Woodland Themed Baby Shower


I recently attended a Woodland themed baby shower for my friend Penelope. The whimsical nature of the event, detail, and special touches caught my attention. Images of mushrooms, rabbits, squirrels, fox, and acorns adorned her invitation, wishing tree tags, personalized cookies, and cake. Greenery and succulents lined the tables. It was beautiful!

Considering I had an upcoming baby shower to throw for a special little arrival, I knew that I had found my inspiration for our next event. I spent days and weeks cruisin’ Pinterest, visiting craft stores, and collaborating with my mom to find a starting point. We found adorable invitations, which we purchased on Etsy.  There are tons of great designs! We went with the design that we felt the parents-to-be would enjoy and we loved the little images of the gnome , deer, rabbit, fox, hedgehog, and mushrooms.


The Decor


We used checkered red and white picnic table cloths to line the tables. My mom picked up a big roll of the material from Joanne’s and cut the fabric to size for each of our tables. We also found amazing little gnomes (big and small) on sale at Hobby Lobby (we tried to not shop there given the most recent headlines, but when a girl needs gnomes, sometimes, you have to go to great lengths). We also purchased galvanized buckets at Hobby Lobby and planted them with alyssum, dahlia’s and tiny polymer mushrooms, which we also found on Etsy!



The Food

We wanted the food to be simple but tasty. Almost picnicky. My mom made her famous submarine sandwiches. They are simple, but hot damn, are they delicious.  My mom learned to make these sandwiches when she was a teenager working in  an Italian deli back in ’64. These little sandwiches have become a tradition for our family.

Begin with a nice, fresh, crusty baguette (Costco has perfect baguettes to use. However, make sure to purchase the bread the day of! ) The baguette is sliced lengthwise making room for layers of provolone, sliced tomato, sliced white onion, sliced dry salami, sliced Capicola sausage, and pepperoncini. The bread is then drizzled with pepperoncini juice, EVOO and sprinkled with garlic salt and oregano. Considering I don’t eat meat, I opt for the non-meat items only and the sandwhich is still delish! Badabing, badabang.

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To accompany the sandies we made three new side dishes, inspired by Pinterest  and Bon Appetit Magazine. When I say new, I mean soooo new that we didn’t taste test them until we were making them for the party!  We like to live on the edge…Ironically, a dish I chose and a dish my mom chose both had dill. If people hated dill, they were out-of-luck! Luckily, all attendees were happily fed and full by the end of the day. Even our Gluten Freebies.

Here were the three lucky winners!Three Bean Salad (with fresh green beans, shallots, kidney, and garbanzo beans), Rustic Mediterranean Pasta Salad (with yellow and red grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, fresh dill, golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, and feta) and finally German Potato Salad  (with small waxy potatoes, scallions, fresh dill, and caraway). Click on the salads for the complete recipes!

They all turned out delicious and make for great leftovers… All of the salads can be made the day before and they keep perfectly in the fridge overnight. It allowed for chill time the day of the event! Always a plus.

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The Dessert

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My mom made her new favorite party dessert Mini Nutella Cookie Cups and added a newbie to the mix…Triple Berry Lemon Cookie Cups. They are both decadent and perfect handheld desserts for any gathering.

Additionally,  the cookie cups for each dessert can also be made a few days prior to the event and can be kept in the freezer until the day of the event.


My aunt made a yummy fruit kebab display to add to the mix. I love how she uses the watermelon as the skewer holder. Brilliant! You can add any fruit you want melons, berries etc. Go wild!

The Drinks


We used mason jars and wine glasses. I tied on handmade tags I made using the Silhouette Cameo  which also match the invite, using twine and added some cute burnt orange and white striped paper straws that I found in the dollar bin at Michael’s. We served lemonade, beer, and wine. We also had a brewmaster guest make a special homemade beer too! He called it Baby Brew.

Trail Mix Bar


Many events have candy bars now. They are popping up at parties, weddings, and celebrations.  For a little twist and to stick with our theme, we made a trail mix bar instead. Guests could scoop up M&M’s, Craisins, Yogurt Raisins, Banana Chips, Peanuts, White Chocolate Chips, and Almonds. We provided paper to-go boxes, so our guests could take a little snack to-go!

We purchased all of the toppings in bulk at Sprouts and Costco. The to-go boxes were purchased at Michaels along with 12” by 12” tacky moss paper (which we lined the top of the table with) to give it an earthy feel. Scoops were purchased  on Amazon and the handmade food labels I made on my Silhouette Cameo were added to plastic containers purchased at Party City, fastened by patterned clothespins purchased at Michael’s. We added gnomes, and my handmade banner and voila! Fun, fun, fun. I now have a gallon bag of trail mix leftovers, perfect for my upcoming camping trip to Big Sur!

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Special Notes and Wishes for Baby, Mommy, and Daddy

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Guests could leave a special message for baby and the parents-to-be on handmade mushroom tags. I used my Silhouette Cameo to create the tags and we hung them along red ribbon in the entryway.


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We found adorable woodland themed magnets on Etsy! We added them to a little bag along with polka dot ribbon and raffia and affixed them to a mini white board. I made a little sign thanking guests and instructing them to take a magnet.

Now we are patiently waiting to meet the new addition…


Herb Themed Wedding

Our Wedding: July 29, 2011


I know this sounds cliche, but the day I married my husband  was truly one of the best days in my life (thus far).  It combined all of the things that I love: the love of my life, my family, my friends, good music, a beautiful view, tasty food, and an opportunity to throw a great party.

It was important for me to try to keep the event personal, budget friendly, and fun.

