Hosting a Baby Shower with a Twist

My sweet little niece is expecting twin boys in June and our family is so excited!  My summer is set aside to cuddle these sweet bundles.  Until then, I had to make do with hosting her baby shower to prepare for their arrival.

Two things that are a must for any good hostess — one, have a good caterer as your friend and two, when a friend offers to help – let them!

I am not a big “theme” shower person.  I believe a baby shower should be a time for the mother-to-be to feel pampered with delicious food.  I relied on my good friend Karen McCann with Applause Food Show and Catering to make my job easier. I have used Karen both personally and professionally for many occassions.  I told her I wanted crudite and a charcuterie tray and she worked her magic.

Sweet heart-shaped crackers add the perfect touch

Crudite is a French term for appetizers consisting of sliced or whole raw vegetables which are typically dipped in a vinaigrette or other dipping sauce. My sweet friend Shannon had just gifted me with her mother’s party dishes and Karen thought the punch cups would be perfect vessels for the dip and nesting the vegetables (Twist #1).  They were the perfect size for people to pick up and place on their glass plate.

We nestled the crudite cups on a wooden two-tiered tray.  I spread out a blue and white checked table cloth on my dining table and we set all of the food on top in a casual display. For a centerpiece, I kept it simple.  I bought four bunches of white and blue hydrangeas at Trader Joe’s and placed them inside two blue and white ginger jars.

Pro-tip:  About 20 years ago I bought glass salad plates at an estate sale and everytime I see them at garage sales I add them to my collection.  Shannon’s mother also had some she shared with me so I can easily say I have well over 100 glass plates to use for any occassion.  They go with everything!

A charcuterie tray is a French word for smoked, dry-cured or cooked meats. Karen prepared a tray of meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts, spreads and other savory treats.

Wonton cups filled with peat and mint pesto and goat cheese
Phyllo cups filled with cream cheese, sundried tomatoes and orange jam

And any good southern party is not complete without deviled eggs.  The twist on these is Karen prepared them in beet juice (Twist #2) so they had the slightest tinge of pink then she garnished them with capers and parseley.

Deviled eggs with dill and capers

Mr. Bee made his famous pizzas, only for a ladies party we made mini margarhita pizzas with carmelized onions, basil, tomatoes, mozarella cheese and basil. We walked around serving these to guests from platters.

Mini margarhita pizzas

Then, it was time for dessert.  Enter Twist #3.  My party dishes included glass parfait dishes.  Growing up I remember how fun it was when my Sister Lady made parfaits with jello and whipped cream.  My version was poundcake, berries and homemade whipped cream!  Sister’s friend Kay offered to help and I enlisted her to make the mother-to-be’s favorite dessert lemon pound cake.  Kay was up for the challenge and after three recipe attempts found a recipe from Southern Living magazine that we have now deemed Kay’s Lemon Poundcake (recipe at the end of the story).  We set up a make your own parfait bar and it was yummy!

Cubed lemon poundcake

And one last treat, a grown up S’More.  I first made these when I visited Sister Lady in her home in New Mexico.  They are Twist #4.  Butter baguette slices and lightly toast.  Spread with Marshmallow cream and toast until just a golden brown. Top with pieces of milk and dark chocolate (buy the giant bars from Trader Joe’s for $3.99) then place back in the oven (we used our Fontana Forni outdoor pizza oven since it was already hot from the pizza) until the chocolate is soft.  Then top with a raspberry and vanilla sea salt.

Grown up S’More

We washed everything down with peach minted iced tea and ice cold glasses of Almond Creek Prosecco I found at Trader Joe’s.

And here’s what you’ve been waiting for…Kay’s Lemon Poundcake.  It is out of this world.  Moist and freezes well. Be sure to call your cardiologist first…it has 5 sticks of butter!

Kay’s Lemon Pound Cake (original source Southern Living)

Ingredients:
5 sticks (2 1/2 cups) *unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/4 fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt (*I have used salted butter and added 1 teaspoon kosher salt.)
Powdered sugar for garnish.

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350*, generously mist a 10 cup fluted cake pan with non- stock spray, dust with flour.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
4. Scrape the bottom and sides of mixing bowl, add lemon extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth.
5. Add flour and salt, mixing on medium speed until barely incorporated.
6. Transfer batter to prepared pan, bake for 75-85 minutes, or until a bamboo skewer inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
7. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then place on wire rack to cool completely.
8. Dust with powdered sugar for garnish.

Please contact Karen McCann through her Facebook page Applause Food Show and Catering, (815) 520-2069 and [email protected] to book her for your next party.  And visit her retail store in Aledo (600 E. West Oak Drive, 76008) for quick meals, coffees and desserts.  Karen also offers a weekly chef-prepared meal service.

Art of Gathering Book Club Party!

In May, when Priya Parker launched her book The Art of Gathering, I knew it would be the perfect read for my co-workers.  Since I am always looking for an opportunity to host a party, I offered to lead the discussion.   I already lead my own personal bookclub Mrs. Twist Reads This,  and I was up for the challenge.

