Dressing Up for the Big Show

We were really excited about the big show being put on at Modern Steps, our ballroom dance studio. But we needed something to add a bit of zip to the room, and Voila! Balloons to the Rescue! Fabulous balloons, using the theme colors of the ShowDance, red and black, were added to the room using balloon cups and sticks (no helium required!) and sticky holders to keep them in place. It really brighten up the vebue and made it “showtime!” Be sure to catch our big number on Youtube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id9T1TDeAMw. You’re gonna love it!

Comfy & Cozy

Wow – 2013 already?! And where has January gone?! I can’t believe that I am already thinking about Valentine’s Day celebrations – it seems that we just put away our Christmas decorations. Reds & pinks have been flooding the store shelves (and I can already see some green sneaking in) and there are aisles and aisles of heart shaped goodies. As I consider Valentine’s Day 2013 I think about snuggling with my loves while sipping hot chocolate with heart shaped marshmallows. It has been so cold here – right around 0* so a cozy, low key Valentine’s Day sounds perfect for this small family.

Here are a couple ideas for a simple way to celebrate the holiday with your family or your roommates.

1 – Hot cocoa & a movie. Snuggle under some blankets and get toasty with a cup of hot cocoa and some heart shaped marshmallows, store bought or homemade, pop in an a good romantic comedy or age appropriate flick if the littles are joining you.

source unknown

 

2 – Balloons at breakfast would be a fun way for your family to start the day. Fill them with helium and let the pretty curled ribbons dangle or tie them to the backs of the chairs or simply blow them up and tap/tack the ribbons to the ceiling and let the balloons hang in a reverse fashion.

photo via catch my party

source unknown

It’s all about love – snuggle close, give a little peck and remind your loved ones how special they really are!

 

Under Construction

What do you serve at a construction themed birthday party? Why dirt & construction cones of course! What a fun spin on pudding with crushed chocolate cookies and candy corns. Put your noggin to work and think about what you can call your treats that would fit your theme. Nuts & bolts = peanuts & pretzel sticks. I love the fun little signs for the food too. Some of the food was even served right out of the back of a dump truck. And of course every birthday party needs a cake and this one didn’t disappoint. A chocolate construction cake complete with “dirt” and little trucks.

Everything had its own little special touch – it was fun just to look around and see all the little details that really brought this party together into a 3 year olds dream birthday. The water bottles had fun little labels, the sign on the door letting us know we were entering a construction area, and the personalized napkins and balloons from Balloons Tomorrow really made this into a fun event.

Nothing was overlooked in the planning, look at this – real construction plans covering the tables! A brilliant idea! And what better way to anchor your balloons to the table than a handful of tools (cheap & easy). Toy construction trucks also adorned the tables but it didn’t take long for the little ones to realize this and soon many of them were being zoomed around the floor by laughing boys & girls.

Stay tuned to hear more about the fun activities that were planned for the little ones (& big ones) at the party.

Giving Thanks

As we enter into the week of Thanksgiving I – like many others – like to really reflect on what I have. Yes, there are a lot of physical objects on my “Thankful For” list – coffee & my ipod just to name a couple (they make my days better but I like to think that I could live without them if I had to) but I also like to think about the people I am thankful for. Of course I am thankful for all of my family especially my husband and son (and thankful that they put up with/tolerate my craziness) but also those that I connect with in a different way. I am so thankful for the children’s librarians at our public library for helping provide a wonderful learning area that my son enjoys every week or for the young workers at our grocery store who are more than happy to help me with my groceries after a long day at work.

As I recently helped a friend with some planning for a birthday party I realized I am able to add some more people to my “Thankful For” list – those that work at Balloons Tomorrow. Their customer service & design staff is FAN-TASTIC! So super helpful in taking our ideas and putting them all together into some fabulous party decorations. We knew bits & pieces of what we wanted but the Balloons Tomorrow crew did an outstanding job of really pulling everything together for us. These guys & gals sure know their stuff and made planning this party super easy on our part. I encourage you to give them a jingle – even if you don’t know exactly what you need for your party – they will work with you to find the perfect products to fit your party & budget. So thank you Balloons Tomorrow staff for all of your hard work and dedication to providing superb customer service, fantastic products, and a speedy delivery!

On that note I want to wish you all a happy & safe Thanksgiving week and stay tuned for a recap of the birthday party I mentioned!

imgage via eighteen25

 

Halloween Snacks

A Halloween post in November?! Yep, that’s right. I am a planner but you know, some things just happen very last minute around our house. Early in October I had decided I wanted to make some fun treats for my son’s Halloween party then I thought “nah, I’ll just forget it” well then the night before Halloween I decided “what the heck”. Luckily these 2 treats were super fast & very easy to whip up and of course the end product was too cute. Both of these treats are perfect for goodie bags – kids AND adults will love them (trust me)!

