Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tea Party Time!

On Saturday, I had a tea party for my sister-in-law Jessica. Her second baby boy is due in April, and I thought this would be a great way to celebrate without the fuss of a big crowd.
Originally I envisioned a delicate, feminine color palette of soft pastels with a floral theme. But since I have no access to pretty china and not enough pastel Fiesta for an entire party, I ended up using all the Fiestaware colors. I think it turned out better this way!

I made cloth napkins using a simple tutorial, and of course my favorite decoration- Tissue paper pompoms! As you can see, I didn't have enough tea cups for everyone, so there was a mix of coffee mugs in there too. Oh well!

You can see my friend Nichole in the background, she did an awesome job of arranging the plates, saucers, and cups. I think I get stuck in a color combination rut when I play with my dishes, so it was nice to have a fresh perspective.

I made the dessert tiers the same way as I did for my wedding, but this time I used E6000 for the glue. It was perfect. And I used Joy's idea for painting the tier pieces, I love how they turned out! I didn't think the sealer coat of acrylic was food safe, so I used paper doilies on the trays. Before I glued the candlesticks to the trays, I traced around the bottom of one to make a circle template. Then I transferred the circle to the center of the doily and made a straight cut from one edge to the circle. That way, I could slip the doily onto the tray and then tack it down with a tiny bit of tape underneath. Once all the food was on the tray, you couldn't see the cut mark.
Douglas picked up the flowers for me, didn't he do a great job?! Of course I then massacred them when I tried to arrange them in the vase. Not my strong point. :/

Here are the party favors. I got the idea from this site. The teacups and saucers were from a thrift store, and Home Depot had an awesome deal on the daffodil bulbs.

The food was.....Incredible. We had cucumber sandwiches, bacon-wrapped apricots stuffed with almonds, chipotle chicken salad, stuffed cherry tomatoes, and egg salad in puff pastries. There was chocolate-dipped biscotti. There were white chocolate lavender scones. (PLEASE visit that blog and make that recipe. I cannot describe to you the yumminess of these scones. The texture was perfect. The taste was perfect. And if you cut them with a drinking glass and drizzle white chocolate across the top, they will look gorgeous. And the aroma of the baking lavender... Oh man my mouth is watering! I'm going to have to make a batch all for myself very soon!) 
And THEN there was dessert! Peanut butter fudge, chocolates filled with mint, butter rum, and orange cream, Ghirardelli brownies, and lemon tarts with blueberries and raspberry glaze. My friends really came through to make this a delicious event!
Oh, and check out these cranberry ginger cakes my friend Talaya made:

Trust me, they tasted just as amazing as they look!

For the lemon tarts, I used shortbread tartlette shells from the grocery store. They come in boxes of 16, and you can find them in the baking aisle near the pie fillings and graham cracker crusts. For the filling, I used a block of cream cheese, a half cup of sour cream, a splash of heavy cream, and a handful of brown sugar. Then I mixed in a splash of lemon flavor before I filled the shells. After sticking in the fresh blueberries and raspberries, I brushed hot raspberry jam over the tops. So so easy.

The white chocolate almond mousse cups were not nearly so easy. But after a lot of trial and error, I think I can walk you through the easiest way because these babies are so adorable and tasty, they are definitely worth the headache.  
Adapted from Land O Lakes recipe.

You will need heavy whipping cream, white chocolate, raspberry jam, almond flavoring, fresh raspberries, and chocolate candy coating. Also helpful would be a mini muffin pan, a small brush, and miniature cupcake papers or pleated truffle papers. I bought mine at Joanns. You can use a craft paintbrush, just make sure it's not the kind with a painted wood handle because once you start washing it, the paint will flake off into your food. Or you could just tell people it's edible confetti. *shrug*

