After our Christmas tree remained lifeless on our back deck well into spring last year, the thought of going through the ordeal of a living tree again this year seems like pure masochism. I suppose it sounds Grinch-esque, but the idea of a tree now only reminds me of sticky sap, a carpet covered in pine needles, untangling lights and then cutting them off of a brittle tree months later. (Yes, I have actually had to cut lights from the tree after hours of frustration.)
This year, we’re looking for an alternative that will save not only my sanity, but the life of an Evergreen.
Clockwise from Left to Right: Tabletop Tree from DigsDigs, a gorgeous (already dead) tree spray painted white from Apartment Therapy, Rosemary “Trees” via DigsDigs, the only tree impervious to my dog’s attempts to catch the twinkle lights, an iron tree from Overstock.com (in tabletop and life-sized), the artist’s tree via HGTV, and a bouquet of twigs from House and Home.
Many of us are gearing up to travel to spend the holiday with family and friends, or with friends’ families. Regardless of where you’ll end up this Thanksgiving, a hostess gift is always appreciated.
This Thanksgiving will be my first one away from home, this time travelling to New Jersey to spend the long weekend with my boyfriend’s family. Since we’ll be staying with his parents and enjoying Thanksgiving at his aunt and uncle’s home, I’m in need of several creative hostess gifts that will not only impress, but will survive the trip.
Ideally you should call the hostess to see if you can help by bringing a dish, but if she insists that you shouldn’t bring anything (or if you’re terrified of your boyfriend’s very intense aunt and can’t bring yourself to call her without shaking uncontrollably…) you should still bring something small as a token of thanks. Here are a couple of ideas to aid you in your perfect hostess gift search.
Clockwise from upper left hand corner:
Chocolate Turkeys: These are absolutely adorable and a wonderful gift for any hostess. I might send these to my own aunt’s house since I usually spend Thanksgiving there, but won’t be with them this year.
The Day After the Feast Soup Mix: Such a cute idea for day-after leftovers. Attach this mix to a nice soup tureen or soup bowls for a complete gift set.
Caramel Apples: I’m a true New England girl, so I’m planning on making caramel apples to give to my boyfriend’s parents and siblings. I’m glad that it’s something I can DIY and that the whole family can enjoy.
Local Wine/Food Products: I’ve decided to bring a bottle of both local wine and local sparkling cider to Thanksgiving dinner. This is a perfect combo when there will be children at dinner or when you’re not sure if everybody drinks. Plus, I’m happy to be bringing something from my home state.
Tea Presentation Box: This is one of the items that I would be thoroughly thrilled to receive. Not only would I love to have this assortment to serve to guests after dinner, but I’d be able to enjoy the tea later as well. And I do love a good cup of tea.
Since I make my own costume every year, I typically plan it months in advance. This means that I now have plenty of time to pick out ridiculously funny costumes for my loved ones. My puppy is number one on this list.
I never thought I’d be the person that dresses up her pets, but now that I have a dog of my own there’s not much else that can make me giggle as hard. I also like to look at it as payback for the black pumps she ate last month. And the boots. And the several pairs of sandals. (We’ll let the Crocs massacre slide since I’m sure that was more of a fashion favor on her part.)
Pirate Puppy is not pleased.
Bailey is actually wearing a children’s costume that I purchased from Homegoods for 50% off, but here are some of my favorite puppy costumes from around the web:
Sometimes you just need an excuse to drink beer at the crack of dawn. Luckily tailgating gives you that perfect excuse. Add some coffee, mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to the mix for your friends that can’t bring themselves to chug a cold one after Friday night’s partying.
- Breakfast Casserole: Make a casserole like this self proclaimed Best Breakfast Casserole Ever the day before and warm it up the next morning right in the grill for a slightly smokey and delicious flavor without the hassle of juggling your drink and a spatula before your eyes have quite adjusted to the morning light.
- Bisucits & Gravy: For some reason we don’t get biscuits & gravy nearly enough up north, which is a shame since they’re the quintessential warm comfort food.
- Pancakes: Since I’m all about blue food right now, I couldn’t resist throwing some blueberry pancakes out there. You could easily use food coloring though to make pancakes for any team. Top your grill with a portable griddle for pancakes and homefries. This one from Weber takes up half your grill’s space so you still have room for sausages.
- Homefries: This is one of the easiest and cheapest breakfast dishes out there, which is great for us since it’s all supper yummy.
- Fruit Salad: Add a healthy choice to breakfast with a fresh seasonal fruit salad.
- Mimosas & Bloody Marys: Of course you can do kegs & eggs, but this is the much classier way to go. Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s are great early morning alcoholic drinks that spare you the guilt of drinking before noon. I’m particularly fond of Ripe’s Bloody Mary Mixer which blends together San Marzano tomatoes, celery juice, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, horseradish, and grey Celtic sea salt.
That’s all Lost Girl has for this year’s football season. Now it’s time to go fill up and cheer on our teams!
