Monday, January 31, 2011

Mama Monday - When Do You Stop Asking if it's a Phase?

Back in September, I posted about how T spent half of our mealtimes throwing food all over the place.  I wish I could say that things have improved.  They did improve for a while.  But now we're back to the throwing.  It's the strangest thing.  She'll refuse foods she loves, and is almost entirely interested in a diet of bananas, goldfish, yogurt and berries.  Weird.

Some of this started after we pushed back her dinnertime by a few minutes.  We are really trying hard to have dinners together as a family, but the husband can hardly make it home for dinner by 6:30 most days.  There's no way I could push dinner back any further than that at this point, so it's still a toss up whether or not we eat as a family.  It seems like she's more interested in food that we're eating; which would be fine if she didn't throw a fit for the food, only to reject it when it's offered.  Sometimes she will actually take a few bites, and then refuses any more.

Last week was the worst, but as it turned out, she was pretty sick with a head cold.  Dinner last night started to get better, but who knows if it will stay this way.  And we're now quickly entering the time where she speaks well enough to articulate only part of what she wants.  *Sigh*  We'll see what happens from here...it's just incredibly frustrating.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Foodie Friday: Formal Dinner Menu

I've mentioned before that the Husband and I love to cook and to try new food.  Unfortunately, with a toddler in the house and both of us working full time, we're not able to be as adventurous as we used to.  That's one of the reasons the party last weekend was so great. 

It was the first time in a long time, that I felt willing to travel a half hour or more to get high quality and specialty foods.  The Husband got to enjoy having my blessing for going nuts at the wine store, and T got to have fun time with her grandparents and great-grandmother.  And now, you get to have a run-down of all our recipes and wine pairings:

Just a quick close-up of the menu-card!

The Appetizer:
Brie and Cheddar with Crackers, Grapes and Fig Preserves

I didn't want to go with another cheese and cracker appetizer, but time got the better of me.  The menu actually stated that we were serving a "trio of cheeses with fig preserve", but somehow the Manchego got lost between the store and our house.  (You have no idea how upset I was...that would have been the best cheese on the plate!)

First Course:
Orange and Fennel Salad with Dried Cranberries

The Husband's father is adamantly anti-salad; and since he was one of the guests of honor I had to make sure I chose a salad course that was a little different.  This orange and fennel salad was the perfect starter course.  Not only was it light and refreshing, it is also seasonal, and is best prepared in advance!  We served it with a 2009 Angeline Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  It was a good match, but the wine may have been a bit overpowering for the salad.

Second Course:
Cream of Crab Soup

Next, we moved on to a Cream of Crab Soup.  This was actually the only course that we didn't make in house.  I purchased the soup from a local seafood shop that specializes in crabs; and it was divine.  The soup was served with a 2008 Patrick Javillier Burgundy Cuvee des Forgets.  This was one of the best matches of the night - the wine had a creamy element that was a perfect compliment to the delicate flavors of the soup.

Intermezzo:
Mint Granita
 I know that you don't necessarily need a palate cleanser for a five course meal, but I couldn't help myself.  I was originally going to purchase some lemon sorbet, but then I came across this recipe for mint granita.  It was fantastic.  I accidentally forgot to scrape it at the proper intervals, so I just put it in the fridge for a course or so and then gave it a quick scrape before putting in my mother-in-law's amazing little sherbet cups.  She inherited them and estimates that they were probably made in the 1920's or 1930s.  Seriously, you don't find such delicate silver-work anymore!

Main Course:
Ossobuco-beautiful in the pot and on the plate!
 The main course was my Husband's dish.  And it was divine.  He cooked the Ossobuco recipe from our favorite Italian cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan.  We served it with mashed potatoes and had intended to add some gorgeous broccolini I found, but didn't get the chance to get it on the plate.  This course was paired with a 2004 Rocca Felice Barolo - all I have to say is YUM!

Dessert:
Blood Orange Panna Cotta...sort of

So dessert was supposed to be a Blood Orange Panna Cotta, but my Panna Cotta never actually set-up.  So, instead we had some sort of hybrid of Panna Cotta and Ice Cream.  Nonetheless it was tasty, and was a perfect little light ending to such a decadent meal.  It was served on my Mother-in-law's Limoges that was purchased for her grandmother in 1910.  It's amazing how well it has held up!  We served the dessert with a 2003 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes.  Typically we don't do dessert style wines, but this was fantastic.  It was a bit strong for the panna cotta, but was very good as a small after dinner drink.

