Thursday, November 24

Progressive Dinner

Here are a few final details from the progressive dinner we hosted....

After I made the mini lanterns, I mixed in pillar candles, glass vases (which were just old snapple bottles), and some pomegranates...

....and small gourds. I had a few orange place mats that I lined up down the middle of the table as a runner and then arranged my centerpieces on top.

Then right before the guest came I lit the candles and grabbed some sticks from the yard to fill the vases. It's no joke looking for sticks in the yard after dark in November. What can I say? I'm a thrill seeker.

I thought the sticks were fitting for fall, but still kept things nice and simple. Plus they were free. But I almost poked my self in the eye when I blew out the candles. Like I said, thrill seeker.

We found out we would have up to 16 people at our house, so we did a little furniture rearranging to fit everyone. I'll warn you now, these pictures are all post-party and not set up at all. But at least you'll get an idea of the layout. We moved the coffee table to the office, slid the couch against the wall, and brought up the big dining table from the basement which ended up fitting everyone.

But we also set up the small table, just in case.

Now for the yummy part - the food! And after I made those sweet buffet labels, I didn't get any pictures of them with the food. Oops. So just believe me when I say they looked good! We hosted the first course of soup, salad, and bread. I made two soups. I chose them first of all because they are my favorites, and also because they are pretty simple. First was my mom's cheese broccoli soup (I also added carrots). I made it in the afternoon and then dumped it in a crockpot to stay warm until dinner. I don't do any measuring or follow a recipe for this soup, but I found a soup recipe online that follows the basic order of events (but I use velveeta instead of cheddar) that you can play with if you like.

The second soup was a chicken taco chili I found on pinterest. The I just threw it in the crockpot in the morning, and dug in when the guest arrived. I let them dig in first, of course. And yes, it is as good as the picture looks. And no, I did not take the picture.

I love bread with my soup so I decided to make these bread bowls, but instead of each person having a whole bowl (remember, this is only the first course!) I decided to slice it so people could take less and not get too full. I have to say, bread baking is not my strong point and as always I had trouble with the rising. So they turned out very dense. But still yummy, so it was okay. :)

We also made a strawberry & spinach salad to go along with the soup. I found this picture on pinterest, it's not the recipe we used, but you don't really need a recipe! We just mixed spinach, sliced strawberries, & feta cheese in a bowl (it's also good with nuts, but we were trying to avoid common allergens). Easy. :)

I made a sweet vinegar based dressing to go with the salad. Just to warn you, it's probably the best dressing you'll ever taste. This recipe is from my grandmother-in-law, and once you taste it I will be happy to pass your praises on to her.

Salad Dressing:
Beat 1 egg with a fork and mix it thoroughly with 1 c. sugar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. water
pinch salt

Bring to a boil and boil 1 minute
Add 1 Tbsp. butter.

Chill (the dressing, not you)

Thicken with corn starch (in water) and add cooked, crumbled bacon for hot bacon dressing.
For cole slaw - mix some of this with sour cream, mayo, mustard and celery seed.

WARNING: You have to watch this while it is on the stove. It boils over very quickly once it starts boiling. I stir and lift the pan from the heat every few seconds, then return it until it is about to boil over again, then lift, etc.

This is the only terrible picture I have, but this is what it looks like. I did a double batch and it filled this jar about 3/4 full.

And we mixed up some pink lemonade to finish things off. So we kept it pretty simple & easy, but still had a great time enjoying great food with our friends.

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Monday, November 21

Buffet Labels

Saturday we did a progressive dinner with a group from our church, and our house was the first course of soups and salad. But we'll get to that more another day. Right now I just wanted to share the fun way I labeled the food so everyone knew what the soups were. It worked great for our buffet-style set up, and were really fun to make! So I'll probably do it again if we have any more holiday parties.

I made these using the same inspiration as my Christmas wrapping this year, using book pages to back the labels. I have a little tutorial if you are interested in making your own. They would also make great place setting cards for a formal dinner. So here are the details on how to put them together....

