Category Archives: cupcakes

Is it too late for an Easter post?

According to my priest it’s not.

Easter marks the beginning of a season of celebration and new beginnings so technically I’m not late in delivering this Easter cupcake recipe to you.

Technically, I’m right on time!

And I’m not just emphasizing my punctuality because my husband told me mass started at 8:30 last Sunday when it really started at 8:45 to get me out the door in time.

I’d like the record to show that I made it to church on time for many years before I met him.

Thanks, mom! 

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Planned out or last-minute, these cupcakes are great for any spring celebration. I’m actually not a big fan of coconut, but I’m a sucker for a cute bird’s nest and toasted coconut makes the cutest bird’s nests so coconut it is. (note: If you are a coconut lover, you can add coconut flavoring to the icing and/or shredded coconut to the batter)

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Banana Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from How Sweet Eats)

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C melted butter (substitute coconut oil)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 C grated carrots
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Toast coconut in a thin layer (I use a silpat) until just slightly browned. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, blend sugar and butter. Add eggs. Add bananas, carrots and vanilla until well combined.

Add half of dry ingredients and mix together (being careful not to overmix). Add buttermilk and remaining dry ingredients.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop, fill cupcake liners until they are 3/4 way full.

(Or, if you’re like me, accidentally forget the buttermilk and remember after you’ve already filled your cupcake liners, scrape everything back in the bowl and add buttermilk)

Bake 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  •  

     

    1 1/2 blocks of cold cream cheese

  • Blue Gel Food coloring
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted unsweetened flaked coconut
  • Cadbury mini eggs

In a stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract and food coloring until you get a robin’s egg blue (or until your sister tells you it looks unappetizingly gray).

Ice cupcakes and top with coconut and cadbury mini eggs.

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Oh and I almost forgot to mention the best part, these cupcakes are basically more fruit and veggies than they are dessert so you can eat them without any guilt whatsoever.

 

Banana Crumb Muffins

If you’ve been reading my recipe posts as of late, you’ll know that I’ve been doing everything in my power to avoid turning on my oven this summer. With the exception of this ombre birthday cake for Matt’s birthday, I have stuck with no-cook or grilling meals to combat the summer heat.

When Rizzi from the New York Baking Company asked me to review their silicone baking cups, my first thought was, oh crap I actually have to turn on my oven for this. Just kidding. A paper muffin liner user for life, I was excited to see how these colorful creations handled the heat. See what I did there?

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My first inclination was cupcakes. After all, these cups are pretty colorful and would look great for a kid’s birthday party or some other colorful event. After a decently long internal dialogue about delivery and recovery issues if I were to bring these potential cupcakes somewhere to share, I decided muffins might make the best first attempt since I could remove the cups before serving.

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I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical at first. These silicone baking cups didn’t have the bake-eat-and-toss feature that my paper or foil liners did. What if they didn’t look good with the type of muffin I wanted to make? Or they clashed with the cupcake icing I was hoping to create? Yes, I do realize these thoughts are completely first-world in nature, but I’m just being honest.

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So I went with my trusted banana crumb muffin that started as a bread recipe, knowing I could best judge the texture having eating one or twenty in the past.

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Banana Crumb Muffins

  • 3-4 overripe bananas
  • 1/3 C melted unsalted butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 C Flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Crumb topping

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 C oats
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/3 C brown sugar

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream melted butter and sugar together. Add egg until combined. Add bananas and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt together.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, being careful not to overmix.

Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. I have a hot oven (hotter than most) and noticed mine were done closer to 16 minutes in.

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It wasn’t until I pulled these out of the oven that I started to see the opportunities. Yes you would need to keep track of them, but if you bought another set, these cups could be perfect for Illini tailgates (or Gator ones I suppose) and the other colors could be coordinated based on holidays or events. They do make a basic muffin really pop don’t they?

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My only issue was I had a little too much batter leftover after 12 muffins and only one set of silicone cups. Typically I would just grab an extra paper liner or two, but in this case I dumped the rest. Don’t feel bad, it was barely enough for one more muffin.

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Compact, BPA free, dishwasher-safe and a great gift idea, you can get your own silicone baking cups on Amazon.

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Have a great weekend. I’m counting down the hours until my mom and sister come to visit. Eeek!

