Zinnia-inspired Dessert Table

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

At the end of Summer, long after all the fancy flowers fade away, the zinnia holds court. She wears a ruffled collar of rich hues and a crown jewel of  yellow that makes her sassy and playful. What she lacks in fragrance…she makes up in fabulousness. This easy entertaining dessert course of zinnia decorated sugar cookies and fun linen napkins is a tribute to her. 
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What I used:
Zinnias: The model (Aeriel) is wearing the Tiered A-line Midi Skirt from my line and carrying an enamel pail of just-picked zinnias liberated from my friend Pamela’s yard (2 hours before she woke to see they were missing).
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Napkins: French Picnic Linen Napkin Set Trimmed in Orange Gingham

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Food: Zinnia Decorated Sugar Cookies!
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Zinnia Sugar Cookies
makes 3 dozen (depending on cookie cutter size)


What you need: 

3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for bench flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can sub vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can sub and extract you would like)
Crusting Buttercream Frosting (recipe to follow)

What to do: 
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Mix Wet Ingredients: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in egg, paste and extract.
4. Finish Mixing the Cookies: Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The dough should be stiff.
5. Cut and Bake: Do not chill the dough…just get right into it!! Lightly flour a work surface and cut off enough dough to be workable. Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness and use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place on the prepared baking trays and bake for 6-8 minutes.
6. Decorate: Allow cookies to cool completely. Decorate the cookies using  Crusting Buttercream Frosting. Using a #103 or #104 tip and brightly colored (orange or pink) frosting, hold your pastry bag with the largest part of the tip opening at the outer edge of the cookie and work around the cookie in a ruffle type pattern. Do a second layer to fill in the middle. Switching to a pastry bag filled with yellow frosting and fitted with a #2 tip, fill the center of the flower with a round of yellow and then make small dots over the top of the round and dotted just around it. Allow to dry.

Crusting Buttercream Frosting
(But why a crusting buttercream frosting? Crusting buttercream is a frosting that lightly sets and is perfect if you need your frosting to keep its shape. It works great on cookies where you don’t want to use a Royal Icing to decorate.)

What you need: 
1 1/4 cups butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1 (2 pound) bag of confectioners sugar, sifted
4-5 tablespoons of whole milk
Food coloring (i prefer a gel coloring)

What to do: 
1. Cream Butter and Shortening: In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and shortening and mix until well incorporated. Mix in vanilla.

2. Finish Frosting: Slowly add the powdered sugar to the creamed mixture. Once fully incorporated (it will be slightly thick) add your milk (a tablespoon at a time).

3. Color Frosting: Now’s the fun part. Color frosting for your application with food coloring (I prefer gel). (For the zinnia cookies, I needed three colors, so I divide the frosting among 3 bowls and colored one pink, another orange and the final yellow.)

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Here’s a BONUS easy entertaining idea using the same napkins!
An orange-inspired table setting.
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A Spring Table Inspired by Apples

By Libbie Summers in partnership with Cosmic Crisp Apples
Assisted by David Dempsey
Apron: Cuisine Apron in White Linen 
Napkins: French Picnic Linen Napkin Set in Yellow Gingham

Gatherings are made of two meals, the menu and the memories. My goal is to always serve up both…even if it’s a simple lunch for four in the backyard. I know that all of us don’t have outdoor spaces to entertain or the weather may not be permitting, but wouldn’t this Spring table be adorable set in your kitchen, or porch or kid’s treehouse? I took my inspiration as I often do from the menu which features the @thecosmiccrisp apples available in grocery stores nationwide. Beautifully red in color and a delicious combination of sweet and tart, my first course is a Radish and Apple Salad so I decorated the setting to match! 

On this day, under a backyard camellia tree where umbrellas are filled with blooms and apples. I set a special lunch table for my family.

When we make even the smallest gatherings special, the message it sends to the guests is, “YOU are special to me.”
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I believe it’s always the details that stay with us longest.
In a room, in a meal, in a gathering…it’s the details that honor and inspire us the most. Let that be the leftovers your guests take home.

