Browsing Category:


How to Make Hosting Stress-Free & Easy During Holidays

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

How to Make Hosting Stress Free This Holiday Season

As with most, the holidays often include hosting at least one event, whether it is at your house or helping others prepare a glorious meal or fun little event to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and everything in between.

Unfortunately, for those of us with chronic illnesses, hosting can be a daunting cloud, filled with worry as to how everything will actually get done.

Before I was diagnosed with chronic illnesses, I loooooooved hosting get togethers and entertaining friends and family. Whether it was a holiday, shower or just a fun little party, I loved every aspect: The planning, the mood boards, the shopping, the prepping, the celebrating – everything!

However, now that my energy levels have decreased and I have to choose wisely on how I expend energy, I’ve come up with lots of shortcuts to make hosting stress-free and easy during the holidays.

Make lists

I’m the over-preparer in my family and lists are an absolute lifesaver for me when I’m hosting any sort of get-together. For example, for Thanksgiving, I have several lists:

  • Menu
    • By appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts and who is bringing
  • Shopping lists
    • Broken down by perishables, freezer items and non-perishables
    • Broken down by store, if applicable
    • This makes it easy to break shopping into several trips over the course of a month!
  • Preparation timelines
    • I make my timeline over the course of the week or two (see the next section on preparing in advance!)
    • Timelines include food prep and cooking, plus things that will need to be done around the house, like cleaning, organizing, pulling items from storage and so on

Prepare in advance

Just as I mentioned in my baby shower post: prepare, prepare, prepare! When you have limited energy, this is key. The week before, I start pulling out utensils, platters, crockpots and store them in a corner of my dining room. Wash table linens early and store in a clean area.

Take advantage of shortcuts

Over the years — and thanks to technology, too! — I’ve found a number of shortcuts that have saved my life:

You don’t have to make each dish from scratch. This is by far the easiest time saver. Pick up a frozen pie or two, add a can of whipped cream and I guarantee your guests will be just as happy as if it was homemade! Frozen vegetables can easily be put on the stove with your choice of seasonings. And of course, frozen rolls, biscuits or bread can be ready in the oven in a matter of minutes.

Try online grocery shopping or delivery. Our local (and my favorite) grocery store in northeast Oklahoma, Reasor’s, offers online shopping and pickup at the curb.

When I have an especially large load of groceries, heavy items or I’m short on time and energy, I take full advantage of placing my grocery order online or through their app. I pull up to a designated parking spot, call the store and they bring my groceries out and load them into the car. This is such an energy (and pain) saver, especially when my arthritis flares up.

Most services have a small fee per order (Reasor’s is $5 for orders under $100) or charge a monthly or annual fee. I just got started with Shipt, a grocery delivery service, and can’t wait to report back on the experience! And a bonus: you can get $10 off your first order with Shipt when you click this link.

Start cooking early

You would be surprised at how many things you can cook or prepare in advance and/or freeze! This is such a lifesaver, because who wants to be mashing potatoes and slaving over a stove over relaxing and enjoying time with guests?

For our family, we make the cranberry sauce and applesauce as far as two weeks in advance and both freeze beautifully. Pull them out 48 hours before guests arrive and it tastes like it was made that morning.

Many folks like the presentation of a beautifully cooked bird and carve right at the table. I like to make it a bit easier and cook and carve the turkey the day before. About 30-45 minutes before serving, pull the oven-safe platter with your turkey out, pour a little stock on top and reheat until warm. Place on a beautiful platter and you’re ready!

I also like to prepare any sides in advance, a day or two before, then place all of the ingredients in plastic bags. For example, the bacon is cooked a day or two early, placed in a large bag with green beans. I then place any seasonings in a smaller plastic bag and ta-da, everything is ready to be dumped into a Crockpot or slow cooker to cook the day of.

Slow cookers are a miracle!

Speaking of green beans in a slow cooker, this is a major thing for me for any gathering, holiday or not. From appetizers to reheating main dishes, slow cookers can save you time, hassle and space in the oven.

Slow cookers may technically take longer, but it cuts prep time and worrying in half when you don’t have to check on items in the oven or worry something might boil over on the stove.

All in all, thanks to my shortcuts I’ve mastered over the years, holiday dinner prep comes to about one hour per day the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas and with the help of guests, less than an hour of prep and active work the day of!

Tell me in the comments: How do you make hosting or preparing for the holidays easier?

A Rustic Farm Baby Shower

Please note: I received products or promotional items mentioned in this post for free as part of the HP Millennial Influencer Panel. Links in this post may be affiliate. All opinions are my own.

A Rustic Farm Baby Shower

A Rustic Farm Baby Shower, complete with bundt cakes, rustic decor, farm animals, baby shower games and popcorn bar.

Over the weekend, we hosted a co-ed baby shower (more appropriately, a sprinkle!) for my sister and their new arrival. Rustic farm and barnyard is the theme of his nursery, so I wanted to pull together a simple party that surrounded that theme.

We focused on farm-fresh vegetables, cheeses and meats for light snacks, “pigs in a blanket” as a cute nod to the theme, and more bundt cakes than you could shake a stick at! We also incorporated flavored popcorns from a local vendor in Tulsa, which was also a feature at their wedding three years ago. Everything comes full circle!

Typically, the guest lists for baby sprinkles are small, so we kept games to a minimum with baby Pictionary and little activities like writing a wish for the baby and guessing his due date.

