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Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

summer tablescape

Just a few quick snapshots from a recent summer tablescape … using blues and white.  The sources are as follows:

  • Runner from Pottery Barn (2012) – although I believe they still have this.
  • Glass beads from the Irvine Antique Flea Market – over the past 3 years
  • Woven placemats, white dishes and candles from TJMaxx.

I have turquoise linen napkins and white cotton napkins that I use with this table setting.  I also use these same items on our table outside for al fresco dining.  Enjoy!

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What are you doing for the 4th of July?  We’re having our annual 4th of July BBQ … so I’m updating outdoors with a bit of Red, White & Blue.

Switching out our regular pillow for red and blue ones…

Have a fun and safe 4th of July with your family and friends!

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My girlfriend and I co-hosted a surprise birthday party for our husbands last weekend.  (They are friends from college and celebrated milestone birthdays within a week of each other.)  So much fun!!!  But, the planning started months in advance.

As we discussed the theme and decor for the party, we decided to use chalkboards on all of the food and drink tables.

It was too expensive to buy vintage chalkboards, so I decided to make them.  It turned out to be a fairly easy project.

After reading many blogs and talking to several people that make & sell vintage chalkboards, here are my “comprehensive” directions for DIY Chalkboards

Materials:

  • Empty picture frames
  • MDF (1/4 inch) – available at hardware stores
  • Chalkboard Paint – also available at hardware stores
  • Primer (recommended;  I used gray spray primer)
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Glazing Push Points
  • Chalk & Soft Rags

Directions:

  1. Select the frames you wish to use.  I picked up four frames at our monthly flea market for a total of $12.   Most of us can probably re-purpose old picture frames we have around the house.
  2. Have the MDF cut to fit the size of your frames.  (Measure carefully!  You want to make sure your boards will fit snugly in the frames.  If your frames still have the glass or cardboard back, these make great patterns.)  Most hardware stores will custom cut for free.  I even went back to Home Depot twice to have the large boards cut into smaller pieces. 
  3. It’s best to prime the MDF.  I used a gray primer spray paint, since I was using black chalkboard paint.  Once the primer is dry, lightly sand the MDF with very fine grit sandpaper.  Use a soft cloth to wipe away all dust.
  4. Paint the primed MDF with chalkboard paint.  I used a disposable sponge roller and painted three coats.  (I wrapped the sponge roller and paint tray in Saran Wrap and placed them in the refrigerator between coats.  This way I only needed 1 roller and didn’t need to clean out my paint tray.)
  5. When the boards are completely dry, you need to “season” them, so you can wipe off the chalk writing and reuse your chalkboards.  Season the boards by using the side of your chalk and rubbing chalk all over the entire surface of your chalkboard.  Wipe off all chalk dust with a soft cloth.
  6. Paint, distress, wax or glaze your frames, depending on the desired look you want to achieve.  (I sprayed my frames white, using white spray paint that I had on hand.)  Be sure to paint in a well ventilated area if you are using spray paint.
  7. To secure the chalkboard MDF into the picture frames, you can use Push Points to secure the board to wood frames using a large screw driver or metal putty knife.

I ended up with four large framed chalkboards and several other non-framed boards (including a very large board that we used at the party to display messages from guests that couldn’t be with us for the party and a long skinny board with a “thank you” message).

I spent $41 on the entire project … I couldn’t have purchased one framed chalkboard for that price!

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What kind of treats & desserts are you making this Easter?  There are so many delicious recipes and cute ideas!

Here are some of my favorites from my “Happy Easter” board on Pinterest.  (Sorry, I’m not around this Easter, so I’m not making any fun Easter Treats!

If I were hosting Easter brunch or dinner, I would make this Strawberry Meringue Cake (Southern Living).

Not sure that I would attempt either of these cupcakes as they are bit too detailed for my ability.  But aren’t they beautiful?

These cupcakes are more suited to my baking/decorating ability.

Easter sugar cookies are a tradition with our family.  We’re skipping this year, but we’ll be sure to decorate our bunny, carrots, and egg cookies next year.

Here’s my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipe.  They are the best tasting sugar cookies!   I promise!

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For our Christmas party, I made two new desserts — both from Bon Appetit.  And, both were a hit — with our party guests and our family.

This chocolate almond bark with sea salt is very rich — a little goes a long way!  It’s easy to make and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week!  That’s great when you’re planning a big party or, you’re looking for an interesting dessert to give to friends & neighbors.

Chocolate Almond Bark with Sea Salt

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Sugar

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona Almonds (not in oil)

1 lb. good-quality dark chocolate (62% – 70% cacao), finely chopped

Coarse Sea Salt (for sprinkling)

Directions:

1.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil.

2.  Combine sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan.  Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Immediately add butter, whisk until melted.  Add almonds; stir until well coated.  Quickly transfer almonds to baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts.  Let cool.  Break up any large clumps of nuts.  Set aside 1/4 of nuts.

3.  Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted.  Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet and stir quickly to combine.

4.  Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer.  Top with reserved nuts.  Sprinkle with salt.  Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

5.  Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.

Do Ahead:  Can be made 1 week ahead.  Keep chilled.

LORI’S NOTES:

  • I used Trader Joe’s Salted Skin-On Marcona Almonds.  I wasn’t sure they’d work, as they have the skin on, but they were great.  You need 1 and 1/2 bags (6 oz. bags).  I also used Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% Cacao bars (from Trader Joes).
  • In preparation for making caramel, I fill a 1-cup measuring glass half-full with water and place the pastry brush in glass – next to the stove – ready to brush down the sides of the pan.
  • While the recipe calls to cool the chocolate-nut mixture for 3 hours, I found it easier to cut into pieces after 1 1/2 to 2 hours of cooling.
  • Make sure you use very coarse sea salt.   The chocolate looks better with small, coarse chunks of salt.

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We had our annual Christmas party on Friday night.  This year, I did a simple tablescape of greens and ornaments for our dining room table.  This is where we serve most of our food for the party.

Please ignore the crumbs on the tablecloth, as most of the pictures were taken the day after. 🙂

This year, I purchased the bundled greens (pine, cedar and holly) from Trader Joes along with red and pink roses from Costco.  I placed silver and red mercury glass ornaments in a glass pedestal and used my chandelier candlesticks (from TJMaxx – several years ago).

It’s one of my favorite (and easiest) holiday centerpieces yet!

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I don’t what it is about Texas Sheet Cake … but it’s always a contender as a dessert to serve when we’re barbequing with friends in the summer.

That’s what we’re making for the 4th.  It’s great served with vanilla icecream!!!  And it can feed an army!

Texas Sheet Cake

2 c. Sugar

2 c. Flour

1 t. Baking Soda

1/2 t. Salt

2 sticks of Butter

4 T. Hershey’s Cocoa

1/2 c. Buttermilk

2 Eggs

1 t. Vanilla

1.   Combine the dry ingredients.  Melt butter and cocoa in a saucepan.  Add 1 cup of water.  Bring to a rapic boil.  Pour hot mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla.

2.  Pour cake batter into a greased rimmed cookie sheet (jelly roll pan).  Bake at 350 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes.

When the cake has cooled, make the chocolate icing.

Frosting:

1 stick of Butter

4 T. Hershey’s Cocoa

6 T. Buttermilk

1 box of Powdered Sugar

1 t. Vanilla

1 c. chopped Nuts, optional.

1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add cocoa and buttermilk.  Bring to a rapid boil.  Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Stir until smooth.  Pour frosting over the cake and spread to cover cake.

2.  If you wish to add nuts, sprinkle them over the tops immediately after frosting the cake.

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