Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quick & Easy Homemade Lemon Curd

"Another novelty is the tea-party, an extraordinary meal in that, being offered to persons that have already dined well, it supposes neither appetite nor thirst, and has no object but distraction, no basis but delicate enjoyment." ~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

This is the day for one last sip of February romance with a simple tea party easy to pull together before March comes rolling in. In 5 minutes, you can whip up homemade lemon curd to serve alongside almond cream and scones. Keep reading for an easy recipe from the Smith-Byrd House Tea Room.

And speaking of Smith-Byrd House, I bought frozen scones to take home when I had tea there earlier this month. These Meyer lemon scones were delicious -- my favorite flavor at Smith-Byrd so far.

"The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose." ~ George Gissing

Lush pink roses from Fresh Market add a touch of sweetness.

And a heart-shaped ivy topiary adds fresh green color to the table.

Easy Lemon Curd

Smith-Byrd House owners David and Beth Melling graciously shared this easy microwave recipe for lemon curd.

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and lemon juice. Add eggs one at a time, whisking to blend. Microwave the mixture for 2 minutes, and whisk. Microwave 2 minutes more, and whisk. Microwave 1 more minute, and stir. Allow the lemon curd to sit out to reach room temperature, then store in the refrigerator. If needed, you may chill it quickly in an ice bath. Refrigerate for up to three weeks in an airtight plastic container or sterile jars. 

"If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty." ~ Japanese Proverb

A cup of tea enjoyed with fruit and scones served with lemon curd and cream -- what a way to begin and end the month.

Tomorrow the bunnies and other spring decor will be hopping out, but for now it's time to savor one more day of February romance.

"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves -- slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." ~ Thich Nat Hahn

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wooden Pendant Tutorial

Custom necklaces dressed up Mary Ashley and Emma's party dresses for Emma's recent birthday celebration. They were so easy to make and would be a great project to do with girlfriends of any age. My easy tutorial follows.
(1) Purchase wooden discs from the craft store. I used 1.25" squares from Michaels for this project. Use acrylic paints to paint the top and sides of each wooden piece. Above, I painted the sides and top with different colors, just to add an extra detail. Allow the paint to dry completely before proceeding.
(2) Cut scrapbook paper pieces into squares with patterns that coordinate with your painted discs. I used the Cricut Mini to cut 1" shaped squares, but you could cut these by hand or with a punch. Paint the wooded disc with ModPodge, apply the paper square, and top with a second coat of ModPodge.
(3) Allow the paint to dry, and finish the design with a hand-painted monogram and details. Pictured above, instead you can print monograms from the computer and use a small scalloped circle punch to cut out each letter. Apply the monogram with ModPodge, and go over the finished design with ModPodge.
(4) Allow the finished disc to dry completely before finishing the pendant with a silver bail. Find a variety of options on Etsy. Adhere the bail with a strong adhesive, and allow it to dry before slipping the pendant onto a ribbon necklace.
"Not on one strand are all life's jewels strung." ~ William Morris


Friday, February 22, 2013

Pottery P-art-y Finds & Favor-ites

Emma's recent birthday party at a local pottery studio allowed us to craft a celebration as colorful as our 7-year-old girl. Gifts and favors suited our sunny palette of light pink, raspberry pink, yellow, lavender, turquoise, lime green and orange. Here are a few of our favor-ite things.
Festive Favors 

We sent guests home with tubes of gumballs in Emma's favorite colors. (The tubes were a special offer on boutique flash sale site GroopDealz; gumballs from Party City.)


Personalized thank-you tags tied to the tubes added sweet parting words. I removed Emma's name and included the graphic above, in case you would like to use it for your personal crafting or party planning.


I added dabs of paint to our tags and tied them to the tubes with coordinating strands of ribbon. (Turquoise polka dot bucket from Michaels.)


We also sent guests home with a mini paint palette from Party City.


