Tuesday, May 31, 2011

60th Surprise Birthday Dinner in The Garden

Don't forget that you can click on to any photo in the post to enlarge.

Last week I hosted a dinner party for a dear friends 60th. It was to be a surprise and I think we pulled it off. It was a group effort by many other friends who graciously brought the food. The menu was a somewhat Spanish dinner and culminated with a fabulous Chocolate Mousse Cake with very tall candles.

Here in N FL with our intense heat coming on I contemplated having the dinner outside in the garden. I couldn't resist having another Garden Dinner party. The weather was not forecasting rain but yet it was a little humid as it often is this time of year. My garden was still looking very good so it would have probably been the last time I could have conceivably pulled this off. I think it was a success.

The last time I had a Garden party I used round tables with burlap cloths. This time I chose to use white tablecloths and chairs and did burlap runners. I also mixed my plates with white and also my Vilroy & Boch toile dinner plates. I did use the same center pieces but this time instead of all white I used blue hydrangeas from my garden with small sunflowers coming out of the top.

These stumps were from a tree that my husband took down at our farm in S GA. He brought them home and routed out the center to fit some cylinder vases that I used inside the stumps. The moss came from trees in our back yard and I was given a tip from a floral professional, if the moss comes directly from the trees and not laying on the ground then it will NOT have red bugs in it. Soooooooooo, I used the moss at the base of the stumps.
It truly was an elegant evening.
The bar was set up in close proximity.
I had done this small table on the patio and my Apothecary Jar was to be placed on the silver plateau. Unfortunately, I did not get a pic of the jar on the plateau. However, there is a photo below that I had used at my daughter in laws home some weeks ago so just imagine my Apothecary Jar sitting on top of the silver plateau. I did in fact served the same Champagne Sangria and you can find the recipe by clicking here.
My garden was also co-operating. Thankfully there were other things blooming since the last Garden Dinner party I had had about a month prior.

 The patio was set up for a comfortable way to enjoy sipping on that Champagne Sangria.

 The birthday girl blowing out her candles.
I think a good time was had by all and it was such a JOY to host such a special event for my dear friend. Even my outdoor garden lighting was co-operating which was a good thing since our party went well into the evening.

Today I am joining the blogging party Outdoor Wednesday and also Tablescape Thursday.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pasta Primavera

This is a recipe that was shared by another fellow blogger, Susan at Savoring Time In The Kitchen. Susan shares so many wonderful recipes and this one is no exception. This would be a perfect recipe to serve when the weather heats up. It is simple but elegant and we loved it.

Pasta Primavera

 Makes 4 servings

1 8-oz package fresh crimini mushrooms, cleaned, halved and sliced
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 lb haricots verts or very thin green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced very thin
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large Roma tomatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 lb fettucini pasta
3 T unsalted butter
2/3 cup fat free half and half (or heavy cream if you wish)
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Cook asparagus and beans in a large pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 3 minutes. Add peas and cook until beans and asparagus are just tender, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Immediately transfer vegetables with a large slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, reserving hot water in pot for cooking pasta. Drain cooled vegetables and reserve.

In a large, heavy saute pan, melt 2 T of olive oil on medium high heat. Add minced garlic and saute until just fragrant. Do not brown. Add sliced leek and red pepper flakes and saute until leek is softened, about 3 minutes. Add crimini mushrooms and continue to saute until any moisture is released and absorbed. Add diced roma tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and water, salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook until tomatoes are softened, about 3 more minutes. Add green vegetables until just barely warmed and set aside while pasta cooks.

As soon as you start cooking the tomatoes, and before adding the green vegetables to the tomatoes, return water in pot to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water and then drain pasta in a colander. Immediately add butter, cream, and zest to empty pasta pot and simmer gently, uncovered, about 2 minutes. Stir in cheese and add pasta, tossing to coat, adding a little reserved pasta water if necessary to keep pasta well coated. Add green vegetables, basil, parsley and salt and pepper to taste and toss gently to combine.

Serve pasta with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and top with toasted pine nuts.


I have come to know the value of a pasta pot and I use mine all the time. You can cook your pasta, drain it right into the pasta water, and pour the pasta directly into your dish reserving the pasta water if needed to add a little to the dish if it seems a little dry.

I always add my French Herbed Sea Salt and a little olive oil to my pasta water.

The Crimini mushrooms in this dish  smelled heavenly as they cooked.

Cooking the Asparagus and Hericot Vert and then adding to ice cold water is a must. It retains the beautiful green color.

This was such a beautiful and colorful dish.

It was probably the best Pasta Primerava dishe I have ever prepared. So fresh with wonderfully fresh ingredients, easy to prepare and not at all heavy. Pared with some crusty bread and a good bottle of wine, that was dinner. Thank you Susan for sharing such a wonderful recipe. It is a keeper and one I will prepare often.
It is once again time for Foodie Friday and I am joining Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum. There are some fabulous recipes shared at this blogging party and you can click here to see other participants.
Enjoy your weekend and stay safe on this Memorial Day Holiday.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Champagne Sangria

A few weeks ago some dear friends of my daughter gave her a baby shower. I was asked to make my very good Champagne Sangria that many of them have had and this was only for the non-pregnant, of course. There was another young woman present who was expecting and has already had her beautiful baby boy. My daughter is still waiting but anxious to get this over with but alas, she is not due until June 24. That last month is killer as most of us know and in our summer heat as well.