The Location: Casa Romantica

Abby, Mike and Elijah on the Casa deck

There was one thing we splurged on and that was the location. I figured if the location in which we married was beautiful and had a great view, there was not much else we needed. We landed on Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente, CA. It was perfect.

Casa Romantica is perched atop a bluff, overlooking the San Clemente Pier. For a cool history lesson on this beautiful historic venue click here. We saved $2,000 because we chose to marry on a Friday instead of a Saturday. The venue still cost a whopping $6,000 just for the space, but I assure you, it was worth it!

Casa Romantica was also chock full of beautiful details such as raised ceilings, peep hole windows, and gorgeous chandeliers. It made for the perfect backdrop for a perfect evening.

Casa chandelierre

 There was also a cool fountain in the middle of the dance floor, which was no longer used as a fountain. I thought it would be beautiful to place tea light candles in the fountain to showcase warm light while people danced the night away.




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We opted to have the ceremony on the patio and the reception in the courtyard. We utilized the interior of the Casa home for dancing, dessert, the photo booth, and hors d’oeuvre’s.


Given that Casa Romantica is so beautiful and has an incredible lush garden surrounding the home, not to mention, I love gardening, I wanted to choose a color scheme that was earthy. I chose creams, browns, and greens. These colors represented the base of everything I created for the event and complimented the venue beautifully. I also wanted to showcase herbs for centerpieces, use herbs for our favors, and use the herbal theme throughout. Candles and warm light were also important to me.

The Welcome Table:

Welcome table

As guests arrived they were met by our welcoming committee: Dan and Emily! I used the cute vintage style nesting herb crates which you can purchase here to house the programs, pencils, and favors. One box was also used for guests to leave cards and another was filled with flowers for decoration.

The Favors:

I was inspired by this picture and thought this would be a perfect addition to our herb-themed wedding…

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Considering I work at a school, and I wanted to save $$, I asked the head of the science department if he could point me in the direction of ordering test tubes, in bulk, for cheap. He had one better! He gave me 150 brand new, in the package, test tubes for free! Score! I did have to purchase the cork stoppers, which I found online for about $6. I purchased a 5 lb bag of dried italian herbs in bulk and filled the test tubes, added the cork stopper, tied off with raffia, added a clear label (I made on Microsoft Word) to the test tube with the following wording and voila, 150 favors for less than $50:

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The Programs:

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I wanted guests to be entertained while they waited for the ceremony to begin. So, on one side of the program, we had details of the event and on the other included either a Mad Libs (which we collected and still have as a keepsake) or a crossword puzzle. You can use a free crossword puzzle generator like this one. I created these using Microsoft Word, printed 2 per page, front/back and printed them on tan card stock and cut in half.

We had personalized pencils with the phrase “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE” made by Oriental Trading. Guests could use these to fill out the Mad Libs or Crossword Puzzle.


Miscellaneous Decor:


My mom and I sewed  fabric squares with green and cream fabric from JoAnn’s . I also used this fabric in a project for the table assignments. We added floating candles in glass jars filled with water and tealight candles all purchased from Walmart along with brown wooden picture frames for the tables that were set out for cocktail hour. We added pictures to the frames from some of our favorite moments together throughout our relationship. If I could go back, I would have added some flowers.




We had bubbles out on the patio.  The phrasing for the tag was my husband’s contribution…(enough said)

Table Assignments:


I wanted to continue the herb theme in the seating assignment board. I created a poster board, wrapped with fabric and added table assignments cards in the theme resembling seed packets (which I created using Microsoft Word) printed on cream card stock, matted on chocolate brown card stock, and I added a cute little brown bow. The bottom of the card reads:


EST. 7.29.11


I attached to each centerpiece an herb stoneware marker, which you can purchase here, representing different types of herbs. These markers associated with the guest’s seating assignment. We propped the board up where guests headed out to the seating area.

Our seating chart
Our wedding sign
Sweetheart table
My dad, husband, and I got crafty making directional signs and a Mr. and Mrs. Sign for our sweetheart table.
I purchased the materials at Michael’s: including letters, hearts, and plaques. We stained the wood light and dark for contrast and used red acrylic paint on the hearts. We used wood glue to affix the letters to the plaques. Finally, my dad affixed the signs to a wooden stand!
The Centerpieces:
Each spring, our neighbor and his wife host a plant sale on his driveway. They prepare hundreds of seedlings and sell newly sprouted flowers, vegetables, and herbs as a fundraiser for their son’s elementary school. I knew that I needed to consult with them on my herb themed centerpiece idea.  I also knew that they had the greenest thumb in the neighborhood and I love the fact that we could grow our own sustainable centerpieces.  They agreed to help us on this journey and the rest was up to mother nature.  I would check on my seedlings throughout the season to ensure my babies would be ready for planting by the time wedding day hit! Sure enough, we had beautiful parsley, chive, oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary plants!
We purchased  trifle bowls from Walmart for $9.99/each and created a planting station. My sister-in-law, my mom, and I filled the bottom with stones, added dirt, 4-5 different herb plants,  white rununculas and white snap dragons (purchased from a local florist and added the day of the wedding), some filler, and the herb stoneware markers which you can purchase here.
In addition to our centerpieces, we also needed to have bouquets for the ladies and boutonnieres for the men. We also needed a few extra florals for the dessert table, sweetheart table, and arbor. We worked with Krista Levandofsky’s team of Downtown Flowers OC. I liked the flowers, I didn’t love them. I was pretty specific about certain flowers I didn’t want and they included those very flowers in everything! Not sure where the communication breakdown was? I was also dissapointed that they lost some very expensive glassware that I provided and used fake candles on the arbor. I followed up with an e-mail regarding my concerns and they never responded. Sorry, not getting my business again.
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See that pin on my bouquet? That is an antique Tiffany & Co. pin that was given to my grandmother as a wedding gift from Andrew Mellon, a former United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and United States Secretary of the Treasury and founder of Carnegie Mellon University. Pretty cool eh?
The Dessert:
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We opted to have mini cupcakes catered by Linda Bertch. Flavors included Lemon, Red Velvet, Pink Lemonade, Godiva Chocolate, & Pineapple Coconut. They were delicious and cute! The total cost for 500 mini cupcakes plus delivery came to $450. I estimated about 4 mini cupcakes per guest at 125 guests.

