Monday, March 16, 2015

Snakes, snails and puppy dog tails...

I recently hosted a baby shower for my cousin's wife, Brittany. They are due to have their second child, a boy, in just a few weeks! My sisters-in-law co-hosted along with another couple of friends from church. Thanks to a lot of advanced planning, we were able to set it all up in about an hour!

At University church, we have a tradition of giving a hand-embroidered quilt to the first baby a family has at our congregation. Since Abigail was born before they began attending church with us, Baby Boy Carpenter (yep, that's all we've got right now...y'all better get busy on a name!) was the lucky recipient of the quilt.

The lady who normally organizes the quilt-making was unable to do it because of an illness in her family, so I decided I'd give it a try. Although I've never really quilted, I have sewn...a lot...so I figured I could handle it. It was a challenge, but I did it!

Brittany has not chosen a "theme" for the nursery, but had picked out bedding in a green gingham check, so I used that as the starting point for my decorating. Andy's father is a chicken and cattle farmer, and I know that they spend a lot of time on the farm, so I decided that baby farm animals would be a great addition to the baby's room! 

I searched the web for simple pictures that could be used as embroidery patterns. Once I had them. I sketched out my quilt pattern, determined all my measurements and then went fabric shopping. I asked several of Brittany's friends from church to each embroider a square. Even those with little or no experience were glad to help. I taught Jewell how to backstitch, and she actually did two squares!

Once I got the squares back, I put them together and bound the quilt. To keep it simple, I stitched in the ditch instead of hand quilting.  I think it came out really cute!


Here is the finished quilt. I used it as part of the decorations
on the gift table.

With baby farm animals as a theme, I decided to go a little more "country" with my decorations. I pulled several things from around my house and even a few items off my deck! I love my chalkboards. I have amassed quite a collection over time thanks to Hobby Lobby's 50% sales!

When I picked out the fabric for the quilt, I bought a couple of extra yards of the backing fabric to use as toppers on the food and gift tables. It also served as the jumping off point for my color scheme and decorating. As usual, I used my white tablecloths as a base and then added some rough lime green burlap with unfinished edges for a splash of color before topping it with fabric that matched the quilt.


Here you can see a little of the food table. Not sure why you can't see the lemonade stand on the other end...maybe I decided not to include it because I broke the top to the dispenser as I was unpacking it! It was forced to attend the shower topless! (Scandalous in church, right?) Funny thing - I had been eyeing a new glass dispenser with pretty Arthur Court-esque details at Costco lately, but passed since I didn't need two. Guess I get to go buy it now!


I decided to keep the menu simple and traditional...petit fours, mints, cheese straws and nuts with lemonade to drink. I purchased the petit fours from a local grocery store where one of our elders' wives runs the bakery. She did a fantastic job. They were delicious! I made the mints myself and you can get the recipe here.


Here's a close up of another chalkboard and some pretty decorative watering cans I used as planters. Little iron birds dot the table, as well.


This old blue milk can is very special to me.
My grandfather used it when my mother was little.
I thought Andy would appreciate it since it was his grandfather, as well.

I have to admit a little secret about the flowers. The Wednesday night prior to the shower, there had been a dinner at Faulkner's lectureships honoring my parents on their upcoming retirement. Dennis Itson, husband of my partner-in-crime, Nancy, had done all the flowers. Dennis is an incredible decorator in his own right. He and Nancy make a super couple, but I digress.

Dennis saved me three of the floral arrangements from the dinner. I made sure they had plenty of fresh water and left them over the weekend in the church kitchen. I kept my fingers crossed all weekend that they would survive! On Dennis's recommendation, I cut some nandina from my yard to use as filler. I cut daffodils at my mother's house and even stopped on the side of the road Saturday to pick the pretty little white bell-shaped weeds flowers you see in the arrangement above! I took the leftover arrangements apart and re-purposed them into new bouquets. I think they turned out beautifully!


I literally pulled this sign off the wall above the door going from the kids' bathroom into Brack's bedroom. I used it and some mini-bouquets of daffs to decorate the plate return window.


Nancy made Brittany's corsage as part of her gift.
It's made of tiny baby socks!
Once you untie the ribbon, they're ready for use!


Jewell and my nieces, Mary Reagan and Annie, served as mini-hostesses.
They greeted the guests as they arrived.


Oh my! I hoped they looked a little more like this when the guests got there...


Much better!


Brittany had a wonderful shower and received lots of precious baby boy things! I heard several people comment how it made them want another baby. Not me - it just makes me want to throw another shower!

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I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I HEART...Homemade Wedding Mints




Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without!


I helped to host a shower for my cousin's wife last Sunday. We went for a traditional menu of petit fours, nuts, cheese straws and mints. I decided to make the mints from scratch. I have never done that before, but as I have eaten quite a few in my lifetime, I figured I had experience on my side.

I knew they would have to be refrigerated, and as my fridge is always full and my parents' never is (a complaint my daddy makes quite often!), I headed down the road to Mimi's kitchen. In the long run, she was a big help, and I enjoyed having her all to myself for an hour!

The recipe is quite simple - cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and flavoring. The method wasn't hard either.  Just took a little strength and patience!

Homemade Wedding Mints

one block cream cheese
six tablespoons butter
two pounds confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt cream cheese and butter over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add extract and powdered sugar in batches. Using a hand mixer, add the confectioners' sugar. All of the sugar may not be needed. Using a piping bag and icing tip, squeeze out mixture to form mints. Refrigerate immediately to set. May be kept two weeks in the refrigerator and up to four weeks in the freezer. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

The neat thing about this recipe is that you don't have to have your cream cheese or butter at room temp. (I always forget to lay them out ahead of time!) Be sure to have your cookie sheets ready before you start the melting process. I lined mine with wax paper. I also had my piping bag and tip ready to go.

When you melt the cream cheese and butter, it turns into something that resembles marshmallow creme! It was fluffy and shiny and I have to admit, we taste tested before even adding the sugar! We doubled the recipe and ended up adding all the sugar, but go slowly...you don't want it to be so stiff you can't squeeze it out.

I also added a pinch of kosher salt. I always do this when making icing, too. It just balances the sugar a little.


This is it after we had added everything and started piping them out. I use a dark vanilla, and between that and my butter, they had a pretty off-white color.



They look a little pasty, but once they cool, they're really pretty. And let's face it, who cares what they look like...we're talking butter, sugar and cream cheese people.  YUM.

The recipe didn't tell how many it made, so I doubled it. Better safe than sorry, right? Well, we had enough. And then some! I made them pretty small (about 1" in diameter) and had seven trays full. With about 10 dozen per tray. Don't worry - I'll do the math for you. That's about 120 mints per tray and a total of 840 mints. OK - I may have overdone it a little, but they were well received. In fact, we had a youth group parents' meeting after church that night. I had put the leftovers in the fridge and someone who will remain nameless (but her initials are CGH and she just MAY or may not be one of my sisters-in-law!) smuggled not one, but two plate fulls out to our table during the meeting. There were four couples at the table, and we all took turns sticking our hands under the napkin to grab a couple (or dozen - I'm not judging).

I still had a few hundred (!!!) to bring home and I intend to stick them in the freezer to use later...but right now, they're conveniently housed on the second shelf of the fridge...

Note to self - one batch is probably enough in the future. Well, maybe...

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I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing...







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