Get Your Glue Gun (Or Everything is Better with Plastic Sharks)

I’ve been reading through old screenplay drafts this week, and it’s almost like reading old diaries. There’s something really satisfying about tracking your progress as a storyteller this way.

It’s kinda cool.

But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about glue guns instead.

I had a small picnic recently and because I’m into being budget conscious at the moment I decided to recycle elements from my nautical birthday party two years ago.

My stenciled buckets made a comeback, among other things.

I bought these at Target and used my Martha stencils like a DIY goddess.

This is a pretty terrible picture of them, but you get the idea. 

It would not have been a challenge to just pull old party props out of a closet so I decided to throw some sharks into the mix. (That’s where the glue gun came in.)

See?

I glued a shark on a jar. Get excited for me.

I glued a shark on a lid. Get excited for me.

Actually, I glued a lot of sharks on lids.

More sharks on lids. Amazing.

So many pretty ocean predators. 

Riveting, right?

If you’re wondering what I did with the jars, I’ll show you.

Pea soup. Pea soup and sharks.

I put pea soup in them. 

This is the recipe for the pea soup, in case you want it.

And now I’m going to relax because someone told me today is the start of a holiday weekend.

Or whatever.

It’s All Love (Or Every Day Should be Valentine’s Day)

I know you’re thinking Valentine’s Day is so two weeks ago… but guys? It’s not. I’m all about love right now, and it started with this cake. 

Ombre frosting and gilded dino Valentine's Day Cake from Dogs Dishes and Decor

This is how dinosaurs show love. (They told me.)

I think Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap, but it’s probably because we let the whole thing get so out of control with candy and cards that we forget it’s actually about LOVE. When we shift the focus from love to the trappings of love, we make it a day filled with pressure and expectations for couples that also magnetizes the loneliness of the single people.

This year I wanted  everyone to feel included regardless of their relationship status, so I decided to make a Valentine’s Day cake for my coworkers. I wanted everyone to feel love — especially the people who were really feeling down about being single.

I believe there is more to love than sex, romance, and wedding bells. The Greeks had four words for it, and only one referred to the romantic kind. They recognized love comes in many forms, and I wanted to celebrate that.

Because I have a totally wacked sensibility, I thought the best way to celebrate my all-encompassing version of love was with a little ambiguous humor… hence the gilded fighting dinos. They’re so me. I mean, I love gold paint. Plus I can’t take ANYTHING too seriously. (Even cake.)

I used the Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcake recipe for the cake. Then I slathered homemade whipping cream and fresh strawberries between the layers.

Strawberry layer cake on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This is what strawberries look like on a cake. In case you didn’t know.

Then I did some ombre magic with the frosting.

Ombre frosting on Dogs Dishes and Decor

The magic involved my freezer… for a few minutes on each layer.

Then I threw it all together and topped it off with toys I covered in gold paint. The dinos are such a secret metaphor with so many layers of meaning for me that I smile when I look at them, but you can interpret them anyway you wish. They can serve your story too, and that’s maybe why I like them so much. They’re not just my story; they can be yours too.

Valentine's Day Cake By Dogs Dishes and Decor

Making all this stuff? Made ME happy too.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I made this card with my Martha paints.

Valentine's Day Card on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Cake? Is for everyone. Have some.

And now I leave you with this. It’s the Supremes. They started the love train.

It’s time to get on board.

The Impromptu Preppy Pool Party (Or I Call an Audible on My Party Plans)

Guys, today is my twelve-year LA anniversary.

Twelve. Years.

Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s a looooong time to live in one place. I have to admit: in that time, LA and I have had a rocky relationship. But recently? I realized that I’m kinda crazy in love with this stupid city.

This past weekend LA did make me question its love for me, however, when a large section of the 405 was closed for construction near the beachfront hotel where I was supposed to have my birthday party. (LA? Not one of your better moments in our relationship. Just saying…)

Despite weeks of planning, I found myself facing the possibility of my friends sitting in gridlock, cursing the day I was born instead of celebrating it. (#notcool)

So, I woke up at 4:30 am the day before the festivities and I called an audible on my party. I totally changed the play on the fly ‘cuz I wasn’t going to let some freeway construction cramp my style.