Last year the Roomie and I were introduced to the wonderful world of catered skybox seats for football. The economic downturn means that it probably won’t happen this season, but we’re not quite ready to give up the delicious food and the feeling that we were a little bit classier than usual.
This menu plays off of the old stand-bys and is a grown up version of the typical tailgate menu.
Custom Jones Soda: Jones Soda Company provides a service that allows customers to upload their photos and custom order any flavor and color soda.
Hot Apple Cider: Nothing reminds me of fall more than hot apple cider. Spike it with spiced rum or brandy to keep extra warm.
Rock Candy for Drinks: Rock Candy in your team colors make great swizzle sticks for drinks and add a splash of spirit to your table.
Pigs in a Blanket: Another yummy tailgate staple, these usually disappear from the table within minutes. I’d love to make a version with mustard stitching on it.
Deviled Eggs: These football shaped deviled eggs are a great treat and can be made the night before to save time in the morning.
Clam Chowder: This warm soup is a replacement for chili on a cold day and is perfect for a New England themed tailgate. To add to your tailgete theme, try using foods that are local favorites.
Hot Cocktail Sandwiches: Sweet Life Kitchen created these amazing pulled pork sandwiches. The same trick would work well with grilled cheese or philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Keep them warm over sterno.
Caramel Apples: Buy these or make them on your own for a yummy autumn dessert that will make everyone feel like a kid again. You can even add team color or football sprinkles to make them more festive.
Certain foods are just meant to paired with football. Chili, hamburgers and hotdogs are tailgate staples. I’m also a big fan of anything football shaped or foods that can be made to match team colors. (Although we’re a bit limited with blue foods, I still try!)
Game Day Menu:
Tortilla Chips & Salsa
Chips & Salsa: Tortilla chips can be found in a number of spirited colors including red and blue. We like to use a combination of blue and white to represent team colors.
Taco Salad: The ingredients for Taco Salad (also called Mexican layer dip) vary from recipe to recipe, but I like this one. In large bowl, layer 1 can refried beans, 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup shredded lettuce, 1 cup salsa, 1 cup guacamole, 1 cup shredded cheese, ½ cup chopped green onions, and 2 tablespoons sliced black olives.
Hot Dogs and Hamburgers: Throw your favorite burgers and brats on the grill and provide all the fixings: chopped onions, American cheese, crumbled blue cheese, ketchup, mustard, relish, and sauerkraut.
Big Game Day Chili (From AllRecipes.com): I love the combination of flavors in this chili. Between the beer, smoked bacon and the addition of chocolate, this is a very different and delicious chili recipe that will wow your guests.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
- 2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
- 2 pounds Italian sausage meat
- 4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 (28 ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
- 2 (14 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 (14.5 ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (7 ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle dark beer
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
- 1/4 cup crumbled dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt, or amount to taste
- 2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate candy bar
- Heat the oil in a large deep pot over medium-high heat, and stir in the onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Cook and stir until the onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef stew meat, sausage, and bacon. Cook until meats are evenly browned. Drain the fat.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, black beans, kidney beans, chipotle peppers with sauce, beef broth, beer, chili powder, oregano, pepper, salt, and chocolate. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 1 hour; 2 hours is preferred.
Baked Potatoes: Wrap them in foil and throw them onto the grill. They taste especially good topped with chili and sour cream.
Baked Beans (from RecipeZaar.com)
- 5 slices bacon, fried and crumpled
- 32 ounces baked beans, drained
- 1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (hickory smoked)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Rinse and drain beans. Mix all ingredients in crock-pot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours.
Popcorn and S’mores: Jiffy Pop and S’mores are always a fun way to end any day of grilling.
Having a simple, well stocked bar is what separates the tailgate amateurs with the pros. Some people go all out with margarita machines and roll in kegs for the event. While that’s not necessary, here are a few additions that will make your tailgate stand out.
- Soda and Water: Be kind and remember that not everybody drinks alcohol. It’s nice to have non-alcoholic drinks on hand for those that don’t drink and those that need a break.
- Coffee and/or Hot Chocolate: Chances are it will get cold outside by the end of the season. Nothing beats a hot cup of coffee when you’re trying to get warm.
- Beer: This is an obvious one. Offer your favorites and some local brews. If you have enough people, you could even roll in a small keg.
- Wine: Single serving wine bottles in both red and white allow wine drinkers to partake without the need for glasses and corkscrews.
- Bloody Marys: I like to keep a batch of premixed Bloody Marys on hand. It makes me feel better about the pre-noon drinking fest.
- Butterscotch, peppermint, and/or cinnamon schnapps: Such a yummy addition to your coffee or hot chocolate.
- Kahlua or Irish Cream: Sipped straight or added to your coffee, these are both great items to have at the bar.
- Jello Shots: Make them in your team colors and have fun.
- Frozen Cocktail Buckets: Target sells these seasonally. Look out for the apple cider slush and the other great autumn drinks.