Category Archives: All Things Crafty, Clever & Creative

I do have a creative streak and while this blog is my main creative outlet, I will share with you some of my other adventures in all things crafty, clever & creative.

Assemble the Minions! We’re Celebrating “Despicable Me” Style!

We recently celebrated my “baby’s” 6th Birthday.

Yes, my littlest love is now 6 and no, I have no idea where the time has gone.

He is one funny kid, this one – all three stooges in one little body as we like to say. He has an exuberance for life that takes my breath away. Usually because I am constantly running after him in 100 different directions at once. And such a sweet and fun loving spirit. Planning his parties is always a joy!

For the longest time he wanted this birthday party to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme and I had gone to sleep many nights with ideas and thoughts of turning giant crime stopping, smack talking martial artist turtles and their rodent sensei into a party.

And then we saw Despicable Me 2 this summer and, as it so often is with kids, everything changed. After that, I went to sleep with ideas and thoughts of turning a Ukrainian (I’m guessing) accented super villain, three sassy little girls and the most ridiculously adorable little yellow minions into a party.

In the end, it was really the minions who stole the show, as it is in the movies. Nathan LOVES the minions and belly laughed so hard at their antics that he had the entire theater laughing along with him. It is one of the things I love most about this kid, his exuberance.

You’re invited now to come on in and see how we celebrated this incredible little person … Despicable Me Style!

The Invitation

Minion-Birthday-Invitation

In my last party post, A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash, I told you that I love to design my own invitations. Images from the internet make it easy and fun to customize your own invite in whatever theme you’ve chosen.

If you would like to use my invitation, you will find the printable here … Minion Birthday Party Invitation Printable. You can easily go into the text boxes and customize the invitation for your party. I printed my invitations on plain white card stock.

Welcome to the party …

Front-Door-Minions

The Party “Welcome Sign” on the front door, if you can call all of Gru’s rules welcoming, is a fun way to greet guests and let them know they are at the right place.

Minion-Front-Door-Sign-Cons

I printed up the images on white cardstock, mounted them on poster board and then attached them together with paperclips that I had bent and twisted into submission.

Minion-in-the-Window

I also had a couple of friendly minions welcoming guests through the windows.

Printables …

Minion Door Hanger

Gru’s Rules

Waving Minion

Window Minions

The Favors

I kept the party favors pretty simple. Disposable cake decorating bags make great gift and favor bags (they are also great for hot chocolate treats – I’ll share that fun project with you as we get closer to the holidays).

I just filled the bags with a little candy and then topped each one off with a Minion and tied the tops with ribbon.

The Minion Figures were purchased through Amazon; Option 1Option 2.

Gru made a “Freeze Ray” for each child, just like his. Well, almost like his. The didn’t actually have the capability to freeze anyone, which was probably for the best. But they did squirt water, which is something.

Freeze-Rays-1

Freeze-Rays-2

The “Freeze Ray” Printable can be found here – Despicable Me Party Signs.

The Food

Despicable-Me-Party-3

Despicable Me 2 Spoiler Alert! Eduardo Perez comes off as a friendly restaurant proprietor known for his famous but very secret salsa. BUT could he actually be the despicable villain El Macho; long thought dead? Hmmmmm …

Despicable-Me-Party-2

Whomever he truly is, he inspired the “Taste of Mexico” menu for our party!

  • Blue and Yellow Corn Chips
  • Salsa (of course), Sour Cream and Guacamole
  • Queso Cheese Dip (just Velveeta and Rotel Tomatoes melted in the crock pot).
  • Taquitos and Quesadillas (served on the white platters shown above).
  • And grapes and watermelon wedges – always a kid favorite!

An easy but festive, kid friendly menu!

El Macho and Salsa & Salsa Sign Printables.

Party-Beverage-Station

The drink station included water, lemonade and iced tea for the parents. I love to put orange slices in my iced tea and a few lemon slices always jazz up a pitcher or container of lemonade!

Now for the best part … cake!

The Minion Cupcakes

Floating all over Pinterest is this great idea for turning Twinkies into Minions. It couldn’t have been simpler. Make your favorite cupcakes (I made vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes) and frost them with blue butter cream. I put the frosting in a pastry bag, snip off the end and swirl it on. Cut the Twinkies in half and with ready made frosting tubes, put on the eyes (Wilton now makes candy eyes that you can find at the grocery store) add different funny expressions and hair and then place a Twinkie Minion atop each cupcake. I had a few more cupcakes than Twinkie Minions so I frosted those yellow and sprinkled them with blue sugar for a little variety.

Minion-Cupcakes-8For the cake topper, I added text to an image from the internet, printed it out on white cardstock and the mounted it on yellow cardstock. I taped two of the yellow striped drinking straws to the back and stuck it into the cupcakes.

Minion-Cupcakes-9

A few candles and the Minion Fireman (“be-doh, be-doh, be-doh”) to keep everything in line and the cupcake tower was complete.

Yes I had far to much fun coming up with Minion hairstyles. Do you see the comb-over in the back on the left? That is really my best work.

Minion Birthday Greeting Cake Topper Printable.

Shrunken Moon Bites (donut holes dipped in white chocolate – if you are really ambitious you could do these as cake pops), Coco-Nutties (Vector’s favorite cookie – conveniently purchased at the grocery store), an Ice Cream Cone station and a dog “food” bowl (just like in the movie) filled with candy finished out the treat table.

Despicable Me Party Food Printable.

Despicable Me Lunch Plates, Cake PlatesCups, Lunch Napkins, Beverage Napkins and Yellow Striped Paper Straws.

Despicable Me Figures of Gru and the girls, Kyle the Dog and four minions used to decorate the cake table were purchased on Amazon.

The Fun

Nathan's-Birthday-6

There’s that precious birthday boy!

Minion-Shirts

We all wore Minion T-Shirts, which was very fun but of course, I didn’t take a minute to have someone photograph our family together in our shirts. I’ll have to make everyone put them back on and fix that! Sara did have a minion shirt but must have changed into something more fashionable after swimming. Oh to be a tween and still have someone else doing your laundry.

I have learned over several years and A LOT of birthday parties that planning a ton of games and activities really isn’t necessary. What the kids really want to do, especially when they are little is run around and play together. At our house, there is a lot of room to run and many imaginative adventures to be had. And with the boys having birthdays in June and September, they also want to swim (Sara’s is in December so even in Arizona, swimming is out).

Nathan's-6th-Birthday-Party

So, while I had a lot of different games in mind, (freeze tag, boogie robot freeze dancing or musical chairs, etc.) I ended up only putting one together – The Space Killer Carnival game from the first movie. Space-Killer-Despicable-Me-

I printed up images of the space aliens from the game in the movie in varying sizes and then glued them to a foam presentation board. The kids used Nerf guns to shoot at the stacked cups.

