Sunday, March 30, 2008

April Picnic Tablescape

Not sure about the rest of you, but I'm sure ready for spring to spring. :-) While planning my April tablescape I originally planned to go with a very spring themed scape featuring tulips, daffodils, and lot of pastel colors. I even planned on featuring tulips from my very own flower beds, but unfortunately nature had its own plans and my tulips are no where close to blossoming and are sadly only a couple of inches high. (I am not believing the whole global warming effect this spring. :) Sorry - I digress. With all of the above being said, I decided to go for a more picnic themed tablescape as there is nothing better than the first spring day that you are actually able to dine outside. As I'm still looking forward to this day here in the Midwest, I decided to create a tablescape that would bring an outdoor picnic indoors!

My picnic tablescape features the bright bold colors of red, blue, green, and orange. A natural colored picnic basket, natural colored bamboo place mats, and a faux grass tabletop bring the outdoors inside when it's still a bit too cold to enjoy yourselves outdoors.

For decor, I utilized items that could actually be feasted upon during the meal including a fresh loaf of french bread, fresh baked pies, and lots of fresh fruit including a mini watermelon, tangerines, key limes, and grapes. (If you'd like your tablescape to last the entire month, faux fruit and even other food items such as french bread can be purchased at most craft stores. If any of you have a Flower Factory near you, they have reasonably priced - and realistic- faux food items.)

To mimic grass, I purchased faux grass carpet from my local Menards home improvement store. (Yes, the tacky carpet that is frequently seen covering patios, etc. HaHa. I was actually a bit embarrassed to be seen buying it!) Once I got the faux grass home, I cut a piece to cover the top of my table and placed it upon a natural color linen tablecloth that I already had in my linen collection.

Yet another view of the tablescape. I loved the look of the above artichoke, but to tell you the truth I've never purchased a fresh artichoke and have no idea how to actually prepare it. :-) Guess I'll be learning. (Actually, I'll probably forget I even have it until it turns into a science experiment in my fridge.)

I've had the above enamelware coffee pot vases available in my shop since the fall. I thought now would be the perfect time to highlight them. The vases come with their own flower frogs so it's really easy to get flowers - and even grape stems - to flow out of the vase.

Yum. Yum. I love orange and green color schemes!

Another view of the picnic basket centerpiece. Picnic baskets are pretty inexpensive and make a wonderful focal piece for your table. Plus, they come in really handy when you actually dine outdoors. :-)
I also added a pitcher filled with yellow poppies to this tablescape bringing more nature indoors.

The above and below are my favorite parts of this piece. My local Meijer grocery store bakes miniature pies that are just big enough for a couple to share. (They used to make individual pies as well.) I placed a pie on top of a bandanna (could double as a napkin) which is a atop a plate basket (the type you insert paper plates into) which is atop a blue speckled enamelware metal frying pan/skillet (the type that is traditionally sold in the camping sections of stores). For a simpler look, you could also place the pies atop an enamelware dinner plate. Enamelware dinning sets including plates, bowls, and mugs are available for purchase at many outdoor stores. For place cards, I purchased mini chalkboards at Jo Ann Fabrics.

I also purchased a larger chalkboard at Jo Anns. The below could be placed on your table to welcome guests or it could also be used as a menu board.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this Picnic Tablescape. Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll actually be able to dine outdoors instead of faking a picnic indoors. And maybe, just maybe, my May tablescape will be able to feature my spring tulips. Right now I'm thinking of creating a Mother's Day Tablescape for May, but you'll have to check-back to see. :-)
Tablescape Ingredients:
Bandanna - Navy Blue - Also available in sets of 100 here. Also sold at Hobby Lobby.
Bandanna - Red - Also available in set of 100 here. Also sold at Hobby Lobby.
Faux Food - Available at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Flower Factory
Mini Pies - Available at Meijer Supermarket
Mini Chalkboards - Available at Jo Ann Fabrics
Faux Grass Carpet - Available at Menards

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter at The McMahon's

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter filled with faith, food, family, and friends. I spent the majority of the holiday weekend with my family. On Saturday night I helped my Mom decorate her dining room table for Easter lunch and I also took some time to finish decorating the very yummy Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/ homemade cream cheese icing! On Sunday morning, we went to the 8am Easter service. Everything outside was so covered with frost that it reminded me more of a Christmas morning rather than an Easter morning! After church, we headed back to my parent's house for the yummy ham-filled lunch.

As promised, I took some photos of our Easter tablescape creation! The above photo is a view of the entire table. We "only" had 9 people attend this Easter as many of my siblings were either out of town or celebrating with their spouse's family. I believe that my Mom has fit up to 14 at the above table - maybe even more. We've never been able to find a table big enough to hold the entire family so my Mom actually has two dining room tables pushed together. Although I love whitewashed furniture, I actually love antiques as well. And, I absolutely love my Mom's dining room. It is filled with antiques, antique replicas and lovely antique inspired decor. My parent's house is an older brick home with original dark hardwoods - built-in plate racks, ceiling beams, bookshelves etc. (They just don't make homes like their house anymore!) When I 'grow' up (haha) - I'd like to live in an older home just like theirs!
To create some height in this long tablescape we placed crystal cake stands on either end of the table. They were topped with intricate white serving plates. In the center of each plate, crystal candlesticks were placed and purple candles inserted. To add dimension, faux baby's breath was tucked between the cake plate and serving plate. And of course, my bird's nest cupcakes were added just before lunch on Sunday.

