Thursday, December 30, 2010

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Disasters

I'm still in recovery from a big Christmas disaster at our house.  I'm not sure I've found the hostess wisdom or lesson learned from this situation, except that maybe laughter is the best medicine and sometimes even the best planning can't help you. I'll recount the story in the hopes it will bring you some laughs.

Pruitt Family Christmas Tree
 Post-disaster Happy Times at the Pruitt House

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I always prepare a special dinner for my father-in-law and any of my family that might be visiting.  This year, my husband and I decided to keep it simple (HA!) by cutting down on the dishes we would make since there would just be three of us.  The menu consisted of a cranberry salsa appetizer (delicious!!!), roast prime rib with horseradish crust, potato gratin in a rosemary crust, roasted green beans, and a cream cheese pound cake with whipped cream and strawberries for dessert.

I got up early and made the pound cake, so it would have plenty of time to cool.  I used a sunflower pan and was going to pretend it was a poinsettia for Christmas.  It came out perfectly.

Christmas Disaster Cake

When my husband got up, we were synchronized cleaning and menu prepping like you wouldn't believe!  We've had enough practice that we can work super efficiently with very little communication. That morning, I even thought what a great team we make and how lucky I am.

We had made a preparation schedule of when to begin assembling each dish and what time they needed to go in the oven in order to have everything on the table at 7:00 pm for dinner. We were a little ahead of schedule when we started working on the potato gratin by rolling out the crusts, shredding the cheese, and chopping the rosemary.

I got out my new (never-been-used) Pampered Chef springform pan for the potatoes. It has a glass bottom for more attractive oven-to-table presentation (just my style).  I decided I should flip the glass in the pan, so that the smooth side was inside the pan and the textured side would be face down.  Standing in the center of the kitchen, I loosened the springform just a little, and the glass dropped to the floor.  DISASTER BEGINS!!!
Pampered Chef Springform Pan
I was so glad my husband and I instinctively closed our eyes because glass flew everywhere.  I've never seen anything break like this with glass bouncing up super high and landing so far in distance. This was way more than a mess on the floor!  There was glass on every surface in the kitchen: counter tops, kitchen table, in the burners of the stove...EVERYWHERE!  Our pantry is down the hall, and even though the door was closed, there was glass in there.  Despite our closed floor plan, glass had gotten in the dining room next door, too.

This holiday disaster literally took the cake! My sunflower/poinsettia cake, still sitting on its cooling rack, was sprinkled with glass shards and had to be trashed, along with the rolled pie crusts for the potato gratin and the freshly shredded cheese.  All food in the kitchen was contaminated. I didn't even get to taste the pound cake before it went in the garbage.

We stayed cool and calm and agreed that since we were about an hour ahead of schedule, my husband would have time to run to Target for more pie crusts, a new springform pan with a METAL BOTTOM, and more cheese.  As I began cleaning alone, I started to realize the scope of the disaster was WAY WORSE than our initial assessment, as I found glass in more and more places.  Every surface had to have its contents removed and wiped down.  It took sweeping the floor three times and vacuuming once to feel pretty good about the safety of the floor. 

Holiday Disasters Pampered Chef

By the time my husband got back from Target on the craziest shopping day of the year (it wasn't a quick trip like we thought), I still had lots of decontaminating to go, and now, we were behind schedule.  As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty exhausted and discouraged. The loss of our Christmas Eve dessert was particularly disappointing to me. I even suggested we just forget cooking all together and go out to eat that night instead.  Ultimately, we decided to have mashed potatoes instead of the potato gratin, since I could make those pretty easily while the prime rib was in the oven. We put out some Pepperidge Farms Christmas cookies with our cranberry salsa appetizer for munching, deciding that would be good enough for dessert, too.

The mental and physical exhaustion continued to impact me as we continued preparing the food, though.  For example, I spilled a whole cup of sugar for the cranberry salsa down the counter top and onto the floor (later, I realized I had a bunch of sugar in the pocket of my apron from the episode, too, which is pretty funny).  This caused me to start playing it ultra safe....I was too worried to pull out any of the China pieces for the dinner in case I might drop them, so we just used serving pieces that were easily accessible.  I didn't have time to iron my tablecloth either.  As a result, our table was a little mismatchy and plain looking.

Christmas Eve Mismatch Table

When it was time to sit down to eat, all of the days dysfunction melted right away, as my husband and I decided not to mention what had happened at all to my father-in-law. The food was all delicious!  My husband, Roger, did a wonderful job with the prime rib.

