cookies-only party

cookies-only party, dessert table via

My catering mission, was to bake 1,000 cookies from scratch in one day. The easy part would be styling and setting the dessert tables. It was the first and only time I have ever catered cookies as the only dessert. It was a hit!

cookies-only party, dessert table via

I was asked by two very generous women to treat the parishioners of St. Thomas More to a cookie-buffet, to be enjoyed after the ground-breaking ceremony of their new church-build.

cookies-only party, dessert table via

On the menu: Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip, Lemon Tea, Chewy Ginger and Snickerdoodle.

It was a very good thing to have my mom by my side for all of this work! I simply could not have done this without her. I was also fortunate to have scheduled the time needed in the commercial kitchen I was renting. My momma and I rolled out more than enough dough and baked 12 or so dozen at a time. It was awesome! We are a good team and made it fun.

cookies-only party, dessert table via

The floral arrangements made the dessert tables so lovely! The small arrangements had orange roses with ivory and green hydrangea. The larger arrangements were beautiful as well, with more greenery and lilies in both yellow star and white cala.

I loved the white plating, placed on brown and wood-toned pedestals. The set-up squeezed in nicely onto three, 6′ tables.

cookies-only party, dessert table via

It didn’t take long at all to plate the cookies, since I was organized and knew exactly how I wanted to lay them out beforehand. The best part was meeting the sweet parishioners and knowing how much the enjoyed the cookies.




color and cupcakes

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via

I have always loved to cater weddings. It’s even more wonderful when the client is a decisive bride who has a really good idea of the look and feel of her reception. I set, styled and catered this dessert table, for a wonderful bride and groom who didn’t want the every-day dessert table, but something colorful and fun surrounding their main color of peach and lots of cupcakes.

(This is a repost of a dessert table that I catered, set and styled years ago. It’s still beautiful and relevant.)

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via

She handmade a “love is sweet” sign for the dessert table, with lace and ribbon streamers. She left doilies and small floral arrangements for me to include.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via

At the center of the table was the cutting-cake. The bride chose ruffles in a peach-ombre pattern. I made sugar-succulents as decorations.

I rented much of the pedestal plating from a friend who no longer rents her dessert table pieces. She had a lot of beautiful items, with different colors that all worked really nicely together. On the left, I used warm tones of plating of yellows. On the right, there were cool tones of blue. In the center, I used plating in tones of green.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via

I made custom labeling to match the look, feel and design of their wedding invitations.

The cupcake menu included Mexican Hot Cocoa, Gluten-Free Coconut Dream, Red Velvet, Lemonade, Vanilla Velvet and Churro.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via

The outdoor reception was held at the lovely Keys Creek Lavender Farm, located in Valley Center, California.

It was an incredible event and I felt very honored to have been chosen as a vendor, but there were some challenges. First, it was 115 degrees outside. Then, there was the wedding coordinator. She was extremely rude to me and unorganized. I wasn’t thrilled about the situation, especially considering how hard I had worked before even arriving. I was on-time and confirmed to set the dessert table in a specific window of time.  She told me I had to wait, and that I could not set the table. She didn’t tell me when I could finish the job I was hired to accomplish.

After I unloaded my packed SUV, I tried to find a shady spot. There is no refrigeration or indoor-space on the premises where I was told to step aside. I was nervous for how well the cake and cupcakes would hold up in the heat. After standing and stressing in the background for 40 minutes or so, I was given the go to start setting the table.

It was a bit awkward for me to work, since I had to take all of my bulky bins of desserts and plating onto the reception area where guests had already been invited to celebrate. With all of this plating and 100 cupcakes or so, I needed a little elbow room. I didn’t have much.  With that much pressure and that much heat, I was perspiring with a full-blown audience of guests that watched me work. I worked hard and as quickly as possible.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via

Fortunately, the table was placed under some trees, that kept the cupcakes and cake shaded.

If it were up to me (and almost every other wedding plan I had catered in the past years) the dessert table would have been set before the guests arrived to the reception.  It’s all right. Sometimes you have to roll with whatever happens (and whomever happens) and it will get done. I was just happy that the bride and groom entered the reception to a completed dessert table, and that they were thrilled.


my time and aprons

At this point in my life, I get to put on quite a few different aprons. Before I start my day’s work, it’s a must that I hang up any ego since it would just get in the way.

If at any time, I’m feeling slightly proud of myself for what I had accomplished in a day, my triumphs are mini and only done for the sake of giving what I can give at that very moment. My uniform shows me and others that I am a sort of servant. I embrace it. I love that I can contribute. It brings me to my true self who somehow has God-given gifts, despite my many current and eventual limitations.

For example, it feels amazing when I am able to do all of the laundry, without making a mountain of clothes to iron. However, while I’m in the zone of doing my least-favorite chore, I’m thankful that I have the strength and health to make it happen.

