Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No Love Bug

It looks like our family has been bitten by a bug this week, and it's not a love bug. Nine-year-old Carson woke up in the wee hours of the morning Monday with stomach problems. He got so dehydrated that we spent most of the day at the hospital getting IV fluids. We assumed it was food poisoning until Mary Ashley and Emma woke up sick during the night. They are still having trouble keeping liquids down, and Joe is now the latest victim to the virus. He came home early from work very sick. Christian and I are the last ones standing, so I am praying that we will be spared. I am going to take a little break from blogging to tend to my family. Stomach viruses are my least favorite experiences to share as a family, but at least they are usually short-lived. I hope to be back soon. Let's hope the only bugs that bite us for the rest of the winter are love bugs!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Seek and Her Shall Find

Three-year-old Emma enjoyed playing hide-and-seek when I took pictures of her recently. "Where are me?" she giggled, covering her eyes with little dimpled hands.

"No, Emma," I corrected. "Where am I?"

"No, Mommy," she countered, exasperated. "You right dere. Where are ME?"


Monday, February 23, 2009

Strawberries and Chocolate Cream

I wanted to serve strawberries and chocolate cream for Emma's recent Cinderella tea party, but couldn't find a recipe I liked. So I came up with my own and loved it so much, I decided it needed its own post. This was a perfect dish to share with friends who gathered for our birthday party on Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Cream

This recipe was delicious served with fresh fruit, but I can't wait to try it again with scones.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 cup Hershey's cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
Chocolate curls, optional

With an electric mixer, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla, and whip until stiff. Chill until ready to serve. Spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, and pipe the cream into a serving dish. Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Princess Pals

Cinderella made a guest appearance at Emma's tea party.

Inviting a college student from our church to join us for the afternoon was an economical and fun surprise. Haley joined us for Mary Ashley's Cinderella party two years ago, and she has since made a little side business of appearing at birthday parties in the Montgomery area.

Emma was still an infant and napped during Mary Ashley's third birthday party, so I couldn't wait to share this experience with Emma at 3. It was bittersweet to think about the babies I eyed in the nursery after Mary Ashley's party, realizing they are all old enough now to join us at the tea table.

Once all the guests arrived for Emma's party, we gathered the little princesses together in the grand ballroom, otherwise known as our family room, to reveal our honored guest. I told the girls to welcome Her Majesty, Cinderella, and our Knights Carson and Christian opened the doors to let the princess make her grand entrance as Joe cued orchestral music from the Disney movie Cinderella. It was such a special moment! Cinderella joined us for tea, photos and presents. She was so sweet and attentive to the girls at the party.

And what pretty princesses these little ones have grown to be!

Molly and Emma are princess pals.

Meet the Princesses

Clockwise, from top left corner: Princesses Lizzy and Emma take time out with the girls; Princess Emma opens presents from Meme and D-Dad; A reflective moment for Princess Alex; Cinderemma discovers a Cinderella Barbie from Mommy and Daddy; Working on party details, I joked that I was Emma's Fairy Godly Mother; Princess Jamie holds a sparkly princess wand; With two brothers at home, Princess Ann Welch enjoys her first all-girl party; The princesses gather on the palace steps.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Princess Party Favors

Every little princess needs jewels. I hope our guests will remember their time with Cinderella when they wear the bracelets they received as party favors.

When my best girlfriend, Vonda, and I planned a girls weekend, one of the highlights of the trip was learning how to make jewelry. The matching bracelets we made serve to commemorate our weekend, and I think of Vonda each time I wear mine.

So bracelets seemed like perfect favors for our recent princess party. I hope when the girls wear them, they will recall the bond of friendship they share because you are never too young to need girlfriends!

Jewelry making is a nice art to learn because you can get a quick fix of crafting and supplies can be stored in a small space. To make bracelets like the one pictured, you need two tools for jewelry making: diagonal cutters and bead crimping pliers. A beading tray is helpful for sorting beads and laying out your design. For each bracelet you will need a clasp, two crimping beads and assorted beads. For each favor bracelet, I used two silver beads, 20 4-mm pearl beads, six 4-mm bicone crystals and three slightly larger bicone crystals.

