Monday, February 28, 2011

{Restaurant Review} The POP Shop

We visited the good ole Pop Shop this weekend, and I HIGHLY recommend this super fun restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner! The menu is one of the most incredible I've seen -- so many creative choices. They completely cater to children and now that I am a mother and have a little one, this is something I appreciate A LOT! SUCH A FUN PLACE FOR THE KIDS!

FOOD :: DELISH & CLEVER -- ALL OF IT! {They have a nice children's menu too}
ATMOSPHERE :: LOVE {a fun retro 50's diner feel complete with a counter with round spinny stools and an ice cream sundae/soda shop -- oooOooo love it all!}
COST :: Average
LOCATION :: Collingswood, NJ {I think I need to branch out a little ;-}

**This restaurant is rather noisy, which could be a downside if you're visiting sans children.**

I just wrapped up a Pop Shop inspired project, which is how we ended up there for lunch on Saturday. We loved it so much that we're taking my mom & dad back for breakfast one weekend in the near future. **I also noticed while I was there that they have a fabulous party room, separate from the restaurant but right around the corner. What a cool venue for an event -- children's birthday party, shower, etc, etc, etc!**

Happy Monday -- it's almost March!

Friday, February 25, 2011

{Restaurant Review} Blackbird

Once a month, some teacher friends and I meet out for a girls' night dinner. And each month one of us is responsible for choosing the restaurant, making the reservations, etc. So Blackbird it was last night! My month is May....hmmm....still not sure where I'm going to take my girls....suggestions???

Here's my take on Blackbird ::

FOOD :: Yummy but not blown away {Not a large menu either and I like choices when dining out}
ATMOSPHERE :: Loved! {Having recently moved to a new location right on Haddon Avenue, the new & improved Blackbird is small, warm and intimate}
COST :: Not over or under priced ~ pretty much what I expected
LOCATION :: Collingswood, NJ {LOVE!}

TTTTGGGGIIIIFFFF!!!!! I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend to close out February....some much needed downtime is calling my name ;-}

Thursday, February 24, 2011

{Parties} Dean -- Part 3 -- DINNER/EATS

This post is all about FOOD! Like I mentioned in my DETAILS post, I used the top of this shelving unit to hold my appetizers for the party, which were a raspberry black bean dip, veggies & dip, baked brie, and popcorn served in newspaper cones.

The first item I bought for the "Little Mister Mustache Bash" and the inspiration behind Dean's party colors was a shower curtain I found at TJ Maxx. I used it as a runner on the shelving unit {Karen also used it as a backdrop for Dean's 1st Birthday pics}. I also bought a really inexpensive frame from TJ that was originally hot pink, but I spray painted it navy blue and added an appetizer menu inside. Dean's first year album also sat on top of the shelving unit for our guests to peruse.

I saw popcorn in newspaper cones in the Pottery Barn catalog, and I thought they would fit in nicely with Dean's party since I had used newspapers in other places.

**These newspaper cones would also be adorable filled with popcorn and/or peanuts for a "Night at the Movies" themed party.**

This baked brie was a huge hit! My friend Patty gave me the recipe and it's a great little appetizer. Here it is:

~ 1 can seamless cresent rolls
~ 1 round of Brie
~ 1 jar currant jelly {I used raspberry}
~ 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar
~ 1 egg, beaten

1. Cut crescent in half and put on cookie sheet
2. Place Brie round in middle and top with jelly and brown sugar
3. Bring all four corners of crescents up to middle and form a beggars purse, pinching seams
4. Brush with beaten egg
5. Bake 350 for about 20-30 minutes, until golden
6. Serve with crackers and/or apples

The raspberry black bean dip I served is another crowd favorite. Super easy to make and delicious makes it a winner in my opinion!

