party inspiration board: it's your lucky day

I’ve been playing around with ideas for a ‘lucky day’ birthday party for a few weeks, but I was having a hard time coming up with a unifying theme to pull it all together. Today it finally came to me… things that are lucky include: horseshoes, rabbits(feet), (lucky)ducks, four leaf clovers and the Irish of course. So what better then a kelly green garden party accented with hints of white and yellow? Invite an intimate group of family & friends for lunch and let the party celebrate not only your special day, but how lucky you are to have such wonderful people in your life. Thank them with a lucky charm favor like a ribbon tied horseshoe or starter kit of clover seeds for the garden.

Row 1: table setting, china, favors via martha stewart, invite via lemon tree paperie, flowers via the knot
Row 2: mason jar via snippet and ink, horeshoes via lucky me, clovers & table setting via martha stewart
Row 3: mint julep via examiner, invite via snippet and ink, duck & bunny via flickr
Row 4: bunnies via etsy, garden kit via lucky me, cake via real simple

real parties: the apple of my eye

You may remember my post on Nathalie from Imprintables several weeks ago, but what I didn’t show you was a taste of the incredible parties she has thrown herself.  Take a peek at this beautiful, bright, apple green birthday party.  Naturally all the paper goods are flawless, but I also love that the food and decorations are so well incorporated into the theme... natural bamboo plates, apple lemonade, green paper lanterns, green toffee apples and warm apple pie with ice cream for dessert.  (This color palette would make for a great eco-friendly ‘green’ party too).  Looking at it put the cheer back in my afternoon. 

{more details & images via imprintables}

birthday cake you’ll be smitten with

There is something so comforting about yellow birthday cake.  It doesn't pretend to be special or fancy.  It very simply states eat me, enjoy... who cares if you get frosting on your face?  Deb at Smitten Kitchen recently posted what she discovered to be the perfect yellow cake recipe, and seeing how everything I’ve tried from her blog turns to gold... I’m inclined to believe her.  Sure, you could easily make your yellow cake from a box and the guest of honor would probably never know the difference, but think of the oohs and aahs you’ll get when you tell them you made it from scratch.  Judging from these mouthwatering pictures, I’d say it’s worth the effort. 

{images & recipe via smitten kitchen} 

Yellow Layer Cake
Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Makes 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake
Only cooking note: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting. 

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.  

real parties: mr. man

Words cannot describe my adoration of this Mr. Man birthday party.  You simply must see it for yourself... I know you’ll understand.  PS: Be sure to note the fact that Christina is a mom to twin girls AND triplet boys.  Yet she still had time to plan this cheeky and fun filled event? I am truly in awe.

{more details and images via fullhouse} 

real parties: backyard bbq

My husband and I recently finished some work on our little yard and decided to have a BBQ on Saturday to celebrate. (Believe it or not, that grass used to be nothing more than a dirt patch). We planned a simple menu of burgers, dogs and grilled corn, and our friends helped out with a delicious spread of side dishes and desserts. As you can see, we kept it casual and had some fun by adding just a few simple details... all in all a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon. How was your weekend?

{photos & invite design © bg 2009}

real parties: abby cadabby

Okay, so admittedly I’m not exactly up on the latest Seseme Street characters, but when Rebecca shared her daughter’s ‘Abby Cadabby’ birthday party, I couldn’t resist passing it along. This cute little muppet inspired a magical fairy theme, and I love that Rebecca ran with it and put her own creative touches into making it unique. The sippy cup favors are a terrific idea... and not surprisingly I’m swooning over the pretty rose covered cake. But I think you’ll agree, the most adorable thing here is the birthday girl herself... how precious is that frilly tutu and headband?!

{more details & images via faithfamilyhomefriends}

mint chip ice cream sandwiches

All week long I’ve had this tremendous craving for a mint chip ice cream sandwich. There’s a company in the bay area that makes the best ones too... ever had an It’s It?  They are so good!  Instead of just giving in to temptation, I decided to see about making them myself. I won’t have time to do it before the weekend, so maybe if I hold out long enough my craving will disappear?  In the meantime, I’ve posted the recipe for you all to enjoy.  I bet now you want one too... was that wrong of me?  

      image & recipe via all you

Chocolate-Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches
makes 8 large sandwiches

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 pint mint chocolate chip ice cream***

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler set over simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Combine chocolate mixture, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until mixture is well combined. Gradually stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture. Add chips.
3. Roll dough into 16 1 1/2-inch balls, then roll each in sugar. Transfer dough balls to baking sheets, and bake until cookies are puffed and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool. Repeat with remaining dough.
4. Arrange 12 cookies bottom side up and top each with a small scoop of ice cream. Top with a second cookie, bottom side down, pressing together slightly. Wrap each in plastic and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Or, if you really want to do these from scratch, try this incredible fresh mint ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz:

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

makes about 1 quart
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 cups (80 g) lightly packed fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks

1. Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup (250 ml) of the cream, and salt in a small saucepan. Add the mint leaves and stir until they're immersed in the liquid. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Strain the mint-infused mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan (the milk will be a lovely shade of emerald). Press on the mint leaves to extract as much of the flavor as possible, then discard the mint leaves. Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream into a large bowl and set the strainer on top.
3. Rewarm the mint-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mint liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
5. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

FREE DiY day: printable sparkler packets

I hope you had a fun filled 4th of July! Mine was so busy it flew by... somehow in the span of 3 days I managed to pack in an all-American weekend of BBQ hopping, margarita making, fireworks watching, county fair frolicking... and I even baked a cherry tart from scratch. The only thing I didn’t get to was blogging, so forgive me for having too much fun without you.

Truly, I had the best of intentions... I even had a project to surprise you with on Saturday. Here are the pictures in any case.... they’re sparkler packets! I brought them to a July 4th party on Saturday and they were a hit. I designed the template to work with both long and short sparklers: just cut down the top portion to your desired height. Personally I’m a fan of using sparklers to liven up any evening event (did someone say outdoor birthday party?) so if you’d like a copy of the template for future use, feel free to download below:

Download Here:BG_sparklerpkt

real parties: beach boy birthday bash

My new blog friend Kim, aka: the owner & creative genius behind The TomKat Studio, recently threw a fantastic beach themed party for her son’s 4th birthday.  Since she lives in Arizona, this poolside party packed with fun & games looks like the perfect way to beat the summer heat!  Of course she designed all the paper goods herself, including the invitations, favor tags, banner and cupcake toppers shown below.  The details and colors compliment the theme so well, don’t you think?  If you have a minute to be jealous, take a look at all the party photos via the amazing slide show, photographed by Live. Love. Photography.  It looks like the kids had a ball!  Nice work Kim!!!

{more details and images via the tomkat studio}