tailgate with plaid tablecloth hydrangeas in a retro plaid cooler and cheese tray
Tailgate Food Ideas
tailgate with plaid tablecloth hydrangeas in a retro plaid cooler and cheese tray

Football Season has always been synonymous with Fall at my house. Growing up, my mom and dad took us to college football games every Saturday. My dad played football in high school and received a football scholarship to Auburn University…and so I grew up knowing and loving football! We had season tickets which basically equated to a load of my childhood memories created with my parents, sister, and family friends. SEC Football is full of excitement- from making the drive to the game and passing all of the other fans on the way…we’d shake our orange and blue shakers at them…friendly car horns would say hello…and lots of exchanges of “War Eagle” and “Go Tigers”. Now, as an adult and a mom, I am amazed that my mother packed up a tailgate spread each Fall Saturday and loaded us in the car for the hour and a half trip. I am going to share some of the tips and recipes that I’ve learned from my mom along with ideas from some of my favorite blogging friends– with hopes it helps you plan your tailgate parties that you host at home or at the games!

  1. GRAZING BOARDS
large cheese board with fruit and crackers

My mom always had crackers and cheese to stave off any overly-hungry kids (or adults). The typical crackers and cheese dish from my childhood has definitely grown with more options available in our grocery stores. Cheese boards and grazing boards (also known as charcuterie boards) have become all the rage for good reason. You can stack a platter full of delicious options and feed a crowd for what feels like days. After you decide on a variety of cheese and crackers, add in fruits, vegetables, and even deli meats. Group larger, like foods together to start and then add smaller items to fill in where needed. This makes for a pretty presentation and an easy way to see what you may want to replenish (if you have extra).

My mom also always had dips for us eat- you can add them to the cheese board or let them stand out on their own. Below, I am showing you one of my favorite recipes from my friend at Bird’s Party

2. FOOTBALL CHEESE DIP (click for recipe)

football shaped cheese dip on wooden board with crackers pretzels and vegetables

For game days, my mom kept it simple by adding in our favorite chips or salty snacks. Sometimes she would combine them to make a party mix, which is always a hit. Snack mixes or party mixes make great tailgate food ideas because you end up with a big batch to feed a crowd- and there is something for everyone in the mixes! Below, I am adding one of my favorite tailgate snack mixes from my blogging friend at An Affair from the Heart...I think I like this one a little extra because it has my childhood favorite~ Bugles! Did anyone else love Bugles?

3. TOUCHDOWN SNACK MIX (click for recipe)

snack mix for parties with bugles goldfish chex cereal

And, this next recipe reminds me so much of my childhood. I just bought a bag of these crackers to make this and it made me reminisce a little. I used to love it when my mom made these- and they are very simple!

4. RANCH AND DILL OYSTER CRACKERS (click for recipe)

oyster crackers with dried ranch dressing and dill

Another part of my mom’s tailgate formula for success was to have sandwiches cut in half and placed on a platter. She often rotated between pimento cheese sandwiches and cream cheese and pineapple sandwiches. That second combo was such an odd one to me when I was a kid (it still seems a little different to me as an adult), but I loved it. I have always wondered if that was more common than I realize! Now, sliders are a popular choice and they are simple to make, too! Below, I am sharing my friend Courtney’s (Pizzazzerie) recipe for chicken sliders…

5. CHICKEN SLIDERS . (click for recipe)

tailgate-food-ideas-sliders-pizzazzerie

If you like to offer traditional tailgate fare with a twist, check out this brat recipe from Cheese Curd in Paradise, another food blogging friend…

6. WISCONSIN BEER BRATS (click for recipe)

wisconsin beer brats

For those of you who like to add a veggie sandwich option to your menu should try out this Po’ Boy from my friend, Molly, at Easy Cooking with Molly.

7. VEGGIE PO’ BOY (click for recipe)

veggie po boy sandwich

Side salads were also always on the menu for a tailgate when I was growing up. It differed depending on my mom’s choice of the week, but I mostly remember red potato salad being a go-to . My favorite side salad to make for my family is Chick Pea Salad. Everyone seems to like it, and it is healthy and fresh. I make this recipe for lots of occasions -it’s a great one for summer get-togethers, too.

8. CHICKPEA SALAD WITH MOZZARELLA BALLS (recipe below)

overhead view of individual servings of chick pea salad with tomatoes cucumbers black olives and cheese

Chickpea Salad Recipe

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz.) rinsed and drained

2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 can of small black olives, rinsed and drained

1 package of grape tomatoes, sliced into halves

1 small package of mini mozzarella balls, gently separated

1/4 cup of chopped, fresh parsley

1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese for topping/garnish

Fresh ground pepper for garnish

Instructions~

Whisk together oil, vinegar, and salt in large bowl.

Combine chickpeas and next five ingredients in the large bowl.

Toss ingredients with oil mixture in the bowl.

When ready to serve, garnish with freshly ground pepper and shredded Parmesan cheese.

You can serve in one large bowl or serve individually in small cups or bowls.

