Tag Archives: parties

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.


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.





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.

Weekend Wrap Up: 10 milers, Vintage Markets, Gnocchi and Pigs

I had grand intentions of using the long weekend to casually browse new recipes in my Bon Appetite, write down a detailed grocery list, take my time walking through the store and then spend a quiet morning in my kitchen creating a dish appealing enough to share with you on the blog today.

But then life got in the way. So instead, I will offer you a brief rundown of my weekend observations. Because let’s face it. Everything is better in list form.

1) 10-milers are tough. Maybe not not for you trained 10-miler runners out there, but if you thought you were in shape based on a recently-completed half marathon and then decided last minute to run the soldier field 10-miler in place of a friend who had to work then there’s a good chance the next day your hips will feel worse than your grandmother’s before a rainstorm. And so will your ego when you realize that your watch lost signal under McCormick Place, making your official time is 2 minutes over the 1:28 you thought you ran. Trust that.

soldier field race running

2) You can find awesome stuff at vintage markets. And I just so happen to live very close to the very popular Randolph Street Market. A place where, if you’re lucky, you lock your eyes on a beaut like this Wagon wheel serving tray with coordinating wooden-handled mason jar mugs stenciled with spurs, horseshoes and saddles. I know what you’re thinking. It’s amazing. And you’re right. My seasoned-thrifter Chrissy and I were able to put it the set to use later in the weekend. Awesome.

wagon wheel drink set

Rock me momma like a wagon wheel

3) Gnocchi is not as difficult to make as originally assumed. Especially when you have mimosas, a gigantic kitchen, your choice of high-end cookware, laughter and good friends. Thank you to my good friend Trista for being born. And kudos to the Chopping Block for providing us with some Sunday morning fun. Gnocchi rules.

4) Pig roasts don’t just happen on the farm. City folk can roast pigs too. And they do. Well, at least my friends do. Every year for Memorial Day. The annual roasting is usually followed by various acts of Patriotism, binge eating and drinking. Oh, and a Clay Matthews fathead. ‘Merica.


Random, yes. Jam-packed, you betcha. But fortunately by Monday, I was able to dedicate some time to the remembering the meaning behind Memorial Day. I was reminded earlier this week of a wonderful woman I was fortunate enough to call my Nana. She, along with many others served in the Marines so that we could enjoy the freedom we are now accustomed to. And while weekend wrap-ups are fun, it’s moments like that in which you are reminded that life is much bigger than small social engagements. So today, and nearly every other day, I’m thankful for her.


Have a wonderful week!

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.


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


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.


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!

You’re Invited

I love parties. And I especially love all of the details that come with them. The joy you get when you open the invitation and get a small glimpse into what the party may or may not be like, the colors, the theme!

NOTE: If you don’t geek out on stuff like this then you may want to stop reading now because it only gets nerdier from here…

If you’re anything like me you love browsing invitation books and web sites for design ideas. And you might be my long-lost twin if like me, you hate the overhead that comes with them. $47 for 15 cards that I then have to buy stamps for and send on my own? And don’t even get me started on square vs. rectangular postage restrictions! Oh the post office sorter machine isn’t set for square envelopes? Well, that would have been good to know a month ago. Oh, an extra $25 in postage will fix that? Ok then. Or how about the design factor? I like that design but I really like this one too. Can’t I just have them mate and mail out their offspring?


Each time I’m faced with getting invites out for a party or event, I always question whether others will appreciate the effort that goes into receiving a mailed invitation. But then there’s that little voice inside of me that chimes in,

‘But it’s a printed invitation Sarah. Something tangible. Something that might brighten their day amongst the junk mail. Remember the joy Sarah, Remember!’


Damn you heart, you win again.

The purpose of this post is to let you know you don’t have to settle for big box invitations. Although I do think that companies like Tinyprints, Target, Shutterfly and the like have wonderful options, many of which I’ve used in the past, these are also great resources for finding a starting point for your own custom invitations. You know, so you avoid situations like the time you showed up to the prom in the same dress as a freshman…not that that ever happened to me or anything.

Jake_invite_green copy

And I’ll also tell you that you don’t have to know a lot about design or have fancy software to get started. While photo editing software like Photoshop can help and InDesign is great for laying out pieces, I have laid out a number of invitations in Microsoft Publisher, mostly for its compatibility and quick edits if you are working on it for a friend or client. There are also a few free software options out there if you’re in a pinch and don’t want to spend the money on the real thing. Gimp is a good substitute for Photoshop and Scribus for InDesign.

carnival_invite copy

While the party theme doesn’t necessarily have to match the invite, I like to pull elements from the piece (color palette, background pattern, font types) and bring them in throughout the party to tie it all together. From signage to food and candy, it’s an easy way to bring the theme through to the actual day.

Now that I see a sample of all of the invites from last year, I realize I have some retroactive posts to write. From baby showers to birthday parties, it was a year filled with joyous celebrations and I feel very lucky to have been a part of each and every one.

Have a great week!