Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cinco de Mayo {Party Inspiration}

I have some Cinco de Mayo party inspirations to share with you (along with some FREE party printables). But first...a little background on the holiday. 

For many of us, Cinco de Mayo is great excuse to eat delicious Mexican food and drink Margaritas (as if we really need an excuse anyway)! But I think it's also a great opportunity to learn a little history (mostly because I'm an information junkie who really loves facts & trivia).

Some interesting facts...
  • Cinco de Mayo is NOT (as many people believe) Mexican Independence Day (which is September 16th)
  • Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at The Battle of Puebla in 1862
  • Outside of Puebla, the holiday is not widely celebrated in Mexico
  • In the U.S., the holiday began in 1967 when a group of California State University students decided to hold the first Cinco de Mayo commemoration in the United States as a way to celebrate their Mexican-American heritage.
  • It wasn't until the 1980s when marketing companies (largely beer companies) began capitalizing on the holiday, that it gained the popularity we see across the U.S. today
  • The largest Cinco de Mayo event in the world is held in Los Angeles, California, where more than 600,000 people celebrate with music and food. lesson is over. Now for some fun party stuff!

The TomKat Studio is offering some festive & *free* printable invitations and party circles. I just love this color combination!

Catch my Party is featuring a great *free* printable party package that includes a 5×7 invitation, party circles, drink flags, water/beer bottle labels, and a “Cinco de Mayo” banner. How awesome is that?

Cakes Likes a Party is offering this *free* and festive printable party banner...

I just LOVE LOVE this beautiful Cinco de Mayo Birthday party table designed and styled by Bird's Party!

Be sure to check out Bird's blog for more beautiful pictures of this fun party! And you just might see that gorgeous color combination of hot pink, orange, and lime showing up on a cake in the very near future...hint...hint!

This Fiesta party was featured on Hostess {with the mostess}. It was a 40th birthday celebration, but the decorations are gorgeous and perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration as well. And just reading about the delicious food that was served makes me hungry for some Mexican!

For many Mexican-inspired recipes including drinks, appetizers, desserts & more, check out The Food Network's Cinco de Mayo page. So many delicious sounding and hunger inducing recipes like this one for Bobby Flay's Red Chile Short Rib Tacos. Um...yes please!

Epicurious is also a great source for authentic Mexican recipes and tips for hosting a Cinco de Mayo party. How beautiful does this table of  deliciousness look? Chef Miguel Ravago shares some of these recipes for an authentic Mexican fiesta!

Of course as I mentioned before...for many of us (ME), a Cinco de Mayo celebration wouldn't be complete without a Margarita (or two). Hostess {with the mostess} features recipes for 10 unique Margaritas. Like this Prickly Pear one from My Sweet & Saucy that is almost too pretty to drink (I said almost)!

I hope you enjoy your Cinco de Mayo celebration with great friends, great food, great drinks and lots of love for Mexican and Mexican-American culture!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Cake

For our Easter dinner, I made a cake to celebrate spring...butterflies, branches with flowers, and a sweet birds' nest with speckled eggs.

The cake was a vanilla cake filled with strawberry cream (made from fresh strawberries) and frosted in vanilla buttercream. The decorations are made from marshmallow fondant.

Close up of my favorite part...the nest and speckled eggs!

I really loved the color combination of the light blue, brown and orange. So pretty for spring!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to boil an egg: Seriously!

I thought I knew how to boil an egg. It's simple right? Boil water...insert egg. But every time I cooked them, I would always end up with cracked eggs. It never occurred to me that there might be a better way.

A couple of years ago I bought a copy of The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. It was one of those days when I apparently had a lot of time on my hands, so instead of just looking at the pretty pictures, I decided to actually read the book! 

The first chapter of the book is titled "kitchen basics" and is full of really usefully information. In the pages of that first chapter, I learned how to properly boil an egg.

So on a weekend when most people will be boiling more eggs than usual, I share the steps for a perfectly boiled egg.

The key to it all is not cooking the eggs in water that is at a rolling boil. 

Place your eggs in a pot that is not too much larger than the amount of eggs you are cooking (less space for them to roll around and get cracked in).  In other words, don't put six eggs in giant stock pot! Be sure that the eggs are laying in a single layer and not on top of each other.

Put in enough water to cover the eggs over an inch (don't fill that pot completely up). Then turn on your heat and bring the water to a boil. 

As soon as the water is boiling, TAKE THE POT OFF THE HEAT. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let the eggs sit in the boiled water for about 15 minutes. Drain and cool.

Your eggs will thoroughly cook in the hot water, but without the violent boiling water tossing them around, they won't crack!

Ta Da! Perfectly cooked eggs ready to be colored!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Treats: disaster to {semi}triumph

My daughter's preschool class is having their Easter party tomorrow, complete with a visit from the Dancing Easter Bunny. read the right...he/she/it will be dancing...bunny hop I assume. So of course, I planned to make some cute treats for her to take to the party. I had stumbled across these very yummy sounding & cute looking Easter Egg Hunt Cookies.

