Thursday, December 4, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas

I was out of town for Thanksgiving and returned home with ONE day to plan my monthly dinner for December 1st.  To avoid as much stress as possible, I decided to go with the first thing that came to my mind...The 12 Days of Christmas.

Invite: Quick invite designed on Photoshop with some images I found on the internet.

Entry Decor:  I wanted to make numbered signs leading up to my front door counting from 12 to 2, but I ran out of time. I think it would have been a cute addition, but lucky for me it rained and I wouldn't have been able to have them out anyway!  I did make the 1st day of Christmas sign on the door. I used poster board and card stock to create the tree, leaves, pears, and partridge for Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Inside Decor:  I designed images for each of the 12 days of Christmas to use as ornaments on my centerpiece.  I found images on Google and then used PhotoShop to make each of them fit the look that I wanted. I printed out the text of the song to place inside the vase.

I was trying to incorporate as many of the 12 days into my food and decor as possible.  Since I had 7 guests able to attend this monthly dinner, I tried to come up with a place card for 7 Swans a Swimming.  I ended up making origami swans out of typing paper and then using my Cricut to cut numbers.

Five of my guests had gold rings around their napkin to represent 5 Golden Rings.  The other guests had plain napkin rings.  I found these gold rings at Ace Hardware.

I served our wine out of milk bottles to represent 8 Maids a Milking.  Each glass had a number on it, so whichever number they picked up corresponded to the swan they sat in front of at the table.  I found the milk bottles at Michaels for a dollar a piece.

Since we were drinking out of milk bottles, I made milk inspired labels for the wine bottles.

Menu: One of the appetizers I had out as guests arrived was chips and salsa.  I called these 4 Calling Birds. I used a bird shaped cookie cutter to cut out tortillas that I baked in the oven.  These are really simple to make.  Cut them out, place them on a cookie sheet, spray with PAM, sprinkle with salt, and bake for approximately 7 minutes at 350 degrees.  Yum.

The second appetizer was deviled eggs I called 7 Geese a Laying. I didn't get a good photo of these, but I think most of you know what deviled eggs look like!

We started the meal with a green salad I called Partridge in a Pear Tree.  The salad included romaine lettuce, Feta cheese, walnuts, craisins, and sliced pear. I served it with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  It was very tasty.

For the main course I served Cornish game hens to represent 3 French Hens.  I made a glaze mixing butter, orange marmalade, and fresh rosemary.  I brushed the hens with this mixture regularly throughout baking and baked them according to the wrapper's instructions. For added fun, I placed each hen on a "nest" of spaghetti squash that I had cooked then seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper.

On a side note, I did end up cutting the hens in half, so each one served two people.  I felt like I already had a lot of food being served, so half was enough.

I served zucchini cut into long strips as well as garlic bread sticks to represent 11 Pipers Piping.

I bought onion rings to bake as well. Each guest got 5 Golden Rings.

For dessert, I bought ice cream drumsticks to represent 12 Drummers Drumming. I felt a bit guilty not making my dessert from scratch, but time was crazy and it went with the theme, so I accepted the guilt and went with it!

Favor: Even though not all of the girls were able to attend this particular monthly dinner, there are 10 of us total in the group. Trying to incorporate all lyrics of the song into my evening, I decided to make these marshmallow ballerinas to represent 9 Ladies Dancing.  These are super easy.  My 5 year old had a blast helping me make them.

I designed this tag which completely reflects how I feel.  These 9 women have brought so much joy into my life.  Their friendships have inspired me and helped me to grow throughout all the years I have known them. I truly feel blessed to have each of these ladies in my life.

Happy December everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cherry Party First Birthday!

Hard to believe my little girl is one year old, but she is. It was time to plan her birthday party, and I had no idea what theme to do in the middle of November. For some reason, I felt like I shouldn't do pastels in November...I know, silly me! I inherited a cherry dress from a friend's daughter that was absolutely adorable, so this dress served as inspiration, and I decided that Jenna's first birthday party theme would be cherries. I originally thought this might be a popular theme, but I wasn't able to find much inspiration on the internet. Nevertheless, I went with it and this is what I came up with!

