Custom Pottery Bridal Shower

One of my issues with weddings is that they are expensive for everyone involved.  The last time I was a bridesmaid it cost me well over a thousand dollars.  Once you do the bridal shower, a gift for said shower, the bachelorette party, dress, shoes, hair and makeup, gift for the wedding, and possibly take a day off of work thanks to trendy wedding dates, you probably don’t want to look at the statistics on the success rate of marriages in the US.  You have a 50% chance that this was just a wasted effort and cost.  And you’re lucky to get a thank you note and possibly a crappy piece of jewelry to commemorate the whole fiasco.

Knowing I am in the “elope now or never get a sympathetic ear from me ever ever EVER about what stupid flowers/colors/shoes/food your future mother in law wants you to get” camp when it comes to weddings makes most people tread lightly around me when mentioning nuptials.  Look, you can invite me to your wedding but I won’t be happy about it, okay?

Still, it seems to fall on me to take care of things for my middle little sister as she prepares for her small wedding next month.  So I threw her a shower.

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I guess because I have to be different, or because it is such a small wedding that there aren’t even any attendants, or maybe because Emmi dislikes being the center of attention, we didn’t do the traditional shower with gifts.

Have you ever been to one of these paint-your-own pottery places?  The greenware (pottery that is already fired once) is layered on shelves and you pick a plate or figurine or whatever and paint it with special ceramics paint. (A quick lesson in ceramics: the paint is not paint but a glaze – liquid containing tiny bits of colorant and minerals that will actually melt into a smooth glass coating once the item is toasted in a kiln for several hours. ) There is more technique than skill involved in painting, but it is a fun and creative way to spend an afternoon.  I may or may not have a slight addiction to painting pottery.

My baby little sister Lea and I made invitations with a cute poem and invited the 20-odd guests to just come and make something for Emmi instead of bringing a gift along.  This solved my ethical hangup with showers: I’m already getting something for this greedy bride for the wedding so I have to get her a second gift for the shower, too?

We went to our favorite outfit, a great independent store called Star Glazers.  Hey had tables ready for us, balloons, and extra staff.  You can always bring your own food and drink.

So there is always a risk that people are terrible at following directions/using a paintbrush.  I made a Pinterest board to collect ideas and bounce them off of the bride.  CLICKY!

Was I successful in orchestrating a pottery class/party in which 20 women made coordinating ceramic dishes for a mutual friend?

You be the judge!

 

 

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Pink Lemonade Cake Balls

I dislike weddings on principle.  They are expensive and selfish and wasteful.  When people say they are getting married, I think it’s good.  Monogamy has social, economic, and emotional benefits.  I’m married; I like it.  But when people say they are having a wedding, I’m like “why would you DO that?”

Okay, so my middle little sister Emmi is getting married.  Yay!  And she is having a wedding.  Blech!  But I love my sister so I said I’d help.  Plus she is sort of the anti-bridezilla because a. she loves that show and b. she hates being the center of attention.  I think she’s mostly doing the wedding thing because eloping is too exciting for her.  She’s not boring or anything; she’s just very low-key and anti-drama so anything that might step on people’s toes or whatever.  I’m not sure I know what that feeling is like, but I respect and admire her for it.

So Emmi declared that we were making all of the deserts for the wedding.  This was not surprising because anyone who is used to homemade desserts is likely to be picky about them.  My freezer has started to fill with delicious desserts.  I think I’ll share those with you!

The first delicious thing that is sitting in my freezer until the big day is PINK LEMONADE CAKE BALLS.

2014 Emmi's Wedding Baked goods

 

This cake is sweet and heavy.  I always mess with recipes like this one because I hate using processed food in my baking.  The original recipe calls for frozen lemonade concentrate, but I have real lemons and sugar on hand, so why would I go out of my way to thaw a tube of lemon juice and high fructose corn syrup?  I just estimated the amount of sugar and juice.

Me making this cake was like if Rachel Ray was using one of Sandra Lee’s recipes.  If you don’t know who Rachel Ray is, she’s controversial sometimes but mostly she cooks awesome food.  Not much of baker but she is a natural in the kitchen, instinctively substituting ingredients and mixing up flavors and finding inspiration everywhere.  If you don’t know who Sandra Lee is, good.  You are better off not knowing.

For the purpose of context: Sandra Lee is to Martha Stewart as Celine Dion is to Barbara Streisand.  A Canadian trollope who is too skinny to actually have eaten any of her own baking or cooking, Sandra Lee creates culinary abortions in her adorably coordinated kitchen.  Touting the phrase “semi-homemade” like that is even a thing, she cuts corners and creates sad semblances of food out of prepackaged mixes and processed foodstuffs.  Hey, I get it! You work forty hours a week, you have kids, you have Netflix, and you don’t want/have time to make it from scratch.  Just don’t expect me to be impressed.  Or to eat your Kwanzaa cake covered in corn nuts.  Ew.

