Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mardi Gras 2021 Purple and Green Tablescape

With our busy schedules, we have learned to be somewhat flexible when it comes to special celebrations. I don't want to skip a special holiday or a birthday meal just because we have other plans on that day. I just adjust! We celebrated New Orleans and Mardi Gras last Saturday night with a fun tablescape and a delicious meal. Most of all, we celebrated the time we had together.

Jewell is off to college in about six months. Granted, Faulkner is only 45 minutes away. And yes, her daddy works there, so he has the potential of seeing her each day! But she won't be home where I can look in and see what's she's up to. Or have her help me in the kitchen. Or watch a last minute movie with her just because it fit our meal. (We decided to reward our hard work by watching "The Princess and The Frog" on Disney+ after supper. BTW - it is hands down my favorite Disney movie!) Enough of that! No need to start the waterworks now. That will come soon enough. I just want to take advantage of every minute we have. 

My girl loves Cajun food. Who am I kidding? She loves ALL food! She's definitely a foodie like me. She helped me with every step of the meal - appetizer to dessert. We had a lot of fun Saturday as we worked together. The result? Memories made with awesome tasting food to boot!

On to the tablescape! Mardi Gras is nothing if it isn't gaudy! Lots of color and music! I took my cues from the traditional rich greens, purples, and golds you associate with Mardi Gras. I had a few new finds that I combined with things I had in my stash. It made for a really fun tablescape!

I had made the napkins to use for our anniversary dinner a few years ago. The colors are so pretty and helped to tie the table all together. The motif is very French-looking to me. The flatware is "Abigail" by Hampton Silversmiths. The wood grain chargers came from Dollar Tree last fall. The purple "crackled" plate is from Hobby Lobby this season. They were 40% of $5.99 off last week. I just got four. Probably need at least two more! The little bread plates were the perfect size for our mini cheesecakes. They are "Lorlelei" by Oneida. They came from a thrift shop I saw on the way home from my in-law's home one day. I paid a whole .25 cents each for them! They showed up for the first time in the same anniversary dinner Spring tablescape I mentioned above. Check it out. I'd forgotten how pretty it was!

The amber glasses are vintage Fostoria "Jamestown". They're always perfect when I want to accent gold in a subtle way.

Here's a new find! I was in Montgomery a week ago with a little time to kill between appointments, so I ran into Goodwill. I don't often find things there, but you never know! I haven't identified the style and maker yet, but it looks like probably something from the 60's or 70's. I paid $9 for four cup and saucer sets. They are stunning in person. The teal is so rich and vibrant! 

The larger beads came from New Orleans, but the mask and the smaller beads with the crown pendants came from Dollar Tree a few years ago.

The amber glass votives came from Dollar Tree last fall. I got them to use for Jewell's 18th birthday party. They're so pretty when they're lit!

I picked up the amber fluted glass vase from Hobby Lobby the other day. It was 50% off. I know this will be perfect for Fall decorating. 

The pretty lilac table runner also came from Hobby Lobby last week. It looked great with the napkins. I already have plans for a spring table using this!

I casually spread the beads down the center of the table. Almost as if they had been left there after a parade!

The floral arrangement is artificial. I am moving more toward those, because Possum Kitty will eat real flowers. He's crazy. Anyway - the tea olive branches came from Bless Your Heart in Eclectic. Amy has the prettiest and the most realistic flowers there. I add a little to my collection each season. The lavender came from Hobby Lobby, and I used a 40% off coupon (sniff, sniff) on it. Y'all know those are gone after the middle of March, right? But as long as you plan ahead and don't get in a bind at the last minute, every thing is on sale every few weeks. 

I draped the beads from the inside to tie it all together.

I got all the Mardi Gras colors into the place settings! It's a little busier than I usually like, but Mardi Gras is meant to be fun!

One more look...

I went to NOLA with Gerald the month I turned 50. He used to have a conference there every couple of years, and I always liked to tag along. The kids went one year, but the last time, it was just the two of us. I signed up for several cooking classes at the New Orleans School of Cooking and had the TIME OF MY LIFE!

