Monday, July 16, 2018

DIY Bar out of your Picnic Table

Photo by Dwell

Check out the website remodelista for this and other amazing home ideas! 

This is one of my favorite entertaining posts.  Totally worth blogging again and again.

Replace the middle board of your picnic table with a rain gutter. Fill it with ice and your favorite wines, beers and coolers...Quick, easy and your friends will love it!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mailboat Book Two is Almost Here

The summer of 2016 gave us the first of author Danielle Lincoln Hanna's murder mystery series, Mailboat Book One. The story began in the resort town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where the mail has been delivered to the mansions in the summer by The Walworth mailboat.  Resident "mail jumpers" jump off and back on the boat, placing the mail in the mailbox all while the Walworth glides by the pier to it's next stop.  Mailboat Book One left us with anticipation and holding our breath over who is committing murders in this idyllic lakeside town and wondering the fate of Bailey, the young mail jumper caught up in the twists and turns the author provides in this summer thriller.

~MailBoat Book Two~
The long awaited Mailboat Book Two is being released in August. Happy to be on Danielle Lincoln Hanna's early reader team, I found Danielle has once again exceeded my expectations with the newest book in her suspense mystery series.  The author hopes to make this a series of six books and I find myself eager to see how the next book turns out.  I've been a home owner in the Lake Geneva area for many years and I find the accuracy Danielle uses in covering the area attractions and landmarks impressive, adding to the appeal to these stories. 

Danielle will be in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin promoting Mailboat Book Two August 10 through 19.  You can meet her at the Cornerstone Shop & Gallery at 214 Broad Street in Lake Geneva on Saturday, August 11 from 12-4 to sign your books so mark your calendar. Be sure to check out Danielle's webpage and sign up for her newsletter to get updates on her other book signings at Danielle Lincoln Hanna events.

I read Mailboat Book One over again and it's a thrilling page turner each time!

Happy reading!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Easy Food Ideas

When the temps are scorching outside and turning on the oven isn't an option, try these simple ideas guaranteed to please even the finicky members of your family.

Set up a baked potato buffet.  Microwave as many baking potatoes as you need, and set up a toppings bar.  So much fun to make and who doesn't like being creative.  The possibilities are endless..bacon bits, shredded cheddar, sour cream,  butter, chopped chives, chili, salsa or crumbled goat cheese.  

Make up fruit and cheese kabobs ahead of time.  Use any favorite fruit cut into chunks and alternate on wooden skewers with cubed cheddar or Gouda cheese.  Apples, pineapples, oranges and pears are delicious with cheese.

Chicken quesadillas are an easy snack too.  Purchase a rotisserie chicken or use leftover baked chicken and shred.  Microwave refried beans and spread onto flour tortillas.  Sprinkle the chicken and shredded Monterrey jack cheese and top with another tortilla.  Brown and flip on a griddle or in a toaster oven until the cheese melts.   

Do you have any simple food ideas to share?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Simple 4th of July Dessert

The 4th of July is all about picnics and easy entertaining.  You don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but rather enjoying your friends and family time.  Here's an easy way to decorate a simple sheet cake that will look festive on your table.  Simply bake your favorite yellow or white cake mix in a 13 x 9 pan, let it cool, and frost with white frosting.  Using star shaped cookie cutters, place them on top of your frosted cake, and sprinkle blue and red sprinkles into the cookie cutters.  Carefully remove and you have a cake that holiday ready.  My pan, frosting, cookie cutters and sprinkles were all purchased at Wilton's, my favorite store for cake decorating supplies.  

I will be enjoying the holiday with my family but will return Tuesday, July 10th.  Have a safe and wonderful holiday.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's the Simple Things

Sometimes all it takes is a simple change to make an everyday area special.  My husband recently bought these strings of lights from Brightech he found on Amazon.  They are currently on sale selling for $29.99 for a 24 foot strand and $54.99 for a 48 foot strand.  They literally turn your patio, backyard or deck into a wonderland and changes the entire landscape.  There isn't glare and they provide enough light to entertain. 

What have you done to make your outdoor living space enjoyable this summer?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Portillo's Copycat Cake

If you live near Portillo's and have had a slice of their chocolate cake, then you have lived a full life..haha. If you haven't tried it yet, don't waste another minute.  (by the way, they serve lemon cake in the summer that will knock your socks off!).  I'm sharing a knockoff recipe that may be one of the easiest cake recipes you will ever bake.  I made this recently to serve at my husbands birthday family party.  We have a family member on a strict gluten free diet so I modified the recipe.  Here are the pictures and the recipe is below.  I was told it rivaled the famous Portillo's chocolate cake. 

~Portillo's Copycat Chocolate Cake Recipe~

1 box Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix (I used gluten free mix)
3 eggs
1 cup ice cold water
1 cup mayonnaise (regular not light)

Mix all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
Pour batter evenly between two 9 inch round pans sprayed with baking spray. I also used precut round parchment paper on the bottom of the pans.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.
Let pans cool for 15 minutes and remove gently from the pans.
Frost liberally with Betty Crocker chocolate canned (that's right) frosting.
I made this cake a triple layer so I doubled the recipe and used three round pans, 2 cake mixes and 2 cans of frosting.
It's that easy and it is the only chocolate cake I will make from now on.  

Let me know how you like it and thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Be a Good Host & Houseguest

Be a relaxed and happy host.

A basket of towels for guests is a nice touch.  I keep ours on a vintage wooden cabinet near our main bathroom/shower. 

Many of our book offerings are written by local authors.

I like soaps that reflect the mood we are trying to provide.

Perfect for our house in the woods.  I found this at Home Goods.

Often we all have family and friends joining us for either a short or extended stay year round. But naturally summer provides the best weather for entertaining.  Swimming, barbecuing, yard games, boating, fishing.....summer has it all!
As a homeowner of a modest yet comfortable second home with lake and beach rights, we enjoy hosting our children, grandchildren and friends to swim, boat, barbecue, make s'mores over our fire pit and always a competitive game night.

~Hosting Tips~
My goal is to provide a relaxed and stress free get away.  Making lists days prior to our arrival are key.  By the time we arrive, I have a plan of each days meals and what grocery items are needed.  With so many stores and websites offering on line ordering and home delivery of grocery items, I suggest taking full advantage of this as a big time saver.  I find prices are competitive and delivery fees are minimal.  

I keep baskets of fresh hand towels and wash cloths in a pretty basket to use, making it easy for guests to find.

I have a book shelf with current and classic books for guests to grab and take to the hammocks to read.  Encourage everyone to bring their favorites to add to the collection to share.  

Provide beach towels, sunscreens and bug spray for our guests, along with full amenities in our bathrooms, tubs and showers.

Do as much in advance as you can so you can relax and enjoy your family time.  Sometimes I cook days in advance and freeze for future use.  Sloppy joes, chili, barbecued pulled pork, italian sausage are all easy to freeze, thaw and heat, as well as homemade pancakes, waffles and bacon.  I can't tell you how much time I have saved by doing this.  

~Guest Tips~

Offer to bring snacks or make a meal. Let your host know in advance what you will be bringing so he or she can plan accordingly. Fresh fruit or vegetables are always welcome.  

Clean up after yourselves to help minimize the work for your host so they can enjoy your time together too.

Bottled waters are always appreciated in our home.  We go through a lot of water!  Ice Mountain must notice a spike in their sales in summer from our family alone...haha.

Our family has recently contributed a flat grill iron to put over a fire pit for grilling steaks, burgers, hot dogs and chicken, an extra garage door opener and a plug in mosquito omitter for the patio.  Great additions and so appreciated. 

What are your tips to help make guests comfortable in your home?