The Sky is Falling (Or It Rained for a Minute)

It hasn’t rained in LA since May, but I woke up to precipitation this morning.

I mean, it didn’t legit-midwestern-thunderstorm rain — it LA misted for a minute and then stopped, but any sort of precipitation is cause for celebration (and car accidents) in SoCal.

The gray skies and cooler temperatures have me fantasizing about fall… and my macabre cake pan.

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Who doesn’t want a slice of skull cake?

It would go perfectly with this ice bucket I need from Pottery Barn.

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It is everything. (source)

These festive skeletons make me want to throw a Halloween party…

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Or recline in a tub of beer. (source)

Either one sounds good.

 

 

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What if Baby Connor Doesn’t Like Owls? (Or How to Throw an Owl Themed Baby Shower)

Even though the owl shower is on hold for now, I  figured I’d tell you how we’re going to do it. And hopefully Connor likes owls, ‘cuz the guest of honor is now attending his own shower, which is actually kind of awesome.

Menu

Mint and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

These simple sandwiches are oh so delicious. And easy to make.

I recommend using Persian cucumbers because I think they’re more flavorful than English cucumbers. I also think the sandwiches are better open faced because the bread can be too overpowering otherwise. The recipe is here.

Albacore and Artichoke Sandwiches

Albacore and artichokes are awesome with basil. Really.

Canned albacore in oil is a great substitute for Italian tuna in this recipe. Though the recipe calls for lemon juice and lemon zest, it’s also nice with lime. You can check out the recipe here.

Other sandwiches to complete the finger sandwich menu might be:

Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Mayonnaise
Recipe here.

Turkey Sandwich with Cranberry Relish and Blue Cheese Butter
Recipe here.

I’d also throw in some prosciutto, mozzarella, and melon skewers as well as a salad.

Drinks

Mimosas
Lavender lemonade
Recipe here.

Desserts

Owl cupcakes. (Tutorial here.) For the base of the cupcakes, I would use these banana cupcakes.

These owls are blue and yellow because baby Connor was basically a Michigan Wolverine at conception.

Chocolate Ganache-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Seven Minute Meringue Frosting
I have made these many times, and Connor’s mom, Jody, digs them. They are amazing. The recipe is here.

Shower Gift

Owl Sachets. (Tutorial here.)

These lavender-filled owl sachets smell better than they look. For real.

You can get really elaborate with the decorations and go with a woodland-inspired rustic look for the cupcake stands as well as the flowers or you can keep it simple. If you’re looking for more owl baby shower ideas, you can check out this board I created specifically for Jody’s shower.

And this board includes a ton of owl ideas for a shower, a birthday, or a sorority party. (Fun fact: both Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma have an owl mascot.)

Peter Pan Party Wrap Up (Or Here’s Everything in One Place)

OK, this is it. The final Peter Pan Party post. The everything-in-one-place post. The you-never-have-to-hear-about-it-again post.

These Peter Pan Partygoers are eager to wrap this ish up.

See, I’m saving you from digging around my blog to piece together a Peter Pan Party the way I used to rummage through piles of black capris and halter tops on my floor in college just to find two matching Steve Madden platforms. (Note: I do NOT wear Maddens anymore. This is because I no longer think it’s acceptable to be hobbled by cheap footwear.)

Invitations
I used Paperless Post because I’m into saving the planet by saving some trees. And also because their designs are like the perfect storm of affordable and attractive.

Photo Courtesy of Paperless Post.

If you’re not into this design, here are a few more pirate-y options.

By the way, PP now offers a charity stamp option. They donate $0.05 to Amensty International, Red, or the ASPCA if you choose the charity stamp instead of the default option. Naturally, I went with the ASPCA puppy stamp. Since we had 142 people on our guest list, we bought a little bit of kibble for homeless pets just by inviting people to drink with us at our party.

Flowers
Here’s the work in progress post, complete with ordering info on the vases and sprinkles.
And this is the reveal.

Neverland Map
I explain how to age paper for a treasure map or Neverland map here.

