Archives for January 2009

Free makeup samples

Check out Blissfully Domestic to learn how you can get 5 Everyday Minerals makeup samples for the cost of shipping (about $3). I ordered mine at the start of the week and got them in the mail today. The samples aren’t huge, but each container holds enough for a week or two’s trial. I love that I was able to select 3 different foundations so that I had a good chance of finding at least one color that was right.

Wedding Decor: Pillar Candlesticks

We were given a bunch of lovely pillar candles which we are planning to use for wedding decorations. I wanted a display where the candles had some height. Only problem was, I didn’t have tall candlesticks big enough to accommodate wide candles.

One of my blog readers gave me just the inspiration to solve my problem. She mentioned making a lovely raised cake plate by using gorilla glue to attach a candlestick to a china plate. She even sent me pictures of her beautiful idea.

I realized that would be a perfect solution to my candlestick dilemma. I scoured several thrift stores in our area, and found a bunch of glass and crystal candlesticks. Then I found a variety of small crystal and glass plates and bowls. These I glued to the candlesticks, giving me elevated candlesticks suitable for pillared candles. Most of the candlesticks and plates cost me between 75 cents and $2, which makes these lovely candlesticks very affordable.

pillar candlesticks in progress

pillar candlesticks in progress

Happy Dance! (and a recipe involving chocolate)

I am doing a happy dance over here. I just emailed the very LAST chapter of my cookbook to my editor. I have just a little editing still to do, but the vast majority of this book is now done! To celebrate, I’m sharing the following recipe, and then I’m going to eat some ice cream.

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Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes: about 3 cups
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

This hot fudge sauce is a real treat. When poured hot over ice cream, it makes a nice shell, and is incredibly chocolaty and delicious.

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add sugar, corn syrup, cocoa powder, salt, and water and heat slowly, stirring frequently, until sugar crystals have dissolved and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add vanilla. You can serve it immediately over ice cream—yum!—or refrigerate it until you need it.

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Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows

Makes: 40-50

Did you know that you can make your own marshmallows in less than an hour? They’re a fun project to do with kids. The finished product is yummier than store bought. You can even make them in different colors if you want.

3 packets (about 3 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 -1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in a medium sized heat-proof bowl. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Turn stove to high and heat until mixture comes to a very brisk boil, stirring occasionally. Let boil for about 2 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, the temperature should reach about 240 degrees.

Take pan off heat and very carefully pour contents into the bowl containing gelatin. Add vanilla extract. Set timer for 10 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat mixture on high speed for at least 10 minutes. When the mixture becomes very thick and white and has at least doubled in size, it is done.

Using a rubber spatula, scoop mixture into a 9×12 casserole dish that has been generously dusted with powdered sugar. Let marshmallows sit at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Don’t panic if they look incredibly sticky at first. They will thicken up as they cool. Cut into squares. They’ll still feel quite sticky as you cut them, but cut them as cleanly as possible with a wet knife. Then dust cut edges with additional powdered sugar, and they will feel like ‘real’ marshmallows.
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Note: For marshmallows with different colors and flavors, add a small amount of unsweetened kool-aid powder to the mixture on the stove as you are heating it.

Wedding Question: if you could do it over

I’ve been loving the comments from people telling what they enjoyed most about their wedding planning.  I wonder if you’d also tell me what you wish you’d done differently?

One thing that I wish I’d thought to do was say goodbye to my bridesmaids, specifically my friend who flew across the country to be in my wedding.  I ended up calling her from a pay phone an hour or two later, to tell her thanks for coming.  But I wish I’d thought to hug her goodbye in person, even in the hurry-scurry of leaving.

I also wish I’d asked my two youngest sisters to be flower girls.  They were perfect ages, and I’m not sure why I didn’t ask them to participate.  All in all, it was a wonderful wedding, but those are two small things I’d do differently if I could.  And both are people-related items….hmmmm……

How about you?  Have anything you’d have done differently?

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Sunday

Wedding Shopping: Sweet success

Yesterday Amanda and I went shopping for matching ties for the groomsmen.  We entered the mall at Dillards, where I was aghast to see that not one tie cost less than $50.  And we needed 4.  $200.  Eek.  Amanda suggested J C Penney’s, so we headed there next.

The first ties we saw there were $30.  Well, $120 was a huge improvement over $200.  We meandered around comparing colors.  We came upon a table of ties that were buy one, get one half off.  That was more like it.  $90 for 4 ties.

