add to your favorite summer drink and enjoy!


Spicy Cucumber Mint Margarita – props to me @myhouseof_love


1/4 medium cucumber, chopped
3 mint leaves
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
Splash of OJ
1 shot Cointreau
2 shots Tequila Blanco (it’s strong!)
Few jalapeno slices (w/ or w/o seeds)
Add cucumber, mint, lime juice, OJ & Cointreau to shaker and shake vigorously
Add tequila and shake again
Use strainer and pour contents into margarita glass filled with ice (rim w/ salt first if desired)
Add jalapenos
So how’s that for some heat-beating refreshers inspired from the garden? Hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear from you if you end up making any of these! Also be sure to check out all these lovely ladies on Instagram … they’re sweet as can be and super inspirational. Happy days ahead!!!

The 5th of May

I have such fond memories of Cinco de Mayos from years past. Memories of  when I used to, not too terribly long ago, have major plans for the 5th of May each year. And by major I mean going out with friends for a giant mexican meal made up mainly of jumbo fishbowl  margaritas … you know the ones that four people could comfortably drink out of at once? Yeah, those. And yes, we did, with our very own straws. I have pictures somewhere. Oh to be young again …

More lately my plans for Cinco de Mayo have involved not realizing it’s Cinco de Mayo until the day before, or the day of, and then scrambling to put together some resemblance of a good Mexican meal myself, because who doesn’t love an excuse to eat Mexican food? I know I do. And I’m sharing some of my favorite, tried and true recipes below!


(my favorite because, well, crockpot … and because it’s DELICIOUS) (serves 6)

Perfect in tacos, burritos, enchiladas – you name it, I’ve probably done it!

  • 2 pounds chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & chopped *
  • 4 oz green chiles, diced *
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder *
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper *
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Baste chicken breasts with oil and place in crockpot.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and cook on low for 6 hours OR high for 2-3 hours.
  • Move chicken to a cutting board and let rest about 10 minutes.
  • Shred chicken and return to crockpot.
  • Cook on low for another 20-30 minutes then drain any excess liquid.

* These amounts can be adjusted or the ingredients can be left out all together for a much milder (a.k.a. not nearly as spicy) flavor


(my husband’s all-time favorite)


(soooo not healthy, but soooo worth it)

  • 16 oz corn (frozen, canned or fresh)
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Cotija cheese
  • Heat butter in large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add corn, onion, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin & cayenne pepper and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Fold in mayonnaise, lime juice and cilantro and mix well.
  • Garnish with cheese & enjoy.


  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Throw everything into a food processor and combine until smooth!


  • 4 avocados
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Mash avocados in a medium bowl, leaving some small chunks.
  • Add lime juice and stir to combine.
  • Add rest of ingredients and mix well.

And there you have ’em, some of my all-time favorite Mexican recipes. Pick up some yellow rice, tortilla chips & salsa, and maybe even some cinnamon churros and you’ll be ready for a Cinco de Mayo celebration of your own. Don’t forget the fishbowls. And the tequila 🙂

Time For Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving Week Monday! How is it time for turkey already??? My husband and I hosted his family yesterday for our annual “early Thanksgiving/November birthdays” meal – nothing like killing three birds with one stone. We travel each year for Thanksgiving to see my extended family, so we started this tradition of having his family over the weekend before so as not to miss out on celebrating and giving thanks with them. I’m not sure which year we’re on because me and history do not go together, but I’d say it’s a tradition we’ll hold on to for many more to come.

My husband and I have a tendency to always cook way too much food but this year takes the cake. We have leftovers for days and maybe even weeks. Oh who am I kidding? We both like to eat so it might be gone tomorrow. Regardless, better to have too much than not enough in my opinion (and it never goes to waste). We tried out several new recipes this year and I have to say I was pretty happy with the way things turned out. So … if you’re like me and wait until the last minute to do certain things (like planning your Thanksgiving day menu) – or maybe you just need some last minute ideas – this post is definitely for you. Or if you’re like me and just enjoy cooking, baking, and better yet eating, this post is even more so definitely for you 🙂

2016 Thanksgiving Day Menu

Spicy Black Bean Hummus with Pretzel Crisps
Shrimp Cocktail
Chicken Wings

Main Course
Turkey Tenderloin
Kale Salad
Orange Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce

Slow Cooker Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole
Pineapple Casserole
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Roasted Acorn Squash

Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies
Cast Iron Triple Berry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

Anything making your mouth water? Maybe pictures will help. I’m sharing some of the recipes below as well!

Spicy Black Bean Hummus
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Throw everything into a food processor and combine until smooth!

Chicken Wings
Done on the Big Green Egg by my talented husband (marinated in Lupo’s Chicken Barbeque Marinade)


Turkey Tenderloin
Also done on the Big Green Egg by my talented husband (injected with Lupo’s Lemon-Garlic Marinade). Lupo’s is pretty phenomenal.

