Snow “Sprinkle”

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Entertaining

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI can’t believe it’s been almost a YEAR since I hosted this “Snow Sprinkle” for a dear friend.  (Pretty much right after this party took place I got pregnant with Emily, felt pretty sick for a few months…and the rest is history, so I guess a year seems about right.)  Since this party is winter-themed, I didn’t want to let the season pass by again this year without sharing it.  I have to say I had a ball planning and styling this party and I LOVE the way all the details came together.

A “sprinkle” is what you playfully call a baby shower for someone who is having their second (or third, or fourth…) child.  The event was in January and when I saw the amazing “Bundle Up Baby” Printable Collection from HWTM I knew a “Snow Sprinkle” was the perfect theme.  To see all of my ideas and inspirations be sure to check out my “Snow Sprinkle” Pinterest Board.  

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI used cozy winter and baby elements like yarn, buttons, baby blankets and booties, all in the color scheme of the printables, to decorate for the party.  I also reused my white party frames and galvanized metal serving pieces!

The sprinkle took place around lunchtime, and I planned the menu based on a couple of things.  First, I took into consideration what my friend, the guest of honor and mommy-to-be would like.  I knew what her likes and dislikes were, but I made sure to ask her if she was having any special pregnancy cravings or aversions.  More on this later, but it did really help me create my menu, and I highly recommend it anytime you’re planning a party for someone elser.

Onion Tartlets

I like to have appetizers out as guest trickle in, so to start I prepared my caramelized onion and goat cheese tartlets, a favorite of the guest of honor.  These are delicious and very elegant.  Caramelized onions, puff pastry, and goat cheese, what’s not to love? Another friends graciously prepared classic spinach dip, another known favorite, and accompaniments.  I wish I had gotten a picture because the bread bowl she presented it in was tasty and delicious too!

Because this was a “kids-welcome” event, the second thing I took into consideration when planning the menu was creating a buffet of choices that would appeal to both mommies and little ones.  I always like to try and find dishes that will satisfy both.  With everything else going on when you host a party you don’t want to have to prepare two totally separate meals if you can avoid it.  For me a baked pasta dish is always a winner.  Pinterest has soooo many to choose from and for this party I selected a Three Cheese Pasta Bake from myrecipes.com.

Three Cheese Pasta BakeIt’s a cross between mac-and-cheese, fettuccine alfredo, and lasagna.  What’s not to love?!?  Along with the baked pasta I served some (Costco frozen) meatballs  and a huge garden salad.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyTo wash it all down I served bottled water, iced tea, juice boxes and hot cocoa.  Check out the adorable bottle wraps from the collection.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower Hot Cocoa Bar :: Just Live Life Happy A simple hot cocoa bar embellished with more yarn balls and printables.

After lunch the kids played, the mommies visited, and everyone enjoyed dessert.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI styled the dessert table with more printables from the HWTM collection, some yarn balls, and one of Lauren’s baby blankets. I tried to vary the height of the desserts to add visual interest to the table.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
Snowflake Cookies with Royal Icing
"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
Coconut Cupcakes
My friend LOVES coconut and the fluffy flakes on top of the cupcakes really resemble piles of snow.  I love it when things work out that way!
My inspiration for the dessert table came not only from my friend’s favorite treats but also from a couple of very specific cravings. She mentioned to me that she couldn’t wait to have “sushi and a margarita.”  It may not have been exactly what she had in mind, but I loved including these fun and special touches in the dessert table.
Dessert Sushi (Safe for Mommies-to-Be) "Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
I made “dessert sushi” from Rice Krispy treats, Swedish Fish, Fruit-by-the-Foot, and rainbow Twizzlers.  These were a huge hit with the kids, especially the big-brother-to-be."Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

Before leaving guests wrote notes to the baby-to-be and hung them on our wintery wish tree.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

When it was time to say goodbye, everyone took home mitten cookie favors and mini hot cocoa jars.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

I reused old baby food jars by spray painting the lids and hot glueing buttons on.  Then I filled them with hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows, and finally I used more yarn to tie on printable tags.

