Monday, July 30, 2012

Crafty Card Organization

Today's project was both crafty and organizes--WAHOO! I love it when that happens!

I've never known what to do with greeting cards that we receive. I want to keep them, but I'm trying my hardest to manage clutter and didn't have a good solution. I usually just keep them in a box but it wasn't the prettiest thing and to be honest they were just a cluttered mess inside a box.  

I found this project from Kayla Danelle and it looked simple and solved my problem. I decided to start with all the cards that our daughter has received (she's only a year old so it sounded manageable!). Like I always do, I first searched my craft stash and then made my list for Hobby Lobby (man, I should be getting paid for these daily endorsements but, alas, I'm just doing it because I heart the Hob Lob).

I had some scrapbooking embellishments so all I needed was the heavy duty cardboard for the front and back cover, the chipboard letters, acid-free glue, and the rings.  

Simple stuff. I used my utility knife to cut two pieces of the cardboard (think super thick poster board) a bit bigger than an average card. I then used a hole punch to punch holes in both the front and back cover and embellished the front. That's it! I bought the biggest rings that they had but I know you can get much bigger ones. I'll probably have to switch to a bigger size in the future but this should work for now. After the "book" is done just hole punch the cards and slip them between the covers on the rings. Now they're all organized and easy to find and look through when I'm feeling sentimental. I think I'll do our wedding cards next--it's about time I get them out of that ugly box!

Do you keep your cards? How do you organize them?  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Every Day I'm Shufflin'...

I've been on the lookout for artwork for our office and haven't had much luck. We spend massive amounts of time in there so I want it to be something that either makes us happy or...well, that's it. It HAS to make us happy. Our goal is to have the walls decked out with travel pictures that we have taken. They definitely make us happy. I was also hoping to bring in some more color and as I was looking through my Pinterest boards I was reminded of one of my very first pins. This pin from Virginia and Charlie definitely makes me happy. The author made this incredibly fun canvas for a friend with the simple phrase 'Every day I'm Shufflin' from the LMFAO song. And, I decided that this would be perfect for our office!

She gives fantastic step-by-step instructions so I'll let her cover that.  I will, however, share a picture of how mine turned out.

What do you think?

This project was a fun one to do and extremely inexpensive.  If you decide to recreate it yourself you'll need:

  • A Canvas - Hobby Lobby currently has 2 pack of 11x14 canvases (one left over for another project) - for $5.99
  • Behr paint sample in Carrot Stick (240B-7) from Home Depot - $2.50 - Choose a color that goes with your color scheme!
  • White puffy paint - $1.50 at Hobby Lobby
  • Mod Podge - ~$7.00 (I already had a bottle and still have a ton left so I've used this on multiple projects and still have leftovers for many more!)
  • Wax paper

And...I'll leave you with this (cued up to the good stuff):


Friday, July 27, 2012

Use What You Have...

Today's post was inspired by my late Great Grandma Milton, or Ma Milton as she preferred to be called. I have such fond memories of her and rarely a day goes by that I don't think of her. She was an amazing woman and resourceful beyond imagination. We are still impressed that we could open her cabinets and they would appear all but bare and then she could somehow whip up a meal fit for a king. Grandma worked hard her entire life and enjoyed the simple things. I miss her so much.

Grandma lived by these words:
Begin where you are, use what you have, and do the best that you can. ~ Irene Milton        
As I was looking for a piece to balance out my mantel (I'm a symmetry girl, what can I say?) I decided to "use what I had and do the best that I could." I gathered up the dried lavender that I had purchased fresh at the beginning of Summer and had hung to dry, a spool of leftover burlap ribbon, a rubber band, and a canning jar. And this is what I came up with...

I put the rubber band around the canning jar and stuck the lavender stems in it. Then, I covered the rubber band with the burlap ribbon and hot glued the ends. That's it. I set it up on a candle holder base to give it the height that I needed.  

I think I'll pick up some lavender oil to refresh the scent a bit but, other than that, the project was completely free.

