Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Hanukkah Tonight!

Tonight was the second night of Hanukkah and we hosted a "little" potluck and party for my son's preschool class. Tomorrow night, we are doing the same for my daughter's first grade class. My chosen tasks were the latkes and the dessert. SURPRISE! So for the past few days, I have been baking. And crafting, when needed. Did I mention that I am not Jewish? And that my Catholic family will be heading to our house on the 23rd? I will dust myself off and get busy making some Christmas goodies. In the meantime, here are some of the goodies that we will be enjoying over the next couple of nights...

Sugar cookies! My very favorite recipe comes from Mrs. Fields.

The dessert buffet. I sort of went crazy. Why not?
The banner was made from supplies that I
procured at the Paper Source.

The above mentioned sugar cookies and some Chocolate Crackle Cookies
from MSL. They are a chocolate lover's dream.

Macaroons, drizzle pretzels and lots of blue candy!

Sufganiyot a.k.a. jelly donuts. These bad boys came from
Krispy Kreme. I might be crazy, but not THAT crazy.
But it still might be...

It was worth every dish that needed to be washed after I
destroyed my kitchen. Right, Honey?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paper Source Obsession

Sometimes, what you decorate with can really enhance that your or serving. Or improve the overall appeal. Table settings and flowers are classic additions to any well dressed event. But there are many other ways to make a party special. This post has nothing to do with baking but I wanted to share this, anyway.

If you have never heard of Paper Source, you are missing out. For those of us who are in love with paper, this is Heaven. We have several locations in the Los Angeles area, but recently they opened one quite near my home. (DANGER!) They inspire me in so many ways. Recently, we had a fall festival at my daughter's school and I was the chair of the event. And in charge of decorations. We had a small budget so I decided to make several arrangements out of paper and using gourds and pumpkins, rather than fresh flowers. Each arrangement cost less than $10 to make. I also found some mini hay bales at the local craft store. I used them to make table numbers. With the help of some die cut turkeys and pumpkins from Paper Source, some large printer stickers, thin bamboo sticks, some raffia and a few stalks of wheat I was able to make a simple and festive marker.

I made 6 arrangements like this, each one had a different phrase.

This greeted our guests at the sign in table.

The table numbers.

Table sponsorship cards.

We had several families sponsor tables for the event. It was important to us to let their contributions be know. So I used some paper leaves and worked them into the tablescape. The overall effect was colorful and festive. I am so happy with the way everything came together.

Flower Arrangements

And speaking of tablescapes... there are a million + ways to snazz up a dinner party. Here are a few simple arrangements that I have used for recent events. All of these are easy to make, using season flowers that can be purchased at grocery stores or farmer's markets. One of my favorite things right now with the holidays is to mix mercury glass with a variety of small, simple arrangements. Keep the centerpieces low so that your guests can talk to the people across from them. And don't forget candles when entertaining at night!

This table was for an entertaining segment on The Talk. I worked with Rocco Dispirito to create this look, using a palate of pinks, whites, yellows and teal. The silver pieces really help make the table spectacular.

Mint julep cups are great flower vessels. I used 3 different flowers, all in white and placed them in vases next to one another. I also used silver chargers on the dining table and lots of flickering candles. Just make sure the candles are unscented. Nothing worse than having a smell that competes with the dinner you just slaved over.

This small arrangement is perfect for a small table or several could be used on a larger table.

Ornamental vegetables are another simple way to make the table feel fresh.

All of these arrangements were inspired by the pantry set on MasterChef. The veggies and florals were all inexpensive and were quite colorful. I used metal galvanized pots in varying shapes and sizes to unify the entire look.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A slice off the old butter block

There is no question, I am a bit of a control freak. Especially when it comes to pastry bags and decorating cakes and cookies. My kids are always begging me to use them and up until this point, I have been uptight about it. My six year old had a cupcake contest at her school last week. The cupcakes were to be designed by the kids. She had two ideas that she wanted to do. I asked her to draw out what she was thinking and I would help her execute them. She wanted a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. For her first cupcake, she wanted a chalkboard, a teacher's desk and chair and an apple. Knowing that there is only so much room on the cupcake, I asked if it would be okay if we just did the chalkboard and the apple. Lofty ambitions! Where ever could she get that from?

For the second cupcake (why make only one?) she wanted a field of grass with a soccer ball and a flag that said the name of her school and the mascot. (Her school just won their league and was undefeated.) This is her design and what the cupcakes ended up looking like...

Ella piped the frosting all by herself!!! It turns out, she is actually quite good and takes her time. It is still hard for me to believe that a first grader can do this. But I was there and saw her do it! We made the apple out of a cake ball (one cupcake, crumbled, mixed with some frosting, rolled into a ball and then covered in red sanding sugar). Then she piped the leaf onto it and used a black jimmie as the stem. The chalkboard was constructed with black cardstock and we wrote the school's mantra in white. (The children say this each day at morning assembly, after the Pledge of Allegiance.) The soccer ball was a pick that I got at a local cake supply store. We made the flag, using the school's colors and attached the triangles to a skewer. Didn't she do a great job making the grass?

In reality, I probably could have gotten by without helping her at all on this task. But last year I let her "run with it" on her science fair project. And then we brought it to school and all of the other parents had clearly assisted their children and Ella's seemed to fade by comparison. In truth, I only helped her execute her ideas. And I let her have all creative control and decision making. And we had a bonding evening as we did it. (I found out who she has a crush on at school!!!)

This morning, they announced the first and second place winners of the competition. And Ella took the top prize!!!!! She pranced, proudly up on stage to accept her reward... a gift card to her favorite frozen yogurt place. This is the equivalent to me receiving a gift from Tiffany's. Guess I am going to have to capitalize on the talents that are before me. Maybe she can help me make that yule log that I had so much trouble with a few years back?