Category Archives: “baby shower”

Mummies, Monsters and Sweet Little Pumpkins

You may be wondering where this post is going based on the dichotomy of a title, huh?

Me too.

Don’t worry we’re all in this together.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to plan out blog posts. To have them be strategic and organized versus a brain dump of the tiny elements of creativity or life updates I’ve managed to throw together last-minute in an effort to get them out of my head and onto your smart phone.

In reality it would take far more monetization of this blog and likely the hiring of an assistant to ever get to deliver you the content strategy you deserve.

In the meantime (aka always and forever) you are stuck with my random frequency and rogue content. Chances are if you’ve stuck around this long, a small part of you may even appreciate them.

Moving on.

If there’s one thing to get me back on track with blogging it’s a holiday. There’s a voice in my head in the month leading up to said holiday that starts to whisper:

“So, what are you going to make for Halloween this year?”

Soon, the whisper turns to a normal speaking voice that says:

“Only a few weeks left to decide. Better get some supplies just in case.”

It’s not my fault that this voice comes out more frequently whenever I’m near the baking or holiday aisle at Target. It just does.

By the holiday week, the tone gets an attitude and says things like:

“Well you might as well pack away all those new Halloween cookie cutters and sprinkles you bought for this year because there’s no way you have time to make spiders and cauldrons and headstones now. Don’t blame me, I’ve been bugging you for weeks to decide.”

And then, like most things in my life lately, I decide to throw something together last-minute after Matt suggests we just “buy some cookies at the store or something.”

“Blasphemy. Doesn’t he know we have a reputation to uphold?” 

So in the spirit of upholding reputations as we enter into another holiday season, I present a simple way to make a “homemade” Halloween treat fit for kids and adults alike.

mummy oreo, monster oreo, white chocolate oreos, halloween treats, halloween oreos, baking, dessert, holiday, mummy cookies, monster cookies,

Mummy & Monster White Chocolate Oreos

  • 1 package oreos
  • 1 package vanilla almond bark
  • green gel food coloring (I used wilton leaf green)
  • candy eyes (wilton-baking aisle)
  • Edible food marker (black)

mummy oreo, monster oreo, white chocolate oreos, halloween treats, halloween oreos, baking, dessert, holiday, mummy cookies, monster cookies,

In a large ceramic bowl, melt half of almond bark brick in microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir.

Using a wax paper covered cookie sheet as your landing spot, dip Oreos into white chocolate until covered and set on paper. Once all are dipped, place candy eyes and then put cookie sheet in refrigerator to set chocolate.

In a separate bowl, melt the other half of almond bark until creamy. Add a few drops of gel food coloring (water-based food coloring will stiffen your chocolate) and mix until you get your desired monster green.

Repeat chocolate dipping process on another wax paper covered cookie sheet. Add eye and sprinkles or any other monster features you see fit. Or add another eye and now that I look at them you have a pretty close resemblance to a Ninja Turtle.

Cowabunga.

While green monsters are cooling in fridge, pull white mummies back out and use remaining white chocolate to make mummy wraps. This works best if the chocolate has slightly stiffened but feel free to re-melt in microwave for thinner gauzing.

mummy oreo, monster oreo, white chocolate oreos, halloween treats, halloween oreos, baking, dessert, holiday, mummy cookies, monster cookies,

So now that we got the spooky stuff out of the way, let’s randomly transition to the sweeter side of the season where pumpkins are growing and so is the size of my belly.

Last weekend we were fortunate to get together with our Chicago/Zalewski side of the family for a shower celebrating the upcoming arrival of Baby Z.

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

All fall-themed decor credit goes to my sister-in-law and mother-in-law who created an adorable shower for Matt and I. Would you just look at those cookies?

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower, pumpkin baby shower cookies

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

It was so nice to get together with everyone ahead of the holiday season. We can’t wait to celebrate with the rest of the family in just a few weeks.

 

Moving Day

Hey there. Me again. Back after a brief hiatus with more photos and fewer words. I promise I’ll be back on a regular schedule once we are all moved in but until then I hope you’ll settle for a photo update of the last few days.

Friday was spent down in Champaign celebrating with family and friends before the 5th running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Technically this year marks the 6th annual race but this was the 5th year of our family running let’s just go with that.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

It was so nice to see my Champaign family and to squeeze the little ones before we leave. We were blessed (and cursed) with nice weather throughout the weekend as well, making for a very hot race the next day.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

Jake and Owen came over for the youth run on Saturday well-prepared with their under armor superhero shirts. I missed the run but highlights included Jake getting a side stitch approximately 30 seconds into a 1K distance, Owen blazing to the finish and Jake asking the volunteer why he was getting a medal if he didn’t win.