Invite:  I created an invite on Photoshop. I tried to tie in the cherry theme by using words like "cordially" and "sweet."

To go with the super cute cherry dress hand-me-down, I decided to make Jenna a cherry-inspired barrette.  Unfortunately, Jenna doesn't keep bows and ribbons in her hair for very long, but I wanted to try! I tried to make it light enough she wouldn't notice. At least it lasted through some photos!

Entry Decor: I made a sign for our front door using foam board, poster board, and card stock. I cut out the cherries by hand and used my Cricut machine to make the letters. I also set up a card table with a bouquet of flowers, some balloons, and a 12 month sign.  This is the same sign I used as a prop in Jenna's photos each month.  I just had to scrapbook a new front each time.

I made a Happy Birthday banner using my Cricut machine.  The cherries I found on the Nifty Fifties cartridge.

For the photo banner, I created an image on Photoshop to display the months and represent my theme. I then cut the images out and used scrapbook paper to create the banner.

I bought cheap red plastic tablecloths for the tables and sewed 12" x 12" squares out of a cherry fabric I found at Joann's Fabrics.  I also found red pails at Joann's that I filled with red carnations and white daisies. On various tables I also tied red and white polka-dot balloons and displayed photos of Jenna in her cherry dress.

I set up a dessert table with a cherry table runner made with the leftover fabric, a chalkboard sign, and more photos of Jenna.

I saw a first birthday chalkboard on Etsy, but I didn't want to pay what they were asking.  I decided to make my own.  My husband cut a piece of wood, and I painted it with some chalkboard paint I already had.  A friend of mine offered to do the writing (hers is SO much better than mine). It came out great, was much less expensive, and I was able to add the cherries to make it fit with the theme.

I made a simple smash cake.  I didn't want to use too much red frosting because I didn't want it to stain Jenna's cherry dress, so I stayed mostly with white and just used red for the cherries.

Yep....Jenna loves cake!

I made cherry cupcakes for all the kids at the party.

Mini cherry pies for the adults!  These were SUPER tasty and easy to make.  The recipe is made using mini cupcake pans, but I just doubled the recipe and made normal size cupcakes instead.  Here is the recipe (this is NOT doubled):

  • 1 (16.5 oz.) roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk

  1. Divide cookie dough in half; cut each half into 12 slices.
  2. Generously spray 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray OR line with mini cupcake liners.
  3. Roll each slice into a ball, then place each ball into a mini muffin cup.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven; press down the center of each cookie cup gently to make a small indentation.
  6. Fill each with 1 Tbsp. cherry pie filling.
  7. Return to oven and bake an additional 3-5 minutes.
  8. Cool slightly; remove from pans.
  9. Drizzle with a mixture of powdered sugar, melted butter and milk.
  10. Store in refrigerator

Beyond the normal drinks, I also set out ingredients to make Shirley Temples since it went with the cherry theme.

Party Games:  Since Jenna is only one, we didn't go too crazy with the party games.  I bought Hi Ho Cherry-O and set it out in a corner, and we had a bounce house.  The only other game was Pin the Cherry on Top of the Cupcake. I made the cupcake using red poster board that I folded accordion-style.  Then white poster board for the cupcake and card stock for all the rest. The cherries took a while to make since my Cricut didn't cut that large and I had to do it by hand, but the kids had fun playing.

Favor: As a take-home gift, I filled a red bag with various cherry inspired items.  These included a pack of cherry Lifesavers, bubbles, a notepad, and a red pencil.  I ordered the pencils from ebay and had them personalized with "You're Cherry Special".  I couldn't find red notepads, so I made them myself.  The image on the front I photo-shopped from a Google image and then printed on labels so they would stick on without any issues.  The notepad is just red card stock and white typing paper held together with ribbon.  The bubbles I bought at US Toys.  Again, I replaced the wrapper they came with originally with a cherry label I created.

This was the tag I created to go on the front of the red take-home bags.

