Friday, October 29, 2010

Real Wedding: Jessica and Derrick

I admit it.  I'm a wedding photo junkie.  I adore it when my customers send me pictures of their own weddings.  Love it.  LOVE.  And while those are the best, the weddings that I know I had a small hand in creating, I don't stop there.  I lurk on wedding photography forums (fabulous place to learn so much about photography, by the way).  I eagerly await new content on several photographers' blogs.

Tony Hoffer is one of those photographers.  Every wedding he captures is so brilliantly composed, so beautifully full of light and color.   I'm delighted to present this wedding of Jessica and Derrick, gorgeously captured by Hoffer Photography.

I love this moment from the first look--and the bridesmaid peeking out the door behind!

Love the ivory and gold tones in this wedding!  So elegant, so perfect for fall or winter.

The color!  The joy!  What a perfectly captured moment.

This next element is my favorite thing from the wedding.  The bride made this photo wall herself!    Looks like a really amazing way to honor family history and show off old family wedding photos, right?

But wait, there's more!  It's also the most completely awesome photo booth prop I've ever seen!  LOVE this!

To see many more pictures from this wedding, and many other equally stunning affairs, please visit Tony Hoffer's blog.  Even if you're not a wedding picture junkie like I am, you'll appreciate the magnificent photos and amazing emotion captured by this talented photographer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

DIY Project: How to Get Roses To Open

Do you have a rose flower arrangement you'd like to make for a party, but the roses you bought are still closed tightly?  Full roses take up so much more space that you'll need far fewer flowers.  And fewer flowers means substantially less expensive floral arrangements, always a good thing for a budget bride.

Tightly closed, newly bought roses.

One quick and dirty, highly effective way to get roses to open up is simply to use your hands.  Physically open them up.

Get in there.  Use your hands.  Physically force the flower open.  It can take it, I promise.  Flowers live outside, in the wind and rain.  They're not as delicate as you might imagine.

Once you've opened up your roses, you'll be ready to create your flower arrangements, using about half of the flowers you otherwise would have needed!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fairy Party: Part 3, the Dessert Table!

Looking for Part 3 of the Cornish Fairy Party?  It's moved to its new home at!

Giveaway! Plus Featured on the remarkable Kate Landers Events Blog

I'm deeply honored to have had my party featured on the Kate Landers Events, LLC blog last night!  

Kate is an incredibly gifted event planner, and was a huge source of inspiration for the Cornish Fairy Party.  Her Woodland Fairy Party is basically the premiere fairy party out there.

We're also very excited to be doing a BIG GIVEAWAY on the Kate Landers blog!  We're offering a set of 8 of the tiaras I designed for the party for one lucky winner!  That's a value of over $360.

Head on over to our party post on Kate Landers Events, read all the details, and enter!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recipes: Simple Syrup Makes Everything Sweeter

Welcome back to day three of punch mania!  One of the key elements of making a good drink (whether it's homemade lemonade or something with a little more power like mojitos) is a simple syrup.  Sure, you could buy a bottle for only a few dollars at the liquor store.  But it's so incredibly easy to make, why would you?

When you make simple syrups yourself, you also have the opportunity to infuse delicious flavors into the syrup, to make amazing, delicious, complex, gourmet drinks that are astonishingly easy!  Lavender infused lemonade for a French-themed wedding, anyone?

Simple syrup is nothing more than equal parts water and sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves.

Sugar and water just combined and starting to heat up.

Making an infused simple syrup is just about as easy as a plain one.  Let's use a mint-infused simple syrup as an example.

Take a few sprigs of fresh mint.

Fresh mint for the simple syrup.

Toss the mint in with the equal parts sugar and water, and heat until the sugar dissolves. 

Remove from heat, and let steep until the syrup has cooled to room temperature.  Remove the mint.  Want a more intense mint flavor?  Use more mint, or crush the leaves a bit with a muddler or mortar and pestle to help release the oils.

Infused simple syrups are so easy to make, but they add such a magnificent layered flavor to drinks, alcoholic or not.  Try making a memorable signature drink for your wedding or party!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Delicious Punch Recipes Please a Crowd

Yesterday I showed you some gorgeous beverage dispensers that would be absolutely perfect for a wedding, shower, or really any party.  But what to put in them?  Punch!

No, no, banish thoughts of high school prom and your brother's cub scout potlucks.  I'm talking classic, historic, elegant punches.  They're just cocktails in a great big bowl, after all.  Mixing them up as a punch is a fabulous way to have and serve a signature cocktail at your wedding.

