Friday, July 29, 2011

Volunteering - Sometimes Volunteering Is Just One Big Party

pictured: Mary Carol Garrity and Macie Craven, photo by: Kelly Beane Photography

As you know if you have been following my posts volunteering, community service, and humanitarian acts comes in all shapes and sizes. If you love an illustrious luncheon or an elaborate gala this last volunteerism post is for you. 

Who does not want to wear a pretty dress and enjoy an extravagant evening out with their friends or significant other? It is fun, right? People do not mind paying for something when they are receiving something in return. Whether you are looking for a good time to support a good cause or looking to support a good cause by hosting a good time, a fundraiser may be just the ticket for you. 

If you are looking to fund your cause by throwing a fundraiser you want your event to be a fun party, but think of it as planning a wedding reception. Every bride and groom want their guests to have an exciting and memorable time. To ensure a successful event they turn to multiple sources: caterer/baker, venue, entertainment, florist, etc. When organizing a fundraiser you need one person to handle each major detail. That person then builds their own team of volunteers to handle the minor details. Knowing your function in this machine is crucial. There is a fine line between diligently monitoring and micro-managing...I admit I struggle with this. 

I have attended many fundraisers and chaired a couple. My best advice is go to several fundraisers before you chair one. See what you and the other attendees like about the event. Keep a list of things you might want to repeat, which fundraisers you enjoyed, and any contacts for people working those events. Problems always arise, so, start small...and early. You want to have fielded some hills before you are hit with a mountain. 

The one I would like to bring you today is a luncheon I am currently co-chairing. Annually, Kappa Alpha Theta’s Oklahoma City Alumnae chapter hosts, Flaming Festival, a luncheon benefitting a non-profit organization, and our national philanthropy, Court Appointed Special Advocates, otherwise known as CASA: a volunteer network of individuals representing interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings. This year’s local non-profit organization is the SKIL Program facilitated by Youth Services for Oklahoma County. SKIL provides food, toiletries, counseling, life skills education, emergency financial assistance, and resources needed to graduate high school for students that for unfortunate situations live on their own without any financial or emotional assistance from parents. 

This year Flaming Festival will be held at the beautiful Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club on November 2nd, 2011 from 10 am to 4 pm. If you would like reservations for the luncheon and festival admission, please mail a $60 check to Kappa Alpha Theta, c/o Julie Branch, 6400 N.W. Expressway, #637, Oklahoma City, OK  73132, or call (405)728-0568 for more information. Tickets to attend the festival only will be available for $5.00 at the door. Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section of this post and I will respond to you. 

This year Mary Carol Garrity, revered lifestyle authority, creator of a decorating book series, syndicated columnist, and founder of Nell Hill’s, will entertain our luncheon guests with an interview style conversation. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mary Carol to chat over some details involving our event at her Kansas City store a few weeks back. She is a delightful, energetic individual. Most impressively, your chances of seeing Mary Carol when you visit her store are actually quite good. Her concern and interest in helping with our fundraising event is evident and appreciated. We are excited to welcome her to Oklahoma City and hope for a very successful event. 
pictured: Mary Carol Garrity photo by: Kelly Beane Photography 

Mary Carol Garrity has been wildly successful in home decoration. Her centerpieces located on the luncheon tables will be for sell to guests with the profits benefiting our charities. The lantern centerpieces are a perfect article of nostalgia for our event, given that Flaming Festival began with selling candles. 
Photo from Mary Carol Garrity's book, "O Christmas Tree"

Mary Carol Garrity has authored a series of decorating books that make fantastic coffee table displays. Her book, “O Christmas Tree,” will add a nice touch to any Christmas arrangement or a great gift for the interior diva. It, also, will be available for purchase at Flaming Festival. 

