Category Archives: parties

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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

Red, White and Blue Roundup

Well lookie there. Another month or so has gone by and I’ve left you all alone, uninspired and wondering if I’ll ever get back a normal blogging schedule again.

Short answer? Maybe? Hopefully? Probably.

I had a Memorial Day post planned for you but then I forgot to take a picture of my triple berry crumble with the topping on it.

So all of a sudden, a delicious last-minute BBQ dessert became a topless triple berry something or other.

And since I’m not sure how WordPress handles nudity, I just decided against posting it all together.

But seeing as how holidays seem to inspire me to write blog posts more than any other time lately, I figured I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least show you part of the journey that was a pretty tasty triple berry crumble.

Provided my blog platform doesn’t block the photos for their content, of course.

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Triple Berry Crumble

  • 2 C blueberries
  • 2 C strawberries
  • 2 C raspberries
  • 1/4 Csugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

crumble topping:

  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

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Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss berries with the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Place in a prepared pie plate.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown and white sugar and salt. Use a pastry blender, a fork, or your hands to cut butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Remove the crumble to a rack to cool slightly. Tasty on it’s own but you can also serve it with whipped or ice cream.

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There’s something about a patriotic holiday that inspires me to throw fruit and crust together last-minute and see what comes out. Take, for example, last year’s 4th of July when a late afternoon pop-up shower sent us back home from the neighborhood pool just in time to play iron chef with the ingredients in my fridge in an effort to bake something red, white and blue.

No party to attend, only two people to serve and a limited amount of pie crust, but a patriotic pie nonetheless.

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So what’s on tap for this year? I’m thinking of really going outside the box and revisiting a trusty Triple Berry Trifle.

Three cheers for fruit that matches the colors of our flag.

‘Merica.

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Confessions of a lonely extrovert

Editor’s note: I started writing this post two weeks ago when Matt was still in France. Then I picked it up and finished it a week ago after my family left town except I never hit publish. Please forgive me for the segmented nature of the following excerpts. Just further proof of my struggle as a halfway blogger.

They say introverts relish in quiet time alone. That spending too much time in a loud setting with lots of activity and people can cause them to shut down in an effort to conserve energy. That downtime is not a waste of time but rather necessary and satisfying.

I am not an introvert.

So you can imagine how an extremely extroverted person deals with their spouse being away on a work trip for 12 days?

  • First and foremost, she has a lot of conversations with her dog.
  • She also shops because well, shopping, but also the majority of retail workers are also extraverts and she finds comfort in random musings with strangers.
  • She spends equal amounts of time at the gym and fresh kitchen.
  • She bakes.

Yes, you read that correctly. She bakes. She finally throws some flour and sugar in a bowl a bakes a flippin’ cake. Remember when this blog actually had photos of cakes in regular rotation?

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeMuch to the delight of both my mother and mother-in-law, I did not spend Easter alone. Which is good, because it would have been incredibly awkward to eat this entire cake by myself while binge-watching Fuller House* on Netflix. Instead, I took it over to my co-worker’s house in celebration of both Jesus and she and her husband’s birthdays that weekend. The spouses birthdays and Jesus houdini-ing himself out of the tomb of course.

I appreciate the concern of my mother(s). After all, I do mention nearly every month that [insert holiday] is my favorite holiday so I can understand their sympathy calls and flight searches at the thought of me spending one alone. Fortunately, both seemed happy to hear that I was bribing my way into someone else’s home with four layers of sugary sunshine and the return of Matt and a visit from my sister just a few days later.

*Let’s discuss the awkwardness that is Fuller House another time

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Easter Layer Cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. I somehow only have three so grease and flour what you have and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cupat a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternatingbetween milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate. For this version, I just used my pastel set of gel colors and added them separately to each 2 cup bowl.

Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans andbake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool.

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeButtercream Icing

Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

Top it with a little toasted coconut and Cadbury mini eggs and your ready to go! layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cake

 

Wedding Snapshots: the details

When it comes to wedding and party photos, I’m a sucker for detail shots. And if you’re a sucker for detail shots then we should be best friends. Which is pretty much what our photographer and I became as soon as I looked at her work and saw that she appreciated the little details just as much as I do.

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There’s just something in the details. Don’t get me wrong, you may not get the same emotion with a detail shot as you do with a candid, but I love the way that the details give you a feel for the entire day. As if the theme (if there is one) is all wrapped up into a pretty little detailed package.