I created all of the printed items from the baby shower like the food and drink cards, welcome sign and more with InDesign and printed with the HP AMP 100. It was my first test drive using this HP printer as part of the HP Millennial Influencer Panel for the next year.

And the AMP isn’t your everyday printer. Not only is the quality of printing perfect for at-home printing for things like parties, showers and other get-togethers, the printer has bluetooth capability and a speaker. Yes, a speaker!

I’ll be honest: I was a bit skeptical of a bluetooth speaker in a printer. I didn’t think I would ever find it useful; however, when testing the speaker out by launching Spotify on my iPhone and connecting effortlessly to the printer, I was blown away by the quality of sound. Even my husband walked into the office and asked, “Is that coming from the printer?!” 

It has much better sound than my MacBook Air, which is what I usually listen to music on while I’m working. The tones are great and unlike other Bluetooth speakers that are smaller and/or cheaper, it has a nice, full sound. I wouldn’t mind using the HP printer‘s speakers during a party!

Tips for hosting parties when your energy level is low

As a reader of this blog, you probably know I have autoimmune diseases, arthritis and I’m pregnant! So to say I had boundless energy was far from the truth.

Prep in advance. I began designing the printed materials weeks in advance. By the week of the party, they were ready to print and be cut! The day before the shower, we began setting up the tablescapes and decor and arranging the flowers so we weren’t rushing around the day of the event.

Enlist help. It’s okay to ask for help! Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you can’t have an army behind you making things a little easier and more organized. I sent my husband on errands, my mother to the grocery store and by the time everyone chipped in, it took a major load off my shoulders. All hands were on deck after the shower was over, too.

Have a seat. A good host greets their guests and makes sure they have a good time, but you, too, deserve a good time! Due to arthritis, it’s difficult for me to stand for too long, but I made sure there were plenty of places to sit and socialize during the shower. In fact, chairs are a top priority for any event I plan and host! Another tip: Make sure your seat is in a central location so you can keep an eye on things.

Who are your favorite people to enlist help from when it’s your time to host?

Fall Decor Finds on a Budget

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

Fall decor finds on a budget

The best fall decor on a budget


1 Round Metal Wire Storage Basket  | 2 Pumpkin Gourd Garland | 3 Distressed Wood Lantern | 4 Set of Six White Pumpkins | 5 Metal Filigree Pumpkin Tealight Holder | 6 Round Metal Filigree Pumpkin Tealight Holder | 7 Autumn Wooden Sign | 8 Harvest Candle | 9 Large Distressed Pumpkin | 10 Burlap Jute Acorns

While most people go all-out for their holiday decor in December, I’m a little partial to the warm tones and coziness of what autumn brings! Bright orange pumpkins don’t have to be the main event when decorating for fall on a budget.

Throw in some warm colors like deep oranges and reds for a traditional focus on the season. For more of a glam, or even relaxed farmhouse feel, add some distressed whites and grays to your mantle to showcase those gorgeous white and neutral pumpkins this time of year!

There is often a debate as to how early is too early to decorate for fall. For some, it’s when the air starts to chill and even when the leaves start to turn. Being in Oklahoma, my guideline is just after Labor Day, the official end of summer since it can still be relatively hot even in October.

The gorgeous natural tones and the thought of cooler weather makes me want to turn on the fireplace and curl up with a good book and a warm drink!

Old Millennial Playlist | Spotify

This Old Millennial playlist is part of our series of Spotify playlists for every occasion.
View the whole series here!

Old Millennial Playlist - Spotify Music - Brendadaltoncom


Those of us on the early end of the millennial spectrum – ahem, old millennials – can get a lot of flack. We grew up without cell phones, can remember when AOL launched, and probably didn’t have social media until college (or later). As a lovely little throwback, here you have the old millennial playlist.

For those of us in our thirties, you can remember when these songs came out. Perhaps you even recorded them onto a cassette from the radio… because we hadn’t been blessed with Spotify quite yet.

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me to send them this playlist after hearing it, I’d have enough to buy a couple of outfits from Delia*s.

Download the old millennial playlist!

This old millennial playlist is perfect for rolling the windows down manually in your car and getting lost because we didn’t have navigation or a printout from MapQuest (or Google Maps, I guess).

Add this playlist to your faves and let the reminiscing begin! This playlist has pop favorites, one-hit-wonders, ’90s rock and a few early 2000s gems. Featuring Oasis, Beastie Boys, Mariah Carey, Dixie Chickens, *NSYNC, Hanson, Jewel, Missy Elliott, Britney Spears, Train, and many more.


Relaxed Dinner Party Playlist | Spotify Playlist

This dinner party playlist is part of our series of Spotify playlists for every occasion.
View the whole series here!

Relaxed Chill Dinner Party Playlist from Spotify - brendadaltoncom | Music


RSVPs counted. check.

Clean house. check.

Cocktails mixed. check.

Sound of crickets. wait, what?!

Before your first guest walks in the door, make sure you have a playlist ready to go! After all, what’s a party without a good Spotify playlist that sets the mood?

Download the relaxed dinner party playlist!

This dinner party playlist is perfect for those chill nights catching up with friends over drinks, especially for those summer patio parties.

Add this playlist to your faves and let the casual tunes run for the evening! This playlist has hints of blues, acoustic covers, hipster features, and off-the-beaten-path picks. Featuring the 1975, Hozier, HAIM, The Lumineers, Ray Lamontagne, Leon Bridges, The Civil Wars, and many more.