7 Hostess Gifts Under $15

My daffodils are up so as far as I’m considered, spring has started!  Which means the social events of the season are right around the corner, like Easter brunch, sweet little garden parties,  ladies tea, cookouts in the park and just about any other event ushered in by warm air and green grass.

Typically manners dictate to ask “what can I bring” in an effort to lighten the load for our hostess, but a small thank you gift can’t hurt.   So here are 7 delightful hostess gifts all under $15 (be on the lookout of an under $30 coming soon)

These flour sack towels, in fresh spring colors, are a welcome addition to any kitchen.  For this price, get a few sets and keep them around just in case.  (If my husband is reading this, yes I know I have an addiction to kitchen towels.)

So other than having an addiction to kitchen towels, I also love cute little bowls.  Just good for anything especially a hostess gift, and even more so if the vestment is this lovely mint color.

When the soiree has come to a close will your hostess sit down for a hot cup of tea, or collapse in a heap until morning coffee is brewed?  Either way show your appreciation with this cheery mug of llamas .  I just love their faces, kinda squinched up like they are giving the stank eye!

Does your hostess like beer, getting her learn on or both?  This towel is so awesome with it’s funky colors and every square inch filled with information and history about – yes beer.  To pretty to use if you ask me.

If you want to be more personal  try a vinyl decal from Salt and Grace Designs.  Wouldn’t the hostess’s stand mixer look adorable with this anchor decal , after all she did make the best hummingbird cake you’ve ever tasted.

Thinking simple and practical, how about charmingly wrapped hand soaps.  For an even bigger impact, tie a stack together with gingham ribbon or bakers twine.  A personal favorite of mine, Gardeners from C & E, but with all they offer I’m sure you can find your favorite too.

Finally, one of the sweetest hostess gifts I ever received was a small wicker basket filled with live herbs and scissors for snipping.  Coming from a local nursery specializing in herbs they were beautiful and ready to plant.

Well, hopefully this list has made it’s appearance perfectly timed for your spring time social going ons.   Be on the look out for the under $30 list coming soon.

In the mean time what is your favorite hostess gift to give/receive?

(btw – as always these are my own opinions no one paid me to say anything, and for photo credit follow the link)

Five Things Friday

Just five little things that made my week.

1.  Every moment I have been in my office this week, and I do mean every moment,  I’ve been listening to 80s music.  I can’t go back to the days of being a kid, where we drank from the garden hose, skinned our everything climbing trees or playing kick ball until we couldn’t see ….. but I’m sure gonna try one song at a time.

2.   Marinated grilled chicken with mango salsa and cilantro lime rice,  steak pinwheel doodads with ranch mushrooms, red beans and rice.  I was in a cooking whirlwind, and no one around here seemed to complain.

3.  It’s another week of sampling tea from tearunners.com.  This really is the best gift subscription ever.   Yesterday I opened the English breakfast and it’s delightful.   Last week was a raspberry honeybush.  Today I ordered more of the cinnamon orange red.

4.  As many exercised their 1st amendment right on Wend I was also reminded that we live in a great democracy.  I had jury duty, yes an inconvenience, but an absolute reminder that we have due process, freedom of speech and a lengthy list of rights and freedoms.

5.    I get asked a lot “what do you do?” and I always stumble through an explanation.  Well I’m self employee and contracted, project management, or sometimes product/feature management with a little QA testing for a database companies client base, but sometimes not for them….. oh man it’s confusing.  Knowing that the jury selection process would no doubt ask me that question I knew I needed to revolutionize my explanation.  Contract IT, that’s what I do.

Herb Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms are these little squishy juicy flavor packets of happiness, that will burn the mess out of your tongue if you’re impatient and  greedy.   I use herb cheese spread to do the heavy lifting for big flavor and easy prep.

