French lessons and Friends

lisa-with-the-coq-au-vin

Well a couple of weekends ago, I got to make one of my most favorite Fall meals: Coq au Vin- fancy french chicken stew cooked in wine with bacon, pearl onions, and mushrooms. Now, this stew is not something you just throw together- the cooking itself is an event – so to get more mileage out of it I invited a friend over for dinner, and since my eldest daughter is taking French –  she’d get extra credit for her class if we documented the recipe and her cooking. Win, win, win!

Okay, to make this little family and friend event a success it all starts with the recipe. I like   Ina Garten’s- here’s the link :

Ina Garten’s Coq au Vin

Now her instructions say the recipe takes 1 1/2 hours from start to finish. I however have never completed the meal in under 2 1/2 hours. So perhaps, Ina knows something I don’t, actually I’m sure Ina knows many things I don’t – but nonetheless, I’d say it will take somewhere between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours to get this to your table. It is also helpful if you have and assistant. The recipe is not particularly hard, but it seems many things have to happen at the same time or right after one another. Another set of hands makes for a happier cook! Also, if you are over 21 – I’d recommend drinking the left over wine while you cook the chicken in wine. Again a happier cook!

It was a cold rainy Autumn day, the perfect day for hanging inside with the family. I really enjoyed cooking with my daughter and chit chatting as we worked. Any chance I get to spend some alone time with my daughter is a happy day, and if she gets extra credit in French for doing it, we are both happy!

siobhan-cooking-coq-au-vin

So toiling and chatting and drinking away ( me not her!) we had a lovely time as the Coq au Vin simmered first in the oven and then on the stove top.

pot-of-coq-au-vin

To complete the meal, we added some crusty bread to dip in the sauce and a Pinot Noir. Since my best friend since high school was coming over for dinner, we set out the fancy china, the gold flatware, the linen napkins, and our very best acrylic stemless wineglasses – in case the wine went to our heads!

coq-au-vin-setting

The meal was delicious, the company was fantastic, and the little girl got an A+. Not bad for a regular rainy Saturday. Life is full of happy moments big and small, it only takes a moment to notice.

xoxoxo Shawn

www.happiestdaysdesigns.com

 

 

Posted in Home, Party, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning for an Intimate Birthday Dinner Party

Here on the east coast there finally is a little crispness in the air, apple picking outings, and pumpkin flavored everything signaling Autumn is here! I am so excited that Hull’s Happiest Days Designs is working with a client to throw a surprise birthday party during my favorite season of the year. The event will be  a lovely intimate Autumn dinner party in November. I met with guest of honor, under false pretenses, to try to uncover what type of party would make her heart sing. It’s important to me, that the event is a reflection of the birthday girl and her party suits her to a tee.

Since I am in cahoots with her daughter, I had figure out a bunch of information without spilling the beans! I started by using my acting skills to lead the  conversation and  talking about Hull’s Happiest Days Designs Event and Wedding Planning. Creating happy events is a fun business, and the conversation led to ideas for dream parties. I’m a super sleuth, and was able to uncover she’d love a intimate elegant party full of sparkle and candlelight, with a extravagant steakhouse dinner. Yes, we can do that.

I followed up with her daughter, to iron out the guest list, food, decor ideas, budget and venue. Since I am an artist, we also discussed ways I could take the birthday girl’s ideas translate them into something really special for her celebration in unexpected ways.

Here’s the direction we’re headed.   Taking into account the time of year- Autumn- and so leaves,  will be part of our theme. The atmosphere will be warm – candle light and gold metallic accents will add some sparkle and bling.  American Steakhouse food- so filet mignon and crab imperial, baked potato, and salad are on the menu. Since this is a birthday party we’ll be having  chocolate cake for dessert. Red wine will accompany the meal. The party will feel a little extravagant, but not fussy or stuffy. The guest list is limited to only 10 people and will happen at a private home. There is a fireplace in the dining room and the wood floors will add an element of coziness to the atmosphere. There is  long wooden table with banquette seating ( 6 seats)  and two smaller round tables- each seating two. A photographer will take some candid and photo journalistic style pics- so the event will be documented. The guests will leave with hand made tea light holders with gold rims- as favors.