Serves 6-8

If you would like to serve a Chickpea Salad with more fall flavors and colors, try this one by my blogging friend, Gloria, at Homemade and Yummy…

9. CHICKPEA SALAD WITH APPLES AND PUMPKIN SEEDS (click for recipe)

chickpea salad with apples and pumpkin seeds

Now that we have ideas for the bulk of the tailgate food, we can talk about dessert and drink ideas…

Sweets such as brownies, or other easy to slice desserts, are always a great choice. They may seem over-used, but you can dress up brownies in cute ways if you want…see these football shaped brownies by Bird’s Party…

10. FOOTBALL BROWNIES (click for recipe)

brownies shaped like footballs with white icing for the seams

Or, you can do like I did here and bake chocolate chip brownies or muffins from a mix (I use Ghirardelli) and add a cupcake topper…

11. CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS OR BROWNIES

chocolate chip brownie muffins with powdered sugar on top and a football cupcake topper

For drinks, I like to make a signature cocktail for those that enjoy a specialty drink. Making a drink to go along with the team colors adds to the spirit of the day. Here I made a red and black cocktail for Bulldawg Illustrated and The Southern Coterie…

12. TEAM SPIRIT COCKTAIL

signature cocktail for the university of georgia

If you prefer to stick with beer, Bird makes a mean FRUITY Beer Cocktail for something different…

13. FRUITY BEER COCKTAIL (click for recipe)

fruity beer cocktail with football coaster diy

For non-alcoholic drinks, I like to have a stock of water- flat water, sparkling water, and also a selection of BODYARMOR. My daughter got us hooked on BODYARMOR for flavored water – and we had a chance to sample several flavors when BODYARMOR asked if they could send us a variety of their drinks. I am especially happy with the natural ingredients of the products- along with the electrolytes when needed. Some of those college football games in the south get really hot and active- even for the spectators! Lol Load up a cooler or display the drinks in a spirited way and keep everyone properly hydrated!

14. BODYARMOR (click for flavor choices)

football player holding helmet full of bodyarmor sports drinks

Luckily, we live within walking distance of some of the best match-ups of SEC games. We get to enjoy the excitement of game days and the tailgate food that is part of the tradition. Some people love football simply for the tailgate, and so it is fun to provide a pre-game meal that feeds a hungry crowd. I hope you use these recipes at your tailgate parties and beyond. And, if you would like more football party inspiration, click here, here, and here.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your game days and parties!

Cheers xo,

Lydia

Disclaimer: I received BodyArmor drinks to review but the opinions and words are all my own. I actually agreed to try more flavors of BODYARMOR because it was already a staple in our home, and I knew we liked it! For us, it is our favorite choice of hydrating drinks.

skull cookies with bright colors and flowers painted on them for day of the dead
Day of the Dead Cake and Cookies by “For Heaven Bakes”

Today, I am bringing back one of my favorite cake and cookie designers to help teach us all a little more about creating show-stopping desserts! I asked my friend, Julie, of For Heaven Bakes, to share tips that we regular folks could use to up our decorating game.

Skull cookie being painted with paint brush with bright colors and flowers
Cookie and Tutorial by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy Photos

Julie created a jaw dropping (LOL) dessert and she is going to tell you all about it! Read on to hear from Julie…and to see how she created the cookies to complement this cake (insert that jaw drop here)…

Lady in purple holding Day of the Dead Skull cake
Cake by Julie McAllister of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

Julie says…

For Halloween this year, I wanted to do a cake that was fun and colorful, and not just limiting the colors to the traditional orange and black. A Day of the Dead-themed party cake and cookies were perfect for this!

Day of the Dead Skull Cake with flowers
Cake by Julie McAllister of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

The skull was sculpted from 5 cake layers (yes, he’s entirely edible!) and vanilla buttercream, then covered in fondant and topped with gum paste flowers. The skull design was entirely hand-painted, which took more than 3 hours to paint the whole head.

side view of day of dead skull cake handpainted with bright colors
Cake by Julie McAllister of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

To make the party dessert setup complete, I wanted to add some fun cookies—these mini Day of the Dead skulls were the perfect complement to the cake!

hand painted skull cookies for day of the dead
Cookies by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

My goal was to show a couple of different ways to decorate Day of the Dead cookies that a baker of any skill level could use as inspiration. Both designs use a combination of royal icing and fondant, and the general steps are outlined below. 

skull cookies with bright colors and flowers painted on them for day of the dead
Cookies by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

How to Hand-Paint Skull Cookies

Day of the Dead Sugar Cookies Two Ways

Design 1: Hand-painted

Things You’ll Need

Skull-shaped sugar cookies, baked and cooled

–Skull-shaped cookie cutter (same that you used for the cookies)


–Small liner and wide paint brushes (I like Wilton’s cake brush sets)

–Corn syrup

–Assortment of gel food coloring (I used sky blue, mint green, rose pink, orange and black)

–1-2 tbsp vodka


Step 1. Roll out your homemade or pre-made fondant until it’s about 1/8″ thick.

