My name is Heather, and my goal is to make a fabulous home for my family. Sometimes I actually pull it off! So here I am, ready to share what works, and if it's funny, what doesn't! If nothing else, maybe you can laugh (cry!) with me!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Break

Hello Friends!

Although I know this is already very obvious, I am taking a blog break. Everything in our life has been running on full speed and something just had to give.

Best Wishes for 2012! I'll be back, as soon as my head is above water!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pop Goes the Pumpkin!

If you're addicted to Pinterest even half as much as I am, you will have seen this game by Martha pinned by just about, well, everyone (including me!). So, when it came time to plan the Fall Party for Clara's Pre K class, you know I had to try it out!

I took Martha's instructions and made them work for my needs. I'm pretty sure my foam board was smaller than she suggested, but it was the biggest I could find, and it was only 3 bucks with my Hobby Lobby coupon! I did cover it in Burlap just like she suggested (duct taped to back).

The pumpkin stem is cut out of green felt (also super cheap at only $2.99 for a whole yard), and glued the stem to card stock for support. Then, I hot glued the whole thing to my burlap covered board.

The biggest job in this whole project is the balloons. They are a several step process.

Step 1. With a funnel, put some confetti in the un-inflated balloons.

Step 2. Add a treat to the un-inflated balloons – I went with Smarties and Bouncy Balls.

Step 3. Inflate the balloons. (I used more than a 24 pack of orange balloons, but less than the 35 she suggested.)

Here's where I kind of veered from her instructions. Martha says to attach the balloons with T-Pins. Well, I didn't have any T-Pins, and thumb tacks seemed a little unsafe for 4 and 5 year olds, so I decided to attach mine with my trusty old friend, the glue gun. Worked like a charm, especially for the small group of kids in Clara's class. Obviously a hot glue gun is not a good option if you need to replace balloons on the fly.

When it came time to play the game, we just let the kids each have a turn at balloon popping. (I used bamboo skewers because again, darts and 5 year olds? Not such a fabby idea.)

(Yes, I am aware Clara has a fork here and not a skewer. We were recreating the game at home and the skewers had already made their way back to the kitchen.)

Really cute, and the kids all had fun seeing what prize they each would get!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pink Ruffle Cake

Let me preface all this by saying one thing – this cake requires no cake decorating or artistic skill whatsoever. None. I know this because even in my tiniest pinky toe, I possess none of either.

You will remember this cake from Clara's 5th birthday bash, the Nutcracker party. I wanted a sweet little confection in the Land of Sweets that was cute and sure to impress a 5 year old. This no-skill Mama pulled it off and even managed to impress a few of the adults as well!

Using my own cake and buttercream recipes, I followed  this YouTube tutorial, which was fabulous and walked me right through what to do. Just don't go comparing my cake with hers, OK? Remember, she is a pro! Obviously I could use a little practice on the whole straight line thing..

Clara decided she wanted a big sparkly C as her cake topper. Of course, all the rhinestone ones on the web are meant for weddings and wedding-like budgets, so instead of buying something, we cut a big C out of sparkly cardstock and attached it to a lollipop stick.

Easy,cute and delish, my kinda cake!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple Cake with Maple Frosting

My first assignment with the Cake Slice Bakers was to bake an Apple Cake with Maple Frosting from Tish Boyle's book, The Cake Book.

Excited to offer something Fall related to my family (see previous post about Christmas decorations!), I got busy baking.

I made a couple small modifications to the recipe – 8 X 8 pan instead of 9 X 9, which required the cake to bake a few minutes longer. 

Also, I couldn't find maple flavoring for the frosting, but I really did want that taste, so I used 1 t Maple Syrup instead.  Totally not an equal substitution, I know, but you do what you gotta do!  I did add a little extra powdered sugar to make up for the added liquid.

The cake is so rustic, instead of frosting the top and sides, I just let the frosting hang over the sides a little. 

Easy, delicious, beautiful!