You start by cutting a length of wire a few inches larger than the bracelet you plan to make. Thread the wire through the crimping bead and one end of the clasp. Then thread the wire back through the crimping bead and leave about an inch dangling. Use the small groove of the crimping pliers to squeeze an impression into the crimping bead, then use the larger groove of the pliers to squeeze the bead shut. This will seal the end of the bracelet.

Now you are ready to string your beads. Thread the first few beads onto the wire, careful to also thread them over the shorter tail. I used a silver bead on each end of the bracelet, with pearls and crystals spaced evenly over the rest of the length. When satisfied with your design, thread a crimping bead and clasp onto the end. Thread the wire back through the crimping beads and several beads on the end, pulling the wire taut. You do want to be able to move the clasp, but don't want the tension so loose that the wire will be exposed. Crimp the outer bead and clip the dangling wire close to the bead to complete the bracelet.

Each little princess found a wrapped bracelet at her place, along with a little crown from Party City and glass slipper from Michael's. Emma gave the guests little princess wands from Party City as they arrived.

Emma's Cinderella cake sported a headband and choker made from the same beads as the bracelets the party guests received.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Menu Fit for RoyalTea

I planned "Cinderemma's" tea party with a menu of store-bought and homemade items to please the little girls and their mommies.

The Menu

Turn into a Pumpkin Muffins with Pineapple Cream Cheese

Chicken Salad with Butter Crackers

Ham, Turkey and Roast Beef Spirals

Gus-Gus Cheese Cubes

Strawberries and Chocolate Cream

Candied Princess Pretzel Wands


Cinderella Cake

Fizzy Pink Punch

Angel Falls Mist Hot Tea


Would you believe that I made pretty pastries that looked like crystal carriages, but at midnight they turned into pumpkin muffins? Maybe not, but you can find my pumpkin muffin recipe here. For the chicken salad, I added green grapes and parsley to chicken salad I picked up from a deli. I will be sharing my chocolate cream recipe in a separate post, and you can find my punch recipe here.

Candied Princess Pretzel Wands

Perfect for a princess party, these pretzel wands would also make cute Cupid's arrows for a Valentine exchange.

1 bag pretzel rods
1 package pink Wilton candy melts
Colored sugar sprinkles
2 packages candy heart cake decorations

Melt candy in a double boiler, stirring constantly until smooth. Dip pretzel rods one at a time into the candy and allow excess candy to drip off. Hold the rods over wax paper, and sprinkle colored sugar over the melted candy. Place the rods on a wax-covered plate, and top each with candy decorations. Put the plate in the freezer for a few minutes to harden the melted candy. Remove from the freezer and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Emma requested a chocolate cake with buttercream icing. Notice Cinderella's headband and necklace; they coordinate with party favors I made for the girls. I will reveal those in another post!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Castle Is Ready

The little girls who joined us for tea at Emma's party behaved like perfect little princesses when seated in our castle's banquet hall. One of the advantages of Emma's February 13th birthday is the abundance of pretty flowers available for her party. These soft pink roses were so delicate and perfect, they almost didn't look real.

I have had this Cinderella doll for years, and she looked lovely positioned on the dining room table. I have a special place in my heart for the story of Cinderella. I remember singing along to my Cinderella record as a little girl. It seemed like one day I was waiting anxiously to meet the girl who played Cinderella in the play I had just watched at the public library, and the next I was a college junior pausing to sign programs for the little girls who came to see me play Cinderella in my university's production of Into the Woods. And now I am a mother experiencing this magical story again through my daughters' eyes.

Given to Mary Ashley as a baby gift, this Cinderella teapot made a charming accent filled with flowers and placed atop some of the girls' favorite princess storybooks.

Tomorrow, a tea time menu fit for a princess!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cinderella Tea Party

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little girl named Emma who dreamed of becoming a princess. Her third birthday was a magical celebration for Emma and her friends. The little girls shared tea with a special guest and learned that they are true princesses.

