Category: Parties

My Favorite Christmas Cut Out Cookies

“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” – Buddy the Elf
One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime is baking. I love to hunker down in my kitchen with some festive tunes and make a big mess in the process.
Christmas Cutout Cookie Tips

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Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

This past weekend we went to the Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate. The party was organized by Boston Swing Central. We went with friends and brought along our own picnic. If you haven’t been to the Crane Estate yet, GO! Castle Hill on the 2,100 acre Crane Estate is located on Boston’s North Shore in Ipswich, MA.

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Top 9: End of Summer BBQ Accessories

Must have Summer BBQ Party Accessories

As summer is winding down to an end (and since we have deck renovations on our brains) it’s time to start thinking about squeezing in as many summer BBQs as possible before it’s time to make apple pie and eat Halloween candy!  We love to host parties, and when you can add in a little summertime weather and food on the grill – well, that’s just perfection.

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Dinner Menu for a Lumberjack Party

A Lumberjack Birthday Party

If there is any “rule” in my book to hosting a dinner party, it’s don’t make it too complicated!

What’s the point of preparing and hosting a get-together if you’re going to miss it all?

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Wedding DIY Signage

One way to add lots of personality to your wedding day is DIY signage and printed pieces.

All you need is a creative mind and a printer! (And if you don’t have a creative mind there are loads of graphic designers looking to make some extra moolah.)

For the place settings I made my own namecards and table names. (Our tables were names after locations that were sentimental to us.)

I created a menu that was folded into the napkins by our venue. Having a menu is another way to add some graphic interest to your tablescape. (That’s a graphic design nerd sentence if I ever heard one.)

I bought a Martha Stewart punch and made scalloped edges on our menus.

We also created our own wedding Mad Libs and they were put at each place settings. I put them here in hopes of helping any lag in entrance time or meal time. We had a blast reading them after we returned from our honeymoon!

I also bought some large black pictures frames from the clearance aisle at Joann Fabrics before our wedding. (I also bought them with the intention of using them in our home post-wedding. Stretching the worthiness of the cost even more.)

Then, I made lots of “posters”, that matched our invitations and general aesthetic, and placed them around the room in key places like the favors table, the coffee bar, the namecards table, so on.

I also made lips and mustaches-on-a-stick for our photo booth! (As seen in the image above.)

I added some visual interest to the bar by creating signs for all of our Signature Drinks to encourage our guests to give our specialty drinks a shot.

(My favorite was “The Claymore”, as tasty iced coffee beverage.)

Lastly, I created these “luggage-style” tags to decorate our favors – bags of carnival kettlecorn.

While designing all these pieces took a bit of time, the result was loads of personality infused into our venue at a very low cost. Paper projects are a very easy and inexpensive way to turn a generic venue into somewhere that says “you”.

(I use this general principle at most parties that I hold – not just weddings.)

(And for any other nerdy graphic designers out there – I stuck to the fonts Market Deco and Fling.)

Top 9: Farewell Party to Summer

I am protesting the end of summer.

While grocery shopping this week the stockboys were putting out Halloween candy. HALLOWEEN candy.

Then, I get home and start going through my (shamelessly overstocked) Google Reader. Bloggers are already blogging about fall projects.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s been far too long since I’ve done a Top 9. Today my Top 9 is based on a theme for a Goodbye Summer party. 🙁 Wahh.

The theme is sunset-based, because summer should be an eternal sunset. (So poetic. I know.) Why? Well, I only get to see sunsets during the summer. Otherwise I leave work when it’s dark. Sunsets happen at the end of the day, this party it happening at the end of summer. And if you want to get real scientific, the days are starting to get short again, thus a sunset theme.

I’m nothing if not well thought-out. Either that, or I am a champion of meager excuses for a party…

1. First you’d need awesome, summery invitations like these to invite your favorite peeps over.

2. I think it would be fun to decorate my deck with some of these lovely sunset-colored mobiles from LilSproutCreation. With the goldenrod, coral and tangerine hues of this beauty, I think you could even sneak this into your fall decor.

3. I would serve this refreshingly tasty looking Creamsicle trifile by Amy Atlas. The colors are beautiful! Is there anything more classically summer than a creamsicle popsicle?

4. This beautiful necklace by Alyssa’s Gems and Jewels would adorn my neck and add instant “summer celebration” to any outfit. (How is it that I’ve never heard of Maple Turquoise before? It’s lovely.)

5. Ahhh, the quintessential summer activity. Friendship bracelets. I’d love to sit around a campfire and make some chevron bracelets like these babies by LARaised. (I think it’s hilarious that these are a “style trend” right now. I think people just want to dress like they are 12 again and call it a “trend”. Not that I am opposed. I still have one.)

