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25.7.14

Creamware Platters are back! & How to Organize Like a Caterer

As you know, I write a monthly article on MyWell-Being.com.  I recently wrote a column about how I get myself ready for entertaining so I can enjoy myself at the party, "How to Organize Like a Caterer."  I include tips like how I lay out and label platters and serving pieces the night before so I won't be scrambling at the last minute... it also helps anyone that is "helping" to know where everything should go. Here is an excerpt :
"We all have the best of intentions when it comes to preparing for a party or holiday gathering in our home.  Inevitably, there is always something that puts a wrench in our plans and adds stress to what should be a fun experience.  With these tips that I learned after years of catering parties in my clients' homes, you'll be able to plan and execute a party like a pro - and have a great time at your own party.  With entertaining, something usually does go wrong, but being prepared can help you minimize the impact it has on the event."
To read the entire article at MyWell-Being.com, click here.


Speaking of platters... remember these Creamware Platters that sold out almost instantly in the Spring?  Well, they're back for pre-orders in the store.  Due to shipping and too many breaking while shipped individually, they are now only being sold as a complete set of 6.   They are available now for pre-order, and will ship out mid-August.  I'm working on hanging all 6 of mine on my dining room wall this weekend - can't wait!

24.7.14

Easy Homemade Pickles | Willow Serving Baskets are back!


Big news, the Willow Serving Baskets are now restocked in the store and ready to ship!  I've used mine so many times this summer for entertaining - and on a daily basis to organize my kitchen counters.  I can't wait to start using this Fall for some of the parties I have planned.  

When I first debuted this photo back in June, many of you asked for the pickles recipe.  I didn't want to taunt you with photos of the baskets (that were then sold out), so I've waited until now.  Hope you still have plenty of cucumbers ready for pickle making!

Easy Homemade Pickles

10 small cucumbers, cut into thin slices or quarters
3 cups of vinegar 
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of sea salt
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons of dry mustard
1/3 cup of peppercorns
4 cloves of garlic, sliced in half
1 bunch of dill, divided into 4

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper flakes and mustard into a saucepan and bring to a slight boil to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Remove from heat.  

In 4 jars, place 2 garlic halves, a couple sprigs of dill, 1 tablespoon of peppercorns and one quarter of the cucumbers.  Pour vinegar mixture into each jar to the brim.  Fasten the lids on the jar and refrigerate for 2 days before eating.  The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks!










I love to use my gathering baskets to organize everything on a buffet and hold plates, napkins and silverware.








While these green striped linen tea towels (being used as napkins) are sold out, I do have a couple of other colors still in-stock, here.

Organizing a food display like this is a really easy way to make very simple items look bountiful and very inviting... the real secret to easy entertaining!


23.7.14

Thai Steak & Vegetable Noodles in Peanut Sauce... Again

This is the 3rd time I've shared a recipe similar to this on the blog.  The first was in 2010, and the second in 2011.  Now that it is 2014, I've perfected it - and simplified it.  Perhaps it is my lack of time or brain power to make sure that I had all of the ingredients that the first two included... I think there were 18?  Now, when we're at the grocery store, I'm pushing a giant red car cart, feeding Emma grapes and cleaning up the carton of pink milk we just drizzled down Aisle 4.

It seems like I always end up forgetting a couple of things we need to make dinner happen.  But, dinner always does happen anyway - maybe not the way I intended, but sometimes it turns out for the better.  In this case, I've simplified the ingredients to make the entire dish work better together.



You can see the old recipes, here, and grimace at my photography like I did.

I like to serve this with warm steak and noodles, but you can also serve it cold, more like a salad... which is how I had the left overs for lunch today. 

Sign-up here for an emailed version of my Printable Recipes.

Thai Steak Noodles in Peanut Sauce


1 pound Flank Steak
1/2 box Linguine, cooked
1 small head savoy or napa cabbage, shredded
1 1/2 cups carrots, matchsticks
1/4 cup of cilantro, fresh, torn into pieces
1 red pepper, matchsticks
3 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon siracha (more for spicier)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 lime, cut in wedgest


Salt the steak on both sides, then sear it in a hot pan for 3 minutes on each side.  Cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes, then slice thin.

