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Mother’s Day Party Game Ideas and Family Activities That Are as Unique as Mom

Mother’s Day Party Game Ideas and Family Activities That Are as Unique as Mom

playing games with mom
Mamas are the best playmates | Image courtesy Unsplash user Thiago Cerqueira

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” —Stevie Wonder

On Sunday May 14th, we celebrate mothers, motherhood, and all motherly bonds. This year, as a way to pay tribute to Mom and all the holidays she’s planned, prepared, and beautifully hosted, we’ve rounded up some ideas on how to throw a Mother’s Day party complete with game ideas and fun activities.

From mom-inspired bingo to creating a new annual tradition of The Mom Awards and a sibling-selected one-of-a-kind bouquet, here are seven ways to say I love you this Mother’s Day. Here’s to you, mom, for all you do!

Mother’s Day Bingo Party Games to Call Out Mom’s Quirks

custom tea bingo
If mama loves her tea | Image courtesy Etsy seller BingoShop4U

Bingo is a go-to in the world of party games. On Mother’s Day, customize your bingo cards completely to cater to Mom. Put together a list of fun questions and use the answers as your bingo space-fillers.

Here are some ideas for questions to show off how well you know your mama:

  • What is mom’s pet peeve?
  • What is her go-to outfit for running errands?
  • What is the last movie that made her cry?
  • What book is mom reading right now?
  • What food does mom refuse to cook?
  • What is mom’s most used saying?

You can make your own customized bingo cards on the computer or find pre-made, downloadable cards online. Then, it’s time to get creative with your bingo markers.

My mom’s favorite candy is peanut M&M’s, so I’ll be putting out a big bowl of them to act as markers—and snacks. Pick anything small that reminds you of your mom—something she’ll be happy to keep, or eat, when the game is over.

Family Cook-Off Ideas to Get Mom Out of the Kitchen

homemade salad recipe
Don’t forget the salad | Image courtesy Unsplash user Brooke Lark

Sometimes, when siblings gather at mom’s house, she’s the one to cook up a meal for the group. Instead, my idea is a family cook-off to give Mom a break from the kitchen—and the rest of us to show off the culinary skills she’s inspired in us.

Have each member of the family whip up a dish for the event; fresh spring foods that bring outdoor picnics to mind are perfect for Mother’s Day luncheons or early Sunday dinners. If little ones want to get involved, help them throw together something simple like a Mediterranean salad made with spring mix, tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, and olives with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing.

When the meal is ready to be served, have Mom try to guess who made which dish. Which of her kids is the meatball maker? The cupcake queen? The master of all things green and veg? An interactive meal will make for a memorable Mother’s Day event. You could even vote for the best dish amongst yourselves and whoever wins can offer to do the dishes as a present for Mom!

Handmade Mother’s Day Card Ideas

I’ve always tried to follow the etiquette behind thank you notes, and enjoy making handmade cards for any occasion, but especially for Mother’s Day because mom is particularly wired to appreciate something made just for her. I especially love the idea behind making what I call “combined” cards, or cards that are from several family members.

best mom ever card
Let your card do the talking | Image courtesy Etsy seller SimplyCBoutique

For this interactive Mother’s Day card activity, work alongside your family to come up with a card theme for Mom, something like “In mom’s home we…” Write out the phrase at the top of the card and let the ideas flow from there. Maybe your first line is, “We say only kind words,” and your brother adds, “We watch the sunsets,” and your sister includes, “We eat dessert first.”

At the end, you’ll have a long card that goes back and forth between you and other family members and is entirely unique to traditions your mom has created for your family. You can come up with your own theme, or try one of the ideas below:

  • In mom’s home we…
  • My mom is…
  • What we love about you, mom…
  • If I could give you anything, it would be…
  • I love mom more than…

A Truly Unique Flower Bouquet for Mom

fancy flowers for mom
Fanciful flowers for mom | Image courtesy Etsy seller theflowerpatch

When I was younger, my siblings and I would spend hours outdoors in search of the perfect flowers for Mom’s bouquets, from wild daisies to snapdragons to sunflowers. Today, instead of bringing separate flowers to mom on Mother’s Day, we each choose a unique flower to bring and arrange them all into one large bouquet that differs from year to year. In addition to this being a fun and creative activity, the floral spreads are always unique—unlike any Mom has seen or received before.

Make sure to snap some photos so that each year you can look back on bouquets past. If you’d like, you can even give the bouquets a theme, like Gathered from the Garden or Lovely, Lively Yellows. DIY floral gifts for Mother’s Day are a wonderfully fresh way to give a sweet smelling thank you to the mom in your life.

Family Photo Ideas for Mother’s Day

photo props
Moms loves a good laugh | Image courtesy Etsy seller delphineblue

As a kid, you may have fought with your mom over having to partake in family photos. When I was younger, we’d put on Christmas sweaters in November and traipse begrudgingly through the grove in the still-warm San Diego sun. But today, I love going to my parent’s house and reminiscing over old Christmas shots; it reminds me that all the complaints received from my siblings and I were worth it for Mom.

This Mother’s Day, set up a spot in the house or yard to take family photos—no complaining allowed. This so easy it can even be done as a last minute DIY gift for mom, no elaborate plans required. You can make them silly with props found at the dollar store, like big glasses and tape on mustaches. Or, you can make them a bit more serious by having everyone bring a solid colored shirt or sweater, take the shot on a simple backdrop, and create the illusion of a styled studio shot. Whatever suits the personality of your family best is what Mom will love the most.

Mom Awards Are a Sweet Treat

mom award
And the award goes to… | Image courtesy Etsy seller Littlepictureco

I don’t need to know your mom to know she probably deserves an award or two. The Mom Awards are all about making your mom feel recognized for everything she does for your family.

Have each family member come up with their own award for mom, from The Best Smiler in the Face of Spills to Fastest Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich Maker Ever. Then, present Mom with the award at an evening ceremony sweetened up with dessert bites and sparkling grape juice in flutes.

Awards can be anything from seashells to trophies to certificates, and the desserts can also be a wink, wink at showing mom how much she’s loved. Here are a few ideas for what to serve that have a hidden message just for mom:

  • Cheesecake bites because she deserves a bit of indulgence
  • Strawberries and whipped cream because she’s naturally sweet
  • Heart-shaped cookies because you love her
  • Lemon bars because even when you do something sour, she still turns it around for good
  • Chocolate cupcakes because she needs chocolate—double chocolate, in fact

Recreate the Best Memories of Your Mom

reading with mom
Recreating memories | Image courtesy Unsplash user Annie Spratt

When I was a kid, my brother and I would climb into our bunk beds every evening and my mom would sit propped up at the side with a pillow to read us a bedtime story. First, it was picture books like The Maggie B., then, as we got older, it was Judy Blume’s chapter books like Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Whichever book she read, we always looked forward to that time of day—every day—and grew up with a love for reading and words because of it.

Put a twist on the classic bedtime stories Mom used to read to you this year and host Mom-Time Stories. Everyone can pick and read passages from her favorite books, quotes she lives by, or parts of books she used to read to you all as kids, like Dr. Seuss or Peter Pan. Even song lyrics work. Whatever you choose, the words will be special and speak to your own mother’s personal story of motherhood.

Whether you’re celebrating your mother, or someone who represents all that a mother is—compassion, care, strength, beauty, resilience—our hope is that these ideas will create an exciting event for you to come together with people you love this Mother’s Day and share laughs and memories. From bingo to a collaborative card, possibilities abound. The real focus is on being together, showing love, and, of course, celebrating all things Mom.

From all of us here at Elfster, Happy Mother’s Day! We know you’ll make it a beautiful one.

For more mom-spiration and gift ideas, explore our Mom Gift Guide or download our free Mother’s Day Card printable!. Or, connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Last Minute DIY Mother’s Day Gifts: Elegant Breakfast in Bed Ideas for Mom

Last Minute DIY Mother’s Day Gifts: Elegant Breakfast in Bed Ideas for Mom

breakfast in bed
Life’s little luxuries | Image courtesy Unsplash user Toa Heftiba

The smell of coffee, morning sun streaming in through the window, the tang of freshly squeezed orange juice—there’s nothing quite as special as a thoughtfully prepared breakfast in bed to fill a soul up with happy content.

