Today I want to share with you how I conquered my fear of flower arranging. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a terrible habit of completely nixing fresh flowers from my table because I never knew how to make them look nice. And so for Friendsgiving, I was bound and determined to put together some type of arrangement. My tablecloth from Hen House Linens was a deep aubergine color and so I thought the table could use some bright, yet sophisticated, color. I had recently picked up the soup tureen from The Old Lucketts Store and thought it would make a perfect vessel for a low arrangement at the table.
Since I didn’t have easy access to a farmer’s market or a wholesale flower shop, I went with the next best thing and hit up Whole Foods two nights before the party. I purchased one pre-made fall bouquet that included the berries, sunflowers, hydrangea, and greenery and one bouquet of the orange daisies (or at least I think that’s what they are!) for filler. I separated them all out, threw away the lilies that came with the bouquet (I’m SO allergic), and stripped the leaves up about 3/4 of the way from the bottom of the stems.
Originally, I thought I would form the bouquet and then cut down the stems before inserting them into floral foam in the soup tureen. I tried it, but it didn’t work for me. The foam was floating and I just couldn’t handle working with all the flowers in one hand. Thankfully, I remembered I had seen this really great blog post by House of Earnest about how to create a flower arrangement from market flowers and used Erin’s advice to go to town. I made a grid on the top of my soup tureen using scotch tape and started forming the arrangement. I placed the hydrangea in the center and then worked my way around the grid, using blocks of color as my guide. The berries and greens were added at the end to add visual lines and interest.
All in all, I was pleased with how the arrangement turned out, but I was most excited to get the first one under my belt. It really was much easier than I thought and I’m looking forward to trying again soon to continue working on my technique.
Do you enjoy arranging flowers? Wish you enjoyed arranging flowers but have a mental block like I did? Let’s share tips and techniques in the comments section!
Alright, you guys, Thanksgiving is only a week away! Can I get a show of hands for people that will be making (or is it cooking/baking/something else?) a turkey for the first time?
Two months after I got married, I invited my husband’s family over for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. All the sisters-in-laws were heading to their family homes for the actual day and so I thought it would be fun to get the in-law fam together to celebrate before we each went our separate ways. The only small problem was, I had never made a turkey before.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of making a turkey is super daunting. I would have never succeeded that year if it hadn’t been for about 20 frantic calls to my Mom and Grandma (thank you…muah!) that day. And since then, I’ve made two more. So today I want to share some of my top turkey making tips for those of you who I will now affectionately call ‘turkey virgins’. And for those of you who have done this a million times, would you share your best tips in the comments sections? Let’s help our friends!
1. IF IT’S FROZEN, BUY IT EXTRA EARLY
I buy a frozen turkey every year. I’m sure I can be convinced of the merits of a free range, organic bird ordered a month in advanced and picked up at the local Whole Foods, but I’m just not that coordinated these days. But to my point, if it’s frozen, you need to buy it enough ahead of time so that it is completely thawed by the time you’re ready to either brine it (12 hours ahead) or to dress it the morning of your meal. I bought my Friendsgiving turkey on Tuesday night ($20 for a 13 lb bird!!), stuck it in the fridge and brined it on Friday evening. It spent 72 hours in my fridge and it was JUST thawed enough. A good rule of thumb is to allow 3-4 days for a 15 lb turkey and add days accordingly as you move up in pounds from there.
2. BEFORE YOU DRESS IT, MAKE SURE IT’S EMPTY
If you don’t know what turkey giblets or a turkey neck look like, please click here (warning: these look disgusting). These ALL need to be removed from your turkey before you dress it and put it in the oven. Most of the time, everything but the neck will be nicely wrapped up in a bag that you can easily remove. The best way to know if you’ve removed them all is to a. count all the parts and b. rinse the turkey through and stick your hand inside to make sure nothing is loose. It’s gross, but you’re going to be getting very close to that turkey in the next couple steps, so you may as well get used to it. Many people even use these parts to make turkey stock or gravy later, but I’ve never actually succeeded in doing so. That will be my next challenge.
