Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Movie Marathon/Hot Cocoa Bar Party and How to Age Your Own Wood!

Right before Halloween, I came up with this genius idea to put together a Halloween Movie Marathon party.  Unfortunately, the timing was off and the preparation didn't get far.  I loved the movie marathon idea and decided to plan a little bit further out and do a Christmas Movie Marathon party instead.

I wanted this party to be completely different than my last Ugly Christmas Sweater Party so I centered the theme around Hot Cocoa and Ugly Christmas Attire (I didn't want to limit everyone's creativity to just sweaters).  I sent out event invitations via Facebook and kept people up to date on fun things I was planning for the party.

For the Hot Cocoa/Dessert table, I used a plain red table cloth and dressed it up with a fabric garland from Michaels and some red and green ornaments from the Dollar Tree that were spread out on the table.  I used the two pine trees from my daughters Frozen birthday party on each side of the table and my vintage window as the backdrop and main focal piece.  I made a silver glitter Rudolph to place on the vintage window, so that it did not look so plain.

For the serving pieces, I had purchased a cute sled from a local shabby chic shop that I used to hold the hot cocoa mixes (milk chocolate and white chocolate) and the stir sticks for the hot cocoa (paper straws and candy canes).  The glass containers for the cocoa were both purchased at Michaels (use those 40% off coupons).  I also used a common piece from my parties, the wood cake stand from World Market to hold up a glass vase that held some brownie push pops.  For the filling of that vase, and to bring the table a bit more color, I purchased some green, red and silver decorative balls at Michaels.  I used some super cute milk bottles (see my DIY to make these on your own) to serve milk (with cute red and green paper straws from the Dollar Tree) along with some homemade sugar cookies, served on a tin platter from Michaels.  We had a large hot water carafe that we used for our last Christmas party that I wanted to be the centerpiece of the food/drink portion of the table.  To elevate that, I used a small wooden crate, from Michaels, and I stained it to make it look old and weathered (tutorial below).  For the hot cocoa toppings, I used a slab of wood, you guessed it, also from Michaels, and some festive sweater covered coffee/cocoa mugs from Target.  I filled each mug with toppings such as, dark chocolate chips, caramel bits, crushed Andies mints, french vanilla marshmallows, star and tree marshmallows and peppermint marshmallows.  In the center of the large slab of wood, I had some mini sleighs, that were meant to hold an individual cupcake, that I used to elevate some "ugly sweater" bowls that I used for the last Christmas party.  In those bowls were, whipped cream and marshmallow fluff.   I bought a simple, yet festive, tin at Michaels to put some styrofoam cups from the Dollar Tree.

For the food, everyone was asked to bring a dish to share.  We had cookies galore, meatballs and smokies in the crockpot, cheese and crackers, cream cheese dip, chips and salsa, and delicious ham and cheese sandwiches.

We asked everyone to dress in tacking Christmas attire.  Last party, we did ugly sweaters and this year, we didn't want to limit everyones creativity to just a sweater. There was a clear winner, Melinda, a good friend of ours had been harboring a Christmas dress that was by far the favorite of the night.  We spent the evening watching various Christmas movies and playing a game that involved a Santa hat, attached to the TV.  For this game, you take a Santa hat, attach it to the top corner of your TV.  Every time a character on TV gets in the position on the TV to where it looked like they are wearing the attached Santa hat, you take a drink (adult beverage or not).  Was a fun game and had the whole house yelling "HAT".

Over all, the party was very successful.  Everyone had a good time catching up and enjoying each others company.  Now on to planning the next party!  Stay tuned!

How to age wood with simple ingredients from home

You will need:

Large mason jar
Steel wool
White vinegar
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tea bags (I used Lipton ice tea bags)
Clean paint brush
Non-treated wood project

In a large mason jar, place one piece of steel wool, cut into several little pieces.  Cover the steel wool completely with white vinegar and place the lid on the mason jar.  Let mixture sit at least 24 hours.   When 24 hours have passed, boil 1/2 cup of water.  Add 2 tea bags and allow to seep for 10 minutes.  When tea is done, using a clean paint brush, brush the entire surface of the wood with the tea mixture.  Allow to completely dry.  Once the tea is dry, use the steel wool as a brush and brush the tea stained wood with the steel wool/vinegar mixture.  You will begin to see it darken immediately, making it easy to see any missed spots.  You may leave it the way it is, or use a fine sander and sand very lightly over the aged wood.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and Peppermint Serving Platter Tutorial!!

