hello december! Christmas Decor Tips and More

The first day of December - can you believe it?

On the long "To-Do" list this month is decorating for Christmas. If you're looking for ideas to decorate your home for the holidays, I invite you to check out a few of my tips. Click HERE for a few tips to turn your mantel into a holiday delight.

Find ideas to decorate a stunning Christmas tree HERE ...

and HERE!

There's nothing like the fresh fragrance of pine and cedar to welcome friends and family to your home.  Get some ideas HERE.

Also on that long "To-Do" list is wrapping, wrapping, and more wrapping. Dress up your gifts with these easy-to-tie bows. 

Learn how to make these stunning bows HERE.

Not everything on your long "To-Do" list has to take a lot of effort and time. You'll love this easy festive cream cheese spread for crackers or vegetables. Check it out HERE.

I hope your month is full of happy times and memories you and your loved ones will cherish!

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Simple Fall Mantel Decor Idea for Your Home (Shutterfly Guest Post)

As my favorite season of the year approaches and we are all pulling out our autumn decorations, I am pleased to introduce you to Martina Trejo with Shutterfly. Martina is hosting today’s post and shares with us helpful tips to transform our mantel for the season.  You’re going to love these gorgeous Fall d├ęcor ideas and all the helpful inspiration. 

A Simple Fall Mantel Decor Idea for Your Home
With Halloween candy already adorning the aisles at the grocery stores you cannot argue that fall is around the corner. Yes, the autumn season is coming soon, so here are some mantel decor ideas that can be easily replicated and are composed of classic elements to create something elegant for the hearth.
Instead of overdoing your fall design with the many iconic aspects of the season, choose a decorative theme that will help you create a cohesive look. This clear and focused mantel display from Shutterfly has all the necessary elements for a festive fall mantel.

Combining indoor and outdoor aspects is a quintessential way to create the feeling of the season on your mantel. Starting with a leaf garland as a base opens up the colors of autumn in reds, yellows, and oranges. Then putting acorns in a glass hurricane candle holder is simple and elegant.

Fall brings to mind vintage pieces using aspects such as reclaimed wood or shabby chic antiques. Here, an old clock stands as a perfect representation of the passage of time. Note that the yellow of the piece matches the fall theme perfectly. A vase full of pinecones further puts the season on display.

Decorative gourds are a must for your mantel. Switching between classic baby pumpkins and a few other matching squash elements grants some visual interest and keeps the traditional while adding whimsy. Framed themed prints with your favorite fall sayings are a great way to welcome guests to your home. You can even include a warm family photo.

Finally, complete the look with something vintage, like a lantern, also in the orange color range. You can even add a mirror as the main focal point which will brighten the room with a minimalist twist.

Keeping in color theme and staying simple are the most important parts of this design. Stay true to these principles to create something beautiful for fall!
Anyone can decorate like a pro. Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration and know-how! Thanks to Martina and Shutterfly, we have what we need to transform our mantels into tasteful, gorgeous works of art. Be sure to check out more beautiful mantel decor ideas and inspiration at Shutterfly.  If you haven't checked out Shutterfly lately, be sure to browse their home decorating accents HERE.

Thanks again, Martina and Shutterfly, for being my guest!

Photos and post provided by Martina Trejo and Shutterfly
Please be advised, this post may contain affiliate links.
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Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

If you've ever planned a wedding you know how time consuming and hectic preparations for the big day can be. For most, it's very stressful.  The rehearsal / family dinner is a wonderful opportunity for the bride and groom's families, close friends and wedding party to gather together to become better acquainted and, where applicable, rehearse the program for the big day.

The "perfect" rehearsal dinner means something different to everyone. What makes it perfect really depends on your expectations. Here are a few suggestions to help you accomplish your goals and help the event to go over without a flaw. 

Deciding Who's Hosting

Traditionally, the groom's parents plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner.  Given this, these days about anything goes.  A casual dinner with the future bride and groom and their parents is a nice setting to discuss the upcoming wedding celebrations and finances so there are no surprises. Regardless of who is hosting the evening, the desires and preferences of the bride and groom are the most important considerations. For our dinner, it was very important to the bride to have a relaxing evening to meet and mingle with the guests.

