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paper monday: taking things personally

11.30.2009

Hi all! Sorry for my disappearing act over the Thanksgiving holiday. It's funny how things tend to slip through the cracks when you're not on a schedule, isn't it? I had such a relaxing 4 days though... spent time with family & friends, ate entirely too much turkey, braved the mall on black friday, attended a baby shower, took our puppy to the dog park, watched movies and was generally lazy. Yep, a pretty good long weekend I'd say.

On this post-holiday paper Monday, I'd like to introduce you Taking Things Personally. I heard about Marni's site from my friend Sharon and learned she's a fellow Tulane alumni and Californian. Marni decided to run and expand her mother's stationary business in LA after her mother passed away from breast cancer several years ago. As the name suggests, she takes a very personalized approach to the business and in honor of her mother, a portion of each order is donated to Concern Foundation for cancer research. I'm very impressed by the variety of options offered on the site, and am particularly fond of the patterned invitations below. Each has a modern feel, well suited for a milestone birthday or anniversary party. Everything is 10% off through December 26th, so now's the time to shop.




{images via taking things personally}

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perk up your turkey day with pumpkin cheesecake

11.25.2009

If you're feeling the stress of holiday cooking this year, just focus on the best part... Dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

{recipe & image via woman's day}


Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

1 box (7.05 oz) ginger lemon creme sandwich cookies (carrs)
2 Tbsp melted light butter
2 tubs (1 lb 8.3 oz each) refrigerated cheesecake filling
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Garnish: toasted pecan halves, caramel sauce

Directions

You'll need an 8 x 3-in. springform pan coated with nonstick spray. Place cookies in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add melted butter; process until crumbs begin to stick together. Press over bottom of prepared pan.

Stir 1 tub cheesecake filling in large bowl until smooth; spread onto crumb layer.

Stir remaining tub of cheesecake filling, pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie spice in same large bowl until blended and smooth. Evenly spread over plain cheesecake in pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or until set

To serve: Remove pan sides and place pecans around top edge of cake. Put caramel sauce into a small ziptop bag, snip a small tip off one corner and pipe sauce on top.

Plan Ahead: Make cheesecake 2 days ahead, then top with pecans and caramel sauce just before serving.

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packaging your holiday fun

11.24.2009

I love these simple packaging ideas from garnish. The kraft paper boxes inspire me to host a holiday cookie swap.



{images via garnish}

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show & tell

11.22.2009

I'm off to the hospital to meet my best friend's brand new baby girl. In her honor, I leave you with a few of my all time favorite baby showers (and other happy web discoveries I made this week).


alphabets & elephants.

milk & cookies.

cirque du bebe.

hoot for little owls.

red & aqua inspiration.

hot pink zebra party.

at home letterpress... can it really be?

good food galore.

love letters.

handmade holiday shopping.

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real parties: pink, green & girly

11.19.2009

Jessica of Party Box Design created this adorable party for her daughter’s 1st birthday. Everything about it truly is pink, green and girly... from the flowers to the favor boxes to the water bottles. Not only did she hand make these luscious cupcakes, but she also designed the tutu wrapped cupcake tower to compliment her daughters party attire. She even created a signature drink for the day, a “Charli-tini” in pink martini glasses. It’s a cute overload!






{images via party box design}

If you’d like to submit an original birthday party for consideration, e-mail me at birthdaygirlblog{at}gmail.com. (And remember, it's not all about the kids... parties thrown for friends & family are just as much fun to feature!)

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apple pie cupcakes

11.18.2009

For a twist on tradition, how about adding these yummies to your Thanksgiving feast?

{recipe & image via annie's eats}

Apple Pie Cupcakes
Makes 24

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the apple filling:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 tbsp. sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

For decorating:
vanilla buttercream

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well to combine. Add in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pans. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the apple filling, heat the butter a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon and sugar and cook for a minute, until the mixture begins to bubble. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the apples. Mix well. Cook until the apples are somewhat tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

While the apple mixture is cooling, use a knife to remove a chunk from the center of each cupcake, making sure to leave a rim around the top of the cupcake. Fill the holes with the cooled apple mixture. To decorate, top each cupcake with a swirl of vanilla buttercream.

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party inspiration board: winter wonderland

11.15.2009

My friend Natalie was looking for ideas for her son's 1st birthday in December and wasn't sure whether to use a holiday theme or a traditional birthday theme. I suggested a winter 'one-derland' party so she could get the best of both. A mix of blue, white and bronze would tie in beautifully with traditional holiday decorations, and to give the party a woodland effect add plenty of white branches, mirrors, crystals, winter critters and dust everything with a layer of faux snow. Snow globes would make fitting favors, as would treat bags filled with a variety of white chocolate sweets. And don't forget the eggnog for the grownups!

Resources
Row 1: table setting, cupcakes and branches via lolliblog; white sweets via rebecca thuss
Row 2: snowglobe via beau-coup; macaroon via please pudding; woodland critters via pottery barn
Row 3: eggnog via martha stewart; invite via barbara neely via etsy; trees via bella beach weddings
Row 4: feathers via country living; reindeer via pottery barn; sweets via beach vintage; cake via the nest

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real parties: spies & secret agents

11.12.2009

Check out this fabulous spy party from Lisa in Colorado... she pulled out all stops to make sure her son’s 9th birthday was filled with big adventure. The invitations were ‘top secret’ files and the guests were sent on a mission to find the missing birthday gift... well equipped with important accessories like dark glasses and hats. The brightly colored decorations and sweets buffet kept things from getting too serious, but the kaboom cake with the sparkler candle added just the perfect hint of danger. There are lots more pictures and details on Lisa's blog, so be sure to go ‘spy’ on the the rest...






{more details & images via moore minutes}

If you’d like to submit an original birthday party for consideration, e-mail me at birthdaygirlblog{at}gmail.com. (And remember, it's not all about the kids... parties thrown for friends & family are just as much fun to feature!)

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lemon & olive oil cake

11.11.2009

Lemon & olive oil combine to create this slightly savory cake. It's both light enough to eat for breakfast and pretty enough to keep on hand for holiday guests. For added depth of color, I recommend dusting with powdered sugar and garnishing with a blend of lemon & orange slices.

{recipe & image via the kitchn}

Lemon & Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients
3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
1 large lemon
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
garnish: lemon slices, crème fraiche

Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease spring form pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to spring form pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

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paper monday: martha stewart paper crafts

11.09.2009

Last week I attended a house party hosted by Vera of My Ten Thousand Wedding. She was lucky enough to receive a box of goodies from Martha Stewart crafts with instructions on how to create a birthday card and a gift box. Martha’s new craft punches were lots of fun to work with... there’s a new set with that allows you to punch all the way around the page for decorative edging and pretty gift tags. Truth be told, our creativity ended up getting the best of us... we each had our own take on the projects instead of following the instructions explicitly (shhh, don’t tell). It’s not often that I spend a weeknight crafting and meeting sweet new people, and I think it could be fun to turn this into something regular. Are any of you readers part of a craft group? If so, I’d love to hear about it...


{images by vera d}

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real parties: lucky strike bowling bash

11.05.2009

A few weeks ago I mentioned I was designing the favors for a Mad Men inspired ‘lucky strike’ birthday party. With so many guests attending, I kept the favors simple and created postcard style retro bowling scorecards. One of the goals of the party was to make new networking connections, so I left an area on the back for filling out contact information and printed 500 so guests could grab a stack and hand them out. They turned out just as I’d hoped and seemed well received by all. Some of the other party highlights included a photo booth where guests could show off their swanky 60’s outfits, a 4 piece jazz band and 2 giant cakes including the martini glasses below... all this was in addition to 60 lanes of bowling!






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apple cranberry pocket pies

11.04.2009

William Sonoma is brightening up my fall with these cute pocket pie molds. The instructions are easy to follow and their recipe below for apple cranberry pocket pies sounds absolutely delicious. How about making them with your kids and handing them out to neighbors, friends or as favors at your next fall gathering...

{image via william sonoma}

Apple Cranberry Pocket Pies

Ingredients
-For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 to 8 Tbs. ice water
-For the apple-cranberry filling:
1 1/2 lb. Pink Lady or McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
5 oz. fresh cranberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. water
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
Granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the flour, salt and the 2 Tbs. granulated sugar on low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the butter and beat for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 1 1/2 minutes more. Add the 6 Tbs. ice water, reduce the speed to low and beat for 20 seconds. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water, 1 tsp. at a time, beating for 5 seconds after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide the dough in half, wrap with plastic wrap and shape each into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

To make the apple-cranberry filling, in a large bowl, stir together the apples, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cornstarch. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apple mixture, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are just tender but not mushy, 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and let cool for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries, granulated sugar and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have broken down slightly and the liquid has thickened to the consistency of a loose jam, about 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Add the cranberry mixture to the apple mixture and stir to combine.

Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out 1 dough disk into a round 3/16 inch thick. Brush off the excess flour. Using an apple pocket pie mold, cut out 8 of each shape (4 solid and 4 with the decorative cutout). Reroll the dough scraps, if necessary, and cut out more shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough disk.

Place a solid dough shape in the bottom half of the cutter and gently press the dough into the mold. Fill the center with 2 Tbs. apple-cranberry filling and brush the edges of the dough with some of the egg wash. Top with a shape with a decorative cutout. Press the top half of the cutter down to seal and crimp the edges of the pie. Remove the pie from the mold and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Freeze the pies for 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Brush the top of the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is gently bubbling, 22 to 24 minutes. Transfer the pies to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 pocket pies.

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