I love Christmas!  I love decorating, I love family time, and I love throwing parties.  My last Christmas party, which I had been wanting to throw for a while, was the very popular Ugly Christmas Sweater theme.  It was special to me because, it was the first year, since my husband and I have been married that we had our very own Christmas tree.  Seems weird to some, but being a military family, we have moved 8 times in the past 6 years.  Crazy I know, but it never seemed to align where we had our own tree, let alone being able to host a party.  My husband had just gotten back from a 7 month deployment and we were on the list for a house on base.  We had a projected move in date of December 1st, but ended up not being able to move in until December 12th.  All fine and dandy, except the Christmas party I had spent months planning was December 17th.  To make a very long story short, we busted our rear ends and got the house completely unpacked in 4 days and the party was a total blast!  Hope you enjoy this party as much as I did planning it!

The party was potluck style, so everyone brought a dish to share.  We were in charge of the desserts (of course, my favorite), and BBQ meatballs in the crockpot.  All the food was delicious.  For the desserts, I made eggnog cupcakes with adorable fondant cupcake toppers that I made custom for the party.  We also had white chocolate dipped strawberries that resembled Santa hats, chocolate dipped pretzel rods and strawberry topped brownie bites, that when assembled, looked like Christmas trees.

 For the dessert table, I used a plain red table cloth and took a long piece of ugly sweater wrapping paper (from Target) and made a runner the length of the table.  For the backdrop, I covered a trifold poster board with the same ugly sweater wrapping paper.  In the center of the table was a small, fake Christmas tree with pinecones scatted on it.  I elevated the Christmas tree, so that it would be the focal point of the table, on a wood slab cake stand (from World Market).  I added large pinecones to the table and had an Ugly, Uglier and Ugliest banner that I printed at home.
We also had a hot chocolate bar where guests could choose different ingredients to add to their hot chocolate.  They could choose from chocolate dipped marshmallows, carmel, chocolate chips, peppermint sticks, etc.

To serve the desserts, I made super cute platters out of peppermints (tutorial below).  They were easy and really gave a unique appearance to the desserts.

Everyone showed up to the party with an ugly Christmas sweater.  Some were store bought and some were homemade, but everyone came looking very festive!  We held a contest for Ugly, Uglier and Ugliest sweater between the adults and kids and at the end of the night, votes were tallied and the winners were crowned.  We also had a photo booth set up where everyone could take photos using various props like antlers, santa hat, santa beard, elf hat, mistletoe, etc.

We had such a fun night and enjoyed the company of our friends and family.  So much so that we are throwing another Christmas party this year.  We are now in a new place, and the party theme is a bit different, but it has still been a blast to plan and will be even more fun to throw!  Here is a sneak peek of this years party, which I will share the week of Christmas.

Peppermint Serving Platters

You will need:

Red and green bag of peppermints
parchment paper
cookie sheet

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.  Arranged unwrapped mints in platter form desired (square, rectangle, oval, circle, etc.).  The mints will spread when they melt so leave an inch or so of a free boarder around mints.  Cook for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to completely cool before removing parchment paper.  Be very careful when removing parchment paper, as platters will be very fragile.

Monday, December 1, 2014

DIY Milk Bottles

When I was planning a Mother's Day tea, milk bottles were nowhere to be found.  Unless you ordered them online, they were not available to me locally.  Now they are a bit easier to come by, but I found that a certain delicious drink resembled a milk bottle quite nicely.

Starbucks bottled frappuccino's are delicious and can easily be converted into a milk bottle for beverage serving at your next party!

First, empty out the bottle (of course by drinking it :) ).

Next, remove the label by soaking the bottle in hot water.

