Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"All You Need is Love" Casual Valentine's Day Brunch - plus freebies!!


If you like this collection, you can get it here (under the "SHOP" tab) or directly at my Etsy store here. And don't forget to grab your freebies at the end of this post!
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This was a small get together to celebrate love on Valentine's Day last year. We had just moved into a new place while our belongings remained in a storage on the other side of the country. I decided to host a simple and casual brunch to bring our family together and to lift our moods. I quickly made the party printables, got yummy cupcakes, brewed some freshly ground coffee, cracked a few eggs for French omelets and toasted slices of homemade bread. We all had a great time and felt ready for a new start together! 
The sweets table set up. The big frame holding the "LOVE" letters and the pennant banner is from an inexpensive old picture I found at Goodwill.

Tin mailboxes found at Target.


 Be my Valentine? 
I love the simplicity and yet, boldness of this display. The cutout hearts at the end of the skewer make it look like an arrow cutting through the deep red apple.
Wine glass "lamp shades". Use with a clean burning soy or palm wax tea light candle, or better yet, insert a battery-operated flameless tea light inside the glass.
 Another use for the cutout hearts
A closer look at the water bottle label: "Love Facts"
You can find this printables collection at my shop here ("SHOP" tab) or here's a direct link to my Etsy store here.  And, as promised, here's my free gift to you. Free invitations and a cute "love chart" for free download. Just follow the links below or click directly on the images. Please leave a comment with questions, suggestions or share pictures of your own celebration using the free printables. Thanks!
You can download your free fill-in invitation here 
And here's the link for your free "Love Chart" (or just sick on the image above). 

I hope you have fun with these freebies and enjoy a wonderful Valentine's Day.  Love is all around, we just need to open our eyes and see the beauty that abounds :-)

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Little Astronaut Birthday Party

My sister and I live in different countries and dream about styling a party together. She's a graphic designer and her little astronaut printables collection was my inspiration for my son's birthday party, as well as a wonderful collaboration experience. It was also a fun concept for a 2-year-old boy party! To coordinate with her designs I used green, blue and silver throughout the decoration as well as a little pop of orange. I added a touch of green and silver polka dots - from the table cloth (a piece of fabric atop the always reliable white cloth) to the napkins, drinking straws and favor boxes. 
The invitation from Casos & Coisas da Bonfa.
The Sweets Table

The highlight, or "pièce de résistance" of the fête's décor was the solar system planets made out of paper lanterns (as you can see in the previous post), scraps of tissue paper and other supplies I already had at home. I moved our dining table in front of our large windows so the dark curtain panels could be the backdrop to many silver shinny stars.
For the sweets table I made "green alien" cake pops with a pistachio buttercream (which was absolutely delicious!) and whole wheat cookies shaped as rocket ships, stars and the number 2. I also served astronaut ice cream drops and the same freeze dried fruit that astronauts take along on space missions. 
Freeze dried fruit from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods - raspberry, blueberry, banana and mandarin oranges.
I knew I wanted a simple but remarkable cake, and I got just that. I ordered a "green moon" crater cake from Sweet City Desserts and added paper cutouts using my sister's designs. 
 Homemade whole wheat sugar cookies
Pistachio "green alien"cake pops. You can find many cake pops (or cake truffles) recipes out there, so I'm not re-posting one here (unless you want me to, leave a note under "comments", please!). The basics of making a cake pop is to have a crumbled cake (please take the time and bake your own cake instead of using a mix from a box! For mine I used white whole wheat flour and raw sugar for added fiber and nutrition - no one can tell the difference!) plus some sort of "binding" agent, such as a frosting or filling - buttercream, cream cheese frosting, ganache, caramel, fruit jams, nut butters, brigadeiro, doce de leite, etc.  Here I used a basic butercream recipe and added pistachio flour (ground pistachios) to the mix. It made all the difference, the flavor was fantastic!! For the final coat and to seal the "truffle", you'll need chocolate pellets or wafers (the more commonly used are candy melts, which are basically colored sugar and fats such as shortening. So if you want a healthier alternative, use organic fair trade chocolate - such as Dagoba chocolate drops - instead.)
Rock sugar candy
Organic fruit lollipops; silver and white chocolate-covered Jordan almonds;
whole wheat cookies; and "moon rocks" key lime cookies

"Adopt an Alien" station: homemade green peppermint-scented play dough was used to create "aliens" by shaping them into little balls and adding assorted plastic goggly eyes. All looking forward for going to a good home :-)
The little ones loved to create their own aliens as well! For the play dough recipe, check out last year's party here
The drinks station: lime water and green juice - a mix of green grapes, green apple, melon, lime and other green fruits. 

 I finally got to hang my adorable star paper lanterns purchased at San Francisco's Chinatown - they went behind the food buffet. Some of the food pictured: tortellini pasta on a stick, biscoito polvilho (tapioca puffs), Catupiry chicken (chicken and cheese gratin), mini crab cakes on tasting spoons with chipotle aïoli, popcorn, pão de queijo (mini tapioca-cheese bread), grissini and whole wheat pretzel sticks with mustard.
We just have to have this treat at every kids' party!
I served popcorn and tapioca puffs (biscoito polvilho) inside ice cream cups with plastic dome lids, since they had a flying saucer quality to them that I just loved!

Embellished wood spoons - in case you've missed the previous post.