I hope you enjoyed getting a peek a the sprinkle.  Even a year later, looking back at these photos, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this party.  I think I might be one of my favorites! It also makes me really excited to start planning Lauren’s FOURTH birthday party! And, yes, I’ve already been planning Emily’s FIRST as well!

Stay warm, everybody!

 

 

{Menu Monday:} Week of January 20, 2014

Posted in: Eats

Ah! I still can’t believe it’s 2014! (And, yes, I totally typed 2013 first when I titled this post!)

We’re getting back into the swing of things big-time around here.  Andy was home for a nice LOOOOONG time after Emily was born, and since then we’ve been busy with the holidays and Andy’s been traveling and busy with work.  We’ve been cooking at home, as always, but I just haven’t been good about sharing our menus.  Here goes for this week:

Monday: Buffalo Chicken Salad

This is a favorite.  It’s a salad, so there’s not really a recipe, but Andy makes his special “Olive Oil Chicken” for this, and I should really share that “technique” sometime.

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

I think we are the only people who grill at this time of year.  It’s New Jersey. And it’s FREEZING. Probably below freezing actually, but we love grilled food!

Caprese Chicken :: Just Live LIfe Happy

Wednesday: Caprese Chicken

We call this dish a bunch of different things, “Bruschetta Chicken,” “Grilled Balsamic Chicken,” “Caprese Chicken.”  All those names work because it reminiscent of all those things.  Whatever you call it, it’s GOOD and EASY.  Try it! Click here for the recipe.  

Thursday: {Slow Cooker} Beef Stew

Andy’s not a huge soup/stew kind of person, but I LOVE soup, especially when it’s cold outside.  I’m planning to use a classic stew recipe from BHG, but I’m going to make a slow cooker version.  I’ll keep you posted on how it comes out and how we like it.

Easy "Lauren" Chicken :: Just Live Life Happy

Friday: ”Lauren” Chicken

Our all-time favorite.  Easy, but yummy enough for a Friday night.  Check out the sweet story behind it, and get the recipe here.

Saturday:
Saturday I think we’re going to have “Make Your Own Pizza” Night.  Our local pizzeria sells pizza dough and sometimes we like to buy some and put our own toppings on at home.  Fun!

 UPDATE (1/21/14):

Due to the return of the “Polar Vortex” and the crazy snow we’re having today, we have in fact, decided NOT to grill.  Slow cooker stew tonight and we’ll go from there for the rest of the week. I’m sure Andy would still grill tonight, but I made an executive decision to save him from the cold.  xo

 
 

Happy 2014!

Posted in: Eats, Entertaining

New Years Resolution :: Just Live Life Happy

I seriously cannot believe it’s 2014! I just can’t.

On to sweeter things…

New Years Cake perfect for New Years Eve :: Just Live Life HappyNot that my New Year’s diet would allow me to eat any of this, but how adorable is this cake for New Years Eve? This photo is from a local bakery, but it would be oh-so-simple to make your own. It’s definitely on my to-do list for next NYE.

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year to you and yours! Cheers!

{2013} Cookie Exchange: The Land of Sweets

Posted in: Eats, Entertaining, Family, Fun

 

I can’t let the holiday season end without sharing one more special post…Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I can’t believe this was our FOURTH annual Christmas cookie exchange! I LOVE this tradition, and we look forward to it every year.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I love that Lauren and I hosted the first one when she was only six months old and that now, four years later, she’s a big three-and-a-half-year-old with a baby sister (who slept through the entire thing).  The best part is that, in addition to new friends, Lauren’s “first friends” who attended the original party come back every year.  They’ve all grown so much, and in fact, they have new brothers and sisters now too!

Every year I choose a different theme for the party.  Previous themes have included Winter Woodland Wonderland and Christmas Candyland.  A Christmas favorite, The Nutcracker, inspired this year’s “Land of Sweets” Theme.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie ExchangeI LOVE this Nutcracker tea towel.  My mother-in-law sent it to me because she knew I was planning this theme.  Isn’t that sweet!?! Thank you!

