The day after Thanksgiving, I start getting calls for holiday party help... People either want to do something totally different and need ideas or it is their turn to host the annual holiday gathering and they are in panic mode. Here is a roundup of a few of my no-fuss ideas for holiday get-togethers; modify them to suit your own style. The only rule is that you need to have fun, too! xox

CAROLING PARTY: One of my favorite party themes--- kinda like Christmas karaoke! My in-laws have been hosting a neighborhood caroling party for as long as I can remember. It is a tradition even the college kids do not want to miss. Because everyone brings something, it is one of the easiest parties to host. Now, my in-laws happen to have two concert grand pianos in their living room, she's played at Carnegie Hall, and most of their friends are musicians or singers....  but even if you only have a sound system or karaoke machine, this is a party you'll want to make an annual event. GET THE HOW TO....

SANTA'S COOKIE WORKSHOP: The kids are out of school and you're going to need something fun to do... this is it. Bake up some memories with a Santa's Cookie Workshop party. Bake the cookies in advance or at least have some already baked. Cover a table with kraft paper (secure it so it won't slip) and set out bowls of sprinkles, candies, and other edible decorations the kids can use to decorate cookies and even personalize a cookie to leave for Santa. You can host this party with your girls and bake cookies to swap and gift.  GET THE HOW TO FOR A SANTA'S COOKIE WORKSHOP PARTY...

WINE AROUND THE WORLD PARTY: This party theme works for almost any occasion but it is particularly fun around the holidays. Guests bring a bottle of wine and a bite to share from a favorite travel destination; one they have already been to or one they'd like to visit. GET THE HOW TO FOR A WINE AROUND THE WORLD PARTY...

GIRLFRIEND PAJAMA PARTY: If you are like me, you probably have seen very little of your friends this year. Plan a guilty pleasure party-- filled with favorite snack food, movies, gossip, and fashion magazines. Don't let the holidays get away without getting together! GET THE HOW TO FOR A GROWN UP PAJAMA PARTY....

FAMILY PHOTO SWAP PARTY: So... your team isn't in a bowl game and you've got 8 people staying at your house for three days after Christmas. What do you do with them? A family photo swap party is an excellent way to spend some quality time together reliving family history--- and you'll all end up with copies of cherished family photos. The menu is as easy as leftovers, soup and sandwiches, or delivery pizza.  GET THE HOW TO FOR A FAMILY PHOTO SWAP PARTY

CHAMPAGNE TASTING: Warm up for New Year's Eve, test drive some bottles for your wedding, or simply try something new... invite the gang over for a Champagne tasting! This is perhaps one of the easiest parties you can host during the holidays. All you need is 3-4 bottles of Champagne, sparkling wine, Cava, or Prosecco. Add some good music, pretty stemware, and a few simple appetizers or a cheese board and you've got a party! I've even got some great tips on what to buy! Martie's TOP Sparkling Picks

Photo Credit: Arden Photography and MyRecipes.com


Have some holes in your family photo album?

If you do and you’re looking for something fun to do with your family and holiday house guests the day after the big day, why not plan a family photo swap party? While sitting around the TV to watch the big game is tradition for the adults, it’s not much fun for the kids. It’s essential to have some activities planned so the kids don’t get bored and cranky. A family photo swap is a fun way to keep the kids busy while the adults talk about good times and reminisce about family history. Each sibling or family member can bring their pictures to be scanned and printed to share with the others. Even mom’s best handwritten recipes can be scanned so everyone has a copy and you don’t lose them. 

Set up card tables for the kids so they can create their own mini albums or crafts using the printed copies. This is also a great party to host for class reunions, childhood friends, sorority sisters, or the gang from the old neighborhood.


  1. Tell your guests to bring their own photo albums, scrapbooks, and favorite family photos to share.
  2. Hit the craft stores when there is a big sale to scoop up extra frames and supplies to have on hand. Get glue dots, photo corners and scrapbook stickers, etc.
  3. Have plenty of USB flash drives available. If guests save scanned images to a flash drive, they will have for future use.
  4. Make sure your printer is working well and get extra printing cartridges.
  5. Keep the menu simple. Set up a buffet so guests can serve themselves. 
  6. Cover tables with brown kraft paper or white butcher paper to prevent stains and damage.
  7. Set up several work stations for scanning, printing, and assembly.
  8. Let the kids make their own books with pictures important to them.
  9. Invite older relatives to come and relate the “back stories” behind the photos so the kids can learn about the family’s past, heritage, and your memories are passed along to the next generation.


Make-ahead recipes like soup are easy to make and easy to serve. Make up one or two soups before the holiday and reheat in a Crockpot or large pot on the stove right before party time. Serve with sandwich halves or warm crusty bread.

Reliving old memories and making new ones… my kind of holiday fun!


"Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler"- Let the Good Times Roll!

Since most people in the South pronounce my name “Mar-di” –  and not "Mar-tea" --Mardi Gras has always been a holiday I love to celebrate… I’m the Queen of “Martie Gras”!  Did you know that contrary to popular belief, Alabama is the birthplace of Mardi Gras? In 1703 French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration. As settlers migrated west to New Orleans, the tradition accompanied them there.

That is me, getting ready to leave on the Duck Dynasty float -- dressed in my camo gear! I have made the trek to New Orleans and Mobile for balls, parties, and parades but most often, I find myself celebrating Mardi Gras at home. Many people don't know what Mardi Gras is. Or Fat Tuesday. The question I'm asked most often is my favorite Mardi Gras recipe ---and why is there a baby in the King Cake?

What is Mardi Gras?
It is the season of events surrounding Carnival, which begins after Epiphany ands end on Fat Tuesday. (This year, that is February 28th, 2017.) Fat Tuesday falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, and so it is a final time to indulge before giving up favorite foods for Lent.

Many cities along the Gulf coast with French Colonial heritage celebrate Mardi Gras with parades, masquerade balls, and large food festivals. Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras began in Mobile, Alabama – not New Orleans – when in 1703 French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration. As settlers migrated west to New Orleans, the tradition accompanied them there.

Why is there a baby in the King Cake? The cake is associated with Epiphany celebrations at the end of Christmas season. A figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, and is said to represent the Baby Jesus. The person who finds the baby in his or her slice of cake is designated king or queen for the evening and is said to receive good luck and prosperity in the year ahead.

These days, New Orleans bakeries and restaurants are so clever with King Cake flavors... and some even go as far as to place a signature element inside rather than a baby... for example, the fine folks at Donald Link's Cochon Butcher have a pig baked inside their cakes. They even have "The Elvis" stuffed with peanut butter, banana and topped with candied bacon. Go to Willa Jean for a chocolate version and Sucre for one with almond flavor.

What is your favorite Mardi Gras recipe? For me, it has to be gumbo! The secret to a great gumbo is in the roux and having the patience to stir it to that dark brown- almost chocolate color. I learned about making roux (a French technique combining fat and flour as a thickener) from the Godfather of Cajun and Creole cooking, Chef John Folse. Together with Chef Rick Tramonto, football legend Kenny Stabler, and our host, Bob Baumhower, we set the world record for the largest pot of gumbo: more than 5,000 lbs. in a single pot!

Here’s my recipe for gumbo – friends from all over the world have made it and it always gets rave reviews from the cook as well as their guests.

Here are a few other favorites:




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