“KNOCKED OVER!” Of course I had to include an image of Gru after he blew the whole thing up.

If you have not seen the movie, you really must. And then get the second one when it comes out on Blue Ray soon. They are so clever and very funny!

Of course we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, had cake and ice cream …

Nathan's-Birthday-4

Nathan's-Birthday-2

Nathan's-Birthday-3

Nathan's-Birthday-5

and opened presents – my friend Eileen had a captive audience as she read birthday cards.

Nathan's-Birthday

And then after a lot of fun and a little too much sugar, some down time racked out with your buds watching your favorite movie is a must. You can get away with this when you’re six.

Speaking of buds …

Nathan-&-Hayden

Hayden is one of Nathan’s favorite buds of all time. Hayden and his wonderful family were our neighbors for many years. When Nathan was a baby and Hayden was about eight, he would pop over all the time to play with Nathan. As they both grew, Hayden never got too big to hang out with Nathan. I have a picture of them together at each of Nathan’s Birthdays. It is great to have a friend who has loved you your whole life! We just wish he was still right over the fence.

Nathan-&-Hayden-2

We love you Hayden (and Michael, April and Hope)!

So that’s it. One more birthday party down for the record books.

Whaaaaaaaat? The Party’s Over?

Yes, the party’s over. But around here, it won’t be long until there’s another one!

Minion-Thank-You-Note

Thanks for coming!

Thank you note printable.

All of the party printables shared in this post are made with images found on the internet and are for personal use only and not for sale or distribution in anyway. Please play fair and have a fantastic party!

One year ago today …

One year ago today, I started a blog.

I set up my first photo shoot, wrote my first post and clicked “Publish” for the very first time.

Then I had a moment of panic when I thought “what have I done?!” But just a moment. And then I just kept moving forward and haven’t looked back since.

And here we are, 365 days later; 500+ readers and 100+ published posts.

Milestones are often a time of reflection. And this one is no different. I’ve been thinking a lot about all that has changed since I put “me” out there and became a blogger.

Before blogging …

I slept more.

I sat down to hot meals that didn’t require a photo session prior to consumption.

No body asked who was going to get the “pretty plate”.

I never got a strange look from the cashier as she rang up one patterned plate, one white soup bowl, one blue placemat, one green placemat and a mismatched assortment of napkins.

I didn’t look at “everything” as a potential background, table setting or prop.

I made fewer trips to the antique store, thrift store or neighborhood garage sales.

And I didn’t have this …

The-Prop-Hoard

which has affectionately become know as my “prop hoard”.

There have also been a few “blogging truths” I’ve discovered along the way …

You can consider someone a friend even though you have never met.

You don’t have to write the great American novel in each post. Simple and short is just fine.

Don’t just write. Read too. And comment. The blogging Community is amazing. Engage.

Laundry, dishes and toilets don’t just do themselves simply because you want to write.

Kids aren’t quiet and well behaved simply because you want to write.

Because laundry, dishes and toilets don’t do themselves and kids aren’t quiet and well behaved because you want to write, you will find yourself  writing at 4 am.

And sleeping less. Did I mention that already?

Food blogging is fattening. Sighhhh.

You can make a beautiful office for yourself, tucked away in a peaceful corner of the house and you will still write at the dining room table.

You will end up turning that beautiful, peaceful office into storage for your prop hoard and cookbook/magazine problem.

You have to throw out the plan or schedule and write what inspires you in the moment or it will never leave you alone.

Don’t be perfect. Be real. People don’t connect with perfect.

Sometimes you will post five times in a week. Sometimes two weeks will go by and you won’t have written a thing. It’s okay.

Blogging is supposed to be fun. Don’t let it become anything else.

The magazine and cookbook problem you have is only going to get worse.

Cookbooks-1

Cookbooks-2

And you’ll start to feel like you could open your own library. You may even find yourself on a first name basis with the UPS guy who is bringing yet another Amazon box to your front door.

That Amazon box, there will most assuredly be a “For Dummies” book of some sort in there.

Food photography is so much fun! Even when you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t worry! There’s a “For Dummies” book for it.

Don’t compare. You have your own voice and your own style. Be inspired but be you!

Don’t worry about the numbers, the stats, the hits, etc. Write because you want to preserve and share. Write because you want to encourage and inspire. Write for whatever reason you first thought “maybe I should start a blog.”

Blog because you love it and others will love it too.

Since I started blogging, I notice the little things more. The details. I love  that I am reconnecting with my grandmothers and the family that came before me as I share their recipes and stories. I am preserving memories and history for my children.  And I making new friends and hopefully offering a little inspiration and encouragement along the way.

I remember one Saturday morning, around 4am, my husband walked bleary eyed into the dining room as I typed away. He took one look at me and said “you’re crazy! I love you but, you’re crazy.”

Sometimes at 4am, the thought does occur to me “I must be crazy” – but I just keep typing away. Nope, not crazy just fulfilled and happy and loving every minute of this wonderful adventure that is blogging.

Okay, well the prop hoard is a little crazy …

Thanks to everyone who reads and visits me here at Welcome Company or on Facebook. You have made this first year so much fun and I am incredibly blessed by each “like” and comment and every bit of encouragement you give.

There are a lot of ideas and plans swirling around in my head for the direction I’d like to take this little blog. And there are also dishes that need washed, toilets that need cleaning, laundry that needs folding and a family that always needs their mama. There is event planning, Cub Scouts, PTO, yearbook committee, classroom mom duties, cake requests, etc., etc. that need my attention – which is why I have recently placed this …

Volunteering-Mug

on the windowsill in front of the sink, where I am sure to see it often (food blogging also makes a lot of dirty dishes) and in need of a reminder that I am a little crazy when it comes to over committing.

Thankfully, no matter how busy I get, my blog is always here waiting for me and I am always eager to get that next post put together. Someday, I may catch up and all of those ideas may come to fruition. It could happen. Until that day, thanks for hanging in there with me and for reading when I post 5x in a week or being patient when two weeks go by.

I promise you, there will always be a next post.

One day at a time. One inspiration at a time.

Now, I am going to go bake a cake. It is my blog’s birthday after all. There must be cake.

What’s for Dessert? A Gelato Bar!

It is time to talk dessert.

For the MVMT Dinner, we decided not to have the caterer provide a plated dessert and opted instead to put together something a little more fun.

A Gelato Bar.

I have “talked” your ear off in my last two posts about putting together an Art Deco themed event; The MVMT Dinner. So I am going to keep this one simple. Or at least I’m going to try. Really, I am. I am just going to tell you what I did (briefly – oh that is so hard for me) and let you see for yourself.

First, however, I must apologize for the less than stellar photography. A) I am not a professional photographer – although I do love it and aspire to be better at it. B) The lighting did not help. C) Running around like a, well, person putting on a dinner for 175 people and trying to snap a few pictures here and there at the same time, did not help.

