Monday, April 30, 2012

Our $20 dinner party, part 2: Making Your Table Lovely for $5

So, while I was busy cooking in the kitchen for our $20 dinner party, Lindsey arrived with her "tool-box" (that is, a giant container full of supplies--sort of like a first aid kit for her events)  She whipped out scissors, a vintage sheet, and an old, plastic hula skit and got to work.

I'll let her tell you the rest.

A Lovely $5 Table
by Lindsey Huddleston

Candelabra: $1.09 at Goodwill
Vintage Sheet: $0.70 at the Goodwill Outlet.
Yellow placemat and green hula skirt: $0.76 at The Goodwill Outlet.
Oranges: $1.99
Candles: (ok--I cheat--I already had them.  But Trader Joes, Wal Mart, and The Goodwill often have good deals on candles)

This was a unique project because the budget was so small! Of the entire $20, we allotted just $5 to decor.

It was a challenge to be aware of inventory that I have  at my house due to my line of work that others may not have lying about.  However, I am going to assume that you have plates, cups, silverware, pitchers, a music player, and lamps.
The first thing I did once I arrived at Crystal's house was prepare the table.  I cut a vintage sheet to fit the table.  The sheet was the first thing we found.  When working with a tiny budget, you must find a few things that inspire you and build around them.  In this case the inspiration was our 70's sheet.  

Whenever I dress a table I stick to 2 easy rules of design: create a focal point on the table and have clusters of odd-numbered objects.  While at the Goodwill I found a 5-point candelabra from the 70's, which met both needs.

We found a yellow placemat at the goodwill, which I placed in the middle of the table.  At first it was a bit much because there was a lot of the same color in the middle of a smallish table and the yellow looked weird with the gold candelabra, so using some spare fabric from the tablecloth I made a new middle for the placemat.  When you're on a budget you just have to go with it and keep adding and subtracting until you get it right.

We had quite a bit of extra fabric from the cutting the sheet to fit the table.  I used extra fabric to create napkins and a swag to the decanters.  I rolled the silverware inside my napkins and then tied with the green ribbon/hula skirt.

Following is the method I use to roll silverware:
1.Arrange your napkin in a diamond shape. Place your silverware in the center.
2. Lift the bottom corner to the center or as close as you can.
3. Pull the top corner down to center or as close as you can.
4. Pull the left corner all the way over to meet the right corner, hold the silverware in
place at the same time. Line up the corners as best as you can.

5. This will look like an arrow with a flat edge on the left, top and bottom with the
point on the right.
6. Hold the left flat edge and roll inwards towards the right.
7 Continue rolling until you have a tube of silverware.
8. Tie or accessorize as you please.

Instead of putting flowers on the table, I bought a bushel of oranges at Aldi for $1.99.  We used these to garnish drinks, decorate the table, and make the room smell nice.  The oranges looked lovely and also served as something our guests could munch on while waiting for dinner to be served.

The table was set and everything looked wonderful.  The next order was to set the mood.  I turned off all of Crystal's overhead lighting.  We collected lamps from the rest of her house and used those to light the room, giving it a calm and yellow glow.

I used my personal library in my ipod, pressed play, and fun was had by all.  

So, in conclusion for your $20 dinner party:
  • Buy fabric cheaply in bulk and use it for different purposes.
  • Remember, fruit is edible art.
  • Don’t be a stickler about color scheme -- use what you have.
  • Use the strengths of what you already own. Have blue vintage glassware from your grandmother, but only two pieces? Mix and match or use for flowers, candles, small fruits or plants.
  • Decide what your priorities are and put as much of your budget there as you can.
  • Lighting is just as important, if not more, as music. Choose well and intentionally.

You may or may not have met Lindsey Huddleston, but
if you live in Nashville you've probably been to one of
her events.  From her Black and White Party at Mercy Lounge,
to Geek Prom, to the most recent Nashville Burlesque show,
this little lady has really made a name for  herself among
Nashville event planners.  In addition to amazing parties,
Lindsey also plans alternative weddings with her company
DandyLion events. I guess you could say she was your
so-called wedding planner.
photography by John Yates

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our $20 Dinner Party, part 1

Harvest Happy.