This recipe never fails to stir up a party and I thought some of you might enjoy it as well.

I always serve it from my clear glass Apothocary Jar and all the fruit looks so beautiful.

I most often use an Italian Prosecco with this recipe but I have recently discovered this Moscato Spumanti and is also an Italian version of Champagne. It is slightly sweeter but not too sweet and I found that it is excellent for this Champagne Sangria. If you cannot find it and use a champagne or Prosecco you might add a little sugar water to this recipe. The recipe seems to need it.

Champagne Sangria

The authentic Spanish version usually calls for Cave, a Spanish sparkling wine. However, French Champagne is sometimes used as well, so you may use either one, or any other sparkling wine you like.

3 ounces Triple Sec
3 ounces Brandy
2 ounces Rum
2 ounces Vodka
1 cup Strawberries, blended
chopped up fruit as desired (apple, mango, tangerine, pear, peach)
1 bottle sparkling wine

Mix together all ingredients except the sparkling wine and let it sit overnight if possible, or at least for a while to soak up the flavors. Add the sparkling wine just before serving, so that it doesn't go flat. Garnish with fresh fruit as desired.

Note: I doubled this recipe and served it in my Glass Apothocary Jar dispenser and it was beautiful. This is soooooooo good and I used Prosecco because I prefer it. The fruits I used and sliced were Lemons, Limes, Oranges and Peaches. It was a very elegant presentation.


I am stirring up a party once again this coming Wednesday, a surprise 60th birthday party for a dear friend. While the weather is co-operating I plan to do an outdoor garden dinner party and this Champagne Sangria is just what such a party needs.

Enjoy your weekend and thank you for visiting my blog. I love to see your comments if you are so inclined.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Easter Tables

Since the Grands are getting older I most often set a table for just them. Always close by though and before the weather becomes too hot to utilize my screened porch which is right next to the dining room. I throw open the French doors and they feel as if they are sitting at the "big" table and it enables mom and dad to enjoy their dinner as well. 

 This was the table I set in my dining room for Easter dinner. The dining room walls are painted a cherry red which enables me to use some shades of pink and at other times of the year I can do lots of shades of red. In the evening with the crystal chandelier on the color just bounces off the prisms of the chandelier.
These little bunny napkin rings are a new purchase this year from Pottery Barn. I thought these little running bunnies were so cute.

For my centerpiece I used a couple of Rosemary topiary's that usually sit on my patio area and did use a few fresh roses with my silver birds and a little burlap strewn down the center of my table. The stemware is a Waterford wine goblet with these green glasses that were a thrift find some time ago and have become a favorite for a water glass. I only wish I could have found more of them since they work so well most of the time and are a very substantial glass.
The sideboard had two of my collection of bunnies and an Easter Tree with a collection of Easter ornaments.

The Children's Easter Table.
As you can see it opens right there by the dining room.

Pottery Barn had these adorable Beatrix Potter plates and cups and I could not resist. The tablecloth came from there as well and also had Beatrix Potter figures on it. I also have an antique collection of Beatrix Potter porcelain figures but they weren't to be used on this table this time.

Instead more of my bunny collection for the centerpiece with colorful grass underneath.

We had a fun filled Easter celebration with the whole family complete with multiple Easter Egg Hunts in the garden.

Now the twin grandsons think they are too old to be photographed hunting Easter Eggs but I did manage a photo of them playing ping pong in my carport.

We had a fun filled Easter Sunday with the family.

I am sharing this post at Susan's blogging party, Tablescape Thursday at her blog Between Naps on the Porch. To see other participants of this most interesting blogging party please click here.

Thank you for visiting my blog and please do come again and remember, enjoy those special moments with family.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A New Collection

I have numerous collections but have been giving thought to starting a new collection. I have been admiring other bloggers collections of milk glass for a while now and thought to myself, "Do I really NEED to start a new collection???" Well, it seems that I do.
About a week ago some family members did a Baby Shower for my daughter who is expecting June 24. One of the young women who was co-hosting this event was given the task of doing table arrangements for all the tables. She chose to use vases from her Milk Glass collection and I immediately decided that I wanted to begin a collection of Milk Glass. It didn't take too much of a nudge.

One of the pieces of my daughter's friends collection was a ruffled hobnailed vase. This past weekend being Mother's Day my daughter had remembered that I had admired those lovely antique vases. She was going through Applachicola, FL on Saturday and decided to stop and shop at a couple of antique shops there and she found this.
I was just thrilled when I opened her gift to me for Mother's Day. BTW, that is my dear mother in the photo wearing the Emerald Green tea length gown. It seemed appropriate to sit this lovely vase in that spot.

I told my daughter that the first thing I was going to do was to cut some of my early blooming hydrangeas for this vase. I think the hydrangeas look especially beautiful in this lovely vase. That corner of the couch is my usual spot when I sit in this family room too so I can enjoy them even more.
The table is an antique mahogany English Pie Crust table that I have had for many years.

Every new collection has a story and this was a cherished Mother' Day gift from my daughter and I will enjoy adding to this collection for many years to come. Hopefully, when I am accompanied by my dear daughter.

Today I am linking to Marty's blogging party, Tabletop Tuesday at a Stroll Through Life.

Thank you for visiting my blog and please do come again.