3. PAT IT DRY, THEN LATHER IT UP
Whether you have brined your turkey or are taking it out of the package for the first time Thanksgiving morning, you will want to rinse it all the way through and on the outside and then take paper towels to it to pat it dry. The more dry the turkey, the better the next part will stick. My first move once the turkey is dry is to take salt and rub it alllllll over the turkey. My grandma taught me this. The salt, especially if you have not brined it, helps keep the moisture inside the bird. Once you have salted the entire thing, it’s time to lather it up. Whether you are using butter and spices or something like the bourbon glaze I used for Friendsgiving, you will want to make sure the entire thing is covered.
BONUS: If you really want to keep the turkey moist and add flavor, you can add whatever you have applied to the top of the turkey under the skin of the breast. I know it sounds crazy, but if you lay the turkey breast up and look at the carefully at the bottom of the breast where it meets the large cavity, you will see that the skin is partially separated. Take your concoction of butter, spices or whatever else, slip your hand between the meat and the skin, and rub it around. Seriously, do it, it makes a difference.
4. BASTE, TENT, BASTE, TENT
Turkeys were made to be loved. Do not put your turkey in the oven and only open the door 4 hours later when you think it is finished. Whatever you lathered the turkey in during step 3, you should continue to do so every 15-30 minutes throughout the cooking process. This keeps it moist while adding flavor, slowly but surely. While you do this, you will also start to notice (unless you have the world’s most amazing oven) that certain parts of the turkey will cook faster than others. In order to keep it from burning, have tin foil handy so you can ‘tent’ the turkey appropriately. I always start by wrapping the wings in foil and then as parts of the turkey start looking darker than others, I loosely put foil over the top. Basting and tenting are the most fun part to me and has served me well in my 3 turkey experiences.
5. LET IT REST
Whatever you do, don’t carve that turkey the minute it comes out of the oven. The best turkey is the turkey that sits for about 15-30 minutes after it comes out of the oven. The juices and flavor are able to set further and the moisture is sealed in. However, make sure to take all tinfoil off when doing so, otherwise the skin may absorb condensation and you’ll miss out on the perfectly crunchy skin you worked so hard to achieve.
Ok, good luck – I can’t wait to hear about your adventures. Make sure to take lots of pictures, especially a before and after shot of your gorgeous bird. You will do great!
Friendsgiving 2013 was a huge success and I wanted to share a couple images captured by my friend Gloria during dinner. I’m so grateful for her because it’s so hard to photograph an event and host at the same time – I struggle with the tension of simply enjoying guests while also hoping to capture memories for later. So thank you, friend!
And while I am thanking people, I couldn’t have made this meal without my friend Rebecca. She is a part of our small group and lives down the street. She sweetly spent her Saturday afternoon in the kitchen with me, smack dab in the midst of all my crazy. It reminded me that making a meal FOR people is great, but making a meal WITH people might be even better.
The evening turned out just as I had hoped and was filled with stories and laughter. At the end of the night, I realized that we had been sitting around the table for 3 hours. 3. Hours. I can’t remember the last time I did that with friends, but I’m so glad it happened. I can’t wait for next year!
In the meantime, is anyone else hosting Friendsgiving between now and Thanksgiving? Or even afterward? I know people really enjoy a potluck style get-together and I would love to hear about yours. And if you want a fresh, new idea, I am obsessed with this dessert-only Friendsgiving. Could someone PLEASE do this and let us know how it goes?
P.S. Later this week I’ll be sharing practical tips for cooking your very first turkey and how I finally conquered my fear of flower arranging. Make sure to check back!
A couple months ago, I came across Erin’s blog, House of Earnest. I fell totally in love with the effortless style and creativity that Erin shares each and every day. Her home decor, hand made, and party style posts are perfect for anyone looking to infuse tastefully modern and classic ideas into every day life.
If you hear a subtle tone of ‘fan girl’, you are absolutely correct. So here I am to cheer Erin on in her newest endeavor and share it with you: Grandiflora, a home + decor shop. Do not read another word before you click and head over to check out the beautiful collection Erin has curated for the 2013 holiday season. With unique items ranging from $12 to $448, there is literally something for everyone.
You guys, it’s FRIENDSGIVING week!!!! Saturday night, Andy and I will host our 8 friends from Bible Study for a full-on, pre-Thanksgiving dinner. This is our second annual Friendsgiving and I’m so excited the tradition is continuing.
Since everyone will be heading home for a traditional Thanksgiving two weeks later, I have the freedom to serve some variations on old favorites. Last year I cooked dinner using a Southwestern Thanksgiving menu from Epicurious. Everyone loved the new twists on old favorites and it gave me the courage to keep them coming.