baker pressing skull cookie cutter into white fondant
Photo by Abby Murphy

2. Using your skull-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many skulls as you have cookies. (Optional: If your cutter is also a cookie stamp, stamp the design into the fondant after it’s cutout.)

day-of-the-dead-skull-cookie-fondant-corn-syrup
Photo by Abby Murphy

3. Using your wide paint brush, lightly brush a small amount of corn syrup onto the cookie, then place the cutout fondant skull onto the cookie. Using your fingers, smooth out any bumps.

baker smoothing white fondant on top of skull cookie
Photo by Abby Murphy

4. Place 1-2 drops of each gel food coloring you’re using into separate small ramekins (or a ceramic egg holder works great for this!), then add 1 drop of vodka to each color. Wait a few seconds, then mix together with a paint brush. Do this for every color (the vodka allows the food coloring to dry quickly). 

cookie artist painting day of the dead skull cookies with brush
Cookie by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

5. Time to start decorating! I find it’s easiest to paint your “anchors” first, which are the eyes, nose and mouth. The great thing about Day of the Dead designs are that they are very unique and personal, and there are no wrong options! Using your different colors, try painting different swirls, flowers and dots all around the face until you’re happy with your design. 

Cookie by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

6. Set cookies on a cooling rack to dry. Enjoy! 🙂

How to Decorate Skull Cookies Using Fondant

day-of-the-dead-skull-cookies-fondant-only
Cookies by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy


Design 2: Fondant Details Using a Royal Icing Base

Things You’ll Need

–Skull-shaped sugar cookies, baked and cooled

–Royal icing

 –Homemade or pre-made fondant

–Assortment of gel food coloring (I used sky blue, mint green, rose pink, orange and black)
–1-2 tbsp vodka
–Small liner paint brushes (I like Wilton’s cake brush sets)

–Any standard piping tip (you’ll be using the wide base and not the tip itself)

–Small heart cookie cutter

–Small rectangle cookie cutter

–Assortment of flower fondant stamps

–X-acto knife 


Step 1. Outline your skull cookies with royal icing and allow to dry. Once set, flood your royal icing and fill each outline. Allow at least 5 hours to fully dry, but I find it works best to let dry overnight. 

2. Using your various food coloring, color a small amount of fondant for each different color. 

3. Roll out your homemade or pre-made fondant until it’s about 1/8″ thick.

4. As with the first design, I find it’s easiest to start with your “anchors” first, which are the eyes, nose and mouth. And as I mentioned above, the great thing about Day of the Dead designs are that they are very unique and personal, and there are no wrong options!

For the eyes, use the base of your piping tip to cutout two circles (I used black for this).

day-of-the-dead-skull-cookies-with royal icing being decorated
Cookies by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

Using a different color, cutout two flowers, using one of your flower stamps. Using your paint brush, add a small dab of royal icing to the back of each flower and then adhere to the cutout circles. Set aside to dry and firm up. Do two of these for every skull cookie you have.

5. Using your small heart cookie cutter, cutout a “nose” for each cookie. Set aside to dry and firm up.

cookie decorator adding nost to skull cookie for day of the dead
Cookies by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

6. Using the rest of your colored fondant and flower stamps, continue to cutout various flowers in different sizes and colors. Set aside to dry and firm up.

7. Once all of your fondant toppers are firm, adhere to each cookie by placing a small dab of royal icing on your paint brush and then placing onto each cookie. 

cake stand with day of dead skull cookies in two different styles
Cookies by Julie of For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy

8. Set cookies aside on a cooling rack so royal icing can fully dry. Enjoy! 🙂

Julie! Thank you for teaching us your techniques for decorating skull cookies for Day of the Dead. These are incredible! Okay, Friends, it is time for us to have a go. Which ones would you try to make first? I think I would go with the fondant covered cookies while I learn how to make and flood royal icing. I am guessing all of it would be a huge hit. And, I am still amazed by that cake!! Julie- you have so much talent!! You can see more of Julie’s talent here (you really should go see what she makes!).

3 photos combined to show baker holding day of dead skull cake
Julie McAllister/For Heaven Bakes/ Photo by Abby Murphy


ice cream sandwiches dressed up for halloween with candy eyes and witch hats
8 of My Favorite Halloween Food Ideas

Fun or spooky? Cute or creepy? Which is your favorite way to celebrate Halloween? These Halloween food ideas fit more in the fun and cute camp and they were so much fun to create! One of my favorite ways to decorate food for Halloween is by using candy eyes…the eyes make everything more fun. Take a look at the following treats that I made for my own kids and let me know what you think! I have more eye-deas than I can put on one page, but let’s just say that candy eyes bring out all the fun ways to play on words!