Other Assorted Decorations
This is the decoration wrap up, complete with product ordering information.

Appetizers
Spicy Eggplant Dip
Truffle Popcorn

Taco Bar Main Course
Cola Carnitas
Slow Cooker Chicken (Note: I didn’t handle this part of the party, but if I had, I probably would have tried this recipe.)
Salsa
Salsa Verde

Dessert Bar
Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Glazed Lime Cake
Chocolate Stout Cake
Skull and Crossbones Sugar Cookies

And now… bacon wrapped meatloaf, because everything is better when it’s wrapped in bacon. Truth.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 2 (Or How to Age Paper)

I used to draw. Then I started high school and thought it would be appropriate to fill my schedule with heinous things like extra AP Chemistry and AP Calculus classes — all while swimming, skiing, serving on student council, working on the Homecoming float committee, blah blah blah, etc. College was a similar story. Come to think of it, so was grad school. And don’t get me started on my life in the entertainment industry….

So, you get it. I’m a masochist. And a maniac.

I didn’t draw for YEARS and when I tried to take it up again recently, I was frustrated that I wasn’t very good at it. (Big shock.) I have decided it doesn’t matter if I suck. I need to be patient with myself because I’m never going to get better at drawing if I don’t actually draw. I’m sure this mentality could be applied to other areas of my life, but I’m not that evolved yet.

So, anyway, since I’m trying not to be all dead inside anymore, I thought it would be a good idea to make the decorations for my Peter Pan Birthday Party. I should point out, however, that it’s hard for me to go halfway, so I went totally overboard on the decorations and the baking, but you can’t give up overachieving overnight. (Or maybe ever, actually.)

Albus is concerned about my to-do list — mostly because he doesn’t see “Spoil Big Dog with Hikes and Kisses” anywhere on it.

I came up with the idea of making a map of Neverland and aging the paper.

Here’s How I Did It:

You can use black tea or coffee to age the paper. Since I’m not much of a tea drinker, I didn’t have any in the house. I opted to go the espresso route for aging instead. (I do so love my espresso – and my DeLonghi espresso machine. It’s magic.)

I preheated the oven to 200 while I watched Twin Peaks and made a freehand sketch of a Neverland map. You’re supposed to print or draw on the paper before aging it and then pour the tea or coffee over the finished product. Since I had done my sketch in pen, I was afraid the pouring method would smudge the drawing too much.

If your’e wondering why this drawing is on my floor it’s because there were white chocolate-dipped marshmallows covering every surface of my home. I had to sit on my floor while drawing this.

I decided to use a pastry brush to carefully apply the espresso around the ink instead. I also had instant espresso powder leftover from this Bittersweet Whiskey Cake a while ago. I sprinkled a little instant espresso powder in a couple of spots to give the paper areas of darker aging. I brushed those areas with espresso as well.

My paper-aging tools. Riveting, right?

While the paper was still wet, I distressed the edges with my thumb and forefinger to give it more of an aged, vintage-y feel.

Then I set the paper in the oven to dry.  Since it was too big to fit in the oven with the door closed, I left the door open and dried the map one half at a time. It really didn’t take long to dry the paper, and this was probably because it was 200 degrees in my oven and about 110 degrees in LA that afternoon.

Here’s the map drying and stuff. (And, yes, I know my oven door is filthy.)

Despite the drawing itself not being Dali-quality (my fave), it came out mostly OK. Here it is in action.

Map and table runner situation.

Oh, and the table runner is actually wedding wrapping paper from Target. Since the table was too long for one sheet, I taped two pieces together in the middle and used the map to (mostly) cover up the seam.

My plan was to use a v-cut on the ends of the paper so the runner would look like this:

I adore v-cuts — and basically everything about this tablescape. (Photo Courtesy of 100 Layer Cake)

but somehow after four trips to my friend’s house to drop off desserts, napkins, and salsas, I had forgotten the yardstick I needed to make the cuts and she didn’t have one. I decided not to bring it back on my fifth trip and to accept that everything was not going to be executed according to my vision. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses. I think I’m learning that.