The Recipe (from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle):
1 ½ C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground cloves
¼ t ground ginger
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
½ C unsalted butter, softened
1 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 C buttermilk
2 C peeled and chopped Granny Smith Apples (about 2 apples)
½ C coarsely chopped walnuts

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
3 T unsalted butter, softened
½ t vanilla extract
1/8 t maple flavoring
1/8 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t ground ginger
pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I didn't have fresh)
pinch salt
1 C confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk together dry ingredients (except sugar) in a medium bowl.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time.
Alternately mix (low speed) in dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry mixture. Stir in walnuts and apples.
Bake in greased and floured pan 25-30 minutes.
Frost cake once cooled completely.
For maple frosting, cream butter and cream cheese, add extracts, then mix in confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Cake Slice Bakers

I have exciting news! For the next year, I will be baking a new cake each month along with my fellow bloggers, The Cake Slice Bakers! You can see the list of bloggers here – visit their blogs, there are some great ones out there!

Starting tomorrow, we'll begin baking from a new cookbook and each month on the 20th, we'll share an exciting new cake. Mine just came out of the oven and it.smells.delish!

Until tomorrow, y'all!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clara’s Nutcracker Dream Party

5 years ago, Allen and I named our newborn baby girl Clara. Since then, I have thought how fun it would be to throw her a Nutcracker themed birthday party. How perfect, then, when she came to love Christmas as much as I do! So for her 5th birthday celebration, we did just that.

I have tons and tons to say about this party, and lots of lessons learned I'd like to share. I'll do all that in future posts, but today I'll just show off a few (OK, maybe more than a few) pictures.

The Invitations

In my mind, I had pictured exactly what I wanted for the invites. Sadly, when I went to the craft store to locate the cardstock of my dreams, I came up short. So, I did what any enterprising girl would do – I called up my cousin Rhonda for help! I told her I was going for pink, sparkly, girly and beautiful. Approximately ten minutes later she was sending me scanned images of gorgeous pink cardstock she had embossed with snowflakes and bling, bling, bling!

I took that cardstock, added some vellum I printed with pretty pink party details and put it all together using simple brads (hidden by Rhonda's fabulous snowflakes). Gorgeous! I was thrilled with the results!

The D├ęcor

From the moment guests walked up, I wanted the theme to shine through. So, risking a trip to divorce court, I skipped Allen's favorite decorating season (Fall) and went straight to Christmas. I also took the ballerina hairbow holder concept from a couple of years ago and made a couple ballerinas. One to hang on the front door and one behind the Sweets table.

Every year I do a Candyland tree in the dining area, so I moved that concept into the main party area and blinged the tree up with some tulle and a big tulle pom pom.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread houses served as place settings and tulle ball wands (favors) worked well as centerpieces. Each girl also got to drink out of a sweet little plastic goblet.

See those letters spelling Clara? Yeah, bought those 3 years ago to put in her room and they have been sitting in the craft area since! I spray painted them with glitter and they were perfect in the party room!

It also just happens that my favorite portrait of Clara is one from her 3rd birthday photo shoot. So gorgeous and perfectly fitting to include!

The tulle ball garland was a snap to make and so pretty!

I know this picture doesn't look like much, but I wanted to show the tulle pom poms I hung over both the Food and Sweets table. We also cut out some large snowflakes with our handy Cricut (My sweet Husband did this. Honestly, after two years I haven't quite figured out my Cricut yet).

I see this question a lot on the web - How do you hang pom poms from the ceiling? I use the tiny 3M Command strips and they work great. Other options are tape (if you don't care about the paint job) or thumb tacks (if you don't care about holes).

So, we've all seen the tutu table skirt on Pinterest and thought "Oh, how cute!". Folks, that's a lot of tulle! I tied tulle until I thought my hands would cramp up (did I mention I also did 12 tutus as favors?). Heavens, that table skirt took a lot longer than I ever imagined! And it breaks my heart a little to see the tulle not hanging just perfect in the photo! Before the party I was on hands and knees under the table making it "just so".

The Activities

The smartest thing I did in the entire party? I hired two of the teenage instructor helpers from Clara's dance studio! They showed up in beautiful pink ballerina costumes and basically, did all the work! It was a dream! Props to you, Rebecca and Nikki! You are life savers!!

When the little girls first showed up, they made their way through the Land of Sweets into Clara's room, where Rebecca and Nikki made them up with glitter, eye shadow and lip gloss. They also got to put on the No Sew Tutus I had made for each of them as a party favor. Sadly, my "photographer" (Allen) got busy during this entire period and we didn't get one photo!

