Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Something Borrowed to Something Blue

A friend of mine just recently got engaged and has asked me to post some of the details from my wedding. I had much the same wedding as any other girl, but I did add some creative touches to make the day unique.  Some of these touches are still remembered by guests and mentioned regularly even though our wedding was over four years ago in July of 2007.
Something Old:  I always had the dream of wearing my mother's wedding dress as my something old, but when I got engaged and asked to try it on, I found that not only was her white dress stained a pee-colored yellow with time, but also that my mom was super skinny! Let's just say that it zipped, but I couldn't really breathe too well! So, I went with a plan B. I found a lace handkerchief from my grandmother that I decided to incorporate into my attire. I have heard of people carrying it or sewing it into the dress, but I wanted it to be visual without having to directly hold it.  Instead, I took it to my florist, Marina, and asked her to wrap it as part of my bouquet.  I just love how it turned out...

Something New:  My dress, veil, and shoes were my something new.  The unique aspect was the added touch I did with my shoes.  I asked each of my bridesmaids to sign the bottom and write a little message.  Each of them had walked with me on my journey through life and through the craziness of planning of wedding, so it was fitting to have them walk "with me" down the aisle. Although nobody saw this aspect, I did mention it in the program which informed guests of many of the "special touches" or details I added to our wedding day.
Something Borrowed:  I borrowed a necklace and earrings from my best friend, Jennifer, and hair clip from my friend, Michelle.  Both girls were bridesmaids in the wedding. One unique touch that I incorporated into the wedding was labeling each bridesmaid with a specific characteristic that I absolutely love about them. This was an idea I got from a friend of mine's wedding, and I just loved it.  For example, my friend Nazly is my constant source of laughter, and I have so many funny memories together, so her characteristic was "Laughter".  I created little tags in our wedding colors and attached these to each of the girl's bouquets. It was also mentioned in the program.
As a gift for each of the bridesmaids, I crafted an album of our friendship.  Each girl had a "How we Met Page," a "Favorite Memory" page, and other pages with photos and notes tracking our friendship. The last page was a spot to put a photo of us from the wedding. I gave these to the girls the night before the wedding.
Something Blue: To add a touch of blue, I asked my mom to hand stitch our names on wedding date into my gown in blue.  She did an excellent job.  If my daughter asks to use my wedding dress years from now (I had mine preserved so it hopefully will stay white!), then it will be neat to have this touch and add her wedding information as well.

For the sake of length, I think I will break up the posts about our wedding details into three posts. Stay tuned for "I Do...Added Touches" and "Wedding Reception: A Personal Touch".  Also...please comment on this post to add your thoughts or ideas for brides!

*All photos taken by Joel Eckman Maus of Studio EMP, Inc.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ready for New Years?

New Year's Eve is only a week away, so I thought I would post some fun menu ideas for a new year's dinner party.  I hosted this dinner party a few days after the actual new year, but it was still very fun (and yummy!).  The party I hosted was themed A New York New Year, so my decor and menu centered around that theme.  
Since I am in California, the time frame for dinner worked well with this theme as well because of the time difference.  For invitations, design cards using a circle cutter, silver glitter, and string so it looks like the ball that drops in New York.  Put your party details on the back.  Or...if your guests live locally, why not craft a glitter ball and hang it from their front porch, so they see it as they walk out the door!  You can do this using a lightweight ball or even a white balloon that you cover with glitter.  Suspend the ball/balloon from the porch, and then dangle a card with the party details from it!  Here is the text I used on my invitation...

New Year's Resolutions:
1.  See my friends more
2.  Drink more wine
3.  Laugh more
4.  Create happy memories with my friends

Do these sound like some of yourNew Year's Resolutions? 
Let's accomplish them all on one night!

We'll recreate the new year by pretending we are in New York for the famousball drop & celebrate...

"A New York New Year!"
Dress in cocktail attire (as if you are going out in New York City) and come ready to
"Party Like It's 2008!"