 Start with one container of mushrooms, whatever kind you like as long as they are stuffable.  There are two kinds of people when it comes to using mushrooms, those who wash them and those who don’t, I’m a don’t.  Sorry all you washers, I just assume take a towel and wipe them clean.  Either way once you are satisfied with the state of your mushrooms, pop the stems out, and set the caps aside. Roughly chop the stems, onion and mince the garlic.  This is a good point to go ahead and start pre heating the oven to 350C.

This is just saying “stuff me”

Next grab your favorite oven proof skillet, personally I’m still super happy to reach for the cast iron one I blabbed about here.  Heat over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Just as this concoction gets a little bubbly add onion and saute until lightly browned,  about 2 min or so.   Follow with the chopped mushroom stems, continuing to saute until everything is golden, an additional 3-5 depending on your pan and heat.  If you are so inclined; this is a good spot to add a splash of wine, waiting for it to cook off before moving on.  Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant.  Don’t burn the garlic – keep it moving and cook for a min or less.  Scrape everything out into a small bowl to cool.

Blurry action shot!

Once the mushroom/onion/garlic mixture of golden goodness has cooled a bit add half a container of herb cheese spread, about 4 oz.  Stir until combined, the trick here is you want the mixture to be warm enough that the cheese melts but isn’t runny.  Sometimes I add a little grated Parmesan cheese too.

Now stuff those waiting patiently on the side lines mushrooms with a heaping pile of cheesy goodness.   In the same skillet you were using to saute, melt the last of the butter and add the stuffed mushrooms.  Heat them over a med heat until the bottoms are just turning golden.  You really don’t have to do this, I just think it gives them a running start before they go in the oven.   Carefully add a bit of white wine, or chicken broth – water will do just fine to.  Just enough to cover the bottom of the skillet.  Then if desired (you really should desire this part) sprinkle the tops of the ‘shrooms with panko crumbs and/or Parmesan cheese.

If you look close you can see an extra bit of butter I felt like they needed, hehe.

Put them in the oven for about 5 – 7 min making sure the tops don’t burn.    Let them stand for a few min when they come out of the oven or you will experience an inferno of epic proportions and burn your lips, tongue mouth fingers etc.   Once cool consume freely.

Gracious me, look at that toasted cheesy goodness.


Print Recipe
Herb Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Mushrooms stuffed with creamy herb cheese and sauteed onions.
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 20 min total
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 20 min total
  1. Pre heat the oven to 350
  2. Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems. Set the caps aside and chop the stems.
  3. In a heavy oven proof skillet melt the butter and olive oil until bubbly. Once this is ready saute the onion for 2-3 min, then add the mushrooms stems and saute until golden. about another 3 - 5 min.
  4. optional - If you have a little white wine or chicken broth add it to the skillet and let it reduce before moving on.
  5. Working quickly saute the garlic with out burning it. Just a quick swoosh around the hot pan then scrape it all into a bowl and let it cool.
  6. Once cooled add the cheese spread, and mix until combined. Using a spoon carefully stuff the mushrooms with the cheese filling.
  7. In the same skillet melt the remaining butter and add the stuffed caps. Heat them for a few min over medium heat until there bottoms are golden.
  8. With out spilling on the caps add a little white wine, chicken broth or even just water. You want enough to just cover the bottom of the skillet.
  9. Top with a sprinkling of panko bread crumbs or Parmesan cheese.
  10. Bake in the oven at 350 C for about 5 - 7 min. You want the mushrooms to be soft, a little shriveled around the edges and the cheese to be slightly brown on top. Let them suckers cool before you dig in.

Ice Cream Sundae Kit

How clever are these ice cream sundae kits?  Little bowls, spoons, lots of topping choices and a scoop.  Like it says – just add ice cream.

I made and gave these for Christmas gifts.  I think they would be super cute for Valentines day given to the neighbors, kid’s teachers, grandparents …. I think you get the idea.

Not only were they fun, but simple enough that they came together with ease even during the holiday crazy.  The disposable bowls and spoons came from amazon, what wasn’t already in my stash I picked up at the wally.


Treat bags and scrap book paper dressed up the sprinkles, gummy bears and mini M&Ms.   Washi tape (a crafter’s bestie) added a little something extra to the wooden spoons and tags.  If I wasn’t worried about shelf life in the mail I probably would have made homemade chocolate and caramel sauce, but the store bought worked just fine.  Tie a  ‘just add ice cream’ note to the scoop and done.

(another) Current Obsession

No secret that cast iron cookware is the best even heat you can find.  It’s also no secret that the really nice enameled french ones are exorbitantly expensive.  Like oh my gosh how many pay checks expensive.   So when I found an alternative brand, with great reviews I decided to give it a try.  I’m obsessed, stove top to oven and easy to clean.  I love my Lodge dutch oven.

Sorry no action shots, I’ll try to get a few good ones and update.

Recipe – Dirty White Trash

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. With that said I have updated this recipe I posted ages ago.  It’s bigger, better, more user friendly and packed with the same addictive yummyness.  Plus I got some photos before the husband descended on it like a swarm of locust.

I like to put this in pretty bags and gift it, or make a huge batch to share at a party, light bulb moment – post a perfectly doubled recipe.   It was then I realized the shortcomings of the original recipe;  the amounts weren’t really friendly to the size packages available in the store, making for waste.  Sad but honest – it just wasn’t good enough to share.   Let me move on before I change this into a monologue about how reevaluating what was once “good enough” brings new perspective.

Alrighty – in a large bowl mix together the cereal and all the other dry mess.  Temporarily leave out anything that might get streaky and gross when it comes into contact with the hot melted chocolate (like chocolate covered candies or sprinkles), we aren’t making unicorn poop that’s a whole other recipe.

In a large microwave safe bowl place the contents of both packages of white chips and 1 cup of peanut butter chips, and the shorting.  (Toss the remaining peanut butter chips in with the cereal or gorge on them, whatever.) Following the package instructions –  microwave, stir melt repeat, blah blah…

Pour the shinny melted goodness all over the cereal, stir and hopefully not flick chex squares all over the floor like I usually do.  Try not to trip over the dog while she eats the floor trash.

When its still goopy and almost combined add in the M&Ms or anything else that would have partly melted.  Take the opportunity to add themed sprinkles , as you can see I added little Christmas trees.  It’s a white trash Christmas, hehe.

Spread it out on parchment paper or foil, then when it cools break it into pieces.  Eat and Share.

Recipe – makes about 12 cups
Melty Stuff
2 bags white chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips (put the rest of the bag in the dry stuff)

Dry stuff
8 cups of Rice Chex cereal
2 cups of broken up pretzels
2 cups of peanuts
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 bag of M&Ms
orphaned peanut butter chips

It goes with out saying that this is versatile and fool proof; so many options. Try leaving out some of the peanuts and pretzels for dried cranberries and coconut.   Sunflower seeds.  Mini chocolate candies.  Walnuts.
So how do you like your trash?


Five Things Friday – year end edition

Five little things that made my year.

1. The passing of our oldest sweetest dog. This really didn’t ‘make my year’ but it sure did define it. Heartbroken to loose him, but so happy to have had our lives absolutely filled with his little attitude up till the end.

2. I got a new dishwasher – no really that has been a life changer. It doesn’t sound like a car crusher in the kitchen so I can run it whenever I want and still have a conversation. bonus – things come out clean. I call it the cave of wonders.

3. My Gram turned 90, and I got to celebrate it with her. We planned a surprise party at the State College Elks Club and it was fabulous, just like her.

4. My dad came for thanksgiving, and it was such a blessing to have him around for the holiday. Best part, the weather was great and he got to go sailing twice on our boat.

5. Which brings me to the boat. It wasn’t so much launching the boat that made my year delightful, it was working on a huge project with my husband. I can’t explain how proud I am when I walk up to the boat, and she is all white and shinny. Like this floating happy thing!

