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Archive for June, 2010

Whether you are into savvy entertaining, like to hold parties or are a designated host for the upcoming 4th of July weekend, you are most likely trying to think of a few fun recipes to serve.

My shout-out this week goes to a website that provides oodles of tested recipes that are simple and good – tasteofhome.com

If you are looking specifically for some great 4th of July recipes, go to Taste of Home and see all the delicious looking treats available.

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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With the 4th of July coming up this weekend, many people will be gathering for barbecues, picnics and celebrations.

If you are the lucky one hosting an event, here are some ideas for pulling together a fun Patriotic Party theme.

Use what you have – and add fun accents. Gather all your white, red and blue dishes then mix and match.  Use a tablecloth in red, white or blue (or sheets work, too) create a fun centerpiece using dishes placed at different heights and presto! You’ve got a great looking table. If you don’t have pedestals or cake plates to use, create height by turning bowls upside down and putting plates on top. In the photo above, the only thing I purchased were the napkins (yes, I have a flag scarf and it comes in really handy as a table runner!).

Inexpensive finds – Purchase patriotic pinwheels from the discount or dollar store and place in vases or jars around the gathering. These are fun and whimsical and provide a laid-back accent to your gathering. Hang red and blue crepe paper streamers along with red white and blue balloons around your gathering.

Involve the kids – by having them create the decorations. They can cut stars out of red, white and blue construction paper. Punch a hole in the top and hang with red, white or blue ribbons above a table, along a fence, at the front door – anywhere guests will gather.

Tie one on – your seat cushion or pillows. Liven things up with red and blue bandanas and red and blue fabric you may have on hand. If you are using fabric, cut it in squares to fit a pillow or cushion, trim edges with pinking shears, place a piece on both the top and bottom of the cushion then tie corners with a white ribbon. Do this for your throw cushions, accent pillows or seat cushions. It will bring a fabulous pop of color to your decor.

Think outside the box – or vase, in this case. I found this clever idea in my latest issue of  Good Housekeeping. Their directions to creating this great conversation piece are: “Show off your red and white (dishtowel) and blue (hydrangeas). Fold a towel in half over a gallon-size zip-seal bag and cut the towel 1/8 inch larger than the bag. Staple the towel together along the sides; hang with clothespins; add water and flowers.” I love the way this looks and will be creating my own version of it!

Hang your Flag – outside as a greeting to your guests and a reminder that you are celebrating the 4th of July to everyone who drives by. Use mini flags throughout your decorating scheme as well.  A nice take-away for guests is a small flag with a bag of patriotic sweets like peanut M&Ms.

Have fun and Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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Word of the Week: Spacious

spa·cious

{spey-shuhs}

–adjective

1. containing much space, as a house, room, or vehicle; amply large.
2. occupying much space; vast.
3. of a great extent or area; broad; large; great: the spacious prairies.
4. broad in scope, range, inclusiveness, etc.: a spacious approach to a problem.
When I hear the word spacious, the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” always pop into my mind. I can remember singing this song when I was in the first grade for a school program. When you are six and waiting for the arrival of permanent teeth, some of the words can be a challenge. But I love the words and the meaning of them and the feeling of pride in our country this song always evokes.
The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates and the music composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. Here is the first verse, my favorite:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Stay tuned for a week full of ideas, tips and recipes to help you celebrate the 4th of July in simple Patriotic style.

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Born to be Wild

The summer I was 11, my Dad bought me a Honda 90 bike. It was basically like a motorized bicycle. Hitting small rocks would cause it to wreck if you happened to be motating above 2.3 miles per hour.

The theory behind the purchase was that if I was on motorized wheels, I could zip around and help with errands on the farm. I was 11, after all. It was time I took on my fair share of the work.

As it turned out the motorized bicycle wasn’t good for much except being a punching block for my sister-in-law’s stupid goat. Every time I rode it past their house, the goat would shoot of nowhere, hit the bike and knock both it and me into the dust. Everyone seemed to think it was funny until the day my niece, who was 7 at the time, was riding with me and the goat knocked us down and sent her flying into the dirt. After that, the stupid goat was nowhere to be seen when I rode by.

The bike also provided some interesting entertainment when my Mom attempted to ride it. I won’t go into all the details, but I can still see her bun flying out behind her in the breeze, at least as much of a breeze that can be stirred at the high speed of 2.3 miles per hour.

As it was, Dad decided he wasn’t going to get enough work out of me with my motorized toy, so the very next summer, he traded it in on a Honda 110. Now we were talking business!