Finally, make sure any label residue is off and the bottle has been cleaned and you have yourself a milk bottle :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Give Thanks. A Small, Yet Festive Thanksgiving Gathering.

Being a military family, it isn't often that Thansgiving gets to be shared with several family members. Last year was our last Thanksgiving (at least for a few years) that we were living in my hometown, surrounded by family. I wanted to make it special. Most importantly, I wanted to make it a time to make more memories with the people I care about the most. I put together a small, yet festive Thanksgiving gathering full of good food and good treats, but best of all, a whole lot of love. 

I have so many wonderful Thanksgiving memories and all of which include my grandma and grandpa. My grandpa passed away several years ago, but I still carry on some of the traditions that we all shared for many years. One in particular, and it may sound silly, was sitting at a long table so everyone was together. Every year we spent with my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I always requested a long table. For last years Thanksgiving, which was also the second time I have ever hosted a Thanksgiving gathering, I kept it simple, but had to have the long table! 

I put two 6 foot folding tables together with an extra long white table cloth and a burlap table runner (burlap and Thanksgiving were just meant to be, in my opinion). I placed little pumpkins, fall leaves and mini pinecones down the length of the table runner and placed some nuts and black olives in the middle of the table for snacking. My favorite part were the placemats. So simple, fun and interactive. I took several paper bags from the grocery store, cut them to the size of a normal placemat and hand wrote "I am thankful for" with several lines to write what you were thankful for that year. I used simple white plates with paper napkins and used silver, plastic utensils, tied together with brown ribbon. My "long table" looked so festive and most of all, reminded me of some of my fondest memories. 

For the dessert table, I used my burlap table cloth, decorated it with gourds, fall leaves, dried corn cobs and mini pinecones. For the backdrop, I used a roll of "weathered wood" paper from the teacher section at Michael's and cut it to the size I liked. I made a simple "Give Thanks" banner our of the same brown paper bags I used for the placemats and brown ribbon. To display the desserts, I had some amazing wooden cake stands I had purchased from Pick Your Plum (if you haven't checked them out, i highly suggest you do so - that went with the rest of the decor perfectly. As for the desserts, I made a banana cream pie (recipe below), apple pie, mini pumpkin pies, pumpkin bundt cake and sugar cookies (see the sugar cookie recipe in this previous post ) that looked like pumpkin pie slices. All of the desserts turned out perfectly and were a lovely variety after the big feast.

For the meal, we made the typical Thanksgiving foods. Along with the long table, a lot of memories I have of Thanksgiving come from my grandparents spending hours in the kitchen making sure the food was perfect (and it always was).  We made both a turkey and a ham, mashed potatoes, twice baked sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry salad. All of which were delicious. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not because of the good food, but because of the amazing memories made. My goal is to create moments that my daughter will carry with her, just as I have!  Happy Thanksgiving and I hope this little bit of inspiration will help you build memories with your loved ones as well. 

Banana Cream Pie


1 box of vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 small 3.4oz package of instant vanilla pudding 
2 cups cold milk
2-3 bananas, sliced
1 8oz tub of CoolWhip, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350*. To prepare the crust, crush 2 1/2 cups of vanilla wafer cookies, place them in a medium bowl. Melt 1/2 cup butter and mix with the crushed vanilla wafer cookies. Press mixture in standard pie pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let fully cool before filling. 

While pie crust is baking, prepare pudding by mixing instant pudding with cold milk in medium bowl. Whisk for 3 minutes, set aside. 

When crust is fully cooled, arrange half of the sliced bananas over the bottom of the crust. Then spread 1/3 of the pudding over the bananas, followed by a layer of vanilla wafer cookies. Next spread 1/3 more pudding then a layer of the remaining banana slices and one more layer of remaining pudding. Spread CoolWhip evenly on the top of the pie and decorate with more vanilla wafer cookies, if desired. (From the bottom up, layers should be: vanilla wafer cookie crust, bananas, pudding, vanilla wafer cookies, pudding, bananas, pudding, CoolWhip).

Refrigerate at least 4 hours, best if refrigerated over night. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloween Party Supply Round-up!