 

Peanut Butter Ghosts

Ingredients: peanut shaped peanut butter sandwich cookies, white almond bark, & mini chocolate chips

Directions: melt the almond bark (I did mine in the microwave), dip 2/3 of the cookies into the melted almond bark, place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, add 2 chocolate chips for eyes.

Peanut Butter Ghosts

Clem-O-Lanterns

Ingredients: bag of clementines

Directions: draw fun, scary, or goofy faces on the clementines with a permanent marker

Clem-O-Lanterns

 

And as a bonus why not feed your kids spiders! That is what my husband thought anyway. He cleverly put dried spaghetti through a sliced up hot dog and boiled them – spaghetti spiders – only to have our 2 year old respond “me no like spiders”.

spaghetti spiders

 

Up, Up and Away

A handful of years ago I went to my cousins wedding and witnessed a balloon release for the first time. It was so neat and unique. It was only until recently that I learned that balloon releases are for more than just weddings and that there is quite a bit to learn about the balloon releasing process.

Did you know that latex balloons are 100% biodegradable? It’s true. What this means is that when a balloon is released and it falls back to earth it will decompose around the same rate as an oak leaf. And ideally balloon releases are done with no ribbon, strings, or the sort attached to the balloon since many of these do not decompose and may pose harm to animals when they return to the ground. Now I know not everyone would care about this aspect of balloon releases so it is recommended if you want a tie on your balloon that you go with a cotton string or raffia. Another important thing to consider is if there are any laws in your area regarding balloon releases, this is especially important if you plan on releasing a large amount of balloons or if you will be doing your release near an airport.

Balloon releases can be done for a wide variety of reasons. Celebrations such as a wedding is an obvious one but balloon releases are also frequently done at a memorial for a loved one. And more recently they have become a popular way for couples to reveal the gender of their baby. For whatever reason you chose to do a balloon release I encourage you to take a little extra time to read this document and  consider the end result of this beautiful event.

photo taken by Denise White

Yummy Decor

Fall parties have to be one of the most fun to plan. There are decorations & craft supplies right at your fingertips. What? You didn’t know this? I like to decorate for the season/holiday and I like to be a hostess but I also like to save a little dough where I can.

As I have been hauling out little fall/Halloween decorations I realized I didn’t have as much as I thought. How was I supposed to transform our family room into a cozy & festive place to lounge with just a few seasonal pieces (including these little ghosts)? Then it hit me – use the cute pumpkins & squash from our CSA share! Brilliant – and “free” (and edible).  And wait – I have a piece of black fabric that I could use as a runner (in my case on a shelf instead of a table). Oh and that cauldron that my son got from papa & mimi filled with Halloween goodies – that has been added to the décor too and will most likely be used to hold candy for the little ghouls & goblins that come to visit in a couple of weeks.

I challenge you – before you head to the store to buy some likely overpriced decorations to take a walk through your house, look in your closets and even your kitchen and see what you can repurpose or reuse for that holiday or special occasion. Take a trip to the local farmer’s market or pumpkin patch or in our area drive a few miles into the country to the farm selling gourds & pumkins of all shapes & sizes for a price that will make your jaw hit the floor. You may be astounded by the choices (and prices) and you will have some decorations that will last the whole season as well as taste good on your dinner plate.

Holidays: Ghostly Goodness

Like many others my mind is in full orange & black mode this month – I can’t stop thinking about Halloween! More specifically I am thinking about how I can decorate our house for those little ghosts & goblins that will be visiting at the end of the month. When I stumbled upon this ghostly project I knew that it would be perfect for our house adding a little touch of the holiday here and there.

Supplies:

  • Cheese cloth
  • Liquid starch (found in the detergent aisle) or starch paste (corn starch + water)
  • Styrofoam balls or balloons
  • Something to balance the balls on – I used glasses of various sizes
  • Plastic sheeting (to protect your work surface)

    supplies – corn starch paste vs. liquid starch

I tried 2 different methods* of this project – one using liquid starch and one using a paste I made. If you choose to make your own paste you will need to mix approximately 2 ¼ cups (give or take) of water with 1 cup of corn starch, mix, & microwave for about 2 minutes stirring frequently until it is like a thick pudding. If using liquid starch just pour it into a bowl.

Plan out the height of your ghosts by placing your Styrofoam balls on tops of glasses – I found it helpful to stack some glasses for my larger ghosts. Cut the cheese cloth to the desired length – drape over the forms to find out house much to use.

my ghost forms (go Twins!)

Submerge the cheese cloth into the starch working the starch into the cloth. Take out of the starch and open the cheese cloth (the cloth is delicate at this point and may tear – be gentle). Drape over your forms and adjust the cloth to your liking. I did 2 layers of cloth per ghost for a little more dimension. Let sit over night or until firm (if you made your own starch this may take closer to 24 hours for everything the dry).

