halloween costume series :: cowboys and indians

Giddy Up!  Last year Ella wanted to be a cowgirl so bad!!!  I wasn't all that thrilled, but what I want doesn't matter... so a cowgirl she was.  Now what was I going to do for Bree???  While flipping through a magazine I saw this Indian costume and I was sold!  So last years theme was the wild, wild west.  Cowboys (girls) and Indians!

halloween costume series :: chicken and the egg

Next costume... the chicken and the egg! We did it!!! We finally answered the infamous question... Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

I had seen the chicken costume idea on Martha several years ago, but we stepped it up a notch with the baby. Aubrey was only about 7 weeks old so it worked out perfectly! You know the amoeba-like age, when they just lay around and don't do much. Definitely not into trick-or-treating, but you don't want to completely exclude them? Well, that was my self-inflicted debate anyway. So, the egg is what we came up with. And it was the EASIEST costume ever. We already had both a white sleeper and hat, so all I had to do was cut out a yellow circle for the yolk. Temporarily tape it on and we were good to go for a few pictures.

As I said, the chicken costume was from a Martha idea several years ago. When I saw it, I knew I had to hold onto it for future use. The chicken feet were what sold me. Can you tell what they are!? Yeap, kitchen cleaning gloves!!! Genius, right!? We fit them over a pair of Crocs and it worked beautifully! The white boa body was also just irresistible! The costume did have some elusive items to find. The white pilot's cap was the trickiest. Let me do the leg work for you... available here at Hannah Anderson. And believe it or not, the long sleeve white onesies (or leotards), were another obscure item to find.

I always try and give credit where credit is due. As I told you before, sewing is NOT my strong suit. Their two grandma's get all the credit for the sewing parts.

I also think it's ironic that today's post is about chickens.... I'm currently "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off!!!!!" Sorry, couldn't resist, but it is true.

Okay, now look at this picture - it cracks me up! The stare down. When I look at this picture, I just imagine them saying...
"No, I was first!"
"Nooooo, I was first!!"
"Balk, balk, baaaalk"
"Come on! Or are you too chicken!?"

halloween costume series :: coppertone girl

Okay, here it is... my favorite costume!  So simple and also so timeless - both the young and old can relate.  Even our elderly neighbors got a kick out of this costume.  We've all used Coppertone Sunscreen right!?  It has been around for 50+ years after all.

Here's our little Coppertone girl.... Blonde hair, blue-eyed and all.

Ready for the next costume?  It is my second favorite.  Stay tuned. 

halloween costume series :: hula girl

I'm here with another costume...  Little Hula Girl!

We made the coconut bra and grass skirt by simply cutting down a regular sized costume we found.  My husband used a special little saw with a fine blade so it wouldn't shatter the coconut shells.  She collected her treats in a little Hawaiian purse I picked up while on vacation in Maui.  It worked out perfectly!  I love when the candy bucket even fits in with a kids' costume.

I tried and tried to find a nude leotard for her that year, but I couldn't find one small enough.  She was only 18 months at the time and all I could find was a size 3T unfortunately.  Hence the white shirt.  But that was okay, I ended up using that nude leotard the next year.  Wait until you see the next costume - my all time favorite costume we have ever done!!!!

happy fall!

Fall is, hands down, my favorite time of year!!!  The smells, the colors, the leaves... oh my!!!  (oh, and I get to start wearing boots again!)  There are many things I adore about living in the Northeast, but witnessing October every year is definitely on the top of my list.  October is full of fun - the outdoor beauty previously mentioned, but it also includes the best holiday of the year - Columbus Day!  Just kidding, I'm just making sure you're reading!  It's Halloween, of course!!!

This year, my October is going to be CRAZY!!!  I think it will be my busiest month. Ever!  Get ready folks, I'm probably going to be MIA, but just know I'll have good stuff to share when I get all done.  I have a house decor project starting next week,  two huge fall / Halloween parties, a couple of cakes, oh and oh yeah, a wedding!!!  Yeap, I'm going to be busy.  All this while trying to still be a good stay-at-home momma.

Okay, but back to Halloween... in preparation of the big trick-or-treat night, I thought I would start sharing some of the past costumes I've made for my girls.  Maybe you will see something you'd like to make?

First costume, going back 5 years here.  Ella was only 6 months old - wow!  And just to set the record straight, she did not go out collecting goodies.  (I've recently heard about lots of people being upset when babies go trick-or-treating.  Really!?  I love seeing the little ones all dressed up.  So what if the parents are the ones who will get the KitKat reward - after all, they are the ones who made the costume and took the kid out for me to see.  I, personally, am far more frustrated when the un-costumed teenagers show up at my door and expect handouts.  Most not even giving a customary thank you.   Do you guys have this problem?  How do you deal with it?  Sorry, I'll get off my soap box now.)