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Mojitos by the Bucketful (serves 75)
  • 1 quart mint-infused simple syrup
  • 2 750ml bottles of champagne (a sweet, inexpensive kind is perfect)
  • mint leaves for muddling and garnish
  • Enough limes to juice for 1 quart lime juice, plus have left-overs to slice and add to the punch dispenser and garnish glasses.  This really depends on the size of your limes, but 30 is a good place to start.
  • 1 1.75 liter bottle of rum (try the Cruzan brand.  Delicious, and less expensive than Bacardi)
  • 2 liters club soda 
Mojitos are typically made by the glass, and the mint and lime oils are infused through the drink by muddling (basically squishing and pounding the dickens out of the lime rind and mint leaves).  It's too much work to do that on this scale, so instead, we have a couple tricks to get that great flavor without so much work.

The first is to make a mint-infused simple syrup (recipe in tomorrow's post!).

The second shortcut is to make use of the lime rinds.  Juice the limes, but once you're done, keep the rinds.  Throw the rinds in the rum for 24 hours, then strain them out.  That delicious, aromatic lime oil will remain in the rum, and add complexity to the mojito when it's all mixed together.

Mix simple syrup, lime juice, and rum together.  This can be done a couple days before the event, as long as the mixture is kept in a covered container.

At the last minute, add the club soda and champagne.

Add lime slices, ice, and fresh mint leaves to the punch.

Remember to have a bowl with lime wedges and sprigs of fresh mint next to the dispenser for guests to use as a garnish.

Classic Red Sangria (makes one pitcher)

1 bottle red wine (it should be a drinkable red table wine, but doesn't need to be expensive)
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup cointreau (or other orange liqueur like Triple Sec)
1 cup simple syrup
1 liter club soda/seltzer water
1 apple, cored and cubed
1 peach, pitted and cubed
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced

Combine wine, brandy, cointreau, simple syrup, and chopped up fruit.  Let sit at least overnight to let the flavors meld.  Right before serving, add the club soda.

Note 1)  Any fruits work really well in sangria.  I like the crunch of the apples, so always include those, but throw in mango, grapes, cherries, pears, whatever you have on hand!

Note 2)  When I serve sangria in a beverage dispenser like the one shown above (rather than a pitcher), I always make extra boozy fruit to put in a small serving dish beside the drink.  The fruit is half the fun of Sangria!

White Peach Sangria (makes one pitcher)

1 bottle dry white wine
3/4 cup peach schnapps or peach vodka
1/2 cup brandy
1 12oz can peach nectar
1 liter club soda
1 lemon, sliced
1 cup green grapes, halved
3 peaches, pitted and cubed
1 apple, cored and cubed

Combine wine, peach schnapps, brandy, simple syrup, and all fruit.  Let sit for at least 24 hours in the fridge to let the flavors meld.

At the last minute, add the club soda and ice.

Notes 1 and 2 above are relevant to this recipe, too!

Classic Champagne Punch (20 servings)
1 cup Triple Sec
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup chambord
2 cups pineapple juice
2 liters ginger ale
2 750ml bottles of champagne

Mix everything but the ginger ale and champagne (this part can be done a day or more ahead of time).  Add the bubbly stuff right before serving.

If you want to go kitschy classic, add in some sherbet to keep things cool!

Interested in an article on the history of punch, and links to some great and classic recipes?  Check out this Chowhound article on the topic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Punch! An Elegant and Inexpensive Way to Serve a Crowd

When it comes to entertaining large crowds on a budget, especially when alcohol is involved, punch is a perfect option.  And with the gorgeous beverage dispensers available these days, one can be found to suit any theme or look.

For a wedding in a rustic local, how charming is this mason jar dispenser from Pottery Barn for $69?

Or how about these?  Gorgeous!  Photo courtesy of photographer Sergio Mottola:

Want a more elegant look?  How about these from Z Gallerie?

For 69.95, look at this clever dispenser!  Imagine a red, rose, and white sangria in this!  I have this one myself, and can tell you, it holds a lot of punch for a lot of people.

Or for only $49.95, this apothecary beverage dispenser?

Want a more vintage, shabby-chic vibe for your wedding?  A collection of antique milk glass punch bowls would make a spectacular display.

Come back tomorrow for great punch recipes to put in these gorgeous containers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Favor Ideas: Homemade Caramels are Perfect for Fall and Winter

Homemade caramels from the Tradewind Confections kitchen.

Caramel anything is good, in my opinion.  Homemade caramel anything is spectacular, and homemade caramels make a fabulous fall or winter wedding favor.

Never made candies before?  Don't worry--this is a pretty darn easy recipe to follow, great for a first-timer.

