Celebrating a very special lady

Recently, my mom celebrated a milestone birthday (and she taught me enough manners to not quantify said milestone). Before any of us realized that she was about to turn a ‘milestone birthday,’ we were planning a simple party at my house, with lasagna and salad. When someone finally did the math and realized that the last number of the age she was turning was a ‘0,’ we knew lasagna wasn’t going to cut it!!

A real celebration was in order! I wanted this party to be elegant, beautiful and luxurious. I’ve been loving the combination of Gold and Blush. I took to Pinterest for inspiration and was overwhelmed by all the great ideas! With a few homemade items and some beautiful touches, it was a smashing success!


Beautiful flowers are always a must for any party for my mom. She is such a gifted floral designer, I knew they needed to be on point! Above are the arrangements that we did for the dinner table. The photo below is the gigantic arrangement that my mom and Izzy created. Just look at the hydrangea blooms in comparison to the ice bucket!!! They were phenomenal.


Here’s a peek at the table setting. We lined a long banquet table with satin pink tablecloths and used pink linen napkins. Serendipitously, I found these perfect gold chargers at Williams Sonoma, on major clearance – the wonderful folks at the King of Prussia Williams Sonoma called all around to get me enough chargers. I knew if I could find enough of these beauties, it was the universe telling me to go with the Gold and Blush theme. Thank you, Universe and Chuck Williams!!

The place card holders are little toy birds that I turned into elegant show pieces, really simple project! See that beautiful calligraphy on the blush place cards from Paper Source? I hired a local calligrapher, Manayunk Calligraphy to write the place cards in gold pen. Also, notice the gilded votives and the sparkly menu cards? A little glitter and gold pen go a long way…

8SC_7551 8SC_7575

Even the kids got in on the action – Izzy and her cousin Brooke created these fun candy arrangements.


Dinner was delicious – my friends at House in Media, hosted us with a fully customized menu and took all the worry out of the event. Though I love to cook, it was fun to get to focus on just the decor. Everyone loved their meal.

menu card

The cake, from Whipped Bakeshop in Philadelphia, was a beautiful finish to a wonderful party – the swirls are blush, with gold pearls daintily arranged.


I think she liked it!!


Happy Birthday to the woman who taught me everything I know about entertaining and creating a beautiful space (and lots of other stuff, too)! You have been an inspiration to me and I loved getting the chance to celebrate you for everything that you are and everything that you do!! XOXOXO


Gilded place card holders

For my mother’s big birthday party, I wanted to create a super lush, luxurious environment with tons of flowers, sparkle and bling. When it came to the place card holders, I was looking for something elegant, with a touch of whimsy. I took to Pinterest (where else would one go??) and got inspired by these fun golden zoo animal place card holders. I knew I needed a different animal for this event, so I headed out to Michaels and found these charming bird figures:

8SC_7529(p.s. the birds didn’t have the wire coming out of their backs – we did that. Read on…)

I used the following materials:

  • 12 gauge gold flower wire
  • Gold spray paint
  • Wire cutters
  • Drill

8SC_7544To start, I made the card holders (the wire coming out of the bird’s back). Using a marker, I wrapped the wire around, making a double-loop:

8SC_7545Next, I cut the length short, using wire cutters:

8SC_7546(I also cut the wire at an angle, so it would be easier to push into the drill holes.)

Here’s what the wire looks like all done:

8SC_7526Next, we drilled holes into the backs of the birds. Don’t worry, they didn’t feel a thing. It’s important to use the right bit. Nothing bigger than your wire gauge, because you want it to fit in nice and snug. I used pliers to push the holders into the holes – when I tried by hand, the loops bent and lost their tight shape. Once they are assembled, it’s time to spray paint. 


8SC_7542A couple of notes on the spray painting. Make sure to apply in a well ventilated area. It’s winter here and it was snowing that night, so I had to make due in my kitchen. Not the best idea. Also, I held the birds by the wire while spraying them. That way, I was able to turn them around and get full coverage as well as not cover the wire in paint (since I still needed to put the cards in between the double-loop). Wear gloves!!! I looked like Goldfinger!