A new coat of paint can transform a tired room. If you need a little color in your life, Mary Carol has unveiled a line of custom paint colors to warm any home. 
Nell Hill's - Kansas City, photo by: Kelly Beane Photography

My friend, photographer, Kelly Beane and I entertained ourselves for upward of five hours in Nell Hill’s - Kansas City alone. You can find items from all price points in a variety of sizes. The store offers many room settings to gain ideas, purchase individual pieces or invest in an entire display to replicate in your own home. Though the store is decorated in Mary Carol’s signature style you can find a look that suits almost any taste with the wide array of colors, patterns and trends of multiple genres. Garrity’s Encore - Atchison and Nell Hill’s Atchison are additional locations to shop Mary Carol’s treasures.
Nell Hill's - Kansas City, photo by: Kelly Beane Photography

I would like to leave you to browse some lovely shots by Kelly Beane Photography taken in the Nell Hill's - Kansas City, MO store.

A special thanks to Mary Carol Garrity and Kelly Beane.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

White Forest Creamy Cookie Cupcakes

By now you are probably thinking my life is all cake and cream cheese. Actually, I think I have been doing a lot of stress baking...and eating. I was standing in the checkout line trying to decide what to bring to a Fourth of July cookout when I noticed a Better Homes and Gardens Cupcake edition. The recipe was inspired from the Cherry-Almond butter frosting on page 28. I pulled pieces from this frosting recipe and combined them with my standard buttercream recipe. If you have trouble finding the ingredients in my frosting recipe use the Better Homes and Gardens Cherry-Almond frosting recipe. 

You will need: 

  • White cake scraps 
  • Small circular cookie cutter 
  • Baking cups 

Frosting Ingredients: 
  • 3 Tbls. Cherry juice 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1/2 tsp. Almond extract 
  • 1/2 c. Driverts sugar 
  • 6 Tbls. Light butter 
  • 2 Tbls. shortening 
  • 3 c. Confectioner’s sugar 

Filling Ingredients: 
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese 
  • 2 tsp. Sugar 
  • 10-12 cherries 

First, either make a white cake or use left-over cake scraps from your freezer. Using a cookie cutter cut either 24 mini baking cup sized circles or 12 regular baking cup sized circles. Cut 1” tall circles in half horizontally. Set aside for later 

Frosting - combine half cherry juice pinch of salt, almond extract and Drivert’s sugar. Mix low to high for about a 1.5 minutes. Add softened light butter and shortening. mix low to high for about 2 minutes. The combination of the butter and shortening will begin to separate. Do not worry. I chose to add the butter in place of the shortening because of the calories, but had I not added any shortening my icing would have been too soft to work with. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time alternating with the remainder of the cherry juice. You may need to add more or less sugar depending on your climate. The sugar will soak up the oil and the separation will stop. Mix low to high for about 3 minutes. 

Filling - whip softened cream cheese and sugar. Chop cherries (seed and stem removed) in a blender or food processor. I actually mixed the cream cheese and sugar in my mini food processor then added the cherries to expedite the process. 

Place a dollop of filling between each of the two circular cake pieces. Cookie cupcakes can be placed in baking cups for ease in serving. 

Place frosting in a cake decorating frosting bag. If you are using a tip place your cupler and tip first. If you do not have decorating supplies place frosting in a sandwich bag, cut a corner tip and squeeze onto your cookie cupcake. 

The first time I made these I was unhappy with the recipe for the frosting and the filling, but happy with the general concept. The second time, which is the one I am sharing, I made two batches form the frosting recipe. I made half of the cakes minis and the others full size cupcakes. Therefore, this recipe should make 24 mini cookie cupcakes or about 12 full size cookie cupcakes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Recycling: From Dash’s Point of View

Dash will be posting for me today. One long week has spilled over into the next. I have one more informative and exciting post about volunteering/fundraising, but will have to table that for a few days.

Poop Bags! 

From Dash’s point of view: 

My mom has been making an effort to reduce our family’s carbon pawprints through recycling and repurposing. This is something we furbabies have been doing for a long time. Though I have never done it I have heard you can repurpose Mom’s expensive heels into a chew toy and then recycle them while fertilizing the backyard. But I am a bit of a fashion nut just like my mom so I believe shoes are for feet not for teeth. 