When I plan my parties, the ideas usually start forming several months before.  People always wonder how I am able to throw these parties and what cost is involved.  Starting the planning process early really helps because it allows me to start to purchase items for the party ahead of time and little by little throughout the months leading up to the party.  It can get spendy, but I RARELY buy things that aren't on sale and dollar stores and thrift stores become my best friend.  If you use your imagination (and Pinterest), you can really make dollar store and thrift store finds come alive!

I wanted to put together a little list of some fun Halloween party supplies that are a STEAL!

The first few items are from the Dollar Tree.

Paper Straws- I have become obsessed with paper straws. They are so versatile and can be used in all sorts of things, from cake pops and marshmallow pops to their purpose of drinking through them.  I can safely say I have them in almost every color imaginable, until I saw the Halloween straws at the Dollar Tree.  They come in several different designs and are, you guessed it, $1 for 15.

Creepy Cloth- This is one of my Halloween go-to's for making my decor just a bit more spooky.  Last year, I used about 2 dozen different colored creepy cloths throughout my garage and it gave it such a neat feel.  The good thing about these only being a dollar, you can cut them up, rip them, stretch them, anything you really want to make them looked well worn and either save them for next year or toss them without worrying about a ton of money down the drain (I save mine).  This year, I used several recycled cloths on my mantel, then placed my decor on top of them.

Spider Webs- These can get quite tricky, but for a creepy party atmosphere, they are a must.  Along with my creepy cloth, spider webs were everywhere at my Halloween party.  They covered any spot that could be covered and gave it the abandoned feel I was going for!

The next item is from H&M

This fun cake stand is so inexpensive and can not only be used for a Halloween party, but for many other things.  At $9.95, it is a steal, BUT, sign up for H&M's emails and receive an additional 20% off of one item!

This item is from Party City

This is a large, plastic cauldron for $9.99.  They only have the medium available online, but I purchased mine in store.  This cauldron was used to keep drinks at our Halloween party.  Fill it with ice and it will keep your drinks nice and cold in a fun, decorative way.  This year, I placed in it front of my fireplace as an added extra to my Halloween decor.

Lastly, never forget to check out your local thrift stores.

Whenever I want to find unique items that cannot be found at any other party, I scour the thrift stores. I have found some amazing things by taking several trips to different stores in my area.  Here are some things that I have found in my journey for creepy Halloween items.  My most recent addition was the old, vintage window.  I am using it amongst my Halloween decor, but am also going to be using it for an upcoming Christmas party I am planning.  Stay tuned for that :).

I hope this post gives you some fun inspiration to plan your upcoming Halloween party!  Until next time!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Frozen in California, a FROZEN Birthday Party!

This year, my little girl turned 5.  Along with every other little girl, she was obsessed with Frozen!  It seemed only normal that her theme this year would be according to her obsession!

I had so much fun planning this party, because lets be honest, I liked the movie too.  I chose to go with the blue color from Elsa's Ice Queen dress as my main color scheme for the party.  The table cloths, backdrop, food, etc, all were based around this color.  I also incorporated snow, because you can't have a "Frozen" party without snow.

For the dessert table, I covered the table with a blue table cloth with an organza blue overlay to mimic Elsa's cape on her dress.  I then covered the entire top of the table with fake snow, mini snowballs made out of Dollar Store styrofoam balls, covered in white glitter and little battery operated lights to give it a gleam.  The main focus was a silver Manzanita tree that I draped with fishing line strung crystal beads to look like the scene from the movie where the characters meet Olaf for the first time, under the frozen willow tree.  I placed the tree on top of large square vase, turned upside down, on top of more snow, snowballs and lights, to look like a big ice cube.  I wanted to give the tree more lift, so there was no doubt that it was the focal point of the dessert table.  I then had a small pine tree and a small, white feather tree on both sides of the large Manzanita tree.  I found these awesome letters at Hobby Lobby that just so happened to be the same color as my scheme and knew I had to have them to spell out my daughters name in the background of the table.  For the backdrop, I found this great tutorial for paper snowflakes, made several in different blues and whites, and sizes and glued them to a simple, trifold poster board.  I love trifold poster boards for backdrops!  They make it so that with the folds, they easily stand up on their own with little anchoring, if any, needed.