TIP: Always, always, always shop your home before you decide to purchase something new.  Sometimes just moving something from one location to another gives it a whole new life. Or, maybe change something up--if you don't like it or aren't currently using it as it is use your imagination and make it something you will use. It saves you money and you're not bringing 'more stuff' into your space.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How To Make Hard Baked Eggs

Baked? Say waaaaa? Yes. Baked.

Supposedly, this 'new' method gets the same, if not better, results as the old boiling method that we all know. I found the pin by The Burlap Bag and decided to give it a try. Her method is pretty easy which is comforting since everyone seems to have their own special instructions when boiling the perfect egg.

Preheat the oven to 350. Place your eggs in a muffin tin. I've seen people put them right on the oven rack but, in my opinion, it's easier to get them in and out of the oven if they are in something. The Burlap Bag suggests baking for 30 minutes. Although they came out pretty good, I may decrease the time a bit next time. Ovens vary so you might want to experiment and make adjustments.

After baking, pull them out with tongs and put them in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes they are ready to peel! Look how beautiful the yolk turned out! No dark spots!

After baking there were some weird brown spots on the shells but they came off when they were put into the water. When I peeled them there was a very small brown spot where the shell rested on the pan. It wasn't a big deal for me and wouldn't stop me from trying this again.

Yes, I could technically boil eggs faster than this BUT, this was pretty easy too. Not much to it really. I do think that this will be my new method for making 'hard boiled-like' eggs. 

Have you ever tried this?  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Put Down the S'bucks and Step Away From the Pastry!

It's mid-morning and breakfast is a distant memory and lunch seems years away. Does this sound familiar? How often do you skip breakfast all together? Or, are you like me who has to force myself to eat breakfast because it's my least favorite meal of the day. I'm just not a big fan of the traditional breakfast items. I'll admit, Team Ibrahim doesn't 'dig on pig' which means we don't' 'dine on swine' so our choices are often limited.

Determined to work a breakfast-type meal into my schedule I was on the lookout for something that was quick, relatively healthy, and tasty. I found this pin by Gimme Some Oven (love that blog name by the way!) for some no-bake energy bites. I loved it before I tried it because the name included the words "no bake and energy"--a mamma's dream come true!

Click on the photo above to PIN!

I have made these no less than five times since finding the pin and they are still just so dang yummy. I make a batch on the weekend and they typically last me through the week. I like to mix them up and then use my 1 inch cookie scoop to scoop them into equal portions. If you are using a scoop you don't need to let the mix chill for 30 minutes, it actually scoops easier if you don't. I line them in an airtight container with a layer of parchment paper in between. Each morning I eat two with a small glass of milk and I'm set until lunch. I did make a few changes to the recipe but feel free to use the original or make changes of your own. One is that I do not toast the coconut, I just throw it in the bowl straight from the bag--I think not toasting it helps keep them moist. The other change is that I use mini-chocolate chips. I like the small bits of chocolate rather than a big 'ole honkin' bite of chocolate. It is breakfast for goodness sakes, lets be civilized people!

TIP:  The recipe doesn't mention it but I like to grind my flax seeds right before I use them.  I use my little spice grinder that I purchased on Amazon.  Click here to find it on Amazon.  

BONUS TIP:  Grinding the flax seeds adds air and fluff and other magical things that make your flax seeds double.  In other words, if you need 1/2 cup for the recipe only grind 1/4 cup of seeds.  Cool huh?  

I do realize that if you are counting calories these are probably not the healthiest option (vs. an egg white omelet or something) but they definitely aren't the worst (vs sugary cereal or pastries). In fact, I think they are probably closer to the healthier side. I think the best thing about them is they are super tasty, almost sinful -- and they keep me satisfied until lunch! I keep them in the fridge and only allow myself to have the two for breakfast and do not snack on them throughout the day. Now, I actually look forward to breakfast!