With less than 36 hours before my party was supposed to kick off, I cancelled my hotel room, sent an update to my Paperless Post invite, and completely re-envisioned my menu. I also made a Pinterest Board for a totally new event — at my own pool.

I went for a simple, preppy nautical theme. Here’s how it turned out.

By Paper + Cup on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I started with the “Little Lifesaver” invite from Paper + Cup on Paperless Post. Source

Then I stenciled a whole buncha boats, anchors, and lighthouses on everything with these stencils from my friend, Martha. (#loveher)

Simple nautical party decorations from Dogs Dishes and Decor

When this is your idea of keeping things simple, it’s probably time for an intervention. Just saying…

Simple snacks at a nautical themed pool party Dogs Dishes and Decor

Here are the stenciled treat bags in action.

Sprinkles Strawberry cupcakes in Williams Sonoma cupcake liners on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I picked up some striped cupcake liners at Williams Sonoma and made a quick batch of Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes.

Also?

Nautical Chandon on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Gillian totally came through with this nautical themed bottle of Chandon. #perfection

After the poolside grilling festivities, the single people hit up a few bars in my neighborhood.

J. Crew whale sweater on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Obviously my J. Crew whale sweater and I had to keep up the whole nautical theme late night.

I know I still owe you the rest of the wrap up on Finnie’s Elephant Theme shower. Now that I think about it… LA closed the 405 the day of his Elephant shower too. I think LA hates my theme parties.

But Finnie doesn’t.

He partied so hard at my pool party that he fell asleep.

See?

Sleeping baby Finn on Dogs Dishes and Decor

So presh.

More on his shower later. I’m off to yoga.

Pandas and Elephants, Oh My! (Or I Talk About Elephant Shower Decorations)

I’d like to interrupt this elephant shower talk with the announcement that my panda is blogging again.

I realize you may not know who my panda is or why I call her that; it’s a long story. Just know she’s one of my best friends in the world and she’s also one of the strongest, smartest, funniest, most amazing people I know. And I’m so lucky to have her in my life.

Two years ago, I got to meet her son when he was only a few days old and I happened to be in Michigan for a minute. I was supposed to help her with ideas for his Winnie the Pooh Party last year and got as far as this Pinterest board before the wheels fell of that plan.

Her son is almost two now, and she and her husband are going through the surrogacy process for a second time. For anyone who wants to read about that experience, you can find the posts on her blog here. Maybe this time I can get it right and do her shower up proper. (Something to think about, panda.)

Annnnnnd now, back to elephants. And the shower I threw in March.

We wanted to keep the cost relatively low, so we kept the flowers and decorations simple. We basically just raided the aisles of Target and went with soft pastels we found soothing and stuff.

See?

Elephant baby shower on Dogs Dishes and Decor

We used wrapping paper as a table runner. Then we bought some ugly elephants from Michaels and painted that business gold with some paint from Martha.

We wanted to keep the flowers simple, so we stuffed some tulips into mason jars. I did spiff up the tulips on the craft table, just a little….

Baby shower craft table on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Bows make stuff look fancy.

For the dessert table we used the cake stands leftover from my Peter Pan party. I wish we had changed the ribbon in them. Black is kinda macabre for a baby shower. (I ran out of time.)

Dessert Table on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I also wish you couldn’t see the grill looming like some big body bag in the background, but I was too busy hosting the show to worry about the picture quality. Blah.

As you can see, it was not perfect. But it WAS fun.

More on the menu and crafts another day. I’m sick and off to suck down the cough medicine my friend Vijaya brought me. #iloveher

I Make Martha’s Spinach, Peach, and Ginger Smoothie and It’s Only Aight (Or I Decide to Be Happy Anyway)

My grandpa always said people were too worried about whether or not they were happy. He said we should all stop thinking about it and just BE happy.

So today?

