elegant buffetA few years ago I coordinated a large open house event at work, to celebrate the retirement of a high level manager. Due to his rank, hundreds of invitations went out to colleagues and dignitaries. The goal was to serve food and beverages for 200-400 people who would wander into the venue over a period of four hours. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, it all had to be provided on a shoe-string budget! So, were we able to pull it off? Yes! Thanks to some volunteers, a bit of planning and a lot of organization, my small team hosted a very elegant buffet. These pictures are from that event.

elegant buffetSo recently, my supervisor asked if I would again coordinate a nice buffet to follow an important ceremony at work. Although this event would be smaller than the last and over two hours instead of four, there was literally no budget at all so my organizational skills were even more necessary! In this post, I thought I’d walk you through the process I used to pull this event together. Hopefully I can share some helpful tips that you’ll find useful when planning your own event.

Buffet table: I used four conference tables pushed together to form a square center with two side arms, making a double-sided buffet. The first step is to determine the overall size and configuration of the table and whether the buffet will be served from one side (like up against a wall) or from two sides. When configuring tables, consider the distance guests will have to reach to access platters.

buffet3Serving pieces: For both events I used silver, crystal, and white ceramic to give the table a formal look. Two of the platters were plastic but had the appearance of leaded glass. Only a few of the pieces were mine; most were borrowed from my sister, and some from work colleagues. I ordered silver swirl plastic plates and decorative paper napkins online, and bought the cups at a local party supply store. Whether you borrow or rent, the goal here is to use styles and colors that are complimentary.

buffet4Tablecloths and risers: I purchased the tablecloths online for the first event, so I already had them on hand for the second. Tablecloths can be expensive but they are a one-time expense, or no expense at all if you can borrow them. I used eight rectangular tablecloths—four to cover the tables, and four to drape over the risers, which are then scrunched around the edges in a loose pattern. Setting platters at alternating heights will add interest to the buffet design. For risers, I used paper mache floral containers, which can be purchased from a floral supply vendor. These work well because they are inexpensive, uniform in size, light-weight, and sturdy. They also provide a wide base to put large platters on, alleviating fears that a plate may tip and fall off the riser. Large Tupperware-type containers will work just as well, as long as they are the same size if symmetry is important to your table design.
buffet5Serve ware placement: I started with a diagram, taking into consideration the dimensions of the table and the size of the serving pieces. It is essential to plan this out if you have a lot of pieces to coordinate. In our first event, I used 24 pieces of serve ware, and 18 in the second, so I measured each piece and planned the placement on paper before ever setting up the table. I prefer balance and symmetry, so I paired like-size pieces to be situated opposite of one another. For example, I had two 24 inch silver platters so I placed them at two diagonals. Similarly, risers and tiered servers were placed in opposite pairs so the table layout would be balanced. On the diagram, I also planned space for flowers, plates, and napkins. For all pieces, I worked to maintain a convenient reach distance for guests.

Menu: Since our event was an open house and guests would be served at different times, we chose an appetizer and dessert buffet with items that could be served at room temperature. And because we had a limited budget, most of the food was provided by employees who volunteered to bake or purchase what we needed. They’d tell me if they were bringing 50 mini cupcakes or 100 tea sandwiches, and I would make a list of each item and the number of pieces. While this may sound a bit silly, it was the only way to determine how much food we’d have, and whether or not we’d have enough. This was really important for the first event, since we thought 200 guests were likely, but knew 400 guests could show up. Food can be a huge expense when hosting a party, but with some organization of volunteers, it doesn’t have to be. And with all of the recipes now available online, even people with no cooking skills such as myself, can make all sorts of really tasty and professional-looking food.

Calculating the amount of food needed: Using 8-inch dessert plates, I estimated 6-8 individual food items per plate, and then multiplied that by the maximum number of people we expected. The benefit of serving food in individual pieces rather than something that can be spooned out, is that you get a much better idea of how many people the food you have will serve. For example, 6-8 appetizers per person multiplied by 300 guests is 1800-2400 pieces. This means I need to find 24 employees who are each willing to make 100 appetizers. For a large scale event, the list of who is bringing what and how many, really comes in handy! Using small plates is also helpful for keeping guests from shall we say, over-indulging at the buffet table! The goal for our two events was to provide light refreshments for guests while they mingled, so our food selections and plate sizes reflected that.

