Category Archives: Entertaining

Party Meatballs

This has got to be the simplest party appetizer ever! It’s an old favorite you probably recognize. 

You only need 3 ingredients and a mini crock pot-style slow cooker, the kind that hold 1.5 quarts. You can pick one up for $15 or less. JC Penney has some on sale now that come in red plaid and snowflake designs!

Combine frozen, pre-cooked turkey mini meatballs — the “party” size with 1 bottle of Heinz chili sauce and 1 can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Put in the crock pot to heat.

That’s it! I’ve seen recipes where people add brown sugar or spices but the meatballs have spices and there is plenty of sugar in the sauce already. So I think the simpler version is better.



An Elegant Mock Pate

As Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve approach, maybe you are looking for an appetizer that is easy to make, easy to take and really delicious. Well, as long as you like meat, I think you should try this liverwurst-based mock pate recipe. A guest brought this to one of my Christmas parties many years ago, and I’ve been hunting for the recipe ever since.

Well, I finally found it. It originally appeared in Cooking Light Magazine in 2010. It’s a winner! Serve with crackers, melba toast or toast points. I will be making it for New Year’s Eve.


  • ¼ cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons good quality cognac
  • ¼ cup whipped cream cheese
  • 8 ounces good quality liverwurst
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted dry-roasted pistachios (optional)


  1. Place dried cherries in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to simmer for three minutes. Drain, cool and finely chop.
  2. Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings. Remove,  cool and finely chop bacon.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of drippings, shallots, thyme, chopped garlic, bay leaf and salt and pepper to pan. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, remove bay leaf and add cognac, scraping brown bits from pan.
  4.  Add this mixture, whipped cream cheese and liverwurst to food processor (remember to take out that bay leaf). Process until smooth.
  5. Remove mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in cherries and bacon. Place in a small serving bowl. Cover surface of pate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  6. Before serving, if desired, top with chopped pistachios.

About 110 calories per 2-1/2 tablespoon serving and it makes about 12 servings. This one won’t keep more than a few days, so enjoy!

The Best Ever Spinach Dip

I’m featuring some of the appetizers you know and love. They’re kind of “retro” and might bring back some good memories for you! Today: Knorr Spinach Dip! I’ve been making Knorr Spinach Dip for decades and I just love it. It’s so much better than any pre-made spinach dip you’d buy in a store.

With its bright green and confetti colors, it’s festive enough for a family Christmas movie night, a home New Year’s Eve celebration or a pot luck holiday party. Tomorrow is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day…maybe bring this to an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party! Make sure to make this at least 3 hours in advance so that the flavors can blend. Serve in a bread bowl for a special touch. This keeps well overnight in the refrigerator, if any is left!


  • A mixing bowl.
  • A serving bowl or bread bowl to hold the dip, plus a platter for dippers.
  • Dippers (ideas: Triscuits, Pita Crackers, Bagel Thins, Stacey’s Naked Pita Chips, baby carrots or carrot sticks, celery sticks, jicama sticks, grape tomatoes and sliced bell pepper).


  • I package of Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix. It is usually with the gravy and Hollandaise sauce mixes.
  • 1 ten-ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach (like the square, frozen block kind). Bring to a boil but do not overcook the spinach. Part of the appeal of the dip is the bright green color.
  • 1 16 oz container (2 cups) of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • 1 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise. (I use light Hellman’s mayonnaise in my dip)
  • 1 can of water chestnuts
  • 3 green onions
  • If desired, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of garlic powder or a dash of Tabasco
  • Parsley garnish, if desired


  • Cook the frozen spinach. Drain and squeeze dry by pressing it through a colander or sieve with paper towels.
  • Combine the Knorr mix in a mixing bowl with the mayonnaise and sour cream/yogurt and stir well.
  • Add the spinach and mix well.
  • Drain and chop a can of water chestnuts. Add them to bowl and mix well.
  • Chop 3 green onions. Add them to the bowl and mix well.
  • Put plastic wrap or a lld over the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

DIY Cocoa Bar for ☕ Hot Cocoa Day ☕

Photo by Sam Lion on

  • Make Hot Cocoa from scratch
  • Set up a Hot Cocoa Bar
  • Explore Hot Cocoa scented products

Today is Hot Cocoa Day!

What is better than a steaming cup of cocoa? Maybe one your make from scratch!

Hot Cocoa Recipe – makes 4 cups

Combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa (like Hershey’s cocoa powder, for example), a dash of salt and 1/2 cup of hot water in a medium saucepan.

Stir, then simmer for 2 minutes.

Add 3 cups of milk to the pan and heat until hot. Before serving, beat with a whisk until frothy. If desired, top with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Make a Hot Cocoa Bar

Hot chocolate fixing (Arina

I have seen some impressive set-ups, including hot cocoa stations arranged artfully on craft carts and bar carts. Check those out on Pinterest! So creative. But a table or counter-top would serve just as well.

