Three Wonderful Years, Three Wonderful Parties

I can’t believe my baby girl just turned three! Although I spent the week prior to her party freaking out a little about how many people were coming (around 33!), I am really grateful for the community we’ve built. It was wonderful to see our friends so generously celebrate our daughter, and to watch her develop relationships with friends of her own. Today, I reflect on three years of Fiona and three (not-quite Pinterest worthy) parties.

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Fabric Envelopes

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Since my blogging career has been on hiatus, I needed an easy low-cost (in terms of time) craft to get me back on track. Fabric envelopes featured in the February’s Martha Stewart Living were perfect! The only thing I had to purchase was Valentine’s Day appropriate fabric as I had the other supplies (decoupage finish, paintbrush, waxed paper, paper envelope, and skirt hanger) on hand. Continue reading

New England Summer = Lobster Roll

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Its become a tradition in our house to kick off Summer with a Memorial Day trip to Yankee Lobster for what Yelp reviewers consider the best fresh lobster rolls in Boston. However, what was once a rare treat for me has become a more frequent (read: expensive) craving; I think I am on my third lobster roll of the season, having enjoyed #2 at Sullivan’s on Castle Island and #3 in the Ikea Cafeteria (obviously lowering my standards). I figured it was time to learn how to make them myself… Continue reading

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

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Last week’s heat wave and my unwillingness to wait in line at our current favorite ice cream shop (Christina’s) on a nightly basis inspired this post. You may have noticed that  the strawberries pictured above look extra crisp and detailed. Well, after much deliberation, we took the plunge and bought a digital SLR camera. This post details instructions for making fresh strawberry ice cream at home and also my adventures in not getting food all over the camera. Continue reading

Kentucky Derby Party

The first Saturday in May did not mean much to me prior to my time in Kentucky. Now, I can’t imagine letting the day pass without observing the traditions I picked up in the Bluegrass. We have loved sharing the pomp and circumstance with our new friends in North Carolina and now Boston. We look forward to a yearly tradition.

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The first, and arguably most important, consideration when planning a derby party is the mint julep. I have used this recipe for the “Perfect Mint Julep.” This is a recipe that must be started the night before the party to allow the flavors to marry. In general, I use Maker’s Mark for the Julep’s as its a bit less expensive, but still good quality. The day of the party, all you have to do is pour the pre-made juleps over ice and add a sprig of mint and a straw!

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We also like to have an assortment of bourbons for guests to try. These were arranged on our dining table beside our mint julep garnishes. I was excited to find a use for my grandmother’s crystal sugar bowl and creamer (nuts and mint, pictured below), since we don’t drink coffee.

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The drinks were kept on our dining table (behind the couch, pictured below) and the food was arranged on our coffee table. The Derby is also called “The Run for the Roses,” so red roses in julep cups were used to decorate the table.

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Our food spread was also traditionally Southern. The menu consisted of NPR-sactioned pimento cheese on sandwiches and cucumber slices and Kentucky hot-brown bites. Hot Browns are a traditional Kentucky sandwich (open face turkey with bacon, tomatoes, and mornay sauce) that originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Fun fact: the fictional Daisy and Tom Buchanan (of the Great Gatsby) were married at the Brown Hotel.  The linked recipe used crescent rolls baked in my mini-muffin tin and was (in my opinion) SOOO delicious! For dessert, we my mother-in law’s bourbon balls. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients: 1 cup chopped walnuts, 5 tablespoons Bourbon, 1/2 cup of soft butter, 16oz confectioner’s sugar, and 18oz semi-sweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli)

Steps: Mix butter, sugar, nuts, and bourbon. Roll into small balls and refrigerate overnight on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. The next day, melt chocolate in a double-boiler and dip the balls. Allow the balls to sit in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

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The party itself was really fun! We were nervous about inviting too many people into our small apartment, but overall it went smoothly. I recommend betting as a means to get people that don’t particularly care about horse racing to get into the action. Betting can be confusing, so we minimize this by having guests pick their horses our of a hat ($1 per horse). The person with the winning horse takes the pot!

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Modern Synthesizer Cover

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Our apartment’s bedroom also doubles as my husband’s recording studio. He recently purchased a new synthesizer and within minutes of setting it up, Cher (our cat) decided it was a desirable place to nap. We wanted to protect our investment, but because the “studio” takes up about 50% of our shared living space, we wanted to be mindful of design. I decided to make a custom cover for the synthesizer using leftover fabric from our dining chair reupholstering project. Instructions after the jump…

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Cross Stitch Valentine!

This year I decided to send my valentine wishes in my most beloved craft medium: cross stitch. Love is in the air. In my February issue of Martha Stewart Living, I noticed a nod to a back issue which provided instruction for cross stitching one’s family. I tracked down the patterns and voila! Cross stitch is a really easy craft (if you can count you can cross stitch), so I recommend giving it a try.

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DIY Wedding DJ

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One way to save some wedding dollars is to be a DIY DJ. Jason and I originally elected to go the ipod route to stretch our small-ish (by today’s standards) budget further. We ended up, however, really enjoying the process of adding and deleting songs from our playlist to create the vibe we wanted. I don’t think we could have communicated what we were looking for to a DJ because it was more of a “I’ll know it when I hear it” kind of endeavor. Above all else, we wanted EVERYONE to hear something that would bring them to dance floor.

