Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Review of Chocolate Tea Cookie Collection

Originally submitted at Dean & DeLuca

The best tea cookies are prettily petite and full of flavor. Our Chocolate Tea Cookie Collection contains a generous sampling of some of the best tea cookies available, handcrafted from all-natural ingredients by One Girl Cookies of New York. Your collection will include 8 of each of the following:...

Beautiful presentation, awful taste.

By unsatisfied gift giver from Willow Grove, PA on 1/31/2010


1out of 5

Pros: Beautiful

Cons: Stale, Too hard, Chalky Taste

I gave these cookies as a gift, and the recipient did not enjoy them at all. The cookies were very small and very hard - almost too hard to bite. They were dry and chalky, perhaps even stale. The cream fillings had nice flavors, but not enough to compensate for the poor quality of the cookie. Although they arrived beautifully wrapped, the taste was disappointing and unenjoyable.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joel's Baby Shower

My dear friend Joel is having a baby boy in May! She and her husband Eric live outside of Boston, and unfortunately, that's quite far for most of her friends and family. So I am scheming with her mother to plan a wonderful shower at my home in suburban Philadelphia - actually a pretty central location to most invitees.
This is the quilt to the nursery pattern she registered for at The Land of Nod. She told me that although they're having a boy, they didn't want yet another blue room in their house, so they went with green, and will then have blue accents. So I'll most likely be coming up with a theme central to this pattern. It will be easy to coordinate the flowers and decor with this and the spring season - so many wonderful flowers will be in bloom!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Best Friend's Wedding - color inspirations

So I picked up some fabric in Zett's color palette today - for use on a later project. Love the colors!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Best Friend's Wedding

Zett is engaged! Well, she has been since Halloween '09, but now the planning is in full swing. She has come to me for planning advice, and even if she didn't ask - I'd be offering my two cents! We're having fun coming up with the design, and I thought I'd start to journal our ideas.
I'll blog about this wedding planning from start to finish!It's a bit challenging to work on this together - she's in Houston and I'm in Philly, but luckily we know each other so well we can communicate through cryptic emails and strange phone messages, and still get our ideas across to each other. The real challenge is selling Bryan on all the ideas, but so far he's been pretty accommodating and enjoying the creativity! This wedding is also on a pretty strict budget, so we're looking to make a lot of the elements ourselves - not a problem for this crafter!
The details so far: The date has been set for May 30th 2010! It's a destination wedding - destination: Panama! Zett and her family travel there frequently, and it's a wonderful tropical setting for those fun-chasing lovebirds.
Ceremony and reception location: Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama
Ceremony location: Outdoor terrace overlooking the river.
Last night over the phone I think we settled on the color scheme: turquoise, burnt orange, and red. Here's the invitation from Wedding Paper Divas that I found that inspired the color combo decision:
What we discussed last night was making the invitations by hand utilizing a flower motif on rubber stamps with these bold colors. Sample photos coming soon!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Christmas Dinner 2009

The holidays are no small affair in our family, and for the second year running, Jim and I were happy to host Christmas dinner for both sides of our family. Dinner for 13...

The centerpieces that I designed and created for the tables.
Christmas dinner menu:
Roasted turkey
Baked spiral cut ham
Mashed potatoes
Wild rice pilaf with cranberries and thyme
Steamed carrots
Steamed green beans
Cranberry sauce
Dad's sausage stuffing (inside the bird, and out)
Bread sauce
Decorating the personalized gingerbread cookies that would double as seating card and favor!
I always love to have some kind of dessert that can be beautifully decorated, so this year I opted for a classic red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and piped the poinsettias with additional frosting. It tasted as good as it looks!
Pear and cranberry pie. English classics: tiffin and caramel slices. When we lived in England, every Saturday we would go to the local bakery to pick up freshly baked bread, and my sister and I would get a special treat - caramel slices. Delicious shortbread, a layer of sticky caramel, topped with the best english chocolate. I've never seen anything like it here in the states, but when Jim and I were in Australia I fell in love with it all over again. Every cafe and restaurant we ate in, I had to try their version if it was on the menu. I found the best one in a little bakery in The Rocks district and made sure to bring plenty home with me! The recipe I used here is a combination of my grandmother's english shortbread, an Australian caramel recipe, and basic ganache made with the best chocolate I can find. Fan.Tas.Tic.! The dessert spread (from bottom): Red Velvet Cake, Sticky Toffee Pudding (plate decorated with sugared rosemary and cranberries), Chocolate cookies, Anise snowball cookies, Sugar cookies, and Chocolate chip cookies. The other side of the dessert table (from left): Tiffin, Caramel Slices, Pear & Cranberry Pie, and Butterscotch Pie with Gingersnap crust. It was difficult to decide, but my personal favorite was the butterscotch pie. The sticky toffee pudding followed by a close second. To me, why waste the calories on dessert if it's not chocolate, but these chocolate-less desserts were divine! I also got rave reviews on the other desserts - I was thrilled with all of it! The whole spread. We had 13 for dinner, plus another 6 for dessert, and plenty of leftovers!


Some samples of classic calligraphy that I have done for friends' weddings. Please let me know if you are interested in my services!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Our Wedding - October 27th, 2007

It wasn't quite how it all began, but our wedding was definitely the largest event I had ever hosted, and I never lost the taste for planning events...
...I'd been in love with the beauty of weddings well before the first time I saw Father of the Bride. The traditions, the grandeur, the dresses, the flowers - oh how I loved it all! The first wedding I can really remember being a part of was that of Prince Andrew and Lady Sarah Ferguson. Of course, "being a part of" meant being glued to the television at six years old, and wondering what kind of strings I would need to pull in order to be married in Westminster Abbey.
21 years later, and I was living out my fantasy - walking down the aisle of my Westminster Abbey, the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Walking down the aisle to meet my prince (my darling husband Jim), in my satin gown (Anne Barge), borrowed family jewels (from each grandmother), and shoes fit for a queen (Manolos)!
A 14 month engagement and a not-so-demanding job allowed me the time to plan the wedding and honeymoon of our dreams...
The Details:
Aside from the obvious favorite part of that day - marrying my true love - I was so thrilled to see all of the little details I had put so much effort into, all come together. I've heard past brides tell brides-to-be, "don't worry about the details, no-one notices them". I whole heartedly disagree. If you are someone who wants to put all those details into your wedding, by all means, do so! You will be happy with the results, and people will notice.
The wedding invitation sets the tone for the entire event. So much more
than merely an invitation and response card, it can represent the theme and color scheme, it demonstrates the formality of the occasion, and it can show the personalities of the hosts. I believe a wedding invitation should delight the guest that they have been invited, and excite them for the festivities to come. After all, why invite a guest if you don't want them to be there? Opening an invitation to a wedding can feel like an honor - a gift that you have been given the opportunity to attend such a happy occasion. It was for those reasons that I finally was able to convince Jim that our invitation could only be sent in a box! It took a lot of convincing, believe me! I worked with the wonderful staff at I Do Graphics to come up with the whole concept, and they provided beautiful papers and ribbons and wonderfully designed graphics to put the whole idea in the works. I was sent all the pieces, and got to work assembling the boxes, tying the bows, and scribing the calligraphy. I was thrilled with the end result, and guests enjoyed the little surprise in their mailboxes.

The most meaningful detail to me was my use of flowers. It was a fall wedding, so I wanted the colors to be in tune with the season. But I also didn't want our wedding to look like a thanksgiving feast. I love bright and bold colors, and I wanted every detail in our wedding to have a connection to our lives. That led me to link the theme and colors in the wedding to my "home" state of Florida, and bring in some citrus elements. So the colors represented the fall season - oranges, reds, yellows, and greens - but in a brighter, happier display. We used waxy greenery and tropical hues, and the centerpieces had sliced citrus lining the vases. But above all this, every flower in the wedding had to have a meaning. My grandmother was the one who taught me about the meaning of flowers, and how flowers were used in the 1800s to express emotion and sentiments between couples. I therefore integrated this idea into our wedding, and only used flowers that represented the meaning of the day. I carried this one step farther, giving each of my seven bridesmaids a bouquet of a single type of flower.They were flowers that represented each girl and the relationship I had with them, and then my bouquet was made up of each of those flowers.

