Party Tips Your Mama May or May Not Have Taught You

As I walk out adulthood on a new level… married, making “couple friends” with my husband, hosting parties and attempting to be a good guest at other events… there are a couple of “tips” I wanted to get out in writing to remember for myself and also share with others. Some lessons I’m learning on my own through experience and some I’ve gleaned from my mom through the years.

In particular, this summer I’ve had flashbacks of memories of advice my mom gave me about going to and hosting parties and picnics. And a couple of these tips I realized on my own that are important to have an easy, fun time at social gatherings like picnics and barbecues.

  1. Bring a dish you know YOU will like to potlucks and parties

So many times through the years, I’ve arrived to a picnic or potluck and looking at the spread of food my eyes (bigger than my stomach of course) have grown big with disappointment as I looked at all there was to eat, yet nothing appealed to me. Allergies, food sensitivities, and general preferences can keep a lot of people from eating “just anything.” When it comes to parties, you will have a more enjoyable time knowing you can put something on your plate that you prepared and know you like, especially if you have a longer day out planned.

I made the mistake of counting on food at a party once and brought a dessert that I knew would be enjoyed by most people (No Bake Cookies anyone?). Well, when it came to the main course, I was stuck with a plate of fruit and salad that I had to pick through to avoid the cheese tossed through it (lactose intolerant over here). I could have had a more pleasurable meal had I not just considered dessert, but also a more filling main dish or side dish of my own to bring that I knew I would and could eat.

2. When hosting a party, share what you’ll be providing in advance

This relates to point number 1. It’s just polite to share what you’ll be serving or providing in advance so others can make plans if they have allergies or food preferences that are different. They can bring a side or main meal that appeals to them. Don’t assume that what you like everyone will like. Let others get in on the fun and share… I know people enjoy sharing recipes and food, it’s part of what makes humanity so great, sharing a meal together. Let others get in on the process and give proper notice so they can plan on their end.

3. If you can leave a topping on the side, do it

Things like cheese, croutons, nuts, etc. can make the difference of someone eating or not eating a food at a party. If you can, leave the easy toppings on the side that people can choose to put on their portion.

My Jamaican husband makes some of the spiciest food for other people. I’ve always loved spicy foods, and love his cooking, but not everyone can handle it. We have learned that his cooking is too spicy for some group events and decided we can add some spice for flavor/ effect, but if we want it “extra spicy” (aka traditional Jamaican flavor), then we need to keep the hot sauce and peppers on the side. Once it’s in the dish it can’t be taken out. Similarly, I have an aunt who always says at events, “Now there’s no salt in this, so you’ll want to add your own amount that you like.” She knows people may have sodium problems or just don’t like foods as salty, and that’s totally fine. A salt shaker is always there to add more.

These are a few tips that I’ve applied to my own life this summer. Events centered on good food are important and fun, and when the food goes well, the party goes well! What other tips do you have for potlucks, picnics, and barbecues? Summer may be closing out soon, but fall socials and the holiday season are just as important to remembering food tips for yourself and others.

A Close Encounter and 3 Little Reminders

“Watch your step, watch your step,” the voice said to me as I walked through the woods on an evening hike. And then I heard it. The rattling caught my attention first before seeing the rattlesnake’s head, inches from my ankle, posed to strike.

Though many would think this just happens in nature and would write off the experience, I can’t help but dig a little deeper with why almost stepping on a rattlesnake applies to my life in a bigger way.

This is a short post with three lessons learned in the one day of processing. Here goes!

1. The Voice

Some might call the voice I heard… something only a crazy person would hear; Some might call it an inner guide; some might call it a conscience (though typically that term is used for moral choices rather than something that occurs outside of your control); I call it the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides me daily—beyond my knowing how or why. Sometimes I hear Him clearly, other times not at all.

We are all guided by different voices.

Maybe we hear the lingering voices of our parents when they taught us right from wrong when we were children. The voices of our peers and friends with influence in our lives when we seek advice, stand out strong sometimes. Then there are the voices on ads with a constant drip of “buy this now.”

Voices are all around us, communicating, telling, sharing, influencing. And we need to be careful which voices we pay attention to and why.

I’m grateful for the quiet voice saying to me, “Watch your step,” as I hiked quickly through the woods. I would surely have stepped on the rattler’s tail. That and had I not heard the rattling tail itself. What are you listening for? Who are you listening to? Warnings of protection are there for us to learn and glean from if we’re willing to stop and listen.

