Why You Should Have a Charcuterie Display at Your Next Party

Not only do I love to attend parties but I absolutely adore entertaining too. I enjoy cultivating a guest list from various social groups and seeing how many people we can squeeze into our house. I like putting together food and drink menus and coming up with the perfect dish. So when we found out that Clay would be frocked earlier this month, we knew we wanted to throw a party in some capacity. After briefly considering a third-party site like a restaurant or brewery, we quickly decided that our house would be the best place to host the festivities due to the short-notice and timing of the ceremony.

We looked into having Wegman’s catering the party (we’ve used them before with great success) but when we determined that we wanted a giant charcuterie display as the pièce de résistance, we figured it would be easy to do ourselves. And guys? Not only was it an amazing display that everyone loved and found to be delicious – it was super easy to prep and required very little attention the day of the party. Even though we had a lot of hands on deck with out of town guests, we didn’t have much time in between rushing home from the Pentagon in Friday night traffic and the party starting at 7pm so being able to do most of the work beforehand was clutch.

I bought four large cutting boards that are easy to store when not in use and can easily be used for future parties. The meats and cheeses were sourced from Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi. I printed out the names of the cheeses on card stock and hot-glued them on toothpicks. The night before the party, I arranged everything on the cutting boards and wrapped heavily with plastic wrap and put them in the basement refrigerator. The night of the party, I unwrapped the boards and arranged them on the kitchen table. I added dried apricots, dates, gherkins, blackberries, strawberries, and olives for contrast and color. Seriously guys – so easy.

Christmas Decor for $1.00 {What to Buy at Dollar Tree This Year}

When I was in 5th grade, my friend’s mom let my friend and I explore the mall on our own – we went to Claires, Afterthoughts, and the dollar store. We giggled when we passed Victoria’s Secret and looked admiringly at the older girls shopping at 5*7*9. We then ate junior roast beef sandwiches from Arby’s before meeting back up with her mom at the agreed upon time. We were practically adults that afternoon. And there was nothing I loved more during my childhood than feeling like an adult. That’s probably why I was enamored with that dollar store at Westridge Mall in Phoenix, Arizona – I could afford buy what I wanted in that store with my paltry allowance.

Nowadays, my patronage dollar stores – particularly Dollar Tree – is limited to when I need certain craft supplies and inexpensive holiday decorations and gift receptacles. As with most things at Dollar Tree – Christmas decor can be hit or miss, which is why I decided to compile a list of my favorite things that I’ve picked up this year. The inventory at Dollar Tree is constantly changing and can vary by store so there is no guarantee if your store will has these items in stock but it’s worth popping in and checking out the selection. After all – you never know what you might find!

Hanging wooden sign. The store near me had quite the large selection of wooden holiday signs but this one was by far my favorite. The quality is fantastic for $1 and I love that it isn’t overly Christmas-y, which means it can stay up longer!

Thick cardboard gift boxes. These are a great deal for $1 – use them for cookies, gifts, or just as decoration on their own. Some had separate lids but most where bi-fold, which I absolutely love (see example below).

Gift tags.  I’m trying to up my wrapping game and these gift tags will allow me to do so without breaking the bank. In the past, I’ve just used the sticker-type tags that I’d buy in sheets at Target but there is just something so charming about a hand-tied gift tag so I’m going to try these this year.

Glass jars with garland and ribbon detail. How pretty are these simple glass jars? They’d be perfect for a bouquet of candy canes or cinnamon sticks to give as gifts, wouldn’t they?

Ornaments. These metal ornaments are my favorite. I tie them around door handles for a little extra Christmas cheer and use them as gift decorations. I’ve also hot glued them to wreaths and use them as part of centerpieces. They’re just a great universal holiday item at Dollar Tree.

Ornament-making supplies. A perfect inexpensive craft for kids (and adults).

Wreath-making supplies. Are these high-end craft supplies? No. Are they inexpensive? Yes. The wreath frames are a steal for $1 – at craft stores they are much higher priced.

Mugs. I thought these festive mugs were cute. They’d be good to fill with a homemade hot chocolate kit and give to neighbors and people you see out and about in the community.

As evident by this post, I still like to visit the dollar store from time to time. The kids enjoy going as well because it sort of feels like a treasure hunt each time we step foot in the store. And while I may not be able to visit Afterthoughts and 5*7*9 with my children (RIP), I can still take them to Dollar Tree and share a little bit of my childhood – at least around Christmas time.

Craving a Nostalgic Christmas

Clay and I have been in a nostalgic mood lately – at least when it comes to this holiday season. We’re making an effort not to focus too much on the gifts receive – although in full disclosure, I am asking for an Apple Watch so please don’t think that I’m putting myself up on a restraint and moderation pedestal. But we are definitely scaling back how we approach Christmas. It’s like we’re experiencing the old-fashioned holiday season we’ve been craving – one filled with family, warm embraces, and a thankful spirit. We may not have a fireplace in our current house but gosh golly, it sure does feel cozy this year.

The four of us have been cuddling on the couch under our favorite soft oversized blanket watching movies. On the drive home from our Thanksgiving holiday in Pennsylvania, we made a list of holiday movies to watch this year – most as a family and a handful for just Clay and I (the kids aren’t quite ready for Die Hard). Included on the list are classics such as Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Shop Around the Corner – none of which (I’m somewhat embarrassed to type this) we’ve seen in their entirety. After we put the kids to bed the other night, Clay and watched Holiday Inn on Turner Classic Movies. Aside from a shocking (!) musical number in blackface, we enjoyed watching Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way across our screen.

