Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baby Shower - How I pulled it off at 8 months pregnant

I've had several people ask me how I pulled off throwing my friend's baby shower when I, myself, was 8 months pregnant. it goes! 

The best tip I can give y'all is do as much cooking and preparation in advance as you can. Pregnant or not, this is my philosophy for EVERY party I throw. No one enjoys going to a party when the host or hostess is visibly exhausted or frazzled. I view part of my role as the party-thrower to be the "fun maker" and "instigator of shenanigans." 

Now, in light of the fact that I knew I would be very pregnant at the time of this party, I started planning early. Here's what I did:

1-2 Months Before the Event
  • I wrote out my entire plan for the event, including:
    • Food I would serve
    • Beverages
    • Games we would play
    • Decor I would use 
    • Favors I would give
    • Easy tasks I could assign to other people 
Keep in mind -- it's easy to either get carried away or not feel obligated to plan enough when you are brainstorming this far in advance. Stick to the basics and keep it simple. When planning your decor, focus on 2-3 elements that pack a BIG punch. For the baby shower, I had three decor elemtents:

  1. Flowers -- I bought two bouquets of white flowers and divided them up between about 10-12 small glass jars (these were all leftover jelly, pickle, olive, pepper jars I had saved over the years).  By using flowers in a single color, I established a color motiff for the shower. 
  2. Tissue Poofs -- I did a Pinterest search for tissue poofs and found a tutorial to follow to make my own. I made about 17 or so white tissue poofs and hung them over the kitchen island where lunch was being served, over the fireplace, and over the dining table where dessert was being served. These poofs signaled to my guests where the action would be taking place. 
  3. Onesies and socks -- I picked up a 4-pack of plain white onesies and a 6-pack of cute baby socks, and hung them with cloths pins across the front of my fireplace. I gave all of these items to my friend as part of her gift. 
1-2 Weeks Before the Event
  • I made or prepped all of the non-edible stuff I would need for the event, including:
  • I reviewed all of my recipes and made a detailed shopping list
  • I also shopped for all of my non-perishables -- I can't stress enough how helpful it was to break up my shopping into two trips. By buying the non-perishables earlier, it made the days leading up to the shower so much simpler. 
  • Purchase and WRAP whatever gift you are planning to give to the momma-to-be.
Keep in mind -- it's easy to put this step off....don't underestimate the power of starting early. Make yourself focus and do as much ahead of time as possible. You don't want to be up in the wee hours of the morning the night before the event making party favors or planning games. 

We had a REALLY fun time with games. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of shower games unless I'm the one picking the games (surprise, surprise). Here's what we played:

  1. Ice Cube Baby game -- Buy small plastic babies from your local craft store. I got mine at Michael's in the baby shower section. Wash them, and then freeze each baby inside an ice cube (you'll need ice cube trays for this). When you're ready to play the game, make sure each guest has a beverage in-hand, and place one ice cube in each guest's glass. First one who's "water breaks" (i.e. baby is completely free from the ice cube) wins!! It's fun, and people really get a kick out of it. I stole this game from my husband's cousin, Kristen, who is the BEST party-thrower and hostess ever. She makes this stuff look so easy. 
  2. Complete the Nursery Rhyme -- Each person gets a sheet of paper with 20+ lines from nursery rhymes with missing words. They must fill in the blanks. Whoever gets the most right wins! You can Google nursery rhyme games and tons will come up. Just pick whatever ones you like. 
  3. Just Ask Mama -- This game ended up being a HUGE hit. Each person gets a small piece of paper and a pen. On one side they must write a question a new mother might have (any question they want, and encourage them to be creative). Some of the questions people wrote were: "How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?" "How do I get rid of these hemorrhoids?" and "What do I do if my baby has a fever?" You may want to have a few questions handy in case people need help thinking of a question. Once everyone is done writing their question, tell them to turn their papers over and hand them to the person on their left. Now, tell everyone to write the answer to their ORIGINAL question on the back of the paper they just received. You might have some non-moms or kids in the room who don't know the answer to the question they wrote  -- just tell them to write down whatever they think the answer is. Once everyone is done, collect the cards and shuffle them. Then read them out loud. You'll now have a bunch of questions with random answers on the back, and the result is quite hilarious! We actually asked my husband to read the questions out loud for us, because for whatever reason it was even funnier listening to him read them. The group was in tears laughing. There's not really a winner to this game, obviously. :)
2 Days Before the Event
  • Shop for perishables
    • I bought my veggies, fruits, beef and flowers and any other last-minute items I needed
  • Start prepping!
    • I froze my ice cube babies
    • I arranged my flowers in jars
  • I made a checklist of everything I wanted to get done the day before the event, as well as what I would need to get done the morning of the event -- this ensured nothing got overlooked.
  • Plan your outfit for the event -- seriously. You don't want to be scrambling to get yourself ready the day of the event. If you plan your outfit ahead of time, you'll have time to do any extra laundry you might need to do to have that perfect outfit. 
1 Day Before the Event
  • Made all of my desserts
  • Made the BBQ beef in the crockpot
  • Set out all of my serving dishes and corresponding labels
  • Did all of my decorating
  • Mixed apple and cranberry juices together. I wrapped cloves, cinnamon sticks and a sliced vanilla bean in cheesecloth and placed it in the juices to steep overnight in the fridge.
  • Sliced oranges and froze them in the freezer
  • Crumbled the blue cheese and sliced the havarti
  • Sliced red onions and tossed them in red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to marinate overnight
  • Cleaned the house! With the help of the hub of course.
I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it was well worth the effort! And I was still in bed by 10pm. I got a good night's sleep and woke up ready to party! The morning of the event, I only had a few easy things to do.