Below are some inspirational ideas that we will be using to elevate the theme and make this dinner party special.

goldrimmedplates

Gold Rimmed Dinnerware

I am making a dinnerware set (10 place settings) used for the party and for the birthday girl to keep. Each guest will sign the back of the dinner plate with a happy birthday message. This dinnerware set will be a lovely keepsake and gift commemorating this happy day.

gratitude-leaves-platter

Porcelain Leaves

Additionally, porcelain leaves will be used as napkin rings. I’ll take a ribbon and fish it through the hole and around the white linen napkin and tie in a bow. I am going to up the sparkle factor though, and edge the leaves in gold – just like the dinnerware. The leaves will be white, focusing on the shape and giving them a contemporary edge.

gold-and-white-chevron-table-runner

Gold and White Chevron Pattern Table Runner

This seems to be paper, which is an economical way to add pattern and visual interest, but there are also fabric versions. We will be using the table runner down the center of all three tables linking the three seating areas together visually.

linen-napkins-and-clothPlain Ivory linen napkins and Ivory table cloths on the two round tables will add to an element of understated luxury.

gold-votives

Gold Votives-

We’ll dot the table with little tea lights- to add warm, sparkle, and bling.

white-mums

White Mums – We’ll add some simple white mums – low in white vases- most likely glass or white porcelain. This lovely flower is the epitome of Fall and will add sculptural drama and a fresh natural element.

filet-mignon

The main event: Dinner- Filet mignon

I am  in the process of making 10 hand built porcelain tea light holders with gold rims- to be put into gift boxes – as favors for each guest. Also I am researching invitations, and music to be in the background and complete the mood.

As the event continues to evolve in its planning – I’ll report back – with vendors we’ll be using and photos of the party itself.

How fun planning this happy day! Let Hull’s Happiest Days Designs help you plan your happy day- big or small.

xo – Shawn Hull – Hull’s Happiest Days Designs

 

 

 

 

Posted in Art, Crafting, Handmade, Home, Party, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I did this Summer….

image 25

19 year vow renewal picnic – Shell Beach, Jenner, CA

So just in case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been this summer- I thought I’d write a catch -up post. I have been so busy balancing fun, kids, business, and launching a new business this summer, I haven’t gotten around to posting. So as I am taking 15 minutes for myself – sitting alone- while my kids and their friend entertain themselves. I am gonna fill you in.

One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is that I can take a vacation whenever I want- sort of. I usually don’t take the vacation- because it’s scary taking time away from the business, I don’t want to leave clients work unfinished, and when I’m not working I’m not making an income… However, I decided to take my own advice, and fill my summer with happy days. It has been wonderful! I realized that by taking a break- I actually looked forward to coming back to work- with lots of new enthusiasm and new ideas.

So the summer started the day after our girls got out of school. We jumped on a plane and went on a Friends & Family tour of California! My husband and I met in California 23 years ago. We moved back East 18 years ago. Life happens and we hadn’t seen some of our California family and friends for 13 years. What a sad state of affairs. So we kicked off the summer with our whirlwind CA Tour.

Slide at Kims

Swimming with cousin Kim in So-Cal

Hanging out in San Francisco with Doug and Joaquin

Sacramento and Tahoe with Uncle Ken and Aunt Kashmira

renewal kissgoodiesseaside picnic renewalimage 87

Vow renewal & seaside picnic on our cliff- Jenner, CA

 

Hull Clan

Hull Clan Almond Farm in Chico, CA

Yosemite Falls and Cathedral Rock, Yosemite, CA. I survived climbing Yosemite Falls- barely 1000 ft.