  1. Halloween Ice Cream Sand-witches (and Mummies and Monsters)
ice cream sandwiches dressed up for halloween with candy eyes and witch hats
Halloween Ice Cream Sandwiches by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

These are about as easy as it gets to make! To make the “Mummy” simply tear a piece of the wrapper from around the ice cream sandwich to allow a place to add the candy eyes. Use a drop of frosting or peanut butter to attach the eyes to the ice cream sandwich. To make the “Frankenstein” monster, break a mint-flavored ice cream sandwich in half and add the candy eyes with frosting or peanut butter. And, for the witch…simply add candy eyes in the middle of the ice cream sandwich and then add a witch hat by inserting a toothpick in the top of the ice cream and then adding the hat. You can find witch hats (at my affiliate link) on Amazon here.

Halloween ice cream sandwiches decorated to look like mummy witch and frankenstein
Halloween Ice Cream Sandwiches by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

2. EYE SCream Sandwich Ghosts

Ice Cream Sandwiches with candy eyes in the ice cream to look like ghosts
Halloween Ghost Ice Cream Sandwiches by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon

For these Ice Cream Sandwich Ghosts, I used Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches because there is more ice cream in the middle than the average ice cream sandwich. This makes it easier to make the eyes peep out from the ice cream. To make the eyes stick, add them to the slightly softened ice cream and then put them back in the freezer immediately.

ice cream sandwich ghosts with candy eyes peeping out from the ice cream
Ice Cream Sandwich Ghosts with Candy Eyes by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon

3. Halloween Brownie Tr(EYE)-fle

Halloween brownie trifle with whipped cream and eyeball gumballs
Brownie Tr(EYE)-fle by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon

For this brownie trifle, I put ping pong balls with eyes in the very bottom of the trifle dish and added battery-operated lights to make it all glow. Next, I placed a few layers of plastic wrap over the balls and lights and then started adding the brownies. I layered chocolate pudding, Cool Whip, and crushed Oreos and then repeated the brownies, pudding, Cool Whip and Oreos. For the top layer, I added gum balls that were eyeballs (typically available at Halloween) and I even sprinkled in a few small, candy eyes. I can’t even tell you how fast this disappeared!

Brownie Trifle with gumball eyeballs on the top
Brownie Trifle by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

4. Individual Brownie Tr(EYE)-fles

Individual servings of brownie trifles with candy eyes and gold spoons
Mini Brownie Trifles Tr(EYE)fles by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon

Same eye-dea, just served individually in small jars or cups. For this brownie trifle, I used jumbo candy eyes for the topper and simply layered brownies, chocolate pudding, and Cool Whip inside the jars. You can definitely add a spoonful of crushed Oreos if you like! These are a huge hit in a small package!

5. L(EYE)ME- ADE

Limeade in glass bottles with straws and eyeball ping pong balls
Limeade served with EYES by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon. Straws and Straw Flags by Loralee Lewis

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but here I served Simply Limeade in glass bottles and added a straw and straw flag from Loralee Lewis. I topped the bottles with eyeball ping pong balls that I found at Michael’s. The ball rested perfectly against the straw and didn’t roll off or fall down into the bottle- it made a very fun presentation!

L(EYE)me-ade by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon

And then here is another version of how I have served Limeade to be L(EYE)m-ade…I actually really love this one because the kids like wearing the eyeball rings…

Halloween drinks served in glass bottles with spooky eye rings and halloween straws
Limeade aka L(EYE)me-ade by Lydia Menzies of The Party Wagon

6. EYES-cubes ~ (Ice Cubes) for Eyes Tea

Ice cubes made with eyeball ping pong balls
Eyes-cubes made by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

For this fun idea, I used silicone cupcake molds to make ice cubes and added an eyeball ping pong ball on top. The balls did not freeze into the ice, but made a divot in the ice so that the ball could stay on top of it. I floated these ice cubes in a punch bowl of sweet tea to serve EYES TEA (iced tea).

Iced Tea in a punch bowl with floating eyeball ice cubes
Iced Tea Punch/ EYES TEA with EYES CUBES by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

7. WITCH WARTS

small glass jars filled with green candies and candy eyes topped with a witch hat and mini broom
Witch Warts Party Favors by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

Candy eyes give this “Witch Warts” party favor extra personality! To make this gift for your party guests or friends, use a small, clear plastic jar and fill with your favorite green candy. I used green sprinkles. Slide candy eyes into the jar so that they are facing out. Put the jar top on and add a mini witch hat- secure the hat with glue dots or double-sided tape. I wrapped a green ribbon around the outside of the jar top and tied a bow. Add a mini broom stick to finish off the look of the witch! This gift is sure to get a smile!

Witch wart party favor green candy in clear jar with mini witch hat and mini broom
Witch Warts Party Favors by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

8. EYE-SCREAM BATH BOMBS

Display of halloween bath bombs with candy eyes inside of ice cream cones
EYE-Scream Bath Bombs by Sun Basil Soaps- styled by Lydia at The Party Wagon

Although this is not edible, I couldn’t help but share it with you guys! These bath bombs are bomb, as you can see. Here is another party favor idea for you for a fun Halloween take away! My friend, Lauren, at Sun Basil Soap made these for us, and I displayed them in ice cream cones and candy cups to make them look like ice cream to go along with the eye-scream theme. They were so cute and unique. Candy eyes really do make everything a little more fun!