Here is Clara's room after the fact:

Once the girls were made even more gorgeous than when they walked in (as if that is even possible), we all gathered round and I read from Clara's favorite Nutcracker storybook, a pop up one. You will have to forgive the comical picture of me here. This is the only picture Allen snapped during story time!

Next up, Gingerbread house decorating! I gave each girl an icing bag full of royal icing and a cup full of candies and let them have at it. They had a GREAT time with this! (Note in the case you ever get the bright idea to do this - it is not a small undertaking to construct 14 gingerbread houses. You cannot do this in 30 minutes. Don't ask how I know this; just know that I thank the Good Lord I had the sense to construct them several days in advance!)

The Food

Since this party was held in the "Land of Sweets", I didn't put too terribly much effort into the main course.

On the Menu:
Princess Crown shaped PB & Js
Ham Rolls
Cheese Cubes
Veggies and Ranch Dip
Snack Mix (Annie's Bunnies, Pirate's Booty, Cheerios and Pretzels). (Served in little cups made from embossed cardstock that matched the invitations.)
Princess Punch
Strawberry Water

The Dessert Table, on the other hand, had a little something for every sweet lover.

I created the Christmas Forest using the ever-popular frosting on ice cream cones technique:

Cake Pops, of course:

Ballerina and Snowflake Sugar Cookies and Miniature Strawberry Cupcakes:

The Chocolate Fountain (white chocolate for this party, of course), with Rice Krispie Treats, Marshmallows, Strawberries, Pretzels, Shortbread Cookies and Brownies for dipping:

The birthday cake – my attempt at the online Ruffle Cake craze (updated info on cake):

And finally, so easy but such a hit, the Mouse King and his army:

Sugar Coma, anyone?

The Party Favors

I've mentioned some of these above, so just briefly, here's a run-down of the favors.

Each girl got a no-sew tutu (Which sadly I didn't get pictures of! Trust me, my sore little fingers made a dozen of them!)

They also got to take home a tulle ball wand. My sweet Mama agreed to make these when it became clear the table skirt was going to take a hundred years. Here's a picture of Clara with her wand.

Two years ago I bought these favor boxes for my Cookie Exchange and didn't end up using them. They worked perfectly for this party! This is another one of those "after the fact" pictures, but I had tons of candy and lollipops for the girls to choose from.

Thanks for taking the time to glance at Clara's Nutcracker Party! Here's the most precious five year old in the Land of Sweets, seeing her guests off!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quint’s Airplane Birthday Party

Yesterday we celebrated my sweet baby boy's first birthday.

Quint is a 5th. His Granddaddy (the 3rd) is a pilot and Allen's (the 4th) degree is in Aerospace, so it was only fitting that Quint have an Airplane party. It was a small affair, with only immediate family, but I tried to throw in a few special touches.

Figures, we got busy and didn't end up with all the fabby pictures I envisioned. Never-the-less, here are a few from the day!

The Invitations. I saw this little airplane and liked the looks of him, so I used him several times throughout the party.

I wanted a wreath for the front door that fit in the theme, so I hit the fabric store and picked up 4 or 5 coordinating prints for this Rag Wreath. Very easy, but I will warn you that it takes a few hours to do all that tying! At the last minute I decided to add the Happy Birthday bunting and was glad I did.

I also hung a coordinating Photo bunting behind our table displaying the pictures we've taken on Quint's Month Birthdays the past year. It's fun to see him change and grow with the seasons and I knew the Grandparents would enjoy seeing them all together.

In keeping with the theme, I had an in-flight snack station with peanuts and Biscoff cookies to serve as party favors. You will also notice the adorable party hat, which I got from this Etsy shop. She also made a coordinating bib and t-shirt – so so so cute! (I wish I could say I got some great pictures of Quint is his sweet outfit. In the chaos, it just didn't happen.)

Dinner was airplane themed. We had such offerings as Wings, Coach Chips, First Class Fruit and Departure Dips. You can't see our Jet Fuel area very well, but 5th Generation Airlines even had their own custom water bottle labels!

And, of course, the cake. Little Airplane made another appearance as our centerpiece, flying through the air on some cloudy fabric I used as a tablecloth.

Everything was so cute, even if the pictures aren't as great as I had hoped.

As you can tell, Quint really appreciated all the effort…