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!

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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.

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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…

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

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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.

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

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I think she liked it!!

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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

 

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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.

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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???

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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An epic reptile party

My darling son turned five recently. Like many five year-old boys, he loves reptiles, bugs, dirt, puddles, etc. When it came time to plan his birthday party, I knew I needed to incorporate one of his loves. Enter the ‘Reptile’ theme… The highlight of this event was the live reptile show, given by Snakes-n-Scales, – in my living room. I’m still trying to forget the fact that a boa constrictor was IN. MY. LIVING ROOM. (Please forgive the lack of focus in this photo – I must have been shaking. Or rocking back and forth.)

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Regardless of the live animals, we had a theme – and once I have a theme, there’s no stopping me.

First stop, Etsy. Hours and hours on Etsy. Because, that’s what I do. I have to look at and analyze every single reptile related item available on Etsy. Seriously. Anyway, I found an adorable printable package that had the invitation, and a series of printables from AR Party Printables. We worked together to customize the invite and other items. I was able to carry this theme through every element of the party.

Drink Tags (blog post coming soon!):

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Grown-up Drinks – Blueberry Mojitos:

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This is super simple – I used a 2 inch circle punch to make the tags and took a little piece of adhesive putty and stuck it to the side of the mason jar. Clean-up is simple, because the putty just comes right off and you are ready to use your mason jars for another purpose!

Goodie ‘Bags’ (click for more detail):

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 Kid’s Drinks – Green Punch:

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Aren’t these adorable? I used half pint mason jars. I found these little lizards at the Dollar Tree and adhered them to the rings with a hot glue gun.  The ‘lid’ is just a cute cupcake liner that I found at Michael’s. Punched a hole in the middle of the liner for the straw and voila!

Flower Arrangements/terrariums:

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I already had these cool hurricanes. I filled the bottom with rocks I got from the Dollar Tree and added some plants from my water features(however, you could do this with plastic ferns or other artificial plants). Then we added in some of the plastic reptiles that we also sourced from the Dollar Tree, put water in the bottom and that was our centerpiece.

The turtle-shaped pizza:

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I used a turtle shaped cookie cutter, rolled out Trader Joe’s pizza dough, put on a little pizza sauce and cheese. To save time, we pre-cut the shapes and par-cooked them before the party. All we had to do at party time was add the sauce and cheese and bake.

The alligator-shaped cupcake display:

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I found this idea in “Hello, Cupcake”, a book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It has lots of great ideas – if you love baking and cake decorating, this is a fun book. Theirs looks a little more professional, but it was about 200 degrees that day and the icing was so soft. Oh, and we don’t pipe icing on a regular basis, so, here you go. I still think it looked awesome – many thanks to my mom’s patient hands and piping skills.

In addition to these menu items, I served fruit salad, soft pretzel sticks and assorted sandwiches. Everyone had a blast. The other kids who love reptiles got to see and touch many of these reptiles, which was a huge thrill. Even the kids who were a little hesitant around reptiles seemed to have fun.  It was a huge success, despite the excessive heat. Parents and kids felt free to linger – which to me is always a sign of a good party.

Many thanks to Snakes-n-Scales, the folks who gave the presentation. All jokes aside, they did an awesome job. Nate was thrilled and they made sure all the reptiles stayed far, far away from me, which was much appreciated. They also ensured that all of said reptiles returned to their respective tubs and left my house. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or parts of New York (check out their website for specific coverage), I would highly recommend them. They are also a reptile rescue center, so the money you pay for the party goes towards helping animals.

BTW, did I mention there was a boa constrictor IN. MY. LIVING ROOM.???!!!! Not to mention, an alligator, python, lizards, giant turtles, I could go on…

 

 

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A happy ending to a rough afternoon…

For most of us, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Pools across the land open and kids are chomping at the bit to get their little bodies in the water. Never mind the frigid temperatures – all that matters is that the pool is open. Everyone is best friends and is loving life. Visions of hot dogs and hamburgers, popsicles and ice cream dance in their heads. For a little 7 year-old, opening day at the pool is a magical day. Filled with the promise of summer – relaxed days, doing arts and crafts, swimming, riding bikes, lemonade stands…

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That is, until, said 7 year old slips jumping into the pool and cuts herself badly enough that it all comes crashing down. The BEST. DAY. EVER. quickly becomes the most horrible day, disappointment, anger, embarrassment and devastation flood the system and is released through sobs and tears.

Poor Iz. Off to the ER we went, hoping that she didn’t need stitches. She was so patient and brave, the promise of ice cream keeping her spirits up throughout our whole visit. She was examined by several teams who finally determined that she did not need stitches and that it would heal on it’s own. By that time, seven hours had passed since the incident and we were all famished. Ice cream was assumed, but, being good parents, we knew we needed to first start with some substance. Iz suggested burgers – that counts as substance, right? Thank goodness for Yelp! I did a quick area search and, to my great delight, found this place called Bobby’s Burger Palace within a mile!

What I didn’t know, is that this wonderful place belongs to the one and only Bobby Flay. The interior is cool, you can sit at a communal table, or at the counter, where you can watch the open kitchen (I love an open kitchen). Iz chose the counter. However, we were not going for the ambiance. We were going for a burger. Now, truth be told, I’m more of a Michael Chiarello kinda gal, but, Bobby may have won me over. With this:

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I introduce to you, the ‘Bobby Blue Burger.’ Good Lord, this was good. Bleu cheese, bacon, and a bleu cheese sauce (which is what took it over the top). The hubs got the Santa Fe burger, which I’ll have to describe because he ate it so fast, I didn’t get a chance to photograph it. The Santa Fe Burger comes with queso sauce, pickled jalapenos and blue corn chips. That’s right, blue corn chips, ON the burger. One has the option of ‘crunchifing’ their burger. This is where they place a heaping pile of potato chips on top of the burger, for a little extra crunch. Genius, right? Why isn’t my Bobby Blue crunchified, you ask? Because I got overexcited about ordering this:

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That’s why. These are sweet potato fries. And they are freaking delicious. The dipping sauce is a honey mustard horseradish sauce. SO GOOD! Also not pictured, because we ate them too fast: onion rings. Really yummy onion rings. Which I dipped in Chipotle Ketchup. Iz chose standard ketchup and the hubs chose the jalapeno sauce, which made his eyeballs bulge out of his head (that’s a good thing, apparently).

Iz got her ice cream in the form of a milkshake, which was lovely. Another selling point, they sell beer. After the day we had, a beer was in order. As was fried food. All was right in the world.

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Lots of love, Carrie

 

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