These birds were just what we were looking for – they were the perfect little holder for these stunning place cards, beautifully penned by Manayunk Calligraphy:

8SC_7575Of course, they were also the perfect complement to the lovely place setting – blush and gold – luxurious and spectacular.


More on that soon… 

Cookbook Junkie

I am a cookbook junkie. I love to flip through the pages, look at the pictures and be inspired by the creations. I read them like novels, illustrated, fabulous novels. This Christmas, I got three cookbooks that I have been coveting for a while: Inside the Test Kitchen, by Tyler Florence, Make it Ahead, by Ina Garten and The Frog Commissary Cookbook, by Steve Poses, Anne Clark, and illustrated by Becky Roller.


Now that Christmas has passed and the frenzy has died down a little, I can really start to dig into them. 

First up, the delicious Tyler Florence. I have been following his test kitchen series on Instagram for a while. He’s been taking tried-and-true recipes and techniques and re-imagining them, using new ingredients, modern techniques and testing them, over and over. It has been so exciting having a birds-eye view as he (and his team) develop these recipes – every few days, there’d be a new ‘test’. What this man did to french toast – amazing (check it out on instagram – here’s one sneak peek)… 

He spent time testing the stretchiest cheese:

8SC_7509He made a hamburger bun with batter, cream whipper and a ring mold. Who ever would have thought to do that???


These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. This book is a treasure trove of information and inspiration.

Here’s the thing. I’m not sure if I’ll make much of what is in this cookbook and that’s just fine with me. I have such respect for true chefs. This book is like a window into Tyler’s brain. I love the way chefs think and innovate. It is so inspiring. Watching him play with food and take chances is very liberating and exciting to watch. I will love reading this!!

If you’ve followed me at all, you already know that I am a HUGE Ina Garten fan. Her recipes are always spot-on. Anything I have ever made from her has been met with rave reviews. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Santa brought me her latest book, Make it Ahead.

8SC_7510Here’s what I love about Ina: she understands that people want to spend time with their guests and not be stuck in the kitchen all night, preparing complicated food. I love that she has developed this make-ahead cookbook, because it allows us all to prepare delicious food and still have fun with our friends. To quote Ina, “How great is that?”

I recently posted a recipe that she features in this cookbook, but with a different sauce. Slow roasted filet is completely amazing. Tender, juicy, flavorful. Make it – you’ll thank me (and Ina).

8SC_7511I will definitely be making lots of recipes from this book. Her books are always a go-to for me. I always trust her recipes and have never been disappointed.

Finally, I got my own copy of The Frog Commissary Cookbook. If you lived in Philadelphia anytime in the ’70’s and ’80’s, chances are, either you or your mother had this cookbook.

8SC_7513Back in the day, The Frog Commissary started as a little storefront called Frog, it soon gained steam and grew to another restaurant called The Commissary and a catering business. This is one of the books that I credit for my love of cookbooks and for cooking. As a young child, I remember reading through the book, looking at the illustrations and being captivated by the recipes. Some of my first cooking experiences were from this cookbook. I remember making Chicken Breasts with Apples and Cider Cream Sauce for my friends and I before the Homecoming dance.



I also remember fantasizing about making the 16th Street Deep Dish Pizza. I don’t think I ever did, though… I just remember loving the illustrations on this page particularly. 

8SC_7517My mom still has her dog-eared, food-stained copy. I’m looking forward to doing the same to mine.

So, if you’re in the market for some new cookbooks, give one of these a shot. Inspiring, delicious, and a little nostalgic. That pretty much sums up cooking for me!






Radiant Orchid Summer – Fun with Design + Life + Kids

Sometimes, as a blogger, I get to do really fun stuff. A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to attend a crafting event hosted by a fellow blogger, Kim Wardell, who writes Design + Life + Kids, an awesome blog that’s all about modern design combined with loving family. This event focused around Pantone’s color of the year; Radiant Orchid.

It was a lovely summer afternoon and Kim gathered a group of fellow bloggers and interested crafters to enjoy some delicious cocktails, wonderful snacks and fabulous cookies. Oh, and there was a craft too! I put my new-found dyeing skills to good use as we dip-dyed picnic blankets.