I woke up and just decided to be happy. I blasted some great tunes on my hike. Then I turned the music off, sat on my favorite rock in the woods, and got zen for five whole minutes.

When I got home I slurped down this spinach, peach, and ginger smoothie from Martha Stewart because I thought it sounded good.

Smoothie face on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I make a strange smoothie face in this awkward selfie.

Is the smoothie perfect? No. Can I make it better? Yes.

Just not today.

Today I’m smiling even though these photos aren’t perfect and neither is the food.

photo-468

#anotherawkwardselfie

Maybe later I’ll head to spinning ‘cuz that… makes me happy too.

But first?

I’m people watching at Peet’s because I love their lattes and I have a great view of some seeeerious characters on the sidewalk. #thesepeoplehavepinkhair

#happy

I’m a 13-Year Old Girl (Or This Adolescent is Planning Another Baby Shower)

I love free food. (We’ve established this.) Yesterday I was choking down my chana masala, not really in the mood for it, when one of my coworkers mentioned there was leftover food in the kitchen. Obviously I ran down the hall to investigate. When I entered the room, I discovered brown paper boxes lining the counter. I grabbed the box labeled “Spicy Italian Sandwich” and returned to my desk with my salami swag.

Upon opening the box I discovered an entire lunch had been packed inside. “There are chips in here!” I exclaimed gleefully. I was happily unpacking the other contents of the box when my coworker asked, “Anika, is your father still around?”

“He is.”

“You must bring him endless joy… because there is a part of you that will always be a 13-year old girl.”

“That’s probably why he has so many shotguns,” I replied, picking the tomato slices off of my sandwich. I wasn’t really sure where he was going with this train of thought, but my first reaction is usually to make a joke if I can.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but the way you got so excited about the chips… it was adorable. Tell him the dad in the office said so. He’ll know what I mean.” At this point I was about fifteen shades of crimson, because I’m a WASP and genuine, heartfelt statements like this make me blush. But it was sweet. And I have to admit he wasn’t wrong. I will probably always be a bit of a kid inside.

That’s why it’s hard for me to take down my Christmas decorations every year. I hate the idea of shoving all of that pretty, sparkly stuff into some dark closet. I absolutely had to force myself to do it last weekend. I mean, I think I died a little inside when I had to take the Cynthia Rowley sweater off of my vodka bottle.

photo-319

He was so cute and toasty in his sweater.

Now he’s naked. And Ordinary.

And my polar bear bearing candy?

photo-320

So generous. And regal.

He’s back in a closet. Crying ‘cuz he’s not handing out licorice in my living room.

But it’s time to move on. I get that.

I know I can’t hang on to the season that has past or I might miss what the new season has in store. I honestly don’t know what this spring will bring because absolutely everything in my life is up in the air, but I do know I’m planning a baby shower for one of my best friends. And that’s pretty awesome.

It involves elephants. For real.

See?

invitation

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post

I’m trying so hard not to do this to the dessert table.

jude-perry-st-0067-mld108634_vert

Photo courtesy of Martha. Obviously.

We’ll see if restraint preveals, ‘cuz this is all kinds of cute, right? (Plus it brings back polar bears.)

If you want to see what else is percolating in my party planning brain, you can check out this pinterest board.

Soon we’ll discuss my bedroom situation because I decided arson wasn’t the answer.

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 Aftermath Post 6 (Or Babies and the Best Banana Cupcakes Ever)

Banana Cupcakes, mateys.

If you’ve been reading my little bloggy for a while, you know I was prepping for a baby shower as well as my birthday party last week. And if you’re starting to feel like I’ve been a total only child by only writing about my Peter Pan Party, let me take you back to last Friday for a moment.

Picture this: It’s August 3. It’s 5 am. And it’s my birthday.

A certain puppy’s plaintive cries rouse me from my sweet birthday slumber. I decide to stay up even though it’s still dark outside because I’m absolutely up to my eyes in sewing owl sachets and baking and whatnot.

We never wake you up before dawn and go back to bed. Ever.

