Monday, October 31, 2011

{Travel} VEGAS!

My hubby and I spent a wonderful few days together {ALONE} in Las Vegas last week. We had been wanting to book a quick getaway for a while and when Bo found out he had to be in Vegas for business the end of October, the opportunity to take our "little trip" fell right into our laps. We flew out together very early Tuesday morning, and I returned late Thursday night. My husband stayed as he had to check into a different hotel for work the day I flew home. Dean & I are definitely missing him here in NJ. He returns tonight -- hopefully just in time to see his little cowboy ;-}

I love to travel and did quite a bit of it in my early-mid twenties but never made it to Vegas. Bo and I both enjoyed this city. We stayed on The Strip {highly recommend as you will spend a fortune in cab fares if you don't} and were able to walk everywhere.

The Cosmopolitan was one of my favorite hotels. Hip & trendy, tons of great restaurants, right in the center of The Strip, and...

...a three-story tall Swarovski crystal chandelier hung throughout the lobby and draped around the escalators and upwards. 32 million dollars. That pretty much sums up the luxuriousness of each of the hotels we walked through. They were INCREDIBLE. I was not expecting to be as "wowed" as I was, but everything about them BLEW.ME.AWAY.

We stayed at The Mirage -- not one of the newer hotels, but still very nice and on The Strip. Bo and I were so tired from traveling and the time change that after we checked in, grabbed some lunch and explored a little bit, we headed back to our hotel to spend some time by the pool. Our first day there was 80 degrees and absolutely gorgeous. We even snuck in a nap while relaxing poolside. Nap -- I don't think I've taken one of those since before February 22, 2010 ;-}

We loved exploring the city and walking through the hotels & casinos.

The Bellagio was another hotel that was super impressive. Aside from the water show synced to music in front of the hotel, the lobby alone housed TONS of fresh flowers, plants, trees, etc. There were animals made from plants, different fruits/shapes made of solid roses and other flowers, and a huge Wizard of Ozesque tree. Just the lobby -- HUGE operation. The pictures don't even do it justice.

The Venetian was also amazing. I backpacked in Europe for a month when I was in my early twenties, and Italy was hands down my favorite country of the ones I visited. One of the coolest things about the hotels in Las Vegas was their authenticity. These designers did an impeccable job of creating a smaller scale replica of the real thing. The piazzas in Italy looked exactly like the ones the hotel designers created in The Venetian. And because I never made it to Venice while I was in Italy, we had to do the gondala ride while in the next best thing, The Venetian.

Ahhh....New York-New York. I love New York City, so this was another hotel I enjoyed walking through because of all the NYC details inside and out.

On our last night, we saw a Cirque Du Soleil show. Completely amazing!

We took a really quick trip and were worried that we weren't going to be there long enough to see everything. Fortunately, we were wrong -- 2-3 days was perfect. We had time to visit all the hotels we wanted to, see a show, grab some nice meals, chill by the hotel pool, and even squeeze in some naps. The only other thing I would have done while there would be to visit the Hoover Dam {that would have required another day though}. And it would have been nice to have another day or two just to relax BUT three days was long enough to be away from my baby boy, who thankfully did great at home with his grandparents!


Friday, October 28, 2011

{Parties} She's the APPLE of My Eye

Maura Kate's "Apple of My Eye" first birthday party was last weekend at my parents' home. Maura was adorable, and it was really fun helping my sister with her party. Becky served all delicious brunch foods since the party started at 10:30 am {french toast casserole, egg casserole, fresh fruit, donuts, etc}. We also had a little station set up for the kiddies with cereal & milk.

To tie in with the theme, the cereal was "Apple" Cinnamon Cheerios.

My sister also made a really yummy vanilla poundcake with homemade frosting. I created some cake toppers by making rolled flowers from fabric and attaching them to skewer sticks with hot glue. So cute & easy -- just stick the skewers in the cake where you want them.

I really wanted to ice the cake for my sister and try these cute swirls I practiced a few months before, but after working a full day on Friday and then attending a grad class that same evening, it would have been tough. The cake looked adorable though and tasted even better!