I ordered two 12-count sets of watercolors and had enough favors leftover to send paint sets to school along with Emma's birthday "super snack." Find them here.

Our pottery studio, Artistic Expressions in Prattville, Ala., fired the pottery pieces the children painted. I picked them up after the party and packaged them to pass out to our guests.


Above, find the graphic I used for name tags. Feel free to copy for your personal use.


I found these sweet polka dot sacks in the Easter section at Hobby Lobby. They coordinate perfectly with Emma's favorite colors. I placed pink paper shreds inside to cushion the girls' pottery masterpieces and secured the top with ribbon threaded through holes punched in the top of the bag.

As a thank you for hosting a birthday party at Artistic Expressions, the studio makes a special dessert plate for the honoree. Above, Emma's keepsake coordinates with our party printables.
Favorite Finds
The top picture in this post shows wrapped gifts in the background of our tablescape. The lime striped package was a gift from Joe and me, and the smaller pink polka dot gift was a present from Christian. Seven-year-old Emma was delighted to open these gifts.
My kids have always loved Legos. For years the boys have collected Star Wars and Ninjago Lego sets, and the girls would play along for the fun of building. But with last year's introduction of the Lego Friends series, Mary Ashley and Emma are now enthusiastic collectors themselves. Emma was over the moon to discover this Heartlake Stables set. Find it discounted here.

To coordinate with her new stable set, brother Christian surprised Emma with Olivia's newborn foal. Find this set here and a variety of Lego Friends offerings here.


A pink chevron pop-up canvas tote from Pottery Barn was perfect for transporting party supplies to the pottery studio, and now it provides storage for Emma's new Lego pieces. Find pop-up totes in a fresh palette of colors here.


I just have to share 9-year-old Mary Ashley's thoughtful gift. I think she must be the sweetest big sister ever. With her birthday falling a month before her little sister's, Mary Ashley usually gets a little spending money in January. Every year she uses most of her cash on spoiling her little sister with birthday gifts and surprises. This year was no exception. Mary Ashley bought toys and candies for Emma in the weeks leading up to her birthday, then used the bulk of a fabric store gift card to buy fleece to make Emma a blanket. Mary Ashley chose fabric to coordinate with Emma's party palette, and she insisted on buying enough yardage to make a blanket large enough for Emma to use as an adult and pass on to her children. Mary Ashley invested hours into this project, cutting the selvage edges off the fabric and sewing a decorative stitch around the perimeter. Emma has enjoyed snuggling up with her soft new blanket, and it warms my heart to know that Mary Ashley has such a giving spirit.


I hope you have enjoyed catching a glimpse of a few of our pARTy favorites.

Let me close with a word to my regular readers. Unfortunately, since turning off comment moderation, my blog has become a target for spam. It is frustrating to view my comments -- eagerly anticipating hearing from friends like you -- only to discover that many of the comments are solicitations. I hate to make innocent commenters jump through hoops to connect with me, but at least for a time I need to turn on word verification. I hope you will still take the time to share your thoughts, as I read and treasure each comment you post.

In my next post, I will share a tutorial on the necklaces Mary Ashley and Emma wore to the party, so stop in next week for this fun, easy project.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sweet Pottery-Painting-Party Treats

"As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life." ~ John Lubbock

Seven-year-old Emma certainly brings color to our life, so it was pure pleasure to celebrate her recent birthday with a pottery painting party with all her favorite colors.


We planned our celebration for a Sunday afternoon at a local pottery studio. After guests painted a piece of pottery, we paused to sing happy birthday to our birthday artist. Emma is picky about her sweets, but we finally came up with a pleasing birthday treat.


Strawberry ice cream with whipped cream and sprinkles was the perfect choice for Emma, and custom palette picks dressed our sundaes in their Sunday best.


Here is a look at the paint palette I designed for the party, incorporating Emma's top 7 favorite colors. I removed the text from this graphic, in case you would like to use it for your personal crafting or party planning. Click the graphic below to save it to your files.