Try them out and let me know what you think. I promise you, if you like no bake cookies--these aren't too far off!  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post From 'The Queen of Clean'

I am so excited about tonight's post. You see, it was written by a life-long friend, Amber Miller. Amber and I grew up in the same small town and like most of the citizens of this town we are distant cousins.  Which may or may not be a result of living in a small town (don't judge).

For as long as I've known Amber she's always had just the perfect balance of organized OCD. Let's just say that her box of crayons looked the same on day 26 as it did on day one. Compared to me who had the phrase "Haley Piles" coined in my honor to describe my special flavor of clutter. I've always admired Amber not only for her ability to manage a career, family, and social life but her ability to have the kind of home that is ready for guests at a moments notice.  

Amber with her husband Ryan and beautiful children Holden and Kinsley

As a result of a recent post, Amber shared some of her tips for cleaning soap scum and it dawned on me that she is probably full of tips that we could all use! So I asked Amber if she would be interested in writing a guest post, and she was up to the task. I asked her if she could put in words what a clean home means to her--sort of the inspiration behind her sparkly clean quarters. I have to say, she nailed it.      After reading her words I am ready to tackle my "Haley Piles." I'll let Amber take it from here:

Do you flush public toilets with your foot and cringe at the thought of dirt and germs? I do and am not ashamed of having a slight panic attack when my kids announce they have to use the restroom while at our local swimming pool, shopping, or, worse yet, while at a gas station.
I am your typical full time working mother of two who loves her Route 44’s from the Sonic, rap music, sending handwritten letters, superheroes and the smell of print shops. I will never understand hoarders, Sarah Palin, slow drivers, PC’s or country music. I have several passions in life, motherhood and cleaning are my top two. I know call me crazy but cleaning is one of the few things that you can receive instant gratification on and have no regrets afterwards. Think about it…shopping is a great experience that gives you satisfaction but one typically suffers from buyer’s remorse hours or days later. Same with food, I would love nothing more than to stick my entire face into a warm peach pie and consume it all after dinner but then I’d have to face disappointing myself and my counselor at Jenny Craig the next day. So instead of turning to a cute pair of orange wedges or a moist piece of carrot cake I find comfort, peace and reward in cleaning.

I’ve genetically been blessed with this passion for cleaning as I grew up in a very clean home and vividly remember every Saturday morning drawing a piece of paper from a bowl to see what room I got to help mom clean. I hated the kitchen and prayed for the bathroom. The porcelain gods called upon me early in life and still do to this day.  I enjoy cleaning the bathroom the most. Your efforts in this room are the most visible and I tackle those yellow droplets on the toilet like a Kansas City Chief Linebacker. When I am through it smells like sweet victory. Okay, okay, maybe more like bleach and Lysol but you get my point. I then bust a move in the kitchen with my favorite household cleaner- my floor vacuum and steamer. I’m providing a picture of him as you must get one if you have hard wood floors like I do. My knees and back are no longer made for hand scrubbing floors so my steamer and I spend a few hours of quality time together every Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m.

I am a morning person, only because a sweet someone whispers “Mama it is morning time, let’s go get some chocolate milk and play,” at 6:00 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday but it truly is the best time to clean. I think for many people the hardest part is getting started but once you fall into a routine things become natural. Just close your eyes, imagine your house clean, pop in your favorite Jay-Z CD and get to work. Music is very motivating and will allow you to enjoy your time more and you can brush up on a few dance moves for your next Zumba class.