The older I get, the more I can comprehend why moms enjoy—and very much deserve—a luxurious sleep-in every so often. They get to stretch out, ignore the alarm clock, and not have to think twice about cracking an egg, flipping a pancake, or pouring their own coffee. That’s why I’ve put together all the necessary ingredients for a delicious last minute DIY Mother’s Day gift surprise.

Here are my favorite breakfast in bed ideas for mom. From the vase that holds the flowers to the mug that holds the coffee to the tray that holds it all, make it handmade for to embrace minimalist giving while still offering gifts that feel extravagant—and straight from the heart.

DIY Dot Mugs That Are Dishwasher Safe

My mom still keeps a ceramic coffee cup on her kitchen counter that I made in elementary school. To this day, I watch her refill that coveted homemade mug up with pride. And when she’s not using it, it sits alongside one that my niece made her with photos of some of their favorite shared memories plastered to the side.

dot mugs dishwasher safe
Dot, dot, dot | Image courtesy Etsy seller LucySuiSF

The idea of a mug decorated with acrylic paint is a simple one, but it never goes out of style. When it comes to creating this gift at the last minute, I’ve found a gold dotted mug is the perfect balance between crafty and quick.

The Supply List:

  • An oven safe white mug
  • Gold acrylic paint (oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe)
  • Multi-sized circle sponges

Crafting Instructions:

  1. Make sure your mug is clean of any stickers, dirt, or fingerprints.
  2. Next, dip your sponge in your gold paint and stamp your polka dots.
  3. Bake the mug in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then let sit for 24 hours to set.
  4. Wash, then gift while mom lounges with breakfast in bed!

If your mom is a true coffee lover of Friends proportions, present the mug to her alongside her own pot of locally roasted French press coffee. A dollop of whipped cream on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon make this an extra sweet treat.

Twine-Wrapped Glass Vase Gift Ideas

Flower bouquets are a classic Mother’s Day gift, though they can sometimes feel impersonal. To give them your own twist, try these DIY twine-wrapped vases. They’re a super simple present for mom that will let your fresh cut flowers take on a refreshingly custom spin.

twine wrapped vases
Twine is divine | Image courtesy Etsy seller 4thAvenueWoodworking

You can leave the decor simple and rustic, or you can see what sort of things you find around the house, on Etsy, or at your local craft store. If your mom loves the beach, glue on some seashells that you pocketed on a recent trip. If she likes jewelry, pick out some artful beads to add a bit of color. Possibilities abound with this crafty homemade gift that even toddlers can help out with.

The Supply List:

  • A glass bottle, anything from a wine bottle to a leftover jam jar
  • Rustic twine or string
  • A hot glue gun
  • Decorations (optional)
  • Fresh cut spring flowers

Crafting Instructions:

Starting at the bottom of the vase, add a drop of glue and press the end of the twine into it. Add more glue, wrapping twine as you go around the vase from the bottom up. Wrap and glue, wrap and glue, wrap and glue—a little bit at a time. Once you get in the rhythm of this craft, you’ll realize how simple it is. Hot glue your decor over the twine, if you’d like, then arrange your flowers inside, maybe also adding some greenery for extra color. Whether you fill your vase with wildflowers you picked in your backyard or a bouquet of red roses you picked up at the store, they’re sure to shine wrapped in twine!

An Easy DIY Wooden Serving Tray

The sight of a beautiful wooden breakfast serving tray being carried into a bedroom doesn’t have to be reserved for Pinterest accounts and home magazines; there are tons of creative ways to put together your own handmade trays simply and in a short amount of time.

rustic serving tray
Simple, rustic elegance | Image courtesy Etsy seller TheStationHome

I love when folks use chalk paint to personalize their trays, or tiles to create interesting mosaics. But for a quick and easy reclaimed scrap wood gift, I’ve found this tray to be the easiest one to create. And, if you’re super short on time, you don’t even have to paint it at all—just add handles. It will be beautiful however you make it.

The Supply List:

  • A piece of reclaimed wood approx. 19 ½” long x 13 ¾” wide
  • Simple steel handles
  • Paint or wood finish
  • A drill

Crafting Instructions:

  1. Salvage a tray-sized piece of wood, or have one cut to size at a hardware store.
  2. Paint—or don’t!
  3. When the paint is dry, attach your handles. I’d suggest going with handles that have visible screws from the top so you can easy screw them down.
  4. You’ve just DIY’ed a breakfast tray fit for a Mother’s Day queen!

A Homemade Butter Croissants Recipe

The idea of making croissants tends to scare some of us away; they look so elaborate and detailed. But, in reality, beautiful, buttery homemade croissants require less than ten ingredients—many of which you probably have on hand in your kitchen already. Plus, once you get the technique down, the art of croissant making will become second nature to you. You just may find yourself in your kitchen weekend after weekend, windows open, the smells of a French bakery enveloping your every sense. Here’s how to whip up a buttery batch for your mom’s breakfast in bed.

homemade buttery croissants
Beautiful and buttery | Image courtesy Unsplash user Alisa Anton

The Ingredients List:

For the Butter Mixture

  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup flour

For the Dough

  • ¼ oz active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 cup warmed whole milk
  • ¼ cup cane sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 ½ cups flour

 

 

Baking Instructions:

  1. Beat your butter and flour until combined in a small bowl.
  2. On a piece of parchment paper, spread the mixture into a 6 x 12” rectangle. Cover this with an additional piece of parchment and pop into the fridge for about an hour and 15 minutes.
  3. In a big bowl, dissolve your yeast in warm water, then add the milk, sugar, egg, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour to form a dough.
  4. Move the dough onto a floured surface and knead with your hands for about 7 minutes or until it becomes smooth and elastic. Roll it into a 12-14” square.
  5. Take your butter mix from the fridge and remove the top layer of parchment paper. Place it top-side down over half of the dough, then remove the additional piece of parchment. Fold the remaining dough over the butter and seal the edges.
  6. Roll the dough into a rectangle of about 12 x 20” then fold the rectangle in half by bringing each side to meet in the middle. Repeat this rolling and folding action two more times. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  7. The next day, unwrap the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a 20 x 25” rectangle. Cut that rectangle into 5” squares, then cut each square diagonally in half to form two triangles.
  8. Finally, shape your croissants! Roll the triangles up beginning from the wide end then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you’d like them to have the traditional croissant crescent shape, curve the ends down. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  9. Bake for 12 minutes at 375 degrees.
  10. Serve them to your mother warm, alongside her steaming hot coffee!

Whether you’ve been planning an elaborate Mother’s Day for a month, or you end up throwing something together the day before, we have a sneaking suspicion here at Elfster that your mom (or any mom you may be celebrating) will love it just the same.

From croissants to gold-dotted mugs, the components of a special breakfast in bed are made whimsical and wonderful by what they represent from the gift-giver—love, appreciation, and the desire to say, Unwind. Relax. Enjoy the slow pace of your morning—you deserve it.” Gifts to encourage a calm and serene mind are always well-loved, especially by moms.

From all of us here at Elfster, a happy Mother’s Day to you and yours! May it be lovely and love-filled.

For more gift-giving inspiration for your mom, visit our Mother’s Day gift guide. Or join the Elfster world on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram. We can’t wait to meet you!

DIY Mother’s Day Flower Arrangements Picked Fresh to Surprise Mom with a Classic

DIY Mother’s Day Flower Arrangements Picked Fresh to Surprise Mom with a Classic

“A mother is one who fills your heart in the first place.” Amy Tan

DIY floral bouquet
A bouquet of beauty | Image courtesy Unsplash user Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Flowers are so naturally and intrinsically linked to Mother’s Day gifts. When I was a kid, I can recall using every last piece of pink and red colored tissue paper in the house to create a special faux flower bouquet for my mom, Nini. One year I tried to perfect the art of piping frosting in the shape of her favorite flower, plumerias, on top of a double chocolate cake. I also have memories of wrapping green tape around her most-used pen to secure a rose at the top and presenting it to her while she sat at her desk organizing her stationary.