The dip above was not one of the recipes I learned there. I found this on Pinterest and then tweaked it. I call it "Cheesy Andouille Dip", and y'all, it is one of the best things I've ever eaten. This will be a staple in my tailgating recipe rotation next fall!

BBQ Shrimp and Grits was a recipe that I learned at cooking school. It is rich. It is creamy. It is AMAZING and different from any shrimp and grits I'd ever had. Jewell requested this dish.

The sauce has a beer base with lots of seasonings, however, it's not "spicy", just full of flavor! The grits are made here in Alabama (I found them at Whole Foods), and are made with heavy cream, cream cheese, and freshly grated parmesan. This dish is not for the faint at heart!

We had to have Banana's Foster for dessert! I found a recipe for these mini bananas Foster cheesecakes on Pinterest. It was good. I will have to work on it some. The sauce set up like candy as soon as it hit the chilled cheesecakes. It needed to stay loose like a sauce. I'm going to have to talk to my candy-making mother-in-law to figure out how to improve on this, but I will make them again! The little bread plates were perfect for these small bite-sized treats.

The meal was decadent. It was delicious. I should have had a lighter first course - something like a salad to balance the heavy shrimp and grits. But you don't go to NOLA for salads, do you?! The mini cheesecakes were perfect for the end of the meal. A touch of sweet, but not too much. A rich cup of freshly brewed (decaf) coffee was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Jewell's 18th Birthday Party...A Bohemian Sunset Tea Party

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but Jewell turned 18 back in October. It really seems like just yesterday that she was dressing up like a different Disney princess each day! I know I tend to go overboard with my parties, but this was one I really wanted to make special. She came up with a seed for the idea - the Festival of Lights from the movie, Tangled. It was Rapunzel's 18th birthday. I got to thinking about Chinese lanterns and lighting them at dusk. That led me to consider an outdoor party. Her favorite thing is to have a tea, I went with a fall color scheme with some of her favorite things, and, Voila! A Sunset Tea Party was born.  

Jewell at age 8.

Jewell at 18.
Photo by Julie Anne Johnson (JAJ Photography)

Photo by Julie Anne Johnson (JAJ Photography)

I had saved an orange and blue tablescape inspiration on Pinterest years ago. I thought that would be perfect for my fall tablescape. I went to see my friends at Horton Wholesale Flowers in Montgomery, and told the sweet ladies there what I had in mind for the party. We shopped their selection and settled on an assortment of beautiful fresh flowers. The oranges and yellows follow the fall theme but add a pop of color. The blue coneflowers mimick the blue dishes and books. Greenery in varying shades and textures rounded everything out. 

The place settings were fairly simple. I used my gold beaded-edge chargers from Dollar Tree. Next I placed my everyday pattern (Nikko "White Satin"), and topped it with a tea cup and saucer in "Blue Willow". I had eight sets of these. I needed a few more, so I hopped on eBay and found another set of six. They are a tad bit different in shape and size, but you know that doesn't bother me a bit. I used my gold flatware, "Golden American Chipendale" by FB Rogers. I used the white napkins with gold threading that I bought for her 16th birthday party. Finally, I found these brassy looking napkin rings online when I was ordering some new tablecloths. (More about that later.) 

Jewell had 11 guests and she made 12. She wanted one long table where she could sit in the middle and enjoy all her friends. I placed two eight foot tables end to end and layered my tablecloths. 

I borrowed these gorgeous vintage encyclopedias from my friend, Ashley. They found them in the house they moved into after they married. She's another planner and decorator, and she knew she'd use them one day. She had used them last year for our school's senior banquet centerpieces. She was kind enough to let me borrow them. They were perfect for adding height as well as character. They're small. Maybe 5"x7"? 

It was October 3rd, and I had already done my fall decorating inside. I grabbed a few pumpkins from around my home and scattered them down the table. Here you can see the amber stemware that I used to keep with my fall color scheme. They are "Jamestown" by Fostoria. They played off all the gold on the table. 

What's fall without mums? I tucked a white snowball mum in each arrangement to pick up the white plates and napkins. I try to repeat each color three times if possible. I used some rope-accented rose bowls that I made years ago. You can see the easy project details here.

