Holiday Invitations

| custom dress by Eshakti | similar here |

It's officially the start of the holiday season! Can you believe it's time once again? The holidays are one of my favorite times to host a party (although I look for every excuse to throw them throughout the year), and it's a perfect occasion to pull out all the stops to make things beautiful and festive. I love to send and receive mail, and it's always so exciting to see a beautiful card or invitation waiting in the mailbox! 

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my tips and tricks for holiday entertaining, what to wear to your growing list of holiday parties, as well as a few ideas for gifting! Let's begin with hosting a beautiful and festive holiday party, shall we? A great party always begins and ends well, and it starts with a fabulous invitation, after all, this officially sets the tone for the event! When I want to impress, I turn to my friends at Paperless Post for the most beautiful invitations. From impromptu weeknight get-togethers to elaborate, glamorous soirées, I've always found the perfect invitation to use! Paperless Post has a beautifully curated collection, and you can completely customize both their online and print versions to absolutely wow and delight your guests. This year I wanted something that had a little bit of aqua to go with the colors of my upcoming party, so this stylish design was exactly what I was looking for. The design team was a dream to work with, and I couldn't be more delighted with how they turned out! Whether you're looking for the perfect invitation or a special holiday card, they've got you covered! 

Thank you to Paperless Post for partnering on this post. 

Thanksgiving Prep: Artichoke Quiche

Thanksgiving is just days away, and many of us will soon be setting the table and making the trip to the store to stock up on all the ingredients for a well-loved, celebratory meal with family and friends. In preparation for the holiday, I made a delicious artichoke quiche that is an excellent (and easy) addition to the spread of festive foods on the table. What's really great is that you can make this ahead and freeze it until it's time to serve; less time in the kitchen means more time spent enjoying good food and great company! The smell of savory, simmering veggies on the stove, along with a golden pie crust baking in the oven is one of my favorite parts of the process (aside from enjoying it, of course!). I found this fabulous recipe in this cookbook (which I've raved about before in THIS post!). 

If there's one thing that's most important at this time of year, it is to take a moment to think about the many blessings we have in life. While there's always things that we'd like to change, it is essential that we don't lose sight of the things we've been given. A sunshine-filled day, a roof overhead, laughter, friends, family, and food on the table are things that are often glossed over, but shouldn't be taken for granted. My wish for you (and I) is that we approach Thanksgiving, and every day, with a grateful and humble heart. Gratitude makes us all the more aware and attune to the beauty and blessings that always surround us, if only we pause long enough to enjoy them. 

"Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things." 
Psalm 107:8-9

Artichoke Quiche

1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichokes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 eggs
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon tabasco sauce
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes; set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Drain the artichokes, reserving the marinade. Sauté the onion and garlic in the reserved marinade in a skillet for 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a bowl until blended. Stir in the bread crumbs, oregano and Tabasco sauce. Add the artichokes, onion mixture, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm. You may freeze for future use.  
(Yields 6-8 servings)

Thanks to Simply Sarasota for partnering on this post

Holiday Baking: Chocolate Cherry Banana Bread

With the holidays around the corner, I love spending a little time in the kitchen to whip up some delicious favorites to bring to get-togethers with friends and family. Often, I'll invite a few friends over to join me for an afternoon of baking. It can get busy around this time of the year, and I tend to look for recipes that will be simple to make without requiring hours of prep work. This chocolate cherry banana bread is so delicious, easy to put together, and will definitely be a favorite at your next get-together or party! I'm planning on making a few loaves to bring along to Thanksgiving and other holiday festivities! Find this fabulous recipe and more in this cookbook which has quickly become one of my favorites!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups mashed bananas (about 2-3 bananas)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup (each) dried cherries and chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl until creamy, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add the bananas, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and sour cream alternately, beating well after each addition. Fold in the chocolate chips and cherries. Spoon the batter into a buttered 4x8-inch loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Thanks to Simply Sarasota for partnering on this post!

The Key To Effective Influence

It's been awhile since I've done some leadership-focused posts, and it seemed to be a good time to write a few of them again.
One of the most important leadership lessons I've learned is to not only acknowledge the leadership capabilities of those on your team, but also properly equip them with the necessary skills for success. More often that not, we see leaders delegating tasks, yet never empowering their people to lead. Equipping people is the real difference between a delegated task and an empowered leader. I recently came across this list of suggestions for properly and effectively equipping your leaders, and thought it was definitely worth sharing.

1. Affirm their gifts and abilities.
2. Teach from their experiences.
3. Discern their growth edges.
4. Solve problems with them.
5. Utilize role plays.
6. Learn together.

How many of these do you use with those under your leadership (can be family or work team)? It is essential that we, as leaders, not only allow others to lead, but also encourage and release them to do it. Holding onto power never makes a leader stronger, in fact, it actually weakens the level of trust between leader and team. It may seem like strange psychology, but approaching leadership with an open hand, rather than a closed fist, will actually make the leader far more successful. (This principle is also applicable to more than just leadership.) One of the best ways to empower someone, and the key to effective influence is to begin by actually listening to them. Most of us just listen to talk. Leaders listen to connect and to understand.

Proverbs 18:13 says, "Answering before listening is both stupid and rude." In order to avoid both of those, how do we really listen?

Here's a few tips:

  • Listen more than you speak. 
  • Actively engage in their story.
  • Fight the temptation to move too quickly to solutions. 
  • Listen beyond the words. 

I challenge you to begin to really listen to others as you go about your day today. Look for ways to encourage, understand, and empower those around you. This will make a difference in your leadership and that of your team members. 

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