I purchased the cute cupcake tiers at TJ Maxx Home Goods for approximately $19.99/each and added some personalized napkins for approximately $60 and our florist added some flowers.

napkin 1
Food and Drink Menu:
Our wedding was catered by Iva Lee’s, a San Clemente based restaurant specializing in Southern and Creole Cuisine. Lisa was fantastic and put up with me and my type A bridal demands, er requests. I tried to be overly organized, er specific, and I am sure I drove her nuts with my mile long e-mails. Sorry Lisa!
I also hired Lisa to be the “Day-Of Wedding Coordinator”. That was the best decision I could have EVER made! It was worth the $1,000 investment (not including tip), believe me ladies!
On the day we taste-tested the menu, I was sick. So, I left it up to my husband to select our meal. Poor guy didn’t even have a chance to eat the day of the wedding because I wanted to make sure we greeted guests at their tables.  He still brings it up to this day!  Note to self, if I could go back and do it again, I would have stayed in my chair, devoured that meal like it was going out of style, and I probably would not have ended up in a wheel chair at the end of the night. That’s a story for another day…Anyhoo here was our menu.
I like options, so options there were…

Tray Passed Hors D’Oeuvres

Proscuitto wrapped with Asparagus with Sonoma Goat Cheese

Duck Confit on Cranberry Potato Cake

Jerk Chicken with Mango Chutney

Sesame Crusted Ahi with Ginger soy Glaze on Wonton Chips

Miniature Crab Cakes with Citrus Avocado Relish

Baked Goat Cheese Croistini with Dried Cherry & Apricot Compote

Brie Cheese in Phyllo Cup with Pecans & Cranberry Lemon Curd

Pacific Rim Vegetable Spring Roll with Thai Basil Sauce

 Dinner Menu

Baby Green Salad tossed in a Cherry Pinot Vinaigrette with Sonoma Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Thyme Crusted New York Strip with Roasted Shallot au Jus

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Sun Dried Cherry & Orange Sauce

 Three Cheese Ravioli with Homemade Tomato Sauce

South Carolina Cheesy Grits

 Grilled Vegetable Platter

Broccoli & Cauliflower Potatoes Au Gratin

Asiago Parmesan Bread

Rosemary Sage Bread

Fig and Honey Bread


Bar Menu:

We also had a full bar, beer, wine and two specialty cocktails:

Coming up Roses

(Bacardi Razz, Rose Simple Syrup, Lime Juice & Champagne with Dancing Rose Petals and Cranberries)


(Ketel One, Muddled Mint & Lime with Simple Syrup & Soda)

The total cost for the food, beverage, and rentals for 125 guests came to $11,183 including tip. Not bad in my opinion, plus it included after dinner coffee and don’t forget that FULL Bar (and bride in a wheel chair-Remember, a story for another day)

The Bridesmaid Dresses:


I wanted for my girls  to select dresses within the color scheme that they wanted to wear. I will not disclose the cost of these dresses but let’s just say they ranged in price from over $400 to under $50. Two opted for a champagne color and two opted for chocolate brown. All in all, they looked beautiful and (I think) they were happy that they could choose what they wanted to wear.

The Bride and Groom:


I purchased my wedding dress at Ferndale’s Bridal the same store where my mom purchased her wedding dress in 1967. The shop moved physical locations, but it was the same bridal shop. Pretty cool eh? My dress, veil, shoes, and jewelry came to $953.19.

The best part is that I purchased the Maggie Sottero RD 1044 gown and when I finally picked it up, I hated it! Not gonna lie, I cried on the way home. Unbeknownst to me, like the little mice in Cinderella, my mom stayed up literally ALL night implementing her magic seamstress skills to re-invent the dress to what it is today. It takes a lot of cajones to tear someone’s just purchased wedding gown apart without letting the bride know, and that is exactly what she did. I remember driving to their house after work the next day to see my gown. I walked upstairs and there it was, hanging from a hook in the middle of her closet like a beautiful white rose. It was stunning, perfect, and a better version of the original. Look out Maggie Sottero! I cried tears of joy.

Seriously, my mom rocks.

My husband rented his outfit from Friar Tux. He did not shed any tears…

As a gift to his groomsmen, he purchased everyone a pair of black Vans. The guys wore these the day of the wedding instead of dress shoes. I hate dress shoes. If I could go back, I probably would have opted for a nice dress shoe instead…


Walking with my dad long dress shot

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The Invitation and Wedding Website:


We found these beautiful DIY invites for $36 at Michael’s. You heard me right, $36 for 100 invites. What a steal.  They fit perfectly with our herbal theme as they had pressed herbs and flower petals on the card jackets. They came with a super ugly yellow  bow and we threw those out immediately! We opted to Dr. them up instead by punching holes in the jacket and tying them shut with satin sage green, brown, and cream ribbon. My dad used his fancy schmancy calligraphy skills and addressed all of the envelopes with a  brown calligraphy ink pen.

