Tips for Throwing a Casual Gathering + A Giveaway!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I received free product in exchange for my honest review. links and sponsored content. Read my Disclosure Policy.

It's that time of year where everyone is throwing parties or attending sit down meals.  But in between there are plenty of opportunities for casual gatherings with friends and family.  

Ever since I became a homeowner I LOVE having people over.  I get sad when they leave and I look forward to the next time people will be a guest in my home.  We tend to think of getting together with friends as a big ordeal that requires hosting a big shindig with fancy foods, lots of drinks, and some sort of theme.  That doesn't always have to be the case.  Sometimes a gathering can be as impromptu and informal as walking over to your neighbors houses and asking if they have any plans that afternoon.  

Getting together with those closest to you doesn't have to be a major project of deep cleaning every crevice of the house or preparing a 4 course dinner.  Instead, just gather.  After all, isn't that what a gathering is? Getting together with people and enjoying some food and laughter is surely a great stress relief in the midst of the holiday chaos.  So here are some of my best tips for throwing a casual gathering.

[Invite the Right Crowd]
Nothing is more discouraging then inviting a few people and only 2 can show up.  Know your friends and know your crowd. If you want to throw a successful impromptu get together, make sure you invite enough people that even if several can't make it, plenty will still show up.  Also make sure you know who generally would be able to attend.  If your friend just gave birth to twins, it's probably not the best idea to invite her as she is probably busy and may not want to leave her babies just yet. 

That being said, if there's anyone that gets too rowdy don't feel bad if you pass them over.  Casual gatherings are meant to be fun but also stress free. If there's someone that always take the party too far, drinks in excess, or gets too loud maybe pass on them at this time.

[Pick an Appropriate Date and Time]
No matter how impromptu your get together is, you still need to plan it for an acceptable date and time.  Weekends are obviously best and late afternoon/early evening is perfect if you don't want to cook an actual meal.  This allows you to provide light refreshments and snacks which we'll get to later.

[Have an Activity]
While getting together is fun, sitting around talking can be boring to some.  It's always a great idea to have party games and cards around.  Or if there's a sports game on TV that's an even better reason to gather everyone together so you can all watch and cheer together.

[Take Simple Steps to Prepare]
Again, this doesn't have to be a HUGE production.  Make sure your floors are swept and wipe down the counters in the kitchen.  Of course make sure your bathroom is presentable but don't go out of your way and take hours and hours to deep clean your house.  No one is going to be milling about swiping a finger on your mantel to see how much dust there is.  If you have a fun activity planned, people will surely be more focused on that. 

[Provide Easy & Appetizing Snacks]
My go to snack for a casual gathering are HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays.  These  are an easy appetizer that are ready-made so you can save the time and energy of having to prepare a meat and cheese tray yourself.  There are two different types of trays - Honey Ham & Turkey and Hard Salami & Pepperoni.  In each tray you get cubed cheese, meats, and crackers.  This is a low-mess choice that will be very easy on yourself as the hostess.  Plus, if you ever get invited to a party and need to bring something - HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays are an ideal option!

Sometimes I keep the food in the tray but other times I get fancy and throw it on a wooden cutting board.  Either way, your guests will love to snack on meat and cheese while they play cards, laugh, or watch the big game!

[Plan for Easy Cleanup]
Disposable plates and cups are a great idea for a bigger crowd so that you don't have to do many dishes.  And choose the right party snack like HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Trays make for VERY easy cleanup. 

Now to help you master the art of throwing a casual gathering, I'm giving away a coupon voucher for a free HORMEL GATHERINGS® Party Tray!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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There are so many gift guides floating around anymore and they take you all over the interwebs.  I decided to do one that you can nail down in one place - Amazon! I love Amazon and they have such a huge selection of stuff so without further ado here is a gift guide for all of the people on your gift list this year!

Amazon Echo
How can you go wrong with the Amazon Echo? The Echo can be instructed by your voice to play music, make calls, set alarms and timers, answer questions, control other smart home devices and more.  It's like having a personal assistant in your home 24/7.  Echo can even hear your commands while music is playing!  You can easily check your calendar, sports scores, weather, and traffic simply by asking Alexa.  This is a great gift for anyone that needs a little assistance and organization in their life.   If the Echo isn't your thing check out the rest of the Amazon Echo and Alexa family here. Who to Buy For: A family gift, the disorganized person on your list that is always looking random things up on their phone, Your spouse (so you can reap the benefits too).
Price: This Echo is $99.99.

