Once a year I host a Garden Tour. It has become an annual tradition that I look forward to. This year, the theme was Alfresco Entertaining. Where else, but in Southern California, can we truly enjoy our outdoor spaces - almost year round. We also celebrated Lemons . . . featuring them in both our tablescapes and our refreshments.
thank you to all who attended and
a big giant thank you to our gracious hostesses -
it looked effortless, but I'm sure it took a lot of time and effort -
sprucing up their homes and gardens for visitors..
I promised recipes and photos . . .
Shawna has an amazing talent for making people feel at home. Her welcoming courtyard featured a bubbling fountain and tiny mercury glass votives dangling from a low spreading tree.

Shawna has a talent for floral arrangements and you can see some of her handiwork on her blog: http://www.twomanyjohnsons.blogspot.com/. She also creates these beautiful succulent pots - a tapestry of little works of art together in one beautiful spot.

The focal point of her garden is the t-shaped pool, crowned with this spa, waterfall, and a trio of bubbling urns. What enchanted me about her garden/yard was that
it could have been formal and stuffy.
It wasn't.
Her plants and shrubs were deliciously un-manicured, growing in contained abandon. Her hardscape was interrupted by little areas or 'rooms' that invited intimacy for sunbathing, gathering by the fire, family dining and meal preparation. The effect was inviting and casually elegant - perfect for a little alfresco entertaining.

So we set up a tablescape - a little casual - a little elegant -
a little contemporary - a little traditional.
A lot like Shawna.
Shawna's two tiered iron candle chandelier twinkles invitingly over her table.
A new acquisition, she confessed to finding it on Craig's List for $20.
If only I'd seen it first. . .
Keeping it casually elegant - I chose table runners over a tablecloth (too formal) or placemats (too casual). We used two across the table - using them placemat fashion to set our dishes on - topped by two lengthwise down the center of the table.
A wooden beaded mat covers the place where they overlap in the center of the table and makes a perfect spot to place our centerpiece of lemon tree branches, with lemons still attached.
More lemons cover the branch stems in the vase interior.

Our table runners coordinate, rather than match - another way to create a more casual atmosphere. We used dishes and glassware that Shawna owned, mixing patterns and styles. Polished stones with the help of a sharpie pen were transformed into placecards.

I wanted to demonstrate several ways to present napkins so I folded some to create pockets for silverware, and tucked some into the glasses themselves with accents of lemon leaves.
The watercandles were both fabulous and a disaster. After assembling this great concept - a candle inside a vase inside another vase - surrounded by water (tinted with a couple drops of blue food color) - the effect of a lighted candle underwater was completely lost when the candle wasn't heavy enough to keep the smaller vase it was in from floating . . . .
I had to weight the inner vase down with glass pebbles
and then the candle was too tall for the full effect.
So..... NEXT TIME I will use a shorter candle.
The cylindrical vases were purchases from Michaels and TaiPan Trading.
The great urban chic faux grass accents were also from TaiPan.
REFRESHMENTS: Now for the important stuff! Shawna and her daughter Emma made the most fabulous Cupcakes, and I made Pink Lemonade Thins. The recipes follow...

emma's coconut cupcakes

duncan hines white cake mix-make as directed (instead of oil, substitute applesauce.)
add 1 cup coconut to batter.
(the applesauce makes the cupcake a little bit sticky...but oh so yummy)


1 box powdered sugar

1 8oz cream cheese softened

1 cube butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla beat until smooth, dip frosted cupcake in coconut

note: these were made mini size and were perfect for refreshments!

pink lemonade thins (betty crocker)

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened

2/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 - 2/3 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
Pink Lemonade Glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

5 to 6 teaspoons lemon juice

1 drop red food color

1. Heat oven to 350°F.
Lightly grease bottom only of 15x10x1-inch pan with shortening.
In large bowl, beat butter, 2/3 cup powdered sugar,
2 tablespoons lemon peel, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
and 2 drops food color with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy,
or mix with spoon.
Stir in flour until well blended.
Press in pan, using floured fingers (flour fingers several times to prevent sticking).

2. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown.

3. In medium bowl, mix all glaze ingredients until smooth and spreadable.
Pour glaze over warm bars; spread evenly (glaze will be very thin).
Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Bars are very tender; remove from pan using very flat-edged metal pancake turner.
For bars, cut into 8 rows by 8 rows.


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