Thursday, August 30, 2012

Martini Glass + Drink Recipe Card as a Bridal Shower Favor

This is a micro post about an idea for a bridal shower favor. Last year, long before I ever imagined creating a blog, I flew from coast to coast to attend one of my best friend's wedding. I wanted so much to be more involved on her special day, but distance (and a gigantic 8-month pregnant belly) prevented me from being more active in the events planning.  That's when I talked to some of our friends and we decided to throw her a "Lingerie Bridal Shower" the day before her wedding. One of our friends kindly offered her house, and I was in charge of some of the food and flowers. But I also wanted to send guests home with a little souvenir of the night (as I always do...) and I only had a few hours to pull it all together - come up with an idea, shop for and execute it. Enters one of my favorite stores: TJ Maxx. A light bulb switched in my mind and I was hoping to find some martini glasses for guests to use during the party and then take home with them. Again, the party gods were on my side - not only I found 3 sets of martini glasses (12 pieces total, being one of the boxes on sale!), but I also found a martini-shaped paper punch and some nice double-sided black & white scrap book paper! Moving on to the office supply store next door, where I found a silver marker and a spool of red ribbon.  Then I rushed back to my friend's house (with my then 3-year-old in tow) to open boxes, wash glasses, cut paper and ribbon, and assemble everything.  I tied a small piece of paper to the stem and on the front I wrote: "thank you" and the date. On the back, the recipe of the drink we were having at the shower.

Bonus: since I only used the "negative" side of the cutout paper for the drink tags, we sprinkled the "leftover" martini glass cutouts all over the table for some fun matching confetti.

So here it is: a quick, easy, useful, practical and darling way to show some love to your guests at a bridal shower, girls night out, birthday party, and even baby shower brunch (why not send guests home with a vintage teacup and saucer or a one-of-a-kind customized mug from the brunch? And then include some hot chocolate packets or homemade tea blend recipe to go with it.)

Happy partying, everyone!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unique & Practical Baby Shower Favor: Chocolate-Covered Spoons

One of my best friends is expecting a baby boy and I recently threw her a small baby shower. Even though we have known each other from many years back when we both lived in Brasil, Canada is where she calls home now, and unfortunately we don't see each other as often as I would like to.  So when she told me she was coming to San Francisco for a visit and some baby shopping, I didn't think twice and asked her if she would like me to prepare her a "mini baby shower".  It would be at least 4 of us, since she came with her mother-in-law and another one of her very close friends also lives here in the "City by the Bay."
She loves all things vintage and "shabby chic", and this was actually the tone of her wedding last year in our beloved homeland.  To celebrate the mom-to-be, we got together for a ladies' vintage afternoon tea.  All gluten-free, mind you - my friend found out not too long ago that she is gluten-intolerant and I decided that all the food was going to be "GF", so she could eat anything she wanted at her own shower.  I promise to write a full post on all the details of the shower, but for now I just wanted to share this charming idea for a baby shower favor: chocolate spoons to flavor your hot milk.
I created these tags using the event's fonts and the color blue to represent Mr. Baby :-)
Included were "instructions" on how to use the spoons: "Stir your hot milk with this chocolate spoon for a real treat!"
I arranged them all inside a repurposed empty candle holder wrapped with a decorated packing tape imitating white lace.
I had this adorable antique baby spoon engraved with the word "baby" and it couldn't be more fitting to  adorn the "spoon jar".
In case you are wondering, I got the spoons from different sources - my local antique/flea market and shops, Etsy and eBay.  Maybe a visit to your mother or grandmother can yield good results on your antique-spoon-hunt.  Good luck!
Here's a tutorial on how to make the chocolate spoons.  A little confession before I start: I didn't take pictures of the original chocolate spoons that I made... This was mainly because I had to hide my "subject" from my older kid, who kept wanting to "help" by tasting every single one I would make... So I tried to re-create the "production line".  With no further ado, here we go:


Grab your tools and supplies: 
chocolate (good quality chips, bars, shavings, pellets (callets), white, dark, milk... everything goes!)
microwave-safe bowl or a bain-marie (double-boiler) set up
spoons (I used antique ornate spoons, but it can be any type, even wood or plastic spoons)
edible sprinkles (optional - I wanted to keep it simple and use it to flavor the milk, so I didn't use it here)
Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20 seconds intervals, stirring in between.  If using a bain-marie, melt it over simmering (not boiling) water, and stir often, until smooth.  
Now you have two options: 1. dip the spoon into the melted chocolate and then lay it down on a non-stick surface (I used a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat, but parchment paper works well too), 2. or arrange your spoons on the tray first, and then spoon in a little bit of chocolate on each.  This makes for a cleaner presentation, and that's what I did originally with my shower favors.  Make sure you tilt your tray a little, using something like a book underneath, so the chocolate doesn't run while you are filling the spoons.  Wait until the chocolate cools and sets a little before adding your sprinkles.  Once they are completely set, wrap each spoon in cellophane wrap (or use organza drawstring bags like I did.)  Just make sure you keep them in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Tip: Avoid storing chocolate in the refrigerator since it can absorb other flavors and smells.  Moisture can also create condensation as it warms up back to room temperature. You should avoid temperature fluctuations all together, since the sugar and fat can separate from the cocoa and cause the chocolate to "bloom".