Just going through all of this again, makes me wish for some leftovers.  I'll admit that this was a ton of work to put together, but it was so much fun - I would definitely do it again....but not too often!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater: A Faux Tutorial

For the time being, I've figured out a workaround to my laptop problem:


 Hopefully I can get my laptop monitor worked out soon so I don't have to rely on this monster of a monitor anymore!

Anyway...on to the tutorials:  I can't really claim innovation for the crafts put together at the party last weekend.  Mostly everything was adaptations from other blogs.

Candlesticks:

The candlesticks shown above were made from hot gluing two Dollar Store candlesticks together and then spray painting them white.  I adapted the idea from Paula, over at JC's Loft. (Full disclosure: I had actually made a third one that was just like the original tutorial, but it broke before I got it on the table...oops!) 

Fabric "Flowers":


I made the 'flowers' for the centerpiece based on this tutorial over at ByStephanieLynn.com.  Her tutorial is pretty thorough, so I'll just add my adapations: Basically, I took a half-dome piece of styrofoam and poked circle/oval cuts of a thin fleece into them with a skewer.  Unlike the tuturial, I didn't use any glue.  I also made most of the fleece cuts into an oval shape that needed about 2 - 3 pokes each.  It took about 50-60 ovals to cover each piece of styrofoam.  I added tulle circles to the square vases by poking them into where I had poked the fleece into the the styrofoam.  Pretty simple stuff really. 
 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pardon the Interruption....

My computer decided last night that it didn't want to be such a workhorse anymore.  I'm trying to figure out a workaround, but it may be a few days before I can get fully caught up on my posts. 

....I'm just oh so glad that I didn't delete the party photos from the camera!  The Husband is going on public record for being right about not deleting pictures until they're on the home server!

Formal Dinner Party - Lessons Learned

It's time for me to come clean again about the good, the bad and the ugly on planning my last party:

- Time Management:  The bane of my party planning existence.  This party was a big FAIL on time management.  From not starting anything for the party until the Sunday beforehand to not practicing with my Silhouette until I needed it to work right, I ended up far more stressed than I needed to be.  Now, as a result of my stress, I'm left with a disaster of a house, and a horrible head cold. 

This isn't just frustrating for me, but also for the Husband.  He has now voiced that he doesn't want this to become a career if I can't work this out.  So I am now making a promise that to all of you that the next party will be put together with time to spare! It's important that I'm successful here because my next party is going to be in a completely different state!

(In my defense, I had planned on taking some time off of work on Friday, but ended up having a retirement luncheon and an afternoon meeting that I needed to go to which really cut into my prep time.  Even if I have to work boatloads of extra hours, I'm going to HAVE to take time off before these events.)

- Backdrops:  After feeling like I had such a great backdrop last time, I wasn't so excited about the backdrop this time.  I wasn't thrilled with using the pink fabric, but because of time and budget limitations, it was the best option at the time.  My original vision had dozens of flowers on the backdrop, but since I didn't take the time to learn my new tool earlier, I ended up with just a few.

This could have been so much more....

- Develop a Comprehensive Plan: Again, this was a FAIL.  I didn't think it was too necessary, since the whole party was about a dinner, but I really did need to put together at least a timeline of events.  Does anyone have a timeline they've found useful?

- Budget & Tracking Expenses: As outlined in yesterday's post, I feel fantastic about how well I stayed within my decorating budget.  We honestly didn't set a budget for food expenses.  Since this was our gift to the Husband's parents, and it gave the Husband an excuse to cook something decadent, we were willing to splurge on high-quality foods. 

This is sort of difficult for me, as the tea party felt like a somewhat of a triumph.  I'm glad that I tried something new, though.  And I can't wait to put together my next party...the hostess and I have been working on some really fun and different ideas!

....You didn't think I was going to hold out on all the details, did you?  Come back Friday for our full five-course menu with recipe links and wine pairings!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pink & Grey Dinner Party

Last Saturday, the Husband and I had an intimate dinner party to celebrate the birthdays of both his mother and father.  Being the food-lovers we are, we decided not just to host a dinner party; but to serve a formal, five-course dinner.  To add to the challenge, I promised the husband that all non-food expenses wouldn't exceed $50!


