Friday, August 31, 2012

Design Palette: Daylily

Today I'm sharing the second in a series of posts with garden-inspired palettes. (You can see the original video showing the beginnings of my color inspiration; the first palette post with Rose Campion is here.)

Friday's inspiration comes from my favorite daylily (Hemerocallis). Daylilies are hardy perennials with over 60,000 cultivars in a wide variety of colors. I have several in my gardens, but my absolute favorite is this plum-colored beauty. Petals traced with aubergine swirl around a center of bright green, topped with bright orange stamens and ivory styles. Here's a possible palette, and below it several favor designs that feature these colors. For more inspiration, please see our Daylily board on Pinterest! 



Lotion and balm travel pack favors

Lip balm favors with eggplant tulle bows (label 113, tag 1047)

Bachelorette lip balm favors with custom labels (design #99)

Lavender sachets with custom tags (design 1047)

Bridal shower lip balm favors with custom labels (label #154)

Working on an event with these colors? I'd love to help! Please contact me to share your details!

Do you grow daylilies? What color is your favorite?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To Link or Not To Link?

One of my favorite things to do here in this blog is to share fun and useful things that I find online. I'm not in the habit of accepting money for the reviews or links I share. In fact, apart from the occasional affiliate link (from Amazon, and always noted), I don't benefit financially from sharing them.

Until recently I also didn't think it was necessary to ask permission to share information. When you spend time online you grow accustomed to sharing links and pictures everywhere, from Facebook to Twitter, blogs to websites. You assume that companies not only won't mind, but are happy to have their products and web stores shared and discussed.


So I was a bit surprised last week when I was contacted by a company requesting that I remove my blog's links to their site. Recent changes at Google (and news of an update on the way) have had a big impact on some companies. This one was working with a consultant to "comply with changes in Google's Quality Guidelines." The consultant was recommending that they remove "anything that might even look like a paid link, whether it's natural or not." As requested, I immediately removed all links to their web store.

Though I was assured that this request had nothing to do with the quality of my blog, I was curious enough to contact the CEO of High Rankings, SEO expert Jill Whalen. Through our Twitter exchange, Ms. Whalen states that unless I have a "splog" (spam blog), or the links were paid, it isn't common practice to request link removal.




Why am I telling you all of this?

If you are a regular reader, you will likely come across posts here that share products or services without any clickable links. While I will make every effort to provide another way for you to reach those sites, I apologize ahead of time for any inconvenience.

If you are a business and have noticed that I'm sharing links to your work or your site—and you don't want me to share them—please contact me and let me know which links you would like me to remove. Please be assured that I have not created links to your site with the expectation of any compensation or reciprocation, but only to share with my readers.

I admit that I'm a bit concerned for companies who are removing all of the links—paid AND natural—pointing to their sites. Google's rankings have long relied on the perceived popularity of a site, measured in part by the number of links to the site's pages. My understanding of updates like Penguin is that Google is attempting to reduce the ranking of sites with artificially inflated and exaggerated importance based on paid links or those from link farms or splogs (as well as other black hat SEO techniques). Presumably, links from legitimate sites, blogs, and social media platforms will still boost a site's ranking; what possible benefit could come from removing all of those links?

I will leave it to the experts to argue that point (if you are interested, I highly recommend Jill Whalen's High Rankings site and newsletter), but in the meantime I will continue to share as much as I can. As always, I will let you know if I am benefiting in any way from my posts (please read my disclosure policy for more details) and I am always available if you have any questions at all about my policies or posts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vacation Schedule

I'll be taking a short summer break from August 22 through the 26th. If you have any questions or you need anything for early September, please contact me as soon as possible so I can make sure to accommodate your schedule!

Any orders received between the 22nd and the 26th will begin to ship on Monday, August 27.

Courage


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Want S'more?

Last week we had a cook-in (it was raining, so a cookout was...out). We still needed s'mores, though, so I baked some of these. The original recipe came from Baking Bites, but I always make a few changes, so I'll post my version below. 

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Hershey's milk chocolate bars (standard size, 1.55 oz)
1 cup marshmallow creme or Fluff

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy, then add egg and vanilla and combine. In a separate bowl combine flours, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat until blended. 

