Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Valentine's Day Cookie Decorating Party


As a professional event planner, I get to be apart of some very fun parties.  Today, I had the chance to work with Karen Wade from the Velvet Crumb Bakery.  She baked all the cookies, using her special recipe, assembled bags of icing and shared her techniques for decorating beautiful cookies just in time for Valentine's Day - which next to Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Our supply closet at work is full of handy props to use for many occasions.  I pulled out the 5-section acrylic tote from The Container Store.


We put the undecorated cookies on the larger side and bags of royal icing in the smaller compartments.  We weren't using sprinkles, but you could easily fit small jars of sprinkles in the smaller spaces as well.


When I stopped into The Container Store for inspiration for Miss Bee's upcoming grown-up birthday lunch, I saw these adorable chalkboard placemats and knew they would be a perfect touch for the cookie party.
We used them as the base for each person's place with their own tote and supplies.  I used a chalkboard pen, but because it's not really chalkboard media and more like paper, I think a white paint pen would be better suited for the lettering.  It's also permanent, and not erasable, so be sure to practice what you want to write first.


We served simple refreshments including this recipe for a Breakfast Cookie from my Pinterest cookies board.  They are perfect for a simple coffee with friends, hold up well for transport to parties, and make a great cookie to take to someone who needs funeral food.  Any good Southern gal always has an arsenal of "bereavement" recipes on hand and this is a good one. I may have to write another story on this subject...


You use 10 pieces of yummy, crispy bacon.


 Chopped up like this...


They also have cornflakes, for a nice crunch, and raisins for added sweetness.  This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of raisins and I am not a raisin fan, so I substitute with either cranberries or cherries.  The contrast of salty and sweet is just right.  It has the other usual suspects in a cookie, butter, flour, sugar, etc...


One batch makes two dozen so I made two batches of these for the ladies today and there were none left, letting you know the recipe was a hit.


Here are some fun photos of the finished cookies.  It was like looking at little jewels...no two were alike and the ladies were so proud of their work!











The smiles and laughter today were the best Valentine's Day gift!  I hope you share something you love to do this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Creative Uses for an Armoire

My friends at Chairish asked me if I would come up with ideas for creative ways to use an Armoire. That was a challenge I happily accepted!  I love re-purposing furniture and coming up with new ways to take something traditional and put a modern twist on it.

Let's back up a little...what is an Armoire?


By definition, an armoire is a tall free-standing cabinet typically used for clothing and storage.  It's very popular in European countries to have an armoire instead of a closet.  In the 90's, we saw a resurgence of using armoires for the television and media storage, before wireless brought the wall mounted television.

Chairish.com makes it fun and easy for design lovers to buy and sell vintage furniture and decor to one another. Their shop exclusively features curator-approved treasures in a full-service and trustworthy environment.  I had fun looking through all their armoire choices and I narrowed it down to three I really like.  I can't decide so I am making this a three-part series...


Armoire Pool Side....



It occurred to me that often times in the summer months, we stash things in those plastic pool benches, or have to lug everything from inside outside, then inside again.   Wouldn't it be fun to organize all your outdoor entertaining needs in a stylish, pretty armoire?  Obviously, you need to make sure you have a covered space so this gorgeous piece will be protected from the weather.  This is just a concept to embrace.  A coat of marine varnish on an armoire could protect it from the elements.

  • Roll up your beach towels and either stack them on the shelves or stuff them in this fun Rugby-Striped Bin from The Container Store.  The beach towel is from Lands' End.  
  • Store noodles upright in the umbrella stand from The Container Store.
  • Pottery Barn is having a great outdoor entertaining sale.  Melamine is perfect for dining al fresco.  A jug of fruited water placed on the shelf inside the armoire means you won't have to make trips inside for beverages for the kids.  Your friends can sip this recipe for a Pear-Basil Sipper.
  • Porch Parties is a charming book full of recipes and inspiration for outdoor entertaining.
  • Always make sure you have a generous supply of sunscreen available for guests.  You can easily store extra bottles and a first-aid kit in the armoire drawers, along with pool toys.
  • Lastly, I thought a chalk board would be fun hanging from the door knob letting guests know the pool is open!
Check back soon for Part-Two to see what armoire I choose next...Thank you Chairish for the fun homework!