Gelato-Bar-Toppings-1

No, this gelato bar was not served on a cruise ship listing slightly to port. I did warn you.

Since I am starting this post with a disclaimer, I might as well fess up to another oops. I did not actually get a picture of the gelato portion of the G.E.L.A.T.O. bar.

I know. I set the topping portion of the bar up ahead of time and draped everything in black plastic table cloths. The gelato pans were placed in tubs of ice (black plastic dish tubs that fit two pans perfectly and actually looked great) but they were not brought in and “snuck” discretely under the tablecloth until after dinner had started. The gelato bar was not “unveiled” until dinner was finishing up and I didn’t want to be taking pictures of the gelato as guests were waiting to dish up. Okay, that isn’t entirely true, I WANTED to but just didn’t think it was in very good taste.

MVMT Dinner Gelato Bar InspirationAnyway, picture something like this – without the artful presentation on top (but I did have flavor cards). I love the artful presentation but the gelato looked pretty amazing on it’s own and I wanted it to be easy to serve from both sides of the table in order for the line to go faster. Okay, that really isn’t a good reason. I should have taken the time to put a little bit of artful presentation on top of the gelato.

Mental note made for next time. Spumoni? How does one decorate spumoni? Anyone?

The gorgeous inspiration photo above is from photographer Adrienne Gunde.

The gelato bar had nine different un-artfully decorated yet incredibly delicious flavors to choose from …

  • Triple Dark Chocolate (I suspended the “no sugar” rule for the evening and had this one)
  • Old World Vanilla
  • Sea Salt Caramel (and this one)
  • Cappuccino Hazelnut
  • Italian Pistachio (and a little bit of this one – it was just so hard to choose)
  •  Spumoni
  • Mango Sorbetto
  • Mandarin Orange Vanilla
  • White Chocolate Raspberry

I ordered the Gelato from Nick’s Gelato. The company is based in Phoenix but they ship all over the place. They were very easy to work with, even setting it up for me to drive downtown to the cold storage facility myself to save shipping and delivery costs. Budget. And most importantly, the gelato was delicious. I am a very happy Nick’s Gelato customer!

And then there were the Toppings …

Gelato-Toppings-Menu

So, just in case you can’t read the crazy blurry picture above, let me tell you a bit about the toppings.

Gelato-Bar-Toppings-4

There were caramel bits, gummy bears and peanut butter cup mini’s – boy are those dangerous – “I could never eat a WHOLE peanut butter cup but what harm could 25 minis do?” They’re small.

There were also Andes Mints pieces, Toffee bits, M & M’s, mini-chocolate chips, chopped hazelnuts, wafer cookies and Pirouette cookies.

Gelato-Sprinkles

And of course, rainbow sprinkles. Rainbow sprinkles are a must.

I added a bit of Art Deco patterned ribbon around this cute bowl from the dollar store and then attached a pretty embellishment that I printed out on cardstock. Why? Because I had to find something to do with that perfect ribbon. I do love ribbon. Someday I might just tell you about my ribbon drawers, yes drawerS as in more than one. Remember Monica – from “Friends”? She only had ONE ribbon drawer. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t tell you about the ribbon drawers. Forget I mentioned it. Let us never speak of it again.

Gelato-Bar-Toppings-5

The fluted bowls also came from the dollar store. To give a little dimension to the table, I grabbed small candle sticks (also from the dollar store) and super glued them to four of the bowls.

Scoops

I found these great little topping scoops at Michael’s in the wedding section.

Gelato-Bar-2

I framed the table with a tall floral arrangement at the beginning of the toppings bar and a three-tiered silver tray filled with the wafer cookies at the other end.

Gelato-Bar-1

I purchased all of the toppings, every single one of them, at Wal-Mart.

Gelato. Toppings. What am I forgetting?

Oh, yeah – I got a little ahead of myself there. Before the gelato, before the toppings, the classic question “cone or bowl” had to be answered.

But don’t answer too quickly because these cones were dipped in chocolate …

Gelato-Cones

Cone or bowl?

Gelato-Cones-3

I dipped the “business end” of sugar cones in melted chocolate, some milk chocolate and some white chocolate, and then placed them on sheet trays lined with parchment paper to set. To serve them I bought a decorative cardboard 3-tiered stand and stacked them up.

Gelato-Cones-2

I also got to use my ribbon and hot glue gun again to attach a little bit of embellishment to the glass hurricanes I put spoons in.

Art-Deco-DetailingJust a bit more Art Deco flair!

So, there it is a fun and really easy to do Gelato Bar for an event big or small. It was such a hit that I am going to do an ice cream bar for Nathan’s upcoming birthday party and also tomorrow night for our first Cub Scout meeting. And yes, I will probably do the dipped cones again. I really love those little guys and am happy to spoil them a bit.

Ugg … “word count” over a thousand, my queue to wrap things up. So much for brevity.

But before I go, I just have to ask one question – Cone or Bowl?

Or Waffle Cone Bowl?

You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

 

 

 

Easy Art Deco Tablescapes and Decor

Once I had settled on the Art Deco theme for the MVMT dinner, I set to work pulling everything together. As with any event, there were many things to consider and details to organize. I started searching the internet and creating an event binder which organized my inspiration pictures, color and fabric swatches and vendor contacts, pricing, scheduling, etc.

All the details. All together.

The first item of business was to find a good caterer. No, I did not cook dinner for 175 people, I do know my limits and sometimes I even pay attention to them. I thought about it though. But not this time. For this big of a crowd, I needed professionals and I needed them fast as I had only about three weeks to put the dinner together. I promise to tell you more about the food and the caterer in a later post but for now, we’re talking tablescapes and décor.

As far as creating the look, feeling and ambiance of the evening, I knew what I wanted and I knew the individual tablescapes would be key. I wanted bold rich color and for the room to glow with soft amber light. When the dinner guests arrived, I wanted them to walk into a setting they didn’t expect and to find an elegant atmosphere that was still very relaxed and welcoming. After all, this dinner was all about making them feel special and appreciated and setting the mood for celebrating the incredible things God has in store for our church.

So I had my plan and knew what I wanted to achieve. Now, the biggest challenge. Budget. If you know anything about a caterer, you know they had just gotten most of it. Which stands to reason as the food really is of primary importance at a dinner party. So, it was time to get creative with the remaining plans for the event.

Thankfully, I am not easily intimidated by budget. In fact, quite the opposite. Working on a tight budget is half the fun. Finding creative ways to stretch every dollar is a great challenge. And knowing that you are being a good steward of the money entrusted to you is very rewarding.