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I didn’t get many pictures of the food, but I served a simple lunch of salad, baked ziti with meatballs, and, upon Lauren’s request, red and green Christmas jello.  The trick was planning a menu that would please both moms and kids.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

After lunch the moms visited while the kids played and “painted” their own cookies.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

They really got into decorating (and eating) their creations!Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

But really, who cares about lunch or playtime when there are sweet treats to be enjoyed? I planned my dessert table based on each of the four main characters in the Nutcracker ballet.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I served Clara’s Christmas Cupcakes,

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

Nutcracker’s Eggnog Poundcake,

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange(Click here for the recipe. It’s SO good!)

Mouse King’s Candy Cane Mice,

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie ExchangeAnd my personal favorite, Sugar Plum Fairy Wands.

Just Live Life Happy :: Sugar Plum Fairy Wands

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie ExchangeNext to the dessert table I set up the cookie table.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I set out large platters so my guest could display their cookies as they arrived.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I should of used a larger table because by the time everyone was finished our table was overflowing with goodies!

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

Everything was delicious, and all our friends left with plenty of cookies to share!  We’re already looking forward to next year!

Gingerbread Love

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Entertaining, Family, Fun

This Christmas Lauren was in love all things gingerbread.

We read gingerbread books,

Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Friends

made gingerbread crafts,

gingerbread craft gingerbread craft

played with gingerbread playdough,Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Playdough

gingerbread playdough gingerbread playdough

baked and decorated gingerbread cookies,

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Cookies

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Man Cookies

and made multiple gingerbread houses. 

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

We decided we wanted to share the fun with our friends so we hosted a Gingerbread House Playdate.

In preparation I collected multiple pint-sized cartons…only to find out that they aren’t the right size to cover with graham crackers. Oops!

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

It turns out, as I remembered from teaching, that it’s the tiny school lunch-sized cartons that are the right size to fit graham crackers…

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread HousesWelp, I only had one of those, so onto plan B…

Pinterest to the rescue!  I found this awesome tutorial from Caked Alaska,

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

and Andy was kind enough to assemble about a dozen for me.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

We used hot glue to assemble them, so they were very sturdy but not 100% edible.  If I had more time (and I wasn’t making these for preschoolers who might not be so gentle) I would have used candy melts or royal icing (see recipe below) to assemble the houses.  (As a related note, I’m still finding hot glue strings in my kitchen! My counters may never be the same.)

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

We cut rectangles from leftover foam core (like what you use for science fair displays, avaliable at craft stores) to mount the houses on.  We also attached a sugar cone “tree.”  We covered the ugly jagged edges with red Christmas ribbon.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

I LOVE the way they came out!

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House PartyFor the playdate we set up a child-sized table and chairs and put out a variety of goodies for decorating (and eating).

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

I gave each child small cup of white royal icing and a popsicle stick for glueing on their candy.  I also gave them a cup of green royal icing for the trees. The royal icing is SO easy to make, and it worked great!

Royal Icing

2 egg whites

1 Tablespoon water

1 pound powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites and water until foamy.  Add powdered sugar and whisk until thickened to desired consistency.

(I used my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, but I think you could even do this by hand.)

All in all, it was a really fun day with friends.  Surprisingly, it was not too messy either. Seriously! Andy and I  enjoyed decorating our own gingerbread houses too, so it definitely a fun activity for all ages.  We think these little houses are so much cuter than the store bough kits and so much easier than my usual 100% homemade house.  I’m sure they’ll become a yearly tradition in our house, and to me, family traditions are what make Christmas special.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

Preparing for “Poppy”

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Family

Baby “Poppy” will be here in a matter of days now, and I think we’re as prepared as we can be.  Here’s a bit of what’s been keeping me busy preparation-wise.

Nursery

Poppy’s nursery is ready (see more about how we updated it by clicking here).  All the baby clothes, blankets, burp cloths, etc… are washed and standing by!

What to pack for the hospital

My hospital bags are packed and ready to go too! (See this post for more details on what I packed for the hospital.)

I’ve stocked the freezer with some of our favorite meals, so we can have some easy, but tasty dinners without too much  effort once we get home.

Chicken Soft Tacos

We’ve got Chicken Soft Tacos, Salisbury Steak, Chicken Spaghetti, Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Double-Stuffed Potatoes, Chili, and even Chocolate Chip Banana Bread waiting for us.  (Click the pink links for the recipes.)

Hum, what else…

mail-in ballots

We completed our “Mail-In Ballots” for the New Jersey gubernatorial and local races.  Election Day is a just a week or so after “Baby Day,” so it will be nice not to have to head out to the polls.

I also went ahead and updated our address list for our birth announcements/Christmas cards.  I’m trying to do everything I can think of now, so we can all just relax and enjoy the new baby as much as possible once she’s here.

The infant car seat is ready, and the baby swing and Pack-n-Play have been reassembled thanks to Andy.

I’ve have appointments for one final mani and pedi and to get my hair “touched-up,” so I look and feel as good as possible for my baby girl.  I think freshly highlighted blonde hair can make up for a multitude of other beauty sins, which I’m sure to be committing in the early days with a newborn.

Lastly, the  most important thing to me was making preparations for Lauren.  I want to make sure she still has lots of fun and gets as much attention as possible during the transition time.

Big Sister Gift Baskets

I put together a little treat basket for her for each day I’m in the hospital.  Of course, the biggest gift of all will be her new baby sister, and I know she couldn’t more excited, but I think the treats are a nice bonus too.  Hopefully, they’ll give her a little something to do when she visits us as well.

I starting picking up little things I thought she’d like over the summer.  Buying things early and little by little allowed me to use coupons and pick things up on sale.  It was hard to know what she’d be into by the time the baby was born, but eventually, a few themes came together.

Horse Themed Gift Basket

Horse Themed Basket – includes a Barbie Pony Coloring Book and Storybook, Melissa & Doug Horse Stamp Set, Derby Pony Tube, Name Stickers, “Pony Party” Crayons, Monogrammed Notebook, and a Glitter Pencil

DSC_6265 copy

“My Little Pony” Themed Basket – includes MLP Coloring Book and Activity Pack, Stickers, Stuffed Rainbow Dash (Lauren’s favorite), Glitterati Crayons, and a Glitter Pencil

Halloween Themed Basket

“Halloween” Themed Basket – includes Fancy Nancy Halloween or Bust, Curious George BooFest DVD, Pumpkin Craft Kit, Pumpkin Notebook, Glitter Pens, Halloween Pencil, Jelly Beans & Lollipop

It was fun for me to put everything together (I may have gone a little overboard), and hopefully she’ll like the little goodies.

With the baby being born right at the beginning of the holiday season, I know we’ll be extra busy this year.  As much as possible, I don’t want my sleep deprivation to cause Lauren to miss out on the holiday traditions we normally enjoy.

2013 Christmas Book Advent

To help with this I’ve already prepared her Christmas Book Advent for the year.  (To see more details click here.) I even have the books wrapped and waiting for December 1st.

2013 Elf on the Shelf

Everything for our Elf on the Shelf, Rainbow’s visits are also ready and waiting.  (See more details in this post.)

Lastly, Lauren loves “activities” which are pretty much crafts, preschooly-type lessons, and sensory activities.  With the help of my Pinterest boards and my craft supply stash I’ve prepped more Halloween, fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas “activities” than we’ll ever get around to doing.

"Activity" BoxI’ve organized everything in a hanging file box with one file for each craft or lesson.  The file holds all the prepped supplies so all I have to do is choose one and enjoy spending time with Lauren.  When possible, I included a holiday book to go along with the activity.  We already completed some of the files and I really like having everything ready to go in this way.  It’s something that I think is really helpful even without a newborn in the house.

The few hours a week that Lauren’s been at preschool has really helped me get everything done!

And now, I’m going to try and do something I refused to do when I was preganant with Lauren.  I’m going to try and take a little extra time to relax and put my feet up.  I’m going to try and just enjoy being pregnant and use it as my excuse to be lazy until the big day.  Wish me luck between now and then, and of course, for the BIRTHday!

 

October!?!

Posted in: Eats

I feel like I blinked my eyes and suddenly it’s October! Between Lauren starting school, Andy’s birthday, and a couple of quick trips September flew by.  Oh, and of course, we’ve been getting ready for “Poppy.”  Regardless, fall and October are here, and I want to try and share a few more posts before we take a baby-break at the end of the month.

Like most moms, I love Target, and I especially love all their holiday goodies.  Right now they have a huge variety of specialty Market Pantry Halloween snack foods including pumpkin cereal bars and black and orange tortilla chips. I just had to pick up a few things and stick them in the pantry to help make the month more festive and fun for Lauren.

Halloween Goodies at Target

Another Halloween favorite from last year that I was so excited to see back in Target was Kraft‘s “Trick-or-Cheesy” macaroni-and-cheese.

mac-and-cheeseI usually try to give Lauren Annie’s or homemade mac-and-cheese, but I just can’t resist Halloween-shaped noodles! Right now Target has a special going on, and you can get four boxes for only $3.  I can’t resist that good of a deal either.

If you haven’t been to Target lately, you’d better run.  These things tend to sell-out quickly.  Happy (Early) Halloween!

 

{Menu Monday:} Week of September 9th & Weekend Peak

Posted in: Eats, Family

A highlight of our weekend was taking a “Sunflower Tour” at our favorite local farm.  Actually, because the tour included a bumpy hayride, “Poppy” and I stayed home and worked on “projects” while Andy and Lauren enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery.  Thankfully, Andy took about 300 pictures on the trip, so I felt like I was there.  Maybe next year the whole family can go…

Speaking of sunflowers, I love them so much that I still have my August “Wreath of the Month” up, but other than that I have the house all decorated for fall.  I’ll post pictures soon…

One more picture from our weekend that I thought was too cute not to share…

Lauren has been really into horses for the past few months.  I bought her these Melissa & Doug horses a while back and she LOVES them.  Over the weekend, she and Andy built this horse ranch with Lincoln Logs.  Isn’t it so cute?

That pretty much sums up our weekend.  Here’s our menu for the week:

Monday: Teriyaki Flank Steak & Mushroom Risotto

Tuesday: Spicy Corn Chowder 

*If you love corn and haven’t tried this recipe yet, PLEASE try it.  It’s SO good!

Wednesday: Chicken Parm with Homemade Marinara

We’re making panko-coated baked chicken parmesan.  We eat a lot of chicken and this cooking technique is our new favorite.  I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Thursday: Stroganoff

Friday: ?

 

 

 

{Favorite Thing:} Easy Foods

Posted in: Eats

Here are three “Favorite Things” I’ve been meaning to share for a while.  All three are great when you need something quick, easy, and delicious to eat.

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{This Just Pinned:} Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Banana Bites

Posted in: Eats

I spotted this “Share” from Pottery Barn Kids on Facebook last week and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  The link didn’t work, but luckily the picture tells you everything you need to know to make these tasty little treats!

For an “activity” last week, Lauren and I whipped up a batch.

Chocolate, peanut butter, and a banana…that’s all you need!

Lauren LOVED using her little PBKs knife to cut the banana slices!

Topping the banana slices with PB was tricker than you might think.  Lauren sandwiched them by placing banana slice on top of each one, and then into the freezer they went.

Then it was time to dip, and Lauren got to lick the bowl!

Back to the freezer until after dinner. They made the perfect dessert (along with a few chocolate covered strawberries)!

Delicious! But making them with Lauren was the sweetest part of all!