Display of monster mash candy eye bath bombs displayed in ice cream cones
Eye-Scream Bath Bombs by Sun Basil Soaps and styled by Lydia Menzies at The Party Wagon

I hope these eye-deas jumpstart your creative juices for Halloween! The eyes definitely have it when it comes to a fun and not-so spooky Halloween. Here’s to making, baking, and celebrating!! Enjoy!

Cheers xo,

Lydia

charcuterie board with cheese meat and fruit on boat with wine and flowers
Nantucket Charter Boat Harbor Cruise with Shearwater Excursions

There is something special about being on a boat in the water, but add some of your family and friends, and it turns into an extra-special time together! I was so happy to have the chance to sail the Nantucket Harbor on the cutest boat called the Minke. Minke is owned by the Perkins Family of Shearwater Excursions. This easy-going boat party turned out to be such a collaborative effort, and I can’t wait to show you what was created for the fun cruise around the harbor!

The first thing I noticed about the Minke was its red and white stripe top- she is a beautiful boat that is perfect for a small group or a big celebration! I was thrilled to work with Rachael of Shearwater Excursions to arrange a beautiful night on the water in Nantucket Harbor. Our family friends, Lance, David and Thomas, joined us on the sunset cruise. Our cruise was scheduled for an hour and a half, and it started at 6:00 p.m. Knowing that we would all be hungry, Lance and I set out to find appetizers that would be perfect to serve on a boat. We decided on a charcuterie board so that it would cater to a variety of tastes with different cheeses, meats, fruits, veggies, breads, and crackers.

charcuterie board with cheese meat and fruit on boat with wine and flowers

The boat is named Minke after the owners’ favorite whale that they see on their trips with their company, Shearwater Excursions.

orange life preserver with minke printed on it in black

Because Nantucket history centers on whaling and because of the name of the boat, I really wanted to make the charcuterie appetizer in the shape of a whale.

charcuterie board with food in shape of a whale outlined with blueberries

To make the whale shape, I first outlined a whale shape on a piece of paper and cut out the shape. Next, I placed the paper shape on a wooden cutting board (or you can use a platter of your choice). I put cream cheese in a Ziploc bag and let it soften a little bit. When the cream cheese is soft enough to squeeze from the bag, snip a small hole in a bottom corner of the bag. Squeeze the cream cheese from the bag as you would frosting from a frosting bag. Outline the whale shape around the paper and then remove the paper from the board before adding the food to the whale shape. Next, Lance and I used blueberries to define the shape of the whale by placing them in the cream cheese. We ended up with two rows of blueberries around the entire whale shape. The next step was to fill in the whale shape with crackers, cheese, sliced meat, fruits, and vegetables. Lance is really great at making charcuterie boards, and he says the trick is to group like items together. Make it visually appealing by stacking the items in interesting ways. Lance worked his magic on placing everything just so. We added fresh herbs to different places around the board- and we used 2 small bowls to mimic the eye and the spout.

Cheese board charcuterie with nantucket basket full of pink blue green and purple hydrangeas with red and white striped fork

I placed a customized wooden fork in the center of the tray for easy pick up and had several others on hand, when needed. The forks were made by When I Was Your Age on Etsy and were purchased in town at the shop named ACK 4170 (those letters and numbers represent the airport call letters and longitude/latitude of Nantucket.) The cups, straws, and plates were also from the same talented ladies- the plates were boat shaped trays and they all had the pattern with red and white stripes. And, the flowers were straight from the yard! David so kindly cut and arranged the hydrangeas. The different colors of the blooms are so gorgeous- I love them mixed in the same arrangement.

pink blue purple limelight hydrangeas in nantucket basket ice bucket
Nantucket Basket Ice Bucket from Maizie Clarke Designs

I can’t tell you how much I love the Nantucket Basket ice bucket that Maizie Clarke sent me while I was on Nantucket. It is so beautifully hand painted and mimics the weave of a basket so perfectly. The ice bucket is made of porcelain with a woven handle. The top is also a perfect match to a Nantucket Basket. It is so well done by Maizie! We debated on using it for ice or fruit, but, as you can see, we used it as a vase to hold the beautiful hydrangeas. I will link you to the ice bucket here so that you can have one, too (also-the last time I looked, it was on sale!)!! Before we climbed aboard the Minke, I snapped a few photos of the flowers and bucket on the Straight Wharf dock…

white cake with daisies on vintage pink porcelain cake stand with hydrangeas in nantucket basket and with bar towel

And, that fantastic bar towel is also by Maizie Clarke! Maizie hand-draws each piece of art and then creates beautiful items for your home. I really love being able to use these towels in our kitchen, and I am so grateful to Maizie for such a thoughtful gift. I will enjoy these for years to come!