Consider A Theme

 It's becoming more common for couples to opt for a more casual theme for the evening.  After all, the ultimate goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and relieve some of the prewedding tensions. It's time to relax and enjoy family and close friends before the busy wedding day.  Without upstaging the main event, you might consider one of the ideas below:

Low-key, relaxing dinner.  Even a dinner held at a country club, like ours, can be casual and not overly formal. Consider open-style seating, rather than assigned tables. We opted for a choice between two plated options; however, buffet or family-style food service is more informal and encourages conversation among your guests.

Outdoor Barbecue. A grilled fiesta with a fun activity such as volleyball may be exactly what the future bride and groom need to unwind and provide some much needed calm.

Pool Party. While this idea may not be for every wedding group, it doesn't get anymore relaxing and fun than a pool party to loosen up the wedding party.

Cultural Party. Plan a dinner party around your cultural background with food and activities reflecting your heritage, such as a fiesta, or Greek dancing along with a nice Greek dinner and pastries. Or, perhaps an evening in Italy could be your theme.

Country-Themed Bash.  Line dancing or a hoedown may not be relaxing, but it will certainly make for a fun evening and keep the guests entertained. Serve Dutch oven food and let the dancing take center-stage.

Activity-Night Party. A fun activity like bowling or ice skating with pizza would be easy to plan and not real expensive.

Sports Night.  Stadium boxes, such as a baseball-stadium box, are a fun favorite for guests of all ages. Serve ballpark favorites such as hotdogs and nachos to compliment the activity.

Picnic. Find a beautiful location for a picnic, complete with blankets and baskets filled with gourmet sandwiches, potato salad and other picnic-worthy foods and drinks. If you live close to a resort, a tram ride to the top of the mountain would be a gorgeous location and a fun way to transport guests.  A park would be an ideal location for someplace more simple.

Dessert and Drinks. This time together can be anything you want it to be. Think outside the box if that's your desire. A dessert table with an assortment of desserts, or a Sundae bar, crepes, or another favorite may be all you need at this busy time.


Decorations can be as simple or elaborate as appropriate for the venue and theme - as long as they don't upstage the wedding or reception. I threw a shower for my future daughter-in-law and used the hurricanes, spots, and a few other decorations for both occasions, which saved on the budget. You can see the shower here:
Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Bridal Shower

I had two different, but similar centerpieces, anchored with the same black and white striped spots atop white-ruffled organza spots. Links to sources can be found at the post for the shower HERE.

Fresh flowers and greenery were inserted into silver dollar eucalyptus wreaths for one of the centerpieces. 

These petite votives are the perfect size for small candles and holding smaller candies, like the M&M's.  In addition, I love the unique shape.  
The other thing I love about them is the cost. You can set a set of 72 for about $70.00. You can find out more about these votives at the link HERE.

For the other style, three varied smaller arrangements were placed around the hurricane vase made with the same types of flowers and greenery. 

Using two different centerpieces added variety yet they were still compatible. If you use multiple centerpieces, be sure to use similar elements to keep the arrangements compatible and for continuity.

Small hurricane votives with candles add another layer of romantic flickering light.


You're celebrating the future Mr. & Mrs. so add personal touches to honor them and bring their story to life. Here are a few ideas to consider:

We used personalized M&M's with the couple's pictures and loving phrases in their wedding colors. You can order personalized M&M's through mymms.com.

Monogram napkins or placemats.

Share fun facts about the couple's lives, how they met, their story, or other interesting facts. We shared fun facts about the couple on the back of the menu.

Find unique ways to share the couple's story with photos, a video or other personal memorabilia.

Personalize the photos by writing on the picture mats. You can turn the mats over after the event for future use. Or, write on the glass with an erasable pen directly over the picture.

We filled small tins with clear tops with the personalized M&M's as a favor for our guests. The tins were purchased online at Hobby Lobby. It's customary and thoughtful to have a small gift for your guests as a token of your appreciation for sharing this special evening with you. 