Rather than have guests RSVP by mail, we opted to use a wedding website instead. This not only saved us money  on postage but allowed us to monitor guest RSVP’s for all of our wedding related events (which included 5 in total!). We used www.wedshare.com. This site was AWESOME. We were able to manage our wedding site, pictures, music, RSVP’s, our wedding registry info including a built in Honeyfund-like feature connected to PayPal, seating charts, addresses, mass e-mails etc. It was very user friendly too. Yes, there are a ton of for free sites out there, but this site took care of all of our specific needs. My mom purchased it as a christmas gift for us about a year before the wedding. It is a phenomenal gift to give to newly engaged couples!

A fun fact, because I am strange: I found the King and Queen stamps to use when we mailed out our wedding invites. We mailed them out the same day Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge were married (April 29, 2011). That’s fun right?


The Photo Booth/Guestbook:


I searched high and low for an affordable DIY version of a photo booth. I wanted it to be user friendly, provide photo strips like a traditional photo booth, print two copies (so guests could take one home and glue the other in our guestbook) and FUN! I was super excited to find this gem in my  search,the David Cline Photo Booth App.

David was great, he worked with me and I was able to obtain the files to download this application on our Macbook.  I followed the directions to a tee. I purchased the special little Epson Printermate Printer on Amazon, cut the 4″ by 6″ photo paper into strips,  dowloaded the application, and set it up so it printed 2 copies.  Voila, we had ourselves a pretty schnazzy photobooth.

My photographer cousin Nick set-up a black screen, we propped up the computer on boxes covered in fabric, and guests used the Macbook camera to take the pictures. The cool part about the app is it prompts you, so you know when the camera is about to take the pic. We had fun props for guests and station to add the picture to our guestbook and envelopes so guests could take their copy home.

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photo booth guest book

Our Officiant:


I knew the only person I would want to marry us is my big brother Mike. He is well-spoken, a poet, an amazing writer  and just an overall great guy. He was kind enough to oblige and we made our way to the court house so he could become an ordained minister for a day! My nephew Elijah did a pretty kick-butt job as a ring bearer too!


The Rings:


My husband and I both had our rings made by James Kanan. My engagement ring was a combo of two rings I liked that my husband made into one with the help of our designer. The center stone was purchased but the surrounding stones are from a ring of his mom’s. I also made a ring for my husband which included diamonds from my mom. My wedding band was my mom’s. My dad gave it to her on their wedding day August 26, 1967. I had James polish it and redo the inscription inside to include our wedding date.

Overnight Guest Welcome Bags:



Considering we had quite a few out-of town guests, I wanted to make sure they received a cute and practical welcome bag in their hotel room when they arrived. It took some coordination with our hotels, but it eventually worked out. The contents of the bag included: Martinelli’s Cider, water, gum, aspirin, hand sanitizer, snorestop (my husband used to work for the company), local taxi contact info, sunscreen, tissues, an In-N-Out sticker (it’s a CA thing), chapstick, a San Clemente postcard, and a map with dircetions to all of our events and suggestions for places to visit around town, created by the creative WedInsteadIMG_1746




I knew that I had to have my dad perform at my ceremony! He is such talented guitarist and he has a beautiful voice. He did a wonderful job and brought a tear to everyone’s eyes. Thank you dad. That was a dream I’ve had, ever since I was a little girl!

In addition to my dad, we hired a string quartet. The best part? They were VERY affordable as they were students from our school orchestra. Not a bad idea! They did such a great job and played some great songs including Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley, All I Want is You by U2, and All You Need is Love by the Beatles. Check out your local high school and see if they do events! I also hired our school Video Production crew to film our wedding. The cost for videography and the string quartet came to $500. They were going to do it for free!

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Be Budget Savvy, Think Green, and Honeymoon!

Last but not least… a final piece to the wedding puzzle was utilizing your resources and recycling! We could not have enjoyed our wedding if it were not for the generous contributions of our family and friends. A big shout out to Nick, my cousin for his photography skills and his wife Nadine the best Asst. Photographer, my cousin Kasey for her hair dresser skills, my friend Alexis for her make-up artistry skills, my neighbor for his green thumb, my brother for officiating,  my brother’s friend Eric for his DJ skills, my students for their musical and artistic talents, my mother and father in law for their generous monetary contributions and for allowing me to marry their son,  and my parents who undoubtedly helped in so many ways from being a storage unit, to a craft zone, a last minute errand runner, and seamstress, a musician, a generous monetary contributor, and therapist office. You allowed me to express my creative desires, you never called me a bridezilla, you made me laugh through it all and I will be forever grateful.

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In our effort to be budget savvy and think green, we recycled almost 10,000 bottles and cans during our engagement. Since I work at a school, I let the staff know and some of the teachers set-up receycling centers in thier classroom and students would donate to our honeymoon fund! They were so excited as I kept them updated on how much money was rasised each month! We used this money to help pay for our honeymoon to Playa Del Carmen. We also used rewards points from our credit card to purchase our plane tickets and we had a honeymoon fund. These budget savvy tips will help you plan the best part…the honeymoon witout going broke! I am happy to report that we began our marital bliss debt free!