Flowers, celebrating the bounty of the spring season, and my mom are all irrevocably linked in my memories. This saying often comes to mind, “I’d rather wear flowers around my hair than diamonds around my neck.” If it brings a vision of your mom to mind as well, these DIY Mother’s Day flower arrangements are freshly picked for her.

Happy Mother’s Day, to my mom and all the moms who appreciate the beauty of the natural world—and the ways in which it inspires their daughters.

An M-O-M Floral Alphabet

Once you’ve seen how fun creating these colorful floral letters can be, you may just find yourself doing it for everyone, from your mother to the mail lady. I like to simply spell out MOM with my letters, but you could also choose a nickname or short family saying. Then I wrap the letters individually to create more of a surprise element—what are the letters going to spell? Interspersed within my layers of eco-friendly wrapping paper or tissue, I’ll hide Hershey’s kisses, photographs, and even seashells I’ve picked up from various beaches while traveling. I think opening a gift should be part of the fun!

floral alphabet letter
F is for flower | Image courtesy Etsy seller HelloLittleBear

Many friends I know love using silk flowers on this craft so their floral alphabet stays lovely forever. I personally enjoy the look and smell of fresh mini roses, so often use those instead, even though they wilt in a day or two. Either way, your gift will be naturally beautiful—and your mother will love it.

The Supply List:

  • Silk (or fresh) flowers
  • Cardboard letters
  • Glue gun

Instructions:

  1. First, cut the flowers as close to the stem as you can.
  2. Next, arrange the flowers starting from one end of the letter and working up or down from there. Sometimes, an ombre hued color scheme can be fun. Or, start with the smallest buds at the top and the largest at the bottom.
  3. Try not to let the flowers droop too much over the edge. A little extra is fine, but keeping them in line with the letters will make your alphabet appear more uniform. I’m normally one for organic shapes, but in this case, neatness works in your favor.
  4. Once you have the flowers where you want them, glue them into place on the letter and watch your floral alphabet take shape.

A Photo Flower Pot Bouquet

flower pot bouquet
Terracotta whimsy | Image Unsplash seller Gemma Evans

Even a simple floral arrangement can make a bold statement. But, if you’re looking to change things up for Mom this year, opt for a flower pot bouquet that uniquely integrates photos of the two of you. It’s super simple and sure to please. I like to choose pictures that conjure up old memories and stir up conversations. The best part? This is a therapeutic craft that can be done while sitting outside and sipping iced tea in the sunshine.

The Supply List:

  • Mod Podge (I prefer matte finish over gloss)
  • A foam or sponge brush
  • Your favorite photos
  • A hot glue gun
  • A terracotta pot

Instructions:

  1. First, print out your image or images. Make sure the size fits on the pot you’re using. I find the simplicity of one photo in the center looks minimal but beautiful, though you can work with multiple photos if you’d like.
  2. Cut the photos and decoupage them onto your planter. Decoupage, if you’re new to this whole thing, is simply the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it.
  3. Once they’re decoupaged down, seal them in with 3 coats of Mod Podge, the wonder worker. Let each coat dry on its own before applying the next.
  4. And that’s it! It’s one of the simplest and best looking floral mother’s day gifts out there. Just add flowers!

DIY Dried Flower Candles

floral candle
DIY dried flower candles | Image courtesy Etsy seller CuteThingsOnEtsy

This sweet craft combines two of my mom’s favorites—flowers and candles! You will have to prepare this one ahead of time though, or buy dried flowers if this is a last minute gift for mom.

The Supply List:

  • Pressed flowers (directions below)
  • Pillar candles
  • Paraffin wax
  • A double boiler
  • A metal spoon
  • A paintbrush

Instructions:

  1. First, you’ll want to preserve your flowers. The easiest way to do this is by placing them between two pieces of wax paper, then between the pages of a heavy book. Add pressure by placing a large rock on top. Let sit for two weeks.
  2. Next, use a metal spoon and a double boiler to heat your paraffin wax over low heat, continuously stirring.
  3. Dip a paintbrush into the wax and form a coat over the part of the candle that you want to decorate. Press the flowers into this coat of wax, then apply a second coat. Let cool for 25 minutes.
  4. Using a dry cloth, softly buff the candle before gifting.

A Hanging Flower Chandelier

This flower chandelier is delicate, unique, and perfect for all of the truly special moms out there. You only need a few items to create whimsy and a spring flourish of color—and maybe a DIY spirit.

floral hanging chandelier
A sky full of flowers | Image courtesy Etsy seller BegoniaRoseCo

Put on a playlist of your mother’s favorite songs, hang this over the dining room table, and plan a spring-inspired dinner or picnic party for you and your family. It’s simple. It’s creative. It’s so very special.

The Supply List:

  • Long floral stems, like snapdragons
  • A 10-inch embroidery hoop
  • Washi tape
  • Clear thread
  • A metal ring
  • A needle

Instructions:

  1. Begin by wrapping your embroidery hoop with washi tape.
  2. Then, thread a needle through the stems of your snapdragons, pulling it all the way through.
  3. Next, bring both ends of the thread around the embroidery hoop, letting your snapdragons hang below it so that stem isn’t smashed up against the washi tape—about an inch or two. Tie the thread in a double knot and trim the remaining loose end of the thread.
  4. To make the chandelier easy to hang, tie three pieces of thread equal distances from one another. Then, bring them together at the top and tie them onto a metal ring.

Like the wonderful Maya Angelou once said, “I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”

Whether you’re using fresh flowers or felt ones, creating a timeless floral gift for your mom or someone who embodies everything the title of mom means to you, is bound to create special moments and memories this Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day from the entire Elfster family. May your day be filled with flowers and magic, friends.

For more floral gift-giving inspiration for mom, visit our Mother’s Day gift guide. Or join the Elfster world on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram. We can’t wait to meet you!

Whimsical English High Tea Party Ideas for a Non-Traditional Spring Birthday Celebration

Whimsical English High Tea Party Ideas for a Non-Traditional Spring Birthday Celebration

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” – Thich Nat Hahn

nontraditional birthday celebration
Whimsy and tea | Image courtesy Unsplash user delfi de la Rua

I love everything that tea parties stand for—the warmth, the conversation, the feel-good nature of them. I have similar feelings about birthday parties, so once I came up with the idea to combine the two, I was one happy gal.

I threw an all-ages high tea gathering for my sister’s 30th birthday last year so we could include my niece, who was still a toddler at the time. It was intimate and hosted outdoors, with whimsical twists on traditional food and decor. I added a few touches of magic to the surroundings by way of bright whites and flowers, put my own creative spin on the tea sandwiches, added a charcuterie spread, and even included an interactive dessert that allowed both parents and their little ones to express their artistic freedom through cupcakes.

The birthday celebration itself wasn’t exactly traditional, but I wanted to somehow still give the guests the feel of a classic English high tea party, so I sent them home with party favor bags of scones and preserves to have the next morning with a warm mug of Earl Grey. It was a quiet gathering filled with softly spoken conversations that left time for tea-drinking and all the goodness it brings—most importantly, enjoying the company and companionship of those you’re with.

Here are some ideas on how to recreate the gathering yourself. Here’s to throwing a tea party even Alice would be proud of!

Magic and Whimsy Wherever You Go

flower tea pot
Flowers + Tea Pots = Whimsy | Image courtesy Unsplash user Shruthi Gowda

It honestly doesn’t take much imbue a party with an air of magic and whimsy. This celebration can be hosted indoors or out. Here are three tips that will take any space from mundane to magnificent:

Tip #1: Shop around at vintage and antique shops in search of old tea pots. Or, gather them from family and friends so they hold memories and stories within them. Use these as your floral bouquet holders and when the party is over, send each guest home with one, or with their borrowed kettle now full of wildflowers.

Tip #2: White naturally adds whimsy to any space. Go for big bunches of white helium balloons around the table and in the background. Use white fabric for your tablecloth and napkins. Bring out your clean, white plates and cups to serve from. Keep it easy and minimal, adding only a few pastels here and there. Add clear twinkle lights if you’d like; even during the day, twinkle lights tend to add a special touch to your surroundings.

Tip #3: Fancy things up with rustic greenery and twigs. Sprigs of lavender always look beautiful, too, if you have them available to you.