In the dining room and out of reach of any little hands, I helped Becky set up a simple dessert display. We used an old window as the backdrop, attached an apple garland and arranged some apple props and desserts on the table.

I made the apple garland by drawing an apple freehand, tracing it on textured scrapbook paper, making a little stem and then attaching the whole thing to a piece of ribbon with double-side tape.

We had one of Maura's invites on display along with some faux green apples on a two tiered pedestal tray {Dean has taken many a bite out of those apples when on display at my house -- ha!}.

Caramel "apple" taffies...

...were favors for the guests. We wrapped them in clear bags and tied with ribbon for easy transporting.

On the bottom of the sideboard, we had additional apple taffies in a basket with a little "thank you" sign from Maura. In addition, a sweet pic of the birthday girl I had taken this summer in OBX was on display in a pretty white frame I found for $6 at TJ. Also, a large faux moss apple I snagged on sale at Crate & Barrel accompanied the other items on display.

Lastly, I made thank you cards to coordinate with the theme and invites for Bec to send out to her guests after the party.

**You can now purchase the "Apple of My Eye" collection digitally {see right sidebar under Let's Party}!
**Home from Vegas and a tad jetlagged, but my husband & I had a FABULOUS time together exploring a very exciting city. Some pics & details soon...
**Focusing my energies on Thanksgiving entertaining now, which will be here before we know it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

{DIY} Photo Prop Banner

We had some family photos taken with my friend Karen of Karen Carpenter Photography on Saturday afternoon. I made a Christmas banner for one of the shots. This picture on Pinterest was my inspiration.

I used some "Merry Merry" cutouts I made last Christmas, added some sparkly glitter, attached them to a piece of jute and called it a day. I haven't seen any of the banner outtakes yet, but I'm hoping they turned out!

Here's one of the family shots Karen snapped. We went with some nontraditional fall colors :: navy, lime & cobalt blue. I'm always ultra critical of myself, but I love Bo & Dean here and just love that we now have a "nice" family shot of the three of us <3

**Weekends are the BEST -- so sad to see them end :-{
**Maura's party pics coming soon!
**Leaving for a little Vegas getaway with my hubby tomorrow -- prayers for a safe trip would be so much appreciated as I am a nervous wreck about leaving my baby boy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

{Sneak Peek} Maura Kate's 1st

TGIF! We are preparing for my niece's first birthday party tomorrow. Here's a little peek at one of the details, which are really simple and sweet. The weather for tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful {keeping fingers crossed!}. Not only is it Maura's party in the morning, but my family has our fall pictures with Karen Carpenter Photography in the afternoon, and then an outdoor party at my cousin's home that evening. The entire day is dependent on Mother Nature. Praying she cooperates!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

{Recipes} Broccoli, Cheese & Potato Soup

Soup season is upon us, and I have been craving it like never before. Almost everyday for lunch, I bring a crock of homemade soup {not always homemade by me though -- ha!}. My mom's soups have been a favorite of mine for years now, and I love how she passes on her yummy recipes to me {and then I can share them with you!}. Here's the latest ::

Broccoli, Cheese & Potato Soup

Ingredients ::
~ 1/2 stick butter
~ 1 onion, diced
~ 3/4 cup flour
~ 1 46 oz can chicken broth
~ 5-7 red potatoes, diced in small chunks
~ 1 16 oz bag frozen broccoli florets
~ 1 bag shredded white cheddar cheese
~ 1/2 - 1 cup half & half
~ S & P to taste

Directions ::
1. In a large stock pot, saute diced onion in butter.
2. Once onions are soft, add 3/4 cup of flour and stir {mixture will be a little clumpy}.
3. Next add chicken broth and potatoes, bring up to a simmer, and STIR. Continue stirring until mixture is hot and starting to thicken a little bit.
4. Add broccoli and continue stirring. Mixture should be bubbly and hot and the consistency should not be too thick but also not thin.
5. Add S & P to taste.
6. Remove soup from heat and add cheese to taste {I used about half of the bag}.
7. Next add half & half to taste {1/2 to 1 cup depending on how creamy you want it}.
8. Serve with a loaf of warm, crusty bread.
9. ENOY!


