Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Celebrating with Swan Lake

Mary Ashley's recent birthday brought a different type of celebration for our family.

For her 11th birthday, Mary Ashley decided she would most like to have her best friend since kindergarten, Emma Cate, spend the weekend with us.

As a culmination of their special time together, we planned an outing to the ballet. Lunch before the performance got us girls in the mood to see Swan Lake.

This teapot and feathers helped set the tone for the festivities.

After lunch we headed downtown for the show.

These sweet girls had such a good time together! I will be sharing portraits of them in my next post.

The show was lovely, and a highlight for the girls was having their photo taken with one of the ballerinas.

Look for more photos and details from our pre-ballet lunch in my next post.

"Swan Lake is the most difficult thing to portray for a female ballet dancer; it really requires such specific qualities of articulation, agility, strength, and the arm work is something that takes a lot of training." ~ Benjamin Millepied

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sharing My Cup of Tea

I hope you will join me on the Victoria blog today, where I am sharing my love for British costume dramas, along with this delicious teatime recipe for Special-Delivery Fruit Tarts. Find my post here.

We celebrated Mary Ashley's birthday over the weekend, so I will share the details of our Swan Lake festivities in upcoming posts!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January Roses

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us." ~ Iris Murdoch

Happy New Year! Can anything brighten the day more than fresh flowers? Especially during these wintry days, when the daylight is scarce but the sniffles are plentiful, a lovely bouquet can bring a much-needed ray of sunlight.

I recently added a link to my sidebar for The Bouqs, an innovative florist that takes the hassle and expense from online ordering. For a flat fee of  $40, send a fresh-cut bouquet anywhere in the United States. Flowers are cultivated in the nutrient-rich volcanic soil of Ecuador and shipped directly from the grower to the recipient.

The company sent me a complimentary bouquet, and these luscious peach roses lasted nearly two weeks. The photos in this post were taken a full week after I received them.

Within a few weeks, our attentions will turn to Valentine's Day and the floral gifts we so often associate with this most romantic of holidays, but I would suggest that the quiet days of January are actually the perfect time for an unexpected bouquet. If you are craving a little beauty in the new year, I invite you to find a garden of fresh blooms at The Bouqs.

"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck." ~ Emma Goldman

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas with Love from the Lester Family

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Spa La La La La Printables

Yesterday I shared photos from our recent "spaliday" party. Along with the gift tag above, I am also sharing several more printables, in hopes that you will plan a similar afternoon of relaxation.

Mary Ashley and Emma had a grand time welcoming girlfriends Emma and Lizzy for an afternoon of pampering at Spa La La La La. To set the tone for our annual holiday get-together, we sent a fun invitation. I have recreated it here in two 5"x7" versions you may copy for personal use. The first image allows you to fill in party details by adding a text box in your word-processing program of choice, while the second can be filled in by hand.

Here are a few images that you can copy, re-size and print for your own version of Spa La La La La. These images are for personal use only.

Water Bottle Labels

Station Labels

If you plan a spa-themed Christmas celebration, I would love to hear about your afternoon of pampering.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spaliday Party

'Tis the season for our traditional gathering with our friends Emma and Lizzy -- friends of Mary Ashley and Emma since preschool. Every year we invite the girls to join us for a holiday party when school adjourns for Christmas break. For several years we also included buddies Garrison and Gavin, but now that Carson and Christian are both involved in wrestling tournaments, we have resumed our girlfriend get-togethers. Please join us for this year's celebration, Spa La La La La!

Life is moving at such a fast pace these days that unwinding with a leisurely afternoon of pampering seemed the perfect way to reconnect with our sweet friends. I am hoping this idea will catch on!

A palette of pink, lime green, yellow and white kept our decor feminine and sweet, while little touches gave the party a holiday feel.

When our guests arrived, Mary Ashley and Emma greeted them with gifts for the occasion. Monogrammed robes and coordinating slippers let the girls slip into something more comfortable: a holiday state of mind.

We had three spa treatments to offer, plus plenty of snacks to enjoy. I wondered if the girls might hesitate to try some of the stations, but they were ready for a day of beauty.

Rockin' Around the Facial Cream

For the first station, the girls gathered in my bathroom for facials. My cousin Kristi studied aesthetics in college, so I asked her for mask ideas that would be kid-safe. She suggested a mixture of yogurt, honey and oats as a good option for any skin type, but also said we should be able to find inexpensive over-the-counter options at department stores. A mild cucumber mask from Walmart worked great for us.

The girls were eager to put cucumber slices on their eyelids.

Towels -- also from Walmart -- allowed a wash rag, hand towel, and bath towel for each girl. After applying their masks, the girls were free to move on to the next station or step into the living room for snacks.

An easy menu allowed us to nibble throughout the afternoon. Along with bottled waters and apples, we also offered cucumber slices and strawberries. The adorable spa-themed mini cookies were decorated by Flourish Sweet Shop, and the cheese ball and lemon squares were prepared by local favorite Edgar's Bakery.

I also prepared a pot of hot tea -- the Fiji blend from Steepist. Enhanced with pineapple and papaya, this organic green tea from China was an ideal choice for our tranquil gathering.

Mistle-Toe Traditions

For the next station, the girls stepped into the sitting room for a relaxing foot soak. Mary Ashley especially loved trying out our Foot Spa with Vibration and Heat. Spa Sisters gift sets from TJ Maxx made great favors for us moms. I kept the slippers from one set but used the foot scrub, lotion and accessories for the party. I sent a complete set home with Stacey.


Rolled up towels were kept at the ready after a luxuriating soak.

That's the Fingernail Rock

Manicure supplies at our fingertips included, clockwise from bottom left, cotton balls soaked in polish remover; a peppermint sugar scrub made by my friend Sharon; fingernail polishes to match our color scheme; and emery boards from World Market. In the end, all the girls decided to have their toenails painted but keep their hands free for snacking.

This was such a fun party and a wonderful way to end a hectic week leading up to the holiday break. It was such fun to unwind with loved ones at Spa La La La La -- a pampering Christmas party perfect to share with girlfriends of any age.

"I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world." ~ Comte de Mirabeau 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie

Wherever you find yourself along life's journey, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

"Hot coffee and cold winter mornings are two of the best soul mates who ever did find each other." ~ Terri Guillemets

Y'all know I love my teatime, but making party favors for a recent banquet at church has me reaching for a different brew. To coordinate with our Italian menu, I sampled several recipes for biscotti. Read on for my easy version of Chocolate Chip Biscotti -- a perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of coffee or espresso.

Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Makes approximately 50 cookies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
Pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Melting chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, beat oil, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until blended. Add flour and baking powder, and beat until a heavy dough forms. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Halve dough, and shape each piece into a roll as long as cookie sheet. Place roll on first prepared cookie sheet, and using a rolling pin sprinkled with flour, press dough to 1/2-inch thickness.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cookie dough cool slightly, then slice crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Transfer slices, cut side up, to second prepared cookie sheet. Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side, or until toasted. Let biscotti cool to room temperature, then drizzle with melting chocolate. Allow chocolate to harden before packaging biscotti.

Wrapped up as a take-home favor, this lightly sweet shortbread was a hit at our church party. I hope to make more this holiday season to accompany coffee-themed gifts for teachers and coaches.

"Suave molecules of Mocha stir up your blood, without causing excess heat; the organ of thought receives from it a feeling of sympathy; work becomes easier and you will sit down without distress to your principal repast which will restore your body and afford you a calm, delicious night." ~ Prince Tallyrand

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