~ 1 medium red onion, diced & sauted
~ 1 can black beans, drained
~ 1 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
~ 1 8 oz. jar Raspberry salsa
~ Lime juice
~ 1 bag shredded cheese, cheddar or taco
~ Tostitos

1. Saute and dice onions {bottom layer}.
2. Drain black beans {next layer}.
3. Soften cream cheese and smooth over beans.
4. Next layer raspberry salsa and squeeze lime juice over salsa.
5. Layer cheese on top.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
7. Serve with tortilla chips.

I wanted an easy dinner but something that was party friendly and fun too. So I made crockpot cheesesteaks, potato wedge fries, a strawberry/blueberry salad with poppy seed dressing {my mom made this -- recipe coming soon}, and a pickle bar. I found the soap dispenser at TJ and used it as a ketchup dispenser for the cheesesteaks and fries {never used for soap of course}.

With all the commotion involved in getting the dinner served, I never snapped any pics except for the salad. This is my mom's signature salad and you don't want to miss the recipe for the dressing on this one -- PERFECT for spring!

One of the most useful gifts I registered for for my bridal shower was a big rolling cooler. Every time I entertain, my husband sets it up on our back porch and it's basically self serve -- EASY! All the drinks we serve fit inside and are already cold from sitting on ice inside the cooler. I made another "Wet Your Whiskers" sign {$.99 frame from IKEA} to sit on top of the drink station.

And we had manly "growlers" filled with beer for the guys.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

{Parties} Dean -- Part 2 -- DETAILS

PARTY DETAILS :: I have an IKEA shelving unit with storage cubbies/baskets in my dining room that I use mostly for storage. I never really thought to use it to entertain but am so glad I did this time! It served two main purposes: #1 -- I used the top as an area for my appetizers so not only did it hold some of the food I was serving, but it also helped keep my guests out of my kitchen. Everyone always wants to congregate in the kitchen, and it can be hard to work and get things set up when there are too many people in that space. #2 -- I was able to use 4 of the 8 cubbies underneath for favors, drinks, etc. It was great!

I found these green & blue soda bottles at TJ Maxx a long time ago and picked them up for the party since they were in keeping with the color scheme.

Then I ordered these adorable polka dot straws from Bake it Pretty and added a "cupcake topper" with Dean's pic to each with double-sided tape. I think they came out really cute!

**How funny is the "Wet Your Whiskers" sign?! LOL! I found that in my blog travels as I searched for inspiration for this party.

Another cubby held the adult party favors, which were pistachio French macaroons {also made by Kara Doyle}. I made little tags for the white bags I bought at Michaels and let the adults fill them with cookies.

Mmmm...they were good!

The kiddie favors were really fun to make. Both Jack & Maura got a mustache coloring sheet...

...and some mustache crayons that I found on Etsy.

I also threw some little candy pieces, a slinky and a stache/set of lips on a stick in each bag for fun.

I decorated my mantle with some "Little Mister" items too.

The staches & lips on a stick were photobooth props.

I also grabbed some of my husband's ties and stuck them in a big glass apothocary jar. I don't think he even realized it....SHHH!

Lastly, I used all the month shots I took of Dean to make a banner that I hung under the mantle.

My guy's outfit was simple -- a mustache shirt from Finley & Oliver, jeans, and black Chuck Taylors {not too thrilled about having the birthday hat on his head here}.

I had the back of the shirt monogrammed at the local monogram shoppe.

This was an easy wreath I made to hang from the front door to greet our guests as they entered Mister Dean's Mustache Bash!

The "photobooth" was FUN! I had a photobooth at my wedding and loved going back to look at all of the guests in silly props. The "Little Mister" theme also lent itself perfectly to a photobooth set-up because of the mustaches.

A sign I made for the trunk filled with props including :: a fedora hat, old newspapers, some of Bo's ties, the other two frames that I spray painted, staches/lips on a stick, etc.

My cute nephew sportin' his famous smile ;-}

Dean's Aunt Lex & Uncle Jimmy gettin' in on the action!

And a quick family shot with our LITTLE MISTER!

