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Sam’s Club


Teacher Appreciation Luncheon



A couple of months ago, I was asked to throw the end of year Teacher Appreciation Luncheon at my son’s preschool.  I love being hospitable to others.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that has turned out to be my calling in life.  I really hope that statement doesn’t come across as boastful.  In fact, I mean it to be anything but that.


You see, back when I was in school, I felt like everyone knew what they wanted to “be when they grew up”………… EXCEPT ME!

When asked that question, I think I came up with something original, like……  an actress!  I even convinced myself that I REALLY wanted to do that and even got as far as auditioning for the Raleigh Christmas Carol, which happens to be ran by no other than  Ira David Wood, which happens to be the father of Evan Rachel Wood, (the hollywood actress).  (I realize I just gave you ENTIRELY TOO MUCH information!)

Anyway, I had to sing for my audition and as it got closer and closer to my turn, I realized VERY QUICKLY that I did NOT want to be an actress afterall !!!  Well, God must have heard my plea to make something happen that would allow me to crawl out of the building prior to my turn because literally 3 turns before my own ( I know this because I was counting as I sweat profusely) , they announced they would be taking a quick break.

I QUICKLY seized the opportunity to turn to my mom and let her know my thoughts and after seeing the shear TERROR in my eyes, she lovingly abliged my departure. (*THANK GOODNESS!)

Honestly, I cannot believe I just told you that!  Oh well, I guess it isn’t a secret anymore……….  The point is, I’m glad that I have found something I love to do for others and that I have turned out to be at least decent at and others appreciate.


I had a great group of ladies jump in to help me.  We decided to go with a “Super Hero Theme”.


Now, I cannot claim ALL these ideas.  I searched Pinterest (the Holy Grail of Ideas) and put our own spin on them.

The picture above is an IKEA picture frame that cost a whopping $. 99  !  That’s right, 99 cents!

Then, I just found a picture of Wonder Woman and sized it to 4×6 and printed on regular computer paper.  The picture frame is double sided, so I printed 2 per frame ( I had 3, so I did 6 total) and lined them down the banquet table.


The table cloth is a simple deep blue also purchased from the Dollar store as well as red paper plates and gold napkins secured with red ribbon.



We did a candy bar and used jars from IKEA ( I had just gone a trip so they all really came in handy) .


I made the labels using glitter foam sheets found at the craft store.  They are sticky back so you can play around with them how you like.  I used a circle punch to make the white circle and then stuck them to the clothes pins.  The clothes pins simply clip on to whatever container you choose.  The small scoops were purchased at The Party Store for $.89 each.


I found the cutest Galvanized Container at Sams Club and layered chocolate chip cookies and specialty cupcakes from a local cupcake shop.


What candy bar would be complete without goody bags to put them in?


The goody bags are simply brown paper bags purchased at the Dollar Store and cut to fit (my best interpretation of The Captain America logo) sticky back glitter foam sheets left over from the candy labels.


Did you know that local establishments will graciously donate items to functions like this?  All you have to do is ASK!  Of course, it would be very courteous to give them adequate notice and NEVER FORGET to send them a “thank you” note to let them know just how much you appreciate their kindness.  We were very lucky to have wonderful people in our community from a few different restaurants graciously donate to our function.  The result was AMAZING!


These cool dispensers were picked up at Sam’s Club for $29.99 for the pair!  Chalkboard necklaces let the teachers know which drink is which.  Simple decorations that the volunteers found in their children’s rooms decorate the table.  🙂


We made gift baskets for each of the teachers as well.  I found the coolest drink cups (even though you can’t see them very well) at Michael’s.  They had Wonder Woman on them and they were PERFECT!  Paired with girly items from the Target dollar bins, they made a cute little gift for the teachers to take home.


I have to admit, when I was first asked to do this, I kind of PANICKED!  What did I know about Teacher Luncheons??????

Well, after it was all said and done, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to do it and the response from the teachers was worth it.

