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a recipe to bark about...

3.31.2010

I get weekly e-mails from the Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog and today’s included a recipe that’s so easy, I’m kicking myself for not having made it sooner. Dark chocolate bark! Using the basic recipe as a guideline, you can basically add in anything your little heart desires like nuts, dried fruit, candy bits or marshmallows. Once cooled, simply wrap up your bark in labeled glassine bags and you have yourself a ready made hostess gift or party favor... that is, if you can stand to share.


{images via healthy eats}

Dark Chocolate Bark
Makes 24 pieces

Ingredients
16 ounces dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
--
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown rice cereal
OR
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup dried cherries
chopped dried apricots

Directions
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat sheet and set aside. Toast hazelnuts in a dry pan until warmed and fragrant. Let the nuts cool, then chop and set chopped pieces aside.

In a double boiler, slowly melt chocolate, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon; add brown rice cereal and mix gently. Pour mixture onto lined baking sheet and smooth out evenly into a rectangular shape (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and set aside for 1 to 2 hours (or 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge) until chocolate hardens. Break into pieces and serve.

Tip: You can store the bark in the freezer for up to a month.


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real parties: tutus & tiaras

3.30.2010

Have a look at this fabulous tutus & tiaras party from Jennifer at the Fernandez Family Journal. She did an amazing job of creating a real fairy tale for her little princess... horse drawn carriage and all!



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paper monday: trafalgar's square

3.29.2010

Allow me to introduce you to the lovable, whimsical characters of Trafalgar’s Square. When Kit shared her etsy shop and prints with me I was nothing short of enchanted. These characters are the creation of her own imagination and it’s so easy to envision an entire story based around their innocent faces & playful activities. They’d make the perfect gift for a new baby’s nursery (I’m now the proud owner of 3) or framed as a birthday present for your child and their friends. In addition to a sale on prints right now... as a special for our readers, Kit has offered free shipping for the month of April. Just mention “Birthday Girl” in the message to seller at checkout. Happy shopping!




{images via trafalgar's square}

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custom inspiration board: coastal mediterranean

3.28.2010

I created this board for Katina's 40th birthday and housewarming party. She and her husband are moving into a new home by the sea in Perth Australia, where unfortunately it is winter season in June. As such, they decided to hold the party indoors, but I suggested she could still maintain a coastal feel by creating a mediterranean theme (which also celebrates her greek heritage). I truly love this blue & bronze look and think it's going to be the perfect way to celebrate & showcase their new home.

Theme: Coastal Mediterranean

Party Ideas
Colors: blues, bronze and whites
Setting: an evening of cocktails, food and music at private home by the sea
Decorations: create old world coastal charm using blue & white patterned linens on food tables, blue napkins, colorful china and toss pillows on the floor for extra seating. Flowers may include succulents and/or simple white flowers in glass vases adorned with stones or beach glass. Make liberal use of candles & lanterns as lighting.
Food: passed appetizers and small plate stations with a mediterranean flavor (ie: dolmas, falafel, hummus, lamb, filo wrapped chicken, tabbouleh and other salads, etc). Consider a traditional birthday cake for dessert iced in fondant with blue, bronze pattern detailing, and include a few traditional desserts like baklava or cheese & fruits such as pears, figs and grapes. drinks: cocktail service including a special champagne bar area (with bottles in blue glass ice buckets or other accents of blue).
Favors: jordan almonds are a traditional greek favor and can be wrapped up in delicate packaging with paper labels.
Other: a greek band for dancing and background music during cocktails & dinner.