The Royal Invitations

Invitations printed on vellum and layered over a photo of Emma invited guests to a Cinderella tea party.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Calling Princesses one and all,

It's a Cinderella party and we're going to have a ball!

Please dress up like a princess and come to our castle for tea.

It's a royal celebration because Cinderemma is 3!

The Banquet Hall

The castle was fit for a princess with soft pink roses and royal touches everywhere.

Cinderemma loved her princess cake, chocolate with buttercream icing. I'll be sharing decor, menu and favor ideas throughout the week, so please come back daily to see all the fun!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Emma!

I love you, my little Valentine!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Princess Valentines

What Valentine princess could resist these adorable Valentines? I love the details on this set I found at Borders Bookstore.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sweetheart Dinner

Perfect for a ladies luncheon or romantic dinner for two, this is a great dish for Valentine's Day.

Chicken and Puff Pastry

I prefer this chicken filling served in puff pastry shells, but for Valentine's Day I cut heart shapes from puff pastry sheets.

4 tablespoons margarine
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 chicken bouillon cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons cooking sherry
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley
Puff pastry shells or sheets, prepared according to package directions

Melt margarine in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Blend in flour, and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Add milk, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper. Cook until thick over low heat. Stir in sour cream and sherry. Add cooked chicken and parsley, and heat until hot. Serve with puff pastry shells or sheets, and garnish with additional parsley.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brownie Heart Sundae

A fresh-baked brownie topped with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and drizzled with Magic Shell chocolate syrup is a sweet way to say I love you, especially when served on a heart-shaped plate.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Isn't That Sweet?

What a way to begin Emma's birthday week! I just found out that last year's Sweet Shoppe themed Tea for 2 was nominated for a best birthday party idea award on Tip Junkie. I'm so excited! To see all the cute party themes and cast your vote, click here. Thanks, Laurie, for the nomination! This will give me a lift to carry me through this week's preparations for Cinderemma's upcoming birthday party. I can't wait to share the details of this one!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Good Clean Funnies

Children often pick the most inconvenient times to strike up a conversation. Nine-year-old Carson got chatty at bedtime recently just as I started brushing his teeth. "Ha-hah-ha-hah-ha," he said just as I started working up a good foam with the toothpaste. "What?" I asked as I brushed his bottom teeth. "Ha-hah-ha-hah-ha," he repeated as I tackled his back molars. Eager to get through the bedtime routine, I didn't feel like I could stop for chitchat, so I continued with his top teeth. "Carson, I can't understand what you're saying while I'm brushing your teeth," I explained. "Just wait a minute, and then you can tell me again." He shrugged his shoulders in acceptance and let me finish. I put a shine on his front teeth, and we were done. "OK, Carson, now I can understand you. What did you want to tell me?" I asked. Carson rinsed his mouth, spit the water into the sink, dried his mouth on a towel, and finally turned to me. "That's not my toothbrush."

Joe dropped the boys off at church for a lock-in to prepare for a program our congregation participates in called Lads 2 Leaders. They were in for a fun evening of eating pizza with friends and learning about song leading, scripture reading and other worship-related events. As Carson stepped out of the car, Joe went through a check-list of items Carson needed, getting progressively sillier as he moved down the list: "Do you have your Bible?" Yes. "Your speech?" Yes. "Your teeth?" Yes. "Clean underwear?" Yes. And with this, Christian popped out of the backseat and cried, "No fair! Why does Carson get to wear clean underwear and I don't?"

Sunday night during worship I was distracted during the sermon by the scent of sweet peas and looked over to see 5-year-old Mary Ashley putting a dab of hand sanitizer on 2-year-old Emma's outstretched palm. "Thank you," Emma mouthed as she rubbed her little hands together. I hoped the girls weren't disturbing the families around us, but I was at least glad to see they were being so careful about germs. A moment later I heard Mary Ashley whisper "thank you" and turned to see Emma remove chewing gum from her own mouth and put it in her sister's. (At least she did it with clean hands.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Emma's Dozen Roses

It seemed appropriate that we invited 12 ladies to daughter Emma's first birthday party -- among them grandmothers, aunts and a beloved Bible class teacher. Knowing that these women would fill a special place in her heart, I called them Emma's Dozen Roses. So each treasured guest found a special gift at her place, a bracelet with a heart-shaped crystal charm to help them remember our little Valentine.