Anyway, back to the costume.  We were invited to a family-oriented Halloween party and all our friends wanted to see her dressed-up.  So I had to make a costume!  I should tell you right now, I am not a seamstress.  I did some very simple stitching here and even that proved to be too difficult for me!  Basically, if you were to look at the back of this you would see what I'm talking about.  I ended up hot gluing a lot of the details on out of frustration.  Sewing is definitely a domestic skill I have yet to acquire.

Stay tuned... my favorites were years three and four!

beautiful cake

I didn't even know what to call this post, but I just had to share this with you guys.  This wedding cake (well, cakes, plural I guess) took my breath away.  I was perusing Google images looking for some examples to share with an upcoming cake client and I stumbled upon this beauty.  I don't know who made it (I only have the website I spotted it on), but who ever they are, they are very talented.

Just look at the colors!  The overall display.  (Gotta love the custom acrylic stand.)  The perfect piping work.  I could go on and on.  I will definitely be keeping this beauty in my inspiration file.  WOWZA!  Can you tell I love it!?  The colors and shapes are inspired from the wedding correspondence - invitations, menu cards, etc.


tutorial :: stamped plates

I'm finally getting around to showing you guys the "how-to" of stamped plates.  As you know, I use this technique at a lot of my events - most recently my daughter's peace party.  While doing the plates for that party, I took some pictures of the process.  It is very easy, but can be frustrating at times - just stay patient.

Things you will need:
-gel paste food color (I use AmeriColor)
-table knife
-un-inked stamp pad (available here)
-plates with a completely flat center (I always use white so the image will show up the best)
-paper towels (one damp and one dry)
-rubber stamp (image of your choice matching your theme)

Let me start by telling you about my plates.  I bought these years ago at Ikea, my favorite go-to places for things like this.  I bought about 50 plates for $1 each I think.  I realized fifty bucks is no small sum, but just think about all the money you will save in the long run since you won't have to buy colored / themed paper plates anymore.  Not to mention the environmental impact.   For those of you who don't have an Ikea near by, try dollar stores.  

** MUST READ**  Now it's very important to use both an un-inked stamp pad and a rubber stamp that hasn't been used already with regular ink.  This MUST be food safe.  When anything moist or wet touches the image, the ink will smear and get on the food your guests will be eating.  You wouldn't want someone feeding you toxic ink right!?

First start by putting the gel food color in the un-inked stamp pad.  I usually use a table knife to spread it evenly.  Making sure to get all the clumps of ink spread throughout the pad.

Next, it's time to stamp!!  Since there was no way I was going to be able to stamp and take pictures at the same time, I enlisted a helper - big smile and all.  When I called her over, she was playing dress-up, hence the glitter hat and countless silly-bandz.  Oh to be five again...  Anyway, just wanted you to see the cute face behind all the hand pictures below!  I used Ella for two reasons.  Like I said before there was no way I could do this and take pictures, but also because I wanted you to see that even a five year old can do this.  It can get trying at times, but it is a super simple concept.

Evenly push the stamp into the ink, but not too hard.  You don't want any ink on any surface that isn't raised.  Basically, do it just like you would if you were making a greeting card or something on paper.  

See, ink only on the raised surface.

Now, here's where it can get tricky.  Put your patient pants on!  Press down EVENLY!  Easier said than done a lot of times, I know.  Since the plate is such a slippery surface, the rubber stamp has a tendency to slip.  Don't give up - it will work!

Viola!  A stamped plate!

Okay, now here is an example of a mess up.  The stamp didn't get pressed down evenly all around so one side didn't have any image showing.  Oops!  No big deal.  Just take your damp cloth, wipe it off and then dry it completely and try again.  Easy!  We probably had to re-do 10 or so.

As I stamp each plate, I stack them up.  Now that they are all stamped I let them sit out for a few minutes to dry completely.  As you can see, this part takes over the entire kitchen!  This is just some of them.  Don't start this right before you need to make dinner!  

Since there is always time sensitive stuff (ie food preparation) to do the day before and day of the party, I always do my plate stamping several days before.  After they dry, I stack them neatly in a clean corner and cover with paper towels.

A note about the rubber stamp... the simpler the image, the simpler it will be to complete this job.  I used a pram stroller stamp one time for a baby shower and it was very detailed.  A wicker basket and all the spokes on the wheels made for an extremely hard job.  I think I re-did every plate 2-3 times.  Now, this peace sign stamp was a cinch!  So when you are picking out your stamp remember simpler means easier.

Let me know if you have any questions.

feature :: milk and cookies party

Recently, I received a very sweet email from Ashley, a mother of four (W-O-W!) telling me she used my milk and cookies party as inspiration for her triplet's (double W-O-W!) second birthday.  She did a great job and I wanted to share it with you guys.