COMING UP TOMORROW :: DINNER/EATS post...I'm also going to post a few yummy recipes I used for the party too!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

{Parties} Dean's Little Mister Mustache Bash -- Part One -- DESSERTS

After sorting through an overwhelming amount of pictures, I decided to break Dean's party into three separate posts :: DESSERTS, DETAILS, & DINNER/EATS. First up is my personal fav, the dessert table.

I've found that I approach the layout of my dessert spreads much like I approach home decorating. It's not only about the desserts, but it's also about incorporating some other unique finds, many times things found around the house. For example, I threw some rolled newspapers {b/c what "man" doesn't read the paper?} into a clear glass vase I had. Also, my father-in-law gave me some old, empty frames that I spray painted and used for the party. You see one here on the dessert table...the others you'll see in my DETAILS post. In addition, I ordered some really sweet little suitcases/briefcases and used those as props in Dean's photoshoot and to add some height and dimension to my dessert spread.

I love the honeycomb balls I ordered and hung above the table. They were a really inexpensive way to add more color, a little pizzazz, and draw the eye upwards. I saw that idea on Martha Stewart's blog.

Lastly, I had Karen Carpenter Photography order me a large print on matboard of my little man with a stache on a stick that I added to the table.

**The best advice I can give if you love dessert spreads too and want to try one yourself is:
#1 -- START EARLY. I started thinking of ideas and working on this party many months in advance. And to be honest, I ended up having to do a lot last minute b/c of time, but I can't imagine having to do everything at the last sec. I definitely would not have had the same results.
#2 -- MAKE A SKETCH OF WHAT YOU ENVISION. I always start with a hand drawn sketch, which helps me get a clear visual picture of my table and also allows me to see where there are holes. It also helps when planning food/desserts and how much you need and/or have space for.
#3 -- TAKE INSPIRATION FROM DESSERT TABLES YOU LOVE. Pull your favorite aspects about each table, mix with your own ideas and you've got yourself a unique spread. **

The beautiful cake was made by Kara Doyle, the same pastry chef that made Dean's dedication cake. I added the topper {Mr. Dean & a #1}. It was the center of the table and gorgeous in person, not to mention rich and delicious {chocolate angel food cake with a chocolate mousse filling}.

I ordered my boy his own vanilla cupcake from a local bakery and sat it on top of a candle holder. He LOVED it and did a pretty good job of digging right in!

I love mini desserts and had these little shot glasses from the dollar bins at Target, so thought mini milkshakes would be cute. I also added polka dots straws to each.

I love these tie and mustache cookies made by a recent Johnson & Wales grad. I work with her aunt, who one day just happened to mention that she makes wonderful desserts. I jumped on the opportunity and enlisted her services. They were so CUTE, fit in perfectly with the color scheme and theme of the party, and were really yummy!

I mean adorable are these?!

The one dessert item I actually made were these chocolate stache pops {ohhh...I made the mini milkshakes too!}. They were so easy to make and my nephew especially loved them!

The candy I found at TJ Maxx...what can't you find at TJ? Love it there...

In one of my sneak peek pics, I showed you a tiny piece of Dean's handmade party hat. It was really simple to make. Just make a cone with a piece of cardstock, add some crinkle cut strips with hot glue to the top and around the bottom, attach ribbon to the inside to keep the hat in place and then any little details you want to the front. Easy!

Hope you enjoyed! Stay tuned for the DETAILS post coming tomorrow!

Dessert table inspiration: TomKat Studio
16x20 matboard photo: Karen Carpenter Photography
Honeycomb decoration balls: Devra Party Supplies
Cake: Kara Doyle
Cookies: Katherine Lynch
Suitcases: Land of Nod
Polka dot straws & Mustache molds: Bake it Pretty

Monday, February 21, 2011

{Sneak Peek} Someone Had a 1st Birthday Party Yesterday!

