Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Summer Soiree

Aside from my usual pre-Masters deadline activities this semester, I'm also prepping for my wedding (or as I like to think of it, the biggest party I've ever hosted where my best friend and I commit to one another publicly and then celebrate with our nearest and dearest).

For those of you who have planned a wedding before or are in the process, you know that it is exciting and fun but also stressful and tedious. I love planning all of the little details to make it memorable and special, but I hate the pressure from everyone (family, friends, media, society at large) for what the day should and should not be and what your timetable should be for planning it. I, for one, am a big fan of the small, intimate wedding because it's a solemn but deeply personal event and I feel that I should only invite people I simply cannot imagine not having at my event. This also means that I can spend less time trying to, say, source enough pigs in blankets to feed 250 people and instead spend my time crafting an event that my guests will thoroughly enjoy.

As they say, the devil is in the details and if you ask me, the details are what make any party or event really special. Hence, the swatches in the photo above. Obviously, I'm going with pinks and greens and whites for my event, which I choose because it's festive but also reflects our outdoor setting and I think the variation is both modern and more relaxed than the traditional two color approach. I'm still learning as I go, but I thought anyone going through the process may appreciate some of the resources I've found and may be able to share some of their own finds.

All of those little squares are tissue papers I ordered from a source I found once on Martha Stewart's website called Nashville Wraps. They have every color of tissue paper one could want, but also lots of items for packaging such as gift boxes, Chinese takeout containers, paper bags and more. Plus, their prices are extremely reasonable and I will say that my order arrived extremely quickly. Something important to keep in mind: these are wholesalers, so the paper I ordered did not come individually wrapped which meant I did a little detective work to match each color to its name after receiving them. However, the bags and papers are great for crafts like giant tissue paper pom-poms, paper bag flowers, paper bag garlands, tissue paper flowers, tissue paper favor holders, and beyond! Although making everything for your wedding is certainly daunting, I think adding even a few handmade touches makes the celebration more personal and more classic (remember, before the rise of the wedding industry weddings were generally low-key at home affairs)!

Another amazing resource is Etsy. I cannot tell you how much I love this site. If you aren't already familiar, Etsy is a place where people sell handmade goods. You can find absolutely anything you may want for your event on this site and because most of the sellers are small business owners they are often willing to customize absolutely anything for you. See my save the date postcard up there? That's and Etsy find from this seller. Not only did she send me a proof extremely fast but she even added some extra details on the back. However, this is not just a resource for stationary! These twig hairpins would be perfect for a woodland themed wedding, there's design your own clutches for the bride or bridesmaids, this necklace would be a fantastic "something blue", gorgeous beaded silk flowers, a string of paper hearts is a beautiful and economic way to decorate a ceremony or reception, and this ruffled dress would be très chic at the rehearsal dinner or on the honeymoon.

Finally, if you have a very specific idea of how you want your wedding to look, it can be very difficult to find stamps to match your assorted wedding-related mailings. I know, I know, many would say that matching stamps isn't important or no one will notice but for me I want everything to go together. And frankly, polar bears and the Liberty Bell just don't go with the fete I'm planning. If custom stamps cost an arm and a leg, I would just suck it up and stick a polar bear on my postcards. However, Zazzle has thousands of designs to choose from and they cost just a little more than plain postage. For example, searching for "peonies" under postage I found over 800 results and for small postcard stamps the price hovers right around $15 for 20. It adds up if you're inviting 250 guests, but for a small wedding it's a fair price for the effect, I think.

So that's what I've been up to lately, not that I've put all of my hobbies on the back burner. As always, I've been cooking and I have seeds just waiting to be planted, not to mention some hydrangea bushes coming this spring! Lots to look forward to in the months ahead.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tiny Potatoes.

I love tiny potatoes. It's not that I don't like regular potatoes, because I certainly do. Russets, Yukon Gold, or red boiling potatoes are all delicious and certainly have their applications. But the juvenile form of these potatoes are so sweet and so creamy (not to mention cute) I cannot help but throw them in my cart.

I use baby potatoes for everything: breakfast potatoes, roasted alongside chicken or meatloaf, as well as French and German potato salads. However, I think I like them best roasted simply, with a little oil, salt, pepper, and occasionally a bit of rosemary or Herbs de Provence. The crispy skin, creamy interior, and slightly salty bit is so simple and so delicious.

Usually I just get one of those 1.5 lb bags you find in the produce section year-round. However, every now and again the produce manager orders some really special tiny potatoes. When I find those, the really, really small ones, I promptly embarrass my Jared in the produce section cooing my adoration and cause a small scene as I exclaim how we simply must bring them home.

Recently, this scene unfolded while visiting our families for the holidays. Our hometown has a Wegman's which is just a fantastic grocery store. I could go on about its merits, but that will wait for another day. Down here, the closest Wegman's is 1.5 hours away, which is simply too far for regular shopping and I'm sorry to say that the grocery stores closer to my home simply don't measure up. For this reason, whenever we visit our hometown we almost always stop at Wegman's and stock up on important supplies (fancy cheese, artisan bread, unusual produce, treacle, etc.) We were perusing the produce section on our way out of town and that's when I saw the smallest red-skinned potatoes I'd ever seen. Obviously, we brought them home.

Yesterday, I roasted them up with just olive oil, salt, and pepper at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, tossing them halfway through cooking. Remember to season them well! You're counting on all of the seasoning on the outside to season the insides, so be a bit generous. If you like, add a nice pinch of dried herbs or a few tablespoons of fresh, you really can't go wrong. Your little potatoes may take a bit more or less time than mine; it's always a good idea to check on them as you get near the end. To do so, just pierce one of the larger potatoes with a knife: if the knife comes out easily, they're done!

All I have are before pictures as we promptly at every last one. Luckily, I've found someone almost as crazy about tiny potatoes as I am.