Here are a few of the details:
1. Surprise and Delight: Think outside the dining room. It’s true, people love a moveable feast, so for a special meal try setting your table anywhere that isn’t your usual dining spot. If you don’t have access to a beautiful outdoor space or weather isn’t permitting, set your table in the living room, kitchen or garage! Anyplace unexpected is a big surprise and delight. Here, I tucked a table in the backyard under a camellia tree heavy with blossoms.
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2. Let Your Menu Inspire the Decor: With this Spring table, my main course used Cosmic Crisp apples, so I wanted to use them to help decorate my table. They mixed perfectly with the red and pink camellias growing in the yard. And were beautiful at each place setting with a handmade paper apple blossom on top. Learn how to make the Paper Apple Blossom HERE.
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3. Mix and Match: Never worry about not having enough matching china for each place setting. Mixing and matching china, flatware, glassware and napkins gives a homespun chic feel. Mixing old and new pieces will help keep the table fresh. On this table I mixed some of my grandmother’s china with odds and ends I picked up over the years and new gingham-trimmed French Picnic Napkins from my line, Libbie Summers. One of the plates on this lunch table has served two US Presidents! Proof that every piece has a story and there’s always a conversation starter on the table when you mix and match.
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4. Multiples: Multiples of the same design element make the biggest impact. Trying to do too many little things for a table can be tedious and your guests can sometimes be confused on where to look. My solution is a dramatic multiple moment of something unexpected and inspiring –an idea that inspires your guests to do in their own homes. With this Spring table, I took a few children’s umbrellas (April Showers right!) and spray painted them in tones of yellows –the color informed by the striae on a Cosmic Crisp apples and camellias. It was an expensive craft and made a HUGE impact. I added flowers and apples to the upturned umbrellas that dotted the pathway to and set the mood for the setting. Other flower and apple-filled umbrellas were placed on the ground around the lunch table. And, one umbrella was used as the “floral arrangement” for the table. No worries if you don’t have a backyard filled with blooming flowers like I did here. Moss or wheatgrass would also have been beautiful inside the up-turned umbrellas with the apples sitting on top of it. Handmade paper flowers or grocery store flowers would also be amazing. Use what you have available.
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I hope my take on a Spring Celebration gives you inspiration to create something a little different -a table layered with stories and surrounded by love.
Happy Spring! -Libbie

Other Tabletop Inspirations:
Inspired by Goldenrod 

Inspired by Frida Kahlo

Inspired by Cherry Blossoms

Inspired by Strawberries

 

 

 

A Thanksgiving Table Inspired by Goldenrod

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
I’m wearing the Everyday Beautiful A-Line Apron Wrap Skirt from Yum Yum Smile Shop

There’s no denying that this Thanksgiving is different, but to me it feels more authentic. Giving thanks for the blessings we have in our lives without the worry of who’s bringing what to put on the table (note: never let your sister be in charge of the mashed potatoes). This year is about a meal shared with my immediate family and a couple of equally minded “safe” friends. We have only spent time in the presence of each other for months and months, so I wanted to take us to a different place -to have a special happy memory of  Thanksgiving 2020. If you follow me on instagram you’ll know there’s a majestic spot just a few miles south of our home where quail thrive among the tall grasses and a certain crusty bird dog works hard to find them. This time of year, the goldenrod is prolific and stunning and the happiest shade of mustard yellow in this perfect spot -it served as my inspiration.

This Thanksgiving, on a mowed path surrounded by tall grasses and mustard medicinal weeds, this family of 8 will share a delicious meal, give thanks for how fortunate we are and raise a glass to those that others have lost.

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Love is in the details…
Table Linens: Floral flat sheets lay over two simple work tables and then topped by yardage of mustard colored linen fabric. Finally, 4 table runners were sewn from storied scraps of fabric into a patchwork pattern and were draped over the width of the table top. Two people sitting across from each other at the table shared one runner.
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Place Settings -Dishware, Flatware and Napkins: To continue with the homespun chic feel of this table, I chose to use mix and match vintage and antique china along with a mismatch of antique silver flatware. The patterns on the china worked beautifully against the patchwork quilt and added even more layers of storytelling. With all the busyness of the runner and china I knew I wanted to use a more subdued yet organic napkin. I chose the natural colored linen pulled from the Agen napkin set from Yum Yum Smile Shop.
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Place Cards: Thick card stock printed with the names of each guest were cut into small ribbon like pieces. A hole was punched at the end of each piece and a small strand
of green twine was threaded through the hole and tied to a boutineer-sized bundle of goldenrod.
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Flowers and Vases: I’m a believer of using what grows around you any chance you can. Naturally, it saves on cost, but more importantly it brings the season to the table. This time of year in Coastal Georgia, goldenrod is prolific. I let it and my new Mustard Colored A-line Apron Wrap Skirt inform the color pops! For vases, I mixed a tin can craft (new diy blog post to follow) with my collection of old mustard tins and biscuit tins. Mixing the two, I ran them down the middle of the table among the place settings and then filled with low bunches of the beautiful goldenrod.
Fun Fact: Goldenrod does NOT cause seasonal allergies. Some confuse it with ragweed which is a real problem. You would never want to sit a table with any wild floral that could potentially light a guest up!
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I hope my take on Thanksgiving gives you inspiration to create something a little different this year -a table layered with stories and surrounded by love.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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She Wanted a Beetlejuice-inspired Birthday Party