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dress it Up -- Using Amy Howard Chalk Paint


This is the before photo of a nice looking dresser I purchased a few years ago from Pier 1.  It had a minty green paint with red stripes and brass, ordinary knobs. Over the years, I have transitioned from my love of red to calmer hues of blue, grey and cream with pops of orange and turquoise.  I decided the dresser needed a makeover.

I love painting with chalk paint. Two brands I have worked with are Annie Sloan and Amy Howard.  I have more experience with Annie Sloan and have painted several pieces of furniture, my pantry door and even a fireplace mantel for my designer friend's client.  I wanted to try Amy Howard's line she sells through Ace Hardware.

She carries a wide variety of colors and even has a line of lacquer spray paint. The fun and unique aspect of Amy Howard's paint (like Annie Sloan) is the product is a water-based paint that adheres to any surface with no need to sand or prime.  The results net a flea-market piece that looks fresh and updated.

Chalk paint is very forgiving and is super easy to use.  It rubs off in the places you don't want it and stays where you do. My local Ace offers classes for application techniques, so be sure to follow them on social media for updates.

I selected Amy Howard One-Step paint in black.  The pigment is very rich so a little goes a long way. I have enough black paint left for another project.


I taped off everything I didn't want painted black and removed the knobs.  I only painted the minty green and left the cream that was already on the dresser.  I had plans for the stripes using a different line of paint.


Using a paint brush, I applied two coats of black paint, making sure to give ample time between coats to adequately dry.

After I was finished painting, I waited 24 hours then applied two thin coats of Amy Howard light antique wax.


The wax helps to protect your paint and also gives a nice, satin finish.

I replaced the hardware with some sparkly knobs from Hobby Lobby and decided to go with mis-matched whimsy using two different knobs from the rest.


The stripes are now gold.  I used a Sherwin-Williams paint and applied it with a steady hand and a small watercolor brush.

Here's the after...





I am really happy with how it turned out.  It's not perfect and looks like a vintage piece which is what I was going for. The dresser is in our dining area and houses all our place mats and linen napkins.Can you imagine it would also make a cute coffee station with your Keurig on top and mugs tucked in an open drawer?

So, for about $50 and a weekend, I gave an already great piece of furniture a new life.  I'm sure you have a piece of furniture you're not feeling the love for.  After a weekend with Amy Howard, you might just change your mind.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Skillet Apple Crisp



We had company over for dinner on Saturday and I made a Tart Apple Crisp in my cast iron skillet.  It was easy and the perfect winter's dessert with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a dash of caramel. 

Filling:

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced (I cut mine into small chunks)
1/4 cup of apple juice (I used Trader Joe's spiced apple cider)
3 TBL of fresh lemon juice
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp of salt




Topping:

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup of butter



Preheat oven to 375.

For filling:  In a mixing bowl toss together apple slices, apple and lemon juices, flour and salt.  Spread apple mixture into a 10-inch enamel coated skillet (I used my cast iron skillet that I buttered).

For topping:  In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle onto apples. Top with two tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small pieces.



Bake until topping is lightly browned and filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.



Side note:  If one of your favorite things is the sugary, crispy topping on your dessert, you could easily double the topping recipe and I think it would be delicious.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A fun way to RePurpose Thrift Store China


On a recent get-away with my church lady friends, we stopped into a home decor consignment store.  I have been on the hunt for blue and white dishes and I found an English cream and sugar set. The creamer has a little chip and I knew right away I would plant a succulent in it.  The sugar bowl is in mint condition so I filled it with raw sugar and put it on the coffee station tray next to my Keurig.

I stopped into Calloway's Nursery for a bag of potting soil specially formulated for cactus, succulents and desert plants.