The cocktails – a Watermelon Lemonade cocktail with vodka, was presented two ways – over ice, or made into slushies:

ice ball

Aren’t those spheres awesome? I love how Kim added slices of lime and strawberry for decoration. These were made using Zoku Ice Ball Molds. I was lucky enough to get a set in my swag ‘bucket’ – can’t wait to try them out. Also, I want to point out the orchids in the background – they were furnished by The Bouqs, another one of the many great sponsors of the event. They are an online flower delivery service, unlike any other out there. Definitely check them out next time you want to send flowers to someone special. I’m looking forward to using the coupon they left in our swag bucket…

The second presentation used the Zoku Slush & Shake Maker (in purple, of course):


And, not to brag, but I got one of these in my swag bucket too…

For folks who didn’t want a cocktail, the Brandywine Valley Brewing Collective brewed a special beer just for the event – Radiant Orchid Blueberry Wheat. 

beer sign

These stunning cookies were provided by the fabulous Whipped Bakeshop – one of Philadelphia’s premier bakeries. Their artistry is unmatched:


Leave it to me to lead with the food and drink – this was a crafting party, right? The featured craft of the day was sponsored by Rit Dye. We all dip dyed flat sheets, using their liquid dye.


Once we finished, we hung them on clothes lines to dry – don’t they look awesome? I’m hoping to convince Izzie that this will be a good birthday party idea some year…


Mine’s the one in front that has a yellow hue to it. I’m still on the fence with how I feel about it. I learned a valuable lesson about dyeing – less chatting, more dyeing… Oh, also – buy the liquid dye. Just do it. It’s a little more money, but it’s so much easier!!!

In addition to the food, drink and crafting, we were treated to other drawings and giveaways from other wonderful sponsors – Minted gave away three prints, La Siesta gave away a super cool hammock chair to one lucky guest. Each of us walked away with a big swag bucket filled with lots of goodies – two bottles of dye from Rit Dye, fun books from Quirk Books, a lovely pearl necklace given by Panache BoxDreamfarm, a fun home accessories maker gave us a jot and a tapi, Bing gave us a calligraphy print and Bing Ads + Bing Rewards coupon codes, and the swag bucket was given by Casabella Clean.

Speaking of Minted, guess who forgot to bring her beautiful new business cards from Minted to the event? Yup, this girl. They are so pretty – I was so looking forward to showing them off, er, giving them out! Guess I’ll just have to show them off here:

biz card


I had so much fun at this event. I met some really creative women, enjoyed great conversations, and laughed a lot. Many thanks to Kim, her team, and to the many sponsors! It was a huge success.

Radiant Orchid Dress? No problem…

This weekend, I am attending a crafting event hosted by Kim Wardell, a fellow blogger who runs Design + Life + Kids. This event is called “A Radiant Orchid Summer” and is celebrating summer and the Pantone color of the year, Radiant Orchid. The weather is going to be beautiful, she’s gathered some fabulous sponsors, including one of my favorites – Whipped Bakeshop in Philadelphia!

Kim has asked guests to wear “your favorite Radiant Orchid inspired outfit.” When I tell you I’ve been scouring for over a month and a half trying to find the right outfit, I am not exaggerating. I think I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted and nothing really fit the bill. Not wanting to disappoint, and running out of time, I had a revelation. Why not just find a white dress I like and dye it?! Did you know that Rit Dye gives formulas for different colors on their website – included formulas for Pantone colors? So, off to Old Navy I went and found a cute, cotton white dress. Then I went to Michaels and purchased the dye.


Truth be told, I’ve never really dyed anything before. So, I was a little nervous and of course googled it. Here’s what I learned –

1. Think through your process before getting started.

2. Get all your supplies out and ready before you do anything.

3. Wash your garment to remove any sizing.

4. Expect the unexpected. It may not turn out exactly as you envisioned. You need to be ok with this.

Since I was using the powdered dye, I had to follow a conversion guide from liquid to powder. I found this a little confusing and am pretty sure I didn’t do it right. The formula for Radiant Orchid is 4 tsp Petal Pink and 1/2 tsp Purple liquid dye. I reversed the measurements. I know, I’m a genius. Anyway, you’ll need the following supplies:

1. Rubber gloves

2. Large bucket with room for garment and dye (I used a Home Depot bucket)

3. Something to stir with. (I used long stainless steel tongs)

4. Lots of paper towels to clean up messes.

5. Old towels to put under bucket and mixing utensils.

6. Apron or old clothes

7. Somewhere to dump dye and rinse garment. A stainless steel sink is optimum. (I have a porcelain sink in my kitchen, so I ended up draining in the washing machine, not optimum)

I was lucky to have my handy helper, Izzie on hand. Together, we diluted each dye packet, then mixed the ratios in a third large measuring cup, (because I reversed the ratios, it looked too purple, so we added a lot more pink.) and added it to 3 gallons of hot water in the bucket. Pre-wet your garment in hot water, and lower it into the water, as evenly as possible (not bunched up).


Using your stirring implement, keep the garment moving until it has reached a little darker than your desired color.


This is what it looked like after 10 minutes:


(please ignore the dirty dishes in the background – dyeing was my priority… :-))

Next, I rinsed it out really well, wringing it out under the water as it filled the washer. Then I drained the washer and washed the dress, by itself, in cold water once. Then I washed it again, with a load of dark clothes (I would not recommend this, dye was still leaching out). It took a good three rounds of washing to get all the dye out of the washer… Once it was thoroughly washed and dried, I was really happy with the result (even though it was nothing like I expected…)


You can see that the stitching and tassels didn’t absorb the dye – my thought is because they are synthetic. I kinda like it. I’m also pretty sure this is nowhere near the color of ‘Radiant Orchid’. I will place it in the Radiant Orchid ‘inspired’ category…

Now I’m really looking forward to this event!! I’ll be sure to share the projects, goodies and fun soon! Have a great weekend, everyone. 


Cocktails and Crafting with Sweet Paul

On a lovely spring Sunday afternoon, my friend and I joined Sweet Paul for an event called “Cocktails and Crafting with Sweet Paul.” The event was held at one of the most beautiful and inspiring spaces in our area, Terrain. If I ever have unlimited funds, I may just move in. 


Sweet Paul, also known as Paul Lowe, is a lovely, kind, incredibly talented man who started a blog not long ago which quickly turned into an online magazine, then into a printed magazine and now he has his first cookbook out – called “Eat & Make.”  This book is beautifully crafted. It features recipes, crafts, along with a number of stories and quotes from Paul making it a truly personal piece of work. 


So, when I saw on his Facebook page that he would be coming to Terrain, I jumped right on board. (BTW, you should totally be following him on Facebook! – go ahead, click on the link. Just come back when you’re done!!) He chose a craft and a variation of a cocktail from his new book – Felted Vases (p. 99) and Roasted Apricot Bellinis (p. 160, Roasted Plum Bellinis).


Before we got down to crafting, Paul made us our cocktails…


I am in love with his shorts. Now for crafting… After a demonstration, we picked our vases and some wool and got to it.


Here’s what mine looked like, after I finished layering on the wool, in differing directions (and a little color):


For the next few steps of this project, we went outside – things were about to get a little messy… Unfortunately, I couldn’t get many pictures of that process, because I was covered in dish soap and water. For the sake of my fancy camera and book sales, I chose to stay on task. Basically, we sprinkled some dish soap all around the wool, and doused it with hot water and patted the wool until the wool was saturated and starting to take shape. Then we doused it in cold water and repeated the patting. The idea was to shock the wool into shrinking around the bottle. We alternated hot and cold water for a few rounds, then switched to rubbing the wool. This further fixed the wool in place. Once the fibers found their way tightly around the bottle, we gave them a good rinse and set them out to dry. With peonies and lilacs, of course.


Mine’s the one all the way to the right, with the blue stripes. I was pretty pleased with how it came out!! If you want to try this project out yourself, please turn to his book – there are much better instructions there. Plus, it’s just lovely. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon. If you ever have the chance to meet Sweet Paul in person, definitely do. Tell him I said ‘hi!’ In the meantime, go get his book, Eat & Make you will just love getting lost and inspired. Enjoy!