Amazon Prime
You can give the gift of Amazon Prime to the person on your list that is ALWAYS ordering stuff online.   It's also great for people that like to shop for anything and everything without going into a physical store - LIKE ME! You don't just get free shipping on qualifying items, but on-demand ad-free music streaming, unlimited reading on your Kindle or any other device you read from.  You also get instant access to video streaming

Who to Buy For: A family gift, shopaholic friends and family, small business owners
Price: $10.99 a month on a monthly basis  or $99 on a yearly basis.

Getting rid of cable? Then you'll definitely need one of these. You can also stream Netflix, watch Amazon videos that you purchase, and stream Live TV.  And yes, it literally just plugs into your TV!
Who To Buy For: Anyone that loves watching TV and movies or that wants to get rid of cable.
Price: The stick itself is just $39.99.

I once went to a blog conference in New York City by myself.   My phone died before the end of the day and I was lost on the street running in circles like a crazy person to try to find the train station.  I was so panicked and upset.  If I had a charging case on my phone I would have been in a much better mindset. 
Who To Buy For: The person whose phone is always dying, or anyone that enjoys being on their phone A LOT. 
Price: Varies but mine was just $45.

A security camera can save your life at times and really help you out if something happens at home when you aren't there. It's got crisp clear images, and you can monitor everything in realtime.  Plus you can set it up to send you notifications when doors open, etc.   This will give ANYONE peace of mind!
Who To Buy For: Anyone that owns a home and needs a security camera.  It's also great if you just want to be able to watch what happens at your home if you travel a lot and have a house sitter. 
Price: $199.99 

These are awesome for when you just need something comfortable when you are lounging around, reading, or writing.   It's super plushy, super plump, and if you need to move it out of the way because you have guests coming over, you can do so easily.
Who To Buy For: Teens, adults, ANYONE really.
Price: $39.99

This is ideal because you can feed your pet even when you can't be there physically. There's a built in voice recorder that you can use to call out for your pet when it's dinner time.  It does a great job with portion control and you can schedule it for up to 6 meals a day.
Who To Buy For: The pet owner that loves to travel and always has to ask someone to come in to feed their pet.
Price: $65.44

This awesome kit comes with face wash, scrub, shave oil, face balm, and an awesome box.  There's no synthetic colors, fragrances, or ingredients.  If your recipient doesn't like it, Thrive will refund your purchase.
Who To Buy For: Your dad, grandfather, son, husband, etc.
Price: $50

This awesome planter has a self-sustaining design and fits perfect with busy lifestyles.  It's self-watering and lets you know when it needs to be refilled.  You can collect several of them and then stack them horizontally or vertically so you have an even fuller look. 
Who To Buy For: Anyone that loves planting things but also great for people who live in apartments and don't have outdoor space for a garden.
Price: $55.99

This diffuser is not only beautiful and has gorgeous colors of light but it improves air quality, allergies, sleep patterns, skin health, and much more.  It vaporizes without the use of heat since it's ultrasonic.  The mist is cool and soothing and has three working modes of continuous, intermittent, or lights-only.
Who To Buy For: Anyone that loves home d├ęcor and loves aromatherapy.
Price: $19.99

These are just a few of the many great gifts over at Amazon!   Which is your favorite and which are you adding to YOUR list this year?

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Books I Recommend Your Read [November]

Monday, November 27, 2017

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The Perennials by Mandy Berman
This book takes place in 2000 and then in 2006.  It's about Fiona and Rachel and how much they loved summer camp as coming of age girls and how they return as counselors 6 years later.  There's plenty of drama and sexual encounters to go around and the book does a good job of coming to a close when tragedy strikes.  It's once again a summer that changes EVERYONE's lives.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall
This book is about a group of schoolmates that attend their reunion and are still hoping to keep secret what happened to a girl from their grade that mayn of them feel responsible for.  Some mysterious Facebook messages get exchanged - seeming that they are coming from the missing classmate herself. The night of the reunion things take a tragic turn and then quickly everything unravels. Twists and turns! Loved it.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Julian is a young boy living with his "uncle" and Adam is his friend from school.  Julian's being violently abused by his uncle and Adam is trying to prove it.  When things take a deadly turn, Adam gets his chance to save the day.  A great look into how horrific and how often abuse can be hidden by it's young victims.

