September 23, 2013


DIY Halloween Invitation

This year I'm not hosting a big Halloween party. Although I would LOVE too, I'm trying something new this year. Mini Halloween parties!  

With mini parties I can send more unique invitations.  I went to Michaels and Joann's and picked up my supplies. Cob web paper, spider ribbon, plain brown jewelry box, spider stickers and glittery spiders.  
DIY invitation, Halloween, Michaels crafts, Joanns crafts, spider party
I attached double stick tape to the outside of the jewelry box and wrapped it in cob web paper. 
DIY invitation, Halloween, Michaels crafts, Joanns crafts, spider party
On the inside I placed cob webs that I already owned on the bottom half of the box and placed the glittery spider on top. I was going to buy spiders and glitter them up myself but it was cheaper to buy them pre-glittered. 
On the top half of the box I put the party information. My friends have been to my house a lot so no need for an address. This is what happens when you're the party diva of your friends, they all know how to get to your house really well. 
DIY invitation, Halloween, Michaels crafts, Joanns crafts, spider party
Once the inside of the invitation was complete I attached the spider ribbon using double stick tape and finished it off with a spider sticker. I hand delivered 2 of them and the other 2 I mailed. I just popped them into a manila mailer and they arrived just fine. They didn't even get squished. 
DIY invitation, Halloween, Michaels crafts, Joanns crafts, spider party
My friends LOVED the invitations! and it gives them a hint as to what the theme of the party will be. 

Related: Spider Luncheon 

September 18, 2013


Gourmet French Macarons

I had my first French macaron at my local farmers market this year.  It was the perfect dessert for the warm summer day. As I strolled the market enjoying my exquisite little find I wondered if one could make them at home.  Fast forward to that evening and what should I see while scrolling my favorite party pages on Facebook, but a Gourmet French Macarons cookbook by Mindy Cone of Creative Juice.  Which I ordered on the spot of course :)

 How fabulous is this book?
Gourmet French Macarons shows us a unique and creative spin on a classic French cookie. It includes recipes, techniques, styling ideas, templates, and decorating tips that give the popular classic French macaron sandwich cookie a modern and whimsical makeover.  There are over 75 unique and creative designs to make your French macarons delicious AND adorable for any holiday, season, or life celebration.  With over 75 flavorful filling recipes, there's a macaron for everyone. A CD is included with the book that has printable templates to make piping circles or unique shapes so much easier. You have to love that. Using this book you are no longer confined to the conventional circular shape! You can make apples, pumpkins, ghosts, trees, flowers, animals, cupcakes, and many other shapes to fit each season, holiday, or life celebration. 
How fabulous is the author?
Mindy not only wrote this book, she photographed it too! Mindy is an entertaining, food, and party stylist on the blog Creative Juice. She writes about how to entertain guests and kids with style and creativity! She shares DIY tutorials, recipes, tips, tricks, and ideas to make your next event detailed, personalized, and of course creative!  
With Halloween around the corner I am loving these Frankenstein French macarons.  I'm going to have to make some of these.

As if I didn't like Creative Juice enough already, Mindy went and did a book promoting video and made me like her even more. She is just so adorable and is a natural in front of the camera.  I tried really hard to post the video here but just couldn't get it to work. But trust when I say you do not want to miss this video. Click here  to watch !

Recipe? Did you say you want a recipe to get you all excited to purchase Mindy's book. Sure. We can give you a recipe. This recipe has been modified from the book. Some tips, tricks, and terminology has been excluded. Free 1.5 inch circle template download for this recipe: here 

Chocolate French Macarons with chocolate ganache filling 

Chocolate French Macarons

100g of egg whites aged at room temperature
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
35g superfine sugar
110g of Almond flour
200g of Powdered Sugar
10g cocoa powder