Serving a Spread to Delight and Surprise

Fun and fancy is the golden rule for classic tea party food. But, I like to bring some twists to the traditional in two ways. First, I jazz up the tea sandwiches, avoiding the expected cucumber and cream cheese or chicken salad options. Then, I take bread and butter to the next level by adding a simple charcuterie spread to the table. Here’s my idea of a modern high tea snack:

charcuterie spread
A simply beautiful charcuterie spread | Image courtesy Unsplash user Jessica Ruscello

A Classic Charcuterie Spread

In addition to your bread and butter, add jams, nuts, hunks of cheese, sliced apples, an assortment of salami, and other in-season fruits. A spread like this will make your table look beautiful, but it will also give your guests variety with a side of surprise.

Fresh Caprese Tea Sandwiches

I like to make mine with fresh basil, a slice of mozzarella, a thick tomato slice, a drizzle of balsamic, and some black pepper and sea salt. Any kind of bread will do, but I prefer soft sliced bread cut into triangles to evoke traditional tea sandwiches.

Fanciful PB&J

I spread natural peanut butter and an assortment of homemade jams onto white bakery bread. Then, I use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes, like hearts and stars.

When you serve your spread, don’t forget the tea! And, most importantly, the dessert…

Build Your Own Cupcake Bar

A hands-on activity (especially one that involves a sugar high) is great if young guests are starting to get tired from the tea, the chatting, and the sitting.

DIY cupcake stands
A delightful DIY cupcake stand | Image courtesy Etsy seller myEroom

First things first, before I build the cupcakes, though, I like to build the cupcake stands. For this DIY birthday show stopper, I suggest going thrifting to find a few colorful China plates and tea cups. In addition, you can also reach out to friends and family to see if they have any they’re looking to get rid of so you can upcycle them.

To create the cake stand, all you have to do is glue the plate to the cup and there you have it—one single-tiered plate stand.

Then comes the tasty part! For the cupcake bar ingredients, I like to bake up vanilla cupcakes and set out an assortment of colored buttercream frostings. Pastel colors, in particular, seem to add that extra fanciful element to a tea party, along with the vintage china.

For the toppings, I focus on all things sprinkles! I like to mix and match white bowls brimming with pastel sprinkles, primary colored sprinkles, and shaped sprinkles, too. You can, of course, add more toppings to your cupcake bar. I just love the simplicity of a “sprinkle” of color on a plain white cupcake. But here are some other interesting ideas for unexpected toppings:

  • Diced fresh fruit
  • Chocolate chips
  • Coconut shreds

High-Minded Scone and Preserve Party Favors

Does anything seem more tea party-esque than scones and preserves? I don’t serve them at the gathering itself because I like to keep people excited about the tea sandwiches, the cupcakes, and the charcuterie spread. But, I do love to send my guests home with a party favor pack of homemade scones and mini jams.

blueberry scones
Handmade blueberry scones | Image courtesy Unsplash user Brook Lark

Here’s my go-to simple scone recipe. It’s an easy one I started making with my grandma when I was a kid, and it now seems to be ingrained in my memory! Feel free to add in your fruit of choice, like blueberries or blood oranges.

The Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, frozen
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

The Baking Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine your first four ingredients in a large bowl, then grate in your frozen butter. Use your fingers to work it in. It will look a bit coarse, but that’s okay.
  3. In a small bowl, mix your egg and milk, then stir it into the flour mixture.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, take your dough and knead it. Roll it out into a circle about 1/2 thick before cutting it into 8 triangle-shaped wedges.
  5. Place the scones on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and get ready to indulge in a sweet treat.
  6. Wrap your scones in a favor bag alongside your jam to gift away in minimal fashion (I’m all about embracing that minimalist gift-giving trend of 2017).
kid tea party
Tea for all ages | Image courtesy Flick’r user RebeccaVC1

As children, many of us got together, sat in circles, and drank pretend tea. As adults, it becomes more rare to focus on that element of simplicity and magic. That’s why I love to make my tea parties whimsical and fancy-filled by thinking outside of the box, putting my own spin on them, and inspiring guests to host their own tea-infused traditions as well. Because no matter what the gathering entails, the true tradition remains the same: to be together, sip on a cup of something warm, and chat the day away.

For more tea-spiration on gatherings and gift giving, explore our Tea Gift Guide, or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Spring Fresh Picnic Party Food Ideas and Inspirations for Your First Outdoor Gathering

Spring Fresh Picnic Party Food Ideas and Inspirations for Your First Outdoor Gathering

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

floral table display
A picnic party extravaganza | Image courtesy Unsplash user Sasha Zvereva

When spring comes, promising sunshine in the skies and the budding of fresh flowers in the garden, I am exuberant. There’s a magical aura surrounding the first season that comes after the chill of winter. Warm soups are replaced with salads. Fresh fruit and vibrant vegetables flourish at the farmers’ market. And folks gather together to eat outdoors and celebrate the invigoratingly magical spell of the equinox with spring parties of all sorts.

When the blossoms bloom and the garden becomes green and lush, I love to round up my friends and family to throw a picnic foodie party outdoors. I keep the menu simple, fresh and colorful—the perfect items for dining alfresco with a glass of something bubbly.

In my southern California surroundings, the scents of fresh lavender and plumeria flowers waft through the air, carrying the hums of laughter, and I’m reminded of the power of simply sharing a meal with the ones you love, a gift from the bounty of spring. Between Caprese boats, cucumber salad, grilled prosciutto e melone, avocado deviled eggs, and a refreshing dessert of lemon bars, your guests will be sure to picnic-dine underneath the sun with happy souls and happy taste buds. Read on, to get your springtime picnic party on.

Sail into Spring with Caprese Boats

I love making Caprese boats on idle weekday spring evenings—or for a weekend crowd! Between the colors of the tomato, the balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, and the basil that holds it all together, it’s a twist on a traditional Caprese salad, simple to create and sure to stir up a reaction—a picnic favorite in boat form.

My real secret to making this dish sublime is fresh black pepper, sea salt, quality olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. This classic combination is what gives it that ever-so-fresh feel of springtime. The recipe below serves 4.

Caprese boats
Sail into spring with Caprese boats | Image courtesy Bay

The Ingredients:

  • 8 large fresh basil leaves
  • 16 cherry tomatoes in red, orange, and yellow
  • 8 small mozzarella balls
  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

The Directions:

  1. Using 8 mini wooden skewers, pierce one end of each of the basil leaves, then a tomato, followed by a mozzarella ball, and another tomato to create your boat.
  2. Then, pierce the other end of the basil leaf through the skewer so that the tomatoes and mozzarella are being cradled by the leaf.
  3. Drizzle evenly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, seasoning with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Light but Hearty Cucumber Salad with Crumbled Feta and Pine Nuts

This cucumber salad is light but hearty, the perfect base for a spring meal eaten outdoors. It could quite literally be the only thing you serve at your picnic to fill your guests up! The first time I threw this salad together, I made a big batch and ate the leftovers for dinner the next three days alongside grilled chicken, toasted bread, and fresh salmon. It’s quickly become a staple in our household; we just keep making it over and over again. And don’t forget the fresh parsley! It’s the best part. This recipe serves 4.

cucumber salad
Refreshing your guests with cucumbers | Image courtesy Unsplash user Jonathan Pielmayer

The Ingredients:

  • 2 medium hothouse cucumbers, cubed
  • 3 whole green onions, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, or 1 1⁄2 cups home cooked
  • 1⁄2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup pine nuts
  • 3 Tbsps fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsps chopped fresh parsley
  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

The Directions:

  1. Gently mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, seasoning with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Divide the salad among four small bowls or mason jars.
  3. Garnish with extra olive oil and add more sea salt and black pepper to taste, if desired.

The Sweet (yet Smoky) Grilled Prosciutto e Melone

Prosciutto e melone is a common appetizer staple in most Italian households, especially popular in spring when melons become juicy and full of flavor. We like to put our own spin on the classic and throw the pieces on the grill once they’re assembled. There’s a smoky taste that comes across when the prosciutto meets the charcoal grill and combines with the sweetness of the melon. It’s divine.

