Father's Day is just a few days away. I have shared some simple tips to make this day memorable for the men in your life whether it is your dad, son, uncle or another man who has played a significant role. Whenever there are "holidays" to honor certain people or relationships, there will be those around you feeling a sense of loss more acutely than on other days. Be attentive and look for ways to reach out and encourage friends who have never had a dad in their lives, lost a dad, or are not in a good relationship with their father. Your friendship and care will mean a lot to them today.Read More
Do you want to set a pretty Easter table without spending a lot of time or money? With just a couple of packs of Easter eggs, some napkins/serviettes and a few other inexpensive items, I have set a number of place settings. You can try one of these ideas as you prepare a welcoming table.
- Stack up cake stands or plates with glasses between them and add Easter eggs.
- Sprinkle eggs directly onto the table cloth in between the plates and serving dishes. (They may get eaten, so have extra on hand!)
Use some pretty napkins to add color and design to the table. Napkins can be put on the plate, under the silverware, or set up on a buffet table. Check out 10 Ways to Use a Napkin other than Wiping your Mouth!
The Easter eggs can be used in many ways. Add them to small dishes and place on at each setting. Use a paper doily and wrap them into a cone and add the Easter eggs. Use your imagination and you will be able to add color and whimsy to the table!
I found cute little lamb chocolates which looked so sweet at each setting. In South Africa we grew up eating Easter eggs that looked like real eggs and these look great on a spoon or as part of the centerpiece. You can also use hard boiled eggs for a natural (and healthy) addition.
Check out the other Easter table decor ideas, such as using real grass to set a spectacular Easter table.
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We prepared a party to welcome home our new granddaughter. With only a short window of time we used easy shortcuts and made a pretty table to congratulate Mom.Read More
It is so easy to grow spring grass and is great to use as a table decoration. You can celebrate Spring or for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, you can have your last Summer fling with a fun grassy table. This also works perfectly for an Easter table setting as you can place eggs or lambs on the grassRead More
Learning how to take short-cuts, enables us to offer hospitality more often. We can open our heart and homes to people because we don't end up feeling totally exhausted at the end of the visit. During my Top Ten Hospitality Tips training, I shared about making a simple Valentine's Day tray as a way to demonstrate how we can easily bless people around us as we use short-cuts!
You can treat someone you love and care for to a pretty Valentine's Day tray. Surprise a teacher, neighbor, teenager, friend or spouse. It can be quick and easy to do.
I brought cupcakes and strawberry milk and a small pack of chocolates wrapped in pink paper at my local convenience store. Pink icing is easy to make (add the food coloring with a toothpick or you will end up with red icing!) You can add it on top of the white icing for some of the cupcakes to provide variety. Add some sprinkles, cut out a small heart from paper (I used the cardboard from the chocolates!), add a tiny flower and you have designer cupcakes for almost nothing! I put the cupcakes into some cuter cupcake holders that I had and tied a ribbon around one of them to add an extra touch of whimsy.
Set a tray with a flower in a little jar, a pretty napkin, one of your cupcakes, some strawberry milk (bought or homemade) and you are all set to bless someone! Look around your home to see if you have any other items that will add to the theme and include those. Add a heartfelt note and share the tray. What a blessing!
Please share your trays with me so that I can post the photos. Let's encourage each other.
And please share this blog with friends. Encourage them to become part of our Heartistry community!
Today we celebrated Heartistry's 3rd birthday! I have been practicing and teaching about hospitality for decades, but three years ago I launched Heartistry.info and it was official! I am so thankful for the people who encouraged me, assisted me with the graphics, technical details, and so much more. I am grateful for the countless people who have read the blog and Facebook posts and those who have attended events around the world. I wish I could have hosted ALL of you for tea today. Some of my local Heartistry Experience alumni and friends stopped in this morning and we enjoyed tea as we caught up with one another.Read More
Valentine's Day can be special and romantic or very difficult for some people. Lyn shares step-by-step tips on how to prepare a celebratory meal for family or friends. Gather people and express your love and appreciation for them.Read More
Are you living in a cold, snowy area? Or is it so hot at your home that you would love to imagine yourself on a winter's vacation? Follow the instructions in the video and set a fun winter wonderland table. Prepare a simple meal of soup or baked potatoes, dim the lights and have a memorable evening around the table!