Using a menu created by others is a great idea, but this year I decided to come up with one on my own. I’ve had a couple friends from work ask what I was making, so I thought I would share with everyone here. Whether you’re going to a Thanksgiving potluck at work or with friends, hosting your own Friendsgiving, or just need a good dish to make at mom’s house, I hope this sparks your creativity and leaves you inspired.
Whiskey-Cheese Fondue: I briefly thought about making something pretty like these Baked Brie Bites, or creating one of these stunning Meat and Cheese Boards, but keeping true to Friendsgiving, anything goes. So fondue it is. We will be sitting around a table for quite awhile eating dinner, so I thought it would be fun to get everyone interacting around a community fondue pot before being seated. This recipe got bonus point for a. being a reason to use the unused fondue set we received for our wedding two years ago, and b. for being 100% about cheese.
Grana, Rucola, Pear Salad: This simple salad is mean to help us transition from a heavier appetizer to a very rich, savory soup I will share below. These will be plated for everyone before we sit down and I’m hoping they will keep things fresh and clean.
Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Mexican Cream: I have never made a soup more delicious than this one. It was a huge hit last year and so it is the one carryover item I couldn’t leave off the menu. If you decide to try this one out, be sure to monitor the heat level as you add the red pepper flakes. They absolutely make the soup, but they can catch up with you!
Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs: There aren’t a million ways to redo mashed potatoes, but this recipe had me at ‘baked’ and ‘cheese’. I’ve never made anything like it, so I’m excited to see how they turn out.
Haricots Verts with Rosemary: Again, since there are a lot of flavors and some heavier dishes preceding the main course, I wanted to make sure to keep a couple fresh dishes. These classy green beans will have to wait for Thanksgiving at mom’s house to be smothered in mushroom soup and topped with crispy onions. We’re keeping it simple at Friendsgiving.
Cranberry Citrus Dressing: It’s almost impossible to serve a Thanksgiving meal without some type of cranberry dressing, so I am going with a flavor twist that will add be a bright spot in both the flavor profile of the meal, as well as presentation on the plate.
Autumn Couscous Salad or Sausage, Dried Cranberry and Apple Stuffing: I’m torn. It’s almost a crime not to serve stuffing with turkey, but this IS Friendsgiving, so is it a better idea to try the couscous salad for a new take on Thanksgiving side dishes? I want to hear your thoughts…I could go either way.
THE MAIN EVENT: Turkey
Bourbon Glazed Turkey: There are three ingredients in this recipe that sealed the deal for me: Apple Cider, Brown Sugar, and Bourbon. I’ve never brined a turkey before, so here goes!
Vanille Ice Cream with Raspberry, Chocolate Syrup and Crumbled Pie Crust toppings: A family favorite, created by sister-in-law, this will be a simple way to finish off what is sure to be an eating event. Most of all, we will have already used our plates and bowls, so this can be easily scooped into crystal dessert bowls I recently picked up from One King’s Lane. But more on that later this week!
So there’s the rundown. I’m not sure it is achievable in one day of cooking, but I’m going to try my best. If you have suggestions or if you want to weigh in on the final side dish dilemma, please leave a comment below! I would also love to hear about similar events you will be going to this year, so feel free to share.
Serving bowls. I am of the strong belief that one can never have too many serving bowls. Every time I think I have too many, I find an occasion where I am thinking I could use just. one. more. But….who has the budget and space for unlimited entertaining essentials?? Today I want to share with you my four favorites, pictured above. They are a mix of practical, stylish, and fun and have each had a specific purpose on my table at different events or dinner parties.
On the left are the PRACTICAL serving bowls. A glass or wooden bowl goes with every table cloth, place mat, theme and occasion at one point or another and are a great investment. They are my staples. The big wooden bowl is great for tossed salads and for serving chips or popcorn, while he glass bowl is perfect for serving any kind of colorful dish that begs to be seen.
On the right are the FUN & STYLISH serving bowls. These are great statement pieces that can tie any theme together. They are different enough to be used as the ‘pop’ at a table or buffet set with all white or white and glass pieces. In these, I like to serve roasted potatoes, chicken salad, or anything that doesn’t look quite as appetizing in a glass bowl. These bowls won’t last forever – I assume they will be out of style sometime in the next 20 years, but for now, they are super fun!