Photo Credits
Row 1: table setting via weekend host; china via country living; invite via dauphine press; greek panorama via google
Row 2: pear place card via
100 layer cake; greek salad via real simple; mosaic table setting via sunday suppers
Row 3: succulents via
ritzy bee; jordan almonds via lolliblog; paper fans via flickr
Row 4: tent and pillows via
betsy white; menu via brooklyn bride; champagne via hotel club

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custom inspiration board: for the 'love' of tennis

3.27.2010

Kari is hosting a fundraiser at her tennis club next month and wanted some decoration ideas to play off a navy blue and citron green color palette. It should be quite a lovely evening, as plans are already in the works for a catered dinner, silent auction, dancing, a lounge and giveaways. Here are some suggestions to keep the look modern and preppy in keeping with the setting and the occasion...

Theme: Tennis Fundraiser

Party Ideas
Colors: navy blue & citron green
Setting: evening outdoor event at a tennis center
Decorations: use white as the base color with the greens and blues as accents (white lounge furniture with crisp striped pillows, white flowers with greenery, blue & green labels etc). use round shapes to emulate tennis balls (hang white paper lanterns, and consider moss balls, pomanders, vases of green apples. if using place cards, create planter boxes of fresh cut grass to stick in cards.
Food: catered buffet with passed appetizers. consider offering dessert stations and coffee at lounge areas.
Favors: grab bags to be covered by local sponsors

Photo Credits
Row 1: tennis court lounge via lolliblog; table setting; outdoor lounge (image provided by kari)
Row 2: hanging moss balls via
the party dress; water labels; lounge via brides; dessert table via the knot; bar via coco cozy
Row 3: centerpiece via
artfool; vases via backstage bridal; cocktail tables via the knot; pomander via blossom sweet
Row 4: lounge via
coco cozy; placecards via z davis wedding; lanterns via ariella chezar

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show & tell: real party highlights

3.25.2010

Take a look at some of the latest & greatest parties I've received in the past couple of weeks... since sadly I don't have time to feature them all, be sure to go check out these blogs for the details!

flirty & thirty from
eat drink pretty:


parties & pretties parisian boulangerie:



odd girl out's sponge bob & tutus:


'this party rocks' from girl outnumbered:


seeing dots at mrixie pixie:


goosie girl's game night:


fun favors family guy theme:


mattie's roaring twenties bash:


frogs & dogs from you're invited:


construction theme from the dann family chronicles:

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black & white cookies

3.24.2010

Last weekend I attended a 5th Anniversary picnic for my friends Anna & David. I wanted to bring them something home baked and decided on classic black & white cookies. These cookies are a favorite bakery treat of mine, but this was my first attempt at making them at home. This recipe worked great, but things got amusing when my husband (who is a die hard east coaster) insisted that they didn't count as true black & white cookies unless they were BIG. So when my palm sized cookies didn't meet his standard of excellence, he took the remaining batter and made some giant cookies. And I mean giant... which of course didn't fit in the cute box I'd designed & labeled for the party. Admittedly though, the giant cookies were just as delicious and way more fun to eat, so feel free to experiment with the recipe for yourself.



{images copyright bg2010}


Black and White Cookies

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
makes about about 12-24 cookies depending on size

Ingredients
Cookies
4 cups (16 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup whole milk
Icings
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
5 cups (20 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2-4 tablespoons water

Directions
1. For the cookies: Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and lemon extract until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, and the remaining milk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until combined.

4. Scoop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Use the back of a spoon or your finger dipped in water to smooth the tops of the cookies. Bake the cookies until the edges are just beginning to turn light golden brown, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking.

5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Repeat with the remaining dough using cooled, freshly lined baking sheets.

6. For the icings: Bring the corn syrup and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Measure half of the icing into a separate bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate and 2 to 4 tablespoons of water as needed until the mixture is smooth and spreadable.

7. Place 2 large wire racks over parchment paper for easy clean up. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the chocolate icing over half of each cookie with a small spatula, then let sit on the wire racks until the icing has just set, about 15 minutes. Spread the vanilla icing over half of each cookie and let sit until the icings have hardened, about 1 hour before serving.

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happy birthday dear blog!