Press half of dough into 8-inch square baking pan. Arrange the chocolate bars over the dough, breaking as needed to fit. Spread with marshmallow creme (I grease my hands with a bit of oil or butter so the fluff won't stick to my fingers! I also leave a space around the edge so the fluff won't stick or burn to the pan.) Spread the remaining dough over the marshmallow. (Do this a bit at a time, flattening smaller pieces of dough between your fingers and fitting them together like a puzzle until the marshmallow is covered.)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned, then cool completely in the pan. Makes 16 rapidly disappearing bars. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Strawberry Basil Slushie

Recipe guilt. I have to apologize. I had high hopes for the summer cooking, the imaginative use of the herbs in my garden. 

But it's been hot. For you, too? 

Herbs don't like that. Neither do I. They've gone to seed. I've...sat in front of the A/C dreaming of fall when I can turn on my oven before 9 pm. 

So. How about a slushie?

Take about a cup of frozen strawberries and toss them in the blender. Add ice...probably another cup or so. A splash of seltzer. A handful of basil leaves. And blend. And blend some more.
Add a bit more seltzer if needed. Add sugar or whatever sweetener you prefer. How much? A few tablespoons, maybe? (Can you tell it's hot here?)
Once everything is nicely blended, add a splash of lemon-lime soda for a kid-friendly slushie (or a splash of vodka for a mom-friendly slushie) and pulse just to mix. Pour into tall glasses and garnish with extra basil. Add a straw, a paper umbrella.
Another splash of vodka.
Find that cool spot in the shade or next to the A/C. Sip. Sip some more. 
Ahhhh. That's better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Love Plus One Baby Shower Favors & Gifts

Last week we shared ideas for the practical and adorable Love +1 Onesies®-themed baby shower, including stationery, printable decorations, and cookies made from custom cutters. Today in our final Love +1 Baby Shower theme post we're talking about my favorite parts of the baby shower. (Can you guess?) Of course, the favors and gifts!

Shower Gifts
The best gift at a Love +1 Shower is a onesie! The hard part will be choosing just one. With Etsy and Zazzle, the selection of creative infant bodysuits has skyrocketed. There are bodysuits with movie quotesonesies® with bow tiesbodysuits with dinosaursnursery rhymes, and ..... well, you really must check our Pinterest board for more ideas!



Onesie cupcake from Embellished Babycakes

I think one of my favorite ideas is this clever gift from Embellished Babycakes. They're simple onesies® wrapped elegantly as cupcakes! Make sure you have a plateful to display along with the other goodies on your dessert table. Such a cute addition to the decor, and of course a welcome gift for the mom-to-be. You can follow Embellished Babycakes on Facebook, too.

Favors
When I was sharing the custom cookies last week, I mentioned that sugar cookies make great favors. I baked up more just to show you what I mean (see below). You can use (or make) an extra large cutter just for special favors, decorate the cookies in your theme colors, then wrap each cookie individually in cello bags with coordinating ribbons. Makes a scrumptious favor!

If you aren't up for making the cookies yourself, discuss your theme with a local bakery or find a cookier online to help! If you don't know where to find one, join our Facebook page...I share cookies almost every day and there are so many really talented cookiers to choose from!

If you're looking for a different kind of yummy favor, I just might be able to help you. My personal favorites are Lullaby lip balms with custom labels, or Babylove lip balms with custom tags and bows. I'm also partial to baby powder lotions with personalized Love +1 tags. See some of the options below and let me know if I can help you with your baby shower!


Love +1 Label Design #331

Gingham Onesie Tag Design #1004 in pink

Love +1 Tag design #1348

What's your favorite Love +1 favor or gift?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Love Plus One Baby Shower Cookies


Ready for more Love +1? Earlier this week we shared ideas for the adorable and immensely practical Onesies®-themed baby shower. (An ideal shower theme, in my opinion!) Today we'll take the same design from the tiny bunting and turn it into shaped cookies and fondant for cookie or cupcake toppers.

Of course you can buy the little bodysuit-shaped cookie cutters in several sizes if you'd rather not go to the trouble to make your own. Use the mini cutters from Foose to cut out fondant for cupcake toppers or to add to the sides or top of a cake. Larger cutters can be used to create sugar cookies, which you can top with fondant cut in the same shape, or add pearls or fondant "buttons" to dress up cookies with a simple icing.

I really wanted to try making this particular cookie shape, so I got a kit to make my own cookie cutters (affiliate link). The kit comes with everything you need, including thin metal and the tools to shape it, along with a special adhesive to hold the edges of the cutter together.

