Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Playing Catch Up

Well goodness, I can't believe it has been nearly two months since I posted! I originally planned on taking the month of August off.  There seemed to be less and less people posting over the summer months and it seemed like a great time to get some things done and enjoy the last of summer.  Earl and I enjoyed a simple day out for our Anniversary, out to Ann Arbor for the day, hitting the little shops, farmer's market and ethnic restaurants. There is never anything going on in early August so we plan on a fun little trip later.
The following week I came down with what was diagnosed as a sinus infection and spent the week mostly in bed, and after a round of antibiotics and no improvement I returned to the Dr. and ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery.  Nothing serious, I'm really all better at this point but between the week I was ill, the surgery week and a week of recovery there went August!
Zinnia's from the farmers Market
 The beginning of August I enjoyed the lushness of the garden. Everything was blooming and growing so beautifully.
 The sunflower in the upper left corner now looks like the sunflower in the center bottom row. Still beautiful in a way as it provides seed for the birds we love to watch so much!
The back porch under the pergola was dripping with flowers. Unfortunately, 3 weeks of neglect as I recovered means the hanging baskets are going in the trash and will need to be replaced with something else.  
We had a bumper crop of cucumbers just as I got sick.  After my surgery I had to throw them all away. Fortunately we had been able to share some with friends and family, at least someone got to enjoy them!
This past weekend a dear friend from Florida came for the weekend and we had a great time catching up. This weekend we have another big party to prepare for.  Barbecue for 30!  Another bumper crop of apples means I plan on making some fresh cider.  September is a busy time, but this year I am enjoying the coolness so much after a blistery week or two in August.  I know, those of you who have entire blistery summers are laughing at this Michigan girl, Lol. I admit I have a very narrow comfort zone when it comes to temperatures.
I hope to continue to catch up with everyone  and get back on the blogging bandwagon.  I'm ready for a come back :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tapas Party

It seems another week has passed and all I can plead is summer.  It has been an especially busy one, probably just like yours! I promised more details on the Tapas party and here they are.  Now in retrospect, I would never try this for 30 people again, at least not in a small cottage kitchen with limited space to prep and clean up.  We were running to get each course ready and we were blessed with 4 very capable volunteers.  Having said that, one of the great things about this kind of party is that almost all of the foods can be prepared ahead of time and just put on the plate.
 This first course consisted of grapes, almonds spiced with paprika and fresh rosemary, marinated olives and mushrooms, toasted whole grain baguettes and herbed olive oil for dipping the bread.  Super easy.  We served four courses and we tried to include different flavors,( sweet, savory, pickled), and different textures in each course.  Recipes were found on Pinterest and can be found by following the links in the description.

I didn't get a photo of the second course that night, once again, running! but I did find a photo on my phone from trying this out at my daughter's house to see how it all went together. They loved being our guinea pigs:) The second course consisted of an assortment of cheeses including manchego, brie and goat cheese with wild blueberries (Costco!), an assortment of cured meats including prosciutto, summer sausage and salami, assorted crackers, dried cherries drizzled with honey, sliced guava paste, and pickled beets.  I know that sounds like a lot, but each board served 4 people so there are only a few bites of each thing for per person. One of the reasons we felt the need to try it out was to see if these small bites would be enough. They were! You can, of course offer less choices, maybe just one or two different things with a little more in each serving.  It is a menu that can be anything you want it to be!
The third course was Pork empanadas with thyme, melon skewers, dilled green beans, and those little forks sticking up in the middle were dried figs stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with lavender and thyme infused honey! Oh my goodness, so good.  The recipe I found actually called for fresh figs and I couldn't find them anywhere. Maybe they aren't in season this time of year? But the dried figs worked fine and were so delicious, we loved the infused honey too.

The final course was small servings of lemon cheesecake with lemon curd and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake with raspberry sauce and chocolate ganache...and a teeny scoop of raspberry sorbet.  No photo because by then we were all beat and surrounded by dishes.  I have my limits.  It was all served outside on a perfect, warm evening with candles and flowers on the tables and good friends laughing and trying new things.  The best thing about this type of party is the slow way it is served, one course at a time, which leaves plenty of time for conversation and relaxing around the table.

If you are interested in checking out the Tapas board and the pins I used for inspiration and recipes you can find it here.

We find summer to be the best time to entertain. With a very small house and a very large yard and garden, it's just easier to have as many people over as we want to.  How about you, do you prefer to entertain inside or out?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The 2015 Christian Education Appreciation Dinner

The past week (and more) has been taken up with preparing our annual appreciation dinner for the workers in our church's children's department.  We have an outstanding staff and stellar volunteers who spend many hours giving to our kids. Teaching them about faith and love, practicing programs and plays, putting on a fabulous VBS program every year.  They deserve a night out, to be waited on hand and foot and a chance to relax and not lift a finger. That is our goal.
This year Earl and I thought it would be fun to put on a Tapas dinner in the yard. Tapas means "small plate" and is meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. It is a wonderful way to enjoy a relaxed meal of lots of fun foods with plenty of time for conversation and laughter around the table. We brought out 4 courses over the evening and if feedback is any indication, a good time was had by all.
 The first course, marinated mushrooms and olives, fresh grapes, toasted bread, pesto and herbed olive oil for dipping and almonds spiced with sea salt, rosemary and smoked paprika. Earl had a stash of hardwood veneers in his workshop and decided to use some of them to make some beautiful serving boards.
 A quick snapshot of the centerpieces lined up on the windowsill, Stella Doro lilies and lavender.
I didn't get a picture of the tables. Truth be told, we hit the ground running early in the day and I was lucky to remember to take pictures at all. Did I mention this dinner was for 30+ people?  Yes, and just so you know, this is a picture of the aftermath in the kitchen. Lord have mercy.  My daughter Lauren keeps telling me we make entertaining look easy.  I'm here to tell you it isn't, especially when it is for that many people.  I'm not even sure if that counts as entertaining so much as catering. The good thing about doing it at home is you can load the dishwasher, turn out the lights on the rest of the mess and fall into bed...which is pretty much what we did.  Would I do it again? Not for 30+ people. We were fortunate to have 4 adult volunteers who were real go getters. Thank goodness we had the help, I really don't think we could have done this without them. I will be sharing recipes and a few more pictures of the evening later. I think Tapas is a fabulous way to entertain a smaller group of friends and we found some recipes that we will be making again!  Now I need to catch up on all your posts, and yes, I'm still putting away dishes :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I ♥ Estate Sales