Alternatively, you can leave out the prosciutto for a vegetarian option as the melon, basil, and other ingredients will still taste wonderful. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, slice a thick baguette and throw it on the grill alongside this appetizer. Your guests may never leave their spot underneath the tree out back. This recipe serves 4

grilled prosciutto and melon
Grilled prosciutto e melone | Image courtesy Bay

The Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 medium cantaloupe, sliced into 8 wedges
  • 1⁄2 medium honeydew melon, sliced into 8 wedges
  • 16 large basil leaves
  • 16 slices prosciutto
  • 2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Balsamic reduction

The Directions:

  1. Heat a grill to medium-high.
  2. Cut each melon wedge in half, then place one basil leaf on each piece of melon, wrapping with one piece of prosciutto. Skewers are not necessary, although you can stick them through the melon if you’d like.
  3. Drizzle each slice with olive oil (making sure to coat both sides), and top them with a sprinkle of black pepper.
  4. Throw them on the barbecue and sear until you see grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  5. Add more black pepper as well as a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

If you’ve never made balsamic reduction before, it’s super simple. Pour the balsamic into a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it thickens like a glaze and reduces by about half. Try not to bring it to a complete boil. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool. Set aside.

*If you don’t have a grill, serve the wrapped melons raw or cook them in a skillet on high heat and sear until golden.

A Protein-Packed Snack: Avocado Deviled Eggs

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up on a whimsical, 6-acre avocado farm in rural San Diego. Everything we ate had some sort of avocado accompaniment and these green-hued beauties constantly make their way into my picnic soirees. I like to keep spring picnic foods light, vegetable or fruit based, but the avocado combined with boiled eggs provide an often-needed bite of afternoon protein. I’m known amongst friends for always throwing a bit of handmade hot sauce on my deviled eggs, so to jazz these babies up, I give them a sprinkle of red chili flakes. This recipe makes 12.

avocado deviled eggs
Creamy avocado deviled eggs pack protein | Image courtesy Bay

The Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 large avocado
  • 2 Tbsps minced parsley, plus leaves to garnish
  • 1⁄2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp red pepper flakes

The Directions:

  1. Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cool water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Once the boil is reached, turn off the burner and let the eggs sit for about 7 minutes, with the lid on, before running them under cool water.
  3. Peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthwise.
  4. Discard 3 of the yolks and spoon the remaining yolks into a mixing bowl.
  5. Add the avocado, parsley, onion, garlic, then salt and pepper to taste. Mash with a fork until well combined and smooth the mixture with a spoon.
  6. Spoon the mixture back into the egg white halves and sprinkle the red pepper flakes evenly among them. Garnish each egg with a leaf or two of parsley before serving.

Forever Yellow Lemon Bars

There is nothing in this world as reminiscent of springtime as simple yellow lemon bars. Over the years, creating this dessert has turned into a sort of therapeutic kitchen dance for me: the blending of the butter, flour, and sugar; the whisking of the eggs and lemon juice; the smells as they permeate the kitchen in harmony with the blossoming trees outside.

I tend to make this treat in the warmer months to eat outdoors while catching up on conversation with a group of friends, the sun staying high in the sky later than we’re used to after the long winter season. Sweet, tart, and fruit-forward, these bars are the absolute perfect ending to a picnic. Take time to relish in their beautiful simplicity, spring after spring.

lemon trees
Lovely lemon trees welcome the sun | Image courtesy Unsplash user Ernest Porzi

The Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 2 lemons, juiced (about 4 Tbsps lemon juice)
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

The Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the butter, 2 cups of flour, and 1/2 cup of sugar.
  3. Using your hands, form into a dough ball and press into the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper. Bake the bars for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the rest of your sugar and flour.
  5. Then, whisk in your eggs and lemon juice.
  6. Pour this mixture over your baked crust and pop the bars in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool for an hour before sprinkling with powdered sugar and cutting into squares.

Whether you’re making these spring fresh dishes, a family favorite, or stretching your creativity with something altogether new, the essence of a simple springtime picnic will always remain the same: to be together, to laugh, to enjoy and appreciate the changing of the seasons.

My hope is that some of these party foods, near and dear to my heart, have given you inspiration for your own gathering. So pour those bubbles, sit back, unwind, and let the sun shine. May your heart and your soul laugh among the flowers—and tasty tidbits, too.

Elfster wishes you a bright, sunshine-filled springtime ahead. Explore our food and drink gift guide, or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram for more inspirations for this sensational season.

Eco-Friendly DIY Earth Day Gifts for a Clean and Green Kitchen This Spring

Eco-Friendly DIY Earth Day Gifts for a Clean and Green Kitchen This Spring

eco friendly jute mat
Jute makes for eco-friendly kitchen accessories | Image courtesy Etsy seller Yanetinne

For the last few years, my fiancé Nick and I have taken a creative approach to celebrating Earth Day. One year, while living in San Francisco, we crafted a kitchen composter out of a coffee canister. The next year we were hunkered down in Orange County so took a trip to Roger’s Gardens, followed by an afternoon spent planting sunflower seeds in our front yard. Then came our spring in Portland, and a rainy day walk through Forest Park. We even brought that woodsy vibe home with us by crafting rustic reclaimed wood tea holders.

Showing our support for the environment on April 22nd is important to us, but it’s also a way of living we like to carry with us every day of the year. We spend more time in our kitchen than in any other part of our home and, as a result, we end up cleaning it a lot! So, we like to make sure that when we put on our Motown records and get to cleaning, we’re doing so in an eco-friendly way. Not only are we protecting the environment, but we love knowing that we could eat straight off our countertops—not that we ever have.

We always share our bounty of DIY cleaners with friends and family as Earth Day gifts. Here are the three undeniable favorites: dishwasher tabs, “un”paper towels, and a simple citrus vinegar cleaner. They smell good and feel good, so when you make them for others, make sure to stock up your own cupboards as well. Here’s to your pristine (and newly green) kitchen!

Get a Sparkly Green Clean with DIY Dishwasher Tabs

The absolute cleanest kitchen I’ve ever seen was in Austin, Texas at a bed and breakfast; the innkeeper swore by baking soda and vinegar. Since then, those two items have become my wondrous miracle workers in the realm of cleaning. When you want it bright and sparkly, they do the job best.

I love the simplicity of throwing a tab into the dishwasher when it’s ready to run, and the gratification of pulling out those sparkling, clean dishes (a trait I seemed to have inherited from my queen-of-the-clean mother). So when I started experimenting with my own dishwasher tabs, I went straight to my go-to clean everything basics: baking soda and vinegar.

You cook, I'll clean
You won’t have to get out of cleaning with these green products | Image courtesy Etsy seller MadebymamaUS

For dish tabs, I like to combine them with Epsom salt (to reduce the effects of hard water), and the natural cleaner Borax. If you’d like, you can also add 10-15 drops of an essential oil, like lemon or grapefruit, to make your dishes smell beautiful too.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar

How to Do It:

  1. In a large metal bowl, mix all of your ingredients together.
  2. After a bit of fizzing, once the ingredients are combined, pack the mixture down into two ice cube trays and let them dry for 24-36 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to use the tabs, I suggest adding about half a cup or so of vinegar to the bottom of your dishwasher to ensure a clean, bright sparkle.

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk, Make “Un”Paper Towels Instead

Inspiration for the “un”paper towel came to me one evening after I used an entire roll of paper towels to sop up a carton of spilled milk. I’d recently read a statistic from the Paperless Project that if every household in the United States used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels a year, that would save a whopping 544,000 trees annually! I’ve always had a fondness for dishtowels and their sentimental value—a paisley print one given from my grandma, a heart-embroidered one from my mom—so why not create my own roll of reusable ones? And that is how “un”paper towels found their place in our kitchen.