I found the recipe over at In Katrina's Kitchen.  They are made by baking a Cadbury egg inside of cookie dough and topping it with frosting & candy to look like an Easter basket. Perfect fun for the kiddies...right?

I even made cute little baskets to put them inside by taking a pretty cupcake liner and hot gluing on a pipe cleaner handle. I bought little chocolate eggs to substitute for the jelly beans (not a jelly bean fan) and had my frosting ready to go. I was so excited to make these!

But in reading the recipe, I did not notice that she used a MINI muffin pan to bake these in. I didn't realize this until after my daughter and I mixed up the ingredients (she was so excited to make these too). I don't own a mini muffin pan, so to compensate I just placed more cookie dough into the pan to fill each cup. MISTAKE!

I had no idea how to tell when they were done and after 18 minutes the centers had completely collapsed and the tops were getting very brown. I pulled them out and they were just a mess...overcooked on the top and raw in the middle...straight into the trash. OK not straight into the trash. The girls and I did pull the cooked tops off of them and ate a few (we aren't that picky). But to serve these to OTHER PEOPLE??? No way!

There was no time to go to the store since dinner time was looming and the patience level of my two year old was fading. I couldn't head out to the store after the girls went to bed and there would be no time in the morning! What to do???

I was determined to use those little baskets I had already made. And during yesterday's grocery trip, I happened to have bought a box of these...

I mean...they're bunnies...completely appropriate for Easter. And while the kids probably won't be as excited to eat these as they would have been about the cookie least I'll sleep better knowing the other parents don't hate me for overloading their kids on sugary treats!

Desperation...the mother of invention!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Puppy Party {Inspiration}

My daughter will be turning the BIG 5 in July! Hard to believe my baby will be off to kindergarten this fall! So of course I am in complete PARTY MODE and trying to plan everything for her special celebration!

She is a very specific girl and had very specific ideas for her party (just like her mommy). She is in love with all things PUPPIES and her favorite color is BLUE. So her theme will be a Polka Dots & Puppies party with the colors of blue, brown, white & green. She added the brown & white because she explained that those were her favorite puppy colors. The green was my suggestion because I really wanted a splash of cheerful color mixed in with the other colors she insisted!

I have many many fun ideas that I can't wait to put into action. And I've had the majority of the party planned (in my head) for a couple months now. But I keep seeing all these fun puppy themed parties out there and so I had to share a few!

I found these cute cookies on Just Another Day in Paradise

And I'm seriously considering making this ADORABLE dog house found on The Stevie Times.

I mean...really...can't you just picture a bunch of 4 and 5 years old crawling around inside of that? Of course my fear is that this will become a permanent fixture inside my home!

Design Dazzle has a post with a number of fun puppy party ideas including this table set up. I seriously {heart} those dog bone bottles!

I really love the combination of red & blue in this simple, but sweet puppy party thrown by Jessica of Jessica Kettle Photography and featured on Kara's Party Ideas.

This next party was thrown for an ACTUAL PUPPY by Posh Pixels Design Studio for their newly adopted puppy! How pretty is this table (which is a mix of both canine & human treats)? Check out her site for more pictures of this adorable party!

This happens to be in my exact party colors so I'm in LOVE! And of course they have the printable labels for sale on their etsy shop (found HERE).

Stacy of She's{kinda}Crafty threw her daughter an adorable puppy party in pink & blue. She made all the printables for the party herself (love her)! Aren't they just the sweetest?

I'm so excited for my big girl's party and the next few months are going to be full of fun projects that I can't wait to share!

Happy party planning!

**UPDATE: You can check out the details of my puppy party on Puppy Party Post!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

{Easter Party} Hippity Hoppity Fun!

My girls and I had fun this weekend at a super cute Easter party thrown by my friend Emily. The snack table was adorable with so many fun touches. My favorite were the cute bunny sandwiches!

I love the chicks hatching in the "grass" and the peeps centerpiece too!

Of course the egg hunt was the highlight for the kids (or at least tied for 2nd with the eating of the candy-filled eggs)! My youngest is obsessed with pink...seriously. She needed no help gathering eggs and when I checked her basket she had filled it with only the pink ones!

 Happy Easter and may all your eggs be candy-filled!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Easter Inspirations

There is a little less than 2 weeks left until Easter! But there is still time to get creative and make some Easter & Spring crafts and goodies. There are so many fun, cute, simple & inexpensive (all my favorite descriptors) ideas from some very crafty bloggers out there. Here are some of my favorites...

The creative girls at eighteen 25 are always showcasing super cute ideas! I will be making this adorable Peeps goody for my daughter's preschool class. You can find the free printable tag (love it) at eighteen25.

I also downloaded and printed their *free* Easter subway art. It sits in a white frame as the centerpiece of my spring decorations. You download your copy HERE. I'm a sucker for anything with words or sayings so I love this!

