real parties: little miss birthday

Have you ever heard of the “Little Miss” and “Mr. Men” book series by Roger Hargreaves? They were some of my favorite books to read as a kid, and recently I’ve been purchasing them as gifts to share with my friend’s children. Well today I found an adorable idea on the Hostess with the Mostess blog that I just had to share. A “Little Miss Birthday” party! The whole inspiration for the party came from a Little Miss Birthday t-shirt and the coordinating details are so creative.

Also, be sure to visit Polka Dots & Pirates... mom Jess is the talent behind this and many other great parties!

{more details & photos at hostess with the mostess}

it's all about the birthday cake

Chronicle Books publishes this beautiful hardcover book as well as a coordinating set of birthday cards by Kathryn Kleinman, aptly titled "Birthday Cakes". I would say more, but I think Chronicle sums it up better than I possibly could:

"Exquisitely illustrated with more than 55 color photographs, Birthday Cakes features memorable, celebratory cakes and birthday stories by renowned chefs, cookbook writers, and passionate bakers -- including the likes of Julia Child, Alice Waters, James Beard, Alice Medrich, and Jim Fobel. This elegant yet easy-to-use cake-making book invites us to celebrate everything birthday: the making and presentation of the cake, the warm glow of the candles, the whispering of a wish, and the heartwarming ritual of cutting and sharing the cake. Everyone will enjoy oohs and aahs when a Meyer Lemon Pound Cake is served, a beautiful, sophisticated cake that can be decorated with glazed flowers and long French birthday candles. A fabulous three-day cake-making extravaganza for the truly dedicated is Gayle Ortiz's Princess Cake, a Swedish sweet-sixteen tradition. For happy smiles all around, there's a simple, delicious chocolate cake dressed in luscious frosting, just like grandmother used to make. Sprinkled with fun ideas and tips for decorating, this collection of cake recipes and personal birthday memories will inspire cakes so special friends and family will wish they had more than one birthday."

{image from Chronicle Books}

a paper menagerie

If you're not yet familiar with Tiny Prints, you should be. They have a terrific assortment of birthday invitations, including these lovable animal designs. I can envision an entire party built around them... how about a day at the zoo, jungle safari or party animal birthday theme!

{images from tiny prints}

party inspiration: picnic in the park

Enjoy some splendor in the grass and host a birthday party picnic! You can make it as rustic or sophisticated as you like...

For an adults only soiree, lay blankets & throw pillows on the grass, and provide a picnic basket filled with treats as the centerpiece for each blanket. Include a variety of finger sandwiches, cheese & crackers, wine, sparkling water and perhaps a fruit tart for dessert. Make sure to include the appropriate utensils, plates and glassware too.

For a more rustic all-ages approach, set up a communal area with supplies like a basket of gingham tablecloths for people to sit on, ice buckets filled with sodas and beer, and provide sack lunches that include a sandwich, chips, fruit and a homemade cookie.

After lunch, start up a little friendly competition with a game of softball, lawn bowling or horseshoes and hand out small prizes to the winners.

Resources: Metal tubs and wood crates from Pottery Barn; Open gable top boxes via Elisabeth Anne Designs; White blankets in the grass via Jordan Ferney; Boxed lunch via Lucky Me! ; Black & White check Invite from Tiny Prints; Sack lunches, blankets and wood silverware via The Brides Cafe.

handmade banners & pennants

I've noticed that banners and pennants seem to be gaining in popularity as a party decoration, and I can see why. They definitely liven up a room, don't they? Several of the pennants below are DIY, but since sewing is my craft weakness, I'm happy to report that there are also talented designers on Etsy willing to do the work for you. Here are a few ideas that could be customized to any theme or color palette... see below for links to resources &/or instructions.

Resources (from top left): woman's day, springchick via etsy, the purl bee, twig & thistle, martha stewart, giggleberry via etsy.

crate & barrel party supplies

I spied cute birthday supplies at Crate & Barrel this weekend.  Their kitchen section had gift wrapped kits including a pack of cupcake papers, sprinkles, and the book '500 cupcakes'. I'm not sure if they sell it as a kit in all locations, but if you like the idea for a gift, you can always buy the items separately and wrap them yourself (see yesterday's post if you need a wrapping  suggestion).

{image from crate & barrel}

party inspiration: alice in wonderland tea party

Turn your backyard into a wonderland, and host a whimsical tea party for your little girl's birthday. All it takes is some creativity and an overdose of brightly colored, layered and eclectic decorations. Think flowers, paper lanterns, mixed chairs, patterned linens... and perhaps some 'eat me/drink me' labels for the food and a topsy-turvy cake for good measure. Invite the girls to wear their favorite party dress and you can provide silly 'mad hatter' hats for them to decorate, or red rose hair clips (we're painting the roses red...) as favors to take home. For older girls, if you have the space, how about a game of croquet?