Great Gatsby New Years Eve Party

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In October, I attended a Halloween party. It had been quite some time since I attended a party where I had to show up in costume. Let’s just say, I loved it! I loved everything about it, but mostly, the wig; my newfound long, flowing brown locks. I discovered that I.love.wigs. I also discovered that although I grew up with blonde hair my entire life, brown hair is a good match for me. A few days later I wore the same wig and a different halloween costume to work and received an overwhelming response that brown hair was meant to be on my head. Immediately I made my way to my hair dresser who I see but once or twice a year (side note: come to find out, I only see her right before I head out on a trip. Strange fact: she has another client who only comes in before funerals. I would much rather be the traveling girl. Right?). Anyhoo, I let her know that I wanted to dye my hair brown. She told me “no!” and instead I went blonder. Why is all of this significant? Two reasons, I knew I needed to throw a party that required costumes and I needed to sport the brown hair, like pronto. I had it! A New Years Eve party, Great Gatsby style. This way I could dress up like a flapper and wear a short brown wig. Perfect! So, on October 26, I sent out a Save the Date for the Great Gatsby NYE Gala.

The best time to let people know about a costume party is right after Halloween. I was able to score all of my costume items (such as a flapper dress, pearls, long black gloves, fishnet tights, and a long cigarette holder) for 30-50% off at Party City totaling about $63 with free shipping and a super cute short brown wig for $8 on Amazon. I’m a planner, I like to save money and I was excited. Although, I can imagine that most of my friends didn’t start thinking about their outfit until the week of, and thought I was looney tunes for sending out a STD (save the date) so early. I will say, in the end, they all “brought it” and looked dashing!

The Decor

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I knew that the decor had to be classy and NYE appropriate. I opted for a lot of glass, candles, black, gold, silver, strings of beads, big shiny gold and silver ornament balls, and fun fabrics. I also knew I needed lots of gold frames sitting around with fun pictures. The first order of business was to find some fabulous pics from the web to frame for the party. These also doubled as pictures I added to the Facebook event invite and the Postmark evite. I found gold frames at the Dollar Tree and used either card stock or photo paper to print the images.

I purchased most of my items at the Dollar Tree, 87 in total, as the bill came to $87! Had I purchased these items elsewhere, easily I would have spent over $300. It was perfect timing, as I went in late November and they had everything I needed! Glass candle vases, flower vases, candles, glitter stars, gold and silver swag, bendable wire with silver stars, strings of gold and silver beads, big and small gold and silver ornament balls, silver platters, black ceramic plates, martini glasses, NYE noisemakers, and plastic “silver”wear.

I purchased black fabric tablecloths for about $8 each (2 rectangular, 1 square, and 1 round), a 40-pack of plastic champagne glasses, mason jars, black and white striped straws, and a 4-in-1 roulette, poker, blackjack, game table all on Amazon for about $125.

I purchased black and white polka dot mini cupcake liners, a gold basket, mini letters “B, A, R” and gold spray paint to paint the letters. I also purchased gold glittered battery operated tea light candles, a sharpie, and some decorative craft tape at Michaels, for about $40. I’ll get to the craft tape and sharpie later…

I purchased NYE decorative hats, NYE hanging decorative clocks, a bag of silver star confetti, a big black plastic salad bowl and tongs, 50 packs of NYE plates, napkins, and appetizer plates, along with a 40-pack of black plastic soup bowls at Party City. With a $5 off coupon, my total was approximately $65.

Finally, I purchased 3 yards of various fabrics (1 shiny black, 1 gold, and 1 basic black) from JoAnn’s to use for decorative purposes. With a 15% educator discount and a 25% off my entire order JoAnn’s coupon, the total cost for fabric was $11.

That just about did it! Phew!

The Menu

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The food needed to be filling, tasty, and quick to access for approximately 25 people. I decided on soup, salad, bread, and a large assortment of appetizers. Thank you to my friends who added to the tasty spread.

Main Course

New England Clam Chowder from Boudin Bakery

Organic Tomato Bisque from Panera

Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad from Costco (thanks Alexis!)

Assorted breads from Costco (they bake bread fresh daily!).


Crock Pot Vegetarian Meatballs

Fondue (from Trader Joe’s) with cubed sourdough baguette

Marinated Shrimp with dipping sauce (made by my friend Kelli, I’ll get the recipe one of these days!)

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls

Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Endive Spears (thanks Amanda!)

Spinach Artichoke Dip from Costco and Pita Chips

BBQ Chicken Wings from Ralphs

Cheese Platter- 4 types of cheeses, assorted crackers, rosemary and olive oil marinated marconi almonds, grapes, honey, marinated olives, dried apricots, salami, and blackberries (thanks Brent and Kylie for bringing cheese!)

Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl

Cream Cheese with Harry and David Pepper and Onion Relish and Wheat Thins (thanks Erin!)

The Dessert

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I’ll admit, I’m obsessed with how pretty my cupcakes turned out, so I had to take as many pretty pictures as I could of these delicious little morsels. Aren’t they cute? I purchased a Cake Boss cake decorating tools and icing bag kit online at Kohl’s and 2 mini cupcake pans at TJ Maxx Home Goods. By God, I was going to make cupcakes for this event!

I researched lemon cupcake recipes far and wide online and on Pinterest. I purchased all of the ingredients and I was ready to rock. Until I arrived at my mom’s and she suggested I use the boxed mix as they would probably come out tastier and more moist. Mom’s know best, so, back to Target and Ralphs I went with my “from scratch ingredients” and I picked up a box of Betty Crocker White Cake Mix along with a White Frosting.

Although, yes, I’ll admit, I used a box, I tried to make them semi-homemade! I gussied up the mix with 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (in place of some of the water), and I added some fresh lemon zest to give it that lemon flavor I was looking for. I added to the frosting a Tbl of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and a few drops of yellow food coloring. Voila!