**This soup is slightly high maintanence because it requires constant stirring throughout the entire process {but the end result is worth it}.
**Have all your ingredients ready and prepared before you start {because you will need your hands free to stir the whole time}.
**I got a little frustrated once I added the chicken broth because I thought my soup wasn't thickening. A dose of patience was all I needed because it did eventually thicken -- it just took about 15 minutes of constant stirring and the mixture had to be hot enough.
**From start to finish, this soup took about 45 minutes to an hour to make.
**Remember to take soup off heat once cheese and half & half are added -- half & half can get a little funky if the heat is left on.
**This soup can also be blended in the mixer once finished for those that do not like a chunky soup. I LOVE a chunky soup, so I left mine as is.

Served with a loaf of warm, crusty bread, this was a perfect fall soup for the beautiful fall night we had here in southern New Jersey last night. I have plenty of leftovers for lunch this week too -- my fav!

**I've got a few more KVM {my mama} soups on my radar for the fall -- I will share them once I make and try them myself!

Monday, October 17, 2011

{Parties} Fall Happy Hour

Our Fall Neighborhood Happy Hour was on Friday evening and went off without a hitch. The weather wasn't the greatest, and we were forced to host the party inside, but it all worked out for the best. The kids had a blast playing together in our family room and the adults were able to hang in the dining room & kitchen {where the food & adult beverages were ;-}. And we finally had a chance to talk to everyone and get to know our neighbors a little bit better!

My favorite detail of the night was our signature cocktail, a spiked cider. It was served warm, which made it a great treat on a cool fall night.

Spiked Cider Recipe ::

Ingredients ::
- 3 oranges
- 3 tbsp cloves
- 8 cups apple cider
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 1/2 cups rum

Directions ::
1. Stud the oranges with cloves and place in punch bowl
2. Put cider and cinnamon sticks in a large pot on stove and bring up to a simmer
3. Pour mixture in punch bowl over oranges and add rum
4. Serve warm

**I doubled this recipe and had plenty for my guests. I even had a big pitcher left over, which I brought to our Gourmet Night on Saturday night!

Stripy & dotty straws from Shop Sweet Lulu added to the fallish flare of the happy hour. And I got them on sale, which was an unexpected surprise!

There really wasn't a theme to this party, but I did focus on a mostly white and black color palette. The previous owners of my home left me some amazing old finds in our garage when they moved out. There were old doors, windows, chairs, etc. {anyone that knows me could tell you that "a kid on Christmas morning" doesn't even begin to explain my excitement!}. An old black chair left behind in my garage became the display for the spiced cider. It has a dark lime cushion that is worn and ripped {the older and more worn, the better!}.

The pillow, feather wreath, and twig tree with hanging crystals were all items I pulled from my basement. They added a hominess and warmth to the set up.

Little bags of Johnson's caramel corn sat on the buffet, which I had already decorated weeks before with lanterns and pumpkins.

The three tiered galvanized tray from PB has a new owner ;-} My friend Amy read my post about the tray a few weeks ago and just happened to spot one {last one in the store} on sale for almost 50% off a few days later. She was so thoughtful to pick it up for me, and it became home to all of the desserts I served that evening. Thanks again, Ame!!!

I filled an old mason jar with candy corn and a tealight and added some more caramel corn bags to the top tray.

The second tier was filled with mini tootsie pops, cookies, and...

...marshmallow pumpkins. A picture I spotted on Pinterest was my inspiration for this treat -- I simply inserted a popsicle stick in the marshmallow, dipped it in orange candy melts, let it dry on wax paper, and then added ribbon for the stem.

The bottom tray housed vanilla cupcakes with homemade toppers. Using black ric rac and sparkly black craft balls that I already had, I glued/tied them to the sticks and inserted them into the cupcakes. Easy.

Last but not least, I made mini candy corn puddings for the little ones. I bought miniature clear cups at the dollar store and used left over mini spoons from my Wigs & Wine dinner party last year. Then I made one box of vanilla pudding, halved it and added yellow and orange food coloring to each half. After scooping a layer of yellow and then orange, I added whipped cream on the top and a little candy corn as a garnish.