We live in a great neighborhood, but if someone does not pick up after me my parents run the risk of making the neighborhood paper. In effort to keep the yards of the month free of distasteful debris we carry “poop bags”. The bags from the pet stores are a great idea, but why buy more plastic sacks when we already have so many in the house? My mom’s favorite sacks are the long skinny ones that cover not just her hand but most of her arm like newspaper sacks, produce sacks, and bread sacks. These are nice because they are made of thin plastic and fold well. Sometimes she uses old freezer bags and sandwich bags too. She says it’s easy to just seal them off instead of tying them in a knot. If your dog is not a toy breed like me, well, sandwich bags may not be a good “fit” for you. 

Even though we are doing our best to recycle remember once used the “poop bags” become a trash item. One time my mom was in a rush and accidentally pitched it in the recycle bin. We had a very unhappy recycling pick-up man that refused our recycle bin for several weeks. Sorry recycling guy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finding Your Volunteer Niche

I was visiting with some friends over appetizers the other evening on how humanitarianism is intertwined with faith, amongst a variety of other deep, intense and for many people, boring subjects. I have pondered on this conversation and gathered one of my takeaway conclusions is that most people have an internal sense that helping other living creatures is part of our plight in life. Whether you find it a part of your religion, are innately compelled, or have never acted on your compulsion volunteering/community service has a strange way of bringing you a gift greater than the one you thought you provided to someone else. 

So how do you find a good community service fit? Try them out! 

I am not much of a cryer. If I tear-up over something I know I must be truly compassionate for whatever caused such a response. This is how I knew no matter how little or how much I did I had to do something when I saw pictures of the Guthrie Animal Shelter devastated by this years tornadoes. You will run yourself ragged if you try to extend yourself to everything that saddens you. Our world is just too big with too many evils. It is those things that grab you from the inside, that make you cry in public, that give you physical discomfort that get your attention so much so that you just is your mission. I asked around until I received an email forward with some contacts. I called to find out what they were in need of now and in the future. Knowing that I was strapped for my own time, I contacted our veterinarian at Wedgewood Pet Clinic in Oklahoma City and asked if I could bring down some flyers and a donation box. Unfortunately, we did not get as many supplies as I would have liked (if that is possible), but we were able to provide the Guthrie Animal Shelter some items and funds to help begin their rebuilding efforts. My efforts could not have been triumphant alone. If you let that initial surge of compassion drive you to make some calls and gather some contacts you will find others driven to help your efforts succeed. 

If you have never had an experience like the one I just mentioned, but still want to give of your time and are unsure what type of volunteer project would fit you best try a large organization that encompasses multiple volunteer experiences. I am currently a member of a group where I have been able to try many different community service projects. For example, if you think that volunteering at Children’s hospital might be your thing, but also want to try helping out at a thrift shop raising funds to go back into the community you can try one each year. If you find something convicting along the way you can ask to be placed on that project multiple times, manage the project, or begin volunteering directly with the partnering organization. These type of organizations allow you to take passive, active, and leadership roles to accommodate many volunteer styles. Not to mention using some creative ideas such as bread rack painting to get the job done.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I have deliberated over my topic for this week for sometime now. I feel strongly about volunteering and other humanitarian acts, but at the same time I am very much against boasting about one’s good deeds and I absolutely hate to be preached at! Therefore, in the posts to follow I will do my best to introduce, encourage, and familiarize you with some ways to get involved in your community from my point of view, while doing my best to remove myself from the actions at hand. My goal is for people to understand that there are so many options for volunteering and that unforeseen events can often reveal your hearts true service route. 

I kept feeling like I needed to do this section of posts, so I recently mulled over the idea with a friend. She is also involved in her own set of volunteer acts, so I thought she would give an honest opinion. I began by reminding her the meaning I gave to the word domestress: a woman possessing great capability and keen skill in the design and beautification for her family, household, self and societal affairs while sometimes using unlikely objects and processes to achieve a desired result. I believe that many of our skills of self are born out of our understandings of and interactions with others. Though most results of design and beautification are surface level occasionally we can burrow an act or memory deep into ourselves that makes the world a prettier place. 