6. A kitschy patchwork tablecloth with hues of goldenrod and pink, like this one from CakeforBreakfast, would help set the tone.

7. I would also serve this Taste-a-Rainbow cupcakes from Family Fun magazine.

8. A pretty orange dress, like one this from AmandaArcher, would help soften the wardrobe blow in the transition from summer to fall.

9. Lastly, I’d thank my friends for coming with these “Cheerio” cards from TheDesignConspiracy. I love the yellow printing and custom screenprinted type.

Around this time of year I am grateful to live in New England. The leaves start turning and we can still go to the beach for at least another six weeks. (Yes! I have swam in the ocean in October before!)

Three cheers for an Indian Summer!

Wedding DIY: Ceremony Accordion Wheels

In keeping with my August theme of wedding DIY projects, today I am sharing some of our ceremony decorations.

We got married outside and had plain white chairs. To make an impact I wanted to put these pinwheel/accordion wheels on the backs of the chairs in the back row.

I went to Michael’s and bought a pre-packaged assortment of cardstock (that just happened to be in my general color scheme) for $8. (This is definitely the most cost effective way. I believe it was 50 sheets of cardstock.)

While I did not take any in-process photos (as I did this project over a year ago – sorry!) I found a great tutorial here at: I [totally] Heart Blog

For each wheel:

1. Take 4 sheets of the same color paper and cut down to an 8×8 square (You can make these at any size. This is just what I did.)

2. Fold the square in an accordion style – about 1 inch folds. I used a metal straight edge to fold.

3. Use a hot glue gun to glue them together into one long accordion.

4. When dry, lie flat on the ground and fold around into a wheel. Glue the seam and inject the middle of the wheel with hot glue as well. You will want to hold this for a good minute to let the wheel dry.

5. I sliced a small hole in the top and looped ribbon through it to tie around the chairs.

It was a great success and made a big impact! For $15 including glue and ribbon.

The only other ceremony decor we had was some aisle runner flowers. I got the shepherd’s hooks on clearance at Joann’s and our florist did the rest!

After the wedding these were hanging in our guest room. I couldn’t part with them, so they are waiting to be hung somewhere in our new house as well!

I feel like I should be humming “Here Comes the Bride” right now… but really I walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. And I didn’t realize until this moment that they both start with “Here Comes The”.

Funny how that works!

Top 9: Derby Day Play

Today was the Kentucky Derby. A big congratulations to Animal Kingdom, this year’s winner!

Q: Animal Kingdom, how do you feel about your horse name?
A: Nayyyy. Isn’t it a Disney Safari theme park? Unfortunately I don’t get much of a sayyyy in these things.

Q: So, are you tired?
A: Are you crazy?

*The above conversation never actually happened.

Did you think you’d had your fill of weird hats for the year? Well, you were wrong. Royal weddings aren’t the only time we crazy Americans get to bring out some awesome hatware. Perhaps one of the only American celebrations that provides this excuse is the Kentucky Derby.

I’ve always wanted to have a Derby Day party, but for some reason the rainy Boston weather never seems to invite cute dresses and mint juleps. Watching it on TV also erases a lot of the appeal. That is probably why this has remained a Southern tradition. I digress.

Here are my top 9 Etsy picks for Derby Day:

1. This horse trot wooden sign would be very cute tacked up outside your house. I love the weathered look of it.

2. Mint Juleps. Yum. Not only are Mint Juleps absolutely delicious and the quintessential Derby Day drink, but using this stirring spoon would make them even more of a speciality.

3. Rusty horseshoes remind me of my childhood home. We had a horse hanging above our doorway. It had been found in our yard by a previous owner because the land had once been a horse farm. You are supposed to hang them like a “U” so they “catch” all the luck pouring in.

4. Every winner needs a prize ribbon. And this one is made out of old maps! Kentucky maps, perhaps?

5. I love this hat! I need to get this hat. For next year’s Derby Day… and also for when Prince William and Duchess Catherine renew their vows.

6. Bow ties make me happy. They are like a little smile around your neck.

7. This necklace is beautiful! I love the rustic pewter quality of it.

8. This sweet wooden pin is a great way to show some Kentucky luuuuv.

9. This vintage hunting scarf is lovely. Pair this with a pretty white sundress and a swanky hat and I think I’m ready to go!

A Bicycle Bridal Shower

My friend Eva’s bridal shower was on Sunday and, boy-oh-boy, did we have a good time TPing some fake brides and mingling over frothy confections.

The theme was (pretty loosely) based on the bride’s favorite movie, Return to Me. You know, the one with the gorillas that you probably sobbed through. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, let me give you a brief synopsis.