You could set one up at work or when friends come over. A hot cocoa bar would also be a great teacher’s lounge treat this winter.

Cocoa. If you are making cocoa for your family, you know what they like. But if you are presenting a hot cocoa station, it may be more practical to offer instant cocoa mix in packets or canisters. There is even non-dairy cocoa and white chocolate cocoa now.

Fixings. The fixings are what make cocoa extra special. How about…

  • Whipped cream (in the can)
  • Candy canes
  • Marshmallows (look at those snowmen!)
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Christmas and/or Hanukkah-themed sprinkles
  • Red or green decorating sugar (a sprinkle looks so pretty on top of whipped cream!)

Cookies. Well, you were not going to put out hot cocoa without some cookies, were you? Personally, I think cookies that are not chocolate taste best with hot cocoa. You could try…

  • Mini white powdered donuts
  • Ginger Man cookies
  • Mini Christmas sugar cookies
  • Shortbread cookies

Cups and stirrers. If you are at home, of course, you can use your own drink ware. But if you are setting up for more than 8 people, I think it makes sense to splurge on some seasonal hot cups with lids and hand-protectors. I have seen some beautiful ones at Ross and Marshall’s for about $4 but they also have these in the grocery section. Just be sure to get a festive design.

The Delicious Smell of Hot Cocoa (Without the Calories)  Bath and Body Works has a candle called Hot Cocoa and Cream. I think it’s the best smelling candle in the store! I bought it last year, and I need to pick up another one. It smells so good. The only drawback was that it did make me crave cocoa! I noticed that they didn’t bring back the Hot Cocoa and Cream lip gloss this year. Fortunately, I bought some after Christmas last year and didn’t use it. I’m using it now!

Happy Hot Cocoa Day!


Plan now for your memorable, pandemic-safe NYE celebration

We’re resolved, right? To spend New Year’s Eve safer at home with just our own household? Agreed? Right! 

That doesn’t mean New Year’s Eve has be a downer. 2020 has been the most challenging year ever for many of us. All the more reason to celebrate and hope for better times in 2021!

Here’s what I think would help make your New Year’s Eve memorable…

Make a plan

Even a loose plan, even if is just for you. For example (customize anyway you wish)…

11 a.m.  Take a walk

12 noon Make lunch

1 p.m. Tidy house and decorate; chill drinks; make dip, black-eyed peas, etc.

3 p.m. Take a nap

4 p.m. Journal/vision board/calendar/resolutions/set intentions/pray/reflect on the old year/etc.

5 p.m. Dress up a little!

6 p.m. Dinner and vide

8 p.m. Call/contact friends and family

9 p.m. Watch NYE programming, read, stretch (dance!), play games, hobby, color, etc.

12 midnight: Watch ball fall down & go to sleep 

Start the day with a walk outside

Where I live, temperatures are going to warm up subsstantially but rain is in the forecast. Here, rain tends to start in the afternoon, not always, but usually. So if you get out before 11 a.m. and take a walk, it will go a long way to elevating your mood (forestalling any blues later) and will help with cabin fever during the evening. Also, if getting fit is one of your resolutiions, you can think of it as a head start!

Clean your home before New Year’s Day (or even New Year’s Eve)

In many cultures, it is considered bad luck to clean your home, particulary to sweep or vacuum, on New Year’s Day, as you may sweep away your good fortune. The same is true for doing laundry. It is customary to give your home a good cleaning before the day arrives.

Put up themed decorations

They can be Christmas decorations! Just more tinsel and string lights will do. If you can’t order any 2021-themed signs, you could always make one. Perfect excuse to get creative? And how about this wreath? I’m making one of these this year. One idea: those photo prop pieces (available at Dollar Tree, Party City and sometimes, Target). Snap off the sticks and use them as decorations on your wreath!

Wear something festive

If you’re home, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be comfortable. But you could do something fun with your hair or wear a glittery sweater. Just look your (comfy) best because you may want to take a photo to remember the night…and also share with your Facebook friends. Or you may be Zoom-greeting friends and family. I have a sparkly sweater to wear that seems to come out on just NYE.

Make something good to eat

There are many customs associated with food in the New Year. In many countries, pigs are a symbol of good luck. A pig roots for its food, moving forward, so it is associated with moving forward in the new year. Conversely, poulty, beef and shellfish are not considered to be “forward eaters” so in Europe, it is avoided on New Year’s. In Italy, it may be eaten with lentils, in Pennyslvania, with sauerkraut. In Asian cultures, eating white food, like eggs, is considered unlucky because white is associated with death but noodles and green vegetables are considered lucky. Germans and Austrians gift each other marzipan pigs. Pomegranates are considered lucky in Mediterrainean countries. In Scotland, on Hogmanay, it was customary to make shortbread cookies and eat a dinner of haggis, parnsips and potatoes. In Spain and Portugal, people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight for 12 happy months in the coming year. And of course, in the U.S., it is considered lucky to eat black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day. 

