Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inspiration Wednesday

My Wednesday feels like a Monday, which has me in a state of slight unease, mostly because by Wednesday I feel a little less panicky about all my work and a bit giddy about the upcoming weekend. However, I woke up with a crook in my neck (it was actually a bit of a nuisance all night, which made me not sleep as well as I would have liked!) and my morning was a bit monotonous and dreary. Well, not to mention that I'm feeling a little stressed about a flower order that I'm still not sure whether I'll get (I mean, I'll get some of the flowers, but I'm still not sure as to whether I'll truly get the ones I really REALLY want!) and I need the flowers for a party (for 200+ guests!) that's happening this Saturday night. Eek!

Anyway, I needed some inspiration today. Something to get excited about. And I found a few things that did the trick (click on the images for more details and pricing info).

My friend Kate Spade always knows how to make me smile, and I'm seriously loving this iPhone cover.  I think it's a fantastic stocking stuffer (hint, hint Alf!) and it has inspired me to get a little more creative with my stocking stuffer ideas this year.

This laptop case - which I do believe was made specifically for me and reminds me of the old leather bound Charles Dickens book I had in college (Great Expectations) that someone stole from my dorm room - has inspired me to reread Great Expectations for the 25th time (as well as add this laptop case to my wishlist).

These 12 Days of Christmas ornaments - that ooze handcrafted vintage loveliness! - have inspired me to rethink how I'm going to decorate my living room mantel.

This sign has inspired me to go home and give my husband a big hug.

This adorable Santa cookie jar has inspired me to make some cookies (and maybe brownies) for my Christmas decorating festivus that will happen at different times this weekend.

And finally, this picture has inspired me to start planning the west coast honeymoon my husband and I have been talking a bit about (this shot is of the Oregon coastline).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bar in a box

This is one hostess gift I'd love to get. And if I gave it, then I think I would be the most amazing guest anyone has ever welcomed into their home. And tis the season for cocktail parties and open houses, which makes this the perfect gift to bring along. Designer Kevin Sharkey gives you all the delicious steps to put this together over on Martha Stewart Living.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed about the cost of putting one of these together for each party you're attending this holiday season, make a mini version.  Trade the tray for a simple brown paper bag with handles and create a bar in a bag, adding a bottle of Prosecco (you can find some very tasty varieties for $15 or less), some festive napkins, peppermint bark, a couple of taper candles tied with pretty ribbon, and matches. You can still use an attention grabbing ribbon to tie everything together by tying the bag handles together and making a large bow.

Have any hostess gifts ideas that you'll be giving this season?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fall inspired floral arrangements

I missed out on practically all my favorite things this fall thanks to a horrific allergy to ragweed (seriously, turning 30 really is a turning point in your life - my metabolism hit a wall and all of a sudden I had these allergies that really throw me for a loop once or twice a year).  The change in season from summer to fall is something that I practically race toward come mid-August (I start putting up my fall / Halloween decorations once September 1st arrives), but this year I was very distracted with my own wedding details and planning (my husband and I got married in late September), and then once the wedding was over, I got sick. I could barely go outside thanks to the ragweed, so I spent pretty much all of October closed up in my house, staring sadly out the windows at the yellow and orange leaves blowing across my patio. But then I started helping with the planning and designing of a wedding (that's happening this weekend!) and one of my projects has been the floral arrangements for the reception. And actually, the bride's mom has asked for the arrangements early so that they can have them on the table at Thanksgiving dinner. I found a lot of inspiration online thanks to Martha Stewart, Country Living, and Better Homes and Gardens and wanted to share a few of my favorites. I'll plan to post what I whip up for the wedding sometime this weekend.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fun with maps

Here's a little peek at a project I'm working on for a wedding taking place next weekend (the lovely couple met on an airplane).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spiced chocolate eggnog

I've spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about holiday floral arrangements and centerpieces, which got me in the mood for holiday music, holiday movies, and holiday decorating. My best friend and his partner came over last night for a somewhat impromptu very late dinner (not because it took me forever to cook, but mostly because we were in Maine for the afternoon / early evening celebrating my niece's 7th birthday) and for dessert, my husband bought some eggnog. Now, I'm not a fan of eggnog, but my husband, Alf, gets through the holiday season simply because he can drink it whenever it strikes his fancy. And, my best friend adores it nearly as much as Alf does, so you can say I'm pretty much surrounded by it from November through January.

Breaking the eggnog seal last night got us talking about eggnog in general and I mentioned this recipe I had seen via Martha Stewart last year, a recipe that made Alf drool and nearly squeal with delight. So, guess who's going to tackle this recipe in the VERY near future?

2 quarts whole milk, plus more if needed
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
4 cinnamon sticks
12 egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
3 ounces milk chocolate, melted
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups brandy (optional)
Whole nutmeg, for garnish
Cayenne pepper, for sprinkling
1. Heat 2 quarts milk, the sugar, salt, vanilla seeds and pod, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and mixture is heated through. Remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Prepare an ice-water bath. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl until pale, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 cup of milk mixture into yolks in a slow, steady stream. Whisk yolk mixture into remaining milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes. (Do not boil.)
3. Remove pot from heat, add melted bittersweet and milk chocolates, and stir until incorporated. Discard vanilla pod and cinnamon sticks. Pour mixture into a large bowl set in ice-water bath, and let cool, stirring often.
4. Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Pour cooled eggnog into a large serving bowl, and add brandy if using. (Add more milk to eggnog if necessary to reach desired consistency.) Top with whipped cream. Grate nutmeg over top, and sprinkle sparingly with cayenne. Serve immediately with churros on the side if desired.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Retro handset for iPhone

I actually squealed when I stumbled on this. How stinkin' fantastic is this retro handset from Yubz??????

I love my iPhone. Yes, I'm one of those people who uses my iPhone for everything (I even used it as a door stopper the other night). But one thing I don't love is actually talking on my phone. And that's partly because after about five minutes my ear starts to ache and I then spend the rest of the conversation constantly switching ears. I mean, a flat hard surface shoved up against your ear for any length of time is sure to be uncomfortable. But, this dandy little handset would solve that problem pretty easily. It's not necessarily cheap (it's available on Amazon for $50), but I would totally give it a whirl.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DIY holiday wreath

I am totally swooning over this felted ball holiday wreath. Doesn't it make you want to rush home (especially with this very rainy Boston weather we're getting today) and throw on your pajamas, make some hot cocoa, light a fire, and curl up on the sofa with your favorite blanket? 

Sadly it sounds like it isn't the easiest wreath to assemble, BUT the outcome is so lovely that I think all the time and energy would be well worth it. It's not on my list of DIY projects for this holiday season. Get the details and instructions over on

[Image via]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Le Shack

Several years ago my husband (who was then just my boyfriend) and I rented a tiny little place in Sorrento, Maine called "Le Shack." It was very cute and remote and sat nestled beneath pine trees in a cove. It was a one bedroom, galley style kitchen kind of shack with a small deck and not a lot of amenities (we did have running water and electricity). It was the perfect place to hide, really. We ate a lot, we read a lot, and we spent our mornings watching bald eagles watch the lobster boats in the cove. I've been thinking a lot about Le Shack lately and went online to see if it was still available to rent. Sadly, I never found it, but I did find another "Le Shack" that is 30 minutes outside of Paris (France, not Maine) that reminded me a little of our shack in Maine. And I have serious shack envy. This little gem is utterly gorgeous and I want one of my own. How many fabulous dinner parties could I host on that deck (or on the grass)?? I certainly wouldn't be lonely because I have a feeling that if anyone in my social circle knew about it, we'd have plenty of visitors.

As much as I adore the idea of running off to Paris to find this little shack, I don't think my husband would have as much fun as I would. There is no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom. These are all kind of deal breakers for him. A girl can dream, though.

photo credit: NY Times

An upgrade to the kid's table at Thanksgiving dinner

As a child I wanted nothing more than to sit at the grown-up table at Thanksgiving, mostly because the kid's table was small, segregated from the rest of the crowd, and boring. And being one of the older kids, I was always the one cutting everyone's turkey, buttering rolls, refilling glasses, and getting more gravy from the grown-up's table (although I didn't mind this so much because I got to eavesdrop on what was being discussed). Now that I'm an adult and can sit at the grown-up's table, I've come to realize that sitting at the kid's table was pretty nice. Discussion amongst the grown-ups usually revolves around how exhausted we are from cooking for the past three days, what's ailing us, do we have enough wine, or how so-and-so shot a 10 point buck.
Making the kid's table function as not only a dining table but a fun table will definitely allow for all you grown-ups to linger over your meals a bit longer, but you may get distracted by all the fun the kid's are having. 

For the setting, buy a large roll of brown or white paper at your local craft store and use that as the tablecloth, and using a dark marker, draw rectangles or circles for place mats. Leave a single marker or crayon on each plate inviting each child to draw on the tablecloth (and by only giving each of them one, it means they have to share with the others if they want to use a different color).

[Image via Country Living]

For the centerpiece, give the kids their very own turkey, but not the cooked kind. Using paper bags, create a turkey that the kids will have fun carving to find out what's hidden inside. Instructions on how to make this turkey can be found here.

[Image via Martha Stewart Living]

I'm not sure how many kids really truly love pie (I still don't even like pie, but I know that makes me weird), so this cupcake recipe is sure to end their meal on a perfect note.

 [Image via Family Fun]

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day of the Dead dinner party

My friends Heather and Matt host a Day of the Dead dinner party each year and this year, since they were expecting nearly 30 family and friends to attend, Heather asked me to help her out with place settings. I immediately knew that I wanted to do something that would enhance the vibrant colors and tradition of this Mexican holiday, so I came up with simple Mexican paper flowers, and to make it even easier, I had all the supplies needed to make them.

All you need are three things: tissue paper in bright colors, scissors, and a stapler:


There's a super easy and quick tutorial on how to make these over on 100 Layer Cake, but since I was making these as place settings, I had to keep them small, so mine didn't come out looking quite as fancy. I assembled all the flowers at once, mostly because it's a lot easier to get the accordion style folds done and out of the way, since pulling the tissue paper apart is the funnest aspect:
Then, I carefully pulled each of them apart (be especially careful if you make small flowers because the tissue paper is very vulnerable at the center) and affixed each flower with a name tag:
The dinner party was a huge success: the food was out of this world (Heather and Matt spend days prepping the enchiladas, beans, and rice), the decorations were incredible, and the place settings were a hit!

photography: h&a happenings
venue: private residence

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Delicious donuts

For my wedding in September I didn't want to do the traditional wedding cake (mostly because I'm not a huge dessert person), so instead we went with donuts. I wasn't entirely sure how the caterer would display them (I had complete confidence that they would do an amazing job no matter what), and they ended up doing a donut tower, which didn't last long! The coconut covered chocolate donuts were out of this world.

planning & design: h&a happenings