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!

 

 

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

Happy Thoughts #4

Posted in: Entertaining

It’s October…it’s almost time for…

Source

Back to School Dinner Party

Posted in: Entertaining, Family

Whenever possible I’m trying to start family traditions for our young, growing family.  I recently found one that I just adore and I can’t wait to begin it this year.

When I was teaching Back-to-School was always my favorite time of year.  So much excitement and anticipation! I loved the planning and preparation! The week after Labor Day, Lauren’s starting preschool, and that’s really something to celebrate.  Through the blogosphere I recently came across the most adorable “Back-to-School Dinner” party from Inspiration for Celebration.

I love idea of setting special table and serving up a favorite meal, with some special treats on the night before the first day of school.  (this would even be fun the morning of or night of the first day of school)

As soon as I saw this delightful dinner, I began mentally planning how I’d set our table, what I’d serve, and what surprises I’d share!  I’ll be sure to take pictures and post after the big day, but I wanted to share this wonderful idea so that my friends and readers could plan their own special meals for their little ones if they wanted to.

Please, please, please click to Inspiration for Celebration to see all the great photos and read about this fun party.

Happy School Year!

{Menu Monday:} Week of July 29th & ICE CREAM PARTY

Posted in: Entertaining, Fun

In addition to our menu for the week I though I’d share a few pictures from the “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream Party” Lauren and I hosted today.  I love a party, and July is “National Ice Cream Month” so each year for the past three years, we’ve hosted a little get together to celebrate with our friends.  We always provide the ice cream and our friends each bring their favorite topping to share.  It works out really well, and it’s a fun way to spend a summer afternoon.  Plus, who doesn’t love ice cream?!?

You can check out all the details from last year’s party here. (Please do. It was really cute!)  I didn’t go as “all out” this year since we’re just coming off two big vacations and let’s face it, I’m tired (being almost seven months pregnant might have a little something to do with that too).  I kept things simple and the kids (and moms) still had a great time…again, who doesn’t love ice cream?

I pretty much centered my whole set-up around these red and white vinyl check tablecloths.  I wanted to be able to easily wipe up all the sprinkles and chocolate syrup that little hands drip.  Clean-up was so easy! All tablecloths were all left over from the “Rock Around the Clock Party” we threw for Andy’s mom last year.  (You can see that party here.)  I LOVED it!) Read more

Lauren’s Third Birthday Fiesta!

Posted in: Entertaining, Family

I’m excited to share the details of Lauren’s third birthday fiesta with you today.  Lauren’s desire for a pinata and our Texas roots and love of Tex-Mex cuisine inspired the party’s theme.  I put a girly spin on a traditional fiesta by using a rainbow color scheme which included hot pink, orange, yellow, lime green, turquoise, and purple.  It was my first time to style a party with SO much color and I love the way it turned out, really fun and perfect for a three-year-old’s party.  (To read more about my planning of this year’s party check out this post.)

As in previous years, we were thrilled to have family from Texas make the trip up to New Jersey to help us celebrate our little sweetie.  Bine-Bine and Pa Jim (Andy’s parents) and my sister, Aunt Lizzie, and her boyfriend Ben helped us make the party just perfect!

Without further delay here are the highlights from Lauren’s Third Birthday Fiesta! Ole!

Balloon columns and a rainbow deco-mesh wreath with mini pinata greeted our friends as they arrived at the fiesta.

We decorated the main floor of the house with traditional, colorful Mexican Papel Picado tissue paper banners.  (Thank you, Bine-Bine, for buying these in San Antonio and sending them to us early! We got most of the party decor set up early in the week.  It really help keep party-day chaos away on Saturday morning. )

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{HELP!} I need book recommendations, please.

Posted in: Entertaining

Please HELP! I want to hear from you.  I’m looking for book recommendations for upcoming summer reading, specifically for our trip to Kauai.  Even if I don’t know you, and you’ve never commented before, I’d LOVE for you to give me some ideas.

To get you started here’s a little about my reading preferences.

I don’t like anything too serious. (No Kite Runner for example.)

I don’t like anything too scary. (No Stephen King, etc…)

I LOVED The Help.

I LOVED The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. (Probably one of my favorite books, ever.)

I LOVED both the Harry Potter and Twilight series.  I haven’t read any of The Hunger Game, and I don’t think I want to.   

It’s summer.  I’m fine with reading something light and girly (and easy) like say, Something Borrowed or Chasing Harry Winston.

It can be old or new.  I really don’t.  I guess just something with a good story and good characters.  That’s not asking for too much, right?

So I’m open to any and all suggestions.  Please send them over, please! And, THANKS in advance!

Also, I’m thinking about using my iPad mini to read on for the first time.  Any thoughts on that from folks who use e-readers?

“Monster” Mania

Posted in: Entertaining, Family

Like many other children, Lauren is in love with Monsters, Inc.  Neither of us can wait for the new Monsters University movie to come out next month.  We’ve never taken Lauren to the movie theater before and we’re all looking forward to this special family date night.

Last week, our fabulous library lady, Ms. Linda, shared many books and songs about monsters and I thought I’d pass ideas along here.  If you have a little monster lover at home these are just the thing to keep them entertained until the movie comes out.

Some monster books you might enjoy:

The Perfect Little Monster by Judy Hindley

This is a sweet story about a baby monster who is just a little different from the other monsters in his family.

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