The main heartthrob looses his beautiful zoologist wife in a tragic car accident. Later he falls in love with a woman, who just happened to narrowly avoid death because she finally received a heart transplant… from the heartthrob’s first wife. Are you crying yet? It is a cute movie, I promise. Throw in some adorable, old, Italian-restaurant-owning men, a red bicycle and an artistic trip to Italy and you’ve got yourself the makings of a classic Rom-Com.

Back to the shower….

We went with a black, white and red theme with damask accents. I used a red bicycle in some of the accessories to play off the movie. (Fun tangent: I used a tandem bicycle because the groom bicycled across the United States with his brother on a tandem bike a few summers ago. Cuh-razy.)

To set the mood we played the melodious tunes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. The old Italian men argue who is better throughout the entire movie.

I chose this font, called Peachy Sundress, for all of our shower decor accessories. I liked the handwritten feel to warm up the modern edges of the damask. Plus, it is very cutesy. If there’s ever a place to be cutesy it’s an afternoon bridal shower on May Day.

One of my favorite things about celebrations is setting up tablescapes. You probably recognize those poms from here. I wanted to make sure the tablescape had plenty of height to make it a focal point.

As usual, I gathered up lots of accessories (*key phrase ahead* that I already owned) that were within the theme – like this metallic ampersand, a cake-topper and some red berries in a milkglass vase. A wise woman once told me “it doesn’t have to match, it just has to goooo.”

How could the shower go wrong if you have these delightful treats? I like to make name cards for the food. It’s a little silly, but makes everything feel a bit more fancy and special. It also helps it you throw in some fun descriptive words like “fresh” or “tasty” in front of them.

Or you could get really creative… “Zesty Lemonade with Fizzy Italian Blackberries”… or something like that. ; )


Setting up this tablescape is a perfect example of using things you already own and making sure your “event supply” purchases are theme-flexible. Most of the pieces I used were just black or white and very plain. The funkiness and theme comes from the fabrics, ribbons and artwork you add to the table.

We all had a great afternoon. Unfortunately I don’t have any good photos of the 1000 bunting flags that I made for the shower, but you’ve already seen those.

I will leave you with a portion of an excerpt that I read for Eva at her shower. It’s from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.

“God risked himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him unto us.”

After all, love makes the world go round.  Don’t you forget it.

First, You Take the Mallow…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv3uEGWsJhY&feature=related]

This is smores stuff. First you take the kabob. You stick the malow with the kabob. Then, you dunk the mallow. When the mallows swimming, you stick on the sprinkles and cover it with them. Then, you scarf.

– Ham Porter, (edited for my purposes)

Who can name that quote from one of the best movies of all time? (Here’s a hint: I want Wendy Peffercorn’s sexy lifeguard sunglasses)

This post is all about the “mallows”.

One of my favorite ways to add a little bit of sugary fun to a party is to make marshmallow pops. They are quick, easy and inexpensive. What else could you ask for? (*If you said healthy, you are disqualified.)

First you take the “mallow”. Spear it with a kabob stick. A toothpick would also do the job, or clean fingers for the brave-at-heart. If you are an over-achiever, unlike myself, you’ll make your own marshmallows.

Next, dip the mallow into a melted chocolate-y mixture (which you will have conveniently already melted down in your double boiler). I chose white chocolate for today, though I can attest dark chocolate is just as tasty.

Let the extra chocolate drip off in the pot. Next, roll your chocolate-y goodness covered mallow in a plate of sprinkles (or chocolate chips, coconut flakes, cinnamon imperials… whatever you fancy).

Place it on wax paper to harden and you’re done! If the chocolate shell isn’t firm, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Then, you scarf.

You don’t like marshmallows you say? You’re killin’ me Smalls!

Psssssttt…. I have a secret ingredient.

Yup! Coffee syrups! I put it in my melted chocolate for a hint-o-caramel. (I’ve also used it in cake batter, icings and brownies to my taste bud’s delight.)

Oh, and are you wondering what those delicious looking chocolate dipped cookies are in the background?

Bridal shower favors for my friend Eva. More on that later this week. : )

How do you feel about the “mallows”?

DIY: Shake your PomPom

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Martha Stewart has started a DIY sensation.

Poms are everywhere. Everywhere I tell you!

Wedding magazines are covered with them. Nurseries, bakeries and bedroom have clusters of them and I like making them! These are deceptively simple and incredibly inexpensive.

Do you have $4 and 20 minutes? Perfect! Try this out:

Step 1. Stack 6-10 sheets of tissue paper. Fold them in an accordion fashion. If you use more sheets you’ll have a fuller pom. I used 6 because I was running short on paper. Don’t use less than 6 or your pom will start to look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree-pom.

