Exciting news, guys! We’ve added a new member to our party planning team! And by “we” I mean Chelsea and Anthony, who welcomed their daughter to this world last month. She is so tiny and sweet and beautiful, and now that she’s a few weeks old I figured I’d better get around to sharing photos from Chelsea’s baby shower…
Planning and executing parties with Chelsea is one of my favorite hobbies. I do my best work with her. Which made the task of planning a shower for her (thus without her help) seem a little daunting. Luckily, Chelsea has a long list of loving friends and family members who were eager to assist with her baby shower. From hosting to baking to planning games, so much of the party was covered by our talented friends, I barely had any work to do. ?
As usual, the theme was the choice of the mama-to-be, and Chelsea chose a French theme. Actually, she kind of chose a word cloud… which included the words French, garden, gold, pink, parasol, Eiffel Tower, macarons, and probably many more words and phrases that I can’t remember.
We basically just went for a lot of pink and a lot of flowers. Most of the flowers were provided by Chelsea’s mom and sis, the Grandma- and Aunt-to-be. Janet and Breanna drove in from Montana and brought gorgeous flowers and antiques and trinkets to display, which really helped turn our blank slate into a perfectly adorable party venue. We basically called in the experts; these two have a neat antiques business in Missoula, called Westfound. Somehow I made it through the whole shindig without snapping a pic of this vase they brought that looks like a tiny old-fashioned purse. I mean… it was too much to take.
We were so lucky to have an amazing space for this party, and it really wouldn’t have been possible without it. I was considering venue rentals around town, but our friends Kim and Kurt came to the rescue. They have a super cool loft in their shop, and they worked really hard in the weeks leading up to the party to get it ready to use. It was a blank slate for our decor, and spacious enough to fit all of Chelsea’s closest friends.
For decor, Kim and I had help from our friend Chantee. She came up with several ideas for how to turn our blank slate into a beautiful and impressive party scene. I mean, she designed and crafted a 5-foot wide black and white striped awning to simulate our very own French café. Seems a little crazy, but when you consider our last party transformed a home office into a circus tent, it really seemed like a very reasonable plan.
Kim and Chantee installed the faux awning onto the wall of the loft. And I just watched. Thanks, ladies!
Chantee also created some simple, easy wall decor by wrapping cute fabrics over canvas, and she made table cloths. (JoAnn Fabrics’ line of French-inspired material and accessories was really well-timed for this party.) Oh, and she made really beautiful cucumber sandwiches, because I hate cucumber and decided to delegate that task. Apparently Chantee also hates cucumber. What a great friend!
For beverages, French wines were a no-brainer. And for a non-alcoholic option, I made a lavender lemonade. It was delicious but so easy — as simple as making an infused simple syrup. I boiled about 1 cup of dried lavender in 3 cups of water for a few minutes, then strained the lavender out, and heated the water again to dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar. The hardest part will probably be procuring the lavender. You can purchase it online, at a decent spice shop, or you can grow it in your yard like I did. I thought mine wasn’t the edible kind, but turns out there’s nothing that special about “culinary” lavender. The syrup can be added to store-bought lemonade (or make your own if you fancy ??) in whatever ratio you prefer. The recipe above should be enough for 1.5 gallons of lemonade.
For savory food, I planned a French-inspired spread that included some of Chelsea’s favorite flavors. I put together a plate of crudités with dip, which is a contrived way to say I made a veggie tray. Cheap, easy to prepare, and you can make it less boring by replacing the standard fare with the more unique vegetables your supermarket stocks.
My sister Amy helped with the execution of this event, and I utilized her handwriting skills once again for the sachet tags as well as the food labels. We love food labels. They may seem excessive and unnecessary (your guests probably know cheese when they see it), but they’re a great way to add decor without adding too much cost. We typically make them using the reserves of my scrapbooking supplies from high school years, just to prove to my parents that those weren’t a dumb investment. And with Amy’s calligraphy technique at my disposal, I didn’t even have to pay some lady on Etsy to make them beautiful for me.