These are so simple that they probably don't really need explaining, but I'm going to do it anyway. With lots of pictures. So hold on tight. Here we go. Start by writing the name of the food on a piece of white card stock and back it with slightly larger piece of green card stock. Then use a small hole punch to put a hole in each side of the label (through both layers).

Fold another piece of card stock in half to use as the base for your label. The book pages would be too flimsy on their own, so the card stock is used to support it.

Then grab a craft-book. Which is an old book you can tear pages out of to use for crafting. This one is a readers digest - I see these at almost every yard sale, and I think this one was $0.25. 

The pages were a nice yellowy-brown which is just what I wanted for this project. 

Fold folded a page in half... the card stock base inside...

...fold the extra on one end over the card stock and tape it down...

...then flipp it over and do the same with the other side. You can also trim off the extra book page sticking past the edges now for a cleaner look.

Ta-da! The base is ready. Now to put on the label. 

Run a piece of rough twine through the holes in each end.

Then use tape on the back of the label to attach it to the base. 

And wrap the twine around to the back and tape it in place.

Then stand it up to admire your work.

Now repeat until you have labels for all your foods! If you want to mix things up a little, try using a fun fabric or scrapbook paper for the base. Or maybe stamps or a fancy font for the labels? Get creative, it's half the fun.

I even made a modified version to attach to a jar for salad dressing.

And a matching tag for a pitcher of lemonade.

And that's all I actually have for the tutorial, but before we go here is a picture of Baby B being cute, as always. This is him sitting between the new cabinet and new sink (waiting to be installed) and playing with a paint roller extender. Yep, he's his momma's boy. :)

Saturday, November 19

Festive Pinspirations

So, I started a new pinboard. Entirely dedicated to all things festive. You know, parties, decorations, and predominantly - you guessed it - Christmas! So now that it's definitely time to start decking our halls (hint, hint, honey) I'm going to share some of my ideas and inspirations for this Christmas season. If you are the kind of person who can't handle Christmas until after Thanksgiving, it's cool, but this is your only warning to avert your eyes. :)

 Here are a few of the fun things I'm thinking about doing when we decorate this year....

Do you have any fun decorating plans for this year? Are you trying anything new?

Thursday, November 17

Mini Lanterns

At this point in the year, my thoughts (obviously) turn to Christmas. However we are having a progressive dinner with a group from our church this weekend so I'll spend just a little time on a few things aimed more toward Thanksgiving (but you can bet your buttons I'll be using them for Christmas, too!). I want to do some simple centerpieces for the tables at our house, so I started by putting together some mini lanterns to hold tea lights. Here's how I did it.

I started by rounding up some small glass jars to use for my lanterns. These are actually glass yogurt cups delivered to my door from France. My sister spent some time there last summer and brought these home to me. What can I say? She knows what I like. :) If you don't have French yogurt cups, I think baby food jars, small mason jars, or any jar with a lip would work great for this project, too.

Then I picked up some wire from Lowe's. I think probably any wire would work. I chose this one because I could bend it by hand but it wasn't too flimsy. It was about $5 for the roll of 175' and I used about 2-3' per lantern. (No exact measurements, I winged it. Because that's how I roll. How I fly? Because I said winged? Get it? This is getting away from me.)

Then I just started wrapping my wire around the jar. I wound it around under the lip and looped it up in a handle shape too. I tried a few different approaches and I was happiest when the handle had 3 layers of wire to be nice and sturdy, but just go with whatever you like best. Just make sure it is secure below the lip if you want to pick it up by the handle. (I also think they would be really cool hung by the handle outside) Then just pop in a tea light and you are done!

Just keep wrapping that wire until you have a whole fleet of little lanterns! They turned out really cute and simple, and I think they will look great as part of my centerpieces. I'm also thinking about mixing in some pillar candles and...something else. I don't know what yet. Maybe some squashes? I'll get back to you on that.

As far as cost for this project, the only thing I had to buy was the $5 wire (and I have tons left over). So save those glass food jars!

I think these little guys will look great at Christmas, too! You can't have too many twinkling lights. You just can't. :) And experienced center piece makers have any advice for me? Do you wait until after Thanksgiving to think about Christmas?
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