3.22.2010

I can hardly believe it's been a year... today is Birthday Girl's 1st blog birthday! One year later I'm happy to report that things are really starting to take off. I can't tell you enough how grateful I am for your support and positive feedback over the past 12 months. In truth, there's been many a week where I've felt overwhelmed by life's demands and have considered giving up this little project and letting countless other talented party bloggers have their fun. But just when I'm at the breaking point, one of you inevitably sends me a comment, e-mail or submission that brightens my day and reminds me why do this in the first place: because I really truly love celebrating good design and creative details. It seems I've found my passion here in this most unlikely of places... and if I hang on long enough, who knows where it might take me next?

And so, in the spirit of reflection I've taken a look back at a year's worth of posts. Here are just a few of my all time favorites. I hope you enjoy them (again).

favorite birthday cake: smitten kitchen's yellow cake with chocolate frosting


favorite inspiration board: a very sweet sixteen


favorite real party: imprintable's 'the apple of my eye'


favorite letterpress cards: dee & lala


favorite gift idea: saint cupcake's delivery box


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custom inspiration board: a sweet spring fling

3.21.2010

Karie had a few themes in mind for her daughter's birthday, including a garden party and a cookies & milk party, so we decided to combine them into a spring fling theme! The party is being held outdoors on a May afternoon. Hopefully the weather will be just right to lend itself to this bright and colorful event...

Theme: Spring Fling

Party Ideas
Colors: bright pinks, blues and greens
Setting: an afternoon garden party with sweets & desserts
Decorations: add to the garden look with loads of spring flowers including rananculous, peonies, and garden roses. hang a mix of paper lanterns and pom flowers from the trees and house and use butterflies of various colors & sizes to accent the the decorations and the tables. tablecloths can be a mix and match of different fabric colors and patterns to add a bit of whimsy.
Food: a layered dessert buffet on brightly colored linens with cookies and jars of candy and have a cake or cupcakes as the center statement piece. also have a beverage station with lemonade, pink lemonade, limeade, water and milk (for the cookies).
Favors: as an activity (or prepare beforehand) create spring 'crowns' by wrapping ribbon and artificial flowers around a headband. tie brightly colored ribbon streamers to the back end. also provide glassine bags for the girls to take home extra sweets.Other: have the girls wear bright spring dresses to add an extra pop of color.

Photo Credits
Row 1: dessert buffet via kelly moore photography; invite via minted; macaroons via taste
Row 2: butterflies via
save on crafts; long table via design mom; rock candy via amy atlas; rananculous via better homes & gardens

Row 3: cake via the party dress; outdoor table via sweet designs; gifts via the purl bee; table setting via porterhouse designs
Row 4: lemonade station via
country living; butterfly lanterns via martha stewart; grassy table via jose villa; streamers via kelly moore photography

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custom inspiration board: april showers

3.20.2010

This theme is a personal favorite of mine. I created it for Jo who is hosting a baby shower for her sister next month. I love the idea of playing on the word 'shower' and using modern, weather inspired details. And of course, it would also work just as well for a bridal shower...

Theme: April Showers (bring May babies)

Party Ideas
Colors: yellow & pale aqua blue with grey accents
Decorations: Use a weather inspired theme of umbrellas or paper parasols, centerpieces of sunny spring tulips, poppies etc... consider using rain boots amongst vases to hold flowers
Food: a big jar of lemonade with fresh lemon slices and little paper umbrellas for the drinks. Have desserts that are reminiscent of weather... marshmallow 'clouds', cupcakes with 'sprinkles', 'sunny' lemon tart etc.
Favors: umbrella shaped cookies in glassine bags with coordinating tags

Photo Credits
Row 1: invite via
tiny prints; lanterns via lora jeans mag; lemonade jar via browner brown; table setting via amorology
Row 2: parasol via the nest; baby cakes via amorology; brownie pops via hwtm
Row 3: flowers via utterly engaged; place setting via the party dress; lemon tart via blue orchid design

Row 4: paper umbrellas via ms crafts; cupcake via county living; candy jar and table setting via lolliblog

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real parties: a garden party

3.18.2010

We've been having some unseasonably warm weather in the Bay Area this week, and between that and the time change I'm finally feeling like spring has sprung. Hurray... my favorite time of year! So what a perfect day to feature this darling 1st birthday garden party from Amanda. Butterflies, fairy wings and flowers... so cute.