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time flies... Mateus' 1st birthday party (or 12th month birthday)

You can purchase the "Time Flies Colorful Chevron" Printable Collection (in either rainbow or candy colors/pastel) inspired by this party in our "SHOP" section or here on Etsy.  Thanks!!

In case you've missed it, here's PART 1 and PART 1 1/2 of this party post :-)
My baby turned one and his party was a rewarding success (both parties, actually. Check out the one he had in Brasil here, here and even here)!  I am really grateful for that. I was feeling very anxious because I had just returned from Brasil and still had to do all the cleaning, cooking and decorating all by myself.  I had no back up plan or my mom to help since she couldn't come for the party.  I know, pretty wild, huh?  I always wonder, "what did I get myself into?  No more parties!" but soon I am back in party mode again, ready for another challenge... Go figure!
Remember the photo collage of my boy's 12 months I posted here?  If you were still wondering what I did with those pictures... voilà!  I turned it into the focal point of the décor.  Since we were celebrating his "12th-month-birthday", I used an old wall clock (it has been featured in previous parties as well) with clips where the numbers would be and added a "month picture" for each hour. You can call it a "month clock" :-)  Then I added other clocks surrounding it, all set to 12 hours.
Beverage station, utensils and utensils clock
A closer look, showing a fun wobbly table clock I brought from Brasil

1. rock candy to suck, bite, stir or flavor the water; 2. colored paper straws collected from previous parties (I did a lot of reusing, recycling and upcycling here!)
3. You'll never find regular sodas at my parties.  Instead, I offered carbonated 100% fruit juices. This was the first time I tried this brand, and I have to say I still prefer Izze, a less sweet alternative.  4. reusable colored ice balls gave a nice touch to the colorful decoration and didn't convert my ice bucket into a pool of water.
All the flavors lined up
Watermelon, apple, orange and lime (limeade) juices in colorful bottles
Cute fruit slices instead of "name tags" for the juices
Homemade paper pom poms (detailed tutorial here)
I hung them on the same metal clips I used at Mr. B's 40th birthday bash years ago
Even my beverage dispenser got dressed up in yellow chevron (made with yellow adhesive paper, Con-tact brand)
In fact, as mentioned before, colored chevron (or zigzag) stripes were the decorating pattern chosen for the party, with yellow chevron being the main accent color. I used it on the backdrop for the photo booth, on the table runner and on these wonderful pillows found on Etsy.
Now let's talk food... (I hope you're not reading this on an empty stomach. If so, go grab a snack and sorry for teasing!)
I served cheese tortellini/cappelletti threaded on wood picks (which I had previously embellished with craft pom poms) and freshly made pesto sauce for dipping
Salpicão de Frango (Brazilian chicken salad.)  Notice that I used one of those colorful clocks as a tray to hold the clear dishes here.
1. chicken & mango skewers with cilantro-mint sauce; 2. gorgonzola & walnut palmiers (or "elephant ears"); 3. chicken, roasted garlic & basil meatballs; 4. mushroom turnovers (or pastéis, Brazilian oven-baked filled mini folded pies)
I found these paper goodie bags on Etsy sometime ago and just had to use them at the party somehow. It was the perfect solution for individual portions of popcorn and my homemade pão de queijo (cheese buns, cheese rolls.)
I never use these colorful "dot" metal food picks being afraid that the kids could hurt themselves, but here I found I good compromise - to use them as cheese markers, by piercing through a paper name tag.
I borrowed my son's colored pails to hold napkins and used picks at the main table
Color, color, color! For the pretzel rods, I used the remaining melted white chocolate from the "cake-on-a-stick" (a.k.a. "cake pops"- I talk about them later, keep on reading...) and edible sugar sprinkles on top.  Super easy to make, and the kids adored them!
Besides the wall and the "tray" clocks, I also had a few different ones scattered on the table, like the yellow ornate clock above...
...and this whimsical "melting clock" based on Salvador Dalí's painting "The Persistence of Memory".  You can't really see from this photo, but its top is hanging flat on the table, while the rest of the clock "body" runs down the side.
paper "clock" confetti on the table
I made small note cards with some unused chevron paper and offered some colored pens for guests to write Mateus a message on the blank side.
Chevron clothespin I made using fabric tape (washi tape) 
Recycle and compost signs
Wall clocks all set to "12"
It was a real challenge to get these pictures.  The older my baby got, the more demanding the photo shoots became.  Boy, do I have a strong and restless kid! :-)