The Day of the Event

  • Got myself dressed and ready -- do this FIRST!
  • Get some fun, energizing music going. I played disco music and kept it going through the entire party. It just makes you smile and want to shake what yo' mama gave you. 
  • Warmed the BBQ beef in the crockpot
  • Made fruit and veggie skewers -- I had a friend come over early and she made all of these
  • Tossed the coleslaw together -- this literally took 5 minutes
  • Sliced the pretzel rolls
  • Washed and leafed the lettuce for lettuce wraps -- my friend did this as well
  • Put the rest of the food and desserts into their serving trays
  • Added ginger ale and frozen orange slices to the punch
  • I recruited my husband to move some chairs, clean the bathroom, and be our photographer for the event -- his reward was getting to taste

I was so relaxed when people started showing. I had confidence that everything was done exactly as I wanted, and I had so much energy, I was able to enjoy the party as much as my guests. 

You can find all of the recipes I used by clicking here. The only recipe missing from this link is my Autumn Punch, which I outlined below:

Autumn Punch
  • 2 parts apple juice (I used one giant jug of apple juice from Costco)
  • 1 parts cranberry juice (I used about half of a giant jug of cranberry juice from Costco)
  • Frozen orange slices
  • 10-12 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, each cracked in half
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, sliced down the middle and cut into a few pieces
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1 liter of ginger ale
Combine apple and cranberry juices in a HUGE pitcher or beverage dispenser. Wrap cloves, cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans in cheesecloth and tie off the end (like a big tea bag). Drop the cheesecloth bag into the juice mixture and let it steep overnight in the fridge. Before your guests arrive, remove the cheesecloth, and add the ginger ale and frozen orange slices. 


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Monday, November 19, 2012

Slowing down...

Friends...I guess we all knew this time would come. I'm officially announcing that my blog posts will be slowing down (perhaps even becoming nonexistent at times) for awhile. Starting now. I'm getting to the point where I'm a little too pregnant to get projects completed efficiently, and I'm starting to run out of energy, much like I felt in the first trimester. This blog has been a joy for me to write, and I love seeing everyone's comments. But, I have to major in the majors right now, and between working full time and preparing for the baby, I need to prioritize and cut myself some slack.
I still plan to show y'all pictures of completed projects -- especially the nursery!! But I probably won't be posting detailed tutorials for a spell. 

I'll be utilizing my Facebook page quite a bit more to post project updates, tips, insights, etc, so make sure you zip on over there and "like" Pig and Paint on Facebook if you want to stay in the loop on projects as they happen. 
Once my baby is here, I'll be taking a break from home projects and blogging altogether. Once our family gets into a routine, I hope I can post regularly on Pig and Paint again. But, until then, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has followed along on my little home-making adventure. Whether you're a foodie or a DIY enthusiast, or both, your support has meant the world to me.
Thank you!

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

To Quote My Husband...on Why Prayer Doesn't Work

Ever wonder why it seems like your prayers go answered? Check out this blog post Brian wrote on the topic. 

Click Here: Prayer Doesn't Work.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY Oatmeal & Rosemary Bath Soak

Here is a super easy and very inexpensive party favor, great for baby or bridal showers! I made Oatmeal and Rosemary bath soaks recently for my friend's baby shower. Oatmeal is a great (and cheap!) natural moisturizer -- great for winter skin or baby bumps!