In addition to thinking about what your serving bowls look like, it is important to ensure you have varying sizes. My wooden bowl is very large, while the others are medium size. Having a good range of size and style combinations allows the most flexibility when setting a table or serving multiple people at a time.
If you’re interested in any of the above bowls, you can find them here:
Do you have a favorite serving bowl that you use at every meal? Or, do you have one on your Christmas list? I would love to see which ones you like best!
Photo Source: Elle Decor
I’m always on the lookout for great tips and tricks to make entertaining easier and to gain new, inspiring ideas. So when I found this book over the weekend, I knew I had to have it. As I thumbed through, I was impressed by how thoroughly Susan Spungen walks her readers through the ins and outs of entertaining. From sending (or not sending) invitations, to the inevitable cleanup process, Susan encourages the modern hostess to plan, but not fuss, and most importantly, to put guests first.
If you’re new to entertaining or have been doing it for years, I would highly recommend this book as a refreshing new take on modern hostessing. And while you’re at it, check out Susan’s blog, The Modern Cook!
Do you have a favorite hostessing book? Where do you go for entertaining advice?
Today’s fall festival costume party recap comes all the way from Kampala, Uganda. My dear friend/bridesmaid/roommate of 3 years, Carey, has been living in Uganda for the past 2 years, working for an organization called Engineering Ministries International. There are a lot of things I miss about Carey, but one of the biggest things I miss is throwing parties with her. When we lived together, Carey and I would have parties for our friends – And let me tell you, can this girl is one of the best. I’ll never forget our Emmy’s Red Carpet party – There were GOLD STATUES made by her!!
All that to say, when I got an email from Carey sharing pictures from her party last weekend in Uganda, I had to share. I love the backdrop she put up behind the food table, and the decorations are SO inventive. The best part is, she did most of it without modern conveniences like Target, Party City, or even a normal grocery store. Most importantly, everyone looked like they had a ton of fun!
Here’s a recap from Carey about how she put it all together (with some editorial comments by me!):
“Casey (Carey’s sister) sent me a couple boxes of decorating goodies, and some friends came over Friday night for a pre-bash decorating party which was a huge help and lots of fun, too. Ugandan pumpkins are green, but we carved a couple anyway!
It’s Fall. And I love all the warm, rich flowers, pumpkins, hay rides and apple cider that come with it. But I found this photograph recently, and it made me somewhat contemplative. Sometimes as I transition from one season to the next, I feel behind – like I should be enjoying what’s coming next, rather slow down and reflect on and appreciate what has already happened.
So, almost exactly one month ahead of actual Thanksgiving, with springtime flowers adorning the blog, I want to share 5 things I am thankful for this year. And though I always look with eager expectation at what is to come, I pray that I will continue to be grateful for what the Lord has done.
1. At the beginning of the year, the Lord blessed Andy and me with a new niece and nephew. Born three weeks apart, Henry and Ava are precious additions to the family and I can’t get enough of them.
2. My Mom, Dad and Grandfather all spent time in the hospital this year and the Lord saw each of them through varying sicknesses and even emergency surgery. I was traveling through Michigan the weekend of my Dad’s surgery and got to spend unexpected time with he and my Mom. It was a huge blessing.
3. Andy and I took a special vacation to Europe, just the two of us. Even though we are married and, of course, see each other every day, I was beyond excited to share this type of quality time together. We have memories with this trip that will truly last a lifetime.
4. I really enjoy my job, and so does Andy. I feel 100% blessed to be able to say this because I know it is not everyone’s experience.
5. We celebrated one year of meeting with our Bible study group. This group of friends has become very special to us and we are thrilled to get to do life with them. I never thought I would be a part of a small group that consisted of 80% lawyers, but hey, there’s a first for everything.
6. God has my heart and is sovereign over my life. It’s continually amazing to me how even though I’m not always 100% gung-ho in my relationship with the Lord, he continues to pursue me. The Holy Spirit reminds me of His presence and the power of the Gospel and causes me to yearn more for Him. What an incredible blessing that is, and I never want to take it for granted.
So, there you have it. My current Thanksgiving list. I hope it challenges you to begin to think about what you are grateful for, even in the excitement of the Fall season. And if you’re so inclined, I would love it if you would share some of your Thanksgiving list in the comment section below!