You can check out more cute details and pictures on Ashley's blog here.

As I told Ashley, her using my party as inspiration is the ultimate compliment.  Great job, Ashley!  I don't know how you had the time to do all that with four little ones!

Also, for any interested, I sell all the paper elements from my milk and cookies party (labels / favor labels / cup tags / etc.).  Well, any of my parties really.  Email me for details.  And for those of you who have purchased my work, I would LOVE to see your parties too!

cake in a can

My grandmother recently celebrated her 88th birthday.  Since she lives in Kansas, I couldn't spend the day with her.  However, I still wanted her to know I was thinking of her, so I made her one of my cakes in a can.  I really wanted to do something special for her because she is not doing well.  We have almost lost her several times in the last few months and the likelihood of her making it to her 89th year are slim.

I have always hoped I would be able to make my grandmother a "real" cake, but the distance between us makes that impossible.  She has taught me a lot about cakes over the years and entertaining in general.  During summer visits to my grandparents house, I would stay up late to look at all her cake magazines.  I vividly remember thinking the people that made those cake creations were AMAZING!  Isn't it funny how small things in our past shape who we are today?

So anyway, here's the cake I made her.  She has always been a huge card player and is obviously the matriarch of our family, so a "Queen of Hearts" theme seemed appropriate.

During the process, I took a few tutorial shots so you guys can make one too.  I buy the little tins from Michael's and fill with batter to about this level.  You can't fill it too full or you won't have any room for the decorations.

When it's done baking, it looks like this.

Now for the fun part!  I make a fondant "disk" the exact same size at the pan.  I actually use the pan lid as a cookie cutter to make sure it fits.  Sometimes I have to trim it down a bit - but just a LITTLE!  The snugger it fits the better.  Then I decorate away.

I did something new this time.  Because I knew I wouldn't be patient enough to pipe on pictures of queen cards and I worried the fragile piping wouldn't make the trip (have you seen how those postman throw packages around!?!), I had sugar paper prints made a my local grocery store.  You know, like the ones they do of pictures of people on cakes?  I just took in a copy of what I wanted and they printed it on sugar paper for me.  You then glue it onto the fondant with a little water and Viola!  As you can see, I used the same technique for my daughter's recent birthday cake.  Just so you guys can see what it looks like, I took a picture of the print I brought in and the sugar paper is what's behind it.  Pretty cool huh!?

After you have your cake baked and your fondant disk ready, frost the cake with buttercream like this.  Make sure to do it right when you're ready to stick on your disk of decorations.  Otherwise, the buttercream will crust and the fondant won't stick properly.

I always send these cakes Priority Mail so it gets there as soon as possible.  I guess you could do overnight, but that's too expensive for me.  I use the Medium Flat Rate Box and that size is perfect for the small tin.  I fill the bottom of the box with newspaper, put the tin in and then fill more newspaper all around it.  The tighter the better to insure the tin doesn't move all over the place.  It is also imperative that the cake and fondant disk fill the WHOLE tin so it's not floppin' around within the tin.  I did learn something new with this delivery.  I should have put a piece of wax paper on the top.  The "OF" word apparently stuck a little to the top since it was so much closer to the top than the rest of the decorations.  I usually have the decorations all about the same height in the can - just barely below the lid when it's all closed.  But this cake was a little different since I had the disk, then the cards and then the word OF.  Basically, I think cutting a circle of wax paper to lay on top would be a good idea on all I do in the future.  This will help it not to stick.  Fortunately, my aunt was able to just use a knife and get it to come off without too much trouble, but the wax paper would have been so much better.

I wrapped it with pretty bow and mailed away!

Happy Birthday, Grandma Riedel!

You can see the other cakes in a can I've done here.


Today, I remember.  

I remember those who lost their lives, those who rushed in to help, and those forever affected by that horrible day.

I went to work like normal as many others did that day.  At the time, I commuted to Norwalk, CT everyday, which is not all that far from NYC.  All of my co-workers were on a plane that morning except for two of us in the office.  Me and my great friend Laurie.  I am still thankful we had each other to get through that difficult day.  As I said, our fellow co-workers were all traveling that day.  Some to Washington, DC and others to Pennsylvania.  Laurie and I were glued to a little radio in the office set to NPR.  We didn't have any visual of the situation - no TV and mediocre web service.  As the news came in of planes going down, our hearts sank.  Those were the exact places our co-workers were going. Families of our co-workers continually called to ask if everyone was okay.  We didn't know.  It was so hard.

We finally heard from everyone and thankfully they were all unaffected.  At that exact time though, I remember reflecting on what was really important.  My mind also went to the families of people that still didn't know the status of their loved ones or worse, the ones that had already heard the dreadful news.