I'm working on Dean's full party post now, but it won't be ready until tomorrow {hopefully} so here's a quick peek at one of the photos -- obviously the back of my little man's birthday shirt. It was a Little Mister party afterall ;-}

Everything turned out adorable, and we all had a great time celebrating a very loved little boy, who is currently napping and feeling a little under the weather. My little guy woke up at 11:30pm last night and proceeded to get sick all throughout the night. And this is only an hour after his dad did exactly the same thing. Ugghhh! Too much partying for both my fellas I think ;-} Thankfully both are on the mend now, and we're all keeping our fingers crossed that Mama doesn't catch the sick bug.

**Miraculously the sickies didn't hit until after the party was over and everything was cleaned up. AND I am so grateful that I am off from work today to take care of my family. Thanking my lucky stars!

Friday, February 18, 2011

{Sneak Peek} Stache Bash!

Just a quick peek at what I've been working on for my Little Mister's first birthday party. What I'm looking forward to most this weekend? Spending the day with our families and celebrating my little heart & soul's first year in this world!


**STAY TUNED for the FULL PARTY POST coming next week!**

Thursday, February 17, 2011

{DEAN} Just Two More Pics...

...because I'm "that" mom. These are actually two of my very favorites so I "had" to post...sorry!

The third outfit I brought to Dean's photoshoot was a sports jacket passed down from his cousin Brandt, one of his Dada's ties, and a black fedora hat. And I love the background {handmade by Karen} in this shot!

Now you know why this boy is the "boss" in our household...I just can't resist his sweet face!

**All photos by Karen Carpenter Photography**

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

{Recipes} Lava LOVE Cakes

L is for Lava. Following Dainty Chef's recipe, I made these totally rich and decadent lava cakes last night for our Valentine's dinner. Chocolately HEAVEN!

**I made mine in muffin pans b/c I didn't have ramekins that were oven safe. They were a little tricky to get out of the pan, but tasted DELISH nonetheless!

I also added a little peanut butter sauce on top especially for my husband. Why? Confession -- often times, my husband and I pass up dessert at a nice restaurant to secretly hit up Friendly's for their Reeces peanut buttercup sundae. Class acts, huh? Recently, Bo has been ordering a new dessert at Friendly's {hunka chunka pb fudge lava cake sundae}, which is very similar to what I made tonight. That was the purpose behind my dessert choice...I was trying to recreate my favorite's favorite Friendly's sundae ;-}

Thankfully, Bo handled dinner -- the boy can cook. Filet stuffed with crabmeat served over asparagus with bernaise sauce, lobster tail and mashed potatoes. Red wine. DIVINE!

Diet starts tomorrow ;-}

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

{Random} Dreaming of...

...SPRING -- in a big way. These sunny flowers from my husband kickstarted my fantasies of warmer days. And the weather we've had these past few days has been no help....major tease {I did love it though}!

Work, work, work BUT a week of wonderfulness ahead:

~ a special Valentine's dinner & dessert with my boyfriend tonight {a day late but better late than never, right?!}
~ more beautiful weather in the coming days
~ 1/2 way through my grad school clinical this week, which means the end is finally in sight!!!
~ a 4 day weekend...thank you Lord!
~ Dean's first birthday party!
~ AND...Spring really is just around the corner ;-}

Have a lovely Tuesday friends. **Make it a great day or not...the choice is YOURS!

Monday, February 14, 2011

{DEAN} Almost ONE!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! Today is all about LOVE and how appropriate that I am sharing a few of my little LOVE's pics from his first birthday shoot....oh how I LOVE them & him!

A huge thanks to my friend Karen of Karen Carpenter Photography -- she took all of these amazing photos!

My little man's 1st birthday is February 22nd and his "Little Mister Mustache Bash" is scheduled for this Sunday, February 20th! The theme of his party was the inspiration behind the outfit and props in the above two pics. **You're getting a little sneak peek of his party outfit here!

Karen specially made the adorable bunting in Dean's party colors in the pic above. Sticking with the "little mister/man" theme, I choose a "grandpa" cardigan sweater, simple stripe buttondown shirt and brought some "old man" props {newspaper, suitcase & my own reading}.

There was one more "manly" outfit and backdrop used {not pictured but one of my favs}.

Thank you again, Karen! LOVE them!