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The dessert table consisted of my lemon cupcakes, Alexis’s Cream Cheese Star Sugar Cookies, assorted See’s Candies, and Pepperidge Farm Pirouette Rolled Wafers

What’s Shakin’ Bacon…The Cocktails

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I knew along with champagne, beer, wine, and your typical alcohol and mixers, I wanted to add something special…a specialty cocktail menu that reflected the roaring 20’s period…I created this bar menu using MS Word, added a black matting, using card stock, and put it in a gold picture frame. I also used the other picture at the wine bar.

It was important, that along with all of the required liquor for these drinks, we also provided items such as sliced lemon, lime, cherries, sugar cubes, sugar in a bowl to rim glasses, and fresh lemon juice.

I’m a fan of drinking cocktails at a party out of glassware, so our guests could use wine glasses for the wine bar, martini glasses for the martinis, or mason jars with cute straws for the cocktails. I did opt for plastic tumblers for the cocktails at the outside bar and plastic champagne glasses, considering it would be pretty late and people would be pretty tipsy by the time they needed it for the NYE toast! I found this cool idea using washi or craft tape and a sharpie on Pinterest, so that people could recall which glass was theirs.

Ladies and Gents, I present to you the bar menu:

Old Fashioned

Muddle 1/4 ounce Bitters, 1 slice orange, and 1 cherry

Add: 1 ounce Whiskey & 1 splash Seltzer

1 Sugar Cube


1 & 1/2 ounces Cognac

3/4 ounce Contreau

3/4 ounce Fresh Lemon Juice

Shake and strain into a glass with a Sugar Rim

Bees Knees

2 ounces Gin

3/4 ounce Honey Syrup

1/2 ounce Lemon

Shake and strain


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Photo Op…1,2,3 Cheese!

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I used my work laptop and projector. I opened up MS PowerPoint, and made a 1 screen PowerPoint that read:

Happy New Year

Let’s Ring in 2014

in style…

I projected that current screen onto the back wall above the pool. It made for a really awesome photo backdrop!



I wanted my guests to stay entertained throughout the night as the party began at 7:30 and had to last until at least midnight. Poker, Black Jack, Craps, and Roulette kept the party going into the wee hours. It helped to have guests step up and play “dealer”. I purchased both game sets through Amazon.

Tapas and Paella Rehearsal Dinner

304070_10150365754536973_631686972_8388232_1369035987_nFor our Wedding Rehearsal Dinner, I knew I wanted 4 key things: Our amazing families, a killer view, my favorite wine, and delicious food with a twist. The most important factor was my family. My brother Graham is on the left with his wife Ali, my brother Mike is on the right with his wife Abby, and my hubby and I are in the middle. We were able to celebrate with our mom’s, dad’s siblings, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmas. Our groomsmen and bridal party celebrated with us as well. The night was magical because all of our favorite people came to support us.


Me and my friend Alexis!


Left to Right-My Aunt Dood, cuzster Carrie, me, and my mom.




Below, me and my mother in law. She flew out to CA from NJ. The night of our rehearsal dinner was her 10 year wedding anniversary to her husband Barry!


The View

My parent’s friends Jim and Kerry had a beautiful home, on a cliff, overlooking the ocean in Capistrano Beach. They were gracious in allowing us to use their home. It truly was the perfect venue. Check out the view! We married the next day at Casa Romantica, in San Clemente, CA. I kept the decor simple. I used old wine bottles (I managed to empty quite a few during the wedding planning phase), and kept the labels on (it was a pain in the A$% to take them off, so I opted to keep them on), and I filled them with various colors of Gerbera daisies that I purchased at Trader Joe’s that morning. I placed them in odd numbered pairs (3 or 5) around the space and added some tea light candles for ambiance.

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The Food

IMG_1761I love Paella. I found a great place in San Diego called San Diego Paella that not only caters parties, but they were willing to drive to Orange County to cater our event for a reasonable fee. The food was amazing and you were able to watch the chef make the food on premises. The guests loved it! All Paella prices included a Mediterranean Salad consisting of Spring mix lettuce, Feta cheese, sliced almonds, and Italian dressing served with French bread. We opted for Paella Tradicional which included Chicken, Mussels, Clams, Shrimp and Scallops at a reasonable cost of $18.50 per serving. We also ordered Paella Vegetariana which included Zucchini, Asparagus, Red Potatoes, Mushrooms, and Broccoli at a reasonable cost of $15.95 per serving. I would definitely work with this company again!

We wanted to stick with theme, so we also had tapas for our guests which included assorted cheeses (such as brie and manchego), assorted salamis, olives, tapenade, breads, almonds, and dried apricots. The tapas paired well with the Paella!

My Favorite Vino

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The wine for the evening included my favorite La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Edna Valley Chardonnay. We also had lemonade from Trader Joe’s, Sparkling Water, and Champagne. Of course we had our trusty lemon water too! (this is a staple at EVERY party I throw).


As a marker for guests to find the house, I used the wedding sign that my husband, dad, and I made for the wedding. Here are directions on how to make the sign!

Radio Flyer Baby Shower

final shower invite

When I discovered one of my besties was preggo I could not WAIT to throw a baby shower for her little bundle of joy. When I think of my friend Alexis two colors come to mind 1.) turqouise 2.) candy apple red. I knew that this event had to comprise those two colors. I started planning before I knew the sex of the baby, but as soon as I knew baby Violet was a “she” I had to throw in a little pink for good measure. I made the invites using Microsoft Word. I printed them on 4 by 6 photo paper, added a little white rhinestone sticker in the center of the red dots above the wagon and red rhinestone sticker  in the center of the wagon wheel to resemble the Radio Flyer. I mailed them off in candy apple red envelopes along with her registry info.