It all started with a rogue rosemary bush in my front yard. Apparently, this bush was getting everything it needed to thrive, because thrive it did! It was quickly taking over my front yard, so I busted out my clippers and trimmed it back.

I rinsed the rosemary well.

I let it dry on some paper towels, but honestly wasn't too picky about this step since it would all dry out in the oven eventually.

I lined my baking sheets with paper towels...

...and then laid my picked rosemary leaves on the paper towels. I did not use the stems.

I covered them with another layer of paper towel...

...and popped both trays in the oven, and set it to 180 F with the door propped slightly ajar (to allow any steam to escape).

I left my rosemary in the oven for about 90-120 minutes, rotating the trays and tossing the rosemary around the trays every 30 minutes or so.

While I waited, I decided my rosemary bush still needed more pruning, so I ended up putting a big bunch in a vase with some water..... the rosemary is STILL looking amazing in the vase and it's been several weeks. This stuff is indestructible!

Once my rosemary was evenly dried, I pulled the trays out of the oven.

 I tossed some oats and rosemary into my food processor (whatever ratio smells the best to you)...

...and buzzed them together until they were finely ground.

I spooned the mixture into little mason jars. Walmart sells boxes of mason jars very cheaply. I'm sure you can get them cheaply at other stores as well.

And then I got to work making my jars look adorable.

I cut thin strips of burlap.

I used a rubber band to secure the burlap around the jar.

I designed labels on my computer (using MS Word... nothin' fancy) and printed them on regular paper. I cut them out and punched a hole in the corner. I used a piece of ribbon to tie them around each jar.

If you'd like to download my tags, you can do so by clicking the link below. Unfortunately this version is not editable, so if you'd like the editable version, just email me at alison (at) pigandpaint (dot) com (replace "(at)" and "(dot)"with the appropriate symbols...I didn't want to type it correctly because frankly I don't want spam email).

Click here to download the tags.

And then I was done! You could also add little sprigs of fresh herbs to make them even more adorable.

As the ladies were leaving the baby shower, I recommended they dump the contents in an old sock and tie off the end of the sock, instead of dumping the contents directly into their bath water. This way, they could use the sock like a tea bag in their bath (makes for easier clean-up), and also use the sock as a loofah or washcloth.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baby shower love - Gluten free style!

I recently had the honor of being able to throw one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world a baby shower. Our due dates are about 4 weeks apart, and she had thrown me an AMAZING baby shower about 3 weeks earlier, so I was beyond thrilled to be able to shower her with some party love. 

I wanted to share some of the hit recipes from the event, so here it goes! Oh, and before I begin, I have to give my husband a MAJOR shout out, because he was a fabulous helper. Sometimes I forget I'm 8 months pregnant and physically can't quite do some things as well or as fast as I do normally (like climbing on, oh, say, the kitchen island, to hang tissue poufs from the ceiling). He stepped in and handled so much and really was the unsung hero of the party. 

Ok, on to the food! Most of the meal was make-ahead, which is my favorite way to throw a party. I like to be stress-free the day of the event so that I can enjoy the fun and be a good hostess, so the more I can do ahead of time the better! Also, I had several folks attending the party who are allergic to gluten, so almost everything was gluten-free.

Let's start with dessert, shall we?  All three of the desserts I served were make-ahead dishes, which I stored in the fridge until about 30 minutes before the party started.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles

First up, the white chocolate pumpkin cream cheese truffles (click for recipe) I substituted the graham crackers and ginger snaps for gluten-free versions of the same items. They turned out fabulous!! I also sprinkled the tops with a little nutmeg instead of sprinkling them with graham cracker crumbles.

Mocha Coconut Fudge

Next up was the mocha coconut fudge (click for recipe). OMG. This was so good. No adjustments were needed to make this gluten free. Mmm. I could literally eat this all day.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

And last, but certainly not least, chocolate peanut butter truffles (click for recipe). Superb and super easy. With this recipe, I used gluten free graham crackers instead of the regular version. I could eat these all day too.

Ok, let's rewind and revisit lunch for a moment.

Caprese Fruit Skewers

Caprese fruit skewers....these are so fun. Strawberries, watermelon, basil and mozzarella, with a walnut and pear balsamic glaze. So easy and beautiful! 

Veggie Skewers

I made a simple veggie skewer as well, as topped it with italian dressing. Again, super easy and the bright colors just look gorgeous.