Living here in Connecticut, so close to the devastation, has been both horror and a honor.  For months after the attacks, I was constantly reminded of the tragedy when I drove up I-95 home each night.  Lines and lines of trucks carrying wreckage out of the city.  There were crushed cars and parts of buildings all covered in that now infamous ash.  

On the flip side, I was honored when I got to work on Connecticut's 9-11 Memorial Project.  I was a landscape architect at the time and our firm was selected as the designers.  It is located at the Sherwood Island State Park overlooking Long Island Sound.  On a clear day, much like September 11, 2001, you can see the Manhattan skyline.  We designed the memorial around the exact "point" where park staff and visitors watched the plumes of smoke billowing from the twin towers.  The park was also where Connecticut's staging area of rescue/resource assistance was located after the attacks.  So many families from Connecticut were affected.  Due to close proximity, several people commute into NYC everyday.  We completed the project by the first anniversary of September 11 and I was able to attend the Governor's dedication along with all the families of lost loved ones.  A truly humbling experience.  152 victims are honored at the memorial.

Today, I remember.  Today, WE remember.  We shall never forget!      

peace sign "second" birthday party

Today is my daughter Aubrey's second birthday. (Remember her first birthday party here?) We celebrated this past weekend with lots of friends and family.  I'm still exhausted from all the hours spent in my kitchen making everything.

Since the party was during Labor Day weekend, I picked a red, white and blue color scheme. A perfect time to incorporate our patriotic pride along side her "two" birthday. The hand peace sign is also how you show the number "two" so that is the theme we went with. The hand peace sign logo was found throughout the party.

You might remember her invitations. You can find out more about them here.

I found these shirts around the 4th of July holiday at Target for $2.50!!! This is a good example of why I pick a theme really early, so I can keep my eyes peeled for perfect details. I cut the sleeves off and tied them up at the shoulder to make them a little more "girly".

The dessert table. Yum-O! For the backdrop, we covered our garage door with tissue banners, a red/white/blue flag bunting, and a large "two" logo found throughout the party.

See the table runners? I made those with cheap fabric and put on a red grosgrain ribbon with binding tape. They were a simple project made special by the ribbon stars I made and attached to the points. It helped break up all the blue from the table cloth. (Thanks Michelle for letting me borrow those!)

Tie-dyed cupcakes. This was a new technique for me. I piped the three colors into a new bag one right on top of the other, then swirled around for a tri-color tie-dye look.

I put together a simple candy bar in a red wagon. Not only was the wagon a perfect nostalgic detail that fit the theme, as well as the color scheme, but it also allowed the children easy access to fill their bags since it was at their height.

The favor bags included dress-up items for the kids to wear in the "VW Bus Photo Booth". Peace glasses, tie-dyed bandannas, peace necklaces, stickers, and tattoos.

One of the highlights of the party had to be the "VW Bus Photo Booth". The kids dressed up with their favors and then put up their "peace / two" hand signs. What priceless pictures! After I told my husband what I wanted he made the bus. Didn't he do a great job!? Being married to an architect comes in handy sometimes. After plotting the picture, he mounted it to heavy duty foam core board (1/2" thick). He created a system for it to stand up using plumbing tube and rebar hammered into the ground.

Even though the party was in the backyard, we decorated the front of the house with little American flags. From the front door where a sign told guests to "join us in the backyard" to all the way down the driveway, the flags lead guests to lots of fun. We also made a huge (4') two logo and laid it in the center of the driveway.

The beverage station offered guests several options. Two different punch options, water and beer. Notice the cups, too. I bought simple white cups for a $1 per dozen. I printed the logos small on my printer, cut them out, ran them through my sticker machine and then stuck them on. A very cheap (albeit time consuming project) that looks totally custom. The color coordinating straws added a festive touch. Those were another great find around the Independence Day holiday - $1 from the Target.

For the bottle opener for the beer, I tied on a coordinating ribbon to the drink bucket. I love this idea - the opener stays where it's suppose to. I saw this idea years ago from none other than the amazing Martha!

You might remember I always stamp my plates to coordinate with the theme using gel food color (edible ink!). I used a hand peace sign stamp this year. I documented my process so I can show you a tutorial soon.

Since we had the party at 3:00 we didn't need much food. Besides, there was LOTS of desserts and that's what people really want, right!? The little food we did offer, I tried to keep in the color scheme. Blue chips and salsa, Tomato / Mozzarella skewers, and chicken salad sandwiches. The sandwiches were with white bread topped with a tomato half and a blue frill toothpick. Too bad I didn't take a close up - sorry!

Look at this little birthday girl and her lollipop! Too cute! (Yes, I realize I'm bias.)

I can't believe my baby is two! Happy Birthday Bree!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures! Now, what should I do next year!?

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