Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Halloween Party?

I’m not big on Halloween. In fact, I hold my breath till it’s over, especially now that I have a couple of young kids that do not like anything remotely “scary” or surprising. This is the only time of year that we completely avoid the party supply store. A store that is just around the corner and that, during non-Halloween times of year, we frequent regularly.

My 6 year old daughter (Autumn) has decided she wants a little movie night with her friends as a “Halloween” party. Normally I would say, “Sure! Sounds like fun!” but because it’s being billed as a Halloween party I’m kind of reluctant.

So, here is my plan…..


In keeping with the “non scary” theme to this party, I found a stock photo of candy corn ( and typed the information over it. Alternatively, you can easily do this with scrapbooking paper and vellum. I chose not to use envelopes this time because my daughter can easily hand these out to the few friends we are inviting.


The whole reason for the party is to watch a movie, the main event! We’ll set up all the sleeping bags and pillows in front of the couch so that all the kids can see and hear Casper’s Scare School.


It dawns on me as I write this section… should cookie cutters be renamed? We will be using these Wilton brand cutters (available for a little over $3, they are all about 4 ½ inches, the perfect size) for lots of different foods, none of which are cookies.

Using alternating white bread and wheat bread, we will serve an assortment of peanut butter, plain cheese and lunch meat sandwiches in these shapes.

And how about Halloween shaped Rice Krispie Treats?

You will need:
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 16 oz. bag of large marshmallows
  • Orange, green and/or purple food coloring
  • 9 cups of Rice Krispie cereal
  • Cookie sheet
  • Wax Paper
  • Halloween shaped cookie cutters
  1. Lightly coat the cookie sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add the marshmallows to the pot and stir frequently until they are melted.
  4. Stir in drops of orange (for the pumpkins) or green (for the monster head) or purple (for the ghost) food coloring until the mixture is the shade desired.
  5. Stir in the Rice Krispies until they are evenly coated with marshmallow.
  6. Spoon the Rice Krispies mixture onto the cookie sheet and allow to cool for one minute.
  7. With waxed paper, flatten the Rice Krispies mixture to an even thickness.
  8. Press the Halloween cookie cutter into the flattened mixture to create the shaped Rice Krispie treat you desire.
I figure, you have spent the money on the cutters, so why not add Jello Jigglers to your buffet? Jello comes in a ton of flavors and colors, just remember that these take more than 3 hours to complete, so maybe work on them the day before.

To round out this dinner plan, I will be serving fruit salad, slightly steamed carrots, edamame (they actually like these!) and pita with hummus.


Yes, I am going overboard in the sweets department. Maybe by the time I do the actual shopping and cooking for this event, I’ll save the Rice Krispie treats for a different day? Moving right along, I can’t imagine a party without cupcakes! Chocolate with cream cheese frosting is my daughter’s favorite! And to finish them off, I will print out my cute Casper the Friendly Ghost images, glue them on party picks and stick them on top.

Okay, I swear this is the last one – I’m adding here mostly because I can’t stop myself. Have you seen these on Martha’s website? I’m going to modify the original recipe slightly to save, myself.

Boo-Nilla Shakes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 pints vanilla ice cream
  • Whip cream in a can
  • Magic Shell Chocolate Sauce (you know, the kind that hardens to make a crunchy shell?)
Directions: Decorate the insides of 6 glasses with ghostly faces. Blend milk and 1 pint ice cream in a blender until smooth. With machine running, add remaining pint ice cream, one scoop at a time; blend until smooth. Pour milkshake into glasses, filling them 3/4 full. Squirt mounds of whipped cream on top of milkshakes. Serve immediately.

And there you have it, non-scary non-spooky Halloween fun for my over imaginative daughter. I can almost guaranty there will be NO nightmares after this party. The only thing I can’t guaranty, is no tummy aches. I’ll take photos of the actual bash to post later, so that everyone can see that anyone can pull off this semi-homemade party.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

40th Birthday Party

The theme for my sister’s 40th birthday party was born out of a need for chocolate. Oh, and an extremely limited budget.


We decided on a “Dessert” party that would be complete with a coffee bar and champagne. The party was slated for 7:30 so people would have time for dinner before they came. As I said, we had an extremely limited budget, so we beg/borrowed/stole whatever we needed.

The first thing I did was to create a document with all of our (my other sister and I) ideas – from recipes to décor – to visualize what the party would look like. You will notice that there are shopping lists, to do lists, and a cute illustration of the café tables that would be used for outdoor seating.


We envisioned something that felt warm and cozy, and at the same time wanted nothing that screamed “OVER THE HILL”. I chose a stock illustration from BigStockPhoto and used it as the background on the invitation as well as inspiration for the party. Big Stock Photo has a ton of great images, at super low prices (from $1 up), but I could have just as easily used scrapbooking paper as the base of this invite. Because the guest list was a little lengthy I chose to upload my postcard invite to a website that would print, cut and mail them back to me. There are so many of these websites that do “online printing” but I have not found one that I love… so, well, I don’t have a good recommendation.

Easy option for the invite:
  1. Buy scrapbooking paper
  2. Buy envelopes
  3. Cut paper to slightly smaller than envelope
  4. Type all invite information into word or publisher or any text program
  5. Print text onto a piece of vellum paper OR a plain paper in a shade similar to color scheme on the scrapbooking paper
  6. Make sure the vellum sheet is half an inch all the way around smaller that the patterned scrapbooking paper
  7. Use a small piece of double sided tape to adhere the papers together
  8. Put in envelope
  9. Address
  10. Mail it!