And I found two varieties of succulents for $3 each.  They put them down inside the cutest little brown paper bag.

I filled the creamer with potting soil.  If you wanted to you could fill the bottom with small pebbles, but the nursery lady told me I didn't need to if I used the Black Gold brand soil.


I nestled the succulent down inside, filling the sides with the cactus soil.


Then, placed green moss (from the craft store) on the top to cover up the soil. 


I gave it a light watering.  The main thing to remember about any cactus plant, is you don't water them.  About once a month, give the soil a light mist of water, but really they don't even need that.



So next time you see mismatched china in the thrift store, consider giving it a new beginning as a vessel for a low-maintenance succulent.  What a fun gift to share with someone.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Salisbury Steak Revisited



Before you say, "No. I'm not eating that" give me a chance.  I know the words "Salisbury Steak" conjure up images of elementary school cafeteria ladies in hair nets, stainless steel counters and melamine serving trays.  The lovely ladies at Meadowbrook Elementary School whipped up some of the best fish filet sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and parker house rolls I've ever eaten.  But, I am not sure a bunch of kids were giving high-fives for this...

P.S. What is THAT next to the corn?

Fun fact:  J.H. Salisbury, M.D. was a 19th century American physician who was an advocate for low-carb foods and invented said Salisbury Steak.

So, when I picked up an issue of Paula Deen's Cast-Iron Favorites magazine, and saw the recipe I dared myself to make it and to like it, darn it!

Cast-Iron Salisbury Steak

2 pounds of ground chuck
2 TBL of Worcestershire sauce
1 TBL prepared horseradish
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 8oz package of sliced baby portobello mushrooms
2 TBL all-purpose flour
1 (10.5 oz) can French Onion Soup
1 (10.5 oz) can beef consomme

In a large bowl, stir together first 6 ingredients.  Divide evenly into 6 portions and shape each into a 5-inch patty.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add patties in batches and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove patties, reserving 2 TBL drippings in skillet.

Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Stir in soup and consomme until combined, return patties to skillet and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until patties are cooked through and sauce is thickened, 30-40 minutes.  Serve immediately.


Perfect served over a bed of mashed potatoes.  The sauce was the perfect consistency.  I'm not a mushroom fan, but they added a nice flavor. This was comfort food for sure.  Very yummy.

You can skip the peas and carrots.  High-fives all around!

A Twist in the Tale

I began my blog about six years ago as a way to journal my experience as a caregiver to my parents, Earnie and Ray.  Sprinkled in between stories of the joys and challenges of caring for aging parents, I shared recipes, ideas for home decor and entertaining, the milestones of being Miss Bee's mother and a few stories including, Mr. Bee, my husband.

My mother, Earnie, was a big inspiration for my blog material.  With her permission, I would share comical things she said or did.  She always laughed and found the funny in most everything, even heartache. When Earnie died very suddenly in 2013 from a brain aneurysm, my  world stopped turning.  I missed her daily presence in my home where we lived together as a family for six wonderful years.  She was my zip, which I wrote about here.  It took me a LONG time to find any reason to write. I had no motivation.  My muse was gone.  I'd post something and then weeks later people would ask me if I was going to write anything because they were tired of seeing the story about scented wipes. About two years later, I slowly found the desire to write.  But, even then, it didn't seem like anything I was sharing was interesting.


When I was with my three best friends last fall on our mid-year retreat, I shared all these feelings I had and, with their help, I realized that my blog had revolved around a life I didn't have anymore.  I had moved on to the next chapter of my life - a life yet to be lived with infinite opportunities to redefine who Melissa is and will be next.  However, it is really important to me that I stay close to those ties I had with Mother and the inspiration she gave me throughout her lifetime.

So, in a few weeks I will be launching an all new blog with a new title and slightly different design.  I will share the same ideas with you on cooking, home keeping, entertaining, my spiritual growth and whatever else I may find interesting.  It's my twist in the tale.  I hope you will stay with me to enjoy what's ahead.  It will be sweet.