A fun afternoon

A few weekends ago, I took Izzie and my niece, Brooke, into Philadelphia to help paint a mural that will be going up along the Schuylkill River. Many of you probably already know that Philadelphia is widely recognized as an epicenter for mural arts, mainly because of the efforts of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Anywhere you go in the city, you can find one of these fantastic installations. They tell a history of Philadelphia that is not represented in  museums or monuments. They highlight important figures, struggles, triumphs, while encouraging expression through art and community. The mural that we worked on is called the Philly Rowing Mural and it tells the story of rowing in Philadelphia. There will be two murals, one on each side of the river, under the Girard Bridge.

When we arrived, we saw different sections of the mural on a thick canvas, laid out on tables. Each section had a pencil sketch of the scene, with numbers in the different areas (Paint by numbers! I can do this!).


Once we knew where we were going to paint, we headed over to the paint station where we picked up little cups of paint with the corresponding numbers and our brushes.


Then we went to work.


While we were painting, we tried to figure out what part of the mural we were working on. We were all sure it was the water. We were wrong – we actually were working on mostly the boat, the rower, and just some of the water:


See the second panel from the bottom (with all the white patches)? That’s what we worked on (with a group of other people)…


The girls were so excited to be a part of this. Especially because Brooke’s sister, my niece, Julia, rows crew for her high school and will pass by these murals every time she rows. I was thrilled that Philly Mural Arts made this opportunity available to the community. I love that we had a little part in this.

Don’t they look excited?


If you are ever looking for something to do in Philly, the Mural Arts Program offers all sorts of tours of the murals, including walking, trolley, bus, and self-guided. They also offer numerous other community activities. And if you find yourself along the Schuylkill River, look for our mural and think of us. I think we did an awesome job. I may have to quit being a blogger to become a full-time artist.

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. We had a wonderful Easter, filled with too much candy, a thwarted stake-out, a dream fulfilled, and a delicious meal. On Saturday, my children declared that they were going to stage a stake-out to watch for the Easter Bunny. Izzie went on an all out search for the play tent that they hadn’t touched in three years. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell her I had donated it when I cleaned out the hall closet. After about half an hour of her searching, I got up the nerve to admit what I had done. She was not impressed. For many reasons. Not to be discouraged, she decided she would create a tent out of a tarp and some blankets. So, she got to work gathering her things. She and Nate packed a bag, snacks, got out blankets – they were totally prepared.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “there is no way you two are sleeping outside all night!” Mainly because I knew that would mean one of us would have to sleep out there with them. Now, before you go thinking that I’m a jerk of a parent, let’s get some details in order. It was going to go down to 35 degrees overnight. That’s cold. Additionally, though we live in suburbia, it is quite common to see fox, deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, etc. meandering about. I’m not up for that. Sorry. Maybe when it’s a little warmer, and we have a legitimate tent, with sides, we can reconsider. Here’s what their “tent” looked like:


In my defense, I did try and reason / compromise with her. I let her know how cold it was going to be – she assured me that they had plenty of blankets. I suggested that they could fall asleep outside and that Craig and I would transfer them to their beds when we went to bed. Oh, no, she was not having that. Then, I tried putting my foot down. That was not received well, either. Finally, we came to an agreement. As long as we could eat breakfast in the ‘tent,’ they would sleep in their beds. Ok! Sounds like a plan! Peace was restored. The funniest piece of this was eavesdropping on her conversations with Nate, where they planned their next move and worked together against the great force of evil – Mom & Dad. I know, I know, these are not skills I should cultivate, but at 5 and 8, it’s still funny.

Anyway, they woke up Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn, in their own beds and looked out the window to the trail of eggs! (Please ignore the thistle – I’m going to get out to the garden soon. I promise.)


They were super excited to find their baskets and Izzie was over the moon when she discovered the hair color chalk that she had been wishing for for weeks.


Easter dinner is without a doubt, my favorite holiday meal. Typically, my father’s side of the family gathers at my cousins’ house for dinner. Like most of us, we all bring different dishes, but the menu is pretty much the same. Ham, pineapple soufflĂ©, candied sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding and a vegetable.