{images via amanda}

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custom inspiration board: unique new york

3.14.2010

Toni and her husband are celebrating their 40th birthdays with a large dinner party in their yard. Toni's love for New York inspired the event and she gave me free reign on my interpretation, so I opted for 'big city chic meets backyard charm'. The colors lend themselves to the theme by suggesting sophistication with a bright fun pop of yellow...

Theme: A New York Inspired 40th Birthday

Party Ideas
Colors: black, white and yellow
Setting: cocktails & seated dinner outdoors for 50 people. sophisticated city style in a relaxed backyard atmosphere.
Decorations: black and white patterned table cloths with yellow napkins and simple china. sunny centerpieces of yellow flowers including parrot tulips, daises, ranunculus, garden roses etc. for seating assignments, have rows of red apples and attach a tag to each apple with guest’s name and table. name each table after a different landmark in New York (ie: empire state building, central park, statue of liberty) and have B/W photos framed on each table showcasing the corresponding location. string large lights across the pool and dinner tables, italian restaurant style. above the buffet tables, hang lanterns if possible or use votive candles for a romantic effect.
Food: traditional italian buffet with ceasar salad, bread sticks, pasta. offer chocolates and cigars with dessert. for drinks: in addition to beer and wine, consider a champagne bar for toasting to add a little extra new york flair.
Favors: if you go with the champagne bar, have champagne flutes engraved with the event name and date for each guest to take home. or play off the ‘big apple’ concept and offer caramel apples or another variety of apple treat to take home at the end of the evening.

Photo Credits
Row 1: Invitation via
minted; flowers via rose now; hanging langerns via credit crunch bride
Row 2: flag table via
mer mag; apples via papery and cakery; flowers via style me pretty
Row 3: desserts via
amy atlas; champagne bar via todd events; antipasto via style me pretty; striped table via mer mag

Row 4: yellow table via jessica claire; flowers via ariella chezar; outdoor dining via snippet and ink

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custom inspiration board: 80th birthday

3.13.2010

Monique wanted some ideas for hosting an 80th birthday party for her grandfather. She already knew she wanted a navy and silver palette, but couldn't figure out how to work the elements into decorations, food and centerpieces. I gave her some ideas to make this event an elegant affair while maintaining a sense of comfort and family style.

Theme: 80th Birthday

Party Ideas
Colors: navy blue and silver
Setting: a backyard family dinner
Decorations: navy blue tablecloths with white or blue plaid napkins. centerpieces of white and blue flowers (hydrangea, berries, delphiniums, gardenias etc). votive candles in silver mercury glass on the tables. frame old family photos in silver antique or mirrored frames and either place among the dinner tables or on a special table with the desserts or gifts. hang string lights across the dinner area and/or use hanging lanterns in the trees.
Food: provide menu cards in navy and white to coordinate with the invitations. have a special dessert table with birthday cake, blueberry tarts and a selection of sweets and chocolates in white, blue or wrapped in silver papers. people can bring the home the extra sweets as favors.
Other: Since your grandfather loves the guitar, consider hiring an acoustic guitar player or group to provide the music for the evening.

Photo Credits
Row 1: bouquet via instyle; frames via curious sofa; table setting via the knot
Row 2: placecards via
the knot; mercury glass via apartment therapy; tarts via chocolate shavings
Row 3: sparkler cup via
pepper; string lights via modern outdoor lighting; placesetting via tastefully entertaining; lanterns via martha stewart
Row 4: guitar player via
dj solutions; candy vases via flickr; flowers via hwtm; menu card via style me pretty

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