The movie prompted a search of how the celebration of Christmas has changed over time. I stumbled across this article from Professor Arthur Purdue where he explores the fascination with the 18th-century countryside Christmas experience. I also found this Pew Research Center article about how Americans celebrate the holiday season now compared to their childhood. Both are worth a read and prove that we’re not alone in our desire for a less-commercialized Christmas experience.

In effort to capture some of the nostalgic Christmas spirit, we took the kids to the 48th Annual Scottish Walk Parade over the weekend. The sky was overcast and rain fell at various speeds as we watched Scottish clans, bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, dogs, and reenactment groups march through Old Town Alexandria. The weather was reminiscent of the day we spent in Edinburgh a few years ago and as we dined on mussels and steak frites at Columbia Firehouse afterwards, we all agreed that it was the perfect start to December.

Why We No Longer Have a Dining Room

We spent a large portion of this summer unsure if we were going to move or not, courtesy of Uncle Sam. We’ve since received word that we are staying put for the time being and we recently learned that there is a possibility that we could be staying in the area even longer.  Not a big deal, right? After all, we love the Washington DC area, we adore our neighborhood, we love the East Coast, etc… And while there are somethings that we’d change about our house if we owned it, we really do feel at home here and have no major complaints.

However, when we moved in – we did so with the understanding that we’d be living here only for one year. Therefore, furniture placement wasn’t a huge deal because we knew we’d be packing up all of our worldly belongings approximately 365 days later and schlepping them somewhere else in the world. And the fact that the designated dining room didn’t really fit our beloved harvest table wasn’t terribly concerning because we could make anything work for a year, right?


dining room – fall 2017

“It’s a little tight…” 

Pictured is the dining room a few weeks after moving in. It’s hard to tell from this picture but it is almost impossible to walk around the table and in order to so, one must turn sideways and shimmy by the chairs. Clay’s parents gave us the table when they retired to North Carolina soon after our wedding. It was handmade in New England and used in their Ohio home for years and we’ve been happy to call it ours for the past 14 years. During our time at Fort Leavenworth, I purchased the six chairs for $100 from a PCS-ing military family and refinished the chair backs myself with discontinued fabric.


living room/dining room – spring 2018

We never used the dining room because it was pretty much impossible to do so. That’s why back in the spring, I rearranged some furniture (one of my favorite activities – not even joking) and moved the dining room table into our oversized living room and made the dining room into a quasi-office.


office – spring 2018

Give me hygge. 

This solution was better than our previous arrangement but the table still felt like it was just in the way, rather than a functional piece of furniture. Our house simply wasn’t hygge. Have you heard of hygge (pronounced hue-guh)? For those who haven’t – the trendy word has infiltrated the design landscape over the past few years. It is a Danish concept described as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Basically it is a way of living/decorating that celebrates coziness, shared meals, and intentional interactions with family and friends (for those wondering, I haven’t forgotten about my Year of Intention, I promise!).


living room – fall 2018

Last week, when Clay and I learned about the possibility of staying in our home for longer than we originally anticipated, we discussed ways to make our house feel more like a home, rather than just a temporary stop-over on our way to more grand adventures. We debated the merits of just eliminating the formal dining space all together because we eat all of our meals in the kitchen. In fact, the idea having a huge table eat up valuable square footage for the rare times our entertaining involves fancy sit-down meals seemed silly the more we talked about it. So we sold the chairs (they were too big for the table anyway), removed the table, and completely flipped the living room around. We love it. I still have some finishing touches to put in the space but it just feels so much more like us than it did before.

What about our harvest table? 

Our storage space is limited in this house so we knew we’d have to get creative. We explored the option of removing the legs and sliding it underneath our bed but after some quick measurements, it was apparent that option wouldn’t work. We knew that we didn’t want to sell the table because we really do love it and because it is a harvest table, it can be quite versatile. For those wondering, a harvest table is a type of table that dates back to the Colonial days. It often has drop leaves on the sides, which is the case with our table. Therefore, it can be narrow or wide. However, our table can’t be used to dine at with the drop leaves down because there isn’t enough clearance for a chair.

That is when I had an idea…


You see – I’ve been wanting an extra-long desk for years but their cost and the fact that they’re cumbersome to move have prevented me from biting the bullet.  I’ve also been wanting the kids to have their own computer station in the office. So I moved the harvest table to the office, dropped one leaf down and unscrewed the other leaf from it’s hinges. I taped the hinges in a baggie to the 7 foot by 8 inch piece of wood and moved it to the small storage space in the basement. And before I knew it, I had a 7 foot long and 25 inch deep work space.


office – fall 2018

Is it perfect? No. Is it 100% functional and free? Yes! My old desk and computer (which just sat on a shelf previously) is now the kids’ computer and workspace. I want to add a gallery wall above my desk and add a few more pieces but it is for sure a major improvement from what this room was when we first moved in. It took us a bit of time and a couple of furniture arrangements to get to this point but like most things in life – furniture placement is rarely nailed on the first try.

Channel your inner-Tim Gunn and ‘make it work’.

We no longer use our formal dining room as a dining space. Heck – now we don’t even have a formal dining space (on a related topic – check out this Cubed article about how we don’t need formal spaces anymore). Moving around as much as we do has forced us to get creative when it comes to decorating with furniture purchased three, seven, or ten homes ago. We don’t always find a house that meets all of our needs and we tend to settle for ‘good enough’ in order to get the components that are most important to us. Our beloved harvest table simply didn’t fit in this house, no matter how hard we tried. And the lack of storage space meant we had to get creative if we wanted to keep it to have for a future home. And that is how I channeled my inner-Tim Gunn and ended up with the extra-long workspace that I’ve been wanting for quite some time.

So that is the story of why we no longer have a dining room. And I couldn’t be more tickled.