I am blessed and have a fairly large home with four bedrooms, four and a half baths, two family rooms on the main floor and recently we just finished our basement. I thought I was going to throw myself off a bridge when I was faced with yet another 1,200 square feet to clean so quickly had to come up with a revised game plan. I’m not superwoman and know my limitations but I have grown so fond of the open airy feel of cleanliness and wasn’t about to give it up. I now live by these rules that have reduced my Saturday morning cleaning sessions.
I do a little every day for fifteen minutes. I set my microwave/oven timer typically from 9:00 – 9:15 p.m. and clean. You’ll be amazed at what you can get accomplished in that short amount of time. On Monday’s I start at the entrance of my house then work around clockwise Tuesday through Friday. My other favorite tip is to challenge yourself to pick something up every time you leave a room whether it is an empty glass, dirty socks or toys- pick it up! Such a simple task and you can thank me later as you’ll quickly see its benefits. 
My final tip is to document your success. Yes, take pictures of your clean house and look at them often. It will be a reminder of what you accomplished and the hard work you’ve put into it. Here are a few photos of my clean house, minus the pair of white socks my husband just laid on our barstools. This is typical in the Miller household! 

The Summer Olympics are beginning this week so let’s make our own games and experiment with Clean Olympics 2012. Set your goals, get motivated and follow a few simple rules and by closing ceremonies you will have a stunningly clean home.
Amber Miller

Thank you, Amber!  I know that I'm motivated and ready to take on your 'Clean Olympics 2012' challenge!  Show Amber some 'comment love' and hopefully she'll be back soon with more tips on how to keep our homes clean and sparkly!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Summer Dinner You Will LOVE!

Unless of course, you hate tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and grilled chicken.  If that's the case, I'm can stop reading here.

I have to say that this is one of our favorite Pinterest recipes to date.  It's easy, it's delicious, and it's a fantastic way to use up those fresh garden tomatoes from your garden or the farmer's market.

Picky Palate, posted this recipe and also includes a great leftover fix for the next day.  You can check out the recipe details here.

TIP:  Do yourself a favor and make twice as much chicken as you and your family will eat for dinner and made the sandwiches the next day!  My husband, (who drives me nuts and doesn't like leftovers) actually said that the leftover sandwich was "one of the best sandwiches he's ever had."--That, my friends, is a big deal!

BONUS TIP:  Be careful not to overcook the chicken, especially the ones that will be used for the sandwiches the next day.  They shouldn't be pink, of course, but pull them off the instant they are done.  They should be juicy (but the juice should be clear) as they will cook a bit longer when you re-heat them.

I'd love to know if you tried the recipe and what you think.  Did your family love it?  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Putting together her nursery was a real HOOT!

Today has been a busy but fun day and this mamma is spent!  I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to post about Elia's nursery (why not, it's been done for a year!).  Her nursery, like most everything we do, was done mostly DIY and on a pretty tight budget.  Our big splurges were the crib and the changing table.  We chose the changing table because it could easily be used as a dresser for many years to come.

We purchased the wall decals from a shop on Etsy.  They had fantastic customer service and helped me with my multiple questions and emails.  You can check out their shop by clicking here.  The decal was easy to apply but it did take awhile as each leaf is a separate decal and the owl is a layered effect.  Ignore the fact that I did go into labor the evening we finished it!  Nothing like waiting until the last minute!

The sheets, changing pad cover, and valance were all purchased from Amazon.  The valance wasn't part of the same set but I thought the colors were a close enough match.

The leather rocker/recliner was a steal of a deal at Nebraska Furniture Mart.  Amazingly, this ended up being cheaper than the standard nursery gliders and, in my opinion, it's much more comfortable.  At some point this will probably be moved to another room.  

The mirror over the changing table was on sale at Home Goods for about $20.  It was originally silver and I did a couple quick coats of white gloss spray paint to match the rest of the furniture.  Don't be afraid to alter sale items to make them exactly what you want!  Similar mirrors in white (for some unknown reason) were closer to $100.  I just couldn't imagine spending that when I could replicate it with one can of spray paint.  Elia loves looking at herself in the mirror after a diaper change!  

I love the little birdies that watch over her as she sleeps.  We've named them Howard, Bob, and Amos--and those who know us will know why.

I'm in LOVE with her gallery wall.  The hubs made the ledges and I sanded and painted them.  They are a perfect solution for a small room and a way to get the books up off of the floor.  At this point she can only reach the bottom shelf so it has her board books and her nicer books are higher up.