Appetizers were mini cheesesteak egg rolls, buffalo chicken dip in the crockpot, a hot black bean dip, and fresh cut veggies with dip. No pictures -- it was a busy night!

**GREAT weekend -- I soaked in every second of the beautiful fall weather we had!
**Maura's "Apple of my Eye" party is this Saturday -- details soon!
**A new fall soup is coming your way tomorrow.
**Happy??? Monday ;-}

Friday, October 14, 2011

{Sneak Peek} Fall Happy Hour

Just a quick little peek of one of the mini desserts I made for our Fall Happy Hour {Pinterest, my new go-to site, was my inspiration, of course!}. Scheduled for this afternoon, this party is all about getting to know our neighbors.

Although we are not thrilled, to say the least, with the weather forecast for tonight, we're excited and going to try to make the best of it! Darn you, RAIN! We had planned on entertaining out back with a bonfire, swingset for the kiddies, and other kinds of fun party details, but it looks like that's all going to have to be changed due to Mother Nature -- there is just no controlling her. Wish us luck!

**Full party post next week!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

{DIY} Ribbon Bunting

I recently made this simple bunting for a baby shower my sister was attending. She was in charge of making the cake and wanted a cute topper. I didn't have time to create anything digitally, but I knew I could whip up something adorable for her just using some materials I had in my home. The shower she attended had no theme and the sex of the baby was unknown, so I used ribbons of various colors {light & dark pink, pale blue, yellow, lime, and a dotty mix}.

Materials Needed ::
1. A piece of jute
2. 2 skewer sticks
3. Ribbon of various colors, sizes and textures
4. Scissors

Using a piece of jute, tie the ribbons tightly onto it and then cut the ends at an angle for a polished look. Anything goes here -- alternate colors until you are satisfied with the look. Tie jute onto skewers, trim ends of jute, and place ends of skewer sticks in cake. CUTE, SIMPLE, & THOUGHTFUL touch.

TIP :: Anytime you use ribbon and have extra scraps -- keep them! This entire bunting was made from scraps I keep in a jar on my craft table. I have used that jar countless times. Nice ribbon is expensive, so I'm all for getting the biggest bang for my buck when working with it!

**Three day weekends are the greatest invention ever. Just having one extra day at home makes a huge difference in so many ways.
**Hope you & yours had a wonderful weekend with your loved ones -- I know I did!

Friday, October 7, 2011

{TGIF} Weekend Love

Hallelujah! Three day weekend. D.D. pumpkin coffee....Mmmm. Beautiful fall weather. Mini getaway to VA to hang with my sis and our babies. Oh, hallelujah!

**TGIF -- Enjoy!
**Fall Happy Hour details coming next week!
**Pic via Pinterest

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

{Decorating} FALL

A few weeks ago I did a little fall decorating at my house. My mantle is usually the area I concentrate on since the fireplace and built-ins that surround it are a big focal point in my home. I had an "anything goes" attitude this year as I layered berries, twigs, twinkle lights, and other little fall goodies on my mantle. **I kind of cringe when I look at this pic b/c it looks so much nicer in person!

The sideboard in my dining room is my other area of focus. This year it was lanterns with candles and pumpkins of different sizes and colors. I also added a few sparkly spiders for a little pop of Halloween. When it's all lit at night, my dining room looks so glowy and pretty. gets me every time ;-}

**Is October flying by or is it just me?
**Enjoy the GORGEOUS fall weather we will be getting for the next few days!

Monday, October 3, 2011

{Random} Weekend Loveliness

So glad you finally decided to make an appearance this weekend, FALL. I've been waiting very patiently for you ;-} Muggies out, a breath of fresh air in....ahhhh.

We enjoyed the cooler weather and sunshine at our friends' Cottage by the Sea party. This couple is very special to my husband and I as they were responsible for introducing us almost seven years ago {and the rest is history ;-}

They rent one of the most gorgeous shore homes I've ever seen and were kind enough to share it with their friends & family for an afternoon of food & fun. Situated on a semi-private beach in Strathmere, Dean had a blast running from one end to the other {and getting soaked and sandy in the process -- ahh, boys ;-}

Weekends -- don't you just cherish them? Family time, relaxation time, etc, etc, etc!

**Have a great week!