First make your chocolate cups. If you're planning a special event and you'll have other things going on, save yourself a lot of rage and frustration by making these little farts way way ahead of time. The original recipe calls for regular chocolate chips, but trust me- that is a disastrous idea. They might taste a little better than the candy coating, but they will melt and fall apart if you even look at them wrong. So be smart and don't even think about mixing a little of the good stuff into the candy coating. 
Melt the whole package in a double boiler and keep it a little thick, you don't want it too hot. Keep your paper liners stacked together like how they came in the package. It's much easier to hang on to them this way. Get a couple globs of chocolate onto your paintbrush and plop them in the bottom of the paper cup. Now start moving the globs to the edge of the cup, painting the chocolate up to the edge as you go around. A thin layer will do for the first coat. Pull the finished cup out of the stack as best you can and set it in the mini muffin tin. If more than one paper comes off, that's ok because you can use the extras later. Return the mini muffin tin to the freezer while you paint your next cup. 
A zillion years later, when all the cups have been painted and are good and frozen solid, you're going to paint a second layer. Now this is critical, make sure your chocolate is only warm. Because if you try to apply hot melted chocolate to frozen chocolate, well guess what happens. Your painstakingly formed chocolate cups will just melt and crumble in on themselves. And you'll get mad and throw the pan. And then you'll have to scrape chocolate off your walls and start again because you already bragged to your friends that you're making these fancy little desserts and you have to come through now, even if it is 2 am.
So anyway, get a second coat on there and pay attention to the edges. You want those pleats to be nice and solid because they're going to be the first thing to fall apart when you go to peel off the paper. After they've been re-frozen, you're going to embark on the stressful adventure of releasing them from their safe little paper homes. I have no tips to offer here. Just find the thickest spot in the chocolate and start peeling. Obviously you want to try to get it all in one piece so you don't have little fingertip scars all over the outside of the cup. Now stack them as carefully as you can and keep them in the freezer in tupperware until you're ready to use them. Be sure to threaten your family with bodily harm if they even touch this container or plop a frozen pizza down on top of them.

Whew. Glad that part is over.
Before you put the mousse filling in, you'll need a layer of raspberry sauce. I didn't want mine to be the consistency of jam, so I simmered some raspberry jam and a cube of butter until it was thin. Obviously you'll want this to be cool before you spoon it into your precious chocolate cups.
Now make your filling. Before you start, put your mixing bowl in the freezer. NOT on top of, or anywhere near, your chocolate cups.
Melt about 3 ounces of white chocolate (or a couple handfuls of white chocolate chips.) Put it in the fridge to cool while you whip one cup of heavy cream. Just before it gets to the stiff peaks stage, drizzle the white chocolate in and add a splash of almond flavoring. I went through three batches of this before I got the timing just right. (And the first 2 times I mixed whipping cream in with the chocolate before melting like the original recipe called for. This doesn't work so well.) Once the white chocolate is in, keep a very close eye on the cream because just ONE second of over-whipping will turn it into a jiggly, oily, disgusting mess.
Now pipe the filling into the chocolate/raspberry cups. Make it pretty. Then plop a raspberry on top. Ta-da!

Sorry I don't have step-by-step photos of this painful process. Hopefully you understand.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Favorites Friday

Wow it's been a long time since I've done a Favorites Friday post! I recently joined a treasury team on etsy. We each make at least 12 treasuries per month (Treasuries are collections of 16 etsy listings that may be chosen for the etsy's front page rotation.) We have somewhere around 80 members, and each of our team treasuries must utilize at least 6 members. So it's a great way to promote each other and learn from the great treasury-makers! Making treasuries is also a fun creativity outlet and a fantastic way to explore new styles and be inspired. But at the moment I'm all creativitied-out, so this week's Favorite Friday will take a break from themes.
Kitschy Cherries Dress by mamapatrice
 I am so obsessed with this dress! It's absolutely perfect, I love everything about it.

Vintage wooden buttons by treasurebooth
I've had my eye on these to use with an embroidery project. I haven't come up with anything yet, still marinating!

Vegan Tribal Feather Fringe Earrings by amiramednick

Cable Knit Ceramic Cup by reshapestudio

Thunderstorm Sterling Silver Necklace by melfannin

Wristlet Zipper Pouch by KaoriColor

Vintage 80's Honeysuckle Pink Pumps by ragsfeathers

The Kaleidoscope Locket by verabel

Vintage Floral Blouse by sadiedeluxe

I hope you enjoyed window shopping with me! And let me know if you come up with an idea for those little wooden people buttons :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mail Day!

Mail is great. When it doesn't contain bills, right? Today it had these:

"We're gonna share, Mommy?"

I ordered these handmade tumblers from Center Hill Clay Works. Aren't they gorgeous?
Carly's always had her own special cup. My mom bought it for her from Starbucks when Carly was just a tiny baby. It's the red one on the right:

Soon after she bought it, we saw a notice that they were being recalled because if the cup was dropped and broken, there would be sharp edges. At the time, we had a good laugh over it because really, I mean.. duh, right? Well a couple weeks ago I actually did drop and break it, and darnit if those edges weren't razor sharp!
So I ordered the tumblers and she loves them. When we have tea, I use the blue one and she uses the pink one.

I also got some books. Surprisingly, the one I love the most is Wee Wonderfuls.
I think Carly feels the same way!