For the desserts, I made vanilla "snowball" cake pops, "snowflake" sugar cookies (recipe below), "snowball" coconut macaroons, vanilla cupcakes with fondant snowflakes, and a cake to give homage to my favorite character, Sven from the movie.  As for the serving pieces, I made two "cake stands" from a clear plate and clear candle holder from the Dollar Tree, glued them together using the sturdy E3000 glue, then using my glue gun, I made a thick trim around the edge of the plate and sprinkled the undried glue with glitter, giving it a "snow drift" around the edge.  I also found some silver chargers at Michaels that I used to place the other desserts on.

For the food, we stuck with easy "subzero" sandwiches from a local sub shop (at the request of the birthday girl).  Along with the subs, we had "ice" chips, "Olaf noses" in ranch dressing, "Kristoff's Ice Blocks" jello and  "melted snow" water.

I put together cute gift bags for party favors with some things that fit within the color scheme and theme of the party.  On the front of the bags, I cut out clip art of the characters (Anna and Elsa for the girls and Sven and Olaf for the boys) and to make the ones for the girls even "girlier" I cut a small piece of matching tulle, and placed it over the character, like a 3D skirt.  For the girls, Michaels had some silver crowns that matched the theme perfectly, and I used some blue embellishments to dress them up a little more.  For the boys, I used this template and cut out antlers and glued them on to a band that was attached together by a small piece of elastic, to give it a bit of a stretch for different sizes of heads.  The kids all loved the "party hats".  The birthday girl also gave "Do you Want to Build a Snowman" kits with marshmallows, pretzel sicks, mini chocolate chips and candy corn, as well as a chocolate bar with a customized label to match the theme.

We had the party down at our neighborhood clubhouse/pool so the kids spent most of the time swimming.  I planned an indoor snowball fight, and made a bunch of yarn snowballs, some out of white yarn and some out of silver yarn, using this easy tutorial.  I kept the clubhouse doors closed and the AC on high so that the room gave the feel of colder weather.  I scattered more fake snow all over the ground and armed each child with a few yarn snowballs.  They had a blast, major highlight of the party.

Mostly, it was a time to gather with friends and celebrate Emma.  Everyone had a great time, and most importantly, the birthday girl loved it!  I hope you enjoyed this party as much as I did planning it!  Until next time!

Sweet Sugar Belle's Sugar Cookie Recipe


1 cup (2 sticks) of real, unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 egg
2-3 tsp flavoring (any kind, I prefer almond)
2 1/2-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1.  Cream together softened butter and confectioner's sugar.  Crack the egg into a separate bowl and add the flavoring.  I use emulsions, but extract also works well.  Add that to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until the egg is thoroughly incorporated.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add, little by little to the wet mixture.  I can tell the dough is ready with most of it sticks to the paddle.  When I touch it, it has a little give, but does not stick to my fingers.

2.  Roll out on parchment to about 1/4 an inch thick, use flour for dusting as necessary.  Then, cut and bake at 400 degrees for 7-8 minutes.  This version makes 2-2 1/2 dozen.

Sweet Sugar Belle's Royal Icing Recipe


2 pounds (one bag) confectioner's sugar
5 Tbsp meringue powder
2-3 tsp oil-free extract or emulsion
1/2-3/4 cups warm water

1.  Begin by string the flavoring into half the water

2. Using a paddle attachment, gently mix the sugar and meringue power.  It's not necessary to sift the sugar beforehand, but you can if you like.

3. With the mixer on its lowest setting, slowly add the water/flavoring mix to the dry ingredients.  As the water is added, the icing will become thick and lumpy.

4.  Continue to add the remaining water (this may or may not be the entire amount) until the mixture reaches a thick, honey like consistency.  At this point, turn the mixer to medium speed and whip 2-4 minutes until the icing is thick and fluffy.  Mixing time can vary greatly, so watch carefully and stop mixing when the icing is thick enough to form soft peaks.