Cake with fondant daisies on pink cake stand with nantucket basket dish towel and ice bucket with hydrangeas
Nantucket Basket Dishtowel/ Bar Towel by Maizie Clarke

And, I am really loving the cake stand that Lance picked up at the Hospital Thrift Shop (all proceeds go to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital) on Nantucket. I learned the hard way that if you see something that you like, you better grab it quickly! I am glad that Lance snagged this beautiful pink, blue, white, and gold piece as his souvenir from his trip. I may have to ask to borrow it sometime! 🙂

underside of a Vintage cake stand in bright pink and white with designs in blue and gold

The gorgeous cake is from 45 Surfside Bakery and Cafe on Nantucket…they were so kind to create a cake with daisies to mimic another island favorite. Daisies grow wild around the island- I have always loved them lining the bike paths- and so we had a beautifully decorated white cake with fondant daisies and more blueberries!

party-ideas-nantucket-harbor-cruise-daisy-blueberry-cake

After Captain John invited us all onto the boat, he set sail around the Nantucket Harbor and gave us a narrated tour of the different landmarks and boats. It was so fun to hear his stories and interesting facts- he was a great host and captain!

Captain John on the Minke boat in Nantucket Harbor

To go with our cheese/ charcuterie board, we brought along some Prosecco, juices, and waters. We were treated to these fabulous MINKE acrylic wine tumblers from The Preppy Stitch!

Bottle of Prosecco with three acrylic wine tumblers customized with Minke and Nantucket Island

The Preppy Stitch is owned by Gabrielle Rogers- she and I met at The Southern C Summit in Sea Island this past February. It was so surprising to find that we had a Nantucket connection! I was thrilled to get to see Gabrielle while we were both on the island- and so excited to know that Gabi could whip up these customized glasses for us just for our harbor cruise! I love how they turned out with the shape of the island and the name of the boat! We gifted a set to the Minke, so be sure to look for them if you charter a cruise on this adorable boat!

Bottle of Prosecco with acrylic wine glass in front of man with Nantucket Reds

Lance and David enjoying a little wine and charcuterie while Captain John guides us around the Harbor…

two men on a boat one pouring wine into a glass

The views from the boat are so beautiful – it is fun to be up-close to the yachts and sailboats that are docked and moored in the Nantucket Harbor. It is also so relaxing and calming to just enjoy the breeze along with friends, family, and food!

red and white nantucket sailboat without sails

We chose the Sunset Cruise for our adventure around the harbor, but Shearwater Excursions has many options to suit different interests.

Nantucket sunset cruise aboard the Minke boat with red and white striped top
sunset in nantucket harbor with sailboat in photo
man on boat with sunglasses and navy blue shirt smiling and holding stemless wineglass
red cooler with shearwater excursions logo in the corner and the name of the boat Minke written in black ink
Photo by Lance Jackson of Parker Kennedy Living
Family with husband wife daughter son on Nantucket harbor cruise aboard Minke boat
Necklace by Cara Brown Designs
American flag on front of boat with sunset behind it

When you book with Shearwater, you can choose from a variety of options to help you see and experience Nantucket from the water.

Nantucket Harbor Cruise Options

  1. For the younger crew…I would suggest the ice cream cruise or the children’s fishing cruise. For the ice cream cruise, Shearwater provides the ice cream and offers a narrated tour of the Nantucket Harbor. My daughter has already said that is the one she wants to do next year. 🙂 . Such a perfect way to let the kids enjoy a fun boating trip! The cruise lasts 1 1/2 hours.
  2. If you are interested in seeing whales, Shearwater Excursions offers a Whale Watching trip- it is a 6-hour-excursion with the most breathtaking sightings (the whale sightings are guaranteed)!
  3. A Seal Excursion is another fabulous option- it is also an eco-tour and so you learn so much about the ecos of Nantucket. You see many, many seals on this tour.
  4. A Sunset Cruise is probably my absolute favorite- sunsets are always special- and they are made more special by being on the water with Shearwater’s Minke.
  5. The Cocktail Cruise is quite popular- many celebrations are hosted on this cruise with Shearwater. What a fun way to toast a bride-to-be, a birthday honoree, an anniversary, a new job, or other exciting milestone. All passengers must be 21 or older on this cruise.
  6. Shearwater also offers a clamming trip- learn something new or go dig for dinner! This sounds like an adventurous trip- I would love to give it a try!
  7. For you history buffs, take the Whaling History Excursion and learn about Nantucket’s robust whaling days. I am always fascinated by the courage of these captains and sailors who struck out to find whales in so much unchartered territory.
  8. You can also explore up the Harbor with Shearwater Excursions- they offer an eco-tour and they teach about the ecosystems around the island and how best to protect and preserve them.
  9. Private Charters are a really fun option for a Nantucket Harbor Cruise- these adventures are wonderful for family reunions, college reunions, wedding parties, birthday parties, anniversary parties, corporate parties, and more. You can work with Rachael to plan what you would like to host for your private charter. This one has an endless amount of options!