 

Dunk tanks and Explosives

This weekend I flew home to celebrate my nephew’s 8th birthday, complete with a mix of water sports, explosives and cotton candy. I know what you’re thinking. What else could a bunch of 8 year-old boys want, right?

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Right.

I can take little to no credit for the party or the details because my sister handled it all herself. Perks of moving thousands of miles away I guess. Since Owen’s birthday falls just after the holiday, he’s chosen to celebrate it outside shooting water at his friends for the past several years. And this year was no different, except that he decided he wanted it to be Fourth of July-themed as well. Talk about a practical kid!

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My sister rented a cotton candy machine and a dunk tank. We held the entire party outside in my parent’s backyard and sprinkled in a few kid-friendly fireworks, complete with a Jake-led water gun crew to put out the flames once the show was over. These boys are all on a baseball team together so it was the perfect mix of sports and sugar.

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Happy Golden Birthday Owen! I’m so glad I was able to celebrate with you this weekend!

 

 

 

Cupcakes and Ice Delis

Please accept my apology for ignoring the blog late last week. I had plans to fly home and surprise one of my best friends for her 30th birthday and I was not entirely confident in my ability not to spill the beans. All of them. All over the table and the floor. I love surprise parties, but I get really nervous having to lie to people to pull them off. When you use as many words as I do in a standard conversation, you really have to tread carefully. Fortunately, recently moving out of state gives you a pretty good excuse for missing large events so I had a pretty good alibi.

I flew home Friday evening just in time to join the celebration and catch up with some of my girlfriends. It was a great weekend with friends and family and lower humidity.

baseball game, nephews, little league baseball, boys

 

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Here’s hoping I can get a few projects started at my parent’s house before they read this and call to stop me. Have a great week!

 

 

Oh look, more snowflakes

Happy Monday y’all!

I’m in my southern character today, accent and all, in an attempt to escape the cold spell we’re about to get hit with again. I don’t know about you but I’m over the snow. Fortunately, I’m at the tail-end of a rare four-day weekend, so I can’t let another mini polar vortex ruin my day-off spirit.

Speaking of snowflakes, this weekend we celebrated the first birthday of yet another one of my best friend’s daughters with a winter ‘one’derland theme.

grayson_invite

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If you were reading along last year, we threw a series of baby showers for an influx of little girls coming our way throughout the winter season. Four to be exact. It’s hard to believe they are all turning one already. If you mommas are reading this, you might want to consider another theme for year two as each party has been accompanied by LOTS of snowflakes, both inside and out.

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My girlfriend went all out with this theme so Grayson could celebrate her first birthday with 60 of her closest friends and family. Little lady is barely one and she already has a higher attendance record than I do. Both my friend and her husband come from large families so shoe counts like this are not uncommon.

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After lunching on hot dips, chopped salad, mac n’ cheese and baked mostaccioli, guests enjoyed the hot chocolate bar, dozens of cupcakes, cookies, brownies and sweet treats galore.

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In reference to the photo above, you are in fact seeing double. Grayson’s cousins are twins, 16 months old and lightning fast. I was just happy to get them both in the frame.

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I think it’s safe to say Grayson had a great time at her party. According to her mother she had so much fun that she decided to wake up every 3 hours later that night to see if anyone still wanted to celebrate.

i had a little free time on Friday so I made a batch of snowflake sugar cookies. Completely unnecessary as my friend had plenty of sweets, but they fit in nonetheless.

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IMG_3596

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I’m off to get a few more things done before the snow starts again. Have a great week!

Weekend Recap: Surf’s Up

I bet you’re expecting a post about my weekend spent surfing the beaches of California. Or better yet that I caught a big one off the coast of Hawaii and followed it with a delicious dinner of fresh sushi and a fire dance. And perhaps if you strictly based your assumption on my title you could be right. But alas, I’m simply referring to the theme that accompanied my nephew Owen’s 7th birthday party this weekend in sunny yet not exactly coastal Springfield.

surfing birthday party invitation

After a casual 4th of July in the city, I traveled down to Springfield on Friday to spend some time with family and celebrate one of many July birthdays. Per usual, Finn slept the entire way. Adjusting positions from this:

greater swiss mountain dog

to this:

greater swiss mountain dog

Saturday morning I ran what felt like the entire city of Springfield only to come up short on my 12-miler. Bah humbug. I eventually gave up and settled for breakfast and the farmer’s market with my mom. Fortunately that makes up for it every time.