"un"paper towels
Handmade “un”paper towels | Image courtesy Etsy seller AnneRiggsDesigns

These towels now fill my cooking space with seasonal prints and quirky patterns while decreasing our waste and environmental impact. I’m not a master seamstress, but you don’t need to be to sew these up. And, instead of buying new fabrics and towels, you can work to upcycle the old ones you already love, giving them new life in a loved one’s kitchen.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 12-inch squares of terrycloth
  • 4 12-inch squares of woven fabric
  • A package of sew-on snaps

How to Do It:

  1. First, line one piece of terrycloth up with one piece of woven fabric and sew up all the sides (about 1/2 inch from the edge).
  2. Once that’s finished, if you’d like for your “un”paper towels to roll up just like the paper ones do, the next step is to add your sew-on snaps. This part is up to you, but I find it easiest to first start with placement markers, 2 each, on both the left and right sides of the cloth. Attach the caps underneath and the sockets on top on the left side of the towel, but the sockets underneath and the caps on top on the right side of the towel.
  3. The towels are now ready to be rolled and live their new life in the kitchen!

Naturally Sweet Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

This sweet citrus vinegar smells so good that it actually relaxes me while I clean. I got this idea from the same Texas innkeeper who introduced me to vinegar and baking soda. Not only was his kitchen spotless, but it also smelled heavenly of citrus. I was convinced the scent wafting through the air in his home was a candle, or the blossoms of a tree outside the kitchen window, so was surprised to discover it was actually the citrus vinegar cleaner he made himself and sprayed the counters down with to get rid of the breakfast remnants of jam and butter. It’s now become my favorite cleaner to gift and to use—and it’s so simple!

DIY citrus cleaner
Sweet citrus cleans and brightens | Image courtesy Etsy seller CleaningThyme

What You’ll Need:

  • A mason jar
  • Orange peels (to fill half the jar)
  • White vinegar (to cover the peels)

How to Do It:

  1. First, I’d suggest making a nice batch of fresh squeezed orange juice (and maybe throw in a big breakfast of scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes as an added bonus).
  2. Save your peels and place them in your mason jar until it is half full.
  3. Next, fill the mason jar with white vinegar, enough to cover the peels.
  4. Let the jar sit in a dimly lit spot for two weeks before straining the citrus over a mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  5. Pour the liquid into a spray bottle, add a simple label if you’d like, and gift (or spray) away!

Celebrating our bountiful, beautiful Earth by creating hands-on traditions is both invigorating and uplifting. Over the years, I’ve found simple DIY projects that enable the joy of giving (and encourage others to do the same) to be incredibly fulfilling. The kitchen is the center of many households, so sharing eco-friendly kitchen cleaning tools is a wonderful way to spread the love of all things clean, and all things green.

Happy Earth Day from Elfster!

For more ideas on how to celebrate holidays creatively, visit Elfster on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram. Or, search our Gift Guide for other Earth Day inspirations.

The Gifting Garden: Offering Spring’s Bounty as Homemade Gifts and DIY Edible Crafts

The Gifting Garden: Offering Spring’s Bounty as Homemade Gifts and DIY Edible Crafts

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

fresh seasonal fruit
Spring’s bounty | Image courtesy flick’r user Egan Snow

In the four years that my fiancé Nick and I have been together, we’ve lived inside the flow of many changing seasons. When we first met, it was a cold winter in San Francisco and days were filled with warm cioppino stew and big pots of tortilla soup. Autumns are always spent finding any excuse we could to eat (and carve) pumpkins, butternut squash, and pomegranates. Summers came, promising homemade fruit sorbets and garden fresh heirloom tomatoes—but, first, there was spring.

Beautiful, often unexpected, but much looked for spring.

For us, the season is a time of rebirth, renewal, and transformation. It promises bountiful amounts of fruit and produce, whether from our garden or at the local farmer’s market down the street. The flowers bloom, the sun shines, and our feelings of creativity flourish.

And that is how the idea for an annual Gifting Garden celebration was born.

 

The Essence of the Gifting Garden

spring lilacs
Spring lilacs | Image courtesy Etsy seller WowBloomRoom

We’re big fans of homemade gifts during the holidays, notorious for our gingerbread loaves topped with maple cream cheese frosting. With this in mind, we started a springtime gift giving party tradition so we can intertwine our famous edible gifts with a spring twist, pulling from the season’s natural bounty and focusing on what each ingredient in the gift symbolizes. Lavender, for instance, eases the nerves, while grapefruit offers optimism for the future. We open our home to our friends and family, all toting their own homemade offerings.

We ask our guests to bring a spring wish for themselves written on a slip of paper along with their gift. The party then becomes a true exchange as we work together to choose whom each gift should go home with. Perhaps one friend had just lost a family member and needed comfort, another stability from an uncertain job. The gift each guest receives is meant to pave the way for a plentiful and inspiring spring to come.

 

DIY Lovely Lavender Invitations

lavender party invites
DIY Lavender Invitations | Image courtesy Etsy seller WeddinglamOfficial

Keeping with the natural, tangible spring feel of the party, we like to make our own invitations using lavender from our garden. It offers a tantalizing smell, and can also withstand a trip through the mail. Keep things simple with a fresh sprig or two, a cream colored piece of cardstock or recycled material, and some raffia or twine.

Include a handwritten message for each friend, and simple print out with the invitation offering ideas for homemade gifts like rosewater, marmalade, or basil-infused olive oil (instructions below). Often, folks are intimidated by the idea of crafting their own gifts, so reassure them that homemade gift-giving can be simple and invigorating. Pinterest offers another easy way to get inspired, or encourage friends to get in touch with their roots, opening old craft and DIY gift books from their mothers or grandmothers.

 

Naturally Good Homemade Gifts

The idea of being hands on, quite literally getting in touch with the season, whether through the soil in your garden or the scents and feelings at the market, is one we like to share with our friends through DIY treats and gifts. Here are some of our favorite ideas:

Basil-Infused Olive Oil

Herb-infused olive oils are absurdly easy to make, yet also versatile with room to experiment. They’re delicious mixed into a bowl of pasta, drizzled on top of spinach with sea salt and black pepper, or served alongside hunks of cheese and a loaf of bread. Here’s my favorite infusion recipe:

basil infused olive oil
Homemade Basil-Infused Olive Oil | Image Courtesy Etsy Seller thegreekpantry
  1. Blanch 1 cup basil (briefly boil, then plunge into ice water).
  2. Blend the basil in a food processor with a 1/2 cup of oil and a pinch of sea salt.
  3. Pour the olive oil and basil mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Canning jars work well, but, for the classic look, opt for a glass bottle with a rubber or cork stopper.

Basil, like all other herbs, is symbolic of Mother Earth. Although its meaning has changed throughout time, it’s now commonly seen as representing love and protection—two things that, without a doubt, we all hope for in our lives.

 

Grapefruit Marmalade

According to Chinese symbolism, the grapefruit offers abundance. A simple and quick grapefruit marmalade, or marmalade of any sort depending upon which fruits and herbs are available in your region, is a wonderful addition to a Gifting Garden party. It’s divine when spread on crackers with a bit of goat cheese or used as a glaze for shrimp and chicken. This recipe makes about 4 cups:

  1. Place two grapefruits in a large pot with enough water to give them a bit of room to float.
  2. Boil for 2 hours, adding water once or twice if needed.
  3. Drain the grapefruit and let them cool.
  4. Finely slice the grapefruit. This may take a while, so just enjoy the process!
  5. Throw the grapefruit back into the pot with 5 cups of sugar and the juice of two lemons.
  6. Bring it to a boil and allow the mixture to bubble for about 15 minutes, or until you reach the correct consistency
  7. Blend the jam if you’d like it to be smooth, or pour into a jar as is.
grapefruit marmalade
Lemon Thyme Grapefruit Marmalade | Image Courtesy Etsy Seller cupboardcook

Chances are, many of your friends and family have stories about homemade jams or marmalades. My grandmother, for instance, used to make marmalade from the kumquat tree in her Southern California backyard every year. That makes this gift particularly nostalgic and fun to share.

Homemade Rose Water

Homemade rose water is one of my favorite ways to celebrate spring. It’s refreshing, smells sublime, and always seems to lift my spirits. I give my face a spray before bed at night and in the morning after I put on makeup.

The rose itself is a symbol of balance—perfect for spring—and using a recipe with actual rose petals in the mix enhances this feeling. Here is my favorite recipe to brew up a bottle of rose water:

  1. Pluck the petals from a dozen fresh roses, layering them in a large pot and covering with distilled water. Bring to simmer.
  2. Cover the pot with a lid, allowing to simmer for 15 minutes or until the roses begin to lose their color.
  3. Drain the liquid into a spray bottle.
  4. Pamper someone you love.