You can, without doubt, pull together an incredible event on a very small budget. It just takes a little planning and ingenuity and a complete and absolute unwillingness to pay anyone to do anything you can do yourself. Know your limits (and pay attention to them) but believe in yourself a little and roll up your sleeves and do it yourself!

If you’ll indulge me a bit, I’d love to show you what I did …

Tablescapes and Décor on a budget.

MVMT-Dinner-Centerpieces

There were really only three major elements to the tablescapes, but each was very important to the overall style and mood of the event; table runners, floral arrangements and lighting.

Table Runners

The table runners were my biggest opportunity to pull in a gorgeous Art Deco pattern. Fabric is so often “the answer” to the question “how do I make a statement?” My color palette of tomato red, tan/gold, black and lush green was determined in part by the room the dinner would be served in but also by the atmosphere/vibe I imagined and was looking to create.

The church already had black table cloths and using what you already have is rule number one in maximizing a budget. The reds and golds would come into play in the fabric for the runners and the flowers and the green element would be from the palms that I would use in both the centerpiece arrangements as well as in pots around the room.

MVMT Dinner Table Runner

I looked at a lot of table runners on line and this was one of my absolute favorites. The color is perfect and I love the pattern but at $33 each, the price is fair but just didn’t fit into my budget. After all, I needed 24. This gorgeous runner is from Eva Babika’s Bedazzle Design Esty shop.

After a whole lot of looking, I started thinking I really should just dust off my sewing machine and make my own. Did I have time? Did I really have a choice? I began looking for fabric first at Hobby Lobby and then online.

I found what I was looking for at FabricGuru for only $8.95/yard. The perfect colors and pattern. Yes, I would indeed be dusting off the sewing machine and turning my dining room table into a textile factory.

Making-Table-Runners

Thankfully, my mom was in town and able to lend a hand. I really don’t know what I would do without her. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time! She might consider that a curse but in my case, I see it as quite the blessing.

In stead of paying $33 for each runner or settling on much lower quality runners that might squeeeeeeze into my budget, I ended up with exactly what I wanted, customized to the exact size I needed. If you are thinking, “great but I can’t sew”. I promise you, you can sew a straight line. Watch a tutorial on line or have a friend or family member give you a quick lesson and borrow a machine if you have to. You can do it!

Mom-Helping-Too

Or you can just call your mom. That always works for me.

The perfect Art Deco period flowers – Lilies and Palms

Asiatic-Lily-and-Palm-Arran

The floral centerpieces were another important part of the table and had to be both beautiful and budget friendly.

Carnations

This was my original inspiration photo. I found it online while searching “red carnation arrangements” and unfortunately cannot now find a proper source to credit. Whoever they are, they are very talented and I thank them for the inspiration!

Working with a tight budget, I thought carnations might be the way to go. I know they have an “inexpensive” and therefore somewhat undesirable reputation but I think they get a bad wrap. They are beautiful and when done in a tight full arrangement like this with the two tones of red, they are stunning. And yes, cost effective.

I put my theory to the test when I posted the above photo on Facebook and posed the simple question tacky or gorgeous? The overwhelming response was gorgeous and tacky only when dipped in neon colors not found in nature. I would have to agree.

Unfortunately, my actual “test run” didn’t give me the results I was looking for and while beautiful, the carnation arrangement just didn’t say “Art Deco” to me. My instinct and my heart were with Asiatic Lilies so I hit the internet looking for the best deal I could find.

Burnt-Orange-Asiatic-Lily

That deal came from fiftyflowers.com – 50 stems for about $130.00. Each stem has 3 to five flowers on it so I crossed my fingers and whispered a little prayer that 50 would be enough. The really great part about fiftyflowers.com is not just the bargain but their customer service is fantastic! Shortly after I placed my order (as in within 15 minutes), a representative called to confirm it and give me helpful tips on unpacking the lilies and keeping them fresh. I truly appreciate good customer service and that was a nice touch.

Burnt-Orange-Asiatic-Lilies

One thing to keep in mind about Asiatic lilies is that you need to have them delivered about four days prior to your event so they have time to open. I really enjoyed the big pot of lilies on my kitchen table. Waiting for them to open was almost like Christmas.

One more thing about fiftyflowers.com, my first order of lilies had some shipping issues and fifty flowers called to let me know they would be arriving a day late. I expressed my concern as to whether or not they would be fresh with an extra day in transit and they assured me the lilies should be fine. Within a half an hour someone called back and said they had gone ahead and sent a second shipment of lilies just to ensure the quality and freshness and that if the first order should show up, to consider them a gift.

Consider them a gift.

Seriously, who does things like that anymore? Fiftyflowers.com does and now has my business for life. The first order did show up the day before the event and incredibly enough were still in pretty good shape. They were also just a bit darker than the second order and the variation in the two colors turned out beautifully. Fiftyflowers.com, I am impressed and very thankful to you.

So I had my lilies, now what to put them in? The arrangement needed to be low in order for dinner guests to see over them and converse easily but full and lush to give the dramatic effect I was looking for. I also really had it stuck in my head that they should be in some sort of bowl or urn like the inspiration picture above. Here’s what I ended up going with …

Floral Urn

While there is nothing I love more than a silver bowl, in this case with the red, black and tan color scheme, I really needed gold. But just the right gold, subtle and not garish. I found what I wanted online at Wholesale Flowers and Supplies. I loved the decorative points in the design which look somewhat Egyptian inspired to me and ancient Egyptian design was very influential in the Art Deco movement. Perfect.

When the urns arrived, I excitedly tore into the box, eager to see what they looked like; somewhat reminiscent of the dad in A Christmas Story when his “major award” arrived. With great anticipation, I pulled one out and it looked … well, garish. Yes, just like A Christmas Story. Very, very garish. But the size shape and design were perfect, and they weren’t actually tiny fishnet leg lamps (if you have never seen A Christmas Story, you REALLY must), so all was not lost.

Painting-Floral-UrnsAnd my love affair with spray paint continues. The bright gold, slightly tacky plastic urns were quickly transformed into the subtle elegant vessels I was envisioning with just a few sprays of “Champagne Mist”.

From now on when someone asks me what my favorite color is, the answer will always be and emphatic “Champagne Mist”.

Painting-Floral-Urns-3

Painting-Floral-Urns-4

Okay, so it was more than just a few sprays. Twenty four urns = A LOT of sprays.

So the urns were beautiful and ready to go. I had the lilies but what about the palm fronds? I could have ordered them with the lilies but as it turns out, I didn’t need to. Thankfully, a refreshing swim a few days earlier led to a big money saving epiphany. You see, in Arizona, pools are pretty much always surrounded by palms.

My pool is surrounded by palms.

One afternoon, while floating peacefully surrounded by palms, the thought came to me … I don’t have to order palms, I have all the fronds I want right here, I can trim until my hearts content and save a ton of money. Oh, how I love a good budget stretching epiphany.