I was in charge of the vegetable. I couldn’t decide on one, so I brought two. Both make excellent additions to any meal. I made Ina’s Spinach Gratin and Smitten Kitchen’s Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions. I was looking for a recipe that didn’t use anything canned. No canned soup, no canned beans and zero canned fried onions. I was excited to find a recipe on a trusted blog. This did not disappoint!


Those are real mushrooms!! There is nothing light about this dish, but nothing about it is processed, which made me happy. I didn’t take a ton of photos, because Smitten Kitchen has beautiful ones and great pointers for making this – please be sure to visit them and peruse further.

The spinach gratin has been a go-to recipe for years. It is creamy and cheesy and delicious. I love it. Period.

The real hero of my cooking day was my All-Clad Weeknight Pan that I got for Christmas:


This pan is perfect for making casseroles, where you need to mix pasta or vegetables with a sauce – it is 4 quarts, so it can easily accommodate a pound of pasta along with your sauce. It transfers right to the oven, so there’s no real need for a casserole dish. Speaking of sauce, it is perfect for making sauce, because of it’s curved sides – it resembles a much larger saucier. There’s tons of surface area for sautĂ©ing, too. All around, it’s a great pan – I can highly recommend it! (P.S. I am not in cahoots with All-Clad or Crate and Barrel – I am simply a faithful believer and user of All-Clad and wanted to share the love.)

To those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope it was a wonderful day and that you enjoyed your meal as much as I did!

The Madhatter’s Ball

For the past few months, I have been completely immersed in the planning for a big fundraiser for my children’s school. This year’s theme was Alice in Wonderland. As the Party Chair, I was responsible for making this theme come to life. Which, I was more than happy to do…I take my party planning responsibilities very seriously.

I gathered a crack team of volunteers as my committee and we got to work. We wanted guests to feel transported to Wonderland, through sound, sight and taste. We wanted them to feel like Alice, a little off-center. I think we did a pretty bang up job.

The party was held at The Old Mill in Rose Valley. This historic building was the perfect setting for our plans. As guests arrived, they entered through a ‘card vortex.’ Hundreds of playing cards, in varying sizes were affixed to a bracing structure to create the sense of chaos. Kristin, our resident problem-solver / engineer (not to mention, very creative and talented woman), devised and built the structure.


Once guests entered the building, they were greeted with an ‘Eat me, Drink me’ table, where we had little vials of potion, Cosmopolitans and Sazaracs, and miniature cupcakes. We worked tirelessly to craft the perfect cocktail, it was really hard work. Kiersten, an integral member of the committee, without whom much of this vision would not be possible, made both the cocktails and the cupcakes. 


Here’s a close-up of the cupcakes:


And the bottles of ‘potion’:


I got these fabulous 2-ounce bottles from ebottles.com – they had a nice selection, if you want to buy a lot.

To enter the ballroom, guests had to peel back the velvet curtain to reveal Wonderland! Once inside, they immediately felt “10 feet tall” as they walked through the giant flower garden:


One of my uber-creative committee members, Sue, did the lion’s share of constructing 39 of these giant flowers!! The impact was incredible.

Folks were also greeted by this guy:


To honor the many generous sponsors, who made the event possible, we created this art installation, which we called, “Through the Looking Glass”:


You’ll see in some of the frames we featured photos of students, past and present. We gathered old frames from Goodwill, auctions and donations from families, spray-painted everything gold and created this collage of frames. Tara, another one of our incredibly talented committee members, her husband and our beloved woodshop teacher did an outstanding job constructing this beautiful piece.

We also scoured auctions and thrift shops to curate a vast collection of tea pots, tea cups, old books and other accessories to use as our tablescapes:




This was my favorite – do you see something out-of-place in the flowers?:


Every table was unique, and wonderful!

Above the central table, we created a suspended base, from which teapots and teacups toppled from:


This was quite an engineering feat – constructed and executed by Kristin. Super kudos to her.

Up on stage, Tara created our ‘Hookah Lounge.’ She constructed a giant mushroom which was surrounded by moss-covered sections of tree trunks. Seating was provided by pallets, layered with textiles and pillows:


What you can’t see in the picture above is how she even created the ‘gills’ underneath the mushroom’s cap. The detail on this piece was amazing.


No detail was overlooked – she even made tiny mushrooms, nestled into the moss growing on the tree.