Thank you to all our friends and family who came out to celebrate our sweet little girl's first birthday! We love you, Jenna!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Favorite Things

This past Monday, I hosted a My Favorite Things party designed around The Sound of Music. I took the lyrics of the song and tried to incorporate them into as many of the party details as possible.  We had a great time and food was yummy!  This would be such a cute theme for a birthday party or any gathering with a gift exchange.

Invite:  I designed the invite on PhotoShop using an image of Julie Andrews I found on Google.  I asked each guest to try to wear white with blue ribbons to match the lyrics of the song.  For the gift exchange, each guest was asked to purchase 3 of their favorite item.  I set a low price limit so it didn't get too crazy.

Entry Decor:  For my entry door, I made a giant door covering and attempted to make it look like the mountains/poppy fields from The Sound of Music.  I cut up tissue paper and construction paper for all parts of it.  My kiddos were excited to help make the cotton ball clouds.

Table Decor: I set the table with a white tablecloth and yellow napkins.  As a centerpiece, I placed items from the first verse of "My Favorite Things".  This included roses from my garden that I sprinkled water on to look like raindrops, a kitten stuffed animal that had whiskers, a copper kettle, mittens, and a brown paper package.  I didn't have a copper kettle and they were SUPER expensive online, so I just found a white kettle from Goodwill and then sprayed it with copper spray paint.  I included a card with the verse on it in case guests didn't know the song.  I borrowed a black wooden music note from my dad to add to the centerpiece.  I also included a few items from the second verse of the song.  I hung snowflakes from the ceiling and placed sleigh bells down the center of the table.

I had a hard time deciding what to do for a place card, but I finally decided on taking the movie poster and replacing Julie Andrews' face with each of my guest's. As I am not an expert at Photoshop, so some of them were pretty funny with the facial color vs. neck color.  It made for some good laughs.

To hold the silverware, I made blue mittens out of felt and yarn.  Easy to make and great for a winter party.

I designed simple wine labels to go with the theme..."one" of my favorite things and "another one" of my favorite things!  The sheet music of "My Favorite Things" and the glasses were images I found online.

For wine charms, I pulled out the various items mentioned in the song, and found images of each online. Not super creative, but the best I could do in my last minute efforts.

Menu: The song only mentions two specific food items, but I wanted to include a green salad with the dinner. I kept looking at the lyrics to see what I could adapt to go in a green salad, and I came up with snowflakes cut out of cheese.  I bought a mini snowflake cookie cutter at a local cake shop and sliced Monterrey Jack cheese thin enough to use.  The salad also had tomatoes, cucumber, croutons, and walnuts.

For the main dish, I served Schnitzel with Noodles. I had never made this before, but it was delicious especially with the lemon juice. There are recipes for both chicken and pork.  I think one is Austrian and one is German?  I choose to use boneless pork chops.  The noodles are just egg noodles that I then added butter, garlic, and peas. This is a delicious dish, and it of course is mentioned in the song.  Just keep in mind that it is prepared on the stove top right before serving.  It can't be made ahead or it will get soggy.

For dessert, I served the other food item mentioned in the song, warm apple strudels.  Again, this is a dish you have to put together during the party in order for it be warm and not mushy. I made the filling before the party started, but I had to do the puff pastry and the baking right before serving.  The recipe I used for this I found here. I chose this recipe because it looked easy and because it didn't have raisins.  Many of the strudel recipes I found had raisins, and I am not a big fan of cooked raisins, so I avoided those.  That may make it not "authentic Austrian", but to me it made it "edible"!

Party Activity:  The super fun aspect of this monthly dinner was the My Favorite Things gift exchange.  On the invitation, I asked guests to purchase 3 of their favorite item to bring to the party.  For example, one of my favorite movies is Pride and Prejudice and I am a popcorn and Gobstopper junkie, so I put together 3 of these packages.  We put all the guest's names in a pot and each guest drew three names, talked about their favorite thing, and then gave the 3 guests whatever it was.  Some of the items people brought were Starbucks cards, the ingredients to make a Moscow Mule drink, comfy socks, a favorite necklace, etc.

To take their goodies home in, I made these favors bags with another verse from the song.

We had a lot of fun at this party, and I am excited to enjoy/try out the goodies I got in the gift exchange.