Pygmy Date Palms have the perfect fronds for flower arrangements. Rule #1, use what you have! So, the morning of the event I went out with my hand pruners and cut about 60 fronds. And then I sat on the back patio in the morning breeze and trimmed and shaped each of them, all the while basking in my own genius.

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On the day of the event, my friend and right hand woman Linda and I stood in the church kitchen with a big pot of lilies and a big pot of palm fronds and made a whole bunch of flower arrangements and a big mess. I put a small plastic solo cup inside each urn so the flowers were kept tighter in a smaller container. It worked great and I was absolutely thrilled with the end result. And yes, I did clean up my mess.

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While I would have like to have a peacock feather or two in the arrangements, that was just not in the budget. And, unfortunately I don’t have any peacocks roaming around the hacienda supplying me with free feathers. Okay, that really isn’t so unfortunate. Actually, I’m pretty ok with it.

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My bonus lily score meant that I was able to make a few larger arrangements for the gelato bar and the literature table and happily I was able to incorporate a few feathers into those.

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I found these tan peacock feathers at Hobby Lobby, along with the gorgeous black vase.

Potted-Palms

The only thing left in the “foliage/floral” category were the potted palms. Potted palms are found everywhere in Art Deco design and were an absolute must for this event. Besides, I LOVE palms! The church already had the iron candle holders and lots of LED candles and they were perfect arranged with the potted palms.

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I found these gorgeous Cats Paw Palms (indoor palms) at Home Depot for only about $13.00 each which was a lot less than we could have even rented them for. After the event was over we gave them out to any staff member that wanted one and I have a few strays at home now too. The plastic pots also came from Home Depot and had the perfect geometric circle pattern in a gold washed bronze finish. They were also a huge bargain and looked fantastic.

The only down side? I had to visit four different Home Depots to find enough and turn my van into a jungle which my boys thought was awesome! So really, it wasn’t actually even a down side.

Candles and Printed Menus

Open flame was a no-no so I found some fantastic silver LED votive candles with a very amber colored flickering flame. They were 50% off at Michaels along with glass votive holders so after visiting three Michael’s to find enough, I was able to put six candles on each table which gave the room the gorgeous warm “glow” I was looking for.

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I know it is hard to tell from the picture so you are just going to have to trust me on this.

Last, a printed Menu on each side of the table runner.

Remember the inspiration photo?

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And here is my much simpler version …

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I did the layout on Microsoft Word (because it is what I know) and printed them out on cardstock at home. Easy and I.N.E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E.

I really could not be happier with how everything turned out and want to encourage you not to be afraid to “do it yourself” too for your next party or even a major event.

Do you have a wedding, company dinner, birthday party coming up?

Do some leg work, search the internet and Pinterest for ideas, come up with a theme, hunt for bargains, get organized and get going! The satisfaction of “creating” is truly it’s own reward. And stretching your budget aint so bad either!

In the next couple of posts I will share dessert with you and how the whole event turned out. Please be sure to visit again soon. If you have any entertaining tips or tricks to share, leave a comment for me as I would love to hear about them!

Oh, and don’t forget to watch A Christmas Story.

And call your mom and thank her for all she does for you.

 

Bringing the Beach to Arizona and the Women of Mission

I know that this is a long post but we have some catching up to do. You may have noticed that there has been little more than the chirping of crickets happening here at Welcome Company lately.

If you did notice, thank you!

I appreciate you stopping by and visiting and I’m sorry the hospitality has been a bit lacking. I promise to make it up to you and that I do have a good reason, actually a couple of good reasons, that I am so excited to share with you.

I told you a while back that I was asked to step into the role of Event Coordinator for the Women’s Ministry of our church. I shared with you one of the first events I did for our Summer Spiritual Growth Speaking series; A Very Vintage Event – there were actually four evenings in the series but I didn’t bring my camera to the first two (I know, lesson learned) and had to leave town unexpectedly just before the last when my sweet Uncle passed away. A shout out to my friend Shally who covered for me and got everything set up beautifully; no one even knew I was gone.

But I did get to share one with you and I am thankful for that as it was such an incredible evening.

I have been very occupied with events this past month as Women’s Ministry just had one of our biggest this past Thursday evening. We call it the KNOW Event.  Our church is experiencing a phenomenal amount of growth and the KNOW event is geared toward welcoming new women into our ministry and getting them in the “KNOW” and plugged in where they can best serve and be served. We have a KNOW event twice a year and also love to welcome back women who have been with us previously and are interested in finding out what will be going on in Women’s Ministry, details about the Fall Retreat and what bible studies will be offered.

When I began thinking and praying about the KNOW event, I felt God leading me to consider in particular the new women we would be welcoming; whether brand new to our church or new to women’s ministry. We are a big church. And while we are a welcoming big church that truly feels like a small one, there are a lot of people and that can be intimidating for many.

And the honest truth is, women are often intimidating to other women.

Each of us comes with our own story, our own set of hurts, past experiences, uncertainties and hopes and it is hard to walk into a room full of other women for the very first time with all of that dragging behind us. Maybe even walking in knowing not another soul, setting aside our apprehension to find where we belong. Hoping we will be welcomed. Hoping we will fit in.

My job description as I see it is simple; make each woman feel welcomed and at home. That idea is paramount to menus, design and activities but I am thankful to have a God who can work through such things to create a welcoming atmosphere for all.

God is in the details. He cares about every detail and desires for us to seek Him even in what we might consider trivial.

I felt that, I felt Him very close to me, in the planning of this event; in the mindful desire to create a welcoming, relaxed and peaceful gathering for every woman who would walk through our doors; whether for the first time or the five-hundredth.

Welcoming. Relaxed. Peaceful.

The beach. He keeps bringing me back to the beach.

Of course. After all, what is more relaxing and peaceful than the beach?

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When I think of the beach, I go east coast. I don’t know why. Maybe it is the idyllic setting in my mind as I have never been east of Tennessee (and I have only been that far east once). But when I think of the beach, I think of cozy cottages on Cape Cod, the charm of Nantucket and strolling the quaint streets of East Hampton (well, that one I’m sure is because my girl Ina lives there).

These might be romanticized notions but regardless they are what come to mind when I think of the beach and I just want to dig my toes in the warm sand and listen to the gentle waves lapping the shore line with a big glass of iced tea, a flavorful picnic basket and a few girlfriends to share it all with.

Welcoming. Relaxed. Peaceful.

So last Thursday, the beach came to Arizona and to the 250  women who came to spend the evening with us. I would love to share with you how it all came together.

The Mission Women’s Ministry KNOW Event, Fall 2013

Mission-Women-KNOWYes, it is only August but here in Arizona, some of our kids have already started back to school and the rest begin in the next few days (Hallelujah Chorus) so we call it Fall. Part of the inspiration for the beach theme was to pay one last little homage to summer.