Shearwater has been recognized by Yankee Magazine and the New York Times for the services they provide their customers. I can tell you from experience, they are a wonderful family company with a heart for maintaining a healthy home for sealife while helping visitors to the island enjoy and appreciate the beautiful place we find so appealing and charming.

a black bottle of prosecco with a monogrammed wine glass on a sunset cruise aboard the Minke

Cheers to the Perkins Family for offering so many wonderful ways to enjoy Nantucket- and for treating us to such a wonderful night on the Minke! I love making memories that are special and unique with each trip! Thank you!

You can read more about our Nantucket adventures here, here, here, and here. Enjoy!

Cheers and XO,

Lydia

watermelon pizza sliced in a circle and cut into triangles topped with berries and feta cheese
15 Best Watermelon Recipes and Party Ideas

Summer is always a little sweeter with watermelon! As we savor all that summer has to offer (right down to the last little bit the season), it is always a great idea to take advantage of this seasonal fruit. I am sharing some of my all-time favorite watermelon recipes and party ideas that put watermelon center-stage! You can find even more recipe ideas here!

  1. Watermelon Pizza – this is one of my very favorites that I love to make for my family. It is also great to serve at a barbecue, cookout, or any type of group gathering. There are lots of versions, but here is the one that I make most often…
watermelon pizza sliced in a circle and cut into triangles topped with berries and feta cheese

Directions for making it are easy! Simply buy a round watermelon and slice it so that you have a circle shape. Cut the circle in fourths and then cut each fourth in half to make eight pieces. Add blueberries, chopped strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries. Sprinkle crumbled Feta cheese over the top, if desired. You can also use a dollop of whipped cream if you would like- this will also hold the toppings in place better. Kids usually like whipped cream and adults usually like the cheese. You can also add your favorite herbs- such as basil or mint to give the recipe an extra dash of flavor!

Watermelon pizza with one slice being picked up

2. Fresh Watermelon Cake by Sprinklebakes

fresh watermelon cake with white frosting and watermelon balls and herbs on top

Oh, my goodness! This is such an interesting way to make a cake! I love that you can also frost it with whipped cream if you prefer- and I love that it definitely has a surprise inside than your typical cake. You can find the instructions over at Sprinklebakes.

slice of fresh watermelon cake with fork stuck in the watermelon

3. Mini Watermelon Cake from Pizzazzerie

watermelon cake in mini mason jars with pink icing and chocolate chips for seeds tied with raffia ribbon

If you would rather have cake that looks like watermelon instead of watermelon that looks like cake, you should try this mini watermelon cake in a jar from Pizzazzerie! The single-sized serving makes this recipe a great one for a party- and you can make it ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator!

mini watermelon cake in mason jar with layers of green cake and pink frosting with chocolate chips for seeds

4. Watermelon Sherbet Pie from Make and Takes

slice of watermelon sherbet pie with chocolate chips for seeds

This pie is cute and refreshing! It looks best when sliced and served because you can see the watermelon details even better. This is simple to make with easy instructions at Make and Takes.

5. Watermelon Cake from Cake Central

This cake from Lovemyhusband on Cake Central looks like the real thing until you slice into it and see the fluffy cake with chocolate seeds. This is fun inspiration if you are feeling creative! You can add watermelon flavoring it you want to be as close to the real thing as possible!

6. Cute Watermelon Party and Cookies from Sweet Peach Paperie found at The Party Wagon

red green dress cookie with black dots for watermelon seeds

These cookies remind me of a Lilly Pulitzer shift- they are so cute for a kids’ party or even for a summer picnic with all ages. This entire party photoshoot has so many pretty ideas and special touches!

7. Watermelon Ginger Mojitos from Southern Living

This adult-only cocktail is so delicious on a hot summer day! I especially love the extra flavor of ginger! Southern Living totally gets what we need during the dog days of summer. What a perfect party drink!

two glasses of watermelon ginger mojitos with ice and mint garnish
Photographer Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist :Kay Clarke, Food Stylist :Torie Cox

8. Watermelon with Potted Plant by Creative Orchard at The Party Wagon

Simply hollow out a watermelon and remove as much pulp as possible (use it to make one of the other recipes on this list) and then drop in a potted plant.

watermelon hollowed out and used as a vase for plant with red flowers

9. DIY Watermelon Balloons- also by The Creative Orchard featured at The Party Wagon

green balloons and red balloons with black seeds drawn on them to look like a bouquet of watermelon balloons

This is one of my favorite ways to add personality to balloons at a picnic or cookout- the seeds are drawn with a Sharpie Marker- so easy! This entire Watermelon Picnic is adorable!!

10. Watermelon Feta Guacamole from Two Peas and Their Pod

guacamole made with watermelon with tortilla chip

I’m a sucker for interesting combinations, and this guacamole lured me right in! It is definitely a twist on the traditional, but I really love the flavors. It is a fun dish to serve friends and family so that everyone can try something new! It has been a hit at our house! I hope you like it, too!!

11. Watermelon Feta Appetizers from Pizzazzerie

watermelon feta and basil on a wooden skewer

If you prefer a similar taste but individual servings, go with this recipe from Courtney at Pizzazzerie. Stack watermelon, feta, and basil and secure with a wooden skewer for serving- and then you are all set with a fabulous appetizer (and it is healthy)!