Take off your form and you are done! Yay!

ghost family

You can feel free to add eyes made out of felt or construction paper if you wish. These are so fun to place around the house. I will be putting my 2 large ones outside on Halloween but right now we are enjoying them indoors. You may even consider making some mini ones and stringing them into a garland or how about hanging them from the ceiling with fishing line to give the impression that they are floating in the air?! Or how about putting a glow stick or little flameless candle under them?! These would be a great addition to any Halloween party as decorations or as a party favor. Let me know if you try these out – I would love to see how you spook up your party!

 

*I found the liquid starch to be much easier to work with! Though the homemade starch seemed to set a lot firmer than the liquid.

 

 

 

Yummies: Cream Cheese Mints

As far back as I can remember cream cheese mints have always been a part of weddings, graduations, baby showers, any sort of celebration. It wasn’t until recently that I was shocked (and slightly horrified) to find out that a few of my co-workers didn’t know what such things were! Who doesn’t know what these delectable creamy pieces of perfection are?! Man, they are missing out. Are they just a regional item – the verdict is still out on this but many say these are a Midwest thing.

With only a few ingredients (cream cheese, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, mint or other flavoring, food coloring)* cream cheese mints are easy to prep that’s for sure but they can be a tad time consuming if you choose to use a rubber mold for a special shape. I liken them to making cut-out cookies – they seem like a great idea at the beginning, in the middle of making them you wonder what they heck you were thinking, and at the end you are rewarded for your hard work with a yummy & beautiful treat.

photo via Skip To My Lou

This may be why I have only made them twice in my life. The first time was for my high school graduation – I begged my mom to make them to which she kindly (or not so kindly) said “yeah right – if you want them ask grandma.” My grandma agreed as long as I made them with her. We were successful and if I remember correctly had a couple of ice cream buckets full of the classic rose shaped mints – yum! This past spring I helped host a baby shower and again thought CREAM CHEESE MINTS! This time I was on my own. An owl themed shower had to have owl shaped mints right? I did a simple search, ordered my mold which was here in no time and I was set. I won’t go into details but I don’t have grandma’s touch and the mints weren’t going as planned – I ditched the idea of owl mints and opted to roll the mints into balls and flatten them with a fork similar to peanut butter cookies. I think they actually looked more classy. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the finished product – but be assured they were cute & yummy.

A nice little addition to any celebration really, colors & shapes are endless and you can choose a different flavor than mint if you like – totally customizable! Just be sure to give yourself some time – these mints are totally okay going into the freezer or refrigerator for a bit if you choose to make them a couple of weeks ahead of time (I actually like them when they are cold & firm). Enjoy and eat one for me!

 

*the recipe is very simple, I looked at a couple of recipes and used them as guidelines but didn’t follow any exactly.

 

Birthdays: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Two years ago my son came into this world and changed my life forever. I love him more than I ever thought possible. One of my (many) goals as a mother is to make sure that he has an enjoyable birthday (whether he remembers it or not). I spent quite a bit of time planning his first birthday but this September was much busier and I didn’t have quite as much free time to prepare AND we decided not to do a big birthday party but instead would celebrate as a small family and would help B celebrate at daycare as well.

We decided that the perfect treat for those at his small daycare would be ice cream cone cupcakes. I vaguely remember having these as a child either at my own party or someone else’s. They are super easy to make, would be something we could make a couple of days beforehand and they were also easy enough for a 2 year old to help with. B enjoyed dumping in the ingredients as well as licking the spoon and what little kid doesn’t like dumping sprinkles onto a cake?!

Thinking about the steps in making these cupcakes there are a couple of challenges to work around. We opted for the standard size of ice cream cones and thought B would enjoy a funfetti cake mix. We filled the cones 2/3 full of cake batter and then placed the cones on a mini muffin tin – they fit perfectly. CAREFULLY I put the pan into the oven and let them bake for about 20 minutes. Taking them out of the oven was almost more of a challenge than putting them in – but the made it out safely. After cooling I frosted them and let little B put sprinkles on each one.

And you are done! OH WAIT! How am I going to transport these?!?! Not an easy thing if you think about it.  A simple Google search will result in a plethora of ideas told by those that have braved these ice cream cone cupcakes in the past. We chose to transport these via a tin foil lasagna pan which was the perfect size for 12 cupcakes. Originally I had planned on cutting circles out of the bottom of the pan the size of the bottoms of the cones but that proved to be more difficult that I wanted it to be. So instead I cut a simple “X” for each cone and folded back the tabs – super easy. The cones fit in there great without wiggling around. The kids at daycare gave them rave reviews and somehow none of the extras made it home.

These were definitely fun & quick to make for a busy mom like myself. They didn’t take too much time and too much planning and you could definitely decorate them as simple or extravagant as you like – oh and did I mention how fun they are to eat?! Enjoy!

Components:

  • Ice cream cones
  • Cake mix
  • Frosting
  • Sprinkles
  • Mini muffin tin
  • Tin foil lasagna pan

 

Directions:

  • Mix up your cake batter.
  • Spoon batter into the cones until they are 2/3 full.
  • Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Cool completely before decorating.