This expression was explained in our program, and even our priest commented on the beauty of that notion in his homily.
Certainly a detail that was not overlooked by our guests, and one that held a special meaning to me and my family. My grandmother had passed away weeks after our engagement, but the detail of the flowers was my dedication to her, and I certainly felt her with me on that day.
Another favorite wedding detail was that of our favors. I am a big believer in edible favors - otherwise people are prone to forget them.
In a real wedding featured in a Martha Stewart wedding magazine, I fell in love with the idea of a cookie bar.
Of course the wedding featured had perhaps 50 guests, but I was set on that idea for our wedding. Months before the wedding, I sent a letter to each of the leading ladies in our families - Jim's grandmother, our mothers, our sisters, and each of our aunts (Jim has 13!) - and asked them for a favorite cookie recipe. Everyone responded - amazingly with no double recipes! - and I then invited some of the local teenage female cousins to come over and spend a day preparing the batters. We had a great time bonding and laughing, and prepped at least half of the cookie recipes to be frozen so that we could bake them the week before the wedding. That week finally came, and my mother and I spent the Wednesday before up to our eyeballs in flour, baking 18 different varieties of cookies - about 800 cookies in all! Each had its own glass cookie jar labeled with the name and contributor of the recipe, and guests were invited to pick their own sampling of cookies, collect them in a cellophane bag, and seal them with personalized stickers. The execution of the idea wasn't exactly to plan. Guests who had frequented the open bar reportedly ate straight from the jars, and younger cousins lined their pockets and filled the bags to capacity in order to pass them out to guests on the dance floor. Regardless, people loved the idea, the display was beautiful, the cookies were delicious, and I shared a connection with the women in the family to which I was entering.
It was important to me to have family connections to the
different elements in the wedding. For example, I wore jewelry belonging to both my grandmothers, and the bridal party wore McGrath tartan - the men with a swatch on their lapels, and the ladies a wrap over their shoulders. The ring pillow was made by my mother with extra satin from my gown, and a piece of what was an old tablecloth that was hand-crocheted by my great-great-grandmother. I hope to pass that ring pillow onto future generations.
For some reason I started collecting corks, and it grew into quite a collection.
When I told people that I was going to use them for
placecard holders, I got several donations from friends and family. A little tedious for the caterer to set up, but loved the end result.
Ceremony Site: Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PA
Celebrant: Rev. Milton Jordan, Retired, Archdiocese of Washington, DC
Reception Site: College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Catering: Culinary Concepts, Philadelphia, PA
Florist: Heidi Diskin, Peony Peach Floral Design, Philadelphia, PA
Reception Music: EBE Talent, Melanie Rice Band
After Party Music: Curtis Peoples, West Hollywood, CA
Photography: Dave Lakatos, Lakatos Photography, West Chester, PA
Invitations: I Do Graphics, Denver, CO
Calligraphy: Myself
Please click on my calligraphy post to see samples.
Videography: David Kibelstis, Center Stage Video, Lafayette Hill, PA
Wedding Gown: Anne Barge, Hannelore's Bridal Boutique, Alexandria, VA
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Jewelry: Bride's own (ring, bracelet, necklace); earrings: Homa Bridal, Hitched Bridal Couture, Washington, DC
Wedding bands and engagement ring: Berman Jewelers, Cherry Hill, NJ
Bridesmaids Gowns: Watters Bridesmaids, Ashley's Bridal Shoppe, Warminster, PA
Groom/Groomsmen's Attire: Calvin Klein, Varani Formal Wear, Frazer, PA
Transportation: Elegante Limousine, Philadelphia, PA
Makeup: Danielle Pfrommer, Philadelphia, PA
Hair Salon: Pierre & Carlo, Philadelphia, PA
Nail Salon: Rittenhouse Nails, 1742 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA
Bridal Luncheon: The Waterworks Restaurant and Lounge, Philadelphia, PA
Rehearsal Dinner: Ristorante Pesto, 1915 S. Broad St, Philadelphia, PA
Groom's Cake: Night Kitchen Bakery, Chestnut Hill, 7725 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA
We spent three wonderful weeks in Australia and had the time of our lives! For anyone interested in visiting, these accommodations are highly recommended:
Bedarra Island Resort, Bedarra Island, Great Barrier Reef
(previously owned by Voyages)
Silky Oaks Lodge, Daintree Rainforest, QLD
Hunter Resort, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin, NSW
Fairmont Resort, Blue Mountains, Leura, NSW
(previously owned by Peppers)
Sydney Hilton, Sydney, NSW
Sydney Marriott, Sydney, NSW