Assigning food to platters: Part of this exercise is determining how much food each platter can accommodate. The other part is to arrange food so that there is some sort of order to it. For example, I knew the tea sandwiches would take up a lot of room, so I assigned them to the four largest platters in the center square. Food items that required more than one platter were placed on opposite sides, again for balance. For our first event we had a back-fill room, where two helpers were assigned to re-fill platters as needed throughout the event. With people showing up at different times, I didn’t want guests to be confronted with half-empty platters because they arrived in the third hour instead of the first hour.

celosia roses dahlias hypericumFlowers: For a table of this size, I thought a tall arrangement was needed. I used two vases to create a submerged design at the base and an elegant arrangement above. The bottom vase had submerged Mokara orchids, while the top was adorned with a fall festival of color! I used ti leaves to anchor the center, and then surrounded them with roses, dahlias, orchids, hypericum and celosia. A bit of curly willow gave it even more height. Two smaller vases of orchids were placed on the side arms of the table.

submerged orchids

buffet6Preparation timeline: Once the food was planned and the supplies procured, I prepared a set up schedule outlining each task that still needed to be done. The key to good organization is that everything goes on the time line. My schedule started the week before the event with cleaning and polishing of the serving pieces. The day before the event, I made a trip to the Flower Market downtown, completed the vase arrangements, and set up the buffet table. I knew the morning of the event would be chaotic, so I recorded detailed instructions for each food item; who was bringing what food and when, which items had to be kept refrigerated or frozen, and which food had to be assembled on site. Taking the time to consider the details and doing a little contingency planning in case something goes wrong, can keep you from having a big meltdown later if something does go wrong.

elegant buffet submerged orchidsOrganizing help: It is really important to have adequate help on hand the day of the event. When I arrived at 6:30 that morning, my colleagues were already out in front of the building setting up for the ceremony. The unit delivering some of the food and all of the beverages was already there, and I was approached for instructions before I even got through the front door! It was really helpful to have a few people on hand to assist me. While I was dealing with other issues, they were able to finish some last minute food prep, actually plating all of the food items on their assigned platters, and refrigerating most of them so that everything could be placed within just a few minutes right before the reception started.

buffet tableHosting these two events was a lot of hard work, but it was not as expensive as it could have been. We borrowed instead of bought and engaged volunteers instead of caterers. That saved us a ton of money and allowed us to host our elegant receptions on a shoe-string budget. It’s funny to hear the rave reviews from our guests who are convinced they attended a lovely catered affair, when essentially they came for pot-luck, but just didn’t know it! It’s all in the presentation…

elegant buffet
On the journey toward Home,


Women of Faith

Alas, my sister and I have attended our last Women of Faith conference. For thirteen years, we’ve set aside four days in September to join 10,000 other ladies in a packed arena for a weekend of spiritual refreshment. But sadly, this is the final conference tour for Women of Faith.

Women of Faith

The conference started in 1996, with just four speakers; Barbara Johnson, Patsy Clairmont, Luci Swindoll and Marilyn Meberg. Shortly thereafter, Sheila Walsh and Thelma Wells were added to the speaking team, as well as dramatist Nicole Johnson. Originally designed to fill a void in women’s ministry, Women of Faith quickly outgrew the church venue, and was soon filling arenas across the country. Additional guest speakers like Lisa Harper, Jennifer Rothschild, and Christine Caine, and musicians like Natalie Grant, Nicole C. Mullen, Sandi Patty, and an all-female worship team, added variety to the conference.

Women of FaithWe began attending in 2003, while both recovering from thoracic surgery after being diagnosed with catamenial pneumothorax. That conference was called the Great Adventure, and we certainly needed that kind of perspective while navigating through the medical challenges we faced that year. The following year we attended Irrepressible Hope, and then Extraordinary Faith, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Freedom in the subsequent years.

Women of Faith

As we struggled through multiple surgeries, and then journeyed down the difficult road of cancer with our mom, we found that for us, the conferences had become a special sort of provision from God. Each year we attended, the messages pierced our hearts with just what we needed to hear. The speakers shared their own stories, which were both heart breaking and inspirational. Some had struggled through difficult illnesses of their own. Some had lost spouses or children. Others had suffered abuse and abandonment. And still others shared the horror of their own self-inflicted prisons made from the consequences of their poor choices. Shared from honest hearts, their stories resonated with those of us attending. I think one of the most important truths we realized was that we were not alone. We sat in an arena with thousands of other women who had the same hurts, disappointments, and trials that we had. Knowing that your issues are not unique to you, can be liberating and allow sisters in Christ to come along side in support. And that’s just what the speakers focused on. They showed us how we can take the problems and baggage we carry in life and find freedom by laying it all at the foot of the cross.