Usually when I get a craft book, I like a few of the patterns. Occasionally I like a lot or most of the patterns. But I love ALL the patterns in this book, every single one. There's even a topsy-turvy doll, she has a second head where her butt goes and the dress is reversible so you flip her upside down and.... Hmm I'm not explaining this very well lol, you'll have to get the book! The project I'm probably the least excited about is the mermaid, which of course is what sent Carly into a shrieking frenzy as soon as she saw it!

It is cute, but I'm really itching to get to these...

I like the idea of all the options you could do for the clothes and the trim and accessories. A friend recently gave me a huge bag of upholstery and drapery fabric:

I think the blue and pink velvet will be soft for the body, and the plaid and polka-dot overlay will be so pretty as a dress! Carly likes dolls, but she's still not very interested in changing their clothes and playing with the accessories. She likes to snuggle them and put them to bed. Hey, sounds kind of like me as a parent haha!

National Side Ponytail Day

In honor of waking up late and doing the bare necessities to be presentable for public consumption, I declare this...

National Side Ponytail Day

I've tried this look before. The reception was less than pleasant:

But that's what little brothers are for right, so I'm not listening to him.
And don't look too closely at that photo, it was the morning after a sleepless night of camping in the freezing rain.
Side ponytails are making a comeback, check it out....
You can go up high:
Rachel of Twist Your Stitches has a darling daughter!

Lisa of Chaos Appreciation

An adorable ponytail hat by Our Lady Of The Snows
Or down low...

Liz! So cute

Kyong aka CheekyTart!

Either way, cute and comfy! I was just thinking, there are some other 80's trends we should bring back..

Dorky sweaters and feathered hair!

Colorblock everything!

 Banana clips!

T shirt clips! Wait, I'm actually still undecided on that one. I came along a little too late to experience this trend firsthand, so maybe it wasn't that great...

And here are some that I really hope never come back!

Sweetheart necklines. I don't know why, I just hate them so much.

Floral jeans. Or pants of any kind. *shudder* And check out how high the waistlines are! Now that's flattering. < /sarcasm >
I also wouldn't mind if I never saw another scrunchie ever again.
How about you? Any 80's trends that you miss or any that you would like to stay dead forever?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Unreasonable Expectations

Several times a year, my family and I attend a special Bible assembly. Since we'll be seeing many of our friends and family that we don't get to hang out with very often, this is a prime opportunity to doll up my kid like some kind of prissy show pony. We have an assembly coming up in three weeks that is two days long. This means a chance for two awesomesauce dresses. I always try to wait until as close to the assembly day as possible to pick out the dresses because I can never contain myself to just the one or two that is actually needed. I have yet to succeed. And sometimes I suffer delusions of grandeur that I'm going to make her dress by hand. This month is one of those times.
Exhibit A:

Beautiful, right? I can't think of any dress at any store that could top this one in adorableness. And I found the perfect fabric on clearance for $3 a yard. It's a shiny plaid taffeta in dainty colors:

Sorry for the cruddy photos. I got a new flash and I'm still struggling to figure it out. Anyway, it's much prettier in person I promise. And little pearl buttons awww!

Potential problems with this idea:
  • I am a terrible seamstress
  • My machine can't do buttonholes, zigzag, or anything but forward and reverse. I don't even have a zipper foot to do the piping. And even if I did, I'd rather chew glass than make piping.
  • I've never done ribbon embroidery
  • The pattern I bought is slightly too big for my kid
  • Seam allowances and I don't understand each other. (see first point)
  • The Vogue pattern is marked skill level advanced (see first point)
  • I've read through the instructions a gazillion times and I still don't understand what to do with this seam binding it told me to buy. And if this is anything like building Ikea furniture, you can't just shrug and move on when you see extra pieces laying around. It will not end well.
  • I have 3 more weeks to make this, and it's taken me a week just to cut out the practice muslin pieces.
And then there's the issue of unreasonable expectations. I can't just make the dress and be happy that I produced a garment that doesn't look like a kindergartner constructed it. I'll need to make a matching hairband. And ruffle socks. Hey maybe a little pearl necklace. And it's March, so she'll need a little sweater. Not a store-bought sweater. Pfffbt.

Which brings me to the second issue. I found the other dress, and it's amazing:

Again, crappy photo but in real life the fabric is a silky gray-blue with a little sheen. It matches her eyes beautifully, and of course she's in love with it. The problem is that it's sleeveless. She'll need a little something around her shoulders. And I recently picked up a Debbie Bliss magazine (BIG mistake) with this on the cover:

Isn't it FANTASTIC?! Can't you just picture that in a featherweight shimmery silver kidsilk? Child size, of course. sigh.
Someone talk me down.