Here’s what it looked like, with the cool mood-lighting – can you see how the mushroom is lit from underneath the cap???!!!:


Oh, and do you see that crazy cool chair to the right of the mushroom? One of the parents heard about the theme and let us borrow her two chairs – they were a perfect addition to the space.

Everyone was encouraged to wear their finest hats – and our Head of School was no exception! Tara and I created this beautiful Madhatter’s Hat for him:


Complete with a hand-lettered, tea-stained, burnt-edge price tag – just like in the original illustrations by John Tenniel (with a little artistic interpretation, of course!).

I can honestly say that I had so much fun working on this project. I am so lucky to have had an amazing group of women to work with. Not only were they incredibly talented, inspiring and hard-working, but the were so much fun!

P.S. I now find myself with a giant collection of china and old books, which I have no use for. Stay tuned for an eBay auction!

Happy New Year!

Our New Year’s plan came together rather last-minute. I was trying to organize a play date for my daughter because we all just needed a little break from one another. She and her brother had had enough of playing together. Cabin fever had set in. In a big way. Luckily, the mom I was chatting with had the genius idea of combining New Year’s and a play date. Everyone wins!!

However, my house had taken on the look of four people, living in a space without actually cleaning up after themselves. Every surface had some project going on – Lego’s, Barbie’s, Gingerbread Houses, boxes turned into houses, laundry, Easy Bake Oven, etc. It was a total disaster. Oh, and, what to cook? It’s New Year’s – I can’t just throw spaghetti on a plate! I need to make it festive!! Plus, it has to appeal to five little kids. Sure. No problem.

I decided to break one of my cooking rules and make a different meal for the kids, because I had my heart set on delicious, hearty, melt-in-your-mouth short ribs on creamy goat cheese polenta from The Pioneer Woman with roasted Brussels sprouts and I knew my kids wouldn’t go for it.

For the kids, I picked Ina’s Parmesan Chicken with Skinny Fettuccini Alfredo from Gimme Some Oven and steamed broccoli.

Dessert – Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies from Kevin and Amanda. There was no need to make a separate dessert – chocolate chip cookies, oozing chocolate, with vanilla ice cream? Yeah, I think that should make everyone happy…

Now, here’s where the ‘twist’ came in. Literally. On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I decided to go work out. Let 2013 end on a positive note. Well, 2013 had other plans for me. We were warming up, just taking a little jog outside. I finished the jogging portion and started walking towards our next exercise (which the instructor was calling suicides – awesome) and my ankle just caved underneath me and brought me to the ground. Just for walking. Both my pride and ankle were in searing pain. I was helped to my car by a couple of classmates and I got my sorry butt home to the couch, with a bag of ice.

Surrounded by the squalor of my house and not one recipe started, I had no idea what to do. My husband and daughter decided to rally and became totally committed to pulling off this dinner party. I sat on the couch, and directed traffic and gave cooking tips, but everyone really stepped to the plate and made it happen. At around 1:30, I got up and started moving around – slowly. It was a full family effort.

The short ribs were flavorful and tender:


Izzie breaded all the chicken and helped with the short ribs. My little eight year old is becoming quite the chef. The alfredo was really good – didn’t taste ‘skinny’ at all. The polenta was creamy, flavorful and so good. Sorry I don’t have pictures – I was back on a chair with a bag of ice and a large glass of wine when all of this was going on. There was a lot happening at the last minute – both the polenta and alfredo were made right before serving as was the chicken – so it was a bit of a juggling act. I would not necessarily recommend this.

The chocolate chip lava cookies were ridiculous. You should make them. You will be very happy you did. Don’t forget the ice cream.


Even the table was festive. I never got around to the flowers, but, oh well.


At the end of the day, we had a great night. I think it’s safe to say these kids had a blast!

 the girls

It never would have happened without the help of my husband and daughter. Along with the patience and help of our dear friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart!

2013 has brought some epic highs and some equally epic lows. I am happy to close the book and learn the lessons of 2013. Looking forward to a year of growth and pursuit of long standing dreams. Wishing you all a bountiful year, filled with peace and prosperity.

Happy New Year!!


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