You may be wondering what I have been up to this past week, or perhaps you haven't missed me at all, it is summer after all, and we do have lots of fun things to do and less time to share them. At least that is my excuse!
I haven't just been busy in the garden, although I did spend most of the evening weeding and primping the garden last night. There is so much to be done and it has been hard to keep up between rainy days. I couldn't bear to take the clover out of the sides of this old basket of marigolds though. It just seemed so pretty and charming to me. I guess I like my gardens with a touch of wildness :)
 But on to the subject at hand, this is as much of my bedroom as you are going to see today.  You see, I was playing hookey at some estate sales this morning instead of cleaning.  What can I say? It is summer and some hookey must be played! I'm so glad I did though! I found these two old quilts, all hand stitched and in patterns I have been coveting but simply don't have the skill / patience to tackle myself. 
 The one with the large appliqued flowers , (does anyone know the pattern name of this?) is full / queen size. It has a couple teeny holes but is otherwise in lovely condition.  I have seen these quilts for years and have always wanted one. Now I have one!
 The grandmother's flower garden quilt, Oh be still my heart!, is a twin size, but I don't care at all. Some day I will no doubt have grandchildren and they can snuggle under this beautiful quilt when they come to see us. Or I'll use it on the end of the bed or in the living room.
 Here they are together, I am thrilled as can be. They were a whopping $45 each, which I will admit, I almost never spend that much while estate saleing, but I couldn't buy the fabric for that amount, let alone tackle these patterns! I feel like I got a steal of a deal :)
 I also found this green depression glass butter dish for .75,so pretty!
And this enamelware pitcher with the graceful handle was .50   Cute farmhouse style accessories for a song. The pitcher is sitting next to an old brown bowl that I scored for $1 earlier this spring. 
I also got several boxes of old buttons for under $5. When I say boxes, I don't mean shoe box size. This was the mother lode of buttons!  We took a quick look through them and ...well, that's a whole other post ;)

Have you been to any good sales lately?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Heart Banner Tutorial

Better late than never right?  I promised this to you by the end of last week and then just couldn't get it done.  Ah well, onward and upward.  This is such an easy little banner you will no doubt be saying "I could have figured that out on my own" nevertheless, here is a step by step.
1. You will need three pieces of fabric for each heart. I used  one  4" square scraps of  quilting fabric, a leftover scrap of eyelet and one 4" square of light cotton batting for the middle. The batting gives the shape some body.  You will also need 1/2" wide bias tape.  You can make the back the same fabric as the front, use a plain white if it won't show or do a different print. Use what you have! This is a great way to use your scraps.
2. Cut out a heart shape, or any shape you want to make for your banner. This technique will work for almost anything. Flowers, (like the ones I did for my office below!), hearts, maybe pumpkins for fall or apples for the beginning of school? 
3. I made a heart shape pattern on card stock so I could just trace around the pattern and all my hearts would be the same size. It is about 3 1/2" tall. Trace around the shape with a fine point disappearing marker. You can also just use a pencil to mark the back piece of fabric where it won't show. I am not left handed, this is my simulation of tracing the heart while I juggle a camera. I looks a little wonky, but you get the idea :)

 4. Stack your fabrics with the two quilting fabrics right side out with the batting sandwiched between them.  I don't even bother to pin them all together. The batting does a pretty good job of keeping the fabrics from slipping, but if you have a problem go ahead and pin. Then line up the outline of the heart with your needle and start sewing the three layers together.
 I like to use the decorative stitches on my machine for this. I think it just adds another layer of detail and it's fun to use them since I seldom get a chance in my regular sewing.  If you would rather, or you find it easier, go ahead and use a straight stitch, it's totally up to you.  This is how it looks sewn together.  Now trim off the hanging threads.....
 And 5. trim around the heart.   I like to use my pinking shears because it gives a pretty edge and keeps the edges from fraying.
  I like to use 1/2 inch wide  bias tape for my banner. It usually comes in a 3 yard length, You can cut it to any length you want.  I cut mine in half so my banner is 54" long. 
 6. Find the center of your tape and center a heart on it.  I usually make an odd number of hearts so I can straddle that center with the rounded parts of the heart. I also just like how odd numbered items look.  Pin the hear to the tape and then pin the rest of your hearts evenly on each side. I always just eyeball it, but if you want to measure, you can.
 7.  Now just sew a straight line across the part of the heart that is on the tape.  I usually use white thread because I find it is hardly noticeable with the bright colors I use.
 And you're done! I'm keeping this patriotic banner because July 4th is right around the corner, But I have a few multicolor banners in the shop if anyone wants one.  This is a fun little project and so easy to personalize. 
 I'll be back soon, (I promise!) with some more frugal wedding decorating tips:>)  Have a great week!