Thursday, May 31, 2012

Graduation Cupcakes

This year we have two graduates in the house -- daughter Emma from kindergarten and son Christian from fourth grade (our elementary school is K-4).

These graduation hat cupcakes were a hit with Christian's classmates yesterday. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but thanks to Pinterest, found this helpful tutorial on anna and blue paperie.

I added four stars to each cupcake to commemorate the kids' successful fourth-grade year.

Stop in tomorrow for a peek at this year's teacher gift.

"At commencement you wear your square-shaped mortarboards. My hope is that from time to time you will let your minds be bold, and wear sombreros." ~ Paul Freund

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sweet Study Break

We filled this apothecary jar with candy for our adopted college student at Faulkner and attached the note below to make sense of all the sweets.

I hope this surprise gave Elizabeth a pick-me-up when she needed to study for her final exams, plus plenty of candy to share when she wanted to socialize.

Maybe you know a Smartie who could use some sweet treats, too!

Still to come, graduation treats and teacher gifts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Basket of Blessings for Graduates

Our church recently honored our high school graduates with a reception, so I put together pretty spring baskets for the senior girls. This is one of my favorite spring gift ideas -- perfect for teachers, brides, new moms, mothers and friends.

To make this, you need a flat-bottomed tote and a vase to slip inside. I was delighted to find these straw totes for $2.50 in the dollar section at Target. These totes are a nice size, and a fabric lining adds a peek of color. I really like the natural fiber with the tulips.

To make your arrangement, fill the vase about halfway with water. Add floral food as needed. Slip the vase into the tote, and add the floral stems. Tulips are my favorite flower to use because they cascade gracefully over the bag. Tuck tissue paper in as needed to fill out the arrangement.

Tie on a gift tag to complete the arrangement. I personalized these with initial tags printed on a chevron background and punched with a 3-inch scalloped circle punch.

I love this arrangement because the flowers can be enjoyed for a few days, and the tote can be used all summer. This youthful presentation is perfect for graduates, but you can dress this idea up or down depending on the occasion.

There are more ideas to come this week for blessing students, graduates and teachers!

"I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known." ~ Author Unknown

Monday, May 28, 2012

Field of All-American Dreams

"Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem." ~ Saul Steinberg

What could be better for an aspiring ball player than heading to the ballpark to watch the Montgomery Biscuits?

Taking the field of dreams!

We kicked off our Memorial Day weekend with a trip to watch the Biscuits play. As the game started, Christian's baseball team joined the players on the field.

Christian was so excited to get a signed baseball!

Mary Ashley and Carson ready to cheer on their brother.

Wishing you all-American fun this Memorial Day!

I have a new post at, and I hope you'll join me here. This week on A Little Loveliness, I will be sharing ideas for blessing students, graduates and teachers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strawberry Festival of Recipes

"Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward." ~ Terri Guillemets

Fresh strawberries have added a touch of sweetness to A Little Loveliness over the years, so today I am offering a festival of favorite recipes featuring this favorite fruit.

We have had strawberry fever at our house since picking fresh Tennessee strawberries on a recent trip to Cottontown, Tenn.

But we have always loved eating strawberries -- one of life's simple pleasures!

This week I shared our latest strawberry discovery: easy freezer jam. Find the recipe here.

Strawberry bread received rave reviews at Emma's preschool Grandparents Day last year. Find the recipe here.

For a breakfast celebrating Carson's first year on his school's wrestling team, strawberries added a burst of flavor to mini-pancakes pinned with a cupcake topper.

We enjoyed my favorite strawberry breakfast dish at an outdoor Easter brunch a few years ago: cream cheese french toast bake with strawberry topping. Find the recipe here.

And who could forget this strawberry sconecake? We got up in the wee hours of the morning to enjoy this royal treat while we watched the wedding of William and Kate last year. Find the recipe here.

For an easy indulgent breakfast, top slices of sweet bread with yogurt and fresh strawberries.

Strawberries took center stage at our Mother's Day luncheon and trip to Jasmine Hill Gardens a few years ago. Find the recipes for summer turkey salad and frozen strawberry salad here.

Summer turkey salad is too good not to share. Above you see how it freshened up a lunchbox packed for a favorite teacher.

Of course, around here we think strawberries add the finishing touch to any dessert. My sister-in-law loved her chocolate birthday cake topped with fresh strawberries and drizzles of melted dark and white chocolate. Y'all, seriously. This is delicious. Find more details here.

Strawberries perk up this easy fruit trifle. Find the recipe here.

And, of course, no springtime would be complete without a slice of strawberry pie. Find my mother's easy recipe here.