Christmas Eve Dinner

I'm sure this will go down in our family's history as a funny Christmas Eve, but as for right now, I'm still a little tender from the disaster. We did get a super special surprise the next morning: a WHITE CHRISTMAS!  It really helped make things feel all better for Christmas day. We live in Alabama, so that's super rare for us to get snow at all.  Here's our house covered in snow.

White Christmas Alabama

Have you have had any big holiday disasters at your house?  Any entertaining disasters in general?  I would love to hear about them!  Let's have group therapy!  ( ;

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Present Wrapping

I really love wrapping presents and, especially, adding hand-stamped tags and little embellishments like jingle bells or Christmas ornaments. Here are some of the Christmas presents that I've wrapped lately, along with the handmade gift tags I've made for them.

Christmas Present with Joy Gift Tag

Christmas Present with Snowflakes

Purple Christmas Gift Tag

Let It Snow Christmas Present

Pink Christmas Ornament Gift Tag

Silhouette Gift Tags for Christmas

Twinery Gift Wrapped Box

Snowman Gift Tag

Gingham Ribbon Christmas Bow

Snowman Gift Tag for Christmas

Twinery Wrapped Present in Tissue Paper

Turtle Dove Christmas Gift Tag

Silhouette Christmas Gift Tag

See even more pictures on my Facebook page. While you're there, hit "Like" and become a fan!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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The Blackberry Vine

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wrapping Paper Scraps: A Husband's Dream

Here's one of my favorite present wrapping tips: create a bag of wrapping paper scraps. As I cut wrapping paper off the big rolls, I save the leftover pieces after wrapping a gift and roll them up inside of a recycled shopping bag for later use on smaller gifts.

Christmas Wrapping Paper Scraps
My husband thinks this is the best present wrapping innovation EVER because it saves him so much time when wrapping presents. He can just hunt around in the bag for a scrap about the size of the gift he needs to wrap.  He probably wraps 90% of his gifts out of this bag. The littlest scraps are usually perfect for small stocking stuffers. (At our house, we usually wrap about half of the items inside our Christmas stockings.)

Recycle Wrapping Paper Scraps

I try to keep the bag organized with Christmas wrapping paper on one side and paper for birthdays and other occasions on the other side.  I used a smaller recycled shopping bag inside the big one to help keep them separate.  It's also helpful if you can find a big shopping bag with long handles, so you can carry the bag even if you have long scraps inside.  I hang my bag on a hook in my craft closet when not in use, so the long handles are great for that, too.

Do you have any present wrapping tips to share?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Decorating Christmas Packages and
2010 Post Office Shipping Deadlines

If you're going to send packages this Christmas, add a little pizazz, and get them to the post office soon! Here are some important deadlines if want your Christmas packages delivered before December 25th via the US Postal Service.

Post Office Christmas Package deadlines:
  • Monday, December 20 - First Class Mail
    (cheaper option, maximum weight of 13 oz)
  • Tuesday, December 21 - Priority Mail
More USPS shipping details.

When shipping personal packages, I always like to make them festive.  One of my favorite ways to do this is with paper doilies.  I usually get mine at the Dollar Tree, and I use them for the address labels and as decorative touches.

Christmas Package Doily

Using circle doilies as labels are fun because you can write your return address in an arc around the top edge of the doily for a super unique presentation.

Christmas Package Doily Mailing Label

You'll notice that my boxes are drenched in packing tape. It's really important to cover your entire doily with tape to make sure none of the intricate details get snagged in transit.

Christmas Package Decorations

To cover ugly labels or old bar codes on my recycled boxes, I like to use scraps of leftover wrapping paper, which can add another pop of color.  This box definitely looks homemade!

Wrapping Paper Christmas Package

Loaded up in the car and ready to go to post!

Christmas Post Office Packages

Do you have any tips for making holiday packages festive?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Box of Christmas Cheer

I have a friend who has had a lot going on lately, and it's really taken a toll on her ability to get in the Christmas spirit.  It was breaking my heart to see her feeling so down, so I knew I had to do something and fast!

Box of Christmas Cheer

That's how I came up with the idea for a Box of Christmas Cheer. I spent a night gathering up fun little Christmas things at Target in bright and cheerful colors. I also made a "Merry" party banner and some new-to-my-collection Christmas ornament gift tags.  I would have liked to have made more items by hand, but I wanted to get the box sent ASAP.  Right from the beginning, I decided that I would only include what I could buy or make before bed time in order to have the box ready to ship the next morning.