Meanwhile, cook the linguine in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain.


To make the sauce, combine the peanut butter, oil, siracha, brown sugar and garlic in a small bowl.


Mix with whisk or fork until smooth. 


Add pasta, steak, shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro and red pepper. 


 Serve with a squeeze of lime and chopped peanuts (if you can remember them... I forgot!).

 

17.7.14

Wedding Cake Cookies


 
I shared a photo of these last year, and never quite got around to sharing the recipe - sorry!  These are a cute addition to a bridal shower, rehearsal dinner or birthday party... if you change the name to Birthday Cake Cookies.  They are a mix between a sugar cookie and a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chip.  They are softer and chewier than a sugar cookie because of the addition of crisco, and there is no brown sugar, so they don't have that browned, caramel quality of a chocolate chip.

They taste like vanilla cake, cookies.  For me, what makes them "Wedding Cake Cookies" is the addition of almond extract to the icing.  The combination of vanilla cake and almond icing is so good - just like a wedding cake.   Of course, you can make the icing any color you'd like for more festive and fun occasions.  I think some silver dragees would dress these up for a bridal shower, too.

Wedding Cake Cookies


Sign-up here for my Printable Recipes.

1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
......
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of almond extract

For the cookie dough, mix together crisco and butter in a mixer until combined.  Add powdered sugar, mix until well combined.  Add eggs, water vanilla bean paste and mix.  Add dry ingredients - flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix until just combined - don't over mix.

Form into 1 1/2" balls, place them on a Parchment lined baking sheet then flatten them with the bottom of a glass.  It may help to put a bit of powdered sugar on the bottom of the glass to prevent it from sticking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  Do not over bake.  They should be slightly puffed, but not browned on the edges.

For the icing, mix together butter and powdered sugar until smooth.  Add almond extract and mix well.  Be sure to ice the cookies while still slightly warm to help the frosting meld with the cookies... however, don't ice them when they're too warm, or it will melt and slide right off!

Sign-up here for my Printable Recipes.


Be generous with the icing - I just used a butter knife to swirl it on.  


Here they are packed up in a Seaside Blue Favor Box.  You can also use a clear Small Cello Bag (pictured above).  The Printable Labels make them look customized for a special occasion.

To see all of the details from this "Seaside Shower" inspiration table, click here.

16.7.14

Seaside Shower | Creamware Cupcake Stands



The "Shop By Color" Collection of my store is one of my favorite elements - party and entertaining supplies of coordinating colors.  There, you can find ribbons, cards, tags & candles all in matching colors.  In the last month, I've added a new "Party & Wedding" section that has more essentials for your next party, shower or wedding.  These Creamware Cupcake Stands are a new addition that I think are so darling.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be featuring table settings and party inspiration using various combinations of my favorites.  I used to design and coordinate 2-3 showers a month for clients, and sometimes I miss getting to set a fun table decked out in matching, festive decorations.  So, I'm letting myself have some fun and set some pretend tables for imaginary parties I wish I was hosting : )


Today's color is Seaside.  As most of you know, Mike and I got married in Seaside, Florida almost 4 years ago.  While most of our wedding was done in Navajo Cream, Bliss Blue & Privet Berry Blue, we also used hints of Seaside.  My "Seaside" color is a soft aqua - very much the color of the water there in magical seaside.  

Here, Seaside 1 1/2" Satin Ribbon is tied around gold polka-dot wrapping paper... I love this paper, do you think I should try to carry it in the store?  

My Willow Gathering Basket filled with white hydrangeas got a makeover with some Seaside Satin Ribbon.

I set the table using my own Anna Weatherely china plates from our wedding that are a lovely soft blue with a gold rim.   Each place setting got a cupcake (on a stand, of course) and a place card with a Seaside Folded Card.


