Monday, July 24, 2017

A Dreamy Hot-Air Balloon Themed Baby Shower

"A baby dances with its feet in the air." ~ Ruth Krauss

Last month we celebrated the impending arrival of our nephew with a party for my sister-in-law Shana. This new little brother will join two older sisters, so we hosted a "sprinkle" for the family. This new trend offers a low-key alternative to the traditional shower -- giving loved ones the opportunity to pamper a new baby with items the parents might still need, especially if there has been a gap of several years since the last sibling was born or if the family is welcoming a different gender.

Read on to see how we got carried away with hot-air balloons!

We held the sprinkle in the reception room at our church building -- a wonderful option that allowed us to use the congregation's white tablecloths, as well as tables and chairs. Fresh hydrangeas added soft touches of blue and white, and leftover bunting from my custom-made hot-air balloons added festive touches, draped here and there.

I placed a framed copy of our invitation at the entrance to the room. I loved this Hot Air Balloon Clipart and allowed its storybook charm to set the mood for our other decor.

In lieu of a guestbook, a beautifully illustrated children's book offered a place for loved ones to record their sentiments. Reviewing their comments may one day be a treasured part of reading this book with the baby. (Look for book suggestions later in this post!)

Custom-made hot-air balloons hung from the ceiling seemed to float. See this tutorial for all of the details!

They also served as candle-lit centerpieces in areas that were carefully attended. My brother commented that seeing the flame, he kept expecting to see these balloons gently rise and float away!

Plastic cutlery and napkins from Hobby Lobby echoed the soft shades of blue and green that I used in the hot-air balloons. Find our clear dessert plates here.

To make the large reception room seem more intimate, we divided the space into zones. The center of the room offered a conversation grouping where Shana could open gifts, with a trio of tables nearby, including one for displaying packages and two for food and drinks. On the right side of the room, we set up tables where the adults could linger. And on the left, we offered a casual space for cousins and their friends. Read on to see our kid-friendly ideas!

I knew that my girls and our nieces, along with children of attendees, would be spending most of the afternoon at the party. To keep them entertained, we covered two rectangular tables with plastic tablecloths and offered coloring sheets. This Coloring Cafe design was perfect!

Washable markers and colored pencils ensured easy clean-up. Each kids' table included a hot-air balloon centerpiece, but we did not light the candles in these. (Battery-operated pillars would be a safe option here.) Tufts of pillow stuffing looked like fluffy clouds on our tables.

The girls seemed to enjoy having an activity that tied into our theme.

This pair of award-winning books -- a gift from my mother-in-law -- also added interest to the scene. Since they fit our theme, I tied gossamer blue and green ribbons around the front covers and displayed the books on the coffee table in our conversation area. My nieces can enjoy reading And Away We Go and Hot Air to their little brother someday soon!

Simple party fare was perfect for an early July celebration.

Hot-Air Balloon Sprinkle Menu

Cucumber Water

Sky Blue Ice-Cream Punch

Corn Salad with Tortilla Chips

Mini Quiches

Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate Cake

For an easy summertime treat, add cucumber slices to ice water. Chill for at least an hour, and serve for spa-like refreshment.

This frothy concoction, which I am calling Sky Blue Ice-Cream Punch for the purpose of this post, was my favorite menu item. About thirty minutes before the party started, we mixed one bottle of white grape juice, one-half bottle of Blue Hawaiian punch, and one 2-liter of lemon-lime soda. Mary Ashley swirled in scoops of vanilla ice cream, and as the punch began to froth, it took on the appearance of a blue sky filled with clouds. Perfectly lovely and delicious!

For savory bites, we offered mini quiches (picked up from Costco and baked at the church building before the party) and Corn Salad with tortilla chips. Corn salad works equally well as a dip -- find the recipe here.

The night before the shower, Mary Ashley and I made dozens of dipped strawberries. I melted Wilton Blue Candy Melts, dipped the fruit, and set the strawberries on a plate; she added pastel sprinkles from Michaels. We refrigerated the berries until the coating set, then placed each one on a cupcake liner, turned inside out to showcase the pattern. My sister-in-law loves chocolate-dipped strawberries, so something along this line was a must for our menu. And the extra embellishment provided a nod to the idea of the sprinkle.

Chocolate cake from Costco offered a delicious culmination to our menu. Overall, the party was a delightful way to spend an afternoon celebrating the precious little one who is actually scheduled to arrive today. We can't wait to meet this bundle of joy!

"Babies are such a nice way to start people." ~ Don Herrold

Some photos in this post by Nathan Prichard. Used with permission.

Friday, July 21, 2017

More Paper Lantern Hot-Air Balloons

"The balloons only have one life, and the only way of finding out whether they work is to attempt to fly around the world." ~ Richard Branson

In my last post, I offered a how-to on making hot-air balloons from paper lanterns -- decorations we used for my sister-in-law's recent baby shower. Along with the larger pale blue balloons I showed you in that tutorial, I also made a smaller size in light apple green.

For the bases on this style, I cut the handles from straw baskets from Hobby Lobby. Crocheted trim hot glued around the rim added an extra detail.

Contrasting patterns of scrapbook paper, also from Hobby Lobby, made festive bunting.

We hung our blue and green hot-air balloons from the ceiling indoors, and placed several on tables with a candle tucked into the basket, but these adornments would look lovely swaying in the breeze at an outdoor party.