The color palette was determined primarily by items I had on hand.  I fell in love with this grey pinstripe silk years ago and purchased 5 yards.  This is the first time I had an opportunity to use it and I loved it!

pink and grey dining table

I guess I really like pink, because I had a bunch of it in the house.  I used the pink napkins I dyed for the tea party last month, as well as some scrap flannel to make fabric flower arrangements and additional scrap fabric for a table backdrop.

pink fabric flowers

I'm so incredibly lucky because my in-laws let us borrow their amazing china.  The dinner plates are all from my husband's grandmother, and were all made in occupied Japan.  We finished off dinner with my mother-in-law's Limoges that she inherited from her grandmother's bridal set from 1910.  I absolutely love the traditional patterns of older china, and these patterns are both just so special and beautiful!

The best part?  I got to use my Christmas gift from the Husband...a Silhouette SD!  It took some time to work out a few kinks, but I was able to cut out a bunch of different flowers to create a runner and to add to the backdrop. 


Here's a rundown of all the decor costs:

Tablecloth: $0 (on hand)
Silver Chargers: $0 ($36, but purchased with gift card)
China: $0 (borrowed)
Centerpieces:
      Candlesticks:$0 (repurposed from tea party-glued & painted, a la JC's Loft)
      Fabric flowers: $4 (most styrofoam was on-hand, purchased 1 additional from Dollar Tree, fleece was on-hand, tulle purchased for $3)
      Square Vases: $8 from Michaels
Pink Paper Flowers: $7 for Silhouette pattern downloads
Backdrop Canvas: $5 for a pack of dark paper.
Total Decor Costs: $24

Any and all savings from decor was completely blown on the dinner budget....mmmmmmmm!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mama Monday - The One Where I Hang My Head In Shame

Hi, my name is PartyMom and I am a recovering Pre-Parenthood Snob.  Long before I had a child of my own, the Husband and I would say what would now be unspeakable things about parents and how they were raising their children.  We were horrified by television time, junk food, temper tantrums and hyperactivity.  We wondered why parents couldn't just lay down the law with their children.  We made such foolish statements like 'Our children will eat what we eat and they will like every bite of it!'. 

Fast forward 17 months, and we are now well aware at the groveling we must do to apologize for such attitudes:

-No TV before the age of 2?  (I never fully subscribed to this, but at one point I foolishly thought I could do it).  T now enjoys her daily installment of Sesame Street while I cook dinner...as well as football on weekends; and I am totally fine with this.

- Only healthy, homemade foods? I have since been instructed at T's school that goldfish and popcorn are her favorite snacks, even though I don't give her goldfish very often, and had never given her popcorn.  (She's got a healthy appetite and has no problem eating the food that her less-hungry friends offer during lunchtime and snacks)

- She will eat what we give her or go hungry!  Seriously, it only took one bad night of sleeping due to a hungry baby to change this.  Sleep is precious around this house, and we don't need anything else to make it worse.  Case in point...T wouldn't eat her grilled cheese tonight, so she got a banana.  At least she ate!

- We won't bribe our children with food/toys! - Tell me that when you're in the store with a hungry or tired toddler and the last place they want to be is running errands with you.  Suddenly your sweet angel becomes a wild animal.  The only distraction that works...food or a bright shiny object.  This is not just to make my life better, but everybody else's in that store.

- Our children won't act up in church.  Yeah, right.  How many times has this already been broken.  T is fascinated with playing on the kneelers, loves to talk or shout at the worst possible moments, and has even had times when she was so hyped up that she could even be heard through the crying room 'sound-proof' glass!

What have we learned most from this?  We know nothing.  Every child is different, and every child will misbehave.  In the end, we do the best we can and give other parents the a supportive smile when we see them in the store.  And just keep trying to develop some kind of order and discipline.
Just keep me full and I'll keep smiling!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Foodie Friday: Food Trends for 2011

A couple weeks ago, my MIL handed to me a recent copy of Bon Apetit magazine that named the macaron the “new cupcake”.  Having seen so many parties with macarons over the last year or so, it got me wondering what food trends we should expect to see in 2011.  I was actually surprised to see how many predictions there are for food trends.  After plowing through predictions from nutrition to sustainability, I found, what to me seems like the most interesting of all food trend predictions (ironically, also from a Bon Appetit article):

1. “Pop Goes the Restaurant”:  I imagine this is the new way to infuse the idea that only people ‘in the know’ are able to get into the exclusive restaurants.  The only way to know where one of these restaurants is going to be is to subscribe via Twitter/Facebook/Email.  This also seems like gourmet food trucks on steroids...although it’s an interesting concept, I think this could just get frustrating.