1. Measure out all ingredients using a gram scale. 
2. Prepare the baking sheets by lining them with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Slide a printed 1 1/2 inch template sheet underneath and set aside. Prepare piping bag to be filled and set aside. 
3. Sift powdered sugar, almond mixture, and cocoa powder together two or three times through a sieve and set aside. 
4. Place the egg whites in a large bowl or in a stand mixer with wire whisk attachment. Whisk on low until egg whites become foamy.  Add the pinch of cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form. Slowly add in the superfine sugar. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, scrape down the sides with a spatula.  
5.  Turn your mixture on medium-high and continue to whisk until you reach a stiff meringue.  If adding a liquid or gel food dye, do so toward the end of whisking. 
6. Sift 1/3 of the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder mixture through the sieve and into the meringue. Fold the dry mixture into the meringue. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, the batter will be thick and have a dull shine. Continue to fold. As you do so, the batter will loosen. Stop folding when the batter has a glossy sheen, a “lava-like” consistency, and falls in a ribbon like manner off the spatula.
7. Transfer the batter into a large pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe 1½ inch rounds on the parchment paper following the template.
8. When all of the rounds are piped on the parchment, rap the sheet pans evenly on work surface a few times. Remove templates from below your parchment paper carefully. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 20-40 minutes.
9. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake one sheet at a time for 12 minutes rotating the pan half way through.
10. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
11. Match up similar size shells into pairs and sandwich with filling.
About 4 dozen 1.5 in shells (two dozen sandwiched macaron cookies)

Chocolate Ganache Filling
100 g (3.5 oz) chocolate*
1½ Tbsp. heavy cream
Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl.
Boil cream and pour over chocolate.
Stir until all the chocolate has melted and texture is smooth**
When warm, pipe onto macaron shells.
Notes from author:
*I prefer to use the mini chocolate chips when possible to speed up the process.
** If the cream is not able to melt all the chocolate, place bowl in microwave. Heat for
20 seconds on low power. Remove and stir. Repeat until chocolate is fully melted.

Wanting more Creative Juice?  Look no further. It's just a click away:

September 16, 2013


Retirement Party

The first of my aunts and uncles just retired. My uncles kids threw him a retirement party this weekend and they did a good job. They didn't even ask for my help! I know, right. I kept waiting for the email or phone call ha ha

When we arrived the Bucket List awaited us. My uncle use to fish so this bucket list fishing theme was perfect.
Bucket list, retirement party, fishing theme
Bait buckets of Oreos with gummy worms were a hit with the kids.
Retirement party, fishing theme, bait buckets
My uncle loves to golf now so his kids set up a small putting green for us to try our hand at the sport. 
retirement party, golf party
Golf cupcakes frosted by one of my uncles granddaughters. 
Retirement party, Golf Party

Wine glasses with names of golf courses my uncle has played at. I'm not sure if my cousin did this on purpose or not, but you have the greens and the blue tablecloth looks like it represents the water to me. 
retirement party, golf party
Nice fruit presentation. 
Retirement party, golf party, fruit display
For the BBQ I made my Peanut Butter Chocolates. Since my uncle likes golf, I made sure to use my golf ball mold. 
Retirement party, Golf party, homemade chocolates
Yes, I have a lot of molds
I made sure my uncle got some by packaging some up just for him.
Retirement party, golf party, homemade chocolates
I think my cousins did a good job with this party. With a little help from Pinterest :)

September 11, 2013


Lazy Saturday Afternoon Cupcake Review

Saturday afternoon, my man working O.T., me with no specific plans except to clean the house. I called up a friend and said, lets go cupcake tasting in Newberg. Newberg is about 30 minutes from my house and it was a gorgeous day for a drive as you can see from the picture above. 
Sweetest Thing Cupcakes was our destination. How would these cupcakes stand up to the big city cupcakes?
From the moment we walked in the staff was friendly, knowledgeable and smiling. There's outdoor seating on the big porch  which my friend and I took advantage of. The only disappointment was that the houses front faces a busy intersection. There were a few times my friend and I had to pause our conversation as a big truck rolled through. 
I had come to sample two of their Saturday Seasonal specials: Trick or Treat and Caramel Apple Cider. My friend wanted to try The Marble and Wedding Cake. 
All the cupcakes had a moist cake base topped with creamy frosting. 
The Marble frosting was the perfect amount of chocolate flavor. A creamy smooth mild chocolate taste. The Trick or Treat was topped with chocolate coated peanut butter candies and had those candies in the cake base as well. My friend and I both thought the Trick or Trick would be too peanut buttery but it wasn't. It was the right amount of creamy peanut butter taste and not overwhelming at all. This cupcake would go great with a glass of milk. 
Now if you're an almond lover, Wedding Cake is the one for you. It's rich almond flavor permeated throughout this cupcake. Some almond cupcakes are so mild you wonder if it's even in there. Not this one. You get a rich almond taste. The Caramel Apple did not disappoint either. There was a nice spice base to the frosting. I think of a fall afternoon enjoying the turning of the leaves with this cupcake. 