Earlier today, as I repainted a couple of old bread racks for a volunteer project (one I will discuss later in the week), I was still stirring over what I would say in this weeks set of posts. I began to see some similarities in those bread racks and people. I began to wonder where those bread racks had been in there life. Was there a chance that they had been in the chain of grocery stores my husband’s aunt had once owned? Had they even been purchased from the same place? I had purchased them at an estate sale. Estate sales always remind me how truly mortal I am anyway, but had they just served as garden racks after their days of cradling fragrant fresh bread had vanished? They were rusty, dirty and had clearly spent some years outside. But after a spray from the garden hose, a scrubbing with steel wool and a dusting of spray paint they were not in mint condition, but certainly...presentable. Had I not popped into that estate sale looking for something that I could hang things on and not thought of using these racks for a purpose they were not originally intended where would they be? Big trash day perhaps. That brings me to my final thought...where is that lost dog that I chose to drive by because I didn’t have room in the car? Where is that little girl that we never let in our social circle who had dropped out by high school? Where is that family you used to see at church, at the pool, at events before the recession? Tiny, seemingly insignificant acts of kindness (i.e. a new coat of paint) change the world...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ice Cream Cupcakes

Celebrate Ice Cream Day with Ice Cream Cupcakes 

This is what I made myself for my birthday this year. My mom would make me these great birthday cakes as a kid, but since I have become an adult everyone wants me to make them a special cake for their birthday, but no one remembers to make me one for my birthday. Ice cream cakes are my favorite birthday cakes! I wanted something already individually portioned, but more exciting than the cupcake fad. 

In honor of Ice Cream Day (July 16th) and July being Ice Cream Month I thought this would be the perfect post...and July just became my favorite month if it wasn’t already. Aren’t you excited! You will have plenty of time to create this for Ice Cream Day tomorrow. 

You Will Need: 
  • Package of Oreos 
  • One box of prepared brownie batter 
  • Cake batter ice cream (Braum’s preferably) 
  • Icing (stiff) 
  • Hot fudge topping 
  • Maraschino cherries 
  • Baking cups 
First coarsely grind one package of Oreo cookies by hand or in a food processor. You may want to start with 3/4 of the bag because you will not use an entire bag. Sprinkle Oreo bits into each backing cup covering the bottom, but not filling it. 

Prepare brownie batter according to box directions. Dip batter into each baking cup covering the Oreo bits. 

Bake brownie and Oreo bits in oven for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F. The time will depend on how full you have filled your baking cups and whether you like your brownies crispy or gooey. Remember you have eggs in the brownies. So cook them enough to avoid food poisoning. I only say this from experience. (I love undercooked brownies, breads, muffins, and meat...just one of my many oddities) 

Remove brownies from the oven leaving the baking cups in the muffin tin. Let stand until cooled. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the buttercream icing. 

Though I would never suggest out-of-a-jar icing I am not including a recipe on this one. Simply because the buttercream icing recipe I use is made from specialty ingredients that can only be purchased at a bakery supply shop. Not all bakery supply shops even carry them or you usually have to buy them in bulk. Use an icing recipe you like, buy some icing from a bakery, or find a recipe that has shortening in it if you want it to be thick and easy to pipe onto your cupcake. If you do not have cake decorating icing bags and tips just load your icing into a plastic baggy. Seal the bag and clip a small piece off the corner. You will be able to squeeze it on just the same. Once your icing bag is loaded set it aside. 

Warm your hot fudge topping. Remove the muffin pan containing the brownie bottom baking cups and ice cream from the refrigerator and freezer. Place a small scoop of cake batter ice cream over each brownie. Press the ice cream down flat. You do not want it spilling over the top of the baking cup. Drizzle a small amount of hot fudge topping over the ice cream. If the ice cream is very soft by the time you have finished loading each cup place them in the freezer for a few minutes before adding your icing. 

To add your icing gently squeeze the icing bag allowing a small amount of icing to build onto the center of the scoop of ice cream. Then begin creating a cinnamon roll swirl until you reach the edge of the cup.  

Keep frozen until ready to serve. Garnish with a cherry on top. Makes approximately 18 ice cream cupcakes. 