Both Jewell and I are addicted to fairy lights. We use them everywhere, all year long. There's just something magical about lights. I found a great deal on them on Amazon and got a set of 12. They have tiny button batteries instead of a bulky box of two or three AA's. I wrapped each of the arrangements in lights and tucked the battery in the greenery. 

You can't tell from the pictures, but I used two different blue tablecloths to cover the length of the table (16 feet). Actually, one was really a shower curtain! I found them both at one of my favorite thrift stores back during the summer. Since I was using the lacey rust leaf-covered table scarf, you didn't really notice the difference.   

You can see here that I left a little space between the two blue cloths. Not sure why I did that, actually! You can also see here that everything is anchored by floor length white tablecloths. I got these for about $7 each online from a tablecloth source. I wanted to make sure the metal table legs were completely covered, and it also gave the whole table a more elegant look. 

We set the tables up next to a large shade bed in our backyard. We did that for two reasons. One - I wanted to be able to use the large, outdoor bistro lighting we already have hanging there by our firepit. Two - I was able to hang the Chinese lantern from the bistro lights and tree branches. It really was just all about convenience. 

Here you can see just about the length of the table. I brought out the chairs from my kitchen and dining room tables to use. I mixed them up to play up the eclectic nature. The gold rectangular platters came from Dollar Tree this year and match my round chargers. I went ahead and placed one between each two place settings to make sure we wouldn't have to rearrange everything as we brought out the three courses. I bought twelve of these. That way I was able to take out six for the first course. While they were eating, I plated the second course on the remaining six. When we took out the second course, we brought in the six from the first course and wiped them down before plating the third course! I know I'll use them over and over in the future.   

I found the coppery iridescent votive holders at Dollar Tree this year. I added some orange pumpkin-scented votive candles. You have to have candles! They are scattered down the middle of the table, which - by the way - was pretty narrow once I had everything on it. But I love a full table, so I just adjusted the placement of a few things to make it work. 

I hired a young photographer to come do a photo shoot. First she took pictures of Jewell alone, then we added her friends. They had so much fun! They felt so special.

She even took some of them at the table as we waited for a few more to arrive.

It's so hard to take a night-time picture, but this gives you an idea of what it was like once the sun went down. We have found that my (dry and empty) birdbath makes a great acoustic stand for my outdoor speaker. Jewell put together a playlist of some of her favorite "magical mood music". Everything from Broadway musicals to haunting Celtic classics. It was early October, so while it got a little cool after dark, it was still comfortable. We lit the firepit so they could wander over and warm their hands if needed.  

If you know Jewell, you know she's a true Renaissance woman! She loves to read, write, embroider, dance, and HUNT! She kicked off her heels later in the evening and grabbed her hunting boots. She makes it work!

It got a little chilly after dark, but they hung in there! There's just something magical about having a party after dark!

The first course was hot scones. We had apple pecan scones with homemade apple butter, and pumpkin scones with homemade lemon curd and clotted cream. I prepared the scones a couple of days ahead up to where you bake them. I froze them, and then baked what I needed that night. It worked great! Apple butter was a quarantine project. The clotted cream and lemon curd were made a couple of days ahead. 

I have a set of appetizer forks and spoons, as well as a few dozen dessert shot glasses. They were perfect for allowing each young lady to have her own.

Here's a pic of the savory course. Cranberry and ham pinwheels, spicy bacon palmiers, cranberry cream cheese finger sandwiches on pumpkin bread, and my famous chicken salad on Hawaiian rolls. 

Desert course was mini apple pies, ginger spice cookies, and pumpkin and dark chocolate truffles!

Caught her red handed! At the end of the evening, they wandered inside in search of leftovers.

All the extras were laid out on my kitchen table for the moms and dads to nibble on. The girls found their way inside and located their favorites for extras! (Shout out to my mom friends that helped me plate and serve that night. Couldn’t have done it without them!)

Photo by Julie Anne Johnson (JAJ Photography)

Photo by Julie Anne Johnson (JAJ Photography)

Photo by Julie Anne Johnson (JAJ Photography)

Photo by Julie Anne Johnson (JAJ Photography)

Jewell's face says it all! This was such a wonderful evening. She was surrounded by her precious friends. Jewell is such a blessing to us. Happy 18th birthday to our most precious Jewell!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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