2. “Forest is the New Farm”:  I’m used to the term “grassy” being applied to things like Sauvignon Blanc, but I never thought I’d actually eat grass, moss or pine needles.  Apparently some chefs are trying to incorporate such items into their cuisine.  Go figure!

3. “You’re Gonna Eat Bunny Rabbit”:  I’ve actually eaten rabbit before.  It was okay, but there’s one really time-consuming drawback...it’s filled with teeny tiny bones!  It’ll be interesting to see if this really does take off.

4. “Asian Fusion 2.0”: Apparently there’s no limit to fusing Asian cuisine with others.  Although it seems like a reiteration of previous fusion trends; but I’m all for it.  Remember though, Bon Appetit was the mag that named Sriracha food of the year in 2010!

5. “Noodle Mania”: Pasta in general is my favorite food to eat.  I grew up with “Italian Night” every week, so it’s my comfort food.  I love the idea of trying different types of pastas (I’ve already made spaetzle); so maybe I’ll make some of my own this year!

Read the original article for more about these predicted trends!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Inspiration Board - Formal Dinner Party

I realized recently that of all the parties I’ve hosted over the years, I’ve never actually hosted a formal, sit-down dinner.  Even the one Thanksgiving dinner I hosted ended up being a buffet.  Well, as of this Saturday, that will no longer be the case.  

The Husband’s family provided me with the perfect opportunity to remedy this hole in my hostess repertoire as his mother and father both have January birthdays.  Although there are no real milestone birthdays for them this year, it always seems as though their birthdays get lost in the shuffle with being so close together and right after Christmas.  So the Husband and I are hosting a very intimate dinner party for the two of them on Saturday.  I’ll be posting the details next week; but here’s a taste of my inspiration for now:

Photo Credits:
Lamp - JC’s Loft
Pink Peony - Girlytwitter.com
Menu Card - TheKnot.com
Pinstripe Fedora - Amazon.com
Pink & Grey Table - Brides.com
Pink Napkin w/Lace - Brides.com
Silver & White Tablescape - JL Designs
Rag Flower - ByStephanieLynn.com
Silver Wedding Invitations - Brides.com

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Featured Party: A Colorful Christmas

In the past I have shied away from doing too many party features since as so many parties are featured over and over again at other blogs.  However, I also realize there are a lot of parties that are incredibly special - even if they don’t have the glitz and glam of a professional photo shoot.  There have been some adorable parties lately that I think should be getting more press.  Not just because they’re gorgeous, but they’re also incredibly creative and incredibly special.

My first feature of the year is from Kristy at The Purple Pug.  I know it’s a little late to be posting a Christmas party, but the details she used could be easily adapted to just about any time of year.  What makes this party particularly special is how the entire party was inspired by a pinata that her son made.  How much more personal can you get?!  So, instead of some fancy inspiration board...this was what drove the details of her gathering:

Giving special attention to the pinata as the buffet backdrop, Kristy pulled from the colors to make a striking buffet using craft paper and pom poms.

The details were carried over to her dining table display using bakers twine, more craft poms and of course some extra sparkle details!


One of my favorite creative touches?  Using placemats sideways!  What a great way to get the look and feel of charger plates without the expense! (and who hasn’t been frustrated by how large placemats can overtake the table display?!)

Hop on over to The Purple Pug to see even more details and to check out Kristy’s Pug Crush series.  This is one sweet chica!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Etsy Love: Super Bowl Time!

Now that we know who will be going to the divisional championships, it’s time to start getting ready for the Super Bowl!  I’ve pulled together a few Etsy items to help you celebrate the big game!

    Candy Football Molds - Whysper Fairy
    Football Cookies - Craving Something Cute
    Chocolate Covered Oreos - Chocolate Treasure
    Football Snack Bag - Eco Green Bags

Here are three great game treats or favors.  First, you have helmet shaped candy molds, iced football cookies or fantastic chocolate covered oreos!  Wrap it all up in these football themed snack bags.




    Cupcake Wrappers - That’s a Wrap 2
    Football Sprinkles - Bakers Bling Shop

Make your cupcakes stand out with football themed wrappers and football shaped sprinkles!

 

    Football Leg Warmers - Monkey Business 10
    “The Game’s on” Sign - Ice House Crafts
    Football Magnets - Michelle and her Dog

Use these leg warmers to cover your vases for a fun and festive centerpiece.  Put up a sign to ensure that no nail-biting plays are missed (though, for some, you may want to look for a “Shh..the commercials are on” sign).  Finally, use the football magnets on your chalkboard to keep track of who’s winning the pool at the end of each quarter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It Couldn't Be a More Fabulous Friday!