Okay so I made a delicious cake using logical substitutions from this recipe.  I crumbled it up and added buttercream icing, lemon zest, lemon juice, and pink food coloring.  The resulting mixture is then rolled into balls and coated in yellow coating candy.

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Because this is for a wedding/I am a nut about food I make looking aesthetically pleasing, I added adorable straws!   I cut up the straws into thirds and dipped each one into the candy, then I stabbed the cake and used the straw as a handle for dipping. The trick with this candy coating is to add some Crisco to the chocolate, thinning it out to a smooth enrobing solution.

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Because the chocolate is thin, the bottom of the cake will peek through, so I settle each bon bon on an unmelted candy wafer.

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Some pink sanding sugar finishes each ball.

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It’s a small wedding and you are probably not invited.  Ha ha.

Best Play Kitchen EVER (if I do say so myself!)

 

Okay so I’m not always known for my modesty.  There are some things I am really good at, like standardized test taking and pretending to be sweet as pie so my customers love me and baking most things (but not macarons because those are my nemesis).  But even with that in mind, I have to say that I am REALLY good at making a play kitchen for my niece.

I had the Fisher Price sink and stove and such as a kid.

I played in the housekeeping station in kindergarten.

I received a china tea set one year for Christmas.

My dolls were well fed.

It took a long time for me to give up tea parties and playing house.  It felt like the right kind of play.

In college I learned that my instincts were correct – this kind of play, which was always my favorite, is an important part of how young children develop an understanding of the world around them.  They learn to socialize and to work out problems by mimicking the actions and words of adults they observe.  It’s not just adorable when a tiny tot offers you an invisible cup of hot cocoa; it’s an important social transaction and practice making appropriate interactions with others.

I love being an auntie and I love to make stuff, so this project was a no-brainer.  I took my niece on a trip downtown and in the consignment store she fell in love with the plastic toy kitchen the store owner keeps out to accommodate the kiddies while their  spending-savvy mommies shop.  My niece refused to leave the store.  She threw a tantrum because she wanted so badly to microwave another pretend french fry.  Obviously I had to figure out how to get a play kitchen for her!

The plastic kitchens can be fairly affordable, but they don’t have efficient storage and they are garish.  I looked and priced, but I also scoured DIY websites and Pinterest.  As I usually do, I came to the conclusion that “I can make this.”

With Chuck’s help, of course.

My first stop was the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  This place is a gold mine for DIY-ers!  Any leftover and still functioning building materials are accepted as donations and then sold at low cost to raise money for Habitat.  In the past I have purchase shingles for our new shed, paint, tiles, and even unused tools.

The cabinet section was slightly bare but as luck would have it, they had exactly what I needed in stock.  Two cheap, plain wall cabinets for $10 and $15 each.  SCORE.  Some quick measurements and I was ready to go

You can clearly see the fridge, oven, and sink, right?

You can clearly see the fridge, oven, and sink, right?

I picked up some MDF meant to be shelving  at Lowes and Chuck found some unused paneling in his workshop.  While he sanded the cabinets and jigged out a hole for the dog dish –turned –sink, I painted a mural for the backsplash using my acrylics and sealed the image with clear spray paint.

 

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sink made from a dog dish.

I think she has a nicer backsplash than I do!

I think she has a nicer backsplash than I do!

Once the whole piece was together, Chuck painted the kitchen while I painted the “fridge” with homemade chalkboard paint and I freehanded the “microwave.”  I found baskets at a thrift shop and spray painted them in various shades of green.

The fridge is painted with chalkboard paint!

The fridge is painted with chalkboard paint!

 

Ha ha I am hilarious, I know.

Ha ha I am hilarious, I know.

The finishing touch was telling everyone what we made so they could help fill it out.  Auntie Alice and Uncle “Ded” bought some adorable Melissa and Doug play food, Auntie Emmi found perfect miniature baking supplies, while Mommy bought a princess tea set, providing props for play time.

A friend recently posted this article on the importance of play in a child’s life.  It sort of boggles my mind that someone would question the healthiness of a child’s imagination, but the article sort of take a tone of defense, doesn’t it?  I always assumed that most adults are just too busy/lazy to encourage imaginative play, but I guess some people discourage it, too.  So sad!

The niece-let is happy to play with her kitchen and it has been encouraged to bring her toys to the real kitchen to “bake” with flour, dried beans, play dough, etc.  She also uses her tiny whisks to stir eggs whenever we crack them into a bowl.  Baby dolls under her care are sated and I’m pretty sure those pretend cookies have calories because I think I’ve gained weight.

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