The Fact of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
This is a memoir mixed with true crime. The author describes the story of a 6 year old boy who was found murdered back in the early 90's and the book covers at least a decade where she tries to figure out what happened to the man responsible and how he became a monster. Interspersed in the chapters are the story of the author's horrific experience as a child and how she learns to cope.

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
This was a really interesting book about a nanny that gets hired for a family of a young boy and an 18 year old brother.  The brother doesn't speak, just signs, although he's not def - he just chooses to be mute. The nanny begins to have an affair with the boy and tries to hide it as well as some other secrets from the mother who hired her.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint
This is a great fiction true crime story about a woman whose two young children turn up dead and she ends up on trial for it.  She accepts her fate but there's a very shocking twist. If you love true crime this is an amazing read!

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Holy scandal and family secrets. This novel is so interesting.  A girl decides to unleash her family's secrets (kind of accidentally, though) and the book covers the wrath of her irresponsible actions.  I like books with scandals so this was right up there on the top of my list!

That's it for this month! What did you read?

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Dealing With A Picky Eater Dog

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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I always gasp when I walk into a house that has multiple dogs and a food bowl that is always sitting out, filled with food.  That is completely unheard of in my house, especially with 3 of my 4 Chihuahuas being completely food-oriented.  There is no way I could pull that off. 

Pixie would eat all the food each time.  Even when Rocky finally finishes his bowl, all 3 of the girls swoop in to eat the rest or lick the bowl.  They bonk heads and grumble and growl at each other. 

Rocky has never been food-oriented.  If he's laying with me and someone shakes the treat jar, he still keeps laying with me unless I tell him to go get a treat.  Rocky is the oldest, at 13, and he's also the one with a heart condition that he takes medicine for.  That being said, we usually don't have problems getting him to eat his 2 meals a day.  But every couple of months he gets super finicky for a few days and sometimes wants to skip both meals.  He is a tiny thing as it is and the vet never wants him losing weight.  So today I wanted to go over a few things I do when Rocky gets picky.  Hopefully these things help you guys if you ever have to deal with a  picky dog.

[1] Don't Rush Them
Pixie scarfs her food down within seconds, seriously.   It's horrendous to hear the snarfling sounds she makes.   Rocky on the other hand takes his good old time and carefully takes bite after bite.  Being the slow eater means that when the girls finish their meals, they immediately go to his bowl and wait for him to leave and see if there's anything left behind.  That upsets Rocky and sometimes causes him to scarf his food down and then gag it up a few minutes later.  So I always make sure to either block off the dogs with a baby gate or I will shoo them away and hold Pixie so she can't circle his bowl.   Sometimes I even feed him first so that by the time the girls finish, he's basically done.

[2] Create a Quiet Area for Food
The girls have food bowls in a row because they respect each other's space and don't mind being near each other.  Rocky gets to eat in two places - the kitchen (the others are in the dining room) or in the dining room at my feet when I sit at the table.  And when I keep the other dogs at bay he has a nice quiet spot to eat.  There are times when I've even brought his food bowl to the couch when he's sleeping and he'll calmly eat it there.  I do cater to him only because it's important that he always eat.

[3] He Can't Resist Delicious High Protein Food
So I normally feed Rocky little trays of standard dog food shredded chicken but for the times he's really picky I have to break out something even more appetizing.  My go to solution for this issue are Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Trays from Chewy.  You get chicken and duck which means Rocky gets two of his favorites.  He's a bird-guy obviously! They're easy for Rocky to chew and eat because they're soft and they're also grain-free which is great for dogs with sensitivities. The first ingredient is real duck or real chicken and there are no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.  Rocky absolutely loves these trays.  I even stir some of his regular dry kibble in with them and he eats it so fast and I can see him skip away afterwards with his full tummy.  These trays are from the Blue Buffalo Wilderness line which has extra protein which is great for picky eaters.  Whenever Rocky struggles I give him these so I can ensure he won't drop weight and he'll have the energy he needs to play with his sisters everyday. 