Decor: This party was back in 2008, so my decor was a lot simpler in those days!!  I bought a New York background to hang on the wall and blow horns/poppers to spread out on the table. I also used New Years napkins.  All these items I found at Party City.  I used a white tablecloth on table, but also spread a smaller black tablecloth on top to add color.  My place cards were apples on which I attached a homemade tag that read "Welcome to New Years in the Big Apple" and the guest's name. I also had a ball hanging from the ceiling over the table (just like described in the invitation idea).
The silly paper hats were the "prize" in the poppers.
Menu:  I tried to serve everything New York related.  I started with Buffalo, New York Chicken Wings and dip as the appetizer.  These were very yummy!  My main dish was New York steak which I served with baked potato and vegetables.  Dessert was New York cheesecake which I topped with cherries. A very filling dessert, but delicious all the same.  Here are the recipes... 
Buffalo, New York Wings with Blue Cheese Dip

12 Chicken Wings (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
3 tablespoons bottled hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic (minced)

For marinade, stir together melted butter, hot pepper sauce, paprika, salt, and red pepper.  Pour over chicken wings; seal bag.  Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Drain. Discard marinade.  Place chicken wing pieces on unheated rack of a broiler pan.  Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Turn chicken wings.  Broil for 10 to 15 minutes more or until chicken is tender & no longer pink.

For dip, combine all ingredients in a blue or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Cover and chill for up to one week.

New York Steak

Trim fat from steaks and marinate in Worchesire sauce overnight.
Grill for approximately 25 minutes rotating sides until desired doneness.

 Baked Potato with Chef’s Cheese Sauce

Potatoes for the number of guests attending
2 tablespoons margarine (soft)
¼ cup cheese
¼ cup sour cream
1-2 teaspoons snipped green onion
Crumbled bacon (optional)

Bake potatoes in oven or on grill.  Whip butter and cheese with mixer until fluffy.  Add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended.  Chill until ready to serve.  Place crumbled bacon on the side for guests to add if desired.  Cheese sauce feeds 2-3 people.
Sensational Foil-Pack Vegetables

1 cup zucchini chunks
1 cup button mushrooms
1 cup each red and yellow pepper chunks
1 cup large red cherry tomatoes
¼ cup Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Toss vegetables and tomatoes with dressing.  Place in center of an 18-inch long piece of heavy-duty foil.  Bring up foil sides and double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.  Grill 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, turning after 4 minutes.  Cut slits in foil to release steam.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Makes 6 servings.

 New York Cheesecake Supreme

1½ cups finely crushed graham crackers
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup milk
3 slightly beaten eggs
½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel (optional)
1 can cherry pie filling

For the crust, in a small bowl, combine graham crackers, walnuts, the tablespoon sugar, and if desired, cinnamon.  Stir in melted butter.  Press crumb mixture onto the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.  Set aside.  For filling, in a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, the 1 cup sugar, flour, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined.  Beat in milk until smooth.  Stir in eggs and, if desired, lemon peel.  Pour filling into crust-lined pan.  Place pan in a shallow backing pan.  Bake in a 375 degree oven 40 to 45 minutes for an 8-inch pan, about 35 for a 9-inch pan, or until a 2½ inch area around the outside edge appears set when gently shaken. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Using a sharp knife, loosen the crust and cool for 30 minutes more.  Remove the sides of the pan and cool cheesecake completely.  Cover with cherry pie filling.  Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

That's it for this simple party.  Not a lot of photos of this one either (sorry).  If I had known in January of 2008 that I would eventually start a blog and need good photos, things might have been different! Oh well...happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time for Toy Story

For my monthly dinner this past Monday, I wanted to tie in the holidays and the season, but didn't want to do a plain Christmas theme.  I decided to host a Toy Story movie-themed party and ask guests to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to a child this Christmas.  Boy was this one fun to decorate! There was a lot to do with this theme (sorry this post will be a long one)
 Decor:  As guest's entered, I had a welcome table with various toys including an Etch-a-Sketch with "Welcome Girls" designed on the screen.  I decorated my table with a red tablecloth and Toy Story characters as the centerpiece.  Each place setting had a paper lunch sack cut/folded to make it look like a sheriff's shirt with a sheriff's badge (found at Target) attached to twine.  Inside each bag was the evening's menu which I titled "Woody's Roundup".
I also had plastic army men parachuting from the ceiling over the dinner table as well as over both serving tables.  Guest's placed their donated toys under the Christmas tree where I had more army men carrying a walkie-talkie.  For each guest's place card, I made an etch-a-sketch out of scrapbook paper with their name on the screen.
Menu: I served the meal cafeteria -style on two tables.  The first table was the (Mr.) Potato Bar.  The table had several Mr. Potato head toys on it as well as a dump truck with toothpicks inside.  I set out bowls of various vegetables, cheese, and chicken for guests to design their own Mr. Potato head!