I didn't know what to expect, but this was very easy to make. You can see below that I printed out the shape I wanted to use as my guide, then used the different tools as well as my fingers to bend the metal into shape. The photo below left shows it about halfway through, and below right is the finished cutter. I did as they recommended and made sure I was joining the two ends of the metal together on one of the straight sides. I clamped it and baked in the oven to cure the adhesive (don't worry, this is all described in the directions that come with the kit). An hour later my new cutter was ready to wash and use!

This was a project of "firsts" for me because I had never made fondant before, either. I decided that marshmallow fondant would be a great one to experiment with, and used this recipe from Wilton. Again, this could not have been easier! I added a bit of red food color to make pink fondant, mixed up a batch of sugar cookie dough, then rolled out and cut both cookies and fondant tops before baking my cookies.





Make sure to chill your dough well before rolling out so your cookies won't spread as much as mine did. As soon as you pull the cookies from the oven, top them with the fondant so it melts a bit and sticks to the cookies. Then you can decorate them more with icing or additional fondant accents, or leave them plain as I did (see at the very bottom below).

I really enjoyed making these cookies, though they're not as fancy as some of the others I've seen online. Firefly Confections makes really pretty cookies, and I like these from CakeJournal.com, too. They'd make terrific party favors for the Love +1 shower (more ideas coming soon), as well as a pretty addition to the dessert table.

Do you make your own cookies for a party, or do you trust it to the professionals?


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

National Zucchini Day

Did you know that August 8 is National Zucchini Day? My new favorite holiday! I planted another dozen zucchini plants this year and have already picked a few. Last summer I blogged a whole week of zucchini recipes, but I'm not gonna put you through that again. What I thought might be helpful, though, is to collect all of the recipes in one place. So this post is simply an archive of my zucchini recipes. I hope this is helpful! Enjoy!

Zucchini and Tomato Pasta

Zucchini and Onion Fritters
Sautéed Zucchini Wraps
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Double Chocolate Zucchini Waffles
Zucchini Brownies

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Love Plus One Baby Shower

Infant bodysuits (more commonly referred to as Onesies®) are the t-shirts of the baby world. Just like t-shirt wearers everywhere, your tike can pull one on to express her political leanings, pair with jeans for casual Fridays, or doll one up for special occasions. (Okay, she might need a bit of help with the snaps.) When she can't hold her milk, this wardrobe staple can be changed again (and again and again). In our opinion, the baby bodysuit is the ideal shower theme: adorable and immensely practical. That's why we put together this Love +1 series with lots of ideas to help you plan the perfect Onesies®-themed shower.

Today we're sharing ideas for stationery and decor, but stay tuned for posts about cookies, gifts, and (of course) favor ideas!



Bodysuit Bunting If you love the ever-popular bunting banner, may we suggest a twist? Create an adorable "clothesline" with sweet baby bodysuits to announce to all that it's a girl (or a boy...remember, just like t-shirts, Onesies® are unisex attire)! Download the PDF template here, print and/or cut out a bunch of bodysuits (I used my Silhouette), and pin to colorful twine with real or tiny craft clothespins. (Our template includes the letters, too.)

You can also cut out extras and encourage your guests to write a memory, a piece of advice or a parenting tip to one side, then clip together the whole "wardrobe" for the mom-to-be. It's an adorable keepsake with all of the wisdom of her friends and family!

Cake Top Bunting
Want a clothesline bunting for the top of your cake or cupcakes? We made a template with some smaller sizes just for that purpose! You can download the PDF here and print and then cut as needed. (For your own use only, please.) Then use two straws or lollipop sticks, attach twine, and pin or tape the 
onesies to the twine. Add your clothesline to the cake top or set up between the cupcakes for a cute display. 

(Make sure you save this smaller template for our confection post to make your own matching cookie cutters!)



Love Plus One Stationery Of course when you're planning a shower, you need invitations! We have new designs for Love +1 themes as well as the simpler bodysuit motif available now at Zazzle. (Also available in blue for a baby boy shower). Find invitations, stickers, and even postage in designs to match the party decor and our favors! Oh, and you can customize them, too!
Love Plus One Invitations and Stickers
Pink Bodysuit Invitations and Stickers

What do you think? Would you throw a Love +1 or Onesies® Baby Shower?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Shark Week Is Coming



Last year I shared how much I like sharks. You know how some kids are really gaga about horses and others love puppies? Yeah, I really loved sharks. Well, not as pets or to ride on or anything, obviously, but just because I thought they were really cool. I still do.