Fun for kids (and kids at heart)

If you have little ones, check with your public library about “Noon Year’s Eve” Zoom parties (free, of course) for little ones being held at noon.

You can find New Year’s Eve activities like games, crafts, resolutions and word searches on to download for free or low cost on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

New Year-themed animated specials you can rent or purchase include Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown. 

Make plans to connect with your friends and family

Speaking of friends and family, especially, if you’re on your own, like me! Think now about how you will connect with your friends and family…will you call? Send New Year’s cards? Email New Year wishes? Set up a Zoom meeting? Post on Facebook? Facetime? If you plan it and put it on your calendar, it will happen.

Start filling in your 2021 calendar

You can find great calendars at Dollar Tree for $1 (naturally) and at Target for $3. I keep my calendars each year (which has been helpful to me for several reasons). This year, I found one by Day Designer that is just what I have been searching for. It’s big enough for my large scrawling handwriting, but light enough to carry everywhere AND it has a timed weekly section so I can keep track of appointments. It’s called the Weekly Monthly Planning Calendar ($20) if you want to check it out (Target).]

I will post 2021’s dates for notable events (like Mardi Gras, the Superbowl, Academy Awards, etc.) in a future post.

Sign up for a virtual celebration

Eventbrite and Facebook are listing all kinds of online events for New Year’s Eve, including worship services, concerts, workout sessions, 5Ks, meditation sessions, Bingo, dance parties, Trivia, etc. and most of them are free!

New Year’s Eve TV and online programming

On NBC, New Year’s Eve: Escape from 2020 is on from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. This is a program of a look back at 2020 produced by NBC News. This will be followed on NBC by New Year’s Eve 2020 with Carson Daly. On ABC, Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve starts at 8 p.m. with hosts Ryan Seacrest, Lucy Hale, Billy Porter and Ciara. 

Starting at 10:30 p.m. YouTube will host “Hello 2021: Americas” on the YouTube Originals channel:  a virtual New Year’s Eve celebration. Juanpa Zurita and Storm Reid host, with celebrity guests Matthew McConaughey, Demi Lovato, RuPaul, Emma Chamberlain and the D’Amelio Family. Musical performances from Dua Lipa, J Balvin, YG, Karol G and Kane Brown; YouTube stars Larray, Marques Brownlee, Dude Perfect, Brad Mondo, ZHC and the Dolan Twins.

Movies and TV Episodes

Here is a list of ones to watch that take place on or around New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve

While You Were Sleeping

Bridget Jones Diary

When Harry Met Sally


The Office, Season 7: Ultimatum

Absolutely Fabulous, Series 3: Happy New Year

Friends, Season 6: The One With the Routine

Fraiser, Season 7: RDWRER

Bubbly Toast

Of course champagne is traditional, but you could also toast with sparkling rose, if you prefer. I’m going the non-alcoholic route with sparkling apple cider. It doesn’t matter what you toast with, as long as it isn’t plain water. That is considerd unlucky!

Make some noise!

Do you have any noisemakers? Making noise in the new year is an ancient tradition that was intended to frighten away evil spirits in many cultures around the world, including Denmark, Vietnam and Japan.

Have you heard the expression, ringing in the new year? In days gone by, church bells rang. It still happens in some communities. In Washington, DC, on New Year’s Day, all the bells in the city will ring between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. to welcome the new year. Here is the schedule for the National Bell Schedule. 

Stay Up Until Midnight 

I think there is something magical about being awake as the old year passes. 


A Cozy New Year’s Eve In

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It happens. You had planned to go out for New Year’s Eve…but the weather turned out to be too dreadful. Or you or someone in the family isn’t feeling well. Whatever the reason, you’re home this year for New Year’s Eve and it’s going to be a quiet evening. But you still want to celebrate! How to make the best of it?

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With this list, you’re always ready for holiday guests

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Entertaining guests and family is one of the most fun parts of the holidays. Sometimes, guests come over when you’re not expecting it. And sometimes, when you do! 🙂  It’s nice to be ready, right?

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2 Sparkling Wine Bargains for Holiday Celebrations

Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs Brut, France

A very good value at $12 or less a bottle.  Delicious and elegant, dry “methode traditionnelle” sparkling white wine that tastes like fine champagne. Very fine effervescence, pale gold color. Delectable on its own or with light appetizers.  Highly recommended!

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé “Perle d’Aurore,” France

A pink, dry bubbly.  It has a lot of personality and can stand up to food, like salmon.  My guests like it, and it looks beautiful in a champagne flute.  About $16 a bottle