Resources: tablescape and china from country living; heart shaped tea wand beau-coup favors; petit fours by parisian party; garden rose by sandra lane photography; cake by cake passion; invite by sweetwishesstore via etsy; images from a real alice in wonderland party jessica claire photography

put some party in your cupcakes

I've been on a baking kick lately (thanks in part to my beautiful blue kitchen aid) and I'm finding some pretty creative recipies online. This mouthwatering 'Irish car bomb' cupcake recipe combines two of my favorite ingredients... chocolate & booze. Wouldn't they make a yummy birthday surprise for the man in your life? Just make sure he's legal.

{images & recipe from smitten kitchen} 

Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes (m
akes 20 to 24 cupcakes)

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting:
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

see smitten kitchen blog for other tips & details

hubby birthday

Today we 'celebrated' my husband's birthday. I put the word celebrated in quotes because much to my dismay, my husband is not a birthday guy. He doesn't like the extra attention and can't quite wrap his head around the idea of celebrating himself. I know a few other people who share his sentiments and I’m sure you do as well. If you want to respect their wishes without ignoring the day completely, here are a few low key birthday suggestions:

1. Keep it lighthearted. A funny card makes a safe bet, especially when left somewhere to be discovered later, like tucked inside a purse or briefcase. Obviously if that’s impractical based on location, go ahead and drop one in the mail.

{cards via whimsy press}

2. Gifts can sometimes make people feel uncomfortable, but you know your friend or family member well enough to make the call. Remember, some of the best gifts are small and sentimental- like a framed picture from a recent event.

{image via pottery barn}

3. Instead of throwing a party or birthday dinner, get together some friends for a group activity like a baseball game, hiking trip, wine tasting or movie night. Keep it casual and take the focus off the birthday boy/girl.

{images via napa weekends and recipe 4 living}

4. If you’re going out to eat, ask your server to bring out dessert with a single candle, and make it very clear that they skip the song and dance.

{photo by paperseed via flickr}

5. Better yet, offer to cook dinner as a birthday gift, or invite a few close friends over to help, and enjoy a relaxing evening in.

{image via real simple}

6. One final word of advice. No matter how many ways you try rationalize it... a surprise party is definitely a bad idea.

party inspiration: the dirty thirties

Before I leave the subject of thirtieth birthday celebrations, I wanted to post an inspiration board for a party idea that requires a little more time and planning, but has the makings of a fantastic theme: the dirty thirties. The 1930's, while known primarily for the great depression, also had a more glamorous and sultry side including jazz, supper clubs, art deco, burlesque and cabaret. I could see hosting this party at a dimly lit wine bar or lounge and encouraging costumes with an abundance of velvet, silk or feathers...

Resources: Art Deco invitations by Gala DesignNational Hotel and Colony Hotel located in South Beach Miami; vintage wedding photos by Adi Nevo via Snippet & Ink blog; other images available through google.

real parties: 30th birthday drinks & dessert

Last night I co-hosted a 30th birthday party at a local wine bar. Having the party at an outside venue turned out to be an excellent idea- it cost about the same as having a party at home without the hassle of clean up.

We had around 35 people for drinks and dessert in a cozy private wine room. Since the party didn't begin until after the dinner hour, we provided just a few light appetizers of bruschetta, olives, cheese and fruit, and put the focus on a dessert buffet including home baked cookies, brownies, chocolate covered strawberries and cheesecake. The wood decor, red velvet curtains, and low lit candles made for a relaxed and sophisticated evening.

Unfortunately due to the lighting, the majority of the images were too poor in quality to post. I'm disappointed not to be able to share more, but here at least are a few shots of the cookie jars and the setting...

{venue: marc 49, oakland ca}

Some of the other details that gave the party a more personal touch included a special drink menu, as well as glassine bags and stickers so our guests could take extra treats home as favors. The color scheme was done in browns, greens and burgundy to compliment the decor and play off the colors of the wine.

{designs & images by me}

c is for cookie

A cookie buffet adds a little something extra to your party and makes a nice alternative (or addition to) cake. The leftover cookies are also a great party favor. Just leave some bags on the table with stickers for closure and your guests can take home a midnight snack. I'm actually creating a cookie & dessert buffet for my 30th birthday celebration this weekend, so I'll post some pictures of the finished product. I sure hope it looks as pretty as this one!

{image by Rebecca Thuss}

happy birthday to me!

{photo by lilac moon studio}

I'm 30 today! I took the day off work to celebrate... here's what I'll be doing instead:

1) Going to the gym for a relaxing hour of yoga
2) Treating myself to a facial and a mani/pedi
3) Buying myself something pretty
4) Enjoying dinner with my husband at one of our favorite SF restaurants
5) Partying with friends & family on Saturday night, but more on that this weekend...