A Spring Bouquet

For a unique twist on a natural wildflower bouquet, ask your guests to each bring a few flowers or bits of greenery from their own yards. Combine the efforts of your friends into reused glass bottles, or wrap in a piece of parchment paper, so everyone can go home with their own floral party favors.

A Gifting Garden spring celebration has become a sweet, simple, and ever-evolving tradition in our home. It brings friends together to celebrate the season and each other, offers our loved ones hope and well wishes, and helps us to remember the essence of sharing. The true gift, after all, is being able to sit together under our favorite trees outside, sipping, eating, and learning from each other. Happy spring! May yours be filled with the magic of the natural world all around us.

Elfster loves spring, and knows you do too. Keep your gifting fresh with our food and drink gift guides. Share your own DIY inspirations on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

A Sorbet Soirée: National Nutrition Month Party Ideas for Creative Ways to Serve Fruit

A Sorbet Soirée: National Nutrition Month Party Ideas for Creative Ways to Serve Fruit

red, ripe strawberries
Red, ripe strawberries | Image courtesy Unsplash user Artur Rutkowski

Growing up on an avocado farm in rural San Diego, fresh fruit was almost always in season. Our property was filled with pomegranates, blood oranges, apples, bananas, lemons, limes, cherimoyas, and, of course, our beloved, creamy avocados.

Early on, my parents instilled in my siblings and me a passion for fresh fruit that still runs deep. When we get together as a family, all of us “kids” often end up in the orchard, eating oranges straight from the trees, letting their sticky juices run down our hands, or experimenting with the slightly tangy taste of mini latundan bananas (“apple” bananas) in our birthday cakes. The sweet smell of vibrant tropical plants envelops us every time we return to our childhood home.

In March, we celebrate the start of springtime and National Nutrition Month. It’s the perfect opportunity to draw in friends and family to your own backyard and start a nutritious tradition. Giving kids a love, a zest, for fruit early on paves the way for healthy eating well into adulthood. A backyard sorbet soirée is a deliciously sweet way to welcome in the fruit-filled season—and show little ones that nutrition can be both silly and good for you.

DIY Fresh Fruit Costumes

I welcomed some unusual guests to my last backyard get together—a six-foot tall strawberry, a slice of walking watermelon, and a banana who could talk. For the party, encourage your guests to come dressed as one of their favorite fruits! You can even have a contest for the most clever or outrageous costume, allowing the winning piece of fruit to take home a basket of fresh finds from the local farmer’s market.

Fruit-inspired costumes are actually quite easy to get creative with. Here are a few of my favorite DIY ideas:

Giddy Grapes

baby grape costume
For a bundle, or bunch, of love | Image courtesy Etsy seller gentleness

I first stumbled upon this costume idea one Halloween a few years back when I thought I had absolutely nothing to wear for a last minute invitation. My quick-thinking best friend ran to a party store and, in less than half an hour, I was transformed into a bunch of grapes.

Materials List:

  • Purple leggings
  • A purple top
  • A green headband
  • Several bags of purple balloons
  • Safety pins

Instructions:

  1. Blow up your balloons, leaving about an inch after the tie so they can be easily attached to your clothes.
  2. Put on your purple apparel, making sure they aren’t pieces that can easily snag.
  3. Carefully pin the balloons onto the top half of your body, adding a few near your hips to achieve the grape shape.
  4. To complete your ensemble, you’ll need a green stem. I used a thick green headband, but you can also wear a scarf or piece of fabric.

Pineapple People

pineapple baby costume
Sweet Baby Pineapples | Image Etsy seller TheWishingElephant

The vibrant colors and unique shape of a pineapple make it one of the most eccentric in the tropical world—and, with its sweet, juicy flavor, it tends to be a favorite amongst even the pickiest of kids. What I love most about the pineapple, especially for parties, is that it symbolizes the feelings of home: warmth, welcome, and hospitality.

A pineapple costume is a simple DIY project for all ages to help craft. You’ll want to dress head to toe in yellow clothing, then create this easy pineapple topper using a toilet paper tube, green card stock, and a headband.

Cut your cardstock into leaf shapes of various lengths. I made 6, 8, 10, and 12-inch pieces, four to five leaves of each length. Then, starting with the longest pieces, hot glue them to the top of the toilet paper tube. Continue gluing the leaves down the tube, from longest to shortest. When you’re finished, flip the tube upside down. Attach it to a headband with glue to secure it in place. And, just like that, you’ve become the pine-apple of your guests’ eye.

Fruit Stamped Invitation Inspiration

lemon stamping
Lemons stamping for DIY invites | Image courtesy Unsplash user Brooke Lark

When I first discovered “fruit stamping,” my homemade cards I love to send to friends near and far blossomed into new levels of craftiness. I started stamping with apples, oranges, limes, and, my personal favorite, lemons. To create these simple but ingenious invitations, you’ll need just three things: half of a lemon, a bit of yellow paint, and a plain white card.

First, cut your lemon in half and dry it with a paper towel to get rid of excess moisture. Next, dip the lemon into your paint and press it onto the blank card as if it’s a sponge. Make sure not to use too much paint when you dip, or the fine details of the lemon won’t show up as well. Just think of it like a stamp. Less ink is often better for detailed results. Be sure to get your kiddos involved in this; it’s a bit sticky, so they’ll love this project!

Strawberry-Guava-Grapefruit Fields Forever Playlist

tutti frutti
Tutti Frutti by Little Richard | Image courtesy Amazon

My childhood memories of food are so closely intertwined with music. Strawberry Fields Forever would play as we made strawberry jam. I Heard It Through the Grapevine would echo as we’d indulge in an afternoon snack of grapes and sliced cheese. Blueberry Hill would sound through the open kitchen on Saturday mornings when we’d measure out fresh blueberries to add to our homemade pancakes or waffles.

To this day, I have specific playlists for stirring a pot of pasta sauce, making pizza dough, or mixing guacamole. But the playlist below is the one that comes through my speakers when I’m in the mood for all things sweet and fruity. Hit play to create the ultimate fruity vibe and get all your guests grooving to their love of fruit in your backyard:

A Tutti Frutti Party Playlist

  • Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles
  • I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
  • Banana Boat by Harry Belafonte
  • Coconut by Harry Nilsson
  • Apples and Bananas by Raffi
  • Grapefruit – Juicy Fruit by Jimmy Buffet
  • Guava Jelly by Bob Marley
  • Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock
  • Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino
  • Tangerine by Frank Sinatra
  • Little Green Apples by O.C. Smith

Homemade Honied Sorbet

Easy-to-make, fruit-based sorbets will get your kids’ creative juices flowing in the healthiest of dessert ways. Fruit sorbets can be simply made with sugar, water, and your fruit of choice, but I like to make mine with honey to let the natural sweetness of the fruit shine through.

raw honey
Honey is simply sweet | Image courtesy Etsy seller thegreekpantry

For parties, I find fruity sorbets to be especially fun when given a little extra visual a-”peel” by scooping the sorbets into fruit shells before serving. Watermelon, orange, lime, and lemon sorbets all look beautiful and refreshing when served in hollowed out shells.

Lemon sorbet is my favorite party treat to whip up because the ingredients are inexpensive so you can create a big batch. The first time I made lemon sorbet with honey, I was hooked. A little bit tangy, a little bit sweet, and a lovely pale yellow in color, it’s a sorbet sure to make your springtime guests swoon.

The Ingredients:

(makes about 6-8 small servings)

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1⁄2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 12 small lemons, with 4 lemon halves reserved to use as cups)

The Directions:

  1. Combine the honey, water, and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Pour the lemon mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, just pour it into a freezer-safe container like a shallow metal cake pan. If you use a pan, you’ll need to stir and smash the sorbet with a fork every 30 minutes until it’s firm.
  3. To get your lemon cups, cut a small circular slice off the bottoms of the reserved lemon halves so they’ll stand up, then use a small spoon to hollow out the insides.
  4. When you’re ready to serve the sorbet, fill up the lemon cups with the sweet treat.