Just when we decided that was probably the best we could do, we spotted one more table, way in the back full of $13.99 ties PLUS– PLUS!!– they were buy one, get one free.  Amazing. We walked out of J C Penney’s having spent a cool $28 for all four ties.

Sweet success.

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Looking back at your own wedding, what were some of your best successes?  Which of your plans worked best?  What saved you money?  What surprised or delighted you or your guests?  What part of the day were you most able to customize to be your own?

I’d love to hear more of your ideas!

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African Heart

My sister Sophie is preparing to go on a two year medical mission trip to Ethiopia, beginning this summer.  I’ll talk more about that later.   But I wanted to mention that she has just started a blog called African Heart, for those of you interested in hearing more from her before she leaves.

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Wedding Decisions: Thinking creatively

Wedding planning is progressing at full speed.  I’d love to share details, but am also working hard on keeping my daughter’s day hers, which means– sorry — keeping most of the planning under wraps until the big reveal.  It’s hard because I’m involved and I’m excited and I think they are coming up with some fun ideas that will be interesting to others.  You’ll have to wait a while for major details, and of course for pictures.  But from time to time in the next weeks, I’ll share just a tidbit here and there of the parts in which I am involved.

I’ve read that weddings can cost in the range of $20,000.  That number blows my mind.   Having priced wedding items lately, I can totally understand how easily one could spend that much by making standard choices.  But coming from the perspective of having spent less than $1000 on my own wedding, those numbers just stagger me.  Granted, that was 22 years ago, and even then, our wedding was incredible low-cost.  But thanks to some creative thinking, our wedding was every bit as nice as any we’d attended.  It was beautiful and meaningful, and a great party.

A big key in keeping a wedding affordable is to scrutinize every money outlay, and to consider whether there might be a less expensive option.  It’s not about being chintzy.  It’s about being smart.   There are lots of ‘standard’ ways to do things.   But — big hint — standard is usually expensive.

Here’s an example.  I’ve been thinking of ways to make the cake table interesting at the reception.  I’ve seen various pretty tiered trays that display food with height and interest.  The first way to get that look would be to just shell out the bucks for something lovely.   Here’s a gorgeous three tiered china tray that would be a beautiful way to serve candy or nuts for $79. Here’s a two-tiered version that is also nice that would only set you back $60.

Now, keep in mind that you don’t have to have a tiered tray.   We could choose to serve nuts out of a church-owned dish that looks just fine.  Cost = $0.   If we were really trying to pinch every penny, that would be what we’d do. And it would be fine.

But as I was envisioning the cake table, I didn’t want to give up on my idea.  I wondered what I could find that was interesting that would only cost a few dollars.  Yesterday I had a free half hour between dropping off kids at various play practices. Out of curiosity I swung by the thrift store.  This was actually the second thrift store I’d visited with this mission in mind.  I wasn’t even sure if I could find something suitable, but I decided it was worth a shot and I wandered the aisles with a deliberately open mind.

Half way through the store I found a black, wrought-iron 3-tiered rack.  It was just framework– it didn’t have any serving plates.  But it had a nice shape.  And for $3.50, it look promising.  I grabbed it and wandered a bit more.

Tiered rack

Tiered rack

In a section of mismatched china, I found a set of 4 white china luncheon bowls.  They were in perfect condition.  They settled into the spaces of my tiered rack as if they had been made for it. They even had a little silver edge for an elegant touch.   Cost of the bowls= $4, which made my lovely tiered rack cost a total of $7.50.

closeup of china

closeup of china

Those types of choices aren’t available for every wedding-related item.   But the more willing we are to think outside the box, the more personal the wedding will become, and the more money the bride and groom — and their families — will have for other things.

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When you’re 10

This morning I was driving to an appointment with my 10 year old son. I was off in a world of my own, awash in dozens of details of wedding planning and book writing and the logistics of getting 4 different kids to two different drama rehearsals all week long. After 10 minutes of quiet driving/strategizing, I realized I was being anti-social.  I pulled myself out of my own world and asked my son what he was thinking about.

“I was just looking at cars,” he said.
I figured that certainly there must be going on in his head than that, so I encouraged him to elaborate. “But what are you thinking about?”
He paused for a minute, then looked at me and shrugged. “Cars.”

Life is just simpler when you’re 10.