12. Fabulous Balloon Garland from Happy Wish Company

How stunning is this watermelon colored balloon garland? Such a beautiful decoration with so much wow-factor!

red pink green clear balloons with confetti drape to make a balloon garland

13. Watermelon Jolly Rancher Birthday Cake from Frosted Cakery

watermelon birthday cake with green white and pink and black seeds

If you need a fancy cake for a watermelon theme, this one is especially perfect for the candy lover in your life! With Jolly Rancher candy watermelon slices on top, it is definitely two favorites in one. I love the frosting stacks on top!

14. Watermelon and Arugula Salad from Barefoot Contessa

There is nothing better than the taste combination of arugula and watermelon, topped with shaved parmesan cheese and a fantastic dressing from Ina Garten!

arugula watermelon parmesan cheese salad

15. Watermelon Paper Cups with Gold Foil from Amazon

These pink cups with gold foil “seeds” and a two-toned green rind are my favorite watermelon cups for a party. Don’t you think they are too cute?

pink watermelon cups with gold foil seeds

This watermelon roundup is a fabulous way to find a range of party ideas and recipes to enjoy the oh-so-seasonal treat of a watermelon. If you find yourself wanting more ideas on where to find party goods to complete your look for a watermelon party, see my personal picks below. I included my Amazon affiliate links here to help you shop more quickly and easily!

WATERMELON DRINK UMBRELLAS

WATERMELON PAPER STRAWS

WATERMELON BALLOON SET

WATERMELON BALLOON GARLAND KIT

WATERMELON SLICE PINATA

WATERMELON POOL FLOAT

WATERMELON SPRINKLER BALL

ONE IN A MELON BALLOON SET

Cheers and XO,

Lydia

Recipe for Monster Cookies

Mmmm…peanut butter, M&M’s, chocolate chips, and oats combine to make the richest and most satisfying cookies you have ever had! Monster Cookies get their name from the large size of the cookie and the massive amount of deliciousness in each one! I keep this recipe in strong rotation, and I am always asked if I will share the recipe.

You can serve a crowd with this recipe and so I often make these monster cookies for potluck gatherings, tailgate parties, summer get-togethers with friends, and as treat to share with teachers or family and friends. The oatmeal and peanut butter make them a hearty sweet treat- they seem almost like a meal in itself! :). I definitely suggest a glass of milk to go with it! These cookies are fully-loaded and so, so good!

I actually just made these as a “Back to School” treat for my kids- they will be a great pick-me-up to pack in their lunches for school. A special little perk to look forward to and enjoy while they are also trying to get their school groove back in gear. My kids always seem to have a little bit of an adjustment from the summer freedom of eating when you’re hungry to the school year scheduled eating times. My son, especially, eats so much more during the days at home than he can when he’s at school. I am glad this is filling- it will help him get through that first week!

I love being able to share the recipe for these super-popular cookies! My friend, Heather, introduced me to them so long ago~ and they have been a staple in our house ever since. I hope you enjoy them, too!! Here is a quick photo of the ingredients that we gather before we start (my kids love helping me make these- and now can actually make them all on their own).

MONSTER COOKIES

1 CUP BUTTER

3 CUPS PEANUT BUTTER

2 CUPS WHITE SUGAR

1/4 CUP LIGHT KARO SYRUP

4 teaspoons BAKING SODA

1/4 teaspoon SALT

2 teaspoons VANILLA

6 EGGS

CREAM ALL INGREDIENTS AND ADD~

8-10 CUPS OATS (I suggest Quaker Old Fashioned Oats instead of Quick Oats)

12 OZ. CHOCOLATE CHIPS

12 OZ. M &M s

Scoop 1/4 cup for each cookie and drop on cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may need to cook longer. The tops and edges should be golden brown when the cookies are done. Don’t overcook – the cookies will be dry.

Enjoy!

Here are a couple of other photos that I took when I served them- I have these small and really great wicker trays from Society Social that I use when I want to serve the kids something and make it a little more special. Anything works- but I also love these trays because they can bring all of the dishes to the sink and dishwasher at once when it is time to clean up! That way, nothing is “accidentally” forgotten when they put away their dishes. 🙂 I used flowers and lots of colors for my daughter and then used red, blue, and yellow for my son. He probably doesn’t notice that I change it for him, because the cookies are all he really cares about! Ha! I can’t blame him!

You can also see how I used this recipe for a Fourth of July picnic here. It was one of my very first recipes I shared when I started blogging- so beware…it is equal parts funny and cringe -y (as my kids would say) to see the original posts on my blog. I love to see the progress this little blog has made over the years. Lol! Thank you for being here and for helping me grow! I really hope you love what you find here at The Party Wagon!

Also, these cookies freeze well! If you make more than you need, or if you just want to save some for later…you can freeze these for a few months. Just take out to thaw and then enjoy all over again! Cheers, Friends!

XO,

Lydia