2. Independence doesn’t mean I shouldn’t communicate plans

The second lesson of my encounter with the rattle snake is that I was 100% alone in the woods and had not communicated with anyone that I was hiking, nor where I was going. I’m used to the paths and trails around my community in the hills and mountains. The area is small and most people I bump into are healthy, kind hikers and bikers. I typically have SOME cell phone service; I never venture too far on my own, and genuinely feel comfortable and safe when I’m alone in the woods.

But no one knew I was there. And what if something HAD happened?

I take for granted my independent nature and safe surroundings. Until it’s not safe anymore.

I wonder if I had communicated other things through the years, would I have strayed so far down paths I didn’t belong? Would I have been more aware of danger with people and situations?

Maybe I’m the only one who just trusts that things will “turn out alright” as I act independently and go through my days… even if I am, I’m reminded once more to communicate with those around me better than I do. I can be independent with my time and plans, and still be safe with communicating said plans with those around me.

3. Don’t give into fear but, be wise and knowledgeable

This is HUGE. It applies to the rattlesnake and to me. The rattle was the snake’s warning. Thank GOD I heard and listened. But even after freaking out, (I’ll never forget seeing his head poised to strike just as I realized he was under my feet), I went back to the snake for a video and then continued on with my hike. I was jittery the rest of the hike, but didn’t just turn around and give up.

Yes, there are dangers in the world, unexpected ones that catch us by surprise even if we have the BEST communication and plans in place, but we are not to give up.

I’ve seen SO many people give into fear this last year and a half with covid. I’ve seen SO many people dismiss the dangers of covid like it’s nothing. Neither living in fear, nor acting unwise will get anyone very far in life.

We must continue on the path and journey set before us, as best as possible, despite the obstacles. And we must do so with wisdom and knowledge.

The rattlesnake reminded me I don’t know the best protocol with snakebites in the woods at all, let alone poisonous, perhaps deadly ones. So, I need to read up and be more prepared next time. I need to gain knowledge and insight into the woods that I think I know so well. BUT, I didn’t give up on my hike then, and I’m not going to just stop living my life because of potential dangers. I love hiking too much!

Wisdom, while moving forward with courage is where I choose live. And is the best reminder and takeaway with… that darned rattlesnake.

And honestly? I’m glad I bumped into it. I was able to warn others on the path to use caution. I was nervous for one woman with her dog because I wasn’t sure how the dog would react IF it encountered a snake beyond the point where I did.

Through my somewhat scary experience, I could alert and help others. Just like others have done for me in the past with other things in life.

I’m sure there are MANY other takeaways with the rattlesnake… but for now: Listening to the loving, guiding voices in our lives; Communicating with those around you/ not being so independent; and Not giving into fear while using wisdom and knowledge. These are my biggest takeaways to that VERY close encounter.

Have you ever had a close encounter with danger that taught you a lesson? What was it? What did you learn?



There is always something on my mind to write about, but lately, after a campfire and a death, I’ve been thinking mostly of time.

The passing of time. The ebb and flow as time brings us new experiences and change. How time makes everything seem the same.

I sat out by my campfire last weekend. My mom is moving to a new town, selling her home, and as I live with her I am moving too. Not with her, I’m getting my own place once more, but it is new change in my life as we move from summer to fall shortly.

As I sat by the campfire crackling on the warm summer night, I listened to the cicadas in the trees all around me, and night owls hooting here and there. I looked up to the sky that was black and full of glimmering stars. And I relished the heat of the rocks on my bare feet that surrounded the fire, keeping my toes warm as a breeze passed by.

I’ve been doing this since I can remember my first summer campout. The stars, black sky, cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers, lightning bugs… I’m older now, sure but there is timelessness to campfires that make me feel small, young like a child, and old like I’m 60 with the weight of the world on my shoulders all at the same time.

Time passes from person to person. Generation to generation. And in that time we only have so many days and hours to laugh, dream, plan, go on vacation, work, study, read, and make friendships and relationships with the people around us.

Time is short when you’re old. Time is long when you’re young. Time is lonely when you’re sad. Time is so full that your chest bubbles and tears come out of your eyes in laughter when you’re with those you love most…

The campfire was a weekend ago but the death was a day ago.

The death of a beloved friend and coworker at my office at WPSU Sports. He was an encourager, leader, and hard worker. He laughed easily and worked swiftly. He was patient with me “the new girl” for a year, until the department started bringing in more people. He was a rock. I went to him for many things throughout the day. Advice on work, a break if I needed it, and help for any little issue that I wasn’t sure how to handle.

It’s hard to believe I will be walking into that office tomorrow, the next day, the day after, and even going to these fall Penn State Football games without him.