If you are planning or have been asked to help throw a Teacher’s Luncheon, I hope this may have given you some great ideas!


Have you thrown a Teacher Luncheon?  If so, what was your theme?  I would love to know!

Until next time…….




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Sweet Potato Au Gratin

I have to admit.  I have a problem.  I happen to be a “gadget girl”.  There!  I said it.  It’s out now and I can’t take it back.

Whenever I’m in a homestore or go to a home party where these things are sold, I have to practice self control.

My palms start to get sweaty (nice, huh?) , my pupils begin to dilate, and I have even been know to twitch a little.  I know!  I am painting a very pretty picture for you.

One of the little gadgets I have always craved, but have to be honest, have been scared of is the Mandoline.  No, not the one you play.

The one you SLICE with!

So, while in the store the other day, a Sweaty Palmed girl broke down and bought one.



This is the one I got.  I paid only $24.99 for it at my local Sam’s Club.  These can run pretty high.  That is the reason it has taken me so long to purchase one.  They can go upwards of $100.  I didn’t want to pay a lot, only to find out I wouldn’t use it.  This is the only reason I bought this, because I was so excited it wasn’t $100!

Well, let me just tell you…………  I LOVE IT!  By the way, since purchasing this, I have seen them even cheaper than what I paid for mine.  Even as low as $11.99 online!!!

I have always shied away from recipes that call for thinly sliced ingredients.  If I couldn’t buy them already that way, I probably wouldn’t fix it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to announce that GONE ARE THE DAYS where I do this anymore!

I had some Sweet Potatoes lying around that I wanted to use up and so I decided to make  Sweet Potato Au Gratin for dinner last night.  Before you go, “Esther!  I don’t like Sweet Potatoes…..”  You can definitely do this recipe by substituting them for regular Russett Potatoes.  If you do that, you can also either use the Thyme I used in my recipe along with the Gruyere OR you could also substitute those for maybe Chives and White Cheddar Cheese.


So, without further adieu, this is what I did:


I peeled and sliced (with the Mandoline) 4 or 5 Sweet Potatoes (it depends on size) and put the setting to “3/16” of an inch.


I buttered a 13 x 9 in. baking dish.


Quick Tip from my MOM:  Don’t throw away those empty butter wrappers!  Save them for something like this where you need to butter a dish.  It makes it much easier to do it and your hands get less messy!  🙂


I made a layer the Sweet Potatoes in a slightly overlapping pattern on the bottom of the baking dish.


Then I sprinkled with a little Salt, Pepper, and Thyme.  Then I sprinkled a thin layer (about 1/2 cup) of Smoked Apple Gruyere Cheese on top.  YUM!  Is all I can say!


Next, I repeated the layers 2 more times.


After that, I put 1 more layer of Sweet Potatoes on top.  (By now, I had 4 layers of Sweet Potatoes total)


Then, I simmered 2 cups of Skim Milk and 2 cloves of Minced Garlic for 2 to 3 minutes.


Then I poured it over the Sweet Potatoes.  I made sure I touched every potatoe on the top layer so that none would be dry during the baking process.


Em wanted to help me, so I let her sprinkle the last layer of cheese on top.  Then, I covered it with foil and baked it for 30 minutes on 400 degrees.  Then, I removed the foil and baked it for another 30 minutes.  Be careful when you remove the foil because steam will escape and that may cause you to get burned.


This is what it looks like when you pull it out.  Not sure if you can tell, but the milk will still be visible and almost appear like it isn’t finished because of so much being in the pan.  NO WORRIES!  I let mine cool for 30 minutes, allowing all the potatoes to absorb the milk.  BY THE WAY:  The brown around the edges is from the milk and steam.  I showed this in the picture so you would know to expect it.  😉

After that, right before we were ready to eat, I popped it back in the oven for a few minutes on broil so that the cheese could get a little more browned.  Make sure you watch it though!  Cheese can burn VERY quickly if you aren’t watching it.


