Kathi Hardin of Leawood likes to decorate cupcakes as spider webs and mummies.
Mary G. Pepitone; Wednesday Oct 29, 2008
At Halloween, Kathi Hardin scares up bewitchingly sweet treats. She also has plenty of tricks to help manage a busy household.
Finding the fun factor helps Hardin maintain balance between an active family — with husband Mike and their two sons, Maguire, 6, and Cooper, 2 — and her budding home-based business, Tray Bella. While preparing healthy food choices for her family is a priority, that doesn’t preclude the enjoyment of an occasional coolly decorated confection.
Occupation: Homemaker and head of home-based, tray-decorating business
Special cooking interest: Baked desserts
Does Martha Stewart live here? No (laughing). You should see my kitchen after the boys have helped me cook. I think it’s good for kids to help make food, it’s good for their math and for them to go through the process of making something and tasting the end product. You need to let go of not making a mess. The kitchen needs to be cleaned anyway, and ideally, your kids help with that process, too. As far as my decorating goes, I focus on keeping things simple. I draw inspiration from home and gardening television shows, magazines and shops, then I file it away. When I’m ready to decorate, it just comes to me. I decorate on a budget, mix-and-match items and, luckily, received the gift to be able to pull it all together. When I get bored with how things look, I move all my furniture around, and it’s like I have a brand new house. My mother, Susan Kelly, is very creative and I think I get it from her.
Why start a business designing trays? Trays are so practical, so utilitarian. No matter what is being served, serving it on a tray just makes it so special. Although trays come in a variety of materials, from metal to wicker, I work with wood trays. I paint them and decorate them with beautiful or fun paper. It’s easy to build a tablescape on a tray, and then when it’s time to eat, you can easily remove the tray from the table for more room. It’s a special treat to serve lunch to yourself on a beautiful tray, you can sit anywhere, and cleanup is easy. Using a tray can be both functional and beautiful.
Have you always liked Halloween? I love the fall season, the cool weather, the colors. Nature provides so many things for decorating your home, too. Go out into your yard and collect a bowl of acorns or fill a basket with hedge apples with your kids. I decorate my house with these findings. When it comes to seasonal decorating, keep it simple and use what you already have. For Halloween this year, my fireplace mantel looks like a laboratory just by using glass containers I already owned. The boys and I like to make special treats for Halloween to give away, too. I save the paper towel tubes, decorate and fill them to resemble special English crackers. We also fill glycine bags with treats and I seal them with cute labels.
What is your fall food repertoire? During the fall I love to make soups, including white chicken chili, cheddar and pumpkin. But, to me, there is something old-fashioned about cupcakes. They are simple, beautiful, fun-to-make and a great way to control portions. White cake is the favorite flavor choice in my house. Decorate them using a pastry bag or simply add some sprinkles.