Voila! Have a Happy Ice Cream Day!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shop Your Own Closet: Turn an Old Shirt Into a New Shirt

Turn an Old Shirt Into a New Shirt 

I have been trying to make a habit of incorporating what I call “recession chic” into my design process. I thought I would bring you this shirt re-style today with a few more ideas in mind to come later. In the meantime, pull a few shirts from your closet you are not quite ready to part with, but know that they will be on their way to the thrift store if you do not find some new way to wear them. I chose a plain, stretchy sleeveless shirt with a wide jewel neck. There is nothing special about it, other than the university alumni color. Which is probably the only reason I bought it in the first place. 

In fact, it is sort of ill-fitting, as you can see. That actually worked to my advantage on this project. I was able to consume the excess in the arms-eye in the pleats. You want to choose a shirt with a very slight scoop or more of a jewel neck. A deep boat neck, which is sort of what this is will work too. (If you are unsure on these terms look back at the wedding week necklines post.) Just make sure you are able to create a straight line from the arms-eye side of the pleats to the neck line. 

Let’s change it! Using both hands, pinch pleats folding inward from each side of the shoulder strap. The reason you do not see me using both hands is that I was taking a picture with my other hand. 

This is the result you are looking to achieve. See how there is a straight (diagonal) line from one side of the shoulder strap to the other? 

Pin it in back so that the safety pin does not show on the front. 

If you are happy with this look you may want to stop here and sew it together instead of risking a pin showing through. 

If you are trying this idea on children’s clothing or something meant to have a very youthful appearance you may try something like this flower. This would be exceptionally great for kid's hand-me-downs. I found this flower pin in a bag of old costume jewelry my mother-in-law gave me. Rummage through forgotten jewelry and button boxes before buying anything. 

I tend to lean toward more simple design myself. So, I went for an interesting old, navy blue and gold shank button. I backed the pin halfway out holding the pleats together. Then I threaded the pin through the shank and wove the pin back through the remaining pleats. 

My apologizes for the “interesting” photography. Taking pictures of an entire outfit by yourself with short arms makes for some, well, different to say the least shots, but I wanted to talk you through the outfit too. I hope you have not tossed out those long layered skirts. I just almost sent this one away before I began noticing similar ones in summer clothing ads. Adding a belt to a fairly plain shirt ads style and interest...not to mention a waist. This belt cost something like $3. You can find fun, cheap, but age appropriate belts in most teen mall-type stores. 

So, Voila! I shopped in my own pre-thrift store bin for this whole outfit! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Display Fragrant Herb Bouquets in the Kitchen

I try to cook with fresh herbs often. I have been wanting and even mildly trying to grow an herb garden for a couple of years now. Gardening is not my forte, but I am learning. This year I filled my planter box with herbs in addition to a few pots, and finally, they are thriving. The abundance of sunlight and the heat wave that has hit Oklahoma probably has also greatly contributed to my success. I do not have a window box herb garden in the house because I do not have an area that receives the amount of light needed. If I did, I would. Since I do not this idea works nicely. 

You will need: 
  • A bottle, jar, vase, etc. 
  • Herb clippings 
  • Fresh water 
I chose basil and mint clippings. You may use whatever you can grow. Basil produces little flowers that allow it to appear more decorative. Sometimes I poke it in with other floral arrangements when I want a nicely scented filler. Both mint and basil have a fresh, clean smell. Which is what is generally preferred when perfuming a kitchen. I clipped each just as I would a floral stem and placed it in a clean bottle filled with fresh water. It should last a few days just as a flower would. Notice I used bottles that previously contained other liquids. They are pretty bottles and the repurposed look contributes to the appeal of the earthy little plants. The nice part of displaying herbs in decorative form is that they are not only pretty, but functional. Leave them set out next to your spice rack. Whenever you reach for a spice consider plucking a fresh herb from your arrangement. 