This is what it looked like when finished.  Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do it justice because it was later and there wasn’t as much light outside.  (BUMMER!)

This was AMAZING with the Pork Tenderloin we had with it.


Lucky for me, I had just enough leftover for lunch today!    Burp!


Recipe:  Scalloped Sweet Potatoes


2 cups Skim Milk

2 cloves of Garlic, minced

2 pounds Sweet Potatoes (about 4 or 5) , peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick   *OR you could use Russet

Kosher Salt

Ground Black Pepper

1½ teaspoons Dried Thyme  *OR you could use Chives

2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (I used Apple Smoked)  *OR you could use White Cheddar Cheese


– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

– Peel and Slice your Potatoes, if you haven’t already.

– Butter a 13 x 9 in. baking dish.

– Layer Sweet Potatoes in an overlapping pattern.  Sprinkle with a little Salt, Pepper, and Thyme.

– Sprinkle with about a 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese.

– Repeat layers 2 more times, ending with the cheese.

– Layer a final layer of Sweet Potatoes, set aside.

– In a small pot bring Skim Milk and Garlic just to a simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour on top of Sweet Potatoes, making sure you touch each potatoe on top layer.  Milk will settle to bottom.

– Cover with Aluminum Foil and bake for 30 minutes.

– Remove Foil (BE CAREFUL)  and bake an additional 30 minutes.

– Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.  Potatoes will soak up any milk during this time.

– Stick back in the oven for a few minutes on Broil and allow top to brown a little more.

– Serve immediately.

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Dr. Seuss Themed Christmas Tree

I love Dr. Seuss……. ANYTHING!

So, it is probably no surprise to most that I would do a “Dr. Seuss” themed Christmas Tree.  Specifically “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”.

I love how in the cartoon and the movie alike, they had random things on the trees.  In the cartoon, they even had presents.  I couldn’t pull that off, but it gave me the idea to put random things, like silk flowers.

But, not just any silk flowers.

The “loudest” and most “sparkliest” of all flowers.

Most of the ornaments, I have collected over the past few years.  However, every year, I add to it a little.

I love ornaments, but picks are what give my tree the look I wanted.  I got these in a kit from Sam’s Club this season.  They should still have some.

This is as close as I could get to putting actual presents ON my tree instead of UNDER it.  I got these from Michael’s craft store three years ago when they went on sale.  I think I ended up paying $.89 for them in the end.  They also make a great idea as a present topper.  One year, I wrapped all my presents in brown paper.  I then embellished them with these picks and everyone thought they were so pretty, they didn’t want to open their presents and mess it up.

I also bought these at my local craft store 3 years ago.  They haven’t had any since.  I have gone back optimistically each year to hopefully buy more, but still get dissapointed.  I call these my Peacock feathers!

This is what I found instead this year.  The lighting in the photo keeps  you from seeing the pretty sparkle these flowers have.  I bought these and the blue one at the top from the craft store this season for 50 % off already.  They are a little pricey, but are sturdy and worth it in my opinion.  They were $5.99 each after the 50% off.  Again, at Michael’s.

I bought a set of these, and…………..

these 3 years ago at Target.  I think I’m addicted to GLITTER! 

These green swirly picks were in the same kit from Sam’s Club and I used them at the top.

These snowflakes were in it too and I felt like it symbolized the Snowflake that Whoville was in.

Last but not least, these are the puffs in the tree.  This is new this year for me.  I really felt like this made my tree this year.  This is a great idea to help hide “holes” in the tree.   Picks are too, but these can hide so much more than they can.  Plus it just really adds something to your tree.  AND!  It is ridiculously EASY!

I bought the fabric in a roll of 10 yrds. from Sam’s Club and cut every 1ft. or so.  Then I just gathered all four ends and twisted a pipe cleaner I had cut in half to it.  Puff it up and stick it in the tree!  That’s IT!


SO!  That’s it!  Hope you like my tree and I hope I have given you some ideas to try out on your own!



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