Shakespeare's Playground

Then back to work with Delaware Shakespeare Festival- Shakespeare’s Playground touring Delaware parks

Then a pilgrimage to a favorite spot the Book Barn & 4th of July Backyard BBQ

Then some culture at the Barnes Foundation followed by carefree fun at the picnic park.

Gettysburg

Educational Trip to Gettysburg National Park

Oh yes, I also had completed my Wedding Planner Course and Internship and have begun to visit local event venues and establish relationships with vendors like the Chesapeake Inn.

photobooth

It’s been a very busy Summer filled with lots of Happiest Days! So as you see, it’s been a little tough keeping up with the blog. But I’m back on top of it now! Hope your summer was filled with fun and lots of time with those you love.

Check out our new wedding and event plannning:

Happiest Days Designs Weddings

Posted in Handmade, Holidays, Home, Kids, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Third time well, honestly fourth time is a Charm!

Papa's Brew Stein

I love creating gifts for my family. My husband is often the recipient of my efforts. So around Christmas, I had this idea… I’d create a modern stein. My husband makes his own beer, he loves coffee, the cup could do double duty. Perfect. Um…except, I had no idea how hard it would be to hand build a modern beer stein.

The first attempt, was way too big, short, and the appliqués were sloppy and the composition way off. But, it got done right before Christmas- so I gave it to him anyway. He loves me understand, so he’d overlook the wonky design. But I felt horrible. I promised I would make him a new one.

wonky beer stein

So in January, I made another one. Well this one was again too big. I couldn’t reach the bottom to seal it well enough, and the handle was way too thin and weird. Ok, not that one. Late January, this one shape is better, lost wonky decorations, simplified and kept the wood texture. The handle was getting there, but again bottom too thin, not well sealed and it leaked. Ok, not that one.

Finally! Just before Valentine’s Day, I figured it out! Right size, holds liquids, cool texture, personalized, nice handle, and just enough wonkiness so it’s obviously handmade, but not so wonky that it looks like I have no clue as to what I’m doing.

Perfect ‘ish! Merry Christmas and Happy Valentines Sweetie!

(yes it took me 3 months to create your gift)

Three Tries Beer Stein

Morals of the story:

If at first you don’t succeed try try again!

Some things are worth waiting for .

But most importantly:     Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Check out the new design- custom made for the man in your life for sale in the shop. I promise- it won’t take three months!

http://www.happiestdaysdesigns.com/products/modern-beer-stein-personalized

 

Xo Shawn – Hull’s Happiest Days Designs

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mississppi Mud Pie – Recipe from Baked-Brooklyn, NY

Happy Pi(e) day!  I love with three sweet Math Geeks and they take Pi(e) Day seriously! Below is the recipe for a pretty seriously awesome Mississippi Mud Pie. They’re are many steps to this amazing pie- but they are worth every last minute! Take your time, listen to some music, grab some help to tackle some of the steps, and then EAT YOUR PIE🙂

Demolished Mississippi Mud Pie

Mississippi Mud Pie

Ingredients:

 Step 1 – Cookie Crust

1lb of chocolate sandwich cookies

5tbs of melted butter

Step 2 – Flourless Chocolate Cake Batter

4tbs butter

6 oz. chocolate chopped

2 tbs plus 1 tsp instant espresso powder

1/4 cup strong brew coffee

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated (room temperature)

1 cup sugar

Step 3 – Pudding

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 tsp kosher salt

4 large egg yolks

2 1/2 cups whole milk

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 oz. chocolate chopped

Step 4 – Whipped Cream Topping

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 tbsp sugar

chocolate shavings

Step 1 -Crust

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with no stick spray. Line pan with parchment paper and spray the paper. Smash cookie crumbs and toss with the melted butter. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Bake until the crust is dry to the touch about 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Cookie Crust

Step 2 – Flourless Chocolate Cake

Melt Butter and chocolate in heat proof bowl set over simmering water ( not touching). Remove from the heat and whisk until smooth. Let cool. In s small bowl, whisk togethr the espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar on medium high speed until the mixture is light and has almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes.