[4] Water EVERYDAY!
Even when Rocky is finicky I make sure he drinks water every day even if he skips a meal.  Dehydration is dangerous and water is more crucial than food when a dog doesn't feel like eating.  Sometimes when I leave for work and he's in his cage I'll even leave a tiny bowl of water, just to make sure he gets a couple licks.

November POPSUGAR Must Have Box

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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You should know by now that my weakness is subscription boxes, especially the big ones packed full of goodies.  The POPSUGAR Must Have Box is one of my absolute favorite boxes ever.  I've got a few before but I started back up again and wanted to take you guys through what you'll get if you sign up.

For just $39.95 I got all of the awesome goodies you see here.

Knot & Bow Holiday Mint Newsprint Gift Wrap
Fun and festive, this paper is made with recycled paper and you get three huge paper sheets that were designed and printed just for this box! ARV: $6 

Tarte Cosmetics tarteist PRO Glow to Go Highlight & Contour Palette
I love this mini palette. It's perfect for highlighting and contouring even on the go! It's a great travel size but most of all I just love the shades. ARV $23

Hester & Cook Chalkboard Paper Placement Pad & Set of 4 Chalk Style Pencils
This is so cool especially for holidays because you can use it to decorate and label each place at your dinner table.   The pencils are really nice quality and makes for easy cleanup afterwards! ARV $25

Chloe + Isabel Jen Atkin x Chloe + Isabel Split Headband
This headband gives you a great modern look whether you have your hair slicked back or in a volumized ponytail.  Celebrity stylist Jen Atkin designed this and it can be worn 2 ways - the traditional top of head look and the more modern look towards the back of your head. ARV $22

Fatty Sundays Peppermint Chocolate-Covered Pretzels
Not only does this come with a coupon for more but these were delicious! They are covered with 70% dark chocolate and peppermint candy and it's perfect for this time of year! ARV $3.49

BLOOMTHAT $25 Gift Card
This is a great way to gift a hostess or even a loved one with a lovely bouquet.  If you're in the LA, SF, or NYC area you get same day delivery and if you're anywhere else it's next day delivery.  I was super impressed with the selection and love that they have an iOS app to make it even quicker to do this while on the go. ARV $25

I think it's sooooo cool that they included a book in this box.  Anna Faris recently released this hilarious book full of personal stories and life lessons.  I love the advice she gives too! ARV $28

So yes, I got all of that awesome stuff for just $39.95.  This box is TOTALLY WORTH IT! Sign up for the next box here.

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Stella's 8th Birthday

Monday, November 20, 2017

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Last weekend Stella turned 8! I can't believe my youngest little pup is already 8.  She's so sweet and shy.

So to celebrate, in the typical style of Stella and her low-key personality I gave her special food and a treat.  The food was Alligator! How cool is that? She loved it! And of course we shared with the other dogs.

Seriously she gobbled it down.

It's always nice to spoil her with something out of the ordinary on a special day.

She spent the evening lounging around exhausted from her yummy treats!

Stella isn't big on toys so as a gift I got her Liquid Longevity. Just like with humans, probiotics are extremely important to your GI system and overall health.  If a properly balanced and nutritious diet is consumed you can generally get a lot of the bacteria you need, however just like with humans, some dogs seem to struggle with that.  Stella is the dog in my wolfpack that seems to have the most GI issues.  She usually gets 1-2 stomach bugs a year and it's not fun.  Liquid Longevity is a spray that goes directly on her food, no pill or powder to deal with.

Liquid Longevity contains 10 probiotics with each strain selected with a specific benefit to support healthy digestion in dogs.  It's formulated specifically for dogs and geared to survive in a low pH environment aka a dog's stomach. 

I no longer have to worry about Stella having GI issues all the time and it gives me major peace of mind.

So Stella had a fabulous birthday. Do you celebrate doggie birthdays in your home?

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