So there you have it. I aged paper. And I made a drawring. More on the dessert table and the floral arrangements later….

[And if you want to check out the blog post I consulted for paper aging instructions, it’s here.]

Playing with Candy (Or How to Dip and Decorate Marshmallows)

When you’re prepping your birthday party candy bar, it’s probably best to listen to happy music like Mtume’s Juicy Fruit (if it sounds familiar it’s because Biggie sampled it for Juicy). Or Michael’s The Way You Make Me Feel. It’s also a good idea to wander into your bedroom to make sure your enormous dog isn’t eating anything like, say, the remote control to your hanging lanterns.

Well, I thought it looked like fun. Also, you were playing with candy and you weren’t giving me any.

So anyway, today I decided to experiment with marshmallows and sprinkles. I used white chocolate and corn syrup as agents to attach the sprinkles to the marshmallows. I think I prefer the white chocolate method; it adds more flavor, it dries faster, and it basically just works better all around.

I played around with the sprinkles I happened to have in my pantry for this draft, but I will likely discard most of the dipped marshmallows for a variety of reasons. My green gum balls are supposed to arrive from Amazon on Monday, and I intend for them to anchor the candy bar. Once I have them in the apothecary jar, I’ll have a better idea of my actual color palette.

I dried the marshmallows on a cookie sheet to prevent them from sticking to the table. I still managed to make a big mess of things anyway.

By the way, if you decide to use melted white chocolate chips as a dipping agent, make sure you add Crisco to the chips, otherwise you will never achieve the proper consistency to adhere the chocolate to the marshmallows. Remember my cake pop disaster? Yeah, the same principles sort of apply to marshmallow dipping too. Also, if you want to dip both ends it’s best to dip one end, let it dry for a bit, and then dip the other end. (I found that less of the sprinkles slid off that way.)

Now that we’ve covered white chocolate and gravity, it’s time to move on to the next part of the candy bar: the gummy crocodiles. While I was on a quest for affordable sprinkles to fill the vases for my floral arrangements, I found amazing gummy gators. Since a flesh-eating crocodile (croc/gator, close enough) is featured prominently in Peter Pan, I thought it was only appropriate to buy every box they had… even if they only had two.

I love gummy anything, and these “gummi” gators are super yummy. (I had to sample a few — you know to make sure I’m not poisoning my party guests or whatever.)

It’s quite likely that most of our partygoers won’t know the book as well as I do, so I’m making little cards with quotes from the novel explaining the more obscure details of the party décor. For the gummy gator/crocs, I’m going with this passage:

“’I have often,’ said Smee, ‘noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.’

‘Not of crocodiles,’ Hook corrected him, ‘but of that one crocodile.’”

Oh, and speaking of crocodiles, this croc will be chasing my watermelon Jolly Roger carving.

Amazon had other plastic crocodile options, but this one seemed appropriately feisty. And just basically, bad ass.

I’m going with this quote for the pirate ship/plastic croc display, “’It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.’”

This greedy croc has stolen my suckers.

Once I wrestle my suckers back from him, I have plans for the confections that likely involve hanging them from trees with ribbons. More on that later….

I Suck as a Florist (Or I Need Help with My Floral Arrangements)

I think I’ve been listening to too much Tift Merritt and Bon Iver today because I’m starting to feel all sorry for myself.

Or maybe I’m glum because “Trader Joe” and I have very different opinions on what an “easy to open” package of oven roasted turkey breast looks like. Or it could be because the only Doritos left in the bag are crumbs. But mostly, I’d bet it’s because I have the kind of cramps that hurt from your feet all of the way up to your face and I’m missing some of my close friends today.

