Simple Summer Ideas – Eats, Drinks, Decor

Hey there friends,  I have been staring at the last post for much too long and I’m sure you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, so here’s a little sumthin’ for your summer inspiration.

I know, it’s way past time to bring out the summer decorations.  It will be Independence Day next week, after all!  Can I confess that I still have my Easter decorations on my branch in the living room?  Yowzah!  Hopefully, I can switch them out for summer decor this weekend.

Things have been quite buzy around here with a bunch of changes happening, as well as more on the horizon.  Sadly, my time to concentrate on the transitions are limiting my time to post.  No worries though, there will be more news and posting to come.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of my Summer Centerpiece.  I happen to use mine in the guest bath.  Yes, a centerpiece in the bathroom!  As you know I try to trick myself into believing that I live near the water, especially in these hot summer months when our temperatures are consistently in triple digits (this week it was up around 113 degrees F)!

I keep this simple centerpiece in the bathroom where I get ready every morning.  It fills my mind with memories of sandy beaches, coastal breezes and the sound of waves lapping on the shore.  Which reminds me…I may have a chance to visit my little hometown on Lake Erie in September and I can’t wait to walk on the beach and hear the sounds of the waves as I drift off to sleep!  I never realized what a blessing it was to live just steps from the shore until recently.

For this fun candle arrangement, just find a rustic container, fill it with sand, shells, a candle (or 3) and things that remind you of summer.  Try one yourself and post a link here so we can all see it?

More ideas for your summer inspiration:

Patriotic Slipcover Transformation

4th of July Beverage Ideas

4th of July – Summer Recipes

4th of July – Patriotic Decor

Let me know your plans for the summer and have an awesome holiday!

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4th of July Ideas – Part 3 – Decorating

As Americans, we celebrate our independence on the 4th of July every year with parades, picnics, cook-outs, and other fun gatherings.  Nothing screams summer like an Independence Day celebration.

So, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I’d share a few ideas for patriotic decorating.

I found this fun, inexpensive and easy idea on the Better Homes & Gardens website.  I don’t know about you, but I grew up with Better Homes and Gardens magazines, and I’m still amazed at all the great ideas that they can stuff into each issue as well as everything you can find on their website.  If you’re on a limited budget, you can sign up for their email and get lots of great ideas from that as well.

Decorate Candleholders with Colored Rubberbands: Take a stroll down the office supply aisle for red, white, and blue rubber bands to decorate candles in a snap. Working from bottom to top, wrap rubber bands in alternating colors around straight-side glass candle holders. Vary widths and colors for interest.  Of course, this can be applied to any holiday or decor and what an easy way to change color schemes in a flash!

Editor’s Tip: If you’re in mosquito country, place citronella candles in the cups and use outdoors to keep the bugs away.

And don’t kids just love pinwheels?  They’re just mesmerizing to watch when the breezes blow and the kids love to run around in the yard adding their own breeze.  The Skip to my Lou blog has some creative ideas for pinwheels as well as links to other free downloads.

Disney’s Family Fun gives us directions for a colorful Patriotic Pinwheel that you can make at home too.

And here are a few more links with some fun and simple ideas:

Better Homes and Gardens: Easy DIY Decorations

Country Living shares Crafts for the Fourth – country style

Martha Stewart shares some great Fourth of July Traditions that you can begin today.

I hope this gives you some inspiration for the coming weekend.  Feel free to mention and link in the comments to any Fourth of July ideas that you’ve posted on your own blog.  I’d love to see them!

4th of July Ideas – Part 2 – Recipes

I thought I’d share a few favorite recipes and food ideas for your 4th of July gathering.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes and Nancy’s Baked Beans

When I think of Independence Day, a particularly memorable celebration comes to mind.  One of these holidays in my youth was enjoyed at my Uncle Allen’s house in rural Ohio.  My dad had a huge family – 10 siblings, each with big families of their own and would get together as often as they could, but especially on holidays.  Grandparents, aunts, and uncles gathered in the shade in their favorite lawn chairs to catch up on the latest news.  The cousins would all play croquet, badminton, volleyball and whatever else kept us busy.  The younger kids got to climb up in the tree house and everyone grazed on amazing food all day.  This particular year, one of my aunts made pineapple-upside-down cake, which I tried for the first time.

Now I’m not really a cake person, because I generally don’t like the sugary too-sweet frosting. But as you may know, Pineapple-upside-down cake doesn’t have frosting.  It just has scrumptious slices of pineapple, swimming in a brown sugar glaze…and I LOVED it!  Over the course of that day, I ate SEVEN – yes SEVEN pieces of that cake.  Not sure what everyone else had, because I ate so much of it myself.  It was heavenly!  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much cake in one day before or since then (thankfully).

So, in honor of that memorable Independence Day treat,  I’m posting this link to a recipe for Pineapple-Upside Down Cupcakes (pictured above)  Doesn’t that sound like a great idea?  I’ve never made these, but I love the cupcake idea for a potluck, picnic, barbecue or even a nice dinner with friends.  So much easier to transport and lovely to serve.  These are probably big enough for at least 2 people to share (unless of course, they love pineapple-upside-down cake as much as I do).  Let me know what you think.