This was so fun!!  Look at the creativity in these...

The other serving table was decorated with the Toy Story characters represented in the meal. 

First, there was Hamm and Split Pea Soup. This is my mom's recipe, and it is delicious. I used a toy telephone to hold the soup spoons and of course had Hamm next to the crock pot.

Split Pea Soup
Hambone or 3 ham hocks
2 small onions, chopped (1 cup)
1 pound dry split peas
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 cup chopped celery with leaves
½ cup chopped carrots

Simmer the hambone with onions covered in approximately 2 quarts of water for 30 minutes.  Add split peas. Bay, leaf, thyme, and pepper.  Simmer 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add vegetables. Cook slowly 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.  Remove bone and meat from soup.  Cut meat into small pieces.  Set aside.  Sieve peas and vegetables(or put in blender and blend until smooth).  Return diced meat to soup.  Salt to taste and heat to serving temperature.
Total cooking time: 2½ to 3 hours.

I made melon balls out of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. I called them Buzz Lightyear's Space Balls.  I served these out of a spaceship I made.  I took a container I bought grapes in at Costco and made a spaceship around it using cut cardboard, butcher paper, styrofoam cups, and colored scrapbook paper!

For dessert, I served Jessie's Cowgirl Hat Cookies.  These were very simple to make.  The only problem I had was finding the red gumdrops for the top. I finally found them at Sweet Factory, but they did not have enough, so I had to buy the crescent shaped ones as well and attempt to melt them/reshape them (not an easy task).  The Jessie doll (as well as the other Toy Story dolls you see in these photos, I borrowed from friends).

Jessie’s Cowgirl Hat Cookies
Sugar Cookie Dough (homemade or store bought)
Red cookie icing
Large red gumdrops
White decorator’s icing

Roll out the sugar cookie dough between sheets of flour-dusted wax paper to a ¼-inch thickness.  Cut out the cookies using a 2” round cookie cutter and place them on a tray.  Then place the tray in a refrigerator to chill the cookies while you heat the oven to the proper temperature.  When the oven is heated, place the cookies on a baking sheet and cookie about 15 minutes (or designated time on store bought dough packaging). Turn the cookies so the flat surfaces are facing up and frost them with the red icing.  Once the icing has set, add a top to each hat by slicing the domed top off of a red gumdrop.  Then squeeze a quarter size dollop of white icing onto the bottom of the gumdrop and gently press it down onto the center of the cookie so the icing spreads around the base and resembles a white hatband.  Pipe a line of trip around the perimeter of each cookie hat brim.  Then pipe a series of short lines over the top of the trip to resemble white lacing.

I also served Green Alien cupcakes. These were also very simple to make & they look totally cute!  I think they would be a bit more expensive to make for an entire birthday party, but since I was only making 12, they were not bad.  The Pizza Planet decoration, was handmade by a friend of mine for his daughter's birthday cute!! It is basically made with cardboard and covered with a white trash bag!

Green Alien Cupcakes
White frosting
Neon Green food coloring
*Mint-flavored chewable candies (found packaged in rolls)
Green apple sour belts
Green apple straws, cut in 2” pieces
Black decorator icing

  Prepare your alien ears by cutting ears, shaped like teardrops, from the green apple belts. I used kitchen shears, but you could use a small leaf cookie cutter.  Frost cupcakes and insert a 2” sour straw as the antenna.  Press your ears into the sides of the cupcake.  Line up three mint candies as eyes (*I used Mentos), and dot with black icing for pupils.  Give your aliens an awed expression by drawing on a circle for a mouth.

This etch-a-sketch was a cute photo op throughout the evening.  All in all, we had a fun party creating our Mr. Potato heads and acting like kids again. It was also great to bring toys to donate to those that don't have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas the way many of us do.