I still have one whole wall that is bare and I hope to fill it with some upcoming Pinterest projects.

Do (or did) your kids rooms have a 'theme'?  Do you have any DIY projects that you're proud of in the room?  I'd love for you to leave a comment about your nursery/kid rooms!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Freakin' Genius Shower Basket!

I have been looking for a solution for this problem for years.  Our master shower lacks any sort of storage, shelves, or ledges which means everything is stored on the floor of the shower.  And, I hate it. I've never been able to find a solution that didn't take up precious real estate in our teeny little shower stall.  I love that this is an inexpensive solution that can be removed and doesn't cause any damage to the shower or tile.  Unfortunately, the pin I found links to a picture and not a blog so I'm not sure who to credit with the idea.

All you'll need is a second shower rod, shower curtain rings (Target has them for a little over a dollar), and baskets.  FYI: Target has baskets in their dollar bins RIGHT NOW!  I picked up a few for our shower and for our daughter's bathroom.  They even have them in different colors!  Here are a couple of pictures of the baskets in Elia's bathroom.

So what will we store in these fantastic little baskets?  Elia's bath toys, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, sugar scrub, toothpaste and a toothbrush (my husband is a shower toothbrusher--I've tried it and I just can't get on board with it).  Just in case you are wondering, his toothbrush and toothpaste are not on the floor, he brings them in and out with him--except for those times when he doesn't and I hear a yell from across the house to bring them to him.  Good lord, I'm happy that won't be happening anymore!

Super easy, super cheap (around $10) and I'm so excited to get the junk off the shower floor!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dirty Words and Wrinkles

As with anything, crafting can be (and for me, it usually is) a learning process.  If at first I don't succeed, I'm going to try, try, try, say some dirty words, and then try again.  This project looked simple enough, so simple that I thought I could recreate it with just a picture of the final product and with zero experience using Mod Podge.  I thought, "It's Mod Podge for goodness sakes, how difficult could it be?"  Of course, I was basing this on its funny name and absolutely no other rationale.  Silly me.

So, I set out to recreate this snazzed up frame from Craftily Ever After.  Cute, right?

I scoured my stash of craft goodies to see what I already had on hand before I headed out for supplies.  Ah-HA!  I found my stockpile of wrapping paper that I had purchased way cheap after Christmas last year!  Good stuff.

Tip:  Hobby Lobby offers 'non-traditional' Christmas paper that can be used year round.  Once they go on sale I purchase several that can be used for birthdays, weddings, and craft projects.  Here are the ones I purchased last year:

Since I already had the wrapping paper and a bottle of matte Mod Podge all I needed was a frame and an embellishment.  Hobby Lobby almost always (I'm pretty sure it's always, but just in case I'll say "almost") has their frames marked down 50%.  So I nabbed one that had a flat (not beveled) surface for about $8.00 on sale and grabbed a pink flower for $1.99.

I started by rolling out the wrapping paper and flipping the frame over (top side down) on the back of the paper.  I cut around the frame leaving space around it with my scissors.  Then I took my utility knife and cut a straight edge around the frame and in the inside cut out.

I made sure to position the cut out on the frame to make sure that I knew exactly how to lay it once the Mod Podge was ready.  Next, I used a foam brush to "paint" a thin layer on the frame.

**Let the Mod Podge dry a bit to increase it's tackiness, you want it tacky not wet.**  

Then carefully lay your cut out on the glue.  Start at the top (or bottom) and work your way to the other end.  If you let the glue dry to tackiness it should just sit on top enough that you can run your hands over it to seal it and you should have minimum bubbles and wrinkles.  Carefully look over the frame to to make sure the edges are sealed.  It's very important that you let it dry for awhile before applying the top coat of Mod Podge.

Once it appears the first layer has dried apply a second layer on top of the paper.  Let the top coat dry and then apply one more layer, and of course, let it dry.  Then, add any embellishments.  I used hot glue to attach the flower.