Once you start experimenting with homemade sorbets, you’ll find you can use any fruit you’d like, and even jazz them up with fresh herbs like mint or thyme.

A DIY Paper Fruit Garland (and Party Favor)

strawberry strand
A DIY string of strawberries | Image courtesy Etsy seller The Shabby Scrapper

With sweetness still lingering on your guest’s tongues after digging into their sorbet, it’s time to sit and unwind with a fruit-inspired craft. At a long table covered with parchment paper, set out card stock in every color you can find, scissors, pencils, glue sticks, mini clothespins, and baker’s twine. Also set out an assortment of sliced fruit for your guests to draw inspiration from—strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, oranges, limes, and lemons.

Have your guests trace what they see, cut out the shapes, glue on a bit of greenery or seeds for detail, then attach the fruit cut-outs to the baker’s twine with the mini clothespins to create a paper fruit garland that can be taken home as a party favor. String them up in your kitchen or in your kids’ rooms to add pops of color—and remind them that fruit is fun! An appreciation for nutritious fruit is something that can be cultivated in childhood and last into adulthood.

Happy National Nutrition Month from Elfster! May it be full of goodness that fills the belly and the soul.

For more pieces of springtime inspiration and feel-good food-related festivities, join Elfster on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram.

A Wondrously Wordy “Good Morning, Dr. Seuss” Read Across America Gift Exchange

A Wondrously Wordy “Good Morning, Dr. Seuss” Read Across America Gift Exchange

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!” – Dr. Seuss

move mountains sign
Kid, You’ll Move Mountains quote | Image courtesy Etsy seller Inspire4you

As a toddler, my mom would drop me at my grandma’s house early in the day before she went to work. I’d spend those mornings with my nose buried in Green Eggs and Ham, Fox in Socks, and The Cat in the Hat, sipping hot chocolate while cozied up on the couch. I would sit, enthralled, still in my pajamas, while the San Diego sun streamed in through the open windows.

This was how my boundless appreciation for the wise words of Dr. Seuss began to take root as he set my imagination free to run rampant, encouraging and nurturing thoughts of kindness, openness, and creativity.

As I got older, I was gifted Oh the Places You’ll Go for my high school graduation, bringing it along as I ventured to San Francisco for college, daring to dream and take chances with my writing and career. Today, magical whimsy still accompanies the words of Dr. Seuss as I read them aloud to my niece and nephew, his cartoon drawings and the loops of his letters leaping off the page and into the big openness of their eyes and hearts. There’s a wonder, an inspiration, a timeless feeling about Seuss that has the ability to affect and inspire us all.

So, what better way to celebrate the brilliant brains of Seuss than in that same poignant way I did as a child—in my pajamas, sipping hot chocolate at a cozy morning reading get together for adults and kids alike.

An Imaginative Hot Chocolate Bar

It’s a strong belief instilled from my childhood that Dr. Seuss should always be accompanied by hot chocolate; the comfort of a good book and a warm mug will forever, quite literally, go hand in hand. Creating a wacky and wonderful blue and red-themed hot chocolate bar, inspired by Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat, is a very Seussian way to kick off our party!

seussian straws
Straws even Seuss would love | Image courtesy Target

What You’ll Need:

  • Whole milk
  • Cocoa powder
  • Milk chocolate chips
  • White chocolate chips
  • Marshmallows
  • Whipped cream
  • Crushed peppermints
  • Blue and red sprinkles
  • Blue and red straws
  • A slow cooker
  • Clear mason jars
  • An assortment of mugs (the wackier, the better)

How to Set It Up:

  1. The day before the party, prep your table. To use The Cat in the Hat as your theme, include lots of blues and reds. Use a red tablecloth, then layer with a blue runner. Fill mason jars with blue and red striped or polka dotted straws. Then, set out your mugs, seeing if you can safely stack them in some wacky way to evoke the hazardous way Thing 1 and Thing 2 would carry household items about.
  2. The morning of the party, make your hot chocolate in a slow cooker. For a party of 8, mix 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of sugar and 7 cups of whole milk. Combine in the slow cooker and stir, keeping on low for 2 hours until you’re ready to serve.
  3. While you wait for the hot chocolate, put out your marshmallows, milk chocolate and white chocolate chips, whipped cream, crushed peppermints (or candy canes), and sprinkles. For an added Seuss-like touch, use red and white baker’s twine to attach labels onto clear mason jars.

In the Words of Dr. Seuss

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!” The words of Dr. Seuss bring forth lessons on love, learning, and life with wit and wisdom for both kids and adults. Sharing my personal favorite quotes with guests makes me feel like I’m doing my part to encourage a love of reading and the written word. Plus, there seems to be something therapeutic about writing the words of Seuss out as an adult, important little reminders of the past that I can apply to my present.

seuss quote
Oh the Places You’ll Go | Image courtesy Etsy seller palaceandjames

Adorning your space with DIY Dr. Seuss quote decor is also a simple, but clever way to carry your party theme into your home. I like the modern look of plain white cardstock with blocky black ink letters, which is difficult to achieve with my left-handed chicken scratch. So I always turn to simple alphabet stencils for a little guidance.

I like to hang the quotes around the reading nook (which I’ll tell you about below) and above the hot chocolate bar. I even hang some in the bathroom for fun; the Seuss quote, “Only brush the teeth you want to keep,” comes to mind. As Seuss alludes to, the day of the party is your day, indeed, and the mountain that is waiting is the decor. So, it’s time to get on your way!

Bring out your old Seuss books and get searching for favorite quotes. Be sure to enlist your little ones for help. Here are a few of my go-tos:

  • “I’m telling you this ‘cause you’re one of my friends. My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!”
  • “You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”
  • “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”
  • “It’s opener there in the wide open air.”
  • “So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
  • “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Then, when your party has run it’s wild and wacky course, surprise your guests by letting them pick a quote or two to take home as a party favor!

A Seuss-pirational Book Exchange

Dr. Seuss Collection
A Seussian book collection | Image courtesy Amazon

Using an online gift exchange website to organize it, ask your guests to bring their favorite Dr. Seuss book for a wordy gift exchange. The idea is a simple one: give a book, take a book, and most importantly—read a book! Theodor Seuss Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss, published over 60 stories in his career, so encourage your guests to dig a little deeper than the most well-known classics to add something new to the collections of fellow guests.

Here are a few of my Dr. Seuss favorites:

  • Scrambled Eggs Super!
  • Oh the Thinks You Can Think
  • There’s a Wocket in My Pocket
  • Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose
  • Oh Beyond Zebra
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

A Reading Nook to Cozy up In

With a house full of books, you’ll need a cozy nook for your guests to relax in while they explore the wondrous world of Dr. Seuss.

a wondrous reading nook
A whimsical reading nook canopy | Image courtesy Amazon

First, pick a corner to transform into a dreamy word wonderland. You can use a twin sized mattress covered in a fun fitted sheet, an assortment of over-sized pillows, and even a kids’ tent or two. Drape a canopy from the top of the ceiling to create a whimsical effect or string up a curtain between walls. Hang a twinkly string of bulbs as your reading light and spell out READ with wooden letters painted in Seussian colors, which you can find at any craft store. Then just add the Seuss classics and let the imaginations of your guests take flight.

While you decorate, if you feel like your imagination gets stuck, just pull out a Seuss book to get your creative juices flowing. As Seuss himself says, “Oh, the thinks you can think up if you only try!”

For kids, the words of Dr. Seuss create memories. For adults, they bring back visions of childhood, and the importance of what it means to approach life with a little bit of humor, a little bit of wit, and a whole lot of wonder.

Throwing a Good Morning, Dr. Seuss party, complete with hot cocoa bar and reading nook, DIY quote decor, and a book exchange, will add some whimsy to your world and the world of your guests. It brings back the idea that there is, perhaps, no greater and timeless gift than the gift of a book. For in that book, new worlds can be explored, doors opened, and unexpected thoughts can be thought! Just remember,“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

Happy reading!

Elfster encourages you to think imaginative, wandering, and wonderful Seuss-like thoughts when giving gifts. Explore our Seuss-inspired gift guide, download our Seussian bookmarks or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram for more tidbits of inspiration.