When I gave in, against my motto, and signed up for too much after school with the kids, and wake up early to get dinner prepped by 6am, it feels like my apron has suddenly turned into a crown, that only my family can see. If it’s hard and I’m tired, I just switch up my thought process and give thanks that I have this beautiful family to help take care of.

Sometimes I miss the old jobs that I once had, like changing diapers and making baby food but those days are gone. I do, however, appreciate those who are in-deep with these difficult jobs and try to hold a baby (even crying) whenever possible. I’ve learned that having older or independent kids doesn’t mean easier work, it is just a different (but still very good and rewarding) time in this life.

I often find myself, not in a hurry, but with desire to do as much as I possibly can, as if I won’t have many tomorrows. I really don’t over commit anymore and be sure to only say yes to what I can handle. Sometimes I daydream of accomplishing more. . .

And then there’s the apron I wear when I’m a baker or doing what’s needed to run my little business. This one is a blessing too, because it is a special opportunity to create and to do what I enjoy. It is fun and rewarding, but it’s also extremely humbling.

I remember making pumpkin pies years ago as a fundraiser for the youth group at my parish. An elderly woman ordered a few for her family. She told me that she admired my work and that there was a time when she could cook and bake, but she couldn’t physically do it anymore. She could no longer lift a pan. She didn’t have the strength to mix ingredients by hand. She was sad about that fact, but fondly remembered the time when she could. She told me that she was glad that I could be her hands.

Her words left an impression on me. I do think of her sometimes, as I work, and I understand my place. I find it an honor to be anyone’s hands. I also understand the possibility that one day, I might be in her position. While I can do what I do now, I want to do it. 

Once some of my little jobs are done, it’s nice to relax with those who love me most. Whether this time is spent during some much needed quiet and reflection at Mass, or at home, with my loved ones (all in my face the way I like them to be) – laughing, playing or helping – the time is my reward.

xox, Mili

I love this vintage pic of these ladies in their aprons. (I happened to crop out the pumps they were wearing.) If they had a bun on top of their heads, and no red lipstick, it might be a little more true-to-life.

For more of my personal writing, please see the “my stories” link in the ABOUT section of my blog.

my time and aprons - story via


dreamy whipped cream & strawberries

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via Once you make whipped cream from scratch, there’s no going back. It’s an absolute dream!

I’m sharing my recipe for one of the best and simplest things you’ll make with a standing mixer, and it will take less than 2 minutes to complete.

Whipped cream was the first thing I tried to make when I received a standing mixer as a wedding gift. (My 4.5 quart Kitchen Aid is still going strong after 11 years of heavy use. I even used it in this post.)

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via

Here’s what I use whipped cream for: waffles, pancakes, parfaits, zabaglione, cupcakes and cakes. The list goes on and on. My family especially loves it with fresh-cut strawberries. While strawberries are in peak-season, I’ll probably make whipped cream once a week for my sweethearts. If you are not a fan of strawberries or have an allergy, simply substitute with other fresh fruits or berries.

If you’d like to make this stack, please link to my recipe, Simple Saturday Pancakes. 

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via

It’s a nice touch to add a drizzling of ganache to top your whipped cream, but honestly, the whipped cream will be the star. I absolutely love chocolate, but I have to be in the mood for it. With whipped cream, it’s a different story – there’s no mood required.

Mili’s Sweets Dreamy Whipped Cream

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do:

Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer. (I prefer the thickness and richness of Horizon Organic,  over other brands that I’ve tried.)

Use the whisk attachment to stir the ingredients inside the bowl, helping to dissolve the sugar, for about 10 seconds.

Attach the bowl and whisk to the standing mixer and gradually increase the mixing speed to 10, or the highest level. Use a stopwatch to time one minute and 20 seconds. It’s done! You now have dreamy whipped cream, and it took about the same time would take (for me) to unwrap a prepackaged-version.

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via Here’s how I make parfaits, using the whipped cream:

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via First I prep a bunch of beautiful strawberries. Make sure that they are washed thoroughly. I remove the tops and cut lengthwise, between 3-5 times, depending on the size of the berry.

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via

I use small pedestal-style ice cream bowls, and place berry slices at the bottom. Next, I pipe on whipped cream, place more strawberries and pipe more whipped cream on the top. Depending on who it’s for, I might add a spoonful of fresh ganache or simply place fresh strawberries at the top, without the chocolate. Either way, my family is thrilled. I love how much they love it!

