Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Patriotic Painting Party

My daughter is an artist at heart.  She loves being creative, and it is one of the many attributes I love about her.  For her birthday party this year, she wanted to have a painting party, and she decided she wanted it to be with a patriotic theme.  So many great painting party items are available from Oriental Trading Co. that this party was easy to make great with their help. They really made my vision come alive, and I am so thankful to Oriental Trading Co. for helping me to add these special touches to my daughter's party!  This party was SO much fun to create, and the girls had so much fun painting.


Invite: When Ella decided she wanted a patriotic theme for her party, that obviously set my color scheme to red, white, and blue.  I designed the invite on PhotoShop. Once printed out, I glued this invite to a piece of card stock which added a backing and red border.


Entry decor: I painted this sign to place on an easel at the front door.  Instead of a canvas, I used a piece of wood to save money.  I painted it white and let my daughter paint the red and blue to match the invitation.


I went to Home Depot to get paint swatches in red, white, and blue to use for my daughter's name and used my Cricut to cut the letters on the swatches.  I painted the rest of the writing on the sign.


I used these same swatches to make a banner inside. I wanted to be able to use this banner for patriotic holidays, so I chose "celebrate" rather than "happy birthday".


I set up the painting party itself outside since I knew it might get a tad messy. I bought red plastic tablecloths for the same reason.


The canvases I purchased on sale at Aaron Bros.  I added alternating red or blue ribbon to the bottom of each canvas along with a tag I created that read "Time to Paint and Create".  The sets of paint brushes and the palettes, I got from Oriental Trading Co.  The brushes worked out great because they come in a set of 24 brushes of various sizes.  I got two sets for the 16 girls that attended the party, and that was perfect.  The mini palettes come in packs of a dozen.


Also from Oriental Trading Co, I got red and blue aprons to match the party colors.  These were a great fit for 8-year old kids and a thicker material so they will actually last.  I bought patriotic star fabric from Joanns, and my mom sewed a star and a waist sash/tie to each of them. (Thank you Mom!)


Didn't they turn out so cute?!  The aprons worked great and they were a nice take-home gift for the girls at the end of the party.

Once all the girls arrived, it was time to start painting!  Prior to the party, my daughter and I looked through images on the computer and found one that we thought would be easy enough to paint.  I also liked this choice because it is a painting that families might put up in their house to decorate for patriotic holidays rather than something that gets put up briefly and then thrown away.


I contacted one of my friends from high school who is an art teacher to see if she would be willing to help out in leading the girls through painting the art.  She was AMAZING!  She took the girls step-by-step through which brush to choose, how much color to use, everything!


The girls listened to her directions and really had a good time working on their paintings.



I love how each girl's artwork was different, but the same.  They each added their own creativity and flair to the piece.


Couldn't resist a group photo at the end!


Menu: What isn't more patriotic and American than hot dogs! We had hot dogs and chips along with red peppers since my daughter loves them.


I also made these patriotic jello cups.  I found the recipe here. They were easy to make the kids liked them.  My youngest daughter shared hers...



The kids loved this American flag fruit dish -- strawberries, blueberries and white yogurt pretzels.


This patriotic pasta dish was also yummy. I found the recipe here.


I made my daughter's cake to look like the painting that the girls were creating.  It was a bit harder to do with frosting and not paint, but I think it turned out great.


For the cupcakes, I made chocolate stars to decorate the top. The patriotic wrappers I found at Michaels.  My husband carved a piece of wood to look like a paint palette for me to display the cupcakes.


I made the inside of both the cake and cupcakes red, white, and blue.  This photo of my youngest is the only one I have that shows the inside of the cake.


Favor:  The girls were taking home the aprons and their artwork, but when I saw these cute paint buckets from Oriental Trading Co, I couldn't resist them!  They come 6 pieces in a set and they were the perfect size.  These buckets would be great for teacher appreciation week gifts or even as storage for art supplies in your home.


Inside, I made chocolate paint palette suckers and paint swatch notepads.  Oriental Trading Co sells paint palette suckers and swatch notepads as well, but since they were multicolored and didn't match the red, white, and blue color scheme, I decided to make my own.  To make the notepads, I cut the Home Depot paint swatches to be the size I wanted and then cut typing paper to fit inside.  I put all the notepads in a stack and used a vice to press them together.  Then I took Elmer's glue and glued the top (multiple layers of glue needed). Once dried, you just pull each notepad apart.  The pencils were from Oriental Trading, Co. I love that they are both a blue and a red pencil tip.  My daughter made a patriotic Rainbow Loom bracelet for each bucket as well.


 All in all in was a great party!  Thank you Oriental Trading Co for all the amazing items to make this party extra special for our daughter!




Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gettin' Our Kicks on Route 66


I love summertime!  My family just got back from an amazing road trip vacation.  In our trek across part of the US, so drove along highway 40 and made some stops along Route 66.  These stops became the inspiration for this past Monday's monthly dinner. 


Invite: I used images I found online to place around the edges of the invite.  Then added my text.  The fonts I used were Antique Book Cover and Hominis.


Entry Decor:  I made a Diner sign designed around the signs we saw on Route 66 -- lots of arrows. I wanted to add lights along the arrow, but ran out of time.  I used a 99 cent store black plastic tablecloth along the steps and front walkway to create a road leading up to the door.  The yellow lines are card stock.


Table Decor: Roads, classic cars, and route 66-themed signs were musts for decorating my table.


For my centerpiece, I bought oil funnels from the dollar store in red and white (they were a 3-pack). I printed a large Route 66 sign and put it through the funnel opening.  The classic car boxes I purchased from Ruby's restaurant.  They charged me $1 a piece, but they are obviously free if you take your kids to eat there.


To make the road, I cut out card stock.  A very simple and inexpensive centerpiece that turned out great.



I wanted the place cards to be vintage stops you might find along Route 66, but personalized for each guest.  I started to design the signs on PhotoShop myself and stumbled upon a website (envatomarket) with digital images for vintage motel signs that you could purchase/edit.  This saved me SO much time and it was only $7.  I didn't want each one to be a motel, so I chose stops that used alliteration for each guest (it's the English teacher in me!).  I cut a dowel stick, painted it grey, and made a weighted block with spray-painted styrofoam and a washer.


I used the Route 66 sign image on the napkins as well.



I decorated a side table for the favors and beverage station.  Coco-Cola signs and products were at every stop on our Route 66 vacation, so I knew they needed a place in my dinner.  I bought the Coca-Cola glasses at the dollar store and the bottled sodas at Ralphs.  We used these for dessert after the meal.


I found this awesome metallic United States map at Michaels on sale for $7.  I used yellow electrical tape to make Route 66 and added the card stock sign to the top.  The license plate magnets I made as my favors.



 To make the magnets, I found license plate images online and cropped the letters from them to match my guest's names. I used PhotoShop to put the letters together in the size I needed.  Once printed, I used Mod Podge to glue each image to small pieces of thin wood I found at Michaels.  I painted both sides of the wood grey before gluing to have a cleaner look.  Then I added a magnet to the back.  While the PhotoShop part took time, creating the magnet was super easy.


I created a sign for my "fueling station" and displayed it again with funnels.  I used PhotoShop again to design wine labels to match my theme.  Get your SIPS on WINE 66 for my chardonnay and Hop in the CAB with a classic Route 66 truck for the Cabernet Sauvignon.


For wine charms, I found Route 66 poster images online and made them into charms.


Menu: I went with a standard Diner menu.  I started with ham/cheeseburgers and added a Route 66 topper.  I served the burgers plain, but had bacon, avocado, lettuce, and tomato for guests to add.


I made these french fry wrappers with PhotoShop.  It has a back too, but I didn't get a photo of that.  After designing it, I printed the images on card stock, folded them in half, and glued the two sides. I added a bit of parchment paper to the inside so the grease from the fries didn't ruin the wrapper.


For my fruit salad, I made vintage oil cans.  I created the images on PhotoShop and tried to make them look like the original cans that would be found on Route 66.  The cans themselves are just 8 oz. tomato sauce cans that I used for my family's meals, washed, and then saved.


We used the dollar store Coca-Cola glasses for coke floats for dessert.


Traveling along Route 66 on our vacation was a lot of fun, and it was neat to bring part of this retro fun to a monthly dinner. I think these idea would be fun for a 66th birthday theme, a fun car-themed event, or just for a fun dinner with friends like this one!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Celebration


The first week of May is national Teacher Appreciation Week, and so many of my close friends are teachers, I decided to make this the theme for my May monthly dinner.  Unlike elementary school teachers, it is fairly rare for us high school teachers to receive appreciation gifts or cards, but it means so much when students do recognize our efforts.  I wanted to recognize my friends because I know they are some of the best teachers out there!


Invite:  I designed the invitation on Photoshop.  The fonts I used were KG Broken Vessels Sketch, Simple Kind of Girl, and High School USA Sans.


Entry Decor:  I made this foam board sign with a quote about teachers opening doors.  I didn't love the quotes I found online, so I just made this one up, but I do believe this is true.  I cut the letters using my Cricut machine. I made an apple out of a balloon and placed it on the table with some school supplies.


Inside Decor:  I made apple balloons for inside as well.  I used heart-shaped red balloons and only blew them up enough so they had a slight indention at the top.  I then cut out a stem and a leaf from scrapbook paper.  Tip: You may want to use typing paper or make your leaf smaller.  I think mine were too heavy as after a while, they started to dip with the weight of the paper on top.