Of course, crafting a playlist that  would have people itching to dance by cake time  was not without its challenges. Phrases uttered in our apartment in the month leading up to the wedding included: “No one wants to dance to that obscure stuff ” and “I will be embarrassed if people think had anything to do with picking that song.” But, by the big day we were 100% committed  to each and every lovingly (and painstakingly) selected song.

Before we get to the songs themselves, I want to give some tips on DIY DJing, in general.  First, it doesn’t matter how great your playlist is if no one can hear it. Invest in some speakers.  We purchased  this PA system from Guitar Center; it came with speakers (and stands) with enough power for the size our reception space, a microphone, and all the necessary connecting cables. The cost to buy this was less than the cost to rent them.

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Next, if you’re the one getting married, you don’t want to be manning the DJ booth. Delegate! We appointed one of my bridesmaids to emcee (an experienced party planner) the festivities and a good friend to adjust the music when necessary. We wanted to make these tasks as simple as possible and made 3 separate playlists to coincide with distinct portions of our wedding (welcome cocktails, dinner, and dance party), minimizing the amount of interaction our “DJ” would have with the ipod.

Finally, we crowd sourced song selection (to a degree) by including a “requests for the DJ” line on our RSVP cards (pictured below).

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Our Handmade Wedding Stationery

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Jason and I handmade our wedding invitations. Jason designed the graphics, we wrote the text together, and I hand-stamped and embossed each one. The rest of the stationery was a combination of hand-stamped and printed out from our computer – all was designed by us.  It was definitely a lot of work, but I would, without a doubt, do it again. We would not have been able to get  a custom design and letter press feel at a price we could afford.

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The inspiration for the stationery was my hometown, Newtown, CT. The famous flagpole in the middle of our Main ST. and the Newtown Meeting House (where we were married) graced our invitation and a close up on the meeting house’s weathervane was immortalized on our save-the-date.

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The first step was designing the templates. If you’re planning to design your own invitations, give yourselves extra time to allow for creative differences.  We then sent black and white PDFs to an artist we found on Etsy: Blossom Stamps, who turned them into rubber stamps!

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Rooster Stamp

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The next step was to make the stationery. We exclusively relied on The Paper Source for, you guessed it, our paper. We went with luxe white for our color. A7 is the standard paper size for an invitation (5 x 7″), 4bar for the response card enclosure, and A2 for the save-the dates. They also sell envelopes that perfectly fit each of these cards. Here is a money saving and sanity saving tip: buy a bulk pack (50 sheets) of 8.5 x 11″ paper. Many printers freak out when trying to print on smaller sheets, so you can print 4 copies of the save-the-date (4 A2 cards fit perfectly) and response cards (you’ll have to trim the edges) on each sheet. We got a cheap paper cutter and it was up to the task.

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Our save-the-date was half printed and half stamped. As I mentioned, the save-the-dates were first printed on 8.5 x 11″ cover stock and cut into 4 cards. Next, each card was stamped and embossed one at a time. We chose Colorbox Midnight for our ink and clear superfine detail embossing powder. When you’re using a colored ink, clear embossing powder is used (this is the opposite of my holiday gift tag post in which clear ink and colored powder were used).

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The invitation itself was entirely stamped. Because the area of stamp was so large, I laid it rubber-side up on the table and pressed the stamp pad onto it to apply the ink. Once the A7 paper was stamped, I dumped a generous amount of embossing powder onto the wet ink and then poured the excess back into the container. I next used my heat tool to melt the individual bits of embossing powder together, created a raised texture.

If you click on the picture below, you can see the texture.

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If you’re not up for making your own invitations and accompanying enclosures, I would definitely recommend lining your own envelopes. Its really easy, fairly inexpensive, and adds so much to the experience when a guest opens their invitation. We used wrapping paper from the paper source.

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To make envelope liners, you basically just trace the outline of an open envelope onto a piece of card stock and then trim 1/8th of an inch from each edge. Viola! You now have a template that can be traced onto a sheet of wrapping paper and cut out. Using a glue stick, add a thin layer of glue to the entirety of the inside of the envelope flap; there is no need to glue inside the envelope as gravity will do the trick. Finally, stick the liner into the envelope and press the top of it into the glue. So incredibly easy and I think it makes the invitation seem so much more fancy.

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Here’s the order of operations if you’re lining your envelopes: 1) use computer printer to print address, 2) return address stamp the flap (self-inking stamper pictured above), 3) line the envelope.

The price to mail our invitation (A7 card, lined A7 envelope, 4bar response card, and 4bar envelope) was 45 cents (the price of one stamp). I was disappointed with the stamp selection at my local post office (breast cancer or flags), so I took to USPS.com and found weathervane stamps!! Yes, weathervanes! If you’ve made it this far into this blog post and you actually noticed the coordinating stamps on our invitations, I want to hear about in the comments or on facebook. Validate me :).

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Finally, there was plenty of paper left over for other wedding-related paper products:

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Ceremony programs were printed double-sided on 8.5 x 11 paper – 2 copies per page.

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Menu cards were printed on A7 paper

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Escort cards were printed on pre-perforated paper. They also came with a downloaded template. You can see that we re-used some of envelope liner wrapping paper underneath the escort cards to tie things together.

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