It was bright red, shiny with chrome and everything my 12-year-old heart could want. Freedom was painted all over it – and it was all mine! I loved that bike. It would go up to highway speeds, even in gravel (not that I ever attempted to do that). I rode it all over our farm and back again on a daily basis.

My Mom thought it would be fun to ride like the 90, but it had a clutch and actual gears that had to be shifted. Her one and only attempt at riding it ended with her crashing in a heap in the middle of our road just as the neighbors were driving by. I really felt bad for her. Even though I was laughing so hard at the time, I was no help at all in providing assistance. Now, you are probably thinking I was a deranged kid (and you are most likely partially correct) but had you seen the entire spectacle leading up to the crash, you’d have been laughing too, especially when I kept yelling “Grab the brake!” and “Put your feet down!”

Anyway, that bike and I were best friends every summer from the time I was 12 until I graduated from college, when in a moment of complete insanity I agreed to sell it. What was I thinking? There are times when I’d love to have that bike back again, even for an afternoon of joy riding.

As it was, I not only rode the bike to do chores, run errands, work at whatever project Dad directed, but I also rode it to my friend’s house, to our neighborhood store and it was my ticket to escape the confines of the house where Mom was determined to domesticate me. I could jump on my bike and ride off into fields, along the ditch banks or into the sagebrush, where the only sound I could hear was the song “Born to be Wild” playing in my head.

Gosh, I really miss that bike.

The bikeless joyrider

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This Wednesday Shout-Out goes to The Tasty Kitchen website.

Founded by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, this site offers a wide variety of fun and tasty dishes, complete with great photos and detailed instructions.

You can check it out here.

If you search for Chocolate Bombe and Raspberry Cream Cake, you may even find a couple of my recipes.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

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Here we are knee-deep in wedding season. Isn’t it awesome! As I may have mentioned before, I love weddings.

Going to weddings involves taking gifts and that involves, at least for me, wrapping them up pretty! Yes, I like to wrap gifts and yes, there are certain standards that must be met!

For weddings, two of my favorite gift wrapping tools are satin tape and organza ribbon. They both are staples to wedding gift wrapping success.

As you can see, a bow tied with organza ribbon turns a ho-hum package into something quite lovely. Add a special little touch in the center of the bow like ribbon rosette or a wedding bell. It will finish the package like nobody’s business. Anyone can use organza ribbon to make a gift look spectacular. If you can tie your shoes, you can tie a bow with organza. It is that simple. Honest and true!

Another little thing I like to do to dress up packages is make star bows. These are not the ugly little star bows that you can get a bag of 120  for 99 cents. (Which, by the way, should be outlawed and banned from stores.)

These are hand-made star bows that make quite a statement on their own. If you can cut a snowflake, you can make this bow.

Start with your unadorned package.

Cut a piece of matching wrapping paper almost as big as the top of the package. Trim it into a square.

Fold it in half.

Then fold in half again, so you have a small square.

Fold the square into a triangle by bringing outside edges together.

Trim the top of the triangle into an oval shape, then cut down the both sides, almost to the tip. It is extremely important you DO NOT cut through the tip.

Start unfolding your bow, one layer at a time.

Keep unfolding, you are almost there.

Once you have it completely unfolded, you will lap each little triangle piece over the top of each other and secure with a bit of tape. This makes the petals.

The first layer is done. You'll repeat this process two more times, decreasing the size of each bow by an inch or so. When you have three graduated layers, you are ready to attach to the package.

Tape each layer in the center of the package. I stagger where the petals rest instead of lining them up because it rests better that way and looks fuller. Use a fun bow for the center. I found some great sparkly ones at the dollar store that fit perfectly in the center. I attach these with hot glue because the stickies on the back never hold like they should.

Happy Wrapping!

Shanna

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Word of the Week:  Spectacular

spec·tac·u·lar

[spek-tak-yuh-ler]

1.  marked by or given to an impressive, large-scale display.

2. dramatically daring or thrilling

A few weeks ago, I found myself driving the hour-and-a-half home from a party into a rainstorm. The clouds were rolling and the sky continued to darken. I wasn’t paying that much attention to the weather, munching away on my ziploc bag of Goldfish crackers (which are on my top 10 list of snacks I love and know I should not eat).

As I topped the summit of the mountains on the freeway, lightning completely illuminated the sky in a spectacular spectacle,  followed by ominous booms of thunder. Needless to stay, that startled me out of my party-induced trance and was thrilling enough to cause me to send said Goldfish crackers flying all over my car. Literally. I mean everywhere. After two cleanings and much maneuvering of the vacuum nozzle, there are still little fish surfacing from under the seats. I hope they aren’t multiplying under there.

Just a warning – beware of spectacular spectacles while driving in the rain on the freeway!

Still recovering…

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