Saturday evening we celebrated our move with some of our closest Chicago friends. I feel very blessed to have had these girls (and guys) in my life over the last 6 years and will miss them so much. It’s so nice to have a bunch of people to look forward to visiting each time we come back though.

chicago going away party, haymarket pub, friends, Chicago

Approximately 4 hours of sleep later we were onto Sunday where we celebrated the upcoming arrival of the first grandchild on Matt’s side. If you can’t tell by the shower colors, it’s a girl.

girls baby shower, tassel garland, candy bar, sweets table, diaper cake, pink baby shower,

5 or so hours of sleep later it was moving day. Chicago sent us off just about the same way it treated us all winter long with gray skies and wet conditions but we made the most of it. We had a bit of a fiasco with our movers last-minute so we called in some family to help us make the trip. Once the truck was packed, Matt and his brother started the trip down and I headed to Springfield to pick up my dad and Finn.

spring weather, chicago moving day, moving truck

I’m not typically one to consider signs but I am now convinced that Bloomington hates me. You may recall I ran into a big winter storm coming through Bloomington a few months back so I guess it’s only fitting to get hit with a tornado warning on my last trip home.

So dad and I hit the road early this morning with the hope of making it to our new home in a day or so. Matt and his brother are of course already nearly there thanks to a few naps and a lot of caffeine.

Next stop, Florida.

florida_home

Showering Baby King

One of my best friends is having a baby!

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

If that phrase sounds familiar to you, it should. I’ve been saying it on repeat now for the last two years and probably will for at least another one. Yes, at times it does seem surreal that the girls I transitioned from friendship bracelets to bars with are now in charge of tiny humans, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It melts my heart to be able to celebrate the excitement and joy that comes with becoming a mother for the first time with them. Not that I know specifically what it’s like to become a mother for the first time but I’m excited and joyful nonetheless. Combine that with a cross-country move in a few weeks and I’m probably more hormonal than the mother-to-be.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

The good news is I was a little too frantic with the set-up to get emotional before the shower. I was also a little too sidetracked during it to get very many photos of actual people, but I did get a little choked up going through the detail shots afterwards.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

I know what you’re thinking. Man this girl is into details. And while I did fall a little hard for my ‘nearly took more time than the big one’ mini tassel cake topper, my reaction is more for the big life changes ahead for my girlfriend than the party details.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

Do you ever have those moments where you realize your life is about to change in a huge way? Baby showers, weddings, graduations, first communions and the like bring on those moments for me. There’s often a pause of clarity during the celebration where I look at everyone around me and realize the shift that is happening.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

Life is changing. You’re going to be a mom, a wife, a new employee, a grown up who gets to eat that weird host thing that tastes like plastic. You’ve never done this before. It’s nerve-wrecking, but the overwhelming sense of excitement that comes with it makes it all worthwhile. Life is changing and it’s going to be better than it’s ever been.

party_details

Yes, baby showers are cute and Pinterest-friendly.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

And guests actually enjoy watching you open gifts because there’s often tiny little outfits among the packages, but my favorite part about any event comes after the tables are broken down and the treat bags are distributed.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

It’s after all of that when you realize how lucky you are to have friends and family to support and celebrate you on the journey. And while you may be nervous or excited about what’s to come, you know that each of them are just as excited as you are and can’t wait to share it with you.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

Time flies. Before you know it the little girl you were showering last year is sitting down eating cake right next to you. Life is changing and it’s getting better than ever.

 

 

 

 

Farewell Chicago: Feeling Fortunate

As our moving date approaches, I’m becoming increasingly aware of just how fortunate I am. I guess leaving a place after six years will do that to you. By now most everyone is privy to the big changes on our horizon and as much as I try not to think about saying goodbye just yet, the goodbyes are already being said to me.

sweet home chicago banner, farewell tour of chicago, chicago skyline banner

It’s a good thing, really, to be spoken highly of and told you how much your presence will be missed around the office, neighborhood or nearby Nordstrom Cafe. It’s a really good thing, but it forces to you realize how much of that day-to-day interaction you take for granted.