Okay--so that's how crafter's and DIYers WANT you to think it went.  Unfortunately, that's not how it went down.  AND, I'm about to reveal the truth.

I cut the paper to fit the frame (so far so good), applied a layer of Mod Podge laid down the cut out and it instantly started to bubble and wrinkle.  I panicked and ripped up the paper and used my trusty Pampered Chef pan scraper to scrape up the left over paper.  Take Two.  I Googled "how to avoid wrinkles and bubbles in decoupage" and found this video from Addicted 2 Decorating.  Go ahead, watch it...I'll wait.

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I started again.  I cut a new cut out and put on a thin layer of Mod Podge.  I let the Mod Podge dry to tacky and carefully laid down the cutout.  It looked great!  Wahoo!  Then the hubs walked past said "Wow, that looks cool!"and my ego and confidence were boosted.  So, I put on a top coat over the paper and it instantly started to wrinkle...and then I said dirty words, lots of them.  I ripped off the paper, scraped off the leftovers, and started again muttering something to the effect of "I WILL win."

So, as you can guess, I did another cutout, put on a thin layer of Mod Podge, let it dry to tacky positioned the cutout, gently smoothed it down and then gave it time to dry.  That was key.  I then painted on a top coat and it did wrinkle a bit but it looked much better.  I let the top coat dry and then painted one more coat.  Finally, I hot glued the flower in the perfect spot (in other words, to cover the wrinkles).  All done!  Now, wasn't that a simple craft project?  Oye.

When it comes to crafting, I win some and I lose some.  I'm calling this one a draw.  It definitely didn't turn out as I had envisioned but it's still something that I'll use.  The important thing is that I tried something new and learned a few things.  BUT, the MOST important thing that came from all of this is that I posted about it.  See, the 'old me' would have dug a deep hole in the backyard and buried all of the evidence.  The 'new me' realizes that the ultimate goal is learning something that I didn't know before.  The next time I decoupage (and there WILL be a next time) I'll have this experience to draw from and my end product may just turn out better.  So, without further ado, here it is with just a few wrinkles, but who cares?

UPDATE:  Much to my delight, most of the wrinkles have disappeared after a good nights sleep--and yes, I'm referring to the frame (I still have my wrinkles)!  This project didn't turn out so bad after all!  

Here it is after drying all night and with natural lighting.  I can live with it.

Have you ever decoupaged?  Do you have any tips to share? 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Party Eats on the Cheap!

"If you feed them, they will come..."

Typically, food is one of the most important feature of a party.  Most guests will overlook the decorations if they know they are going to have a tummy full of something yummy.  Today's post is the final element of our daughter's 1st Birthday party that was held last weekend.

We decided to serve 'buffet-style' because of the number of guests and the fact that we would be eating outside.  I want to apologize in advance for not having pictures.  As anyone who has hosted a dinner party knows, once the food is ready to be served it's hard to stop and snap pictures!

Our menu included:

Grilled Beef Tenderloin w/ Creamy Horseradish Garlic Sauce
Summer Potato Salad
Garden Salad (with a Olive Garden-style Dressing)
Rolls with Whipped Butter

My husband grilled the tenderloin (simply seasoned with garlic powder, salt, and pepper).  He grilled them whole and then sliced them for each guest depending on their preferred temperature.  Most of the steak was cooked medium rare/medium with the ends being more medium well.  It was perfectly seasoned and super tender.  Way to go, hubs!

TIP:  We purchased two whole tenderloins from Costco and trimmed them ourselves which saved about $10 a pound.  

I love horseradish.  Love it.  I've been on the hunt for a yummy horseradish sauce and I do believe I've finally found it.  The tenderloin was delicious on it's own and didn't really need a 'sauce' but in my opinion the horseradish just added to its yumminess.  

It's an easy recipe that I found online.  You can find the recipe here.  The only thing that I changed was I put the garlic in my little food processor to avoid big chunks.  This recipe doubles well and if you somehow end up with leftovers it's fantastic on sandwiches.