Women of Faith

Another truth that Women of Faith really focused on was the great extent of God’s love for us. In our world where human love is frequently based on how valuable we are to other people, it is difficult for me to understand how God’s love is not based on who I am, what I do, or what I don’t do. Because conditional love is the type I see in the world around me, it is hard for me to visualize what God’s love for me looks like. This year, one of the speakers asked, “If we could truly grasp the depth of God’s love for us, how would that effect how we live today?” How indeed!

I have learned so much from these ladies, and at times, laughed so hard that no sound came out of my mouth! While all of the presenters had wisdom to share, the ladies of the core speaker team are particular treasures!

Women of Faith

Patsy Clairmont has such a talent for weaving Biblical stories like those of Elijah, David, and Gideon, into modern issues in order to illustrate God’s continued faithfulness. I especially loved her retelling of a famous missive: “Now Jezabel sent Elijah an e-mail that read: I’m. Gonna. Gitcha!” From Patsy I’ve learned that like Elijah, God knows when I am overwhelmed by circumstances. He will faithfully provide the resources I need to continue the journey he has set out before me.

Women of Faith

Sheila Walsh has a transparent and honest heart, and she points me to Jesus every time she speaks. I have shed more tears during her messages, because she so accurately expresses what we’re all feeling. From Sheila I’ve learned that my past doesn’t determine my future. God will take the broken pieces in my life and make them into something he can use for his glory. Not a single tear is wasted in God’s economy.

Women of Faith

Marilyn Meberg has such wisdom, which she shares with compassion and love. She is also one of the funniest story tellers I have ever heard, and her quirky sense of humor is just priceless. From Marilyn, I’ve learned that when life goes sideways it isn’t because I didn’t have enough faith or I didn’t pray hard enough. The outcome of a situation is not my burden to carry, but the enemy will often use this lie to discourage me. My job is to be obedient and God will handle the rest.

Women of Faith

Luci Swindoll has the gift of finding joy in every circumstance. Even when confronted with trials, she chooses to face life with optimism. Her friendship with Marilyn and the crazy adventures they’ve shared together have been hilarious. My favorite story was when Luci described how she navigated a jeep through a field blindfolded while Marilyn told her where to drive! From Luci, I’ve learned that because God has shown himself to be faithful, he can be trusted with the outcome of each circumstance in my life. Instead of being afraid of the future, I can see life as an adventure because Jesus is already there.

Women of Faith

Thelma Wells has a genuine love for people and is grounded in the Word of God. She has overcome adversity by leaning on his promises and immersing herself in prayer. From Thelma I’ve learned that while I may face impossible situations, nothing is impossible for God. He is all powerful, loves me with an everlasting love, and will work all things together for my good.

Women of Faith

Nicole Johnson has a real insight into human emotions and such a talent for dramatizing them in a very transparent way. Her sketches have moved me to tears, and sent me into fits of laughter. From Nicole, I’ve learned that I am not invisible to God, and that I am not defined by the labels other people put onto me. God loves me and values me.

In the midst of our own medical issues and those of our mom, the conferences provided much needed encouragement. We were reminded that God was still there. He had not forgotten us. Just as Jesus healed the women with the issue of blood, God would meet us where we were. The messages had such an impact during those difficult years, that we included some of those insights in our book Held by God.

Women of Faith

I am sad that Women of Faith is completing its final tour, but grateful for the speakers and musicians who gave of their time and talents to minister to all of us for all of those years. We have been blessed, and have learned what it means to be daughters of the King! We are seen, we are known, we are LOVED!

If you’d like to be a part of the final LOVED tour, it continues in selected cities through February 2016. The conference is also now available on DVD if you can’t attend in person.

On the journey toward Home,


SoCal HarvestAre you weary? Do you carry burdens of guilt or shame? Do you want to find rest in the midst of this mad world? Are you searching for meaning? Would you be surprised to learn that God knows you, loves you and has a purpose for your life?

If yes is the answer to any of these questions, then you are encouraged to attend the SoCal Harvest Crusade, August 28-30 at Angel Stadium! Pastor Greg Laurie will be giving a powerful and uplifting message explaining how you can find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Great music will be provided by Christian artists Third Day, Phil Wickham, Lacey Sturm, Lacrae, Citizens & Saints, the Harvest Worship Band, and Jeremy Camp.