If you'd read my earlier posts you know that I had difficulty perfecting the bird's nest cupcakes. I really dislike the taste of coconut so I just could not bare to make the nests out of coconut. My first creative idea was to make nests out of shredded frosted wheat and this first attempt ended up flat. My second attempt was literally flat as well. I tried rolling unbaked sugar cookie balls in the shredded wheat. After I placed them on a baking sheet I used my thumb to flatten the cookies and create an indention in the center of each cookie to attempt a nest affect. Well, after they baked, they turned out flat as well. So, on Saturday night I found myself debating what to do. I iced a cupcake as normal, took my spatula and created an indention in the center of the icing by parting the icing. I then inserted three egg shaped chocolates in the center. To try to attempt the bird's nest look with icing alone, I took the spatula to pieces of the icing and pulled them out to create height. It is really hard to tell in the photos, but this did create a nest look - although not overly dramatic - since the icing was still white. I almost tinted these 'plucked out' areas with brown food coloring, but I ran out of time. Next time I think I'll try the food coloring affect for sure.

The above is a photo of our Easter place settings. Instead of her formal china, my Mom alternated etched purple plates and light green plates as these looked more springy. In the center of each place setting, we placed a carrot cake cupcake. Die-cut birds were inserted into each cupcake with each guest's names - these served as a very cute and creative place cards.

The above is a snapshot of all of the little birdies before I cut them out. (Cutting them by hand was a chore -really made me wish I had one of those fancy cutting/crafty machines!) To create the above pattern, I simply pulled a bird clip-art off of Microsoft clip art, tinted them different colors and added each guest's name. After the above sheet was printed, I also reversed the clip-art so that I could cut out matching backs for each bird. (As you can see from the below photo, I inserted these birds into the cupcakes with toothpicks. The two sides and toothpick were glued together with rubber cement.)
Very cute - don't ya think?
My Mom had purchased 4 of these little ceramic birds on clearance at Hobby Lobby (only 99 cents each) earlier in the season. We scattered them down the center of the table. To integrate them into the piece, I took some more of the faux baby's breath and tucked it under the birds.
My Mom is such the bargain shopper. She even found the above vase on sale at Hobby Lobby for only $7! What a steal. I can never find bargains like that! Although maybe I just don't have her patience. I do envy this vase. Since my parents were hosting, I purchased the above flowers for their table. I was very disappointed as I had intended to buy lovely spring tulips, but I couldn't find any tulips at florists near me. Very saddening. The above did do, although the Gerber daisies weren't looking too hot on Easter morning. I love the look of Gerber's, but they tend to be a very persnickety plant!
The lillies in the arrangement were beautiful and even better they made the dining room smell so pretty!

Hope you enjoyed a peek at how "The McMahon's Celebrated Easter"! I certainly loved sharing! I can't believe that it is almost April. You know what that means? Another tablescape! I'm still debating and planning it in my head, but check back later on this upcoming weekend for photos!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Yum Yum for your Tum Tum - Easter Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/

Although I'm not a huge cake fan (In most instances I could do away with the cake and just eat the icing), I do love carrot cake. So it will be no surprise to most that when I debated what dessert I should bring to my parent's house for the upcoming Easter holiday, the first and last thing that came to my mind was carrot cake. I debated making a bunt cake carrot cake, but I've never had luck spreading icing on bunt cakes so I decided to make carrot cake cupcakes instead - from scratch. Roger was very impressed when he walked in last night and he noticed that for once I was not making a cake from a box and that even the cream cheese icing was from scratch. Now, I am the sloppiest baker ever so my kitchen is still recovering from my baking fiasco last night, but boy was all of the mess worth it. (On a side note, I'm still coming down from my sugar high too - I could not resist a taste- or two or three - of the cream cheese icing!) Above is a photo of two of the cupcakes. In all, I believe I made over 60. Yes, a bit of an overkill. I doubled the recipe as I decided to also make cupcakes for Roger's family. I guess I just didn't realize how far one recipe would go. :)

For Roger's family I decided to make some plain iced cupcakes with a bit of crushed pecans on top for decoration. I also tried to make some of their cupcakes extra Easter-ish by adding crushed maple sugar flavored frosted wheat to the top and adding egg shaped chocolates to the center. I was going for an edible bird's nest affect. Although the nests turned out pretty flat and it was getting late so I didn't have the patience to try a second attempt last night. Oh well, at least they are edible. I'm going to try to attempt this once again for my parent's desserts - only hopefully my second attempt will be much more successful! (I swear that I should make a show about how awful some of my creations begin! In the end most turn out great, but getting there is sometimes a hilarious battle for me. Many call me Martha - if only they knew what goes on behind the scenes!) Anyway, if my second attempt at birds nests goes better I'll highlight them next week. If they turn out just embarrassing as the first, I won't! Although it might be a good laugh - not sure I could take the humiliation. :-)

For those who are interested in making your own homemade carrot cake for the upcoming Easter holiday, see the recipe below. I pulled this recipe off of The rating is 5 out of 5 stars. With over 850 positive ratings, you know it has to be super yummy!