So how did Sweetest Thing Cupcakes stack up against the big city cupcakes? It's worth the drive and making an afternoon of it. I can't wait to try their other seasonal flavors. 

**update- The Sweetest Thing Cupcakes lost their lease and sadly they're not in a new location as of July 2014**

September 6, 2013


Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes

***I received free product from Breyers in exchange for my personal opinion of their new product***

Many of you know I recently received free Breyers Ice Cream Toppings in exchange for tasting and giving my opinion, positive or negative of the products.  If you missed my mini cherry party, see it here.

When my dad's birthday came around I knew just what I wanted to make. Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes from Recipe Snobs

The recipe calls for a jar of hot fudge sauce but I used the Breyers Hot Fudge Ice Cream Sauce in the squeeze pouch.  So easy to use and so good. Everyone loved the cupcakes. 
 Thank you Breyers and Happy Birthday DAD! 

September 4, 2013


Woo Hoo! Wednesday Party Submission-Lemonade Stand

Thank you Jennifer of Cupcake Crusaders for this adorable 2nd year birthday party

Ideas for a lemonade stand party began brewing shortly after Leah's 1st birthday last year (I couldn't help myself from thinking about!). I love the color yellow and loved the idea of lemonade for a summer party. As the year progressed and Leah developed a love for all things Mickey and Minnie, I thought it would be cute to include touches of her favorite characters. I knew yellow would be a dominate color, but after adding Minnie into the mix, I also included pink...which also works well for pink lemonade!

I captured photos of Leah wearing her Minnie ears a couple of months before the party. I thought it was the perfect touch to tie in Minnie Mouse, without having it take over the theme. I designed the invite around the photo, and created a pattern that included lemons and a Minnie silhouette. 
There were two main areas where the "fizzing" took place, the mantle and the the dessert table. On the mantle were hurricane vases with pink gerbera daisies and fresh lemons, photos of the birthday girl, party favors for the little ones, and a collection jar for No Kid Hungry (I noted on the invitation that we would have a jar for change collection for those who wanted to give - we raised $53!). Hanging from the mantle were DIY Mickey/Minnie paper lanterns. I got the idea after seeing something on Kara's Party Ideas I was lucky to find the perfect paper lanterns in the value section at Target and matching cardstock at Michael's.

Coming up with the drinks and sweets that would be served on the dessert table was easy with the theme. I splurged on the cupcakes this year, ordering specialty cupcakes from Kupcakes & Co. in Elkridge, MD. They had just introduced their Pink Lemonade flavor at the start of the summer and then customized the other flavor for me. I love their strawberry cake and lemon frosting, so I asked if they could put those together for us and they did! They also decorated the Strawberry Lemonade cupcakes with Minnie ears and fondant bows, and glammed all the cupcakes up with some pearls and sprinkles, one of which I put on top of the yellow cake, along with handmade cake bunting.
Being a graphic designer, I wanted to put my skills to use, so in addition to the invitation I also designed signs for the food and drinks. I created the serif typeface especially for the invitation and signs, and continued used the same pattern throughout. I pulled in other patterns with the bunting paper and treat boxes. 

In addition to cupcakes, we had DIY Minnie Oreo pops, lemon/lemonade candies, and cookies on the dessert table and sparkling lemonade and limeade at the drink bar. Oh, and the paper straws! I was beyond excited about the straws! However the birthday girl appreciated the candy more than anything, it seemed!
The one party-oops we had was that I forgot to bring out the lemonade popsicles chilling in a bucket of frozen water balloons. I remember while the kids were playing outside, came in to get them, got side tracked, and then forgot. But it looked great and, had it made it outside, I think it would have been a big hit!
It was a great day, filled with love from family and friends that came to celebrate my little girl. All the planning and prep was totally worth the fun we had. At the end of the day, a good party always reminds me why we put so much work and thought into creating something special. :)

Jennifer Hart
Graphic Designer
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