Use a white table cloth or sheet as your base and then add white plates. If you don't own white plates, I recommend that you buy a set of inexpensive, plain white plates as they provide so much versatility for so many table settings and seasonal meals. Add silverware, glasses and white napkins/serviettes. If you have small tea light candles, add some of those to the table setting as well.
Add table salt to a plate or cake stand (did I mention how much I LOVE cake stands?) You can also use a glass bowl or fish bowl (take the fish out first!) Add a small decorative item from around your home and some greenery. If you have a glass vase large enough, turn it upside down and cover your "scene". I added a string of little while lights and hid the batteries under the salt (I wrapped the mechanism in paper first.) These little white lights are one of my favorite items to use and I travel with them in my suitcase (crazy I know!) Their delicate beauty can turn even an ordinary meal into a celebration! You can purchase the lights at hardware stores and online. Look for battery operated LED lights with wire (not plastic).
Keep the food simple. When you have a special table setting, people barely notice the food (this is my saving grace!) Bake potatoes and serve them with sour cream, cheese, green onions and broccoli (think of this as the touch of greenery in your winter scene). Or make a big pot of soup and serve it with crusty bread. If you are having fun setting the table, just use store bought soup. No-one will even notice!
Dim the lights, play some music, gather around the table and enjoy a memorable meal!
In the midst of the busyness of the everyday, we need to be intentional about creating memories and adding celebration to our lives. An excellent way to do this is to plan for a special "Memorable Meal" each month. Then gather with family and friends. You can reach out by inviting neighbors or even strangers to join you.
Do you need some help, tips and encouragement to do this? This is what Heartistry is all about! We are excited to share ideas with you in our newsletters.
It is almost New Year's Eve and you don't have any plans. Why not invite a few friends, neighbors or even strangers over for a potluck dinner. Set a quick celebratory table and you are all set! This simple table setting works for New Year's Eve or any other special occasion using supplies you can find around your home! Easy and festive! Check out Lyn's video and be inspired to open your home. Happy New Year!Read More
It is a well known fact that what the Americans refer to as the "holidays" can be a stress- producing time for many people. These simple tips will help us make some small changes that will lead to a more joyful Thanksgiving.
- Begin with the end in mind- what would you like the time together to accomplish? Make choices, even if they are tough, based on what will be constructive for your family.
- Plan ahead - use our Heartistry Motto- the More Before the Less the Stress!
- Choose some menu items that are traditional and add some new healthy dishes. Check out the amazing recipes in our Heartistry Alumni, Leigh Anne's new Holiday Slow Cooker Recipe Book.
- Shop for non-perishable items well in advance of the crowded stores and buy some extra food to donate to a needy family.
- Ask for help by inviting guests to bring a dish. Be specific as to what they should bring.
- If cooking is stressful for you, purchase some pre-cooked food and just prepare a couple of items. Make sure to serve the food in your own dishes and not in the aluminum foil pans! Garnish with some fresh herbs and no-one will suspect that you haven't been cooking all day.
- Divide up the kitchen responsibilities so that all the work doesn't fall on one person (you) and discuss the details of what needs to be done well in advance.
- Give each family member a dish to prepare and have the recipe and ingredients ready in a bag. Each of our children has prepared a specific dish every year for Thanksgiving and feels a sense of ownership for "their" part of the meal.
- Ask older members of the family if they would prefer to relax or whether they would like to be part of the preparations. Don't exclude them especially if cooking family meals was something they loved doing for many years.
- Substitute fruit and vegetables as table decor instead of flowers as they can be eaten later.
- Set the table the day before so there is one less thing to do on the actual day. (I enjoyed this blog about the value of a beautifully set table- Thanksgiving Dinner: Why we decided not to skip it.)