Book selection:

The Art of Gatheringdraws on Parker’s expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, and takes us inside events of all kinds to show what works, what doesn’t, and why. She investigates a wide array of gatherings–conferences, meetings, a courtroom, a flash-mob party, an Arab-Israeli summer camp–and explains how simple, specific changes can invigorate any group experience.

The result is a book that’s both journey and guide, full of exciting ideas with real-world applications. The Art of Gathering will forever alter the way you look at your next meeting, industry conference, dinner party, and backyard barbecue–and how you host and attend them.”

Homework:

I wanted this to be interactive, not just me sitting at the front of the room talking, so I enlisted the help of Kahoot – an online game-based learning and trivia platform used on our campus by professors, but it’s also a popular tool in business.  It helps you create all kinds of fun ways to facilitate learning.  I wrote seven questions I came up with using important points in the book and the group played along.  We also used the book to find key concepts that coordinated with the questions.

Before the book club gathering,  I asked the group to come with three ideas they found interesting and willing to adapt or try and a concept that seemed out of their comfort zone.  We took time between trivia questions to share their responses.

Getting personal:

Since we combined two different departments to collaborate on this book club, I felt it was important to get to know one another to find common interests.  Before we started, everyone shared their name and two fun facts about themselves.  When they arrived at our gathering they were asked to write down on a slip of paper their favorite book as a child.  I pulled out the slips of paper throughout our discussion and it was fun trying to figure out who wrote what.

Snacks:

The most important rule:  You cannot have a book club without food!  I enlisted the help of Georgie Girl Bake Shop for the delicious and stunningly creative sugar cookies.  She designed Miss Bee’s graduation party cookies so I knew she could make something fab.  I showed her a copy of the cover art from the book and TCU’s current tagline “Lead On.”  She made cute bookmarks and purple bookworms, too.

I also had my niece, who is very handy with her sewing machine, help me construct candy bags from pages of an old book.  She sewed up the sides with colorful thread.  They were the perfect pouches for everyone’s personal candy stash.

Speaking of color, I knew this gathering called for a big tray of colorful candy!  I bought bags of Dots, Hot Tamales, Lemon Heads, Sour Patch Kids, Licorce twists, Skittles and jelly beans and filled a white tray.

And to wash all the sugar down…little cans of sparkling lemonade piled in an ice bucket with colorful napkins and matching straws!

Everybody wins at the end of a gathering is the moral to this story.  We fed our intellect with a new subject matter.  We noshed on fun and creative snacks.  We learned something new and we made connections.  I’d said we scored an A+ at The Art of Gathering!

Breakfast Fit for a Queen

You’re invited to join me for a look back at a post I penned on April 29, 2011 when William and Kate were wed.  It was such a special day with my mother, Miss Bee and me enjoying royal breakfast while we watched the nuptials.  My photography has improved since then, so indulge me more on the sweetness of the occasion.  Enjoy this “best of” the blog.

Earnie and I shopped at Central Market yesterday in preparation for the big day today.  I set the table last night with her Wedgwood Wild Strawberry china and wedding crystal.  We set the alarm at 4 a.m.  Even Little Miss Bee wanted to be in on the fun.  She came in at 3:45 a.m. to make sure I didn’t oversleep…

Up at 4 a.m., Diane Sawyer on the telly and Cinnamon Bun coffee brewing.  Here’s our feast…

I didn’t prepare a traditional English breakfast because that would have involved frying eggs, frying bread, mushrooms sautéed in butter and fried sausages.  Did you notice I used the word “fried?”  Mr. Bee is English and when we go to see relatives, this is the typical fare.  It’s good every once in a while, but not everyday if you’re trying not to die of coronary artery disease.

Rather, we enjoyed the fare I would have liked prepared for my own coronation. We had Quiche Lorraine, chocolate filled croissants, scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, fresh fruit, strawberry goat cheese muffins, coffee and fresh squeezed pineapple orange juice.  I really think food tastes better when it’s dark outside (as seen in the lower right corner of the photo).  The cats weren’t quite sure what was going on…why are we getting to eat so early…they weren’t complaining..

Mr. Bee said no thank you to our invitation last night.  He said he would watch the reruns on CNN today.  So, it was just Little Miss Bee, me and the Queen Mum.

At 6:15 a.m., Little Miss Bee went back to bed….and so did the Queen Mum.  I got ready for work…and a wedding reception!

My co-worker and I brought in a cake we had made at Central Market and prepared a mock Champagne punch.We also asked everyone to make a name tag with their “Royal Name” — Lord or Lady, the first name of your Grandmother, the name of your first pet, and street name of your childhood home.  It was a lot of fun seeing people’s names…mine was Lady Ruth Orange Oliver on Meadowbrook.  Some day, I’ll tell you about Orange Oliver.

So, like the Windsors, I will retire tonight in my castle bedroom, without servants, however.  And recall the day’s events.  How excited I was to wake up this morning to watch with the world the beginning of a new life together.  Best wishes, Prince William and HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.  God save the Queen!
This Saturday, May 19 at 6 a.m. CST, I will be up again to witness true loves kiss again with Harry and Meghan.  I am gathering up my breakfast stuff and will be enjoying noshing with my bestie whilst we watch the telly.  God bless you Harry and Meghan.