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey 

A small group of friends from all over the United States gathered together in Savannah, GA for a Beetlejuice themed birthday celebration. The client/guest of honor contacted me to design the dinner table at a boutique hotel where the event would be taking place. When I spoke with the client about the party, her only direction was “You do you. I’m looking for a Libbie Summers take on the dinner scene in the movie”.  When I pushed her further, she mentioned how funny Wynona Ryder’s character, Lydia Deetz, was when she was wearing black lace over her face…and THAT nugget is where the ideation for the table design began.

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For Cocktails: Guests arrived for specialty cocktails in the downstairs lounge of the hotel where they opened an antique dictionary the size of Montana to choose their drink. Prayer candles ran down the bar to add just the right amount of light (see craft below).
For Dinner: Guests walked through draped black lace to enter the space.
The table was layered with a rich grey velvet and then topped with black lace.
Antique silver candle sticks ran down the middle of the table while lace covered led lights were dimly lit overhead.
Fruit and vegetables painted black were wrapped around the candle sticks as beetles peeked around the corners when guests weren’t looking.
Dark grey linens from the Yum Yum Smile Shop were at each place setting with a simply printed menu card.
Facing each guest…propped on a vintage book was a floral head draped in black lace. (NOTE: Staff removed heads before dinner service began and placed them against the wall behind each chair…again creepy cool.)

Craft Takeaways: 
1. Freaky Chic Florals: At each place setting and as the floral element, styrofoam heads were decoupaged with cut up prints of Dutch still life paintings. The day of the party, humble florals (there was a budget here) were pinned into the heads as hairstyles. Some heads were lit with small twinkle lights among the flowers. Finally, black lace was draped over each head before guests arrived.
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2. Beetlejuice Character Prayer Candles: Inexpensive prayer candles were used to make these fun character candles for the cocktail portion of this party. Labels were soaked off the original candles (found in the grocery story at $1.50 each) in hot water and characters from the movie were printed out on regular printer paper and decoupaged using Modge Podge onto the outside of the candles. Make sure to coat the entire candle, even the parts that don’t have the picture on them.
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She said “This party was EVERYTHING. It was a better party than my first wedding.”
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Fresh Orange Centerpiece

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Cuisine Apron in White Linen from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop
Orange Gingham Trimmed Linen Napkin from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop

While your cake is baking, there’s time to make a sweet zesty little centerpiece.
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Fresh Orange Centerpiece
makes 1

What you need:
1 quart wide-mouth mason jar or other clear sided jar
1 clear juice glass or small clear jar that will fit inside the larger jar
1 par scissors
2 oranges, sliced
1 small grouping of orange, yellow and white flowers
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or other herbs/greens
1 small rubber band
1 piece ribbon, jute or twine for tying around neck of jar

What to do:
1. Place the small juice glass or small jar inside the larger jar. (NOTE: You can use putty or tape on the bottom of the juice glass to keep it in place) 2. place orange slices around and down the sides of the large jar between it and the smaller juice glass/jar. The small jar will keep them in place.
3. Make your flower arrangement by grouping the flowers and rosemary together into a sweet bouquet (Don’t overthink this…it will be adorable). Cut ends just long enough to fit inside the juice glass and secure ends with a rubber band.
4. Fill juice glass with water and place bouquet in it. Adjust flowers as needed.
5. Tie ribbon, jute or twine around the neck of the large jar.
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