Gates at the Anaheim Angel Stadium open at 5:30 P.M. and the event begins at 7:00 P.M.
Admission is free, but the stadium charges $15.00 for parking.
If you don’t live locally, you can watch the live stream at Socal.Harvest.org

The Harvest Crusade has been an outreach ministry of Harvest Christian Fellowship since 1990. More than 5 million people have attended either in person or virtually over the internet, and over 430,000 have registered professions of faith at or through these events.

SoCal Harvest Crusade

Give it a listen-it will change your life!

On the journey toward Home,


StrawberryI saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it looked like an easy-to-make treat for the Fourth of July!
These are just chocolate dipped strawberries with a dab of sugar sprinkles.

Here’s what I used:
-Two containers of strawberries (about 40 pieces)
-One 11 ounce package of Ghirardelli white chocolate baking chips
-About 5 ounces of blue sugar sprinkles
-Wax paper

Here’s what I did:
Washed and dried the strawberries

Melted the white chocolate chips. You can do this on the stove top or in the microwave. I used the microwave, in 15 second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate had a smooth consistency. Be sure not to overheat. The chocolate should not be hot, just warm enough to be melted.

Dip the strawberry into the chocolate about 2/3 of the way up, and set on wax paper. Because these will be set on their sides, the chocolate will solidify with a flat bottom. This can be a good thing because they will sit nicely on a plate without rolling all around. However, if you’d rather they be evenly dipped on all sides, you might try to find a way to hang them while the chocolate hardens. Hmmm… As I’m typing, I was thinking that maybe Barbie could help us out with this if only she had some little clothespins we could borrow… Whoops, thinking out loud again! But seriously, a strawberry hanging apparatus is an interesting idea, and one that I’ll have to look into next time!

Okay, back to work. As the chocolate cools, it will begin to harden. When the consistency is still a bit sticky, gently roll the bottom 1/3 of the strawberry in the blue sugar and set again on wax paper. I found that gently rolling works a bit better than plunging it into the sugar, as the latter method causes the chocolate to kind of bunch up on the end.

So basically, this is a two-dip process. It works best if you dip in small batches so you can get to the sugar before the chocolate solidifies completely. If the chocolate is completely solid by the time you get to the sugar dip, you can apply a bit of warm water to the bottom third to melt it just enough so the sugar will stick.

Once I got the timing down for the second dip, the process went pretty smoothly. These are easy to make and will provide a colorful dessert for your Fourth of July Celebration!


On the journey toward Home,



June 22, 2015
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Today marks eight years since my mom went to be with the Lord and I still miss her every day. And while the grief has softened over time, her absence leaves a conspicuous void in my life. I catch myself longing to call her—to hear her voice and to talk with her again. I yearn […]

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Remembering Those Who Sacrificed All

May 24, 2015
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Over this Memorial Day weekend, we honor the brave men and women of our military who sacrificed all to secure and maintain the freedoms we enjoy. President Bush had some poignant words for this day in 2003. On Memorial Day, Americans place flags on military graves, walk past a wall of black granite in Washington, […]

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DIY- Easy Steps for Making a Gorgeous Bridal Bouquet

April 20, 2015
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In today’s Do-it-Yourself world, many brides are taking a hands-on approach to wedding decorations and flowers. This post will cover step-by-step instructions for making a hand-tied type bridal bouquet. While a true hand-tied bouquet is a little more complicated, these tips will provide some easy short cuts to achieve the same look. The instructions are […]

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Come as You Are

March 21, 2015
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Our world is full of brokenness. Even though many of us have good lives, there are still plenty of things from our past or in our present that continue to cause pain, fear, or regret. Scripture tells us that the Lord is near to brokenhearted, the needy, the poor, and those who are crushed in […]

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Dressed for Battle

February 22, 2015
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A few days ago I was reading through the comments on a facebook post of Sheila Walsh, who suggested to her readers that they make a contribution to a shelter for abused women, rather than spending the money on seeing a recently released movie which normalizes this theme. For anyone who has read her books […]

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Tickled Pink Life – Four Year Blogging Recap

January 19, 2015
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January 2015 marks the fourth anniversary of my blog! To start year number five, I thought we’d journey back a bit and revisit some posts from the early years. I’ve selected some of my favorites as well as some posts that were the most popular with readers. These are loosely grouped together by topic, so […]

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