The first thing about pulling a big event together is to be mindful of the budget. Believe it or not, I love the challenge of this. Half the fun of pulling it all together is to see just how far God can take a shoestring. I also firmly believe that if He has given me the ability and the means to do something, I absolutely cannot pay someone else to do it – this gets me into trouble sometimes, in the form of sleep deprivation, but generally works out for me.

He has given me the ability to sew a pretty good straight line (just don’t ask me to make an item of clothing) so I made my own table cloths and runners, which add so much but are just not in the budget for each new event. The standard tablecloths provided by the church are black which is a good basic look but not very beachy.

I am now about to let you in on a little budget friendly decorating secret, perhaps one of my all-time favorite … painters canvas.

Painters canvas. You know the drop cloths you find at Home Depot? Well, they make GREAT tablecloths – especially for rectangular folding tables.

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I cut a “big” one into thirds, hemmed the unfinished edges and it covered three 6’x2′ rectangular tables perfectly. The “hallway runners” work GREAT as well.

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I found this gorgeous light blue and cream chevron fabric (I am all about the chevrons right now) at Hobby Lobby and made a 12 foot runner for the buffet table.

With budget ever in mind, I made my way up the steep ladder (I’m not exaggerating, I feel like GI Joe every time I climb up there) into the overhead storage room to see what Women’s Ministry already had in storage. Twenty-three hurricanes, six glass bowls and a whole lot of LED candles came in handy for the centerpieces.

I bought the sand, shells and seaside potpourri at Michaels and the blue table runners from Target. They are a heavy but soft paper that comes in a roll and can be cut to whatever size you need. Blue mason jars (be still my heart) and an assortment of pretty white flowers from the grocery store completed our beach themed centerpieces. The potpourri had a lovely light scent that added a nice touch.

Remember that budget I talked about? Well, I usually end up happily contributing a little on my own. It is a blessing to do so and what girl doesn’t need 36 fabulous blue mason jars? Oh, I will find something to do with them.

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The buffet table centerpieces came from Costco and I added in blue hydrangea that I just couldn’t pass up.

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I don’t always use flower bouquets as a centerpiece. This time I put two arrangements offset from my centerpiece which was an aged blue lantern, white vase with beach grasses, sea glass bottles, shells and white starfish.

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Flowers are a must but don’t always need to be used as a focal point. It is fun to create a scene or vignette that fits your theme.

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These flowers played a secondary role but were still show stoppers! I love mixed bouquets and I particularly love all white flowers with just a touch of green and in this case pale blue. You can’t go wrong with a monochromatic bouquet.

With the table centerpieces in place, a zillion LED candles turned on and the buffet table ready to go (thanks to LOTS of helping hands) all that was left was to welcome in the women we are so privileged to serve.

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Sweet Shally greeting women as they came through the doors. She is also a girl who can work wonders with a sewing machine. She doesn’t know it yet but I’m going to have to do a post one of these days on the incredible things she can do with a plain old t-shirt. Be watching for that one!

But wait, I nearly forgot to tell you about the food. That is so unlike me. Here’s the spread …

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Picnic sandwiches, fruit – green grapes, strawberries and blueberries, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese cubes, brownies, toffee hazelnut cookies, Pirouettes, chocolate wafer cookies, chocolate chip mini-cupcakes and lemonade.

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I love to serve berries in “picking” baskets with a simple white napkin (I line the inside with waxed or parchment paper). They are casual but still beautiful presented and it saves a little room on the table.

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My 11-year-old daughter frosted the cupcakes for me and meticulously placed every single chocolate chip by hand. No kidding. I could have corrected her and told her just to sprinkle them on but she was happy and didn’t seem to mind so I let her do it her way. I love how they turned out because I know that while they aren’t perfect they were made with a lot of love and care. You can’t ask for more. I’ll share the recipe with you later this week.

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Even for an event that is later in the evening, centered more around dessert, I think it is important to offer something savory. Many women came straight from work and I wanted there to be just a little something hearty. These Herbed Goat Cheese Tea Sandwiches did the trick. I’ll share these with you soon too – let me just tell you that I could eat the filling by the spoonful but try to be a lady and slather it all over a low carb pita instead.

So that was our day at the beach, or evening anyway. It was an absolute pleasure to pull this event together and to be blessed by a room filled with women who have a heart for Jesus and a desire for fellowship. It was a relaxed, peaceful and happy evening and I hope all felt welcome.

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Erin and Jodi; two incredibly special women I am so thankful to serve with and would gladly spend a day at the beach with. Maybe Ina will join us and bring cookies.

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Thanks to everyone who helped me so much (you know who you are) and especially to my friend and events team helper Linda and her daughter Kimberly (I need to get a picture of those girls) who I would be completely lost without.

Thanks for visiting. I pray you have a special group of gals (maybe even 250 of them) that you could spend a day at the beach with – remember the beach is where you find it, it’s the company that truly matters!

We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God in the throng. Psalm 55:14

If you are nervous about reaching out or joining a women’s ministry group, pray and ask God for his guidance and peace and know that there are women who are genuinely waiting to welcome you.

If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

If you are in the Mesa/Gilbert area of Arizona, come and visit us at Mission Community Church or e-mail me at welcomecompany@cox.net for more information about our Women’s Ministry.

So, I told you there were two reasons for the crickets. Here’s the second …

MVMT-Dinner-3A staff/board dinner for 175. Two evenings before the KNOW event. Another beautiful evening I can’t wait to tell you all about. But for now, I’m going to find a beach somewhere and take a nap.

Blessings!

A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash!

Up until a few months ago, I had somehow managed to live a Duck Dynasty free life. Blissfully unaware of what I was missing. No knowledge or care for the antics of Willy, Jace, Uncle Si, Phil or the rest of the gang of duck call millionaires.

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Internet Photo

Then, one fateful day in February, my sister posted on Facebook just how “Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay” she was that the new season of Duck Dynasty was starting that night. Duck what? I commented. What are you talking about?

She tried to explain but ultimately said “you just have to watch it for yourself”. I was hesitant as I am not a reality TV show watcher; House Hunters, House Hunters International and about a million cooking shows are as close as I get. But a show about millionaire rednecks? “It is so funny” she promised. Why not. Curiosity won out and my family and I tuned into Duck Dynasty for the very first time.

And you know what? We laughed.

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Internet Image

And laughed and laughed and laughed.

And watched about 9 straight episodes because it was funny and kind of like a train wreck where you just can’t seem to look away.

There was a lot to like and a lot to laugh at. Lots of funny one-liners, sibling rivalry and the antics of adult men who act like 10 year olds. An I am who I am and proud of it attitude and of course crazy Uncle Si and his wild stories and complete annihilation of the English language “I’m what some people call, hey cultured, ok? I’m like a fine stinky cheese”.