The Menu:
Roasted Acorn Squash
Curried Sweet Potatoes
Beet Greens
Bread Pudding for dessert

The Southern Way:
Close your eyes, count to 3, and pretend boxed wine never happened.

The Grocery List (all store brands):
4 acorn squash
5 sweet potatoes
3 beets with the greens
cheap white bread
1  pint of milk
a carton of 6 eggs
brown sugar
bargain cinnamon and curry
1 lb. butter
1 small onion
1 box of dirt cheap wine

Back in February, alternative event planning guru, Lindsey Huddleston, and I decided we were going to throw a $20 dinner party.  After 2 weeks of scavenging and planning we did it and are here to report back.  Following is what we did for the food and drink.  Stay tuned for another post on decor and mood-setting by Lindsey.

and fun was had by all.
Since we had given ourselves a budget of $20 for 8 people we knew we had to leave out the meat.  Instead of filling our plates with starches, we decided to go harvest happy and fill our plates with colorful vegetables.

We asked the wine store if they had any cheap, closeout wines.  As it turns out, they had a $14 box of wine that was marked down to $6.  The man at the wine store explained that this wine was so cheap because they were no longer carrying that wine with that particular label and were liquidating the boxes merely because they had the old label.  Should you find yourself too fancy for box wine you'll need to take the Southern approach for your $20 dinner party: close your eyes, count to 3, and pretend that boxed wine never happened.  Once it's in your crystal decanter you can pretend it was a bottle from the cellar of the Queen.

Following are instructions for our dinner.  I didn't measure anything, but I didn't think it necessary.

Check back soon.  Lindsey is going to tell us a bit about how to make your dinner area inviting and lovely, using things found around your house or local thrift store.

Roasted Acorn Squash
turn oven up to 400.  Place squash in the oven and allow to bake until finished (about 30 minutes).  Allow to cool, cut in 1/2, and scrape out the seeds.  20 minutes before serving, turn oven on to 250, put 1 teaspoon of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar into the cavity and allow to bake until it reaches your desired serving temperature.

Curried Sweet Potatoes
Chop the sweet potatoes into 1 x 1 cubes.  Chop up your small onion and place it in casserole dish with the potatoes.  sprinkle with cinnamon, curry, and salt and mix, making sure the seasoning is equally distributed.  Dot the top of the mixture generously with butter.  Allow to bake on 400 until soft.  Add raisins.  Heat with Acorn Squash before serving.

Cut the beets from the greens and boil until soft.  Once beets are finished, drop in greens and allow to cook.  Slice beets and drizzle with a mixture of butter, salt, and brown sugar.

Bread Pudding
Cut the crust off of the bread, then cut into cubes and place in your casserole dish.  Add raisins to bread cubes.  Make a mixture of your milk, 5 eggs, 1/2 c. brown sugar and any other flavors you'd like to add.  I had some dark rum in the cupboard, so I mixed rum with mine.  Dot the top generously with butter and bake on 350.

Lindsey Huddleston:
Photography by John Yates

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Asked For It! Aunt Beth's Blackberry Jam Recipe!!

Aunt Beth, being fancy and awesome in the 70's
You guys asked for it and here it is: Aunt Beth's homemade jam recipe.  I found out it is actually my Deedee's homemade jam recipe, which, as it turns out, is actually my Grand-Deedee's homemade jam recipe.  What I'm saying is this thing is 3 generations good. 

When I asked Aunt Beth how to make the jam her response was, "Just mix your fruit, sugar, and butter together, then boil and add pectin."  I asked her how much of each and she replied, "A lot."  So, here is the recipe (we think) for a  giant batch of blackberry wedding jam.

You'll need:
7 cups of Blackberry puree (or fruit of choice)
8 cups sugar
2 T butter
2 packets of Certo fruit pectin

1. To make the puree, heat the blackberries, then mash them through a sieve.  If you like the seeds you may skip this part.

2. Bring the blackberry puree to a boil, then slowly add the sugar.

3. Bring the sugar and berries to a boil.  As it begins to rise, remove it from the heat and drop in a "pat" of butter (we determined that a "pat" is about 2 tablespoons of butter). 