Bonus thing – we made great memories with friends and family this year.  No really, it was a great year.

20170523_151518 (1)

Five Things Friday

five little things that made my week

1.  Work is starting to pick up, it’s nice to be a little busy again.  I think I had just gotten use to my slower schedule and started making other plans for myself but this is a welcome change.

2. Taco Tuesday!

3.  Cooler weather means moving all the plants into the greenhouse.  I always dread the task, it’s a lot of trips from all over the house and yard to the greenhouse.  When it’s done I remember how  rewarding it is to have a place to sit, and enjoy ‘outside’ even in the winter.

4.   Tuesday is my errand running, spend time with myself day.  I also have started enjoying taking myself to lunch as part of it.  Sometimes the waitress will come to the table a half a dozen times, asking if I need something almost like pity cause I’m eating alone.  Other times, she just drops off the sushi and leaves.

5.  I found a Christmas record with songs from Liberace and Lawrence Welk, for a dollar at a thrift store.  I can’t even how happy that made me.

Five Things Friday

Five little things that made my week in no particular order.

1. This weeks flashback cinema was Clue, great fun seeing it in the theater.

2. The weather is beginning to cool down, the leaves haven’t started changing but he sky is so blue as the humidity begins to drop.   I love the anticipation of fall, holidays and family that comes with the cooler temps.

3.  Pansies make me happy.  Filled my planters with orange, yellow and purple.

4. My October Tea Runners box came this week.   So far my favorite is Golden Monkey; pure black tea that has a little peachy flavor to it.   If you have ever thought about doing a monthly subscription this is the one to do!  They are opening up for new members on Monday, only 150 spots available.

5. Today is the first day of my 20th high school reunion celebration.  I’m terrible with names and nervous that I’m going to go completely blank, but I’m still going!

Oh a Tapas Party!

Having tapas for dinner is just a fancy way of saying – I think I’ll make a meal out of the appetizer sampler plate.   Having a tapas party – that’s a guaranteed down right awesome shindig plus good food!  Disclaimer – not a professional tapa menu maker uper party doer, just sharing my experiences and what works.  With that said, lets get to it.

Our tapas night always about being traditional (here is a great traditional  menu  though) it is about whatever small bites speak to me and say “hey sexy, I’m  tasty”.  Yes, my food calls me sexy and sometimes I call it sexy back.  Moving on – My first line of defense is simple quick recipes/nibbles that guarantee deliciousness and not stuck in the kitchen-ness.  Once I build the the foundation of the menu with simple finger foods I pick out one or two items that will need real attention.  I know this will give me a menu that isn’t overwhelming but still makes the party guests feel special, like their host spent a little extra time to make sure they enjoyed the food.

So what qualifies as quick and tasty (and sexy)?  Usually I start with a fruit and cheese plate complete with salty cured meat of some sort.  If I feel spry I might even wrap prosciutto around a piece of fruit and cheese.  Little confession though – I hate goat cheese so you will never find it on/in/near anything at my house.  I do however love Spanish manchego cheese, its a sheep’s milk cheese that is tangy and nutty, if you ever get the chance try it.   Husband likes olives which I’m not fond of but sometimes they make an appearance or some marinated veggies.

Now is when I start to think about the more labor intensive part of the menu  My advice is try to include something that can be baked ahead of time and then served either warm or at room temp, something fixed on the stove top and something from the oven.  That way you aren’t shuffling things around trying to have everything ready at that perfect star aligning moment.   A few favorites in our house are stuffed mushrooms, garlic sauteed shrimp, roasted figs, and a nod to the traditional – tortilla espanola, empanadas and croquettes.

Probably my mostest farvoritest part; presentation.   Pull it all together with cute bowls, rustic wooden trays, small plates and nice napkins.  Then everyone comes out to the table, we pour wine, break bread and graze.

So to wrap it up, just have fun and do whatever feels right.  It really is just about having a good time and family and friends.