I wanted something different than the usual (but still delicious) mustard potato salad.  I also found the Summer Potato Salad recipe online and you can find it here.  I did make a few adjustments to the recipe and have listed them for you.
  • The recipe doesn't specify but we chose new red potatoes because they are my husband's favorite and I could get a 10lb bag at Costco for around $5.00
  • I only used a quarter cup of oil instead of the cup recommended
  • I omitted the eggs
  • I used fresh dill instead of parsley
The dressing was much lighter and had a nice lemon flavor.  This also doubles well and with AllRecipes easy serving converter I was able to change the servings from 8 to 30 and the recipe automatically adjusted.  I made this in the morning so that the flavors developed by dinnertime.  

I love garden salad, especially in the summer.  We made a giant pan of lettuces (iceberg mix and romaine) then added red onion, garden tomatoes, black olives, pepperoncini peppers, croutons, and grated parmesan cheese.  The dressing was meant to be a Olive Garden copycat--and to be honest, as far as I can remember, I think it was pretty 'right on'.  I'll definitely make this dressing again.  The recipe can be found here.  I made mine in the morning and then poured it in a mason jar with a canning lid and ring.  This made it easy to shake up and then pour on the salad right before serving.  

We purchased the rolls, 32 for under $5.00, at Costco and served them with whipped butter.  Have you ever wondered how to make whipped butter?  You know, the good butter that you get at weddings, banquets, or in the bread basket at some restaurants?  Well, let me tell's super easy to make!  I thawed a few sticks of real (unsalted) butter to room temperature.  Then I put them in my KitchenAid mixer and turned it on.  I poured in milk a little at a time and let it whip for awhile.  Just add the milk slowly so that the butter can absorb it.  I also added some course salt for flavor while the mixer was running.  Your butter will expand giving you much more than you started with.  I let my mixer run for awhile and then put the whipped butter in an air tight container on the counter until the party.

Dinner turned out pretty well and we received lots of compliments on the dishes.  Our major splurge was the tenderloin, but we made up for it with the extremely inexpensive sides.  

What would a birthday party be without cake and ice cream?  Elia's Olivia cake was made by the talented Carey Iennaccaro of Sprinkled With Sugar.  Check her out on Facebook for pictures of her ahh-mazing cakes!

Tip:  If you need to serve a crowd of both adults and children buy two cakes.  One fun one for the kids to enjoy and then serve the adults sheet cake.  Most adults would rather avoid the brightly colored frosting anyway.  We served a plain white sheet cake from Costco (they are the best!) and asked them not to do any writing or design.  It's a win/win, the kids have fun with their  'fancy' cake and the adults get to enjoy a yummy cake too!  

Bonus Tip:  Costco (and Sams) cakes are huge and serve a big crowd and are only about $18.00.    AND, if you for some reason have leftovers they stay moist and delicious for days.  Believe me, I've had dessert every day since the party and may or may not be eating a piece of cake as I type this.  

Okay, raise your hand if you have ever been delegated the task of scooping ice cream for a crowd.  The ice cream is hard, the line is forming and you are using muscles that you forgot existed.  Yes?  Well, consider that the LAST time you ever have to do THAT again.

Thanks to Real Simple's GENIUS idea I pre-scooped the ice cream and when it was cake time it was easy-peasy to pull the scoops from the freezer, pull off the liners and put alongside the cake.  I'll pause for the applause.  I just wish this was MY idea!

TIP:  I didn't use muffin pans as I wouldn't have had enough.  I just put the scoops in the liners and lined them up on a large cookie sheet.  I filled two cookie sheets and stacked them with a layer of parchment paper in between.  Worked like a charm!

So, all in all, I believe the party food was a success.  But, I can't stop there.  What kind of momma would I be if I didn't post the obligatory 'messy cake-baby' pictures?  So, here you go!

Thank you to everyone who came and helped make Elia's 1st birthday such a special event!  