There are many ways to personalize the evening in honor of the bride and groom. Just remember the evening or afternoon is about them and for them.

Tips for an Enjoyable and Smooth Evening

For a more casual feeling we preferred an open seating arrangement. However, if you provide a choice of two options for dinner, consider using color-coded placecards for quicker service. Using color-coded placecards with each guest's dinner choice allows the servers to quickly determine the count of each plate at the table and they can serve the dinner without interrupting the program or conversations. Service is much more organized and smooth.

Guests can pick up their placecard as they enter and are greeted by the wedding couple.  Put the cards in alphabetical order, but have someone there assisting your guests find their card.

Also, if you opt for a plated dinner be sure to ask for a less expensive option for children under 12. 

As part of the program, plan for toasts to honor the couple. 

It's customary for the host to welcome guests at the beginning of the dinner, but since this is an opportunity to meet each other's families, pass around a mic to each table for introductions. Because many of the guests will not be familiar with each other, ask them to share their connection with the bride or groom. Some may choose to share a quick story or even roast the couple.

Have a sign, balloons or some other unique way to help direct guests to the location and to welcome them to the gathering.

Background music always adds a nice touch to the dinner. It can be as simple as a playlist on your iPhone/iPad, a pianist or instrumental group, or perhaps a live band or D.J., depending on the atmosphere that you want to create.

Before the evening is over, be sure to share any information the wedding party will need to know for the wedding - things like when and where to meet, parking, clothing, etc. The bride and groom should also be prepared to share a short speech and be sure to thank all of their gracious guests.

All the wedding plans are in place. This evening is about letting your hair down and reaping the rewards. Never let contention get in the way of making this a really special night for the couple and their guests.

Anything you do will be perfect. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

Have a great day!


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Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Bridal Shower

Love is in the air. Summer and Fall is the most popular time for weddings, and we've had one at our home. But before the wedding comes the showers!

Traditionally, the bridal shower is left up to the maid of honor and bridesmaids. However, these days it's more and more common for anyone to host a bridal shower. One way for the groom's mother to be more involved in the wedding is to host a shower for her future daughter-in-law. It's a great way to introduce her to family and friends that she may not know.

Weddings are expensive and planning and prep time consuming.  You can still host a spectacular shower without breaking the bank and there are ways to save time without sacrificing quality.  Today I'm sharing several ideas from the shower I hosted for my new daughter-in-law and ways to incorporate the decorations into the rehearsal dinner, typically hosted by the groom's parents.

Theme & Invitations

Theme ideas for bridal showers are limitless: kitchen, holiday, home decor, lingerie, personal, travel, date nights, cooking, basket themed, etc.  For one of my daughters I planned an alphabet shower inspired by the letters of her full name-to-be. The concept of the theme was laid out in the invitation with the letters of her name (first, middle, new last name).  Each guest was assigned a letter from her name and instructed to bring a shower gift starting with that letter. It was a lot of fun to see the creative ideas everyone had.

To keep planning easy, incorporating the bride's wedding colors and style is a great starting point and takes care of many of the initial decisions, which is how I planned this shower. We also hosted the rehearsal dinner so I wanted to use the decorations for both occasions. This was a big consideration when deciding on a theme for the shower.

With the abundant resources available on the web, anyone can plan a spectacular shower from coordinated invitations to fun games and decorations. You'll find a great selection of amazing products on Etsy. The templates I used for this shower is a line of coordinated products from Sweet Rain Design. You can purchase and download a variety of templates that you can personalize for very reasonable prices.  Most templates range in cost from $2 - $10. 


Ours was a lunchtime shower so the menu was kept on the lighter side.

I'll be sharing all of the recipes overtime. Today, I'm sharing links to two of the recipes and a delicious recipe for Homemade Yogurt and Cashew Coconut Granola Parfaits.


Caprese Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette 

Lemon Tarragon Salad

Chicken Cashew Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Mixed Fruit Bowl

Cracker Spread
Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Topped with Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Glaze & Finishing Sauce

The habanero sauce can be purchased at Costco

Beer Bread with Whipped Strawberry Butter
This bread and butter was purchased at Hugs by Hug-Hes Cafe in Layton, Utah

Homemade Yogurt Cream and Coconut Cashew Granola Parfaits

This yogurt is a heavenly, creamy substance and is delicious anyway you serve it: standalone, with berries, and most delicious with granola.