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via


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celebrating my beautiful mother

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

There’s no one like my mother. No one who knows me more, whom could ever love me the way that she loves me. No one has sacrificed more for me. Her example is one of the main reasons why I am who I am. It took me a while and a lot of growing up, to truly understand her life and the love that she has given.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

This is a woman who deserves to be celebrated! She always puts everyone first and never-ever wants to burden anyone with her personal needs or for any extra attention. She’s just amazing. She feels so loved and well-cared for as it is, so every day is a blessing . . . no need to make a fuss.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

My brother and I were about to change all of that. For her 70th, we wanted to make a fuss and threw her a beautiful birthday party. A whole year has passed, and she is still thanking us and cannot believe that it was all for her!

I invited mostly family and a few of her friends to lunch at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Lakeside. Owner, Maria DiGiovanni, has been friends with my family for so many years, and her food is so delicious – just like the food that we loved at big family gatherings when I was a child. I wanted the food to be authentic and something that my family could really enjoy.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

Of course, I would take care of dessert. However, the floral arrangements were the first thing on my mind. I wanted to honor my mother with beautiful flowers everywhere. “Abudanza” came to mind. I set an appointment with my dear friend Karen at Franco’s Flowers and with my own vases, she made my dreams come true.

I had more gorgeous blossoms in Double-Star Lilies, Dahlia, Peonies, Carnations and Roses in pale pinks and ivory, placed in individual water tubes to decorate the bottom of her elevated birthday cake.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via“Pineapple-Coconut Paradise” is her favorite cake that I make. It’s a vanilla custard cake, (that I named “Vanilla Italia”) with fresh pineapple sauce soaked in. It’s filled with a layer of Italian custard and vanilla butter cream. It’s covered with whipped cream and lots of toasted coconut. She is diabetic but once a year, she is “bad” and has a slice of this dessert.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

Besides the cake, the centerpiece of the dessert table was a mural I made with special photos from her life. There was also a small white bird at the center. The invitation and decor was all about a little vintage bird, so I added lace and used birdcages and mason jars throughout the party setting.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

It takes a special maturity (a true gift if you can receive it in-time) to understand that your loved ones are really not all about you. At the beginning of this post, “me” was mentioned several times. That’s really how I felt through childhood – that my mom was all mine. God made her just for me. It wasn’t until I was about 18, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that I even began to realize how significant, rich and special her life was before I ever arrived and continued to be every day thereafter. I wanted to learn all about her life and  the best fact was, that it really wasn’t about me at all. I am just some seasoning in her beautiful life.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

I had a lot of vintage, handmade table linens and used them throughout the party as well. This was a special  table I set for guests, toward the entry. I wanted them to arrive, drop off their gift, and write her a well-wish or  love note. I placed additional old photographs to view and the framed tribute that I wrote for her:

70 Years of Maria Rosaria

Inside the five-foot frame that holds this beautiful woman,

is God-given strength and courage to move mountains.

On July 12, 1943, she was pronounced dead at birth,

as the seventh child of her family. Her mother saved her life.

At the age of 13, she followed her father’s dream of coming to America.

She entered the 6th grade, not speaking a word of English.

As a high school student, she had to become the woman of the house.

She takes pride in her impeccable work ethic.

She gives all that she has, and all of her personal time to

her faith, her family and to the poor.

She was a single-mother and raised two children.

While in hardship, she worked odd jobs to be sure

her children attended Catholic school.

She overcame poverty.

She always maintained her generosity.

She has worked for Mercy/Scripps Hospital a total of 34 years.

She survived cancer.

She collects rosaries.

She misses her mother every day.

Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are her heroes.

She lives for the kisses she receives from her grandchildren.

We adore you, Maria Rosaria!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

This was the pretty birdcage arrangement placed at the gift/tribute table.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

I made very simple party favors. I packaged clear rock candies on a stick, with a Shabby-Chic-labeled thank you note. It was super simple and I had enough so that every guest (including children) could take one home.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.comEveryone loved the dessert table! Every single sweet vanished and guests took the time to come up and look at the mural. I made cupcakes in Double Dutch, Lemonade, Orange Dream and Tiramisu, chocolate chip cookies and I provided fresh apricots and cherries for the diabetics in our group.

The very best part of the entire day was when my mom blew out her candles. I wish I had a better camera on-hand that day, but despite the low-quality, you have to see the joy from the children and the look on my mom’s face – this moment was priceless!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

The children helped to place all 70 candles on the cake. As soon as they were lit, I had to move fast to present it to her! Thank goodness my hair was back because that was a serious flame! The children and their joy really helped to make this moment so incredibly special.

This was a day my family and especially my mom, will never forget. She’ll be 71 next weekend and I can’t wait to celebrate her sweetness and her heart of gold, all over again.

xox, Mili

celebrating my beautiful mother - via

swati - February 17, 2016 - 9:39 pm

loved this post.I could feel your mom’s happiness through your words. - April 4, 2016 - 10:03 pm

I’m just now seeing your note Swati. Thank you! Take care, Mili