So I'm excited to celebrate Discovery Channel's Shark Week again this year by torturing regaling my Facebook friends with shark stories, videos, and products (again, minus the gore). And of course I had to make another special lip balm. Last year's balm was Shark Bite, based on a drink by the same name. This year's Limited Edition shark balm is Shark Attack, a raspberry and citrus blend that sports colorful sharky labels and bright caps. Very limited quantity, so make sure you get yours before Shark Week is over! (Shark Week begins August 12.)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

National Watermelon Day


Yesterday was National Watermelon Day and we're celebrating all month by offering manicure products in a Limited Edition Summer Melons fragrance. We'll also be sending out a sample of our new manicure scrub in every order that goes out in August.

If you want your own Summer Melons manicure, check out hand cream and manicure scrub in this Limited Edition fragrance...only in August!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Guest Post: How to Be a Drama-Free Bridesmaid

Being a bridesmaid can be a rewarding and memorable experience. You are supporting a friend or loved one as they enter into a marriage. There are pretty pictures, touching moments, and many opportunities to bond with her as she goes on this important journey. On the other hand, as too many people know, it can also be stressful, filled with conflict or disappointment, and sometimes even end a friendship for good. Most of us have heard such horror stories.

Few brides or bridesmaids start with the idea of destroying their friendship in a whirlwind of chaos and hostility. We all want the fairy tale-like wedding and not a nightmare scenario. The good news is that there are several steps that can be taken to minimize the risks and maximize the rewards that come with accepting the role of bridesmaid.

Here's how you can fulfill this duty with grace and generosity to keep your sanity and your relationship with the bride:

Understand your role. It is extremely important to have a good understanding of those involved, what the bride is looking for in terms of her shower and bachelorette party, and with what duties she wants your support. Ask a lot of questions about her vision and get a clear sense as to what she hopes will happen.



Every bridesmaid has limited time and money. This conversation is a good time to very politely express any concerns you have with either of these potential limitations. Once you have a better idea of what is being asked of you, you can express what areas you can give and also be clear if you feel there is something you might not be able to do. Talk about your interest in supporting her vision but also be sure not to make promises that you cannot keep; contributing to an expensive shower or traveling for a bachelorette party might not be possible or might put you in a bad financial situation. Being upfront helps avoid surprises and gives ample time for sorting out the options.

Be a team player. It is likely that there are relatives and members of the bridal party that will also be intimately involved in the wedding process. This means that you have to collaborate with others, some of whom you do not know and some of whom you may not like. This is normal, but can be tricky to navigate. Remember that being a bridesmaid means that you are part of the team, even if you are the one technically in charge of a particular event. Your job is to execute each event as best you can given the bride’s interests and preferences.


Others may have different ideas on how to do this. Often you will need to compromise. A bit of diplomacy may be needed; for example, saying, “I understand that you are really interested in inviting a lot of people to the party but the bride expressed to me a desire for something smaller and more intimate. I’m wondering if it's worth talking with her again so that we can give her the opportunity for input?”

If there is a disagreement that is not easily resolved, consider how to move on in the least stressful way possible. Often, giving in to a persistent teammate may be ultimately easier and less stressful than continuing to argue. You did not choose the team and you can only do so much to advocate for the bride in these situations. Move on and try not to sweat these bumps in the road.

Keep perspective. It is essential to remember that the wedding is for the couple. Your role as a bridesmaid is one of helping and supporting. You do not get to be in control. While you have limits that need to be respected, try to be peaceful and accepting of the fact that things won’t go according to your vision. If you tend to get stuck on details, try to keep in mind that the connection you have with the bride is the most important aspect of the role of bridesmaid. Keeping your priorities straight will help you get through the wedding with a level-head and enjoy a drama-free experience!

© Hannah Curtis





About the Author:
Hannah Curtis, LCSW owns and operates New Approaches, a private psychotherapy practice in Portland, Maine. Hannah writes on a number of topics related to relationships and emotional wellness on her blog.  She's been both a bride and a bridesmaid and tries to practice drama-free living as much as possible.








all photos from istockphoto.com unless otherwise noted.

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