Cultured. Not exactly what I was thinking.

Actually, watching Duck Dynasty was a lot like being back in my husband’s small hometown in Indiana. Seriously, his little brother’s groomsmen had names like Meat and Cletus and Buck. I’m not making that up and I’m still hoping there was a nickname or two in there.

But “cultured” isn’t what Duck Dynasty is about and something I’m pretty sure those guys could care less about. In fact, the patriarch of the family, Phil “The Duck Commander”, would refer to anyone who is cultured (or lives in a sub-division) as a “yuppie”. And he doesn’t mean that in a good way.

What Duck Dynasty is about is family, faith, sticking together, praying together and loving each other no matter what. It’s about being comfortable with who you are and where you come from. It’s good clean fun and something I feel good about letting my kids watch. That is saying something these days.

And, it’s funny.

My nine-year-old in particular LOVES it so when it came time to start planning his birthday party, I thought how about a Duck Dynasty birthday party? FUN! He was all for it!

Here’s how it turned out …

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A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash

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The birthday boy bearded up and ready to party!

The Invitations

I love to make my own invitations and always have a lot of fun trying to be clever. Don’t laugh at me but I use word … as in Microsoft Word. I do everything in Word, it is all I know. Not very sophisticated or computer savvy but effective enough.

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I put a cast photo from the internet at the bottom of the invitation and then folded over the top two-thirds, concealing the interior of the invitation. The Duck Commander logo, which I also found online, along with “You’re Invited” printed on brown cardstock and then adhered to the plain white “fold-over” completed the outside of the invitation.

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For the interior of the invitation, another internet picture – this time of Uncle Si with his famous “HEY JACK!” started things off just right. The rest of the invitation read …

HEY JACK!

IT’S A PARTY!

Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay, Ha-pay (which is what Phil always says and that’s how he says it Ha-pay) Birthday David!

Let me be more “pacific” … (remember how I said Uncle Si has a gift for completely butchering the English language?)

Where: On Brewer Land (something is always happening on Robertson Land which flashes on the screen regularly) with our address.

When: Date and Time

Come sharply dressed in your best cammo and bring a swimmin’ suit. And come hungry ’cause Miss Kay’ll (the family matriarch famous for her cooking, including some non-mainstream livin’ off the land type ingredients) be cookin’ up squirrels and frog’s legs.

RSVP to the Duck Commander at …

It is easy, fun and inexpensive to make your own invitations. If Microsoft Word and I can do it, believe me, you can too!

If you would like to print my invitation, you can do so by clicking the following links and then going into the text box(es) and changing the wording as you like.

Duck Dynasty Invitation Printable.

Duck Dynasty Invitation Front Art Printable.

The Decorations & Favors

I had a great time putting this party together. I love planning the decorations and decking out the dining room table. Our dining room has been adorned with many themes over the years … Spiderman, Princesses, Cowboys, Surfin’ at the Beach, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Thomas the Train, CARS, Artist easels and canvases and now … Duck Dynasty.

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We camo’d up for this one. I ordered duck blind fabric for the table-cloth and plastic camo netting for the background – which I hung from the chandelier.

Oh the things that have hung from that chandelier.

The wooden crates came from Michaels and added some elevation to the table scape. I like to make the cake the centerpiece of the table and then decorate around it.

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I printed up a lot of fun Duck Dynasty images from the internet and incorporated them into the design, along with a lot of swamp creatures and critters that I picked up at Michaels.

Here are the images I used along with a couple of funny quotes …

Duck Dynasty Party Image Printable

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This was the birthday wish on the cake. I mounted the photo and salutation on orange card stock, taped a drinking straw to the back and stuck it into the cake. Easy. Cheap. Awesome!

Here is the Printable Cake Topper – just go into the text box and change the “name” before you print.

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This is my favorite part. I found some of the funniest one-liners and quotes from the show, printed them out and hung them from the chandelier with raffia.

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I don’t care how cultured you are, that’s funny!

Especially to adolescent boys. Who are not cultured.

And their dads. Hmmmmmmm.

Okay, and me.

Here are the quotes if you would like to use them …

Duck Dynasty Funny Quotes Printable

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I have a confession. I’m funny about party favors. I like quality favors. It isn’t about how much you spend but quality is better than quantity; whether it is one cookie decorated in the party theme and wrapped adorably in a cellophane bag or a few items kids will actually play with. All of those little junky plastic piñata fillers make me crazy. Please don’t take offense to this. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that at my house, those little things end up in the garbage about 4.2 seconds after we walk in the door; sadly making their way to the nearest landfill. I know I’m not alone here.

The Duck Dynasty Party Favors

Nothing was very expensive but it all fit the theme well and hopefully will be useful and/or played with. And will avoid the landfill at least for a while.

Duck-Dynasty-Party-10I know my kids have been wearing beards and bandanas for days. And blowing duck calls.

Loud duck calls.

Okay maybe the plastic spinning tops that don’t spin and dog choking rubber bouncy balls aren’t so bad.

Click the items listed above for the link to purchase. If there is no link, they were not purchased on-line and were purchased at a party or craft store (Michaels or Hobby Lobby).

Additional Party Supply links …

Camo Party Supplies

Duck Dynasty Party Supplies

The Food

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Whenever I throw a party, I like to lay out all of the platters and serving dishes ahead of time and then put the items on them that they will be used for; well the non perishable ones anyway. That way I won’t be scrambling around at crunch time looking for service items. It frees me up to scramble around at crunch time in other ways.

It is either organization and good planning or OCD. Either way, it keeps me straight. And sane.

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I also like to make descriptive food “place cards”. Who am I kidding, I LOVE to make them.

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Especially when you can make them theme oriented and fun!

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The Duck Dynasty Party Menu

  • Gator Tail with spicy BBQ dip (grilled chicken skewers, gator tastes remarkably like chicken)
  • Miss Kay’s Boudin Sausage Bites with BBQ dip
  • Buffalo Style Frog’s Legs (curiously similar to hot wings)
  • Bayou Baked Beans
  • Pulled Pot o’ Squirrel (pulled pork in the crock-pot)
  • Swamp Grass (coleslaw – a must with pulled pork and soft rolls)
  • Caprese Salad, Yuppie Food
  • Watermelon and blueberries, arranged into “Pretty Yuppie Food”
  • BBQ chips, tortilla chips and salsa
  • Purple grapes
  • Veggie tray with carrots, grape tomatoes and sliced cucumbers
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Do you see my note pad and Sharpie there? My list is never far away. Nor is my Sharpie. I’m partial to orange at the moment.

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And of course, no Duck Dynasty Party would be complete without a big pitcher of Uncle Si’s famous (or infamous) iced tea.