Then it was back home to prep the backyard for the Water World trilogy that would be our afternoon. The snow cone station was set up.

surfing birthday party snow cone station sign

surfing birthday party snow cone station sign

The cupcakes were topped.

surfing birthday party cupcake toppers

And the equipment was tested for water levels and gliding efficiency.

surfing party slip and slide

We had a few minutes to kill before the chaos began so I forced Owen to freeze next to the chalk drawing his mom made. It’s moments like this I can’t believe how grown up he looks.

owen turns 7

And then he gives me a shot like this and I realize he’s still a kid. Whew!

owen turns 7 surfing birthday party simply social blog

And then the boys arrived. 6-10 7 year-old boys. I couldn’t keep count. There were water balloons bursting, snow cones crushing and war screams for the next two hours.

We realized quickly that when it comes to boys, there is no easing into a party. No shy introductions to one another and baby steps towards the water slides. As soon as those kids rounded the corner of the house, the shoes came off, the bags went flying and the airstrike began. I didn’t even try to get any still shots until the 1,000th water balloon was popped. And that only took 25 minutes. You can watch my Instagram video or catch another snippet of the action below.

Owen Turns 7 from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.

Now you wish you took a nap before that party too, don’t you?

Here are a few stats from the party:

  • 1,000-number of water balloons filled
  • 25 minutes-time 1,000 water balloons lasted
  • 15+-number of snow cones ingested by approximately 7 children
  • 3-amount of dollars it takes to get children to pick up 1,000 water balloon pieces
  • 5-7-slices of watermelon little Evan ate
  • 1-number of cupcake liners Finn cleaned up with his mouth after the party

surfing birthday party simply social blog

surfing birthday party simply social blog

surfing birthday party simply social blog

fruit plate surfing birthday party simply social blog

It’s weekends like this that I feel fortunate to have family and friends close enough to visit often. Most of the time Sometimes the drive to and from Chicago can be monotonous, but being able to experience these milestones first-hand makes the hours spent in the car worth it. Hours that I mostly fill documenting the various positions in which my puppy sleeps.

greater swiss mountain dog sleeps in car simply social blog

must. touch. all. seats.

Speaking of puppies, my Finn joins Owen as he celebrates his 1st (7th) birthday tomorrow. Owen was pretty excited to hear that Finn will no longer be “zero years old” and that they will be the same age for a while. Gotta love dog years.

greater swiss mountain dog

p.s. where did my puppy go?

I hope you are able to ease off the holiday weekend and have a wonderful week. I’d love to hear how you celebrated. Share your comments below. I dare ya.

What’s your favorite 4th of July food? –watermelon for me

Which firework is your favorite? I like the ones that turn into crazy bugs at the end.

Did you have a water-slide party growing up? –sure did. And it’s still among my top 3 parties of all time. Clown cupcakes and all.

Jake and the Captain America Party

This weekend we celebrated my youngest nephew’s third birthday with a Captain America-themed bash. I can’t speak for your family, but birthdays are big in mine. Whether you are turning 2 or 92, each year your birthday is celebrated with cake, presents and the annual telling of the birthday story. Yes, the story is repeated each year without fail. It may seem redundant, but if anyone ever asks me about mine for witness testimony or otherwise, I’m happy to share the details including my Dad’s labor room attempt to try and name me after a Russian gymnast he was watching in the ’84 summer Olympics or that my initially low Apgar scores did NOT inhibit me from the honor roll after all.

captain america birthday party

I’m confident he’ll grow into the mask

Never one to miss a birthday or any party if I can avoid it, we decided to hit the road Saturday morning after I got my long run in. It would be a quick trip but worth it to take advantage of the nice weather our friends to the south had been enjoying all week long (not that I’m bitter or anything). We haven’t had great weather in Chicago this week (once again not bitter), but it was above 30 and dry and I actually thought I overdressed as I hit the first four miles or so.

April (snow) Showers from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.

Then it started. Snow. And then in worsened. Heavier snow. No wait, that’s more like sleet. Oh hail. That’s a lot of hail. And I’m 5+ miles from home with no other option than to just put my head down and deal with it. And I wasn’t the only one. Each pack of runners I passed shared a head shake and a look of bewilderment with me as we scurried through the unseasonable weather like ants to a picnic. Only this was no picnic, folks. It was miserable. And because I was running solo my only chance at misery loves company was to take incessant amounts of iPhone photos and video to share with my family who was currently enjoying a warm 75 degree Saturday just 3 hours south of me. And so I did.

snow_saturday

The last photo in the sequence is back in my neighborhood at mile 10. That’s right. Blue skies and sunshine. Figures. I had a brief chat with a neighbor as I was stretching after and he summed it up nicely.