To create a cupcake or ice cream pick, punch two holes in the right side of the palette and slip a paintbrush in. I picked up an inexpensive package of kids paintbrushes at Michaels. They were perfect for adding the finishing touch to our paint palette invitations and ice cream picks.

We served the ice cream on shallow square appetizer bowls from Party City. Plastic dessert plates in pink, lime green and turquoise -- also from Party City -- acted as colorful chargers for our ice cream treats. I saved all of our plasticware to reuse for future parties.

Emma was quite particular about only wanting store-bought sugar cookies, so I picked up these colorful iced cookies from Walmart and Winn Dixie. Polka dotted cupcake liners from Wilton brought in Emma's favorite colors.


My favorite detail of the party had to be these fondant paintbrushes and artist palettes, custom-made to match the party by Edible Details. Love, love, love these.


We used my re-purposed Starbucks Frappuccino bottles to serve milk and cookies during the party. (Strawberry milk, of course, for those of us who agree that life is always better when it is pink!)

We also had little bottles of water on hand to keep the creative juices flowing. When I told Emma that Aunt Jennifer designed and printed all the bottle labels for us, Emma said, "I love your sister. She's so sweet!" You can shop my sweet sister's Etsy shop, The Polka Dot Party, here.


Every little artist needs to prepare for little spills. Napkin bundles did the trick for us, wrapped in festive ribbon and accented with a mini paintbrush.


With our fill of painting and painterly snacks, it was time to close our pottery party. Stop in tomorrow for favors and final details.


"Art is your emotions flowing in a river of imagination." ~ Devin, Los Cerros Middle School 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Emma's Pottery Painting Birthday Party

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college -- that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, 'You mean they forget?' " ~Howard Ikemoto

We celebrated 7-year-old Emma's recent birthday with a pottery-painting party at a local studio. We scheduled the party for a Sunday afternoon -- the only day I could gather our entire family this month.


Several of Emma's best friends joined us for an afternoon of painting. (Left to right, Ann Welch, Lizzie, Emma, Mary Ashley and Alyssa.)


In honor of her 7th birthday, I asked Emma to choose her seven favorite colors. I incorporated all seven into her invitation and used her selections as the palette for the entire party.


Polka Dot Balloons

Colorful polka dot balloons greeted guests on our dessert table and on the painting tables. Find a variety of colors through the link above.


Emma looked precious and ready to paint in her multi-color chevron print peasant dress from Lolly Wolly Doodle.


Artistic Expressions in Prattville, Ala., was the site of our party. We visit Artistic Expressions each year to paint Easter eggs, so this is one of our favorite family spots.


My babies are growing up, y'all! (Clockwise from top: Carson, 13; Mary Ashley, 9; Emma, 7; and Christian, 11.)


One of the boys made an easel at camp, so I snagged it for our party decor. A stencil brush made the perfect accent for our Happy Birthday Emma sign.


Our little artists were eager to paint their masterpieces.


Most of the girls chose to paint a letter. You know we southern girls love our monograms.


My sister, Jennifer, designed the bottle labels above. Find more of her printable designs at The Polka Dot Party.


"What art offers is space -- a certain breathing room for the spirit."  ~ John Updike


Emma's parties are always so much fun to plan because her vivacious personality allows me to explore a more whimsical side of creativity.


I made party necklaces for Mary Ashley and Emma. Look for more details in an upcoming post.


We kept snacks simple for our Sunday afternoon party. Look for photos in my next post.


Gumballs in Emma's favorite colors added color to decorative paint cans picked up last year from Michaels. I knew they would be useful someday!


"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way -- things I had no words for." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe


Drawn to their watercolor polka dots and stripes, I picked up these napkins at Party City. I found the mini paintbrushes at Michaels.


I hope today's post has your creative juices flowing. Still to come, food, favors and more fun.

"Art is the colors and textures of your imagination." ~ Meghan, Los Cerros Middle School, 1999 

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