Adults and kids alike had fun at our "Out of this World" Photo Booth, stocked with funny props, including astronaut and alien paper masks, inflatable hugging aliens, alien sunglasses and a space helmet.  We had one last year too, check it out here!
Here's a close-up of the custom paper masks - they weren't originally included in Katia's printables kit, but I just had to have them, so my superstar sister designed them for me :-)
Finally, for the kids' complete bliss, we rented a rocket ship moon bounce from All Bounce Parties and had a space module tent on the backyard so they could burn all that sugar play all they wanted. And so they did!
 Space module tent

A nice cold bucket filled with 100% real fruit juice rocket ice pops.
 
Solar System Wall Decals
Little astronaut reviewing his "astronaut manual"...

 Is he an alien going undercover as a US astronaut? 
 Watch out!! A space man attacking a rocket ship cookie!
As party favors, kids took home the play dough, recycled crayons, custom coloring pages and some of the hugging aliens. 
Astronaut ice cream drops
Cute customized aluminum boxes were available for guests to take home the delicious cake and other treats.

So, that's it. I said I would go very basic and do a much smaller and "no-frills"party this year, due to soooooooo many projects lately - two big moves, career changes, kid starting school, mom starting school, and the list goes on... I tried to keep things simple, and gave myself permission to cut many project ideas that kept popping up on my mind. But I just couldn't resist on some of them and did more than I anticipated.  It was all worth it, and one of the best parties I put together (at least in terms of fun - my kids LOVED it!!), especially considering the short time and modest budget.

Thanks for visiting and have a fantastic week, everyone!

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For more details and a little "behind the scenes" of the party, go to the previous post here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Astronaut Party - Preparing to take off on a very special space mission!!

Here is a sneak peek at my youngest son's 2nd birthday party. When my sister Katia from Casos & Coisas da Bonfa designed this charming astronaut printables collection, I immediately told her I wanted to use it for my baby's party. I am not a big fan of character parties (well, unless you consider Elvis Presley a character) and since he just recently started watching TV, he didn't have any favorites anyway. So an astronaut party was a perfect timeless concept for a boy!

image courtesy of Katia Bonfadini from Casos & Coisas da Bonfa

I didn't have much time to plan, but a quick search online yielded many inspiring results on the theme. Bellow is a collage of some of these enchanting parties (with links):
1. Frost your Cake by Michelle; 2. One Perfect Day Blog by Ness; 3. Maria Bekiaris via Amy Atlas; 4. Living the Swell Life by Jessica; 5. Life Frosting, by Chelsea (I ADORE this hanging moon cake, so creative!!!) All very talented and imaginative ladies, congratulations!

I printed a bunch of coloring pages from the printables collection and will have them available for guests to color during and/or after the party. I am also offering star-shaped crayons that I made myself (with a little help from the kids).

I knew one day I would have a good use for all of those broken crayons we've accumulated through the years from restaurants, airplanes and birthday parties. I never toss them and even pick up the ones from under our table at the restaurant, since I know their destiny would be the garbage can otherwise...


The kids helped me peel off the paper labels, separate them in like colors and break into smaller pieces. Then I tried two melting methods: oven and stovetop. I have to say that I like the range method better - it is less messy after all. All you need is an old pan, a silicone (or even tin) chocolate or mini cupcake mold and a sheet pan (to contain the mess of melted wax!)  Keep in mind that you will NOT be able to reuse any of the utensils for cooking afterwards!! I had an old non-stick sauté pan (PTFE-free - if you haven't heard yet, you should read here about the dangers of using Teflon cookware) and $1 star shaped silicone mold from Target at home, so this whole project cost me nothing but my time (and LOTS of it - plus patience - I must add).

Other projects I've been working on...
Customized t-shirts to give as party favors - hopefully I'll have enough time for this project!

The shirts will go inside these take out boxes I found on sale at World Market. They were my inspiration for the polka dot "alien-green" and "star-silver" accent colors and design for styling this party (did you notice the table coverings on the first picture?).
I grabbed some craft wood letters at Michael's and painted them gray, brushed a coat of glue and then dusted glitter all over. I'm loving all the silver glitter and stars that are involved in this party planning!
Another project that didn't cost me much - I had some leftover wooden spoons from this baby shower and just needed to make some more using washi tape that I already had at home from previous projects.
Trying to figure out a way to hang these glittered letters up in front of the drinks table - they are heavy!
Experimenting with various green produce so I can come up with the perfect alien-green juice.
Assembling the cake toppers using hot glue, paper cutouts and memo holder clips from last year's party.
Making paper cones for grissini and whole wheat pretzel sticks to be displayed on my revolving ice cream cone holder first used at the Retro Diner Party. I just love it and it has this retro futuristic look suitable for an astronaut's party :-)

My favorite project was to make the solar system planets. It was the first project to be conceived but the  LAST to be executed!! I made them all the day before the party using only a large piece of cardboard box, recycled aluminum foil, scraps of tissue paper and other embellishments I already had at home. Some of the lanterns I already had from previous events and some others I got at an "end-of-the-summer" sale at Pier 1 - lucky me!! 
I tried to be consistent with their colors and sizes and used this picture as a guide. Source: solar system planet sizes
Here are the 8 planets all lined up. 

It's all coming up so beautifully!! It's been a bit overwhelming to put together this birthday party considering our recent moves, home improvement projects, career changes, trainings, etc. But now that it is all ready to go and I can breathe again, it's so rewarding and I am brimming over with excitement - I can't wait for the kids to see the planets up tomorrow when they get up!

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Check back soon for my post about the party, and thanks for reading :-)

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