The dessert buffet showcasing my handmade upcycled pastry stands

Several hourglasses in different shapes, textures, heights and colors adorned the sweets table
I tried to get a good shot of the whole table set, but the cake balls kept disappearing...
And here is what they looked inside. I made a "test" batch of "rainbow cake" to see how my pans and oven would behave.  Then I let it cool down, crumbled the results, mixed with homemade frosting and "hid" them in a white chocolate coating for the surprise effect.  The only way I could tell the colors inside (so I could distribute them evenly throughout the table) was a sprinkle of colored sugar on top.  They are far from looking "professional", but for my first time attempting to make cake pops, they were quite fine and delicious (which matters the most ;-)
My kid kindly offered to bite them so I could take these pictures.  The challenge was to stop him from "helping" so much...
Chocolate bars broken in rows and re-wrapped in foil and chevron paper.  I then labeled them "milk", "dark" and "nuts" for guests to pick their favorites.
"Rainbow gelatin" made by layering 7 different colors of gelatin (leftover from all the play dough making.)   A little time-consuming and I didn't think it really showed all the layers very clearly.  I thought it would be a nice touch to use empty baby food jars to serve the gelatin in, so guests would also have a personal keepsake of my boy's first year of life and eating ;-)  The lids are wrapped in Chevron fabric by Riley Blake Designs and jute twine.  I used leftover fabric to cover the base to display the jars (which in its former life served as a box to hold a small cake stand)
 Chocolate sunflower seeds - another hit among the kids!
I was concerned the macarons I made wouldn't turn out so good, thus I also ordered some from a local vendor I found a few days before the event.  Nicole Lee Fine Chocolates was wonderful and shipped them promptly!
Maracujá mousse is traditionally served sprinkled with fresh passion fruit seeds (native from Brasil, they are crunchy, sweet and good for you!)  I looked everywhere but couldn't find fresh passion fruit in the Bay area, even though they are supposedly in season and "widely grown" in California... :-(  The wood spoons are from the Sucre Shop.

And in the center of the table, the "surprise cake" I made... 
Candles in place to form the number "1".  Not sure everyone "got it".  I think it only makes sense from the second view from above...
And here's the "surprise"!  As with the cake pops, the cake was all white outside and a full rainbow of colors inside.  You can see the different layers fresh from the oven here.
"Rainbow cake" - I adapted a recipe from Whisk Kid, switching the white sugar for turbinado, and the white flour for a mix of white whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour.  For an even healthier and more natural version of this cake, check out this one made with natural vegetable dyes.
The birthday boy in 3 moments - contemplating his personal cake, parading his "1" shirt made with chevron fabric, and devouring the cake.  Ribbon skirt made out of ribbon scraps, buttons and double-sided heavy duty tape adorn his "new" highchair ($8 at the thrift store!!)
As shown on the previous post: cake and sweets boxes, party hats, balloon wreath and party favors
"Take me with you" (and "me leva pra casa") plea by the cute boxes
 Party hats and number "1" made out of chevron printed buttons
Flat back buttons from Buttons & Badges
Treat boxes - assorted gum balls in a test tube, a mini alarm clock...
...and homemade play dough in assorted colors with recipe attached

The Brazilian cachaça-based drink "Batida de Coco" was very popular and several guests asked for the recipe.  I don't really have a recipe, but I've been pretty much making it the same way for years, based on my memory of what it tastes (it's been a while I had another batida that wasn't mine, specially in Brasil.  I need to fix that...).  So here it goes, my own version of this creamy and delicious drink:

(Coconut Drink)
  • 1 part sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 part coconut milk (canned, bottled or better yet, fresh!)
  • cachaça (I sometimes use vodka, rum or even sake instead) to taste 
  • coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened) to taste
  • crushed ice
For easier measuring (and less cleanup), use the can of condensed milk as your measuring guide.  Combine all ingredients in blender, adding the alcohol and the coconut flakes little by little, tasting as you go.  For this recipe (1liter bottle), I used 375ml vodka, 1 can of condensed milk, the same measure of coconut milk and a handful of coconut flakes (no ice this time - I had no space in the freezer for my ice cube trays... love them by the way: versatile, BPA-free, durable and kind of "retro")  Transfer to a bottle and keep chilled.  It is traditionally served in tiny glasses, slightly bigger than a shot glass.

Oh yeah, and our "photo booth" was a sensation!  Maybe the batida deserves some credit for that... :-)

Check out this and many more creative parties on Bird's blog here: Link Party at Bird's Party!
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