Several of these beauties are now hanging in the baby's nursery. Let's hope they bring happy dreams of beautiful adventures! To learn more about this project, visit this tutorial.

"We should all have personal hot air balloons and drift serenely through the clouds." ~ Rhys Brown

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Make Hot-Air Balloons from Paper Lanterns

"Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon." ~ Winnie the Pooh

We could not be more excited to be welcoming a sweet little nephew to our family this summer. In celebration, I recently hosted a party for my sister-in-law Shana. I will be sharing more details of our sprinkle -- a shower for a mother-to-be who already has at least one child -- in an upcoming post. But today I'm offering a tutorial for the charming decorations I made to fit our hot-air-balloon theme.

For this project, you will need paper lanterns. I bought one pack of ten 16-inch lanterns in pale blue and one pack of ten 14-inch lanterns in light apple green. (I will share photos of the green hot-air balloons in my next post.)

Hot-air balloons hung from the ceiling and served as candlelit table centerpieces at the party. I created bunting by cutting out scrapbook-paper triangles (2 inches deep for the 14-inch lanterns and 3 inches for the 16-inch lanterns), punching holes, and stringing the pennants onto lengths of baker's twine. Then I hot glued the bunting to the lantern.

When shopping for a basket to serve as the base, it is helpful to take a paper lantern with you for size comparison. I used straw baskets and whimsical animal-themed containers from Hobby Lobby for our balloons.

Paper straws connect the lanterns to the bases. Using a generous amount of hot glue, I carefully adhered four straws to the inside of each base, allowing the glue to cool completely before proceeding. 

To connect a base to a lantern, I turned the lantern over, touched the straws to the lantern to determine an even placement, then glued the straws to the lantern. This step must be done very carefully. Extra glue may be needed to assure a secure bond. Once the glue cooled, I turned the lantern back over to its base and glued lengths of ribbon to the lantern where the straws meet the lantern. This adds an extra embellishment and covers glue at these joints.

After the party, Shana chose several hot-air balloons to take home as mementos of our special day.

This sweet trio now hangs above the crib in the nursery -- special keepsakes to welcome the little one who has already stolen our hearts!

"If I were king of the world, babies born in airplanes, balloons and blimps would, instead of choosing to be German, Maldavian or American, all get special heavenly blue passports with a stork on the cover labeled 'Sky Baby' -- and they'd be allowed to come and go anywhere they please." ~ Robert Krulwich

Photos by Nathan Prichard. Used with permission.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Visit to Hearts Desire Tea Room in Columbiana

"Perhaps it is while drinking tea that I most of all enjoy the sense of leisure." ~ George Gissing

Recently Mary Ashley, Emma and I visited Hearts Desire Tea Room in Columbiana, Alabama -- a special girls-only outing with family before my sister-in-law Shana welcomes a new baby boy. We recently celebrated this blessing-to-be with a "sprinkle" (a party for a mother who already has at least one child), so afternoon tea offered an opportunity to unwind after the previous whirlwind weekend.

Google Driving Directions for Hearts Desire may take you to the tea room's former location in Wilsonville, so be sure the path leads to the Columbiana Inn, a circa-1889 historic home near downtown Columbiana. Under the care of innkeepers Andrew and Diane Moore, the charming Victorian has found new life as a bed-and-breakfast.

Full-service English afternoon tea, available by reservation, features a choice of freshly brewed loose teas and a prix-fixe three-course menu.

My view included my sweet Mary Ashley, who thoroughly enjoyed her pot of Chocolate Mint tea. Other favorite blends at our table included Strawberry Shortcake, Peaches and Cream, and Peach Apricot.

The first course included vegetable quiche and chicken salad -- both house specialties -- and fresh fruit.

Teatime is a relaxed affair here, so there is plenty of time to take in the pretty vignettes. I felt right at home amid all the antiques.

Next came a tiered server laden with dainty morsels -- a delicious bounty to share.

China teacups and plates add interest to the decor. With so many makers represented, patrons are likely to find a sentimental connection. My father's wife, Vicki, recognized an heirloom pattern among those displayed on the wall.

Working our way up from the lowest tier of teatime treats, we began with savories, shown clockwise from below left: house-made pimento cheese in phyllo cups, cucumber sandwiches, finger sandwiches with ribbons of blueberry and strawberry cream cheese, and ham and cheese pinwheels. 

Next, we enjoyed a trio of petite tea breads, including traditional and cranberry-citrus scones and a mini banana muffin. Lemon curd and clotted cream were offered alongside.

This gleaming silver tea set caught my eye immediately. Isn't it lovely?

Our teatime ended with dessert. Although different sweets find their way into the rotation, Diane said the Hearts Desire Brownie is a signature offering that guests can look forward to enjoying every time they visit. There could only be one thing sweeter than this moist brownie topped with chocolate whipped cream and slivered almonds.

And that would have to be the company! Here, Mary Ashley and Emma pose with cousins Kadence and Bailey. For those who enjoy dressing up during teatime, an ample selection of costume accessories await at Hearts Desire. Although I did not don a vintage hat, feather boa or gloves for the occasion, I still left wearing a smile -- and looking forward to my next opportunity to have a cup of tea. 

"Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty." ~ James Norwood Pratt

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