He reached out to me and made me feel included when I first joined the team last fall. He made my ideas seem relevant. We laughed at some of my questions. And even when he was stressed, he would hop over to my station and computer to help if I ever needed it.

Time is funny because though we’ve only worked together for a year he became a solid work friend in that time.

And he doesn’t even know it.

I never really told him how much he meant. Yes, a sincere word here and there, but nothing weird because I didn’t know how real to get with my co-workers and friends. Even after months I still felt like the new girl, which I haven’t been for quite some time.

This past Friday when I left the office he wasn’t around. (He had already left for a weekend wedding, which he told me about last spring! I remember that convo too… We were on a break in the lunchroom in April, talking about the weddings we were in this summer and friends getting married at our age. He told me he hoped the wedding that he was the best man wouldn’t be over a football weekend.)

Anyways, this Friday I was leaving for a triathlon, which he asked me all kinds of questions about the day before as he left for a wedding. I was going to text him, “Hey have fun at your friends wedding this weekend and good luck on your best man’s speech.” I honestly was excited to hear how it went come Monday. But I didn’t text him. Because I thought, “naw, I’ll see him Monday, I don’t want to bother him today.”

Time is short. Time changes things quickly. Because who knew that that Friday, one minute he would be breathing and the next gone.

And when did sending a positive note, thought, or word to someone ever become bothersome??

People need that. We need each other…

Moving from summer video shoots to plans for Football and Basketball season, I pictured him there… Helping me with the interns, offering advice when unknowns come up, and even after-work drinks as a team, which we never did.

And like sitting by a campfire at 25 years old instead of being 6 years old, though everything is different in life and work, everything is the same.

The shows and video shoots will go on. The first PSU Football game on September 3 will start without him. He won’t be there to edit, direct, or step in with our already short-staffed office, yet all those things remain the same.

Working in video seems glamorous, but for as much as I take behind the scenes photos of the lights, cameras, audio equipment, and fun sets, I sometimes forget the people around me. That time moves quickly and those people who run the sets are more important than the show we produce.

Time is final. Fatal. But also doesn’t end. Time moves on. And as it does, I hope to remember John… He’s one of the main reasons why I liked going to work so much. I love the content, sure, but I love the team I get to work with. Each person special. Each person with gifts, talents, and capabilities. But especially John who at such a young age did so much for the people around him and the office we worked at.

With the ebb and flow of time, the next days and weeks won’t be easy because John’s story, his life, will be missed. Is already missed. A death too soon. A life too short. And a friend of mine swept away in the current of time.

But he still matters. His soul is in God’s hands, mercy, and grace. And though “time will tell” it doesn’t have the last say.

God does.

Birds Sing Through the Night…


PC: Kevin Young

I know because my window is open at night now that the weather is warming up. I like the ventilation and fresh air clearing out my stuffy room after a cooped up winter and chilly spring. More importantly though, I live in a neighborhood at the treeline of the Central Pennsylvania State Gamelands, which means I get a good dose of nature right outside that window.

So, window open, lights out, and for a few nights in a row it’s been nothing but restless tossing and turning. Drinking water, walking around, stretching, and feigning sleep haven’t helped. And the more determined I’ve been to sleep, the more my body and mind have refused that quiet bliss. My bed too hot, the air too cool, but really I’ve been doing what I shouldn’t- stressing about people, relationships, and circumstances that I can’t change. Until last night.

It was around 3:30 AM, I sat straight up with a frustrated sigh when I noticed a shift in the darkness. A quiet singing. It was a beautiful melody, faint and distant in the woods. With each passing note, the voice sounded gentle but determined. I felt like the song was written for me, after all, I was the only one awake in that part of the world at 3:30 in the morning. So I climbed out of bed, leaned out my window, and breathed in the cool air, listening.

Within 30 minutes, more voices added to the melody, each distinct and soothing. Within an hour I saw the faint, faint outline of the sky lighten with the sun. By now my mind felt more at peace, so I closed the window, turned to my bed, and slept for a short 2 hours. That’s when the full choir of birds decided to sing their loudest, waking me up again. Apparently they really wanted an audience. I gave into their song once more, quieting my mind to appreciate their joy in sharing their sweet voices.

I realized then that even in the darkest, birds do sing. When the night is black, and not a soul is around except for you and your racing thoughts and emotions… the birds taught me it is possible to sing. It is possible to hold onto joy. Or when it’s really dark and lonely, it is possible to let others’ joy carry you. Because before you know it, the worries of the night will give way to a pink and orange painted sky and rest will come if you allow it.

So sing in the dark.

It is what brings the light.