And in looking through my old posts, I’m amazed that I’ve never shared my crock pot “Baked” Beans recipe, so here it is below.  This one  is so quick, tasty, colorful and easy.  It is the hit of any casual gathering.  I serve it all year long and often get requests to bring it to potlucks. This week, my husband was asked to bring something for an “All American” themed potluck at work, so I’ll help him make this recipe to share.

In case you’re wondering…the current most favored theory about the origin of Baked Beans notes that American Indians cooked beans with maple syrup and bear fat. Now how much more American can you get!

Since we don’t have bear fat, let me offer this variation of a baked beans recipe.  It’s much more colorful and has added protein to make it more filling as well.  The great thing about it is that it’s so flexible.  Feel free to experiment to find your favorite combination, then you can personalize it as “Amy’s Beans”, “Emma’s Beans” or ________________ Beans [Insert your name here].

Nancy’s Beans Recipe

  • 1 can Pork-n-Beans or Ranch Style Beans (do not drain)
  • 1 large can Baked Beans (Bush’s or your favorite brand) (do not drain)
  • 1 can butter beans (no need to drain)
  • 1 can black beans (drained), 1 can kidney beans (drained) 1 can Cannelini or Great Northern beans (drained), Navy or Pinto beans
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of cooked and chopped bacon
  • 1/2 to 1 onion (sauteed)
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of cooked ground beef (optional)
  • 1 Tblsp mustard
  • 1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup

Really you can use nearly any combination of beans in addition to the first 2 cans.  The more variety you have, the more colorful the dish is.

Empty the first 3 cans of beans into a large crock pot without draining.  The sauce in these adds to the flavor and thickness.

After you drain the liquid from the Black, Kidney, Cannelini, Great Northern, Navy or Pinto beans, add them to the crock pot.  Easiest is to pour all the beans that need to be drained in a colander and rinse with water.  This should also wash away some of the excess sodium that comes in canned products.

Add the cooked onions, bacon, and/or ground beef

Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar(or molasses or maple syrup)

Stir everything together and set to low for 4-5 hours or until hot.  Everything is already cooked when it goes in, so all you’re doing is warming it up and allowing the flavors to blend together.  It can even be warmed in a microwave if you’re in a hurry.  It does seem to taste better after it sits together for a few hours.  If you’re cooking it in a crockpot and it seems to be too watery, just take off the lid and let it cook for a while with the lid off. The sauce will thicken more the longer the lid is off.

This will fill a large crockpot and serve 10-15 at least.

I hope you try these out.  Let me know how you like it and if you have ideas for ways to make it better.

MORE JULY FOURTH RECIPE IDEAS:

Here are more recipes from some of your favorite magazines to check out for your Independence Day celebration:

Better Homes and Gardens: Festive Fourth of July Desserts and Cooling Cocktail Recipes

Bon Appetit: Fourth of July Picnic Menu or The Perfect Slaw

Cooking Light: Fourth of July Celebrations

The Daily Green: Delicious Summer Recipes

Food & Wine: July 4th Chef’s Celebrations

Good Housekeeping: Fun and Festive Fourth of July Recipes

Martha Stewart: Fourth of July Recipes

Taste of Home:  July 4th Entertaining

Happy Independence Day!

4th of July Ideas – Part 1 – Beverages

In looking for some refreshing summer beverages for the 4th of July, I was reminded of a delicious pitcher of Sangria that we had recently with some friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson.  If you haven’t visited El Charro Cafe in Old Town Tucson, it’s a place that’s well worth your time.  This is a view of the welcoming courtyard. When the weather’s nice (as it is for over half the year in this part of Arizona) it’s the most relaxing place to enjoy dinner or even just a drink with friends.

El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ
El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ

Ryans and Hanns

We happened to be in Tucson for Terry and Bob (aka The Catfish Hunters) to play at the Tucson Folk Festival and we had a chance to enjoy a wonderful dinner here with Bob & Helen.

But I digress.  This post is supposed to be about beverages and one of the sweet parts of the evening was our Summertime Blackberry Sangria. Doesn’t it look delicious!  I can taste it now.  Imagine washing down your chips and salsa with that colorful concoction.

So to bring this full circle.  I’ve been enjoying Sangria at a variety of spots this year and thought I’d share a patriotic version and eye-catching recipe for serving a group without having to make individual drinks for everyone.

Check out this Red, White and Blue Sangria from Recipe Girl!  (and she’s having a giveaway too)

She used pineapple for her stars, but I think I’d try star fruit since it already has the shape you need.   I LOVE the red strawberries, “white” (kinda) pineapple or star fruit, and blue-berries to carry through the patriotic theme.  Just imagine your giant glass beverage dispenser filled to the brim with all these summery ingredients.  It’s a party waiting to happen.  In case you haven’t seen it before, this is what star fruit looks like and here’s some more info about it too.  Hey, think about adding star fruit to your salads on the 4th as well!

…now where are the fireworks.

Let me know your plans for the 4th.  I’d love to hear how you celebrate.

Stay tuned for parts 2 (food) and 3 (DIY crafts and decorations) for the 4th of July series in the coming days.