Words can't express how grateful I am right now.  Heck, I just started the day happy that it's Friday (yay!).  Add on top of that it's the start of a long weekend (even yayer!).  Then I get not just one, but a double dose of kind words out there in blogland!

First...and I'm so incredibly excited to share this...the Tea Party I just posted on Tuesday is being featured as the Party of the Day on Catch My Party!  Take a look at these kind words...right up there on the Home Page:


Even more...stay tuned to Catch My Party to see my tutorial on the Seamless Ruffle Garland posted there as well!

As if that weren't enough, the incredibly sweet, kind, and amazingly chic Lili of Swanky::Chic::Fete has just awarded this little corner of the blogosphere, the following honor:
Thank you so much Lili...you have really made this an extra special day!  If you haven't already (which is just absurd, because she's amazing!) take a few minutes to go and check her out (don't worry I'll wait for you to come back!):



So, now to completely shatter any illusion of stylish-ness, here are seven random things you may not know about me:

- I'm a crazy night person.  Even though I get up between 5 and 5:30 every weekday morning, I can't seem to get to sleep before 11pm.  It's not uncommon for the Husband to go to bed before me and still be asleep when I leave for work.
- When I was in High School, my dream was to own my own business...until I saw how much hard work it is.  Now it seems I've come full circle!
- I studied Computer Information Systems in college, but don't remember much of it at all!
- The Husband and I refer to the Lifetime Movie Network as "The Lemon Network"
- Also in high school, I was voted "Most Likely to Be on Broadway".
- Until marrying my husband, I only had one credit card.  Now I have two.
- Even though the Husband and his family speak fluent Spanish, I have yet to learn more than the odd word or phrase. (I do know when I'm getting yelled at, though!)


And now, to pass along this great privilege.  Here are some other stylish and fun blogs for you to check out!


 





JC's Loft




Foodie Friday: Foodie Goals for 2011

Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud writing the word "foodie" each week.  When I see that word, I imagine the kind of person who would snub their nose at my everyday fare (not to mention the foods that my toddler eats!).  But I'm not going to stop this weekly dose of tastiness.

See, I'm not the adventurous cook of the family.  That title rests with the Husband.  He's the kind of person tha twas raised on Julia Child.  Before we were married he would get home from work at 7; find a recipe to try; go to the store; and finally be eating dinner at 11 p.m.  He did all of this for himself.  I would rather have leftovers than do that on a regular basis!  In our little family, I'm the everyday cook and the baker, and he's the 'specialty' cook.  He absolutely loves finding a challenging recipes and executing them.  The only problem is that he's so busy now that he doesn't have much time to cook anymore.  Plus, he always cooks such rich and decadent recipes, that I don't want to have those kinds of calories on a regular basis!

Anyway, I digress...Even with all of this wonder as to whether or not I fit the traditional definition of a "foodie", I'm not going to stop this weekly dose of tastiness.  Instead I'm going to use it to expand my culinary horizons!  I need to get more adventurous and daring.  So I've compiled a list of foods/treats that I am determined to attempt, if not master, during 2011:

Spanish Tortilla - Image Source via
 The Spanish Tortilla is deceptively difficult and so incredibly good.  Made with layers of thinly sliced potato, cheese and herbs, I've tried to make this once before and it was a total disaster!


Homemade Lasagna - Image via Gourmet-Pizza.com
Although it doesn't sound adventurous, I've never attempted to make my own lasagna.  With all the layering and time it takes to make this classic Italian food, I've always just opted for spaghetti with meat sauce.  This year I will make my own lasagna.  Perhaps I'll even attempt to make my own pasta.

Meringue Buttercream - Image via Allrecipes.com
I've made a quite tasty traditional buttercream frosting; but now I want to master the Italian and Swiss variations.  If, even, for no other reason than to see the difference in flavors!

Macarons Image via MarthaStewart.com
I'm jumping on the macaron bandwagon here!  I fell so in love with those little tasty treats at the tea party, that I have to figure out how to make them for myself!

Truffles - Image via Allrecipes.com
Have you ever had handmade truffles?  I'm not talking about Godiva here.  I'm talking traditional truffles, dusted with cocoa powder to look like the mushrooms they're named after.  One of the benefits of having worked for a caterer is that I've gotten to try some amazing foods...one of which was the best truffles I've ever had in my life. So.Freaking.Good.  I'm determined to make a good truffle this year; and I'll be sure to share with you the end results!