I created a very, very easy centerpiece by filling the table with white hydrangeas in drinking glasses.  I love how it filled the table in a mass looking very impressive... but was literally the easiest centerpiece I'd ever made.  I used 12" Hand Dipped Taper Candles in Navajo Cream in my pewter holders, but the Seaside color would've looked great, too.


You can see the mass of hydrangeas from this angle.  If I had tried to put all 8 of them in just one vase, it would've looked nearly as full or impressive.


Close up of the place card and cupcake stand.


 What is a pretend party without a pretend favor?  : )  These Favor Boxes are another new addition to the store - they come in a textured Cream and this Seaside color.  They are 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" x 1 7/8" when folded.  I used my Circle Printable Labels to make them look custom.

Here is the recipe for the yummy Wedding Cake Cookies.


LaMarca Prosecco sent me this beautiful bottle that inspired this post!  Love this for a Bridal Shower or gift for the wedding toast.  


These mini bottles make a perfect parting gift along with my "Wedding Cake Cookies."


Here is the easy-to-pin strip!

15.7.14

Interior Design Board | Our New Addition



Are you a little surprised about my design board a little?  I am.  In the last couple of years I've really warmed up to warm colors.  Last year I went on a holiday homes tour and toured a home that was just everything I love... even though it was a little different than what I thought I loved.  It just felt so right and was unlike any home I'd been in before.  It has really influenced me in the interior design of this home.  With that being said, I am also trying to stick with my roots, too - a very comfortable, cozy home that feels a little like a country farmhouse/cottage.  Did I just make a zillion contradictions?  Hopefully you're on the same page as me.



We've talked a lot about the kitchen for the new addition and the layout of the floor plan, but I haven't done too much writing about the interior design.  The plans have been approved and now we're just in the logistical stages of getting ready for construction... which means we are starting to make real decisions about finishes and ordering fixtures.  It can be overwhelming to do, but I think selecting furniture, rugs, artwork, appliances and fixtures before anything begins will save us a lot of trouble down the road.

So, I've tried to think about everything we are planning to put in our house, where it will go and will we have room for it.  That doesn't mean we'll purchase everything immediately (like the hand-knotted oriental rugs or antique chest...), but when it comes time, we'll have the space for it and (hopefully) it will fit into our plan. 


I would like the home to be completely neutral (cream walls and upholstery), with accents of rich and muted colors in rugs and artwork. All of the walls will be painted a creamy white like this photo (except bedrooms).  We're hoping there will be room in our budget to add some paneling accents that will be painted, too.  It is something we can do later, so if we're running over budget during construction, we might save it for another year.

I'm also embracing traditional rugs that contain reds, burnt oranges and deep navy blues.  Of course, I still like muted pale blue landscapes and seascapes in gilt frames (like the one Mike painted for me).   I've also discovered that I really like contrast, so instead of my typical in-between tones, I'm going for creamy walls and black accents... even debating soapstone counters. 



I love the traditional, easy, and season-less look of this house.  I want to make sure our wood floors are stained a similar warm walnut/chestnut color.



For the floor coverings, we'll have wood throughout the main areas, but use slate tiles in the mudroom.  I'll be adding a natural color runner up the stairs, in the new bedrooms and using similar throw rugs for accents in high traffic areas.


For light fixtures and door hardware, I like all un-lacquered brass that has a soft, antique finish.  I am still planning to use my favorite lanterns (above in my own dining room) from Cape Cod Lighting Co. everywhere I can.  I'm picturing them above the kitchen island, dining table, foyer and even one above our soaking tub in the bathroom. 



I also want to make sure we incorporate some creative details, like this vanity.  Would love this for the downstairs powder room.

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts about the soapstone vs. the marble or wood tops.  Thanks for all of your help!

 

10.7.14

Ice Cream with Hot Espresso = Affogato | My New Nespresso VertuoLine



I love simple.  I love easy.  I also love delicious and incredibly chic desserts.  Especially those that combine coffee and ice cream.  Meet, the Affogato, meaning "drowned" ice cream.  Italy, you've done it again.