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Party Deco on a Dime

Okay, maybe two dimes.  Last night we hosted our daughter's 1st birthday party at our home.  We had such a great time celebrating with friends and family.  I thought I would share some of my party decoration tips hoping that there may be one or two that may be new to you!

Our baby girl is a big fan of Olivia so we decided that would be our theme.  We also decided that Olivia's colors (red, black and white) aligned nicely with the look we wanted to take our deck and outdoor decorations.

Tip:  When hosting a party or event choose a theme that coordinates with your current decor so that you can reuse your items.  Single use decorations are costly and are exactly that...single use. 

We added these two large vases to our deck to add a pop of red and the greenery adds to the coziness.  These used to live in front of my parents home and were glazed blue.  I did a couple quick coats of red spray paint and added a tropical plant ($4.99 each at Home Depot).  They sit on each side of the gazebo when you walk onto the deck.

Recognize the red 'rosette ball'?  Well, we made three more--two black and white ones, using black and white polka dot crepe paper and a white one.  I attached a bow and hung them from the center of the gazebo.  Each ball was made for about $2.50 and I still have crepe paper leftover.  The little red and white fans were purchased at Party City.

I found this black and white polka dot frame at Hobby Lobby on sale for 50% off.

Tip:  I noticed that the frame had a few scratches so I asked if they could take any more off (it never hurts to ask!)  and I ended up getting another 15% off!  The scratches were an easy fix with my trusty Sharpies.

When I'm planning a party I love the small details.  I decided to wrap the silverware for a couple of reasons -- it would make it easier for guests to grab their utensils and a napkin while fixing their plates and they were over-the-top cute.  We rolled a knife and a fork in a red paper napkin and then secured them with a paper napkin ring.  The napkin ring was a simple rectangle cut from white cardstock with a Olivia image glued to the end on a black square.  The black silverware caddy was marked way down at Hobby Lobby--I just added the ribbon.  

Tip:  If you decide to create these napkin rings, glue dots are the way to go.  They can be found in the scrapbooking section of Target, Walmart, or Hobby Lobby.

We had lots of fun stuff for the kids--sidewalk chalk, a bouncy house that we borrowed, nerf balls, bouncy balls, and bubbles.  We made these cups for the bubble solution.  They made it easier for little ones to dip their bubble wands.

Caution:  As with most children's activities supervision is necessary to make sure that the little ones don't drink the bubble solution!  Oopsie!

These were made from clearanced chargers at Hobby Lobby.  I believe I paid $.60 a piece.  I decoupaged the letters to spell ONE and glued on the ribbons.

My sweet and talented niece, Kaley, helped with almost all of the decorations but took on a couple all by herself.  She used a projector to enlarge an Olivia image and made a sign for our front yard (above) and this cute Olivia cutout!  Instead of coloring with markers she cut out pieces of scrapbook paper.  It turned out fantastic!  Thank you, Kaley!  The kids had fun taking their picture with Olivia!

We had guests sign a copy of the book version of Olivia as a keepsake.

Some inexpensive red votive holders from Ikea lined the table. 

I added some red and white polka dot ribbon to two candle holders that I already had for the outdoor coffee table.

 Our serving cart held straws, cups, lids, beverages, fruit, and mixers.  

We had fun stuff for the kids...and the big kids!  The hubs organized a washers tournament which was fun to watch!  Everyone who wanted to 'play' put their name in the hat and random teams were picked.  Lots of fun competition and yelling and cheering (or so I noticed as I was running around like mad!).  The first place team (Mike and Darren) won gold medals that we made from washers we spray painted gold and put on a ribbon.  The second place winners (my husband and Grandmother) took second place and their medals were teeny little washers (hee hee).

The party was lots of fun and more importantly, it was fun to see everyone!  After it was all over we both flopped into bed exhausted and I said, "Well, we only have 364 days to plan the next one" to which my loving husband replied with a heavy sigh and rolled over.

Click here for a post on our party eats!

So excited to have this post FEATURED on Embracing Change!


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