Gourmet Coleslaw

This coleslaw ended up being a huge hit. I have to thank my mother in law for this recipe -- it's one of my favorites! The recipe calls for shredded cabbage (not the purple kind or the mixes that come with carrots...just regular ol' cabbage), dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles, sliced green onions, grapenuts and poppy seed dressing. You can mix everything together except for the dressing and grapenuts ahead of time. Add the dressing and grapenuts just before serving. To make this gluten-free, I simply substituted the grapenuts for toasted pepitas (mexican pumpkin seeds), and it was absolutely fabulous.

BBQ Beef Sliders on Pretzel Buns with Blue Cheese and Marinated Red Onions

I also served BBQ pulled beef sliders on pretzel buns with blue cheese crumbles and marinated red onions. The pretzel buns were the only non-gluten-free item on my table, but I offered up butter lettuce leaves so my gf-friends could make lettuce wraps instead.

I made the BBQ beef the day before in the crockpot. I used beef chuck roast cut into pieces (not too small). I put some roughly chopped onion and garlic in the bottom of the crockpot, and then layered the beef on top. I added a generous sprinkling of onion power, garlic powder, and an applewood smoked BBQ rub on the beef. I add just a bit of chicken stock and let the beef go on low for about 8 hours or so....until it was easily shreddable. I removed the meat from the crockpot, discarding the fatty pieces. I also discarded the onions, garlic and cooking liquid. I added the beef back to the empty crockpot, and started shredding away. Once it was shredded, I started stirring in BBQ sauce until it tasted "right." I let the meat cool a bit and then stored the whole thing in the fridge. In the morning, I put the crockpot back on low to warm up the meat slowly. I stirred it every 30 minutes or so, adding more BBQ sauce as I went.

The blue cheese and marinated red onions really set this dish over the top! To marinate red onions, you simply julienne slice red onions. Transfer the onions to a tupperware dish that just barely fits all of your onions. Fill the tupperware about 1/4 of the way full with red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then put the lid on your tupperware. Shake the container and then put it in the fridge overnight.

Later this week, I'll share with you how I made the party favors: Oatmeal and Rosemary bath soaks!

All in all, the party turned out to be a huge success!


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Monday, November 12, 2012

Nursery: Upcycle Dress into Pillow Covers

You may remember my recent debacle with canceling part of my fabric order for the nursery because their systems were calculating inventory availability incorrectly. I have still not found a suitable replacement for the curtain fabric, but thank you to everyone who chimed in with a suggestion! I checked all of the spots you recommended, but alas could not find the fabric any where else, and couldn't find a replacement. I think I may have come up with a new direction for the curtains, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, I started working on some pillow covers for the pillows that will be going on the window seat in the nursery. I've had this green dress in my closet that I haven't worn in several years (after I washed it, it got a little funky). So, I decided to turn the dress into a pillow cover.

I tried to keep this project very simple, because back hurt, my right ribs hurt, and it was uncomfortable sitting on the floor. Ahh the joys of the third trimester!

I laid the pillow on the dress and starting cutting.

I turned the fabric inside out and pinned around the pillow on three sides. I pulled the pillow out and sewed the three pinned sides.

I turned the pillow cover right-side in and stuffed the pillow back inside. I carefully sewed the third side closed.

And voila!

I repeated these steps for a smaller pillow.

And now I have two pretty darn cute pillows.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

To Quote My Husband...on Hearing the Voice of God

Ever wonder how to hear the voice of God? Check out this blog post Brian wrote on the topic. 

Click Here: Hearing the Voice of God

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Maui Babymoon Meals...."Vacation Goulash"

Greetings! Here's another home-cooked meal we had while on vacation Maui. We had spent the day hiking around the island, and had stopped for lunch at Bruddah Hutts BBQ just past Hana. We each ordered the BBQ pork lunch, which was the recommended by our guide book (so freakin' delicious). The portions were HUGE, so we ended up bringing home leftovers 

During one of my impulsive shopping trips at Mana foods, I picked up macadamia nuts, and we had half an onion leftover from a previous meal we cooked. 

I chopped up our leftover BBQ pork and set it aside.

I also chopped up some fresh pineapple.

I toasted the macadamia nuts in a skillet.

I tossed the chopped onion and pineapple in a pan with some melted butter.

I let that mixture caramelize a bit.

I added the pork at the very end, and cooked it until the meat was heated through.

I tossed the meat mixture together with some cooked orzo and the toasted macadamia nuts, and called it a day. My husband informed me that this mixture of vacation leftovers is called "vacation goulash," which was something he always looked forward to growing up when his family took trips.

We dined on the lanai that evening. It seriously does not get any better than this. 

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