I’m going to miss the fact that the manager at the Nordstrom Cafe now knows me by first name thanks to my love of half cilantro chicken salads and scones.

source

I’m going to miss the friendly waves and the ‘what did Finn eat this week’ my neighbors and I exchange each evening as we walk around the park.

swiss mountain dog puppy, west loop, chicago, mary bartelme park

And I’m going to really miss the association family I’ve built over the past 5 years at NAR. If you think about it, you spend more time with your co-workers than nearly anyone else and I’ve been very lucky to have built a lot of friendships with my co-workers along the way.NAR_group

When I moved to the city, I was so worried about getting caught up in the pack. Of being just another face in the crowd. Little did I know just how small-town this city can feel. In walking Michigan Avenue over the years, I’ve run into college friends, Kelsey Grammar, best friends, baseball players, cousins, country music stars, friends of the family and more furs and plastic surgery botches than I care to count. OK so those celebs are not exactly small-town types but cool nonetheless.

It’s only in saying goodbye that I truly realize how thankful I am for the relationships this city has helped me build.

One coping mechanism I’ve found very helpful is to jam every free moment with social events and time with family and friends up until the night before you leave town. You should try it. I’m off to a great start. Granted, I have yet to pack and don’t have any free time for that in the foreseeable future, but you better believe I’m going to max out on the quality time until we go.

This weekend my parents are coming up to visit and I’m helping to host a baby shower for one of my closest friends. I’ll hopefully have a wrap up post later this weekend but here’s a sneak peek at some of the details. I’ve been itching to do a gender neutral shower after a flurry of boys then girls so I can’t wait to celebrate little baby King!

gender neutral baby shower ideas, chevron, gray and white baby shower, paper straws, tassel garland, bokeh

 

Have a great weekend!

Baby Season

I think I’ll call this winter the season of babies. After all, in just a 3 month time frame, 4 of my closest girlfriends delivered (or are soon-to-be-delivering) 4 healthy baby girls. I don’t know what the odds of 4 friends having 4 girls 6 weeks apart are but I’m pretty sure we should have gone to Vegas.  Then again, pregos and vegas probably don’t mix well. Maybe we’ll take the girls when they turn 21.

It seems like just yesterday we were playing beauty pageant in my mom’s basement. It seems even more recent that we were planning 21st birthday bashes, bachelorette and bridal showers. But babies?! I can still see the look on our most recent bride-to-be’s face when not one, not two, but three of her besties announced that they would not be able to indulge in Mex-all-you-can-drink-ico at her wedding last summer. Luckily we have a great group of fun girls and party-worthy boys to keep the festivities up regardless of liquor consumption.

I think that was the moment I realized we were adults. Not that I didn’t feel responsible before (I may or may not be known as the “mom” in the group), but something about creating offspring just makes it real. And I’m sure the Moms and Dad’s that are now Nana’s, Papoo’s, Rockin’ G’s and Grandma’s felt it even more so than us kids did.

Just like the milestones we experienced in our years growing up as close friends, this one calls for a party, err 3 parties. So grab a drink and use the restroom before I present to you: Baby Season!

We kicked off Baby Season with the “oldest” of the three, little Miss Grace. For Grace’s shower we went with a vintage pink and gray theme. The shower was held at a local bakery and cafe in the late summer so we wanted something that would be girly, have a touch of vintage and fit with the season. Grace’s nursery also followed the same color scheme so we were able to incorporate a few elements that could be used later in the nursery as well (always a plus). NOTE: I highly recommend thinking about the time of year before picking a theme for a shower or party. Your hunt for corresponding elements will be so much easier. Nothing is worse than trying to find magenta table decor the week before Halloween.

Since food was catered, we focused on dessert and cake for the sweets table. We incorporated some local popcorn, a few of the mother-to-be’s favorite sweets and some labeled popcorn buckets for guests to take the treats home with them.

pink and gray baby shower

baby shower dessert favors

Cafe Moxo, the venue where we hosted the shower, makes great cakes. I was very impressed with both the look and taste of the cake and just added a little bunting for decoration. We also did cupcakes on each of the tables in various seasonal flavors.

pink rosette baby shower cake

Pink Rosette Cake

My good friend Amanda also had the cute idea of implementing a station so that guests could create a custom headband for Grace to wear. We included some tags so that guests could label the accessory when they were done. It was a hit!

baby shower headband station

Headband Station

paper straws baby shower drinks

Drink Station

Fast forward one month and we were ready to celebrate Baby Abigail. Due just a short 6 weeks after her bestie Grace, Abigail’s shower fell the weekend before Halloween so we embraced everything Fall. Since this shower was held at a friend’s house, we had a little more flexibility with food and drink. It was so nice and comfortable to be able to use a friend’s house for the shower. Always grateful for hospitable friends and family!