Are you heading out for a run? What a beautiful day. Looks like you’ll have great weather for it. 

Yes. It does look like that now doesn’t it. ARGH.

It’s amazing how much a little sunshine can lift your mood. Three hours of driving in the sunshine later, we arrived home to a balmy 65 degrees.

Jake’s party was held at a local gymnastics center. This was the same location we had Owen’s 5th birthday and if it were up to me, I’d drop my kids off there every Saturday when the weather was questionable just to let them run like crazies until they passed out. Whoever came up with this idea was genius. And the folks at the facility have a system down. They waste no time getting parties in and out. Two party rooms, 4 time slots each Saturday. Kids arrive, a brief rule set is described and particularly precocious ones listen closely.

captain america birthday party

I’m going to forget everything you said in 3, 2, 1

They line up and march down to Bounce House room for 1 hour followed by 25 minutes in the foam pit. Then its up to the party room for cake and presents for the last 45. Genius. First of all, this time frame fits perfectly with the attention span of three year-olds. They run. They jump. They play. They get all sugared up and crash before they even get home.

Jake’s marks the 10th birthday party my sister and I have thrown over the past few years for the boys. She get’s credit for most of the prep work this time a including saving the banner from Jake’s first birthday to use again. As the older sibling, she’s not one to hoard items like I do. She’s a purger. I have a hard time letting go of things for fear that I might need it for a Halloween costume 5, 6, 7 years down the road. We usually differ in this regard, but since we used similar colors for other parties, saving this banner turned out to be a simple yet nice addition to a blank party space.

captain america birthday party

Add some simple captain-themed cup cake toppers, some thank you tags and you have a quick and easy Captain America Party without a lot of fuss.IMG_3019

And no fuss means more time for play. And funny faces. Note: I highly recommend replacing the word “poop” for “cheeseburger” in attempts to get kids to smile. And judging from the photo below, I’d say Papoo and Jake enjoyed it most. You can clearly see they share a sense of humor. 

Papoo wanted in on the photo

Papoo wanted in on the photo

Once the kids had their fill of foam pit flipping and vinyl bounce house burns, we made our way up to the party room for cupcakes and presents.

captain america birthday party captain america birthday party IMG_3050

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Each party goer was sent home with a treat bag filled with popcorn from a local shop, fun party glasses and a kazoo to keep their parents entertained all the way home.

The party was fast and furious but fun nonetheless. Jake confirmed Sunday morning over blueberry birthday pancakes that he did in fact have a good birthday party but that his actual birthday was over Tuesday. Noted. And so with that we enjoyed our last little bit sunshine and a few signs of spring before heading back to the city.

daffodils

My mom has quite the green thumb

Here’s hoping the only remaining April showers are brief and followed by oodles of sunshine. Have a wonderful week!

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!

>Big Tough Cupcakes…

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Just as I was drafting my post earlier this week about the cute little cupcakes I received for my birthday, a friend forwarded me a link to a shop that has taken a new spin on the cupcake…a manly spin. Introducing the Butch Bakery, home to manly cupcake for manly men. With a unique take on cupcake design and flavors like “Tailgate” and “Beer Run,” I’m sure men all over the greater NYC area are loving these tasty…err hearty cupcakes. Now if only they delivered nationwide!  

>Cute Little Cupcakes…

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I guess my love for baking and sweet treats has made an impression on my family. I was greeted with a lovely box of mini-cupcakes from local cake boutique, sugarbliss, yesterday in celebration of my birthday. While most might dig right in, I spent more time taking photos and admiring the cupcakes than actually eating them. The reviews from my co-workers and friends have been great though and I’m looking forward to trying out the various flavors in the next few days. Since cupcakes are oh-so-trendy lately (insert plug for my new favorite show: Cupcake Wars here), I thought they deserved their own special post. With flavors varying depending on the day of the week, Sugarbliss includes a “cupcake key” in each package along with a great brochure to help you decode each cupcake before you dig in. What a fun idea!!