*If you do not use the herbs in a few days remove them from bottles, bundle them with a string or a rubber band and hang them to dry. Do not put them in a sealed bag. They will mold. When they are dry just crush them in your hands to reinvigorate their intensity and cook with them just the same. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Scent Your Drawers

Add Fragrance to Your Linen Cabinets: 

This is a really simple idea that I use all the time. Guests have stayed at my home and asked on multiple occasions, “What do you wash your laundry in? The towels smell amazing!” Well, if you want to know I wash my everything in Tide and dry it with a Bounce dryer sheet as I always have and likely always will. The scent they cannot quite guess is the one I am going to share with you today. 

This one is totally repurposed so you probably could have been doing this for years and never realized it. You even have one of three options: perfume ad swipes from a magazine, perfume counter sample sticks, or used scent port bulbs. 

I have noticed there seems to be fewer perfume ads with the tester flaps in magazines lately. It seems like they are almost exclusive to the Fall II or Holiday issues (the big, inch-thick ones). Regardless, remember this next time you see a smell you like. Even if you are in the waiting room...cough loudly as you tear quietly and they will never miss it. 

When you get home open the perfume tab. Lay it in the back or flat beneath your towels, linens, etc., and close the closet doors. If you prefer a spritz to a test strip at the perfume counter that works too. I have also left these in my purse to keep it smelling nice. Additionally, the scent port bulbs work the same. If you notice when your plug-in, smell-good thing runs out of liquid and you remove it from the plug on the wall the scent lingers in the air as you carry it to the recycle bin. It does this because there is still aroma left in the wick. Pop it behind your towels to allow them to absorb the fragrance remainder. 

As long as you have a closed area the scent will absorb easily and linger for some time. By the time you need to replace it you will need to replace the plug in or have encountered another perfume sample. If you do not have doors on your linen closet layer the items mentioned between the bottom few towels ensuring one will not role out as your guests reach for a towel. Replace the open air fragrances more frequently for an optimum aromatic experience. 

Though they have not really been in vogue for some time this is cheaper than buying perfumed drawer liners. Aside from that, most of those smell like baby power or musty perfume. Since these are used bulbs or small testers you do not need to worry about an overwhelming smell when you open the doors. In fact, I experience extreme nasal inflammation from most perfumes and it has never been too much. This allows you to control the scent you want your guest to remember when they think of that lovely luxury weekend the spent in your guest area. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Decorative Storage Container

I nabbed a paper box from my husband’s office for this project. It made a nice container to create some organization inside a cabinet. It is especially attractive in a guest bath. Guests will be wowed by your neatness and presentation, but have no idea it was once just a cardboard box. This would also be cute set out pool-side with guest towels. In that case, it may need a plastic liner before placing the fabric. 

You Will Need: 
  • Box 
  • Fabrics (contrasting but coordinating in color)
  • Ribbon(s) 
  • Glue gun and glue sticks 
  • Buttons (optional) 
Use any sturdy box you have. It does not have to be a paper box. Line outside edges of box, one side at a time, with hot glue. Gently press the fabric into the glue, smoothing the fabric as you go. 

Note* Choose a fabric that will compliment the setting you plan on placing it in, even if you plan to place it in a cabinet with doors.

The box should look like this when covered. 

Glue right sides of fabric together to create a seam if needed to achieve fabric length for lining the inside of the box. 

Turn under one edge of the lining fabric and glue. 

Press and smooth lining fabric into hot glue making sure that fabric lies flat. The finished edge is placed at the outside edge of the box. 

Measure the inside bottom rectangle of the box. Use the measurements to cut a rectangle from your lining fabric. Add a half inch all the way around to fold under and glue for a clean finish. 

Measure the diagonal length across the inside of the box. Cut pieces of cardboard the length of the diagonal by the box’s height. Cut one piece of cardboard almost half way down the the mid point, as shown. Cut the other piece in half leaving about one inch holding it together at the midpoint. 

Position your diagonal pieces together to ensure they fit. 

Cover and glue each diagonal piece with the same fabric used on the outside of the box. 

Place the diagonals back in the box and glue ribbon along the tops. Add Ribbon around the edges and other embellishments if so desired. 

Voila! A decorative storage container.