- If serving a big group, use fancy paper plates to make the clean up easier.
- Plan an activity that will focus on the meaning of the holiday such as going around the table and having each person say what they are thankful for. I have kept an album for the last 28 years and have had everybody write one thing for which they are grateful. It is fun to look back and see what the children wrote when they were young.
- Ask guests to share their favorite background music song and make a playlist of the various songs. Have people identify their song when it is playing and share why they like it.
- Invite a foreign student to join your family. They will so appreciate being in an American home for this special holiday and it will add a richness to your gathering. Very few foreign students ever go inside an American home so let's change this! Your children will learn so much from having International guests too. Check out my blog 10 Things Children Learn at the Dinner Table.
Relax and enjoy your time together with family, friends and strangers. Please share photos of your table with us. We'd love to see how you expressed your love for your family and your creativity!
American Independence Day is a great time to gather with family and friends for a celebration. July 4 is a perfect time to offer hospitality to your family, friends, neighbors and even those people you don't yet know.Read More
Take a few minutes and set a simple tray. Deliver it to family or friends and see the joy it brings!
First gather your supplies. You'll need:
- a simple tray (or a cutting board)
- a cup or mug
- tea pot if you have one
- a little vase or empty bottle,
- a single bloom and some greens (I used some herbs)
- a small dessert, either bought or homemade
- a note card or piece of paper to write your affirmation.
Use a napkin to line the tray. For more inspiration read 10 Uses for Napkins other than Wiping your Mouth.
Arrange your flower and greenery in a little vase ( I used an empty spice bottle) and add it to your tray. (I don't have a garden, so I picked some herbs from the pots I have at my kitchen door.)
Put your dessert on a plate, or in a cupcake holder. I turned my inside out so that the design showed. You don't need to spend much time on the dessert as the main emphasis should be on the loving words in the card.
Take some time to write an affirmation for your loved one. Short on words? Check out 10 Tips for Writing a Meaningful Affirmation. If you have time you can paint or draw a simple heart on some card stock paper to make the note even more personalized.
If you are inspired to do more than a tray and want to prepare a dinner, check out Easy Valentine's Day Dinner which has all the details including an instructional video.
My twin sister and I hosted a garden party for our mom's 85th birthday. My mom and her friends just loved it and we had so much fun preparing for it. I am sharing this so you can use it as a template to host a garden party yourself! We split the tasks according to what we do best. I planned, shopped and set the table and my sister baked and did the flower arrangements. (Which jobs would you prefer?!) Now to share my best tips!Read More
I was not sure that I could pull off a surprise birthday for my husband's 60th birthday. We were staying with friends in South Africa, sharing a car and spending most days together so I didn't have much privacy for party planning! But I knew I needed to try.
When our arrangements to visit our friends' farm were postponed, I reached out to a few friends and asked them to join us on the farm in 10 days time as a surprise for Brett's 60th. I wish that our children and family could have been with us, and that many more of our friends could have joined us. But all I could manage was a small group! I booked out all the cottages on the farm and made as many plans as I could without Brett hearing me!
We drove out to the farm through the beautiful farmlands of the Overberg area of the Cape. We were welcomed by our friends Andries and Coia who along with farming, have a beautiful wedding venue called Beloftebos. We relaxed on the farm (more like Brett relaxed while I kept checking my phone for messages as people were driving a few hours to reach the farm.)
After dinner we sat in front of the fire. Eventually Brett suggested that we let our hosts go to bed, as it was getting late, but we kept talking. We needed to wait up so that our guests could walk in and surprise Brett! Eventually they arrived, knocked on the door and came in singing. Brett couldn't believe his eyes. He was totally surprised! Phew, now I could relax and enjoy the weekend.
On Saturday morning we gathered in one of the cottages for birthday cake and coffee. It was wonderful to have guests ranging from Angus who is less than 3 months to some of us who are around 60.
After tea we headed out to explore the farm. Most of us live in suburban areas so it was such fun to be out in the countryside.