Creamy Yogurt

1-1/2 cup plain, unflavored yogurt
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (to 3/4 cup) brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
Blueberries (or other fruit of your choice)

1) Pour yogurt into a bowl.  Add the cream to the yogurt. Carefully stir to combine with a whisk.

2) Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top of the yogurt mixture. Do not stir the mixture, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap, tightly seal the edges. Place in the refrigerator for at least three - four hours.

3) When you are ready to serve you can either whisk the mixture until smooth or leave it unstirred and have small bits of brown sugar visible.

You can serve the yogurt over berries or as a parfait with berries and granola.

Coconut and Cashew Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried tart cherries (purchased from Costco)

1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine the oats, nuts, coconut and brown sugar in a large bowl.

2) In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil and salt.

3) Combine both mixtures by slowly pouring the liquid over the oatmeal mixture and stirring well. Divide in half and pour onto two 11x17 inch rimmed baking sheets, spreading out into an even layer on each sheet.

4) Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden.

5) Remove from the oven and transfer into a large bowl, slightly breaking up the clumps. Add the dried tart cherries and gently mix until evenly distributed.

When you're ready to assemble the parfaits, layer the granola, blueberries, and then yogurt on top. Top with additional blueberries and garnish with a mint leaf.


It's the small touches that make any party special. The guests loved these mini parfaits and they looked spectacular in these mini plastic cups and served along with these cute mini silver spoons. They are from Amazon:

These are the cutest, fun mini spoons. For the rehearsal dinner I also used them in little glass hurricanes filled with custom M&Ms.  You'll see them on another post.

Decorations & Dessert Table

When planning centerpieces for any occasion I always look to incorporate pieces that I can use multiple times and later use around my home.  My centerpieces for the bridal shower doubled for the rehearsal dinner. I'll share more from the rehearsal dinner soon in a later post.

Glass hurricanes look stunning reflecting candlelight. These glass hurricanes are low and clear, not obstructing any views, and with the glass plates it appears the candles are floating. I love the elegant look fresh flowers give to a tablescape. Layer fresh greenery around the base and make simple arrangements using 3 or 4 varieties of flowers.

I used 18" black and white striped table spots atop 20" ribbed organza to soften the arrangements. Links to sources can be found here:

I love these black & white napkins. They're high quality and look stunning.

I also love these organza spots. They're 2" larger than the striped napkins and the delicate ruffle added a feminine touch.

Celebrate the bride-to-be with a gorgeous cake or cookies for dessert. These beautiful sugar cookies in the bride's wedding colors were personal and stunning.

Small touches such as these personalized napkins add a personal touch.

The glass hurricanes are from Pottery Barn.  Here is a link if you are interested.

Not all desserts need to be time consuming. Drizzle melted chocolate over delicious mint brownies and macaroons, or another favorite dessert from your favorite bakery for a stunning dessert.

Carry the fresh greenery and vases of flowers around the room for continuity and an elegant look.


I'm not particularly fond of playing games at showers, but I do enjoy activities such as the recipe cards mentioned above. Put out a "date jar" or "advice cards" with gel pens for guests to share some fun with the bride-to-be.

A few hours before the shower I took the bride, her mother and my daughters for pedicures. We returned with great feeling smooth feet and enjoyed the company of wonderful and supportive friends and family.

I included a recipe card with each invitation and asked the guests to share one of their favorite recipes with the bride-to-be.  Even guests who are unable to attend the shower can participate by sending a completed recipe card!

Set out blank cards and a craft box with stickers, gel pens and an assortment of embellishments and ask guests to share a note of encouragement, fun story or advice with the bride-to-be.

What memorable showers have you attended? Share your fun ideas for bridal showers with me!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll visit again soon. I'll be sharing Ideas for hosting the perfect rehearsal dinner next.

Some affiliate links have been used. I support only those products I have used and find to be of the best quality.
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