Step 2: Wrap a piece of wire around the middle of the accordian. I used jewelry wire. You could also use a twisty tie. I have also used a paperclip in a pinch.

Step 3: Cut a piece of ribbon and tie it around the middle. Trust me. Martha Stewart says to attach it at the end. She’s wrong. Martha is almost never wrong. This is one of those times.

Step 4: Round the edges of the accordion with scissors. Don’t skip this step! Your pom will look a lot less jagged.

Plus then they look like giant flower petals!

Step 5: Slowly peel away the layers towards the middle. Be very gentle because the tissue paper can tear easily. If it does tear, which some of mine did, hopefully it will be in the middle where you can hide it.

Step 6: Fluff and hang!

The best thing about poms is they are always appropriate. Bridal showers, birthday parties, just for fun… And at $1.00 for 10 sheets of tissue paper, you can’t go wrong!

Have you made poms before?

DIY Project: Celebratory Bunting

HAH!! This weekend was Moose’s birthday, so we have decorations up in our living room. But I just realized they are EXACTLY the same as the flag bunting on the Withywindle image header.

To. the. tee.

I’m not kidding. Look!

The funny thing is that this just happened to be the colors of cardstock I had sitting around.

And, whw did I make the bunting?

1. Fold the paper in thirds and cut into triangles.

2. Thread yarn into a large eyed needle. String the triangles on the yarn alternating the color flags.

3. String up in a location that seems celebratory.

And you’re done! The great thing about buntings is they can be appropriate for any holiday or occasion.

Also, when the bunting is sewn loosely on the yarn (as seen above), the flags can be folded on top of each other so you can use them again (as opposed to attaching them flag-to-flag.).

P.S. This weekend was GORGEOUS! I’m done whining about sudden bursts of snow. D-O-N-E.

DIY Project: Cupcake Flags

Maybe you haven’t heard, but cupcakes are the new black.

You must be living under a rock if you haven’t experienced the cupcake fad explosion over the last few years. There are now whole stores devotes to selling cupcakes (Read about some tasty cupcakes I got for my birthday here) and The Food Network even has a new show, Cupcake Wars, devoted to the trend.

However, it’s “trend” status is morphing into “tried and true staple”. Many have questioned when the cupcake fad would end, but lately I’ve been reading how many event and catering specialists are now thinking it is here to stay. (Which I am personally quite glad to hear.)

Brides have been trading in the classic tiered wedding cake for trays of cupcakes in all colors and flavors. One wedding I went to this summer even had a “Cupcake Bar” (E – they were delicious by the way!).

Then the cupcake flag was birthed. See this beautiful example from (Hostess with the Mostess) below.

How did this begin? Perhaps hostesses wanted to combat the informality of the cupcake? Perhaps brides who had foregone the traditional “cake topper” wanted something special?

Just like “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop,” the world may never know.

Martha Stewart has downloadable templates for these flags, which are fine and dandy if you find one that works for you. But, what if you want your name on it? Certain colors? A theme? You might get some strange looks if the cupcakes at Cindy’s baby shower have wedding rings on them.

What’s a gal to do? Custom flags of course!

Many vendors on Etsy can create custom beautiful flags for you. BUT, I would recommend trying to make your own.

I made my own flags for our wedding. Moose wasn’t feeling the cupcake suggestion, so we ended up serving cheesecake. But visions of wedding cupcake flags had already infiltrated my crazy bride brain, so I invented…. cheesecake flags!

The best part about making your own is that you can have as many different kinds as you want. An Etsy vendor will likely charge you per design. With color and text variations, I had about  27 different kinds of flags. (Overkill? Yeah. I know.)

The other, and probably more enticing, reason to make your own is the fact they they are very inexpensive!

I made 150 of these flags. Can you guess how much I spent?

Toothpicks = $3
Hot Glue = $3
Printing Costs = $5 (This is if you go to Staples and not print them yourself.)

TOTAL COST = $11

I was able to fit 27 flags on a sheet by flipping half of the triangles around to create square shapes.

I used Adobe Illustrator. If you don’t have that you could probably use Microsoft PowerPoint or Publisher (it’s just triangles people! There are also lots of nice rectangle flags, like the one I posted above if triangles scare you.)

After that, I cut them out and hot glued a toothpick to the back. Bada boom. Three episodes of Smallville later, I had 150 cupcake (er, cheesecake) flags ready to go.

No one noticed that the back was blank. (*Seriously, wedding guests. Did you notice?) Heck, I wouldn’t have noticed. After I pulled that puppy out I would be eating that dessert with glee.

I hope this helps you make your cupcake involved event a little more celebratory and a little less expensive.

Cheers : )

Pssst… Images from (Hostess with the Mostess), and (FoodNetwork.com)