Fall Baby Shower

Sweets Table

Since sweets are always a must, we set them up on a bar in the kitchen and incorporated Fall treats including caramel apple cupcakes and macaroons from the Confectioneiress bakery in Zionsville, Indiana, candy corn and acorn and pumpkin cookies.

Fall baby shower cupcakes cookies

Assorted desserts

pumpkin and acorn cookies

Pumpkin and Acorn cookies

For lunch we served a cheesy vegetable chowder, cheddar and chive scones, guacamole bruschetta and pumpkin dip. We wrote the menu on a chalkboard that could later be used by the mom-to-be for baby stats and photo ops. (Just a wooden frame, chalkboard paper and a washable chalk paint)

chalkboard menu baby shower

Lunch Buffet

And since no party is complete without a favor, we asked guests to take a homemade caramel apple with them when they left.

caramel apple baby shower favor

Caramel Apple Favors

Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went and with the new year came Baby shower #3/3. This past weekend we celebrated the soon-to-arrive Baby Ella. Since Ella’s mom is in her residency and on a very busy schedule, we were fortunate that nearly all of our friends and family could make it up to Chicago for the shower. And fortunate again that a mutual friend of ours offered to host it at her home. While I’m never opposed to a cool venue for a party, there’s something nice and intimate about sharing these events in someone’s home. And a gorgeous one at that.

garden baby shower sweets table

I had a vision of a sort of garden theme with pinks and greens after sending out the invitation and it ended up matching nicely to the french country design of the space. Naturally, it didn’t take much to make the sweets table coordinate as well.

If you’ve not experienced the bakery at Mariano’s, I highly recommend a visit. Since most of our showers thus far were held back home, I didn’t have the chance to use any vendors in the city. A Mariano’s just opened up in my neighborhood and after drooling over browsing their bakery section, I decided I had to try them out for the last shower cake. Oh, that and the fact that this little gem cost me less than $10. That’s right, a custom cake for $10! I’ve spent 5x that much for some pretty “special” cakes in the past. I can still see the look on the baker’s face when I stood there just staring at her after she “priced out” my design. Even better, it tasted amazing. Can you tell I’m a fan? ok I’m done now.

pink and green baby shower cake

Bella Cake

Because my co-host contributed some tasty peanut butter chocolate ganache cupcakes and we had cookies for favors, candy and other sweets, I didn’t want to go overboard on the cake. I do love how they look as a centerpiece however so this was perfect on a number of fronts.

garden baby shower

Wishes for Ella

I stole the wishes idea from my cousin’s shower last summer. We had so much fun with it and I thought it would be a great way to involve the guests without making everyone feel like a child with silly games. We used them at each of the showers this season. It’s something the mom-to-be can take with her and read later and it really shows the personality of each guest. Plus, it’s a fun way to add design details throughout the shower, which I love. I have a template I’d be happy to share if you want to comment on this post, otherwise I found this one through a simple search online.

cucumber sandwiches

Cucumber Sandwiches

Since the shower was in the late afternoon, we stuck with a light menu of cucumber sandwiches, assorted crudites and hummus, fruit and cheese, goat cheese and grape crostini’s and mac n’ cheese bites.

pomegranate punch

Pomegranate Punch

My co-host made a pomegranate punch that was light and refreshing. We served it with ginger ale and just had a bottle of Prosecco on hand for those who wanted a little kick to their punch. I’m not sure the exact recipe she used but I found a similar one from Food and Wine here.

elephant cookie baby shower

‘Ella’phant Cookies

Guests were encouraged to take elephant sugar cookies as a thank you for coming.

And so wraps a successful Baby Season! As we expect the final girl here in a few weeks, I turn my focus back to boys and birthday parties for the next several months. But when the weather cools again, I can foresee a lot more pink as all of these little girlies celebrate turning 1!

>Oh Baby..Part 2

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Last week I mentioned that my sister was looking for cookie ideas for a baby shower she was hosting for a friend. The cookies, from a local bakery called Specialty Cakes, turned out so cute I just had to share. Now if only I could taste them…

>Oh Baby!

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My sister is throwing a baby shower for a friend this weekend and was looking for a cute saying to put on the cookies. In my research I came across some adorable treat ideas and thought I would share.

Fortune Cookie Baby Shower Cupcakes from Pink Cake Box

Brown and Pink Medley by Posh Pastries

 Monogram Cookies by Alis Sweet Treats

Onesies by Sweet Tiers