4. Lastly, add your packets of Certo fruit pectin.

5. Can your jam.  Watch this video for effective canning: click here

Everyone, repeat after me, "Thank you, Aunt Beth!!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cooking with Road Berries and Flowers

Obviously, she's fancy.  Ladies, repeat after me, "Of course I can."
I come from an amazing family of women.  My Mom, Grandmother, and Aunts are my heros.  Naturally, when Brandon and I got married, they all came together, throwing us the most beautiful wedding I've ever been to.  I'd like to say I could take credit for that day, but all I did was say "I do."  For our gifts to our guests, my Aunt Beth made blackberry jam from berries she had picked on the side of the road at my grandparent's house.  Maybe it was the fresh berries, maybe it was just the Aunt Beth touch, but it was the best jam I've ever had.  Often in the morning I find myself dreaming about her glorious jam, wishing I still had a jar.

Following are a few recipes you can make with road berries and flowers.  Please don't eat flowers and berries you aren't certain are edible, as some can be deadly (those of you who saw Hunger Games  know exactly what I'm talking about).  Should you eat things from your yard and feel strange afterward, please go to the hospital.

1. Honeysuckle Sorbet
I came across this recipe on the NPR site [Noah Adams].

4 cups of honeysuckle blossoms
1 2/3 cups water (for those of us in TN, better use bottled water--our water tastes gross)
2 cups of sugar
1/2 t lemon juice

1. Soak the honeysuckle overnight to get rid of any thing living on them.
2. Pour the honeysuckles and water into a sauce pan and add the sugar.  After the mixture is clear, allow to boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
3. Strain honeysuckle through a sieve and add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
4. Take a spoon and press all of the juices, honey, and flower flavors out of your flowers to maximize the flower flavor.
5. freeze it, stirring occasionally if you're able.
6. break up your honeysuckle ice and blend in the blender or food processor before serving.

2. Sugared Violets
Eat sugared violets by themselves or use them to garnish your delectable spring desserts.

1. Wash your flowers and allow them to dry completely
2. Spread 1/2 cup of caster sugar on a plate (for the really poor fancy girl, you can take regular sugar and give it a few spins in your food processor to make it fine).
3. spread egg white onto the petals and dip into the sugar
4. place on wax paper, which also has sugar sprinkled onto it for easy removal

3. Muleberry Pie
3 cups of muleberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 t salt
2 T butter
1/4 c. flour
double pastry crust

1.Mix berries, sugar, salt, and flower and place into dish with piecrust
2. dot with butter
3. cover with piecrust and seal
4. Place pie in over and preheat to 400.  Once oven reaches 400 turn down to 340 and bake for 15 min or until the crust is slightly golden.
5. allow to cool on your window-sill like they do in the movies

4. Blackberry Ginger Glaze
Ok, so I'm cheating on this one--I haven't made this yet.  But I'm going to.  Here's the link for Baked Salmon with a Blackberry Ginger Glaze

Thursday, April 12, 2012

iPhone, youPhone: 6 ways to Smart-Phone

Amelita Galli-Curci on her smart phone
I feel silly admitting this, but my iPhone changed my life.  It's like the personal assistant I've never been able to afford.  From calendars, to everything-trackers, to coupons, to reminders, to books, to the sounds I wake up to in the morning, my iPhone does it all.

With a fancy phone, fancy case (OtterBox Defender--you can barely even tell there's an iPhone in there), and fancy phone plan, I've made a commitment to making my iPhone work for me since I have worked so hard to have it.

Following are a few free apps which have saved me a lovely amount of money and have made the larger phone payment worth it's weight in dollars.

Scout Mob
Scout Mob offers the same outrageous discounts that Groupon does, only you don't have to purchase the Scout Mob up front.  You merely show up, enjoy the offered goodies, and, upon check out, reveal your Scout Mob.  Scout Mob's target demographic is a little more narrow than Groupon's as well, which means they feature a lot of local eateries and boutiques as opposed to items that look as if they belong on an infomercial (Sorry, Groupon).