Each bracelet was wrapped in tissue paper rolled to look like a rose. To do this, take two layers of tissue paper and fold them in half, overlapping the edges slightly. (The size of the gift being wrapped will determine how big the sheets of tissue paper need to be. I used half sheets of coordinating tissue for the favors pictured.) Tuck your trinket into the fold of the tissue, and roll the tissue around it. Tie a ribbon around the top of the gift and loosely fluff and shape the tissue at the top into a rose. For the final touch, tuck a silk leaf into the ribbon.

These tissue-wrapped gifts made sweet favors for Emma's Dozen Roses at her first birthday party, but wouldn't it be lovely to present a dozen roses to someone special for Valentine's Day? Twelve trinkets wrapped in tissue flowers, bundled into a bouquet and given with love.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Emma's First Birthday

This heart-shaped cake was a sweet way to celebrate the first birthday of our early Valentine.

We crowned daughter Emma Queen of Hearts with a family dinner. With photographs of the birthday girl, a tile bearing her footprint, and a scrapbook of her first year on display, we could all marvel at the changes one year had brought. The whole evening was full of love.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Emma's First Birthday Invitation

Invitations embellished with pink ribbons and sparkling crystals announced the first birthday celebration for Emma, my early Valentine.

'Twas the day before Valentine's, when in the Lord's lap,

An infant was stirring, curling up for a nap.

On Earth a Mommy and Daddy joined hearts in prayer,

In hopes their sweet baby soon would be there.

The child nestled snugly against Jesus' breast,

And angels sang lullabies to coax her to rest.

With fluttering eyelids, breaths yielding and deep,

The child settled in for a long blissful sleep.

Suddenly the flutter of angel wings caused such a flurry,

She opened her eyes to see what was the hurry.

Jesus caressed her cheek softly, His gaze turning toward Earth.

"Precious child," the Lord whispered, "It is time for your birth."


When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But a heaven sent Valentine so precious and dear.

Sunlight on the face of the newly-born girl

Gave the luster of heaven to our spot in the world.

We marveled at skin soft and rosy on small body parts;

She took her place in our arms as the queen of our hearts.

Her eyes -- how they twinkled! her heart -- Valentine carob!

Her cheeks were like roses, just kissed by a cherub!

Her sweet little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

Her life stretching before us pure white as the snow.

She was lovely and pink, a delicate pearl;

We thanked God when we saw her, our sweet little girl.

As we held her we cried, hearts overflowing with love,

"We thank God for Emma, our Valentine from above!"


You Are Invited

Join Us as We Crown

Emma Lawrence

Queen of Hearts

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

6 o'clock p.m.

Joe and Melissa Lester

RSVP ...

Top right photo by Allison Hilyer

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Heart Full of Roses

Happy February! I love the possibilities this month offers for opening our hearts to those we love and look forward to sharing romantic ideas throughout the month.
I thought I would start out with the craft project displayed on my header. My friend Allison photographed this flower arrangement for one of my Christian Woman craft columns last year. To make an arrangement like this, cut floral foam to fit a heart-shaped vase and soak the foam according to package directions. Cut carnation stems short and insert the stems into the wet foam to create a soft border. Fill in the middle of the heart with lush pink roses, the stems cut short. Tuck a pink satin bow secured to a floral pick into the foam for a final touch of sweetness.
Arrangements like these topped the tables at daughter Emma's first birthday celebration. Born on February 13th, I say Emma is my early Valentine. I'll be sharing some more images and ideas from her first birthday in the days to come. You can see pictures from last year's candy-themed Tea for 2 here: cake, decor, favors, chandelier, tablescapes and birthday girl.
Let's hope this month is full of sweet surprises celebrating the ones we love!
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