My birthday is in two weeks, and I’m deep in the throes of planning the party. It’s going to be awesome, and the guest list is out of control huge, but it will be missing some amazing girls this year. See, many of my close girlfriends have moved away and/or gotten married. They used to throw my parties, do my flowers, and just basically make me feel all kinds of special on my birthday. One year they even broke into my apartment, set up Sprinkles Cupcakes while I was at work, and were waiting to take me out for a surprise dinner when I got home.

That they won’t be here to partake in my Peter Pan Party madness just basically makes me feel like this:

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Not only do I miss them and the days of dancing on tables together, but their absence also means I am facing the daunting task of making my own floral arrangements for my party. I sort of suck at arranging flowers, and I’m afraid I’m going to make a huge mess of the affair. I mean I can’t do this:

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Danielle, the Goddess behind last year’s arrangement, now lives in Cabo and is launching a furniture line.

Sure, I could buy the arrangements, but where is the challenge in that?

Besides, I absolutely cannot stand being truly bad at something, so I am trying to teach myself.

So far it’s not going terribly well….

My dog hates my floral arrangement. So do I.

Part of the problem is that I don’t have the right vessels, so I need to remedy that. The other problem is finding inspiration because this art form does not come naturally to me. I wasn’t all that into flowers for most of my life. I spent many years as a tree-climbing tomboy who collected toads with the neighbor boys, and I left the flowers and the other pink stuff to the girls who had unicorns on their Trapper Keepers.

Here I am with my best toad-collecting buddy, Brett, basically being all boyish and geeky.

So now I am making up for lost time and I’m combing Pinterest for ideas. I have come up with these contenders so far:

Photo courtesy of Petals by David.

Photo Courtesy of Catch My Party.

That’s a decent start, right?

It only took me three HOURS to find two designs I really liked.

I think I have to turn off the Tift Merrit, down the entire bottle of ibuprofen, and watch Iron Eagle now because I hate being in a funk. It’s going to take Jason Gedrick blowing up some oil wells to cheer me up today, I’m afraid.

Do you have any arrangement ideas that might inspire me?

Please send help!

Tired Glue Gun Trigger Finger (Or How to Make a Chandelier from Coffee Filters)

A few months ago, I discovered the DIY instructions for making a chandelier out of a chinese lantern and coffee filters, and I just HAD to try it. Not because I had any need for the fluffy orb, mind you, but because it just looked like fun to make. I figured I’d will it into some sort of design submission eventually….

Initially, I only intended to make one hanging pendant, but in a turn of events that surprises no one… I got carried away.

As soon as I finished covering my 14″ paper lantern with coffee filters, I went to Pier 1 to buy the actual light bulb part of the lamp. I learned that Pier 1 doesn’t sell hanging light fixtures in California. (It’s due to some law requiring all lamps sold in the state to come with a light bulb in them.)

SO, I had to buy a battery-operated LED pack instead. A few cool things came out of this:

1) The battery-operated element solved my “how-in-hell-am-I-going-to-hide-the-cord?” conundrum.

AND

2) The remote controlled version of the LED only came in a 3-pack. This inspired me to make two more orbs of smaller size.

Of course I ran into some other pitfalls along with way, and I will share them with you to spare you from making my mistakes.

First of all, I recommend semi-soothing music for this task — especially if you’re the hyper sort like me. It takes a long time to cover the orbs, and you’ll start to go a little crazy if you’re listening to, say, the GG Remix of Grenade.

I had to break up the task over about a week and a half to keep myself sane – and to prevent blisters from forming on my glue gun trigger finger.

Incidentally, it also helped that I was still in the “training my Mary J. Blige Pandora Station” stage because I had to stop what I was doing frequently to inform Pandora, “I would like more Trey Songz pretty please.” And, “Less LMFAO, thank you very much.” (LMFAO belongs on my Britney station. For real.)

In all, I think it took about 1,000 coffee filters, and about 300 miniature glue sticks to complete the task.

I still need to adjust the placement of the lanterns now that I have three of them. I also haven’t completed embellishing the orbs with ribbons and beads yet, but I’ll get around to it, eventually….

Oh, and I have absolutely NO idea how to dust them.

Any suggestions?

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