Let’s Get Crafty!

onesie decorating

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Guests could decorate onesies, headbands, or bibs for the mommy-to-be. I purchased buttons, bows, flowers, puffy paint and whatever else I could find to embellish these items to make them fun and festive. People could attach their items using a glue gun or a needle and thread.  I hung a ribbon in the backyard and added some wooden clips so the artists could display their work when they finished.  Everything turned out really cute!

The Menu



Caprese Bites: Tomato, Basil, Kalamata Olive, and Fresh Mozzarella skewers drizzled with EVOO,balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Walnuts and Gorgonzola: Slice sweet potatoes 1/4-1/2 inch thick, lay slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet, drizzle with EVOO, salt and pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary. Bake in 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes). Remove from oven, add chopped up walnuts and a little bit of gorgonzola crumbles. Bake for another 3-5 minutes or until cheese slightly melts. Remove, cool, enjoy!

Cream Cheese, Jalapeno Crescent Poppers: Find recipe here

Strawberry and Blueberry Skewers with this amazing Chocolate Fruit Dip

Main Course

Croissant Sandwich fixins‘ (assorted meats, cheeses, tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, avocado, mustard, and mayo)

Asian Slaw with Ginger Peanut Dressing: Find recipe here



Mimosa’s and Peach Iced Tea in Mason Jars





I borrowed a Radio Flyer wagon from a neighbor. Score! I purchased the turquoise poof balls from Michaels they are from the Martha Stewart Collection. I bought flowers at Trader Joe’s and put them in Mason Jars and I purchased polka dot balloons on Amazon and at the TomKat Studio. Such a cute online shop!


Candy Buffet, Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes, and Brown Sugar Cookies

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I think the dessert table was by far my favorite part of this event! I found super cute polka dot bags at the TomKat Studio and some other cool party supplies including the paper red and white straws used for the drinks. I purchased all of the candy in bulk at Target, borrowed some of the candy buffet jars from a friend, improvised with other glass jars, and used the die cut at work to cut out the letters “SWEET BABY” (from cardstock), I then strung the letters on red and white twine. I purchased the block letters to spell out “Violet”from Michaels. They were pre-painted white, so I kept them as is.  I also found a cute square of polka dot pre-cut fabric at Jo-Ann’s. I layered a few boxes for height, added the fabric, and then put the cake tiers up that I bought for my own wedding at TJ Maxx Home Goods and placed the lemon and raspberry cupcakes that my mom made on top. We filled the little Radio Flyer that I purchased on Amazon with the brown sugar cookies my mom made.


We played a few standard baby shower games and gave guests cute gift bags which included Starbucks gift cards and candles. Need help finding baby shower games? Head on over to Pinterest!


Beach Themed 30th Birthday

IMG_6788When my friend Amanda was turning 30, she and her sister asked for my hand in helping to throw a 30th birthday outdoor, beach themed shindig. Of course I couldn’t resist! The party was catered by a super yummy mexican food restaurant in Laguna Beach, CA. As soon as I get the name of the joint, I’ll update here! We had burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, beans, rice, chips, and salsa.  It was delish!  Of course we also had homemade margaritas (thanks Brooke!), Sangria, and plenty of other bebidas alcoholicas to wet our whistle (and the shark’s!). Amanda’s brother in law Alex did a pretty awesome job on carving that shark if I do say so myself!

Food/Drink Labels

IMG_6787As I mentioned in another post, I ususally like to make a framed menu for my parties. This particular party warranted something a little different and a little less fancy but cute nonetheless.  The overall color scheme was turquoise, blues, greens, tan, and black. I used turquoise card stock, cut it into 4 in by 8 in  squares, folded it over and added cute beach themed stickers that I purchased at Michaels in the scrap booking aisle.

I used these cards to label the food and beverages:


Sand Bucket Food/Ice Storage

bucketsOn Pinterest, I saw this cute idea! Use sand buckets for ice and food storage. I found a great deal at Michaels and bought approximately 3 turquoise and 3 blue buckets.  We filled them with chips and ice. It worked really well and looked cute and festive!



knettingSadly, I never got around to taking pics of the tablescapes, but here is the type of netting I used. I purchased it at Michaels. I wanted the tables to look pretty and fun! I purchased fish netting, shells, glass candle holders, and sand. I covered the tables with a black tablecloth, cut the netting to size to layer in the center, added the glass candleholders filled with sand and a tea light, and tosssed a few shells on top of the netting. It looked cool and added a nice beachy element to the party.


Fun Straws, Baskets, and Napkins

IMG_6795IMG_6796I purchased the baskets and straws at Michaels. I love, love, love all of the fun new paper straws today! They add a super fun and festive touch to your party and can be purchased online or in party stores.  They are available in just about any pattern/color to match your theme. We used the baskets to hold napkins, plates, and silverwear. I thought Michelle, Amanda’s sister did a super fun job on rolling the napkins up, securing them with twine and a life saver!


30th Birthday BashWhat’s a party without games? Amanda’s sister put together this cute board with pics of her growing up. People had to guess her age in the pictures. The winner with the most correct won a bottle of vino!

IMG_6790We also randomly had a magician show up! How funny right? It worked perfectly. You would have thought I planned it. I’ll never tell!

IMG_6789Someone also brought corn hole and a life size version of Jenga. Nonetheless peeps had a good time. Check this out if you need ideas on fun summer lawn games!


IMG_6784This was Michelle’s idea, which I am sure originated from Pinterest, but it was super cute. Personally, 30 was pretty awesome, but for some people the thought of turning 30 blows. Just fill a basket with Blow Pops, attach a sign, and you are good to go! They made for a good late night snack.