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So without further ado, here are some details from our wedding day taken by the talented Wright Photographs out of Champaign.
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on girlfriends…

Sitting 30 days out from our wedding day (no hives yet), I was browsing through the photos one of my girlfriends sent to me yesterday from the festivities and I realized something. People should really get married more often.

I mean when else do you get a chance to spend time with all of your girlfriends from your whole life all at in the same place and all at once? From braces to bachelor degrees, from late night food to Sunday brunch, the chance to merge groups of girlfriends together for one mega girl’s night is pretty awesome.

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A chance made even better if they all get along. Think about it. Chances are you align yourself with similar types of personalities throughout the years. And let’s say, for example, the middle school and college versions of two life of the party personalities meet for the first time in Vegas and realize how much they have in common, you just facilitated perhaps the greatest (or most dangerous) girlfriend setup in history.

bachelorette party, chicago, girlfriends, wedding, spring, friends, travel, family

As my nephew would say, it’s pretty epic really. A chance to spend time with that all the females you love all at once and question why you don’t do this more often. We should really do this more often.

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Weekend recap: Chicago style

Historically I’ve not been the best at weekend recaps. Especially weekends that involve all of my favorite females in one room, baby snuggles and Chicago nights. I suppose it could be because recapping a weekend means it’s over and I have to accept the finality of it all. And just like knowing when to end conversations with strangers after several shots of tequila, I tend to have a hard time letting go.

You know what doesn’t seem to be have a hard time letting go once you turn thirty?

Hangovers.

I hope you’ll forgive me if my sentence structure is off today. Earlier I blasted one of the walls of a cubicle while walking out of my office. And we’re not talking about my usual slight shoulder tap due to a clumsy streak that I’ve never seemed to grow out of, but rather a solid clavicle impact that left the metal frame ringing.

You’ll forgive me if I’m not myself today. My flight home last night was terrifyingly turbulent thanks to an apparently unavoidable line of weather. And the moment in which the pilot decided to bail on the landing about two feet above the runway was just a cherry on top. I feel like a well-shaken margarita, which isn’t very far off considering the amount of them we consumed Saturday night.

But it wasn’t a completely horrible travel day. I got expedited through security at O’hare yesterday and avoided bending over to take my shoes off, a perk I can only assume was given to me when the TSA saw the pitiful look of nausea on my face. And when I sought relief in greasy fast food in Terminal C, I was both pleased and disgusted to find a bonus order of french fries in my mighty kids meal. Pleased at the luck and disgusted because I could no longer stomach the idea of airport french fries about two minutes later.

It was thanks to an experienced pilot and a very calming ARMY sergeant seated next to me that our second landing was much more successful than the first (we actually landed that time) and that I now have a horrifying story to pass along to my future children and secure my newly developed fear of flying for another generation. I suppose I could accept the encouragement my future husband had for me when I text him what happened and he said, “Wow. Good for you. Now you’ve lived a little. Haha.”

And lived we did. Both literally and figuratively. We lived it up for all the new babies born who were finally spending a Saturday night alone with their dads, for a chance to get the gang back together and for a solid rendition of friends in low places at the best little karaoke spot in bucktown.

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April Showers

It’s wedding season! Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were all getting together for bridal showers and bachelorette parties every other weekend?

Truth is it’s been a while since we all got together to celebrate a wedding. That’s why Matt and I decided to be the last. You know, to build the suspense and excitement.

And to give our friends a chance to go out for a night and leave their kids with grandma and grandpa.

We ventured home last weekend for a weekend full of wedding festivities and Easter celebrations. After a brief pilot strike, new flight schedules and a detour in Chicago, we made it to Springfield around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. This was our third trip home that we arrived after midnight so we’re hopeful that by the time the wedding comes, the travel gods smile down on us instead of pouring their flight delays and traffic jams all over us.

Travel woes behind us, we spent Saturday amidst family and friends and if you ask me, there’s no better way to spend a weekend day. It meant so much to us for both sides of friends and family come into town, something I appreciate so much more living thousands of miles away from them.

My mom and sister handled all of the planning and execution of the shower so while I can’t take credit for any of the details, I did manage to snap a few photos to share with you. I think we both know I’m good for little more than photo posts at this point so here’s a mash-up of the weekend.

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

We had a great Easter celebration and are continuing the party this week with the boys visiting Florida for their spring break. You’ll have to excuse my delay in posting as a certain spunky younger brother is turning 5 tomorrow and I’ve got some decorating to do but I’ll leave you with a few shots from Easter Sunday.

Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kidsEaster, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids

Can you tell they’re brothers?