They have many many fun Easter projects, so be sure to check them out! 

Here's another peep printable up for grabs over at it is what it is. I love the colors & the bunting on this...

I also just discovered a blog full of great craft tutorials, Mine for the Making! There I found this pretty "spring" banner tutorial that includes the printable for yes...*free*!

 Love the yellow & blue together! You can find the printable & instructions HERE!

When super crafty Stacy over at She's {kinda} Crafty described this Easter decoration as "as easy as it gets - no sewing, minimal measurements"...well, she totally had me! How fun is this egg topiary?

You can find her tutorial HERE!

And if you are having an Easter party...there are tons (and I mean TONS) of *free* party printables out there for the taking. Once again, She's {kinda} Crafty shares some very pretty ones, like this one...

And while you are there, check out her other fun ideas for inspiration!

How about some *free* printables for a good cause? Shindig Parties TO GO is offering a huge set of these beautiful ones...

They are offering the printables in order to get the word out about Operation Shower. What is Operation Shower?

"Operation Shower is about celebrating and honoring military families. Operation Shower is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides joyful baby showers for military families to ease the burden of deployment."
What a great cause! So go download your printables and while you are there, find out how you can help out!

But for the mother load of free Easter & Spring party have to check out Catch My Party! They are featuring SIX different sets of free printables. Each one is adorable and includes things like cupcake toppers, banners, tent cards & more. Here is just one example of the super cuteness that is available...

With all these great party printables up for have ZERO excuses for not having the cutest Easter party ever!

If you are looking for some sweet bags to fill with Easter goodies, how about these cuties?

Green Lilly Designs is sharing this *free* printable so you can make these cute bags for your own little bunnies!

So many fun Easter ideas abound. So go on and get your craft on!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"To Do" it with style!

In my seemingly never-ending quest to organize my work/creative space, I decide to focus on my "to do" list. I don't mean the things on my "to do" list, that would be too productive. I am referring of course to the actual list itself!

I am an obsessive list maker! I'm one of these dedicated/compulsive/annoying  people who rewrite their lists if they get too messy. Or sometimes I'll rewrite my list in order to add things on there that I've already completed...just to get the satisfaction of crossing it off. Yes...I'm that person!

Well I decided that I need my list to sit more prominently near my desk, so I bought a small clipboard and tea cup hook to hang it on. This way I can obsess even more with it staring me in the face! But since it is going to be displayed, I decided even the list paper itself needed to be cute.

I found several fun & free printable lists that I wanted to share with all my fellow list makers out there (you can download & print each list by clicking on the blog name). Enjoy!

How about this funny one from Skip to My Lou?

Or this bright & cheerful one from Allsorts

And if you want your royal subjects to know you mean business...try handing them their "to do" list on this fun one from Mama Picks.

My favorite is this simple but colorful one from Mom and Wife. The only thing is that this particular file you either need to be a subscriber of Scribd or upload your own file in exchange. I included it for those that may be members of Scribd and because I just love the simplicity of it!
So what are you waiting for? Don't you have a million things "to do"?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Springtime & Strawberry Cake

Here in Florida, it's strawberry season! They are popping up in backyard gardens and available to buy from grocery stores and roadside stands just about everywhere. So last week, my husband and I packed up our girls and headed to a local farm to pick our own berries.

Due to my enthusiastic berry pickers, we ended up with a quite a haul (8 lbs to be exact). I knew a strawberry dessert just had to be made. I have a strawberry cake recipe that I really love, so I whipped a batch of cupcakes using our freshly picked strawberries!

About a year ago I went searching for a strawberry cake recipe that was from scratch. Amazingly, there weren't alot of them out there. But then I found one from a really fun blog Confections of a Foodie Bride. The recipe for Katie's Strawberry Cake From Scratch makes a deliciously moist cake and is now a staple in my cake recipe arsenal. And it always gets rave reviews!

But I do have a habit of tweaking a recipe to my personal tastes and this recipe was no exception. The thing I kept discovering when searching for strawberry cake recipes was that some used only real strawberries (or strawberry puree) and some used only powdered strawberry gelatin for the flavor. The ones using the gelatin just tasted artificial to me. I really wanted to use real strawberries in my cake, but when I tried the strawberry only ones, the taste kept coming up short...just vaguely berry-like. It just wasn't strawberry-ish enough for me!

After reading all the rave reviews Katie's recipe was getting, I figured it was just a matter of personal taste. So I ended up combining the two methods. Now I use the real (fresh or frozen) strawberries to make the puree (& increasing it to one full cup) and add a small amount of powdered strawberry gelatin to boost the flavor! I add a spoonful at a time to the puree until I get the taste I'm looking for. Depending on how sweet the berries are to begin with, I add a little less than 1/2 of a package. The combination of the two just really works for me. I still have the authentic strawberry flavor I want, but the gelatin gives it a deeper pink color and really ups the strawberry flavor!

Enjoy a little strawberry delight for yourself!