Candles, candles, candles! Between my two sisters and my mom, we had a huge assortment of votives and hurricane shades. Every table got 1 large and 3 small candle holders. Each candle holder was tied with a simple bow of 2 inch wide brown tulle.

We rented 3 café size tables for guests to sit outside and used the dining room table for the food. I’ve rented these tables several times in the past, and about 4 years ago cut table cloths out of white felt (on sale!). Each time I use them, I purchase several yards of tulle in a coordinating color – in this case brown to layer on top of the white felt. The dining room table was covered with a chocolate brown tablecloth (rented) not only to match the theme color scheme but also to camouflage drippings from the chocolate fountain.

Rounding out the décor, we used white twinkle lights all over the backyard, more candles inside on shelves and the mantle, and sprinkled the leftover invitations on every horizontal surface. The paper goods were also in coordinating shades of golds and browns.

Food and Drink

Cheese Plate
Fruit Plate

Trader Joe’s Cheesecake
Chocolate Cupcakes

Coffee Bar
  • Coffee and Decaf
  • vanilla syrup
  • cream
  • Small glass containers of:
  • raw sugar
  • artificial sweetners
  • mini chocolate chips
  • white chocolate chips
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cocoa powder
  • chocolate syrup
Champagne Station
  • Vintage Champagne glasses
  • Champagne
  • Orange Juice
  • Sparkling Apple Cider
  • Sparkling water
Chocolate Fountain
perfect to serve the "dippers" in a crudité platter:
  • strawberries
  • marshmellows
  • apples
  • pretzels
  • cookies
  • bananas
  • pound cake
  • brownies
  • bamboo skewers
Strawberry Trifle
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups cold milk

1 (9 inch) angel food cake, cut in cubes

4 bananas, sliced

1 (16 ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed

1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Prepare pudding with milk according to package directions. In a trifle bowl or other glass serving dish, layer half the cake pieces, half the pudding, half the bananas, half the strawberries and half the whipped topping. Repeat layers. Cover and chill in refrigerator 4 hours before serving.

Marci’s Peach Cobbler
1 package yellow cake mix
1 can sliced peaches

1 stick butter
Pour can of peaches - including syrup - into ovenproof casserole dish, add box of cake mix on top making sure to cover evenly. Melt butter and drizzle over entire dish. Bake 25 minutes at 350. Serve with ice cream.

Easy option for the food:
Trader Joe’s has a multitude of frozen treats at great prices – buy an assortment and serve them on pretty platters. You can also have friends/family bring a sweet treat to share (I would generally choose to re-plate these items as they usually show up on paper or Tupperware).

They say 40 is really the new 30, and I think “they” are right. We put on an elegant and upscale party, that was FUN and fit my sister’s personality! The fact that it was inexpensive and easy was a bonus… you can do it too, just do a little planning and a little borrowing and make it look homemade (even if it isn’t).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scooby Dooby Doo!

My son's little girlfriend came over for a playdate today, and while they were arguing over dress up clothes, her mom and I were discussing Scooby Do. As in, a 4 year old girl's Scooby Do birthday party.

Now, this mom knows how I throw a birthday party, and was actually feeling guilty about what she is planning for her daughter. All I can say is, "STOP IT!" There is no guilt allowed here. A birthday party is a birthday party, there is no special requirement that it look as though Martha planned it. And even if you want it to look as though Martha planned it, and have committed to a "Scooby" theme, you can!

Here is what I would do, keeping in mind that everything I do is only semi-homemade.


Store bought, prepackaged Scooby invites can be easily customized with a little confetti on the inside, and a Scooby sticker on the front. I would also make the wording of the invite a little silly and "Scooby-like" by writing it the way that Scooby would say it.


From what I know about Scooby and his friends, the main color scheme is orange, purple, lime green and teal blue. Why not incorporate paper streamers and balloons in these colors around the house and backyard. In addition, if you take a look at the Mystery Machine, there are giant orange daisys all over it that can be easily recreated in construction paper and taped to windows and placed on tables.


I don’t usually include a line item for food, but in this case the mom throwing the Scooby party is an EXCELLENT cook. I can picture small kid size/bit size “Scooby Snacks”. You could serve them in plastic ware that is in the same color scheme as the decorations – I’ve seen some cute, and inexpensive dishes at Target or you could poll your friends to borrow some.


There are so many wonderful activities you could plan, none of them having to do specifically with Scooby Doo. The kids are not going to notice that the “bike parade” or the craft project do not include a talking dog.

On the other hand, since Scooby is all about mysteries, how about a “treasure hunt” complete with easy photo clues? Start by giving the children some kind of simple spy kit that could include; magnifying glass, small notepad with pen, sunglasses, binoculars or camera (obviously pretend). Show the first photograph, maybe it is of the birthday girl’s favorite toy? Place the second photograph on the favorite toy, maybe it is a photo of something in the backyard? And so on, the “treasure” at end of the hunt could be the birthday cake/cupcakes so when they show up everyone can sing and the birthday girl will blow out the candles. (the treasure could also be inexpensive bead necklaces or stickers or anything at all)


I recommend cupcakes (store bought or homemade with box of cake mix) for the ease of serving and clean up, and can of frosting tastes just as good to these kids as a fancy buttercream. I have also made a sheet of Scooby and friends images for you to print, cut out and tape/glue to toothpicks and arrange on the cupcakes. Super easy.

You can make a birthday party anything you want it to be… your daughter loves Scooby Do, so why not make it fun and memorable. Use a little creative thinking to make it your own, spend as little as possible and make it look homemade - even if it isn't!