We recently hosted a couple of couples for a very easy, relaxed dinner.  It was not the typical, outdoor barbeque party (though the grill was still involved), but a menu with more of a European flare - with a focus on simple and seasonal.  We sipped on chilled rose before dinner, and had grilled steaks marinated with rosemary, with a side of summer squash and parmesan gratin.

We served dinner outside, late after dark and set the table with potted herbs and lots of candles.  After, we lounged on our side porch and had affogatos for dessert.  It is the sort of party I imagine Italian people have every night of the week after the kids go to bed.  We enjoyed our little slice of dolce la vita.

You might remember around Christmas time, the very nice people at Nespresso sent me a Pixie and hosted a giveaway on my blog.  Well, a couple of months ago they sent me their newest machine, the VertuoLine.  It is the machine we've all been waiting for... it brews espresso and coffee.   As you can see from the photo, every cup (the coffee and espresso) is brewed in a very magical (my technical term) way that creates a frothy foam on top, even before adding any milk or cream.  The coffee underneath that creamy, caramel colored froth is a deep, rich brown.  I have loved my Pixie, but I have to say, I love having just one machine on my counter that does both coffee and espresso perfectly every time.
 

There is not really a recipe to this, it is literally just vanilla ice cream with hot espresso or strong coffee poured over the top.


For this cup, I actually used a coffee pod.  You can see how rich it is.  It really is just heavenly.  I recommend using the decaf espresso for late night parties like ours.


I like to serve my guests (or just myself...) the ice cream in a mug, then bring a mini pitcher of the espresso around to pour over the ice cream.  After each bite, the ice cream melts a little more and the espresso turns into a cold, creamy drinkable treat.  The perfect grownup luxury after a hot day. 


A nice crumbly cookie or piece of chocolate would be a great treat to go along with it, too. 


Visit the Nespresso site to read more about their new VertuoLine.  Thanks Nespresso for the new machine... it has gotten a lot of use!

9.7.14

Our 4th of July Party & Parade



There is nothing in this world that makes me more happy than watching Emma play, laugh and be silly with friends.  This was one of those days - when around every corner there was giddy excitement.

The entire day was a fun-packed and festive 4th of July - or as Emma called it, her "favorite day of my life."  It started with a little Donuts & Decorating party before the neighborhood bike parade, followed by lunch with a surprise (even to the parents) bounce house and face painting, then off to my parents' house out in the country for a relaxed day of swimming, BBQ and fireworks.



The pre-parade party was a tradition we started last year with just one other family.  This year our crew grew to over 25 with new babies and new friends.  What a year.  We are so blessed to have gathered such a wonderful group of friends and such a treat to share these fun holidays with our kids running around in the grass together.


When I was planning the party I had every intention of making homemade donuts.  Then I came to my senses.  As Ina says, there is no need to make everything from scratch when you're entertaining - you're guests just want to have a good time.  And I didn't want my house to smell like a fish fry.


 The menu was simple : Piles of Donuts, Fruit and Juice... with Prosecco for the Moms.  I know I said that the Seafood Boil was the easiest party I'd ever done, but I was wrong.



Emma introducing her cousin, Sam, to her friends.  Emma's still rocking the headband in her own style - she put it on all by herself.



And we're off to the parade!


There's that sweet face of my Emma looking very much like her Dad.



Baby Kate along for the ride!


Sam's first down the street peddling on her pink borrowed bike from Moo-Moo's house.


The parade is when our neighborhood really shines - so many kids and families. 


Emma and Jack cruising the streets in their very patriotic cars... he's got his eye on that balloon! 


We tried to get a photo of all of the girls, again (like in Seaside)... but the girls thought it was hilarious to hide behind their balloons.


Still hiding.



This is what passes as a perfect picture!  This was the last photo I took with my camera - the rest of the day I was too busy watching Emma play and relaxing - maybe my favorite day, too.  Hope you all had a happy and safe 4th!
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