Strawberry ice cream pairs nicely with brownies and chocolate syrup in this Valentine's Day sundae.

Strawberries and cream go together like .. well, strawberries and cream. Try my recipe for frothy, pink strawberry cream here.

Or indulge with chocolate cream. Find the recipe here.

For a super-quick pARTy snack, thread strawberries on unused paintbrushes and nestle the fruit skewers in Cool Whip.

With so many strawberry recipes, it is difficult to pick a favorite. But one thing is for sure: strawberries top our list of favorite fruits any time of day!

"This special feeling toward fruit -- its glory and abundance -- is, I would say, universal. We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke." ~ Jane Grigson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Easy Strawberry Jam

When Mary Ashley, Emma and I visited Cottontown, Tenn., for a ladies day this spring, we were treated to a delicious breakfast Saturday morning. Sweet hostess Donna Williams introduced us to freezer jam, and we were hooked. After the ladies day, we joined Donna and her daughter for an afternoon of strawberry picking. We were eager to make our own jam when we got home, and we have been enjoying the fruits of our labor ever since.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Donna recommends the Ball Instant Fruit Pectin, available where canning supplies are sold. This is the recipe included with Ball Instant Fruit Pectin.

4 cups crushed strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar or Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1.59 oz package Instant Fruit Pectin
5 Ball 8 oz Freezer Jars or
5 Ball 8 oz Jelly Jars
Stir sugar and pectin in a bowl. Add crushed fruit. Stir 3 minutes. Ladle jam into clean jars and let stand 30 minutes. Enjoy. Freeze jam up to 1 year. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Strawberry jam is the perfect complement to strawberry scones from Smith-Byrd House, served yesterday with almond cream and fresh strawberries.

Homemade jam is a wonderful treat to serve at home, but also a thoughtful gift to share. To dress up this jar, I used a cocktail napkin as a pattern to trace a square onto a scrap of fabric with a blue fabric pin. Then I sewed a scalloped edge around the square and cut it out. With a pretty ribbon tied around the jar, all that is needed is a pretty label to finish off a perfect hostess gift. Have you ever made strawberry jam? I would love to hear your experience making jams, jellies and preserves.

We have strawberry fever around here, so I am rounding up some of my berry favorite recipes to share!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Across Strawberry Fields

If you haven't read my last post, I hope you will spend a few moments exploring The Other Side of Mother's Day. Your comments have really touched my heart, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

A few weeks ago the girls and I visited Cottontown, Tenn., for a ladies day at the Birdwell's Chapel Church of Christ. It was such a lovely, memorable weekend. I did not take pictures during most of trip -- which included an overnight stay at the home of new friends and a visit with my sister -- but I captured a few images around Cottontown. I know you will enjoy this taste of Tennessee.

I love taking the girls with me when I go to ladies days, but I wasn't sure if Emma would want to join me this time because her kindergarten class made their last field trip of the school year the day I was driving to Tennessee. She thought long and hard about it, but ultimately decided to join Mary Ashley and me. I was honored that she gave up a trip to the zoo with her classmates to go down a country road with me!

This pretty farm caught my eye on the way out of town.

The wildflowers were a sight to behold!

When I accepted the invitation to speak in Cottontown, I had no idea we would arrive at the peak of  strawberry season. This was an exciting time to visit for us berry-loving girls!

During the weekend we sampled homemade strawberry jam, strawberry pie, strawberry shortcake and fresh strawberries on the side. It was a strawberry girl's dream!

When our sweet hostess, Donna, made plans to go strawberry picking with her daughter, we were eager to tag along.

So after the ladies day, we headed to Bottom View Farm in nearby Portland.

The girls each grabbed a basket. Emma filled hers with berries for Jennifer's family; Mary loaded hers with fruit to take home to the boys.

Above, Donna's daughter, Emily, showed the girls how to pick strawberries. Emily is the sweetest girl -- beautiful, accomplished, well-travelled and spiritually-minded. She blogs at Emily's Beautiful Story.

Emma counted her strawberries as she picked them. She forgot a few of the numbers, and when she asked what comes after 39, I assured her that it's 39, 39, 39.

Emma was as eager to collect pretty flowers as strawberries!

While Mary Ashley kept her eye on the prize. We don't call her Strawmary Shortcake for nothing!

Sampling fresh-picked berries warmed by the sun -- there are no words.

We left Tennessee eager to share our bounty with the boys -- both berries and memories. Our weekend in Cottontown was such a blessing, and I hope we will get to go down that country road again soon.

I hope to share some of our favorite strawberry recipes next week. Have a blessed weekend!

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