Siobhan Double Boiler

Add the chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Reduce the speed to low, add the coffee mixture, and beat until just combined. In a clean bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium high speed until foamy. Gradually raise the speed to high, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until soft peaks form. Scoop 1 cup of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula. After about 30 seconds of folding add the remaining egg whites and fold until almost combined. Take care not to over mix. Pour into the partially baked cookie crust. Bake until the cake is set but still jiggles slightly. , 38-42 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. As it cools, cake will deflate in the center and look a bit sunken. Tightly wrap the cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or up to overnight).

Step 3 – Pudding

To make the pudding, in a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and, salt. Add the egg yolks and half of the milk and whisk until combined. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the rest of the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent from burning. Cook for 30 seconds, then strain into a heat proof bowl.

eggs

Add the butter, vanilla, and chocolate and whisk until combined. Continue to whisk to cool the mixture slightly. Let the pudding stand for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, 2-3 hours. Stir the chilled pudding to loosen it, then pour on top of the cake, making sure to stay inside the crust. Spread the pudding in an even layer. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Step 4- Whipped Cream Topping

Whip the cream with sugar to medium peaks. Spread the whipped cream over the pudding. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Remove sides of the springform pan and transfer onto Hull’s Happiest Days Designs’ cake plate with dome. Cut the pie and enoy! Oh, yeah and do some math…Keys with dome  and dessert plates

Hull’s Happiest Days Designs Cake Plate, Dome, and Dessert Plates- Skeleton Key Set

xoxo Hull’s Happiest Days Designs

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Handmade, Holidays, Home, Kids, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve got a Secret Message

Secret Message Board

Secret Message Board

I have been busy working on new products for Hull’s Happiest Days Designs. As I mentioned in earlier posts- Valentine’s Day is big around our household- and some of my best designs started out as gifts I created for my family members. Well, the secret message board is just one of those designs. What do you do if you have tween children – who love Valentine’s Day- but are hugely embarassed at getting love notes from their parents? A Secret Message Board of course! On one side of the board – it’s a sweet little wall hanging perfect for any tween’s room. The other side of just one heart however, has a happy message from Mom and Dad. Genius! Now my daughter’s can relish in parental love and approval without losing respect from their friends.

This darling board would be a great wedding, anniversary, or birthday present- for anyone you want to tell a secret. Shhhh… we’ll never tell.

Secret Message Board heart detail

Posted in Art, Crafting, Design, Handmade, Home, Kids, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wedding Bells in our Future…

Bridal Bouqet Cake Plate and Dome

Hull’s Happiest Days Designs is preparing to offer Wedding Planning! Over the next few months we are readying ourselves to grow and expand into Wedding and Event planning. This progression is a very exciting new offering that dovetails perfectly with Hull’s Happiest Days Designs’ mission: to create art, artifacts, and experiences for people who are celebrating love and other milestone moments. We create – happy to hold on to!

I will keep you in the loop as we get closer to launching this new area. Right now, we are developing new Custom Bridal China Dinnerware Patterns, new cake toppers, new candle holders, luminarias, and other lovely accessories to complete your wedding decor & grace your home for years to come.

Previously, as a theatre director, ( Shawn) I have the opportunity to produce numerous plays, arts festivals, and gallery showings. My artistic and organizational expertise combined with Hull’s Happiest Days Designs meaningful wedding pieces, customer collaboration, and attention to detail is a perfect marriage for the couple who wants a wedding tailored to their vision, their budget, and their love.

We plan to offer wedding & event planning and design in the Greater Philadelphia area. Don’t worry we are not going to stop creating the lovely personalized, and customized gifts and accessories we are known for- we will be expanding our design lines and offering this new service. Sweetheart single dessert plate close up

xo Shawn – Hull’s Happiest Days Designs

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment