Happy Mother’s Day (Cupcakes)!

Beautiful flowers? Sweet treats? Decadent chocolates? Why not surprise Mom with all three, in one. After all, Mother’s Day is the day when moms can have their cake — such as these gorgeously decorated chocolate and vanilla cupcakes from Yummies bakery in my town of Tuscumbia, Ala. — and eat all the icing off before anyone else, too.

Cupcakes and Tablescapes

Think a beautifully set table is beyond your creative reach this Christmas? Cringing at spending $4 for that festively decorated cupcake? Don’t worry — your holiday can be magazine-worthy AND frugal at the same time. First, some background. The Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, in Florence, Ala., excels at connecting with the community. The folks there have turned the FLPL into a local gathering spot. You don’t go there simply to check out a book or check on the Internet — you go there to meet, eat, drink, sip, learn, watch, view, play, shop, talk, research and more. Example: A series of free monthly programs focusing on do-it-yourself topics that might especially interest young adults. Created by two young women staffers, the series brings in local experts on such subjects as grilling, sewing pillows and pulling together your first Thanksgiving dinner. December’s program was “Christmas Cupcakes and Tablescapes” and it was so much fun. Decorating this season is bold & graphic and casual & eclectic — I was especially pleased to learn that since down-home imperfection is  hot and glossily meticulousness is out, I now am apparently completely on trend — so creating decor using what’s within reach is both stylish and smart. Take the tablescapes. I’ve never considered using flat king sheets as table linens, but what a super idea that is. Add brown craft paper for a kid-friendly table runner, place cards for a thoughtful touch and a centerpiece featuring old glass jars  with unpopped popcorn anchoring backyard-branches and you’ve got a simple yet eye-catching design. And, here’s breaking news from the cupcake front: The latest thing is to leave a border of unfrosted cake to enhance that imperfect undecorated feel. I think I’ll need to do more research on this and report back. In the meantime, make your own edible snowflakes by drawing patterns on parchment paper, melting candy-making wafers in a plastic squeeze bottle and then piping along your pattern. Adorable! Allmost tempts me to wander into the kitchen and pull out bowls and beaters and get to work. Almost …

Cupcakes and T-shirts and Fireworks, Oh My!

Is it wrong that some of the things I most look forward to when it comes to the Fourth of July are eating and wearing all things red, white and blue? I mean, fireworks are fun and cookouts are cool, but give me an artificially colored sugary treat and a patriotic T-shirt made halfway across the world and I’m happy. Seriously! I’m not being sarcastic here … well, maybe a little bit. But these incredibly yummy cupcakes were made with care and sold with joy at a small and local family bakery — the lemonade one especially is delicious with its tart and refreshing burst of lemony flavor. And the T-shirt, priced at $5.99, came from a discount store that has successfully brought style within reach of almost all budgets. So, in celebrating our national birthday, I’m also honoring our quintessential American values of capitalism, entrepreneurship and democratization. On the other hand, you could point out that I’m contributing to the growing problems of obesity and job loss. But here’s the thing: I’m free to do that. I’m free to shop for cupcakes anywhere I want to and eat as many as I feel I can. (Are all four too many? Please say “no.”)  I’m free to go anywhere I want on a T-shirt search and buy anything I can sneak into the house without my husband noticing that fits into my budget. Free to do pretty much what I want to do. Free. To. Do. What. I. Want. I don’t always make the best choices, but at least I’m free to make them. Thank you, Founding Fathers and Unheralded Founding Mothers. Happy Birthday!

And now I’m going to put on my T-shirt, eat a cupcake and drink more coffee because I’m not used to such deep thinking before lunch.