Carrot Cake III

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in chopped pecans. Frost the cooled cake.

FYI: For cupcakes, I filled the liners 3/4 full and baked in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Each batch makes around 30 cupcakes.

Hope you enjoy - the above is yummy to your tummy!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Easter Tablescapes 2008

To view details of our 2009 Easter Tablescape, pictured above, click here.
See below for our 2008 tablescape.

Easter Tablescape Ideas - Spring 2008

The above Easter Tablescape features pretty pink, yellow, and green pastels with small highlights of baby blue.

Gingham always reminds me of the start of spring and summer.
Yellow, pink, and green gingham cloths were layered atop a plain white tablecloth. Yellow and pink gingham napkins were also used.

Cottage chic pastry stands were topped with birds nests filled with sugared bird eggs in matching shades of pink, blue, and green. The birds nests were also placed a top a layer of Spanish moss while faux spring flowers were tucked into the moss to add more touches of color.

I love how these sugared birds' eggs glisten in the light or sun.

So pretty - and the best part, these eggs can be stored away and used from year to year.

A feather wreath was placed upon a shabby chic candelabra.
To add more color to the basic white pillar candle, flowers and a little green bird were tucked into the feather wreath surrounding the candle.

These adorable moss covered bunny rabbits were also added to the base of this spring centerpiece. If you'd like to extend this centerpiece beyond the Easter holiday merely remove the bunny rabbits after Easter Sunday.

Spanish moss is placed around the bunny rabbits.

In addition to the Spanish moss, bright green moss layers and spring flowers are also integrated to add more volume to the base of the tablescape.

White lace votives also add a touch of glow to this spring centerpiece.

The Easter place settings consist of white shabby chic charger plates, gingham napkins, and vine nest favors. Cute green and white polka dot place cards are also being used.

The vine nest favors were first filled with 2-3 small white feathers.
Chocolate bird eggs were then added to complete this perfectly tasty take-home favor.

Other Variations on this Easter Centerpiece:

In the above Eater centerpiece, the shabby chic candelabra was replaced with a spring decorated tree.

The tree was topped with a pretty pink birdie.
Feathers, spring flowers, and sugared Easter eggs were then tucked into the branches of the tree.

In the above spring tablescape, another type of tree was used.

This tree was dressed with faux flowers, glittery eggs, and five inch bird's nests filled with additional glittery eggs.

For another variation of the spring tablescape, we topped a feather wreath with a decorative bird's nest. This bird's nest was then filled with chocolate birds eggs. Another yummy treat for guests' to take-away.

If you'd like to guide where you're guests will be seated, spring place cards can easily be integrated into any of these place settings.

In the above place setting, pretty shabby chic luncheon plates and our shabby chic charger plates are also highlighted.

Easter Tablescape Ingredients:
Pink Shabby Chic Luncheon Plates: Available from Crossroads Cottage
Shabby Chic Pastry Stands: Available from Crossroads Cottage

or white lace inspired Cake Stands
Easter Trees:

Easter Egg Twig Tree
Other Recommended Easter Tablecloths/Linens:

Eggs Napkins & Napkin Rings
Chocolate Birds Eggs: Available from Cadbury or Hersheys

Sugared Birds Eggs: I purchased at TJ Maxx HomeGoods
Faux Spring Flowers: I purchased at Michael's, flowers were easily pulled off larger/longer branches
Feather Wreaths: I purchased at Flower Factory - also available at Craft Stores. Also available online.
Feathers: Available in craft stores such as Michael's or Hobby Lobby
Spanish Moss: I purchased at Michael's. Also available online.
Green Moss: I purchased at Michaels
Pink and Green Craft Birdies: Available at Michaels
White Pillar Candle: Available at Hobby Lobby
White Shabby Chic Candlebra: I purchased at Hobby Lobby, Summer 2007

For other recommended Easter products, please visit here.

Napkin Fold Pictured in Placesettings:

Start out with a square napkin. Fold each corner to the exact center until you have a smaller square. Fold each corner into the center once again until the square is smaller still. Place napkin atop plate and add vine nest favor.

Looking for other spring tablescape ideas?
I recently purchased the book, Table Inspirations: Stylish Ideas for Elegant Entertaining by Emily Chalmers. This book also has some beutifully unique Easter Centerpiece ideas. This book is available at Barnes & Nobles.