The highlight of the afternoon was going on a tractor ride through the fields of exquisite indigenous proteas to the top of the hill overlooking the entire farm. It was great fun although it was cold at the crest of the hill. (The birthday boy is on the phone, but it is legitimate! Someone was lost on their way out to the farm and he was directing them.)
In the evening we had a braai (BBQ) and Make your own Pizza supper. The children had so much fun making pizzas, that by the time the real dinner was served most of us were no longer hungry. I decorated the tables with my South African themed cloths and beautiful proteas from the farm. It was such a joy to have so many exquisite flowers to arrange.
Since this was a celebration that went on all weekend, we planned a Birthday Brunch. One of my friends, who is also one of our Heartistry Experience alumni, offered to set the table as a gift for Brett. Now this is not just someone normal who is laying the table. Sylvia is the owner of Special Events and Trouvrou and sets tables for the rich and famous (and others)! She used objects that were meaningful for Brett and also some cards I made with the 10 S Model-listing 10 of Brett's character traits! Look at Sylvia's gorgeous handiwork!
I was so thankful that my friend Karien, who lives on a neighboring farm, has a small catering business. Karien's daughter Nina works with her. They agreed to make us an organic, farm-style Breakfast Brunch. It was delicious! She served homemade bread, fig jam from her own tree, muffins, scones, savory fritattas, miniature meat balls with spicy chutney, smoked fish pastries and the most decadent chocolate cupcakes and brownies.
It was such a blessing to have our friends join us for the weekend for Brett's birthday. I am so deeply grateful for our Cape Town Heartistry community who hosted us, set the table and prepared the food. What a joy to be the recipient of such excellent hospitality! Thanks so much Andries, Coia, Sylvia and Karien!
We spent a final night on the farm and woke in the morning to a glorious sunrise! I loved all the proteas drying from the roof of one of the sheds on the farm. So colorful!
I encourage my South African friends to plan a visit to Beloftebos. The self-catering cottages are so charming and it is an ideal place to have a very restful holiday.
My fabulous friends surprised me with a Downton Abbey Tea Party for my 60th Birthday. They were all there and waiting patiently for my arrival.
I was totally surprised (shocked even) as the party was a few months after my actual birthday.
People came dressed in costume (as close as they could!) We were seated at beautifully decorated tables.
My friends even made a special blend of tea with my name on it! And a photo of me in profile (glad they removed the double chin!) And used my Bless not Impress tagline as part of the decoration!
One of the most special parts of my birthday was receiving so many warm and meaningful affirmations (my husband even had tears in his eyes when he shared!)
I also received a beautiful runner hand painted by Ruth Korch. She knows how much I love birds and the runner had significant words and phrases around the edge. A personal gift like this is priceless!
When a group of friends come together and use their creative skills, their love and thoughtfulness it truly makes for a very special event. I am so grateful for each person who made this celebration of my milestone birthday so very special.
I hope that these photos are an inspiration for you!
Please share your thoughts about your favorite birthday celebration in the comments below. Share the blogpost with your friends and sign up to receive our newsletters so you can stay in the loop!
My South African host and her daughter both have their birthdays on the same day. What an excellent opportunity to host a birthday tea party!
We decided to enjoy the warm weather and host the party on the patio. I used one of my scarves as the table cloth and then we added my friend's beautiful china. So often special china is kept for display only; I encourage you to take it out and have the pleasure of using it. In the midst of often challenging every day lives, it is worth making the effort to celebrate as regularly as we can!
I love hosting people but don't like cooking so I am always looking for short-cuts. We served home-made quiches that we bought from a local co-operative bakery, but any store bought quiches would be fine. I baked my 5-Minute Buttermilk Scones and we served them with apricot and berry jam and a big bowl of cream. Watch the video and get the recipe and directions here.
I changed it up by adding some pink food coloring and some cherries, iced it with light pink buttercream icing and served it as the birthday cake. I added a surprise treat inside the center of the bundt cake. The two birthday girls were excited to see what was inside!