Christmas Cheer Box Contents

Box of Christmas Cheer Contents:
  • Pepperidge Farm Gingerman cookies (So yummy dipped in Cool Whip!)
  • Pepperidge Farm Almond wreath cookies
  • Puffs tissues in Christmas hologram box
  • Penguin cookie plate
  • Snowman 3D straws
  • Bright Christmas napkins
  • "Merry" party banner by Belly Feathers
  • Hand-stamped ornament gift tags by Belly Feathers
  • Ornaments and Christmas soaps from Michael's (not pictured)
  • Snowflake sucker from Dollar Tree (not pictured)

Merry Christmas Party Banner

Christmas Ornament Gift Tags

I packaged it all up with bright green tissue paper in a USPS priority mail box for fast delivery.  Who wouldn't be able to smile upon opening such a colorful box!!  Of course, to sprinkle on a little extra love, I drew Christmas-y messages all over the box with Sharpies.  I'm not a very good drawer, so they definitely looked homemade.

Box of Christmas Cheer Gifts

The package arrived two days later at a much needed time, and I think it did just the trick! With the busy hustle of the holidays, it's so easy overlook those that need a little extra love this time of year.  I'm so grateful for all of my blessings and hope that I can continue to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open this holiday season and throughout the year.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Graceful Hostess Tip:
When Asked, Bring Your Signature Dish

Graceful Hostess Tips
Ideas for hosting with style and elegance

At pot-luck events, you have the opportunity to exhibit graceful hostess skills even if you're not the organizer. This is especially true when you're asked to bring one of your signature dishes.  If at all possible, say, "Yes!"

If someone makes a special request, it's because they love your dish, the way you present it, and possibly even how it livens the crowd.  So, be flattered, and try to oblige.

Yesterday was our Thanksgiving lunch at work, and I was asked to bring my famous Fruit Tea by the lunch's organizer, Linda.  Fruit Tea is not exactly a perfect fit for a fall gathering, but I was thrilled to receive the special request.  I found a way to make the tea fit in with the festivities by decorating my dispenser with a cute little fall label that I hand-stamped with a little acorn in fall colors.

Thanksgiving Punch Fruit Tea

Thanksgiving Menu Card Label

I wish you could see how excited my co-worker Linda is on days when I bring in Fruit Tea!  There's a lot of clapping. giggling with excitement, and a special Fruit Tea dance....that's right, a Fruit Tea DANCE!!!  This time I wanted to do something a special to make the Fruit Tea happiness last a few days longer.  I made a little gift pitcher for Linda, so she could take home all of the leftover Fruit Tea.

Pitcher with Hand-stamped Tag for Hostess Gift

My husband used a Dremel to drill a small hole in the pitcher's handle big enough for a binder clip.  I thought a binder clip would be a perfect way to attach the sparkly handmade "Property of" tag to the pitcher, so it could be easily removed when the pitcher needs to be washed.  Plus, the clip will let Linda attach the tag to whatever she needs (luggage, cake carrier, etc.).  I also had the tag laminated, so it won't get damaged by condensation or drips.

Property of Tag for Hostess Gift

So, what's your signature dish?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gourd-geous Fall Front Porch

The day before Halloween, my husband and I took a trip to the local farmers' market, where we picked up 10 unique ornamental gourds for under $10. I piled them up in a planter on my front porch in front of what was left of my geraniums. I think the result is gourd-geous!

Fall Front Porch Decorated with Gourds

Best of all, after Thanksgiving, we can kick them to the curb with our bags of fall leaves for pick up! How easy is that?!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mini Cake Bunting: Oh So Cute!

Yesterday was my sweet husband's birthday, and he wanted oatmeal cookies as his birthday treat instead of cake. It's a little hard to make cookies festive in the same way as birthday cake or cupcakes, but I think a found a fun way with this Birthday Mini Cake Bunting.

Cake Bunting for Cookies

I just don't think it gets any cuter!   It couldn't be simpler to create this mini cake bunting either.

How to Make Cake Bunting
I used two medium-sized bamboo skewers (available at Publix) for the posts.  I cut 2 x 0.75" strips of paper out of patterned paper and folded them in half.  Then I cut the edges of the folded paper at a diagonal on each side.  All of the triangles were slightly different and definitely not perfect, but I think that suits the homey style of the cake bunting just right.  Then I glued them to some baker's twine. Finally, I stuck the posts into the pile of cookies on my favorite cake pedestal and tied the cake bunting to the posts.

Cake Bunting Birthday

I wish I knew who started the trend of cake bunting.  I've been seeing it on all sorts of blogs for quite some time, and I'm so glad the opportunity presented itself for me to try it out.  It looked precious as the backdrop to three lit birthday candles, too!

Cookie Bunting for Birthday Parties

What do you think of cake bunting?  I'd love to see your photos if you try it out!

Here's another fun birthday cookie idea from my mother-in-law.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Handmade Halloween

Today was a great Halloween!  I stayed up a little late the night before making this Halloween Trick or Treat Party Banner, Candy Corn Popcorn Balls, and Candy Corn Cookie Bark.  I couldn't help but get carried away in last-minute holiday preparations. I broke out all of my Halloween stamps and had a blast crafting and cooking the night away.

Halloween Party Banner

I thought these hand-stamped skeletons were the perfect addition to the banner, which also featured hand-stamped spiderwebs.  They looked so good colored in with a white colored pencil!

Halloween Trick or Treat Banner

These Candy Corn Popcorn Balls are so easy to make! Plus, they're absolutely adorable and because the recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine, they're not too bad on the waistline either!!  This Halloween, I made a half batch using a 100-Calorie bag of microwave popcorn, which made about 12 balls. Just right!

Halloween Handmade Gift Tags

Halloween Popcorn Balls

I absolutely love making this Candy Corn Cookie Bark by Your Homebased Mom! It's the perfect combination of salty and sweet.  It looks perfect in my candy corn bowl that I got at Target a few years ago.

Halloween Candy Corn Dessert

I couldn't resist making something with this cute vintage card stamp!  I turned her into a little sign to put in the Candy Corn Cookie Bark.

Halloween Handmade Decorations

We had a pretty good turn out for trick-or-treating at our house, too, and are only left with two small handfuls of candy.  I'd say that's a pretty good night!  My favorite costumes this year were Poseidon, a member of the Monster High crew, and a very enthusiastic Iron Man.  I wish you could have seen him flex his muscles!!

Featured Handmade Items by Belly Feathers
Trick or Treat Pennant Party Banner
Halloween Party Favor Tags
Hand-stamped Halloween Sign

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Carnival Party Ideas: Caden's 2nd Birthday Party Carnival

Seeing these Carnival Party photos from Caden's 2nd birthday party in Opp, AL, has been such a treat!  Caden's grandma Lisha (you may remember her Ladies High Tea Party) purchased my Circus Party Planning Guide to help plan this carnival party, as many of the circus party ideas and highlighted products in the guide work well for a carnival parties, too.  I heard Caden's mommy Morgan kept it with her at all times!

Carnival Party Ideas

Caden is the little clown in the center.  Isn't this a fun photo!

Carnival Party Clown Costumes

I just love this Carnival Ticket Booth, which was made by painting a cardboard box.  A simple project with a huge impact!

Carnival Party Ticket Booth

Carnival Decorations for Birthday Party

If you are looking for Carnival Birthday Cake ideas, it doesn't get any cuter than this!  The Carnival Cupcakes look like little containers of popcorn, which perfectly coordinate with the popcorn box on top of the big Carnival Cake.

Carnival Cake Ideas

Carnival Cupcakes for Caden

Little Caden can't wait to get a taste of his Carnival Birthday Cake!

Carnival Birthday Cake

What would a birthday party carnival be without Carnival Party Games?!  Check out all of the fun games in these photos, including a ring toss, buried treasure hunt, duck pond, carnival pinata, and face painting to name a few.

Carnival Party Games

Carnival Game Ideas for Kids Carnival Party

Kids Carnival Games

Carnival Games Ideas

There was even a Carnival Candy Buffet full of sweet treats.

Carnival Party Candy Buffet

Nothing will grab your guests attention more than the smell of freshly popped popcorn and get them in the mood for fun.  That's why I think a popcorn machine is always worth a splurge for parties like this. Lisha and Morgan went all out with popcorn balls and caramel apples, too.  YUM!!

Carnival Party Food Ideas

Carnival Party Popcorn Balls

No detail was over looked at Caden's Carnival Birthday Party.  Even the favor boxes were a perfect fit!

Carnival Party Favors

Carnival Party Prizes

In addition to providing the Party Planning Guide, I also designed this Carnival Party Banner for Caden's big day. It says, "The Caden Carnival".

Carnival Theme Decorations

Carnival Party Supplies Handmade

This last picture is just too cute to leave out!

Carnival Clown Wig Dress Up

Lisha and Morgan thank you so much for letting me help with Caden's Carnival Birthday Party and being able to share these festive pictures. It looked like everyone had such a blast! You both have creativity beyond bounds, and I love that you were able to take ideas from my Circus Party Planning Guide and run with them.  You've given me so many wonderful ideas!

Featured Handmade Items by Belly Feathers
Pennant Party Banner
Circus Party Planning Guide 

UPDATE: I have a new line of Circus/Carnival party products!

You might also like these posts:
Big-Top Circus Birthday Party for Marley & Kelsey (Party Photos)
Handmade Circus Birthday Party: Let Your Birthday Boy Be the Ringleader (Party Ideas)
Circus Party Theme: Joshua's Two Ring Circus Birthday Party (Party Photos)

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