Jello Shots!

IMG_6785Looking for a beach themed jello shot? Make these! Use berry blue jello and add swedish fish. Pretty cute eh? Not sure how to make jello shots? Check this out: Jello Shot Recipes



IMG_6786For dessert we had vanilla cupcakes dusted with crushed nilla wafers (to make it look like sand), topped with an umbrella (so cute right?) and Nutter Butters made to look like flip flops.  Just use a little decorative frosting and add a cute colorful sprinkle at the “toe”. I purchased the frosting and sprinkles  at Michaels.


English High Tea Bridal Shower

On May 23, 2010, my mom and I threw a beautiful English High Tea bridal shower for my sister-in-law Ali. Hopefully, you can get some ideas for your next high tea. Cheerio.

The Menu

The English High Tea Menu

When I throw a party, I almost always make a menu for guests. Just use colorful computer paper, or card stock, get crafty on MS Word, print it out and stick it in a clear document holder or a frame, and you are good to go!

Silver Tea Service

Silver Tea Service

I absolutely adore this silver tea service that my mom received which was passed down from her mom (my grandma Peggy). It has been in the family a long time! As soon as I learn more about the history of this beautiful set, I will post more! It was the perfect addition to our fancy tea party.

California Salad and Citrus Asparagus Spears

California Salad and Citrus Asparagus Spears

I first tried this delightful salad while attending my friend Jessica’s beautiful wedding at The Turnip Rose. This wedding venue is located in Costa Mesa and has a delightful charm about it. The buildings are very CA mission style! Check it out: The Turnip Rose Wedding and Event Venue

The recipe is directly from the Turnip Rose catering menu. It’s called the California Salad.  It seemed like a perfect salad to pair with this event. Here are the items you’ll need to make this yummy salad…

-Sliced Avocado, Mandarin Orange Wedges, Sliced Almonds, Bibb Lettuce, Wonton Strips (I added this for extra crunch and flavor!), and finally, Poppy Seed Dressing (purchased at Albertson’s)

We also served Citrus Asparagus Spears as a side dish…

-Large bunch of asparagus
-2/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
-1 Tbl lemon rind
-1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
-1/2 cup of grated parmesan
-2-3 Tbls EVOO
-salt/pepper to taste

1. Steam a large bunch of asparagus
2. As soon as the asparagus is steamed, give em an ice bath. Brrr!
3. Place in a plastic bag, add EVOO, lemon juice, lemon rind, garlic, salt pepper and let sit and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
4. Serve cold and sprinkle with parmesan…enjoy!

Tea Sandwiches 

Tea Sandwhiches

You can’t host a high tea party without tea sandwiches! These cute, little bite sized yumminess morsels are a perfect party food! You can also make tons of different types of sandwiches. Whatever suits your fancy. We made ham, egg salad, dill cream cheese and cucumber, and a raisin bread with a cream cheese and raisin spread. See below for some great recipes!
50 Tea Sandwich Recipes

Grandma Lucy’s China

                   Grandma Lucy's China       Grandma Lucy's China

When throwing a high tea, you simply can’t scrimp on the server wear. These beautiful dishes were passed down to me from my grandma Lucy. Ask your family if you are in need of fine china to host a fabulous tea party, as your grandparents may have some of these beauties cooped up in a box in the garage or the attic gathering dust somewhere! Pull them out and host a fancy party. You can also purchase fine china fairly cheap at local thrift stores. They don’t have to match either! Pair the beautiful dishes with some fresh lavender for your floral centerpieces and voila…a beautiful, and great smelling table awaits your guests!

DIY Lavender Sachets  

Grandma Lucy's China and Lavender Favors

Pair the place settings with a DIY lavender sachet…
-We used clear screen fabric, cut into squares, filled with lavender scented room freshener.
-We used this room freshener and scooped about 2 Tbls onto each square along with some freshly dried lavender bits from my garden: WillowBrook Lavender Sachets 
-We then tied the sachets closed with ribbon, added a fresh sprig of lavender from my garden and a silver tag purchased at Michaels

Scones with Currants

Scones with Currants

A high tea is certainly not complete without a tried and true scone! My mom made these scrumptious scones. We added some clotted cream, butter, and jam to the mix. For the recipe, click on the link:  Cream and Currant Scones

Lemon Berry Trifle

Lemon Berry Trifle

Trifle is always a great addition to a tea-themed party. This yummy dessert is perfect when you have access to plump, sweet, seasonal berries. With a hint of lemon, this is a sure hit. Either a clear glass bowl or a trifle bowl will do. It’s so pretty, it has to be displayed! Click on the link below for a great recipe!
Lemon Berry Trifle

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My mom made red velvet cupcakes to compliment the dessert table.  Check out the link below for a great recipe:
Red Velvet Cupcakes

Lemon Water and Drink Tags

Lemon Water and Drink Tags

It’s always nice to have lemon water on hand for an event. It looks pretty and keeps guests hydrated!

I made drink tags to tie on to wine glasses by cutting rectangular strips of scrapbook paper, hole punching, and looping ribbon through the hole. Place them in a bowl with a pen and you are good to go! Guests can mark their own drinks. I like using glassware as much as possible versus plastic at events.

Mimosa Bar

Mimosa Bar

Now that I am a huge Pinterest fan, I would have made this mimosa bar a lot cooler,but that was in 2010, and I am much older and wiser now! Here is a fun link to some tips and tricks on hosting a great mimosa bar!
How to Make a Mimosa Bar!