One batch makes approximately 100 perfect bite-sized caramels.  I say approximately because I didn't count the irresistible caramels that my daughter and I sampled.  Quality control is, you know, important and stuff.  Yeah.

 How To Make Fleur de Sel Caramels (Sea Salt Caramels)

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
sea salt to taste, for sprinkling on top of the caramels.

In a small saucepan, bring butter, cream, and the teaspoon of salt to a boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, water, and corn syrup in a second, good sized (4 quart-ish) pot.  Stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved.  Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring!  Gently swirl the pan until the ingredients turn a light golden caramel color.  Watch carefully--this happens quickly!

Carefully stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture.  It will bubble up impressively, but don't worry!  That's why we used a biggish pot.  Keep stirring until the mixture reaches 245 on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat, and quickly stir in the vanilla and vinegar (or lemon juice).

Pour into an 8x8 pan.  Here's my secret weapon in caramel-making.  See this blue pan here:

That's a silicone pan.  I don't use them for much, but for bar cookies and caramels, they're absolutely brilliant!  If you don't use a silicone pan, you'll need to line your pan with parchment paper, butter or oil the parchment paper and pan, and then cross your fingers and hope hope hope the caramels come out of the pan.  If you use a silicone pan, no stress, no worries, it just works.  No parchment or oiling or pan prep of any kind necessary.

Let the caramels cool for about five minutes.  Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.  It's not necessary, but I love that burst of salt with the silky-sweet caramel.  Yum!  If you sprinkle the salt too early, it will dissolve into the surface.  Too late, and it won't stick.  

Let the caramels cool for at least two hours, then turn them out on a cutting board. 

Look how gorgeously it pops out of the silicone pan!  So easy when you have the right tools!

Cut into pieces.  You can use a knife, or kitchen scissors.  Both work, but I usually grab the scissors, myself.  One word of advice--don't turn out the caramels and then leave them sitting on the cutting board for an hour or so.  It will meld to the board and stick with a force heretofore unknown outside of the superglue testing labs.

Wrap the pieces in squares of waxed paper.  You can also buy commercial candy wrappers, but I've had sticking issues with those, and I love the classic, old-fashioned, homemade look of the waxed paper.

There you go!   I'm a big fan of edible favors anyway, but I would be so delighted to get this as a favor at any wedding I attend!  It's inexpensive, delicious, and so special to give something homemade.  Plus, you can make these several weeks ahead of time, unlike cookies!  Fair warning, though--it might be hard to keep from eating them all in those weeks before the wedding.  They're that good.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fabulous Product: Miniature Bunting Makes a Darling Cake Topper

I find most cake toppers...meh.  It's my personal preference, of course, but I typically prefer flowers (whether real or gumpaste) or nothing at all.

But these miniature buntings, oh, how they've captured my imagination.

I'm a sucker for bunting.  I'm a sucker for anything miniature.  I suppose it was destiny that I'd love these gorgeous designs by Kiki La Ru.

Dawn from Kiki La Ru started the trend with her original cake bunting designs, like these:

The bakers twine bows add just the perfect touch. 

Look how absolutely darling those cakes look!   Such a simple, easy buttercream covering, too, looks absolutely perfect with these cake toppers.  This is an ideal look for anyone even thinking about making a wedding cake (either for yourself or for a friend), especially if you've never made a wedding cake before.  

The bunting can be bought in Kiki La Ru's Etsy shop.  Feeling like a little DIY project?  Check out their DIY kits!  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sneak Peak: Swarovski Rhinestone Napkin Rings

More napkin rings!  (Told you I was on a kick.)

Here's a little sneak peak of a product we'll soon be offering at Tradewind Tiaras.  I love the concept of napkin rings, but I've always thought it's too bad that most napkin rings are made out of such sub-standard materials.    They're pretty expensive, too, especially considering that they're made from just a few cents worth of plastic crystals!  So dissapointing.

Out of desperation, I made my own.  They are so sparkly, so special.  They have that fire and flash only Swarovski can add.  High quality materials really do make all the difference in the world!

We'll be offering them for sale, of course, but we'll also be offering them to rent!  If you love the look, but don't have the budget for all 150 of your guests, we'll have a very affordable rental option to help dress up your table settings!  Watch the Tradewind Tiaras website for them soon!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fabulous Product: Elegant Paper Napkin Rings

I'm on a napkin ring kick!  Check out these beauties from Paper Acorn.

I'm a sucker for any kind of paper craft, but these are just gorgeous!  You could write names on the napkin rings and they'd double as table cards, too.