One of the guests brought a chocolate cake and I added in some cute mini cookies and macaroons that I purchased. We had a toast with non-alcoholic pink champagne and then it was time for presents. Everyone had a great morning and the mom and daughter birthday duo announced that this was one of the best birthdays they had ever had!
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We spontaneously decided to invite our colleague, Linh to come for a work meeting (a.k.a. a surprise birthday brunch) at 9.30 AM and had half an hour to make it happen! This was a fun challenge! Here is how my friend Linda and I made the very rapid preparations!
- Turned on oven to pre-heat (400 degrees)
- Put on our aprons-pretty ones help!
- Set the table
- Hospitality Tip-Start by setting the table first- if someone arrives and the table is set and ready, they will feel welcomed and loved! You can always cook when they are with you.
Hospitality Tip-It is worth investing in a few pretty table cloths. Small, square ones work really well as they can be put over other cloths, used on a rectangular table or on a round table such as mine.
Hospitality Tip-A cake stand turns every occasion into a celebration! If you don't own one, put a plate on an upturned bowl to get the same effect.
Hospitality Tip-Keep some pretty napkins on hand. (Check out 10 Uses for Napkins other than Wiping Your Mouth).
No flowers? I quickly added extra napkins in a milk jug to add color and interest!
I began with the baking by making scones in my food processor. They are easy to make and taste wonderful when they are warm (there was no choice but to have them warm, as this all happened so fast!)
- 2 Cups Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- Mix briefly in food processor
- Measure 1/4 cup of oil into 1 Cup baking cup
- Add one egg and fill to the top with buttermilk.
- Add to flour mixture in food processor and process quickly (don't over process)
- Place dough on floured board or parchment paper and pat down to about 2 inches think.
- Cut into small circles and bake for about 10 minutes until lightly brown on top and cooked through. Serve with butter, jam and cream (if you have it, which I didn't!)
Hospitality Tip- Always keep some small cakes or little tarts in the freezer, as these can be pulled out at the last minute to be used as a birthday cake or for some other celebration. We had Trader Joe's mini fruit tarts all ready to be popped in the oven.
While I made the scones, Linda fried bacon and scrambled eggs and had that ready to cook at the last minute. When the scones were in the oven, and the eggs and bacon ready to go, we added some other touches.
Hospitality Tip- Add light! I love my small, sparking lights and I use them so often to make a festive atmosphere. We added them to the table and a lit candle.
Wine glasses make any occasion more special, so put one at each place setting. Although we put out sparkling wine, none of us drank it as it was a work day! We enjoyed tea and coffee instead.
Hospitality Tip- Keep birthday cards on hand. I signed a birthday card, added a small gift and put cards on the table for affirmations. I had made the cards at an earlier time using wrapping paper that I loved and had them ready to go.
Hospitality Tip- Make the occasion meaningful through words that are shared. We have a tradition with our staff that we spend time honoring, affirming and praying for each person on their birthday. We took a few minutes and wrote our affirmations in the cards, while Linh waited patiently and then we read the words out loud to her. This is always a very meaningful time for all of us. We have also grown in our ability to speak out encouraging and uplifting words.
If you don't feel comfortable writing an affirmation, check out this blogpost: 10 Tips for Writing a Good Affirmation
Surprise! Linh arrived and we had a special time together celebrating our friend.
Hospitality is not hard. But it requires practice, so give yourself a bit longer than 30 minutes and you'll do fine.
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Establishing simple traditions for ourselves and our family can add so much richness to our lives. Repeated, predictable events can help to provide a sense of belonging, security and identity. These traditions can be as simple as having tea in bed on Saturday mornings, or challenging your children to hold their breath when going through a tunnel because your dad did that with you!
When our children were young, I used as many opportunities as I could find to add fun and celebration to our family. Valentine’s Day was an excellent excuse to host a mini-celebration, dress in red (even in a very ugly sweater), eat heart shaped food items and express our love once again. I have to admit that I still put Valentine’s cards in the mail to our adult children, whilst hoping that I don’t embarrass or annoy them! It’s just that I still want them to know how loved they are, and I will take this designated “love day” as yet another opportunity to tell them so!