Christmas Decorating on a Budget

Christmas Decorating on a Budget

I always enjoy decorating for the holidays, especially this year with my daughter Sofia who is starting to get into Christmas and the arrival of our baby girl number two soon!

The first step to any decorating is deciding on your theme and color palette.  Keeping my daughter in mind I used a whimsical theme this year with red, blue, gold, green and pops of white as my color palette.

Instead of buying all new Christmas decor, I used ornaments, vases, containers, and candles I already had in my home that fit my theme and color palette.  I then purchased additional items from Hobby Lobby such as the red ribbon garland on the Christmas tree, faux garland over the mantle, the wooden Believe sign, nutcracker, Santa Claus, Santa’s Elf helper, snow man, and stocking holders. All these items were on sale for 50% off the original price.

I used previously purchased stockings from Pottery Barn Kids, which has great deals this time of year, that represent each member of our family, including our dog Bailey!  However, if you’re looking to cut down on costs, craft stores have a good selection of stockings. You can stencil the name or first initial of your family member instead of monogramming.  Personal Creations, an online store, also offers decorative stockings at a low price.

To get his look I spent less than $100 and so can you!

Christmas TreeChristmas TreeMantleMantleChristmas Decor

Fall Entertaining

There’s something about Fall when the kids go back to school, the air becomes crisp and football, apple and pumpkin picking are family past times. Using the flavors and the colors of the season it’s easy to decorate your front porch and tablescape with seasonal squash, apples, flowers, eggplant and a little glam with glitter!   Host a fall dinner party, pumpkin carving or decorating party with stickers and glitter, or a Halloween party. Fall entertaining and decor isn’t just for the September and October months, but can be carried over for Thanksgiving entertaining as well.  Be creative in your design by using other vegetables for a punch of color like I did on this tablescape above with artichokes.  You can cut a hole in the top of the artichoke or a small pumpkin and place a votive candle in the middle, which will make your setting perfect for an evening event.  For decorating tips and ideas please check out last years post on Fall Entertaining.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Who doesn’t love margaritas, tacos, and piñatas? So why not celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a taco themed party! If you want to go all out this year order a taco truck to be stationed at your party. However, if you’re keeping it to a DIY menu here are a few tips.

For the main filling I suggest grilled chicken breasts and shrimp, marinated in olive oil, red pepper, black pepper, a little hot sauce and salt. For red meat lovers, I suggest grilled flank steak.  Add fresh cilantro or parsley to the grilled chicken, shrimp and flank steak.

The following condiments will compliment your taco bar: shredded iceberg lettuce or spinach, shredded cheddar cheese, queso dip with bell peppers, guacamole, light sour cream, medium salsa and a fruit salsa like mango, pineapple, or peaches, hot sauce, diced tomatoes, and seven layer taco dip.  Have the option of hard and soft tacos. Black beans and Mexican rice are easy sides that take minutes to make.

Don’t forget the piñata and your signature drink such as Corona with lime or this Beer ‘Garita recipe from My Recipes.

DIY Mini Piñatas from One Charming Party

DIY Mini Pinatas from One Charming Party

Beer ‘Garitas

  • Yield: Makes 4 servings
  • Prep time:5 Minutes

My Recipes Beer 'Garits


  • 1 cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur
  •   Crushed ice
  • 1/2  to 1 cup cold beer


1. Stir together first 3 ingredients until well blended. Fill 4 medium glasses with crushed ice. Pour limeade mixture evenly into glasses. Add beer to taste.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used Minute Maid Frozen Concentrate for Limeade, José Cuervo Especial tequila, and Triple Sec for orange liqueur.

Celebrating Our Independence: July 4th Entertaining

Since I was a child, I have loved celebrating July 4th with the parades, the food, and fireworks!  I continue to enjoy this festive holiday with entertaining my friends and family.  The colors are so bold and playful and you can use them as accents in flower arrangements, as shown in the above picture, liens, food, serving dishes, and decorations such as lanterns and candles.

For the younger crowd you can prepare turkey and regular sliders, turkey or chicken sausages, and tater tots. (see previous posts for recipes).  For the more sophisticated pallet hot and spicy grilled shrimp on top of a bed of arugula is a favorite.  (see below for recipe).  Use sides that have vibrant colors such as watermelon, raspberry and blueberry fruit salad, mozzarella and tomato salad with basil and olive oil, and corn and red pepper medley.  A fun dessert for both kids and adults is cookie ice cream sandwiches, such as chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies sandwiched with vanilla or coffee ice cream!







Hot & Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Ingredients: Makes 6

  • 18 jumbo shrimp peeled or a bag of 60-75 pre-cooked and peeled shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce

Oil and prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium.  Toss shrimp with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Turn shrimp once and cook for 7 to 8 minutes of until cooked through.  Stir together butter, hot sauce and parsley in a large bowl.  Add shrimp and toss until coated.  Serve over a bed of arugula.

Spring Has Sprung Series: Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  While it is a regional holiday in Mexico, it is a festive holiday in the States where family and friends come together with colorful and flavorful food, music, and dancing.  One of my favorite dishes is Rib-eye Fajitas on the Grill with chips and salsa and a good margarita.  To make it more festive add some sombreros and a pinata. 

Rib-eye Fajitas on the Grill

Ingredients: Makes 8 to 12

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice (1 1/2 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oilve oil
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar
  • 5 lbs boneless rib-eye steaks
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 4 Anaheim chiles
  • 8 bell peppers (2 green, 2 red, 2 yellow, 2 orange)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12 flour tortillas
  • Sour cream, for accompaniment
  • Guacamole, for accompaniment

In a bowl combine soy sauce, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and red wine vinegar.  Put the steaks in a large plastic bag or container and pour the marinade over them.  Refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours.  Preheat grill and oven to 250.  Grill chiles and bell peppers whole until they blister and brown, turning with thongs every few minutes to ensure they roast on all sides; remove from the heat.  Remove core and seeds, slice them into strips and sprinkle with lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Wrap them in foil, and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.  Wrap the tortillas in foil and put in the oven to warm.  Grill steaks about 5 minutes per side for steaks.  Slice steaks thinly; arrange on platter with the grilled veggies, guacamole and sour cream.  Serve with black beans, Tex Mex rice, and chips and salsa.