Shop Savvy
Shop Savvy is a sweet little app that can help you find the best deal on your groceries.  Simply scan the barcode with your camera.  This app will bring up the item in every store within your area, telling you the price and how far away the store is.  So far I've found Shop Savvy to be about 90% accurate.  This app is especially useful when purchasing large quantities of one item.

Drink Owl
I appreciate a good happy hour.  Drink Owl is a sweet little happy hour tracker.  Complete with map, you don't even need to search for the location of the restaurant because it is all wrapped up into one little app.  $5 drink and a $5 pizza?  I'm cool with that.

Push Pins
Let your iPhone coupon clip for you.  Simply scan the barcode of the items in your shopping cart with your iPhone camera and Push Pins will bring up all of the online coupons pertaining to that item.  Upon checkout you can show them to the cashier.

I Love Free Things
I love free things!  This app just keeps giving and giving.  I Love Free Things will stay abreast of the newest samplings and free offers and tell you how to get them.

Gas Buddy
Now, driving across town to get cheaper gas is counter-productive.  However, if I can drive 2 more blocks and find cheaper gas, then by all means, I'll drive 2 blocks to save a buck.  In addition, Gas Buddy awards a $250 gift certificate for gas to one person every week.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hem me in: what alcohol and shorter pants have in common this Easter weekend

I'm a light-weight.  I hate getting drunk, but if you give me a drink it's inevitable.  One drink and I don't drive, two drinks and you'll know my life story, three drinks and I'm gone, incoherent, and have shared the most intimate and not-so-secret-anymore details of my life.  I really know I've stepped over the line when my loving husband stands up, takes me by my shoulders and says, "We're getting up, don't say anything."  When he says this, my first inclination is to say everything.  But since I never go past drink 3 I still have a few inhibitions about me and bite my lip, even though my tongue is ready to tell all of Holland House my secrets.  Though I wish I could say I am just a funny drunk, I think I'm more of an uncomfortable one.  (Mom, if you're reading this, when I refer to myself as a drunk, to what I'm really referring are the 5 times I've been drinky this year.  "Drinky" is a state and an adjective, whereas "Drunk" is a lifestyle decision.  I merely chose drunk for hyperbolic reasons).

No one in my extended family drinks alcohol or eats pork.  It's a religious and health decision, which I respect, but do not observe.  Naturally, my 3 drinks a week make me feel like a rebel, going where few dare go in my family.  And what I really mean is that I feel slightly guilty for my 3 drinks a week and if I ate pork, too, I am sure the guilt over such decisions might engulf me.  If you ask me, I chose the more fun of the evils.  Somebody, hem me in!

When I entitled this blog "Hem me in," the only thing I could think to write about was alcohol.  And unless you want to liken cutting out the unnecessary length on your pants to getting rid of the sin in your life, making life "fit" the way it should, I don't think pants and alcohol have that much in common (however, it is highly recommended that you wear them while drinking).  But I'm going to take this moment, on this Easter weekend, to say that I was saved by grace, that no amount of Manhattans or Sazeracs can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ.  I'd like to say that salvation is a gift from God and that Jesus on the cross was sufficient for my salvation--He appeased the wrath of God, a wrath that I cannot appease without Him.  Imperfect as they may be, I guess you could say my pants fit afterall.

However, if your pants are still a bit too long and you don't want to wear nine inch heels to keep them from dragging on the ground or pay $20 to have them altered, we have an easy remedy: hemming them at home.

Following are 6 easy steps to shorter pants:

Step 1: try on your pants and roll them up to your desired length.  Mark the length with a pen or chalk

Step 2: begin cutting 1.5 inches below your mark.

Step 3: cut off the bottom hem of your pants.

Step 4: line up the inseam on your pants and the hem you just cut off.  You may hold the pieces in place with pens.  

Step 5: sew along the existing hem with thread the color of your jeans.  After you have attached the bottom hem to your pants, pull on the new hem until you see the original stitching.

Step 6: Iron and lightly starch your hem.
 Have a lovely time in your properly proportioned pants--get drinky, not drunk. Drive/don't drive responsibly.