For my table, I used a red tablecloth and made a giant pencil out of wood for the centerpiece.  Check out my tutorial on how to make it, here.


As a table runner, I taped 5 pieces of chipboard cardstock together and drew lines/numbers on it to look like a ruler.


I folded my napkins and used colored paper clips as napkin rings to stick with the school theme.


Check out my DIY place cards!  I have seen books cut into the shape of letters in stores, and  I have always wanted one of these, but they were too expensive for me to justify.  I decided instead, to make them myself as place cards.


I went to the used book store and searched around for hardback books that were two-toned and roughly the same size.  The books I found were $1 or $2 each.  I made a pattern of each letter the size of the book and taped it on the front.  Then, my brother helped me to cut them according to the patterns.  We used a band saw to do the cuts for most of the letters.  Those with an inside hole (like the D or the R) were harder.


All the letters didn't come out perfect, but pretty close! So grateful to my brother for helping me with this project as they were a big hit with the girls.  I now have mine on my desk at work, and I love it!


Another look at the table with all of the books.


I made wine bottle labels to match the design of the invitation, but tried to play with some funny sayings.  If you are a teacher, (especially a high school English teacher like I am), you may know that a glass of wine makes grading those stacks of essays a bit easier!  Hence, the white wine is "your evening teacher's assistant" and red wine is one of the necessary "(after) school supplies"!


For wine charms, I found these cute mini apples in the sticker section of Michaels. I backed each one on cardstock and tied them to the wine glass stems.


Menu: As is typical with my parties, I wanted my food to fit with the theme as well.  I made menu labels for each item to match the invitation again using PhotoShop.  I started with an olive appetizer.  These are super easy.  Just marinated mozzarella cheese balls cut in half, salami folded, kalamata and green olives all on a small skewer. 



Next, I served guests a green salad with feta cheese, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and slivered/toasted almonds.  I served it with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.


For the main dish, I made a pasta because my guests are "PASTA-tively" wonderful teachers.  This is the first time I have every made this pasta, and it was very tasty.  If you like feta in rich, flavorful sauce, definitely try this one out.

 Fettuccine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce 

2 tbl. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
One 16-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 pound whole-wheat fettuccine
Salt & Pepper
2 tbl. chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add roasted red peppers and saute until heated through.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Place mixture in a bowl of a food processor with stock and all but 2 tablespoons of the feta.  Process (or use a hand blender) until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds.  Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.  Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water by the tablespoon if needed.  Sauce should cling nicely to pasta.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Divide among bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and remaining feta cheese.


I bought ready-to-bake breadsticks from Ralphs, and they were delicious and easy.  The saying played with some bread stick related words.


For dessert, I made a delicious lemon bundt cake and served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  This cake was very good and definitely something I will make again.

Super Lemon Bundt Cake

                              Cake                                                                            Lemon Glaze
               2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour                                                 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
               2 1/4 tsp baking powder                                                       3-5 tbs lemon juice
               1/2 tsp salt
               4 eggs                                                                                  Lemon Sugar Topping
               2 cups sugar                                                                          1 tbs. lemon zest
               1 tsp vanilla extract                                                               1 tbs. granulated sugar
               2 tbs lemon zest
               2 tbs + 2 tsp lemon juice
               1 1/4 cups whole milk
               10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bundt pan very well making sure to really get into the crevices then lightly flour pan. Set aside.  Lightly whisk flour, baking poweder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat eggs on low until they are thickened and very pale yellow in color.  Turn mixer to low and slowly add sugar to running mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Stir in vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Slowly pour in dry ingredients on low speed until combined.  In a small saucepan, heat milk until very hot and butter is just melted.  Do not boil and which the mixture to help the butter along.  Pour into the batter and mix until smooth.  Batter will be very thin.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 27-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Once done, remove cake from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes in pan.  Release the sides with a butter knife to ensure it isn't going to stick.  Then turn cake into your desire pan.

While the cake is cooling, prepare lemon sugar and glaze.  For the sugar, mix the lemon zest and sugar together and let it sit for 5 minutes.  For the glaze, which powdered sugar and lemon juice, using more or less lemon juice to get your desired consistency.  Once cake is cooled down slightly, drizzle glaze over warm cake.  Sprinkle with lemon sugar on top.


Favor: As a take home gift, each guest took home their book letter, but I also wanted to send them with something else small. I made these post-it note desk pads out of 4x6 plastic frames I found at the dollar store.  I used the same scrapbook apples that I used for the wine charms as well as some other teacher-related scrapbook stickers.


Thank you to everyone of you that is a teacher out there.  I hope you feel appreciated all year long, and not just during Teacher Appreciation Week.