Kale Salad (serves 6-8) – adapted from
2 large bunches dinosaur kale, stems removed
1 cup pomegranate craisins
juice of 3 lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup walnuts, toasted
salt and pepper, to taste
12 tablespoons grated parmesan

Throw kale into food processor and process into tiny chopped pieces. Stir lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper together in large bowl. Add in chopped kale, craisins, pine nuts, walnuts and parmesan and stir together into dressing.

Orange Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce – courtesy of the Pioneer Woman

Slow Cooker Stuffing – courtesy of Cooking Classy

Green Bean Casserole (serves 8)
2 cans green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups french fried onions
1/2 shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk and black pepper together in casserole dish. Cover with french fried onions. Bake for 25 minutes. Add cheddar cheese, cover dish with foil and bake for 10 more minutes.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Slice potatoes in half and place in baking dish. Top with butter and/or olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and dill and bake at 400 F for 1 hour.

Roasted Acorn Squash
Slice squash in half and place on baking sheet. Top with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar and bake at 420 F for 75 minutes.


Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies – I accidentally screwed up my typical go-to cookies by using unrefined coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil, but they were still very well-received. So for a more coconut-y flavor in these cookies, stick to the unrefined!

Cast Iron Triple Berry Cobbler

The foods from the menu that I don’t have recipes for (shrimp cocktail, rolls, pineapple casserole and pumpkin pie) were all brought by my in-laws and I failed to get pictures because well, you know how hosting goes – forgot until it was too late. But they were of course equally as delicious and definite must-haves to make this early Thanksgiving celebration simply perfect.

Many blessings to all for a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone enjoys their week, finds many reasons to give thanks, and eats lots of good eats. ‘Til next time!

Baby Fever

Nope, not pregnant. Just making that clear in case the title had you wondering. My friend, however, happens to be with child and I had the honor of co-hosting a shower for her with three other lovely ladies this past weekend. I think the four of us did a pretty decent job if I can say so myself. We decided on a muted rainbow theme. Everyone with me? No? Basically we picked a few colors from the rainbow and chose more muted shades so everything wasn’t bright, blinding and circus-like. The final winners were burgundy, burnt orange, mustard, teal and mint. Oh how beautiful (this picture does NO justice). Seriously, I want to redo my son’s room in all these colors. That may be my next project.


But anyway, I helped out with decorations and favors for the shower so I figured I’d share some of the fun details with you because, well, why not? Finding tissue paper in these colors led me to Etsy (the party and craft stores around me just weren’t cutting it), but thank you Soiree Supply for your magnificent selection! I basically spent Friday evening at my dining room table surrounded by mounds of tissue paper as I created poms of various sizes and what I like to call pinwheels. And yes, that may be a glass of wine you see … as well as leftover poms from my son’s birthday hanging from the chandelier (I finally pulled those down this morning). Just ignore that stuff. But don’t ignore all the wonderful colors! I mean, even the scraps are pretty.


I think the thing I’m most proud of is this Pinterest-inspired beauty below. I can’t take full credit, however. I made the white tissue clouds and another hostess cut the raindrops out of card stock which just happened to match the tissue paper colors exactly. Nice going, right? A third hostess, whose house we used, just happened to have that branch hanging in her foyer. It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.


And now you can see where some of those poms and pinwheels I made ended up going …


Not a very exciting detail, but I thought these straws were so cute! They worked perfectly for the mini bottles of champagne 🙂



For the favors, we decided on a candy buffet. Being that it was a couples shower, I tried to steer clear of the girly favors, not that the guys would have cared, but I figured everyone likes candy, right? The candy, containers, scoops and treat bags all came from Party City. I simply made name cards with kraft paper card stock and a silver paint pen. The burlap/gold banner and chalkboard came from the Target Dollar Spot and I just happened to have the “b” stamp at home. I can’t take credit for stamping the bags or writing on the chalkboard though – that was done by the raindrop maker – she’s a way better chalkboard writer than me.



I had nothing to do with the food, but can we take a minute and pay our respects? The hostess in charge of this did awesome – beef tenderloin, meat/cheese board, and all. And how about those little yarn poms? The same hostess that made the raindrops made these and they were the perfect addition to the food table.


And the cupcakes … oh the cupcakes. They were delicious and they were made from scratch by one of the hostesses’ mother-in-law. I could have eaten 20.



There was much more goodness at this shower, including an adorably perfect diaper cake, fun games, delicious drinks, and just an all-around good time had by all, but this pretty much wraps up my contributions. If you ever find yourself planning a muted rainbow baby shower, feel free to contact me. I’ve got tissue poms and pinwheels galore. And even some leftover candy 🙂

Happy Monday!