After walking the baby beasts, I settle in with my latte and tear into my stack of birthday presents like a wild dog. After the requisite calls to thank thoughtful family members (who were all in the eastern time zone, where it wasn’t OBSCENELY early), I settle in to do battle with the bobbin on my sewing machine. More on that later….

After sewing 19 owl sachets I decide to switch gears and begin baking the banana cupcakes that would be the base for these owl cupcakes.

I am just about to pour the banana cupcake batter into the owl cupcake liners when I get a phone call from my friend and co-host of the shower saying, “Stop everything! Jody’s water just broke.”

True story.

It was five weeks before our friend’s due date, so we thought we were totally in the clear holding the shower on August 4. Nope.

I pull out my lime green polka dotted liners and decide we will be having banana cupcakes at the Peter Pan Party instead of chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes with seven minute meringue frosting.

See, I had planned to make the chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes for the shower and since the recipe makes 24 cupcakes and is not easily halved, I was going to split the confections between the two parties. (Obviously I was going to wait to frost the second dozen until the next day with a fresh batch of frosting because the frosting looks way heinous if it sits out.)

Change of plans.

I totally switch gears from baby shower prep to birthday prep and go about my day hoping everything is going smoothly for my friend over at Cedars-Sinai, where absolutely everyone has their babies.

A few of my friends join me later for low-key take out and drinks and I force them to watch the Twin Peaks pilot like the spoiled birthday brat I am.

Then the news comes that Connor has arrived. On my birthday.

The funny part is both of his parents went to Michigan with me, and we’re all a little obsessed with Michigan football — like someone should probably check us in for treatment — obsessed. (I should mention Connor’s uncles and grandfather also went to Michigan, and so did the co-host of the baby shower. When you get all of us in the same room together, it’s a little frightening.)

Connor’s dad had been teasing me earlier in the day on Facebook about my love of Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP and former Michigan quarterback, with whom I share a birthday. And now his son shares a birthday with him too, which seems absolutely appropriate for the ultimate Michigan Wolverine baby.

So, anyway, the good news is everyone is happy and healthy, and my friend got to skip five weeks of pregnancy while it’s like 100 degrees in LA. Plus the people at my birthday party loved the banana cupcakes even though they weren’t on the original menu.

And now I have a new birthday buddy to add to my list that already includes two of my closest friends – plus Tom Brady, Martha Stewart, and Tony Bennett.

So, here’s the recipe for the banana cupcakes. It’s adapted (err, mostly stolen) from this recipe for the most amazing banana cake ever that I bake absolutely all of the time.

May the cupcakes make your friends go into labor too. Or something.

Banana Cupcakes

2 1/4 C cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about two large bananas)
1/4 cup buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting 

1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 oz mascarpone

Sliced bananas for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place 16 cupcake liners in cupcake tins.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat the mixture until just blended. Next add the banana mixture, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, just barely beating after each addition.

Pour the batter into cupcake liners. (Do not fill the cupcake liners to the top. You need to leave a little more room in the liners than you would ordinarily. This is because these cupcakes rise more than regular cupcakes.)

Bake until the tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, and the tops of the cupcakes have begun to change color, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.

For the Frosting

Cream butter and cream cheese with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix to blend. Gradually add sifted powder sugar and mix until fluffy. Add mascarpone and carefully mix the frosting. (Mascarpone can curdle if it is whipped too much, so this last step is a bit delicate.)

If you want to skip the mascarpone altogether, just use 8 oz of cream cheese instead.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it’s the proper consistency for spreading, about 10-15 minutes.

* I don’t buy an entire container of buttermilk when I only need ¼ C. It’s a colossal waste. I make my own buttermilk instead. You can do this by adding a few teaspoons of vinegar to whole milk and allowing it to sit and curdle, about five minutes. If you don’t have vinegar, lemon juice works as well.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 3 (Or How to Make Strawberry Cupcakes)

You must make these cupcakes. I speak the truth.

There are few things on earth I love more than cilantro and strawberries. Not necessarily together, mind you, though that might be worth trying….

As a kid, I ate strawberries right out of our garden – even when they were slightly green. (I was weird. Still am.) When given a choice of ice cream flavors, I’d pass up chocolate every time and pick strawberry. I still do.

OK, you get it. I dig strawberries. So, for my totally out of control birthday dessert bar (err, round table — there was an incident), obviously I had to make strawberry cupcakes.

I need to get photoshop so I can fix my food photos — Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition style.

To make sure I actually got to eat one at my party, I carried that sweet little confection around for an hour until I was ready to eat it. It went everywhere with me as I table-hopped like that stupid garden gnome in Amelie.

So, here’s how you make these round bits of heaven:

The strawberry cupcake recipe can be found on Martha Stewart’s site here. (I recommend following the instructions precisely — especially when it comes to sifting the flour and using eggs and butter at room temperature. It makes a big difference.)

The recipe is actually from Sprinkles, the famous Beverly Hills bakery that Barbra Streisand frequents. (True story.) Since I don’t necessarily care for the sweet butter cream frostings they often use (or any butter cream for that matter), I invented my own strawberry mascarpone frosting.

The recipe is below.

Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

1/3 C strawberries, finely chopped
1/3 C powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of kosher salt

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 oz mascarpone

Blend strawberries, 1/3 C powdered sugar, salt, and lemon juice in food processer. Allow the mixture to sit for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the cream cheese and butter with the paddle attachment of your mixer. Add 1 1/4 C of powdered sugar and blend completely. (Sifting the sugar prevents large clumps from forming in your frosting. It’s worth the extra effort.) Add vanilla and the strawberry puree. Mix to blend. Add the mascarpone and blend on low speed. (You have to be careful not to beat the mascarpone too much because it curdles if you do.)

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it is the proper consistency for spreading. (About 15-20 minutes.)

Note: Because the recipe calls for strawberry puree, the frosting cannot sit out too long or it will lose some of its firmness. It’s best to frost the cupcakes shortly before serving or keep them covered and refrigerated.

Tomorrow I’ll hook you up with the banana cupcake recipe — and my salsa verde recipe — so you can see my love of cilantro in action.

And now back to my thank you notes because this spoiled birthday brat got lots of loot.

Drills, booze, flowers, and aprons. People get me.

Patience is a Virtue I Don’t Possess (Or How to Make a Dipped Vase)

I share a birthday with Tony Bennett,  Tom Brady, and Martha Stewart. While I can’t sing to save my life, or throw a spiral like a Super Bowl MVP, I do fancy myself rather handy with a glue gun and glitter paint.

Today I decide to make a gold dipped vase I found on You Are My Fave.

I start with Martha’s gold paint left over from my dipped table experiment and a $6 vase from Home Goods. I pop on a little Jay-Z featuring Panjabi MC and get to work. I pour the gold paint into a bowl and dip the top of the vase inside. Then I set the vase on a brown paper bag and wait.

It doesn’t look like enough paint, so I pour a little more around the rim of the vase to create additional drips.

It’s supposed to be easy, but of course I manage to mess it up the first time. (Maybe I’m not much like Martha either….) The good thing about this project is that you can simply peel off the paint and start over if you don’t like the finished project.

Here’s what I learned about dipping vases:

It doesn’t take much gold paint to create the look. I overdid it the first time because I underestimated how far a little paint would travel down the side of the vase. Pouring the extra paint around the rim of the vase made too many drippy bits coming down the side and made the finished product look messy.

In the end, you just have to be patient (not my strong suit) while the paint slowly drips down the side, and it’ll all work out. This is probably some sort of metaphor for life, but I’m not really in the mood to be philosophical today. It’s probably because I’m grooving to a little hip hop Bhangra.

I haven’t decided what to put in the vase yet, but I’ll eventually get around to it when I’m done stenciling tiny birch trees all over my hallway walls. (More on that later…)

I’m leaning toward some sort of white crepe paper flowers so I don’t have to continually update a wilting mess of a floral arrangement.

Suggestions?

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