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Only ours wasn’t sweet. Sorry all my southern friends, we’re Yankees – or south westerners at least. There’s no “sweet” in our tea.

Printable Menu Tag 1

Printable Menu Tag 2

The Cake

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I use this three-tiered stand a lot and decorate it according to theme. It is easier than a stacked cake and leaves more surface area for decorating. Of course we had to have ducks and a few beavers and their dam; which the Robertson men do battle with on a regular basis. I used stick pretzels to make reeds on the side of the green duck cake and to make the beaver dam on the chocolate cake.

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Which by the way was a Sugar-free/Gluten-free chocolate cake.

And it was delicious. And I got to have cake.

Ha-pay, Ha-pay, Ha-pay!

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I also put out a pecan bars and peanut butter and jelly bars.

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David loved the cake and that is what matters most!

And he got all nine candles out in one breath!

The Fun

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Well, cammo, bandanas and beards are fun of course! And Nathan is fun!

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And friends are fun!

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And water balloons are fun!

Duck-Dynasty-Water-BalloonsEspecially when you have to toss them to your partner without breaking them.

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And built-in entertainment is fun.

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And easy for mom and dad.

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We had also planned to do some duck target shooting with Nerf guns but as is always the case, the kids really just want to run around and play and swim. So that’s what we did.

Family, friends, food, fun, cake and presents.

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And a Duck Dynasty floor mat. The greatest gift ever.

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An attempt was even made to redecorate the entry hall.

Sadly, a line had to be drawn.

As a kid, I didn’t have big blow-out parties with thirty of my “closest” friends at giant expensive venues. Don’t get me wrong, those parties are just fine and great fun; we just did it a little differently. We did family parties at home and I loved it. Those are some of my favorite memories and that is how I approach birthdays now that I am the mom. I have done a few of the big venue parties but for the most part we stay at home, in the company of family and friends. And lots of food.

I hope my kids will one day look back with the same fondness that I do. I hope they too will have wonderful memories of the fun we had at home with the people we love.

And of how they were celebrated.

Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday David.

Note: The “printables” shared in this post contain images obtained from the internet and are not official Duck Dynasty merchandise or for sale in anyway. They were created for use at my son’s party and I am simply happy to share. There is a link in the post to official Duck Dynasty Party Merchandise.

Preserving Family Memories, Stories and Recipes

I come from women I am proud of. Women whom I love dearly and are such a part of who I am. And the women who came before them; women that I never knew personally but feel a love for and a connection with through the memories that have been shared, the wonderful stories I have heard and the incredible food I have eaten all my life.

Not perfect women but strong, loving and faithful women none the less. Women who worked hard and never quit. Women who found joy and made the most of what they had, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Many, the wives and daughters of farmers and loggers in the Pacific Northwest. Women who pulled meals together everyday to feed countless crews that worked hard and needed to eat hearty; maybe that is why I love to feed people, it is in my DNA. Sturdy French peasant stock as my husband likes to joke. He may be teasing me but in truth, he is right; not entirely French peasant but adding the whole mix of heritage would be too complicated.

I come from mothers and grandmothers who’s cooking and baking filled their kitchens with warm and welcoming scents. Scents that have become synonymous with home and nurture. Scents that linger still, swirling through the memories of their children and the recollections that have been passed down; generation to generation.

I am truly thankful to know where I come from, who I come from. And I am blessed to have heard so many stories of an earlier time and to have countless photos and recipes to go along with those stories. At this point in my life, it has become very important to me to remember the women who came before by preserving their stories and recipes for my family, for my children and for the children to come. And if I can share them with others who enjoy stories of food and family and a good recipe or two, all the better.

Many of these recipes and stories will come from the life of my Grandma Ibby (short for Elizabeth), my mother’s mother; the wife of a Gyppo Logger on the Yak River at Hell Roaring Creek above Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho. That, however, is only part of her story, only a part of who she was; but that is where I will start.

AD-23Elizabeth “Ibby” LeFebre Chapman, age 18 circa 1938 

My grandmother raised four children in many a harsh and remote location and she cooked incredible meals, for a lot of people, with no electricity and no running water. Propane fueled the stove she used and powered the refrigerator and once a week my grandfather would fire up the generator so she could run her mixer and bake. Water had to be hauled in daily to fill two galvanized tubs, bucket by bucket from a creek about a quarter mile away.

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My mom (in the back) uncles and aunt, circa 1954

Very early, every weekday morning, my grandmother arose to prepare breakfast for her family and a 6 man logging crew and to lay out meats, cheeses, bread, sides, fruit, and homemade cookies, brownies and treats for the lunches the crews would pack to take to the job site. When the men returned in the evening, they would be welcomed by the hot meal my grandmother had ready and waiting for them.

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Grandma Ibby, circa 1956

These meals are before my time and are the childhood memories of my mother. Even so, I can picture the bounty of them placed along the long wooden table of the cookshack. I can picture the comfort they brought as a hardworking logging crew began to unwind over a meal that certainly nourished more than their hungry stomachs and weary bodies.

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My grandfather on his Skagit loader, circa 1957.

My mom is back for a visit and has brought with her a wooden recipe box containing many of my Grandmother’s recipe cards. In her handwriting. I lost my grandmother in 1986, when I was just 15. To me, that box is filled with treasure.

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The process of compiling stories, photos and recipes for this family cookbook has been shared with my mom and has made for some very special moments. With each recipe card we pulled from that plain brown box, came a story and a connection to the past. The shared history of mother and daughter.

 “Oooh, here is grandma’s gingerbread recipe. I remember coming home from school to a house permeated with the smell of that gingerbread. The house was big and open but not fancy; it was warm and it seemed as if that smell lingered in every corner. I could hardly wait for that piece of gingerbread dolloped with whipped cream.”

And then the hunt for the apple dumpling recipe.

“Oh, we have to find her apple dumpling recipe, you have to include those! The first time I ever had these apple dumplings was when we lived in Lincoln, Montana; I was about six or seven (which would have been about 1951-’52). I remember grandma struggling with the dough a little bit when she rolled them, but she made them for us anyway because they were delicious and we loved them.”

We did find the recipe, and made them this weekend. There is not one left. I am still trying to stop dreaming about them.

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Just the other day, as my mom and I continued to talk over these recipes and the memories they contain, she casually mentioned to me “you know, I have a box with your great-grandmother LeFebre’s recipes in it. Do you want that one too?”

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My great-grandmother May LeFebre, circa 1958

Yes. A thousand times, yes!

“Yes, mom. I would like to have that one too.”

Please visit again tomorrow for my Grandma Ibby’s Apple Dumpling Recipe. These dumplings are unlike any apple dumpling you may have had before and something you have to try for yourself because I really can’t begin to describe to you how incredible they are and I can’t wait to share them with you.