Amy and I also made little savory pastries by cutting shapes out of puff pastry, spreading some special butter on top, and baking at 350°F for about 15 minutes. These were very experimental, but so easy. Are you noticing a theme here? Without Chels around to help, half of the party prep had to be delegated and the other half had to be EXTRA easy.
Roll the thawed puff pastry dough out and cut desired shapes. We also punctured the pastry so that it didn’t puff too much. Brush with butter. (I enhanced the butter with some shallots, anchovies, and parsley. Get creative.) Bake until puffed up and golden brown.
A salmon dip from a post last year made a reappearance, as well as a cheese tray (duh).
Now onto the desserts. Chelsea had some specific requests here, which made planning easier. One was lemon bars. Our friend Ellen makes the best lemon bars IN THE WORLD. You may remember them from Chelsea’s surprise birthday boat cruise. This time, the lemon bars were pink to match the baby girl theme. Ellen made a test batch to ensure the color was perfect, and I considered lying to her and telling her she needed a second trial just so I could eat more lemon bars.
In addition to making some super cute mini-cupcakes, Andrea and Shannon were my chief game planners. One of the hardest tasks at a baby shower is planning games and activities for guests. You want the games to be fun, inclusive, and painless. I can sit back and critique silly shower games all day long, but I struggle to come up with good alternatives. Luckily, these ladies did a superb job. First, the guests worked in pairs to translate French baby-related words (which Chelsea dictated to everyone). And in the second game we identified the other shower guests from their baby photos. Both games met my very high shower activity standards. In the first game, even if you didn’t know any French words you were entertained by Chelsea’s attempt to pronounce the words. And the baby photo game was pretty passive and obviously SUPER cute. ? ?
Not an actual edible dessert, but an extremely impressive display was crafted by our friend Katie, the diaper cake master. You may remember her work from the carnival baby shower. For this shower, she decided to attempt an Eiffel Tower made of diapers. And she nailed it. She got pink Eiffel Tower diapers from The Honest Company and beautiful gold ribbons for embellishments. It was a perfect centerpiece, and of course provided Chels with a large supply of very cute diapers for the baby. We should probably have her do a guest post on diaper cake architecture.
Chelsea requested pistachio macarons, so a few days before the shower I attempted a batch. I wasn’t really happy with them, so the next night I made a batch of rhubarb macarons. Those were alright, but not good enough, so on the third night I made some raspberry macarons. These were the best, in my opinion. It could be because I had my husband in the kitchen assisting me that night. Plus it was his idea to add Chambord liqueur to the filling.
Anyway, before you go getting all impressed that I made three flavors of macarons, please be informed that each batch was a semi-failure and subsequent attempts were just meant to provide a respectable number of cookies to serve at the shower.
Since they were the best texture by far, I will recommend the raspberry macarons if you’re interested in attempting one of these. Follow the basic recipe from Stella at BraveTart, but grind up some freeze dried raspberries (or other fruit) and sift them with your dry ingredients. I bought an 1.2 oz bag of freeze dried raspberries at Trader Joe’s, pulverized them in the magic bullet, and used about 2/3 of the powder for the shell recipe and the remaining 1/3 for the buttercream frosting filling. The Chambord in the frosting gave the macarons an even more intense raspberry flavor and fit perfectly with the French theme.
Before our guests headed out the door, they grabbed lavender rose sachet bags. These fit the French theme as well as my “simple and easy” theme: pre-made sachet bags via Amazon.com stuffed with dried flowers from my garden. OK, I recognize not everyone has a flower garden at their disposal. If you need to borrow some dried lavender, hit me up.
I may be biased, but I think the party was a huge success. I could not have pulled it off without the help of all the ladies mentioned above. And – oh yeah – not just the ladies. These guys helped too: