During our reunion weekend, many topics were discussed, but we spent a fair amount of time talking about our favorite meals and easy recipes. I wanted to share my fool-proof pancake recipe (originally found in Everyday Food). The pancakes turn out perfect everytime. *photo by Nicole Hill Gerulat
I always love moving announcements that are specific to the locale. When my husband and I moved from New York to Las Vegas, I designed a moving card that played up the "Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. My friends in New York especially loved our new west coast address (could it get any worse than "Wagonwheel Ranch Way"?).
When Kristin moved from New York to Texas, she designed a very cute moving card, complete with her newly-adopted Texan star.
When my sister-in-law moved to Illinois, far away from family and friends, she asked me to design a moving card that showcased her new home. I drew the facade of her house from a snapshot she emailed to me. Have you come across any clever moving cards?
I had never been to Austin, Texas and wasn't sure what to expect (the thoughts of Matthew McConaughey playing bongo drums in the buff slightly disturbed me!). Our friend, Rachel, has lived in Austin for the past 4 years and loves it, and she planned the perfect weekend for myself and 3 other college friends to show off her city. We ate excellent food, did a fair bit of shopping and I was totally inspired by all the beautiful typography (see below). I love a city with good graphic design!
From left to right: The lettering on these copper doors at South Congress Cafe is really beautiful – especially combined with the address numbers painted on the brick. I love the tasteful combination of the Texan star / French boulangerie. This is what a barbershop should look like (down to the 1950's white hexagonal tiles).
Perhaps the most memorable meal for me was at Blue Star Cafeteria. Kristin and I shared a killer grilled cheese sandwich (imported swiss, provolone, cheddar & gorgonzola cheese, on sourdough served with apple & dried fruit chutney and dijon mustard) and paired it with their "Derby Salad". Honestly, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
For dessert, I really wanted to try a cupcake from "Hey Cupcake!" (love the name) but, alas, I was too full. I love that this location is based out of an Airstream (quite commonplace in Austin). This is a good excuse for me to visit Austin again as I am obsessed with cupcakes (so far nothing beats a Sprinkles red velvet cupcake for me!).
The pièce de résistance of my tour of Austin was happening upon the Hotel San Jose. Talk about a beautiful hotel – perfect typography, understated & tasteful decor and amazing landscaping cemented the fact that I may just be in love with Austin. Do y'all think I can turn Texan? At any rate, I am anxious to go back and stay at the Hotel San Jose and have a red velvet cupcake at Hey Cupcake. Thank you to all my girlfriends for a fabulous weekend away!
Angie and I spent this past weekend with our college friends in Austin, Texas. We have been having "roommate reunions" for over 10 years, since the 6 of us graduated from college. We plan these events every year or so and meet up in a new city each time. We have been to Newport Beach, New York City, San Francisco, Park City, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and Chicago, just to name a few. These reunions are very much anticipated and we always have the best time together. Unfortunately this year, one of our friends was not able to attend. In an effort to lift her spirits and let her know how much she would be missed, we put together a reunion-in-a-bag that was mailed to her over the weekend. We all had fun thinking of items that she loves and that represent our trips together. While this weekend was still great, we missed Catherine and are looking forward to our next reunion with her in 2010!
I found the perfect bag at Target to fit all of the items. Some of the items included were a set of notecards, a restaurant gift card (we seem to eat at PF Chang's every city!), nail polish for a pedicure, a variety of magazines, a quilt made by our friend Rachel, a fancy new lip gloss and some heartfelt notes. This would also be a great idea to send to any friend who lives far away and is missed.
The 5 of us at Blue Star Cafeteria in Austin. They had the best grilled cheese sandwich!
Recently, our family had the opportunity to attend a wedding reception for my kids' favorite babysitter (and my good friend). I designed the invitation for her and helped with a few other paper details for the reception. The orange and pink color scheme fit the bride's personality perfectly. The cupcakes were delicious (5 flavors to choose from!) and my kids' are still talking about the candy bar. We also came home with some cute family photos from the photo booth there. It was a night to remember!
The party day finally arrived (are you all sick of all my prep work yet?).
I managed to snap a few photos of Bea with her "1-year-old" sign (this is a good tradition to start on each birthday).
For decorations, I placed little yellow daisies in white IKEA vases and added little bees taped to skewers in each arrangement. I love the Martha Stewart Craft line at Wal-Mart – especially the coasters which I reuse at all my parties underneath the flower arrangements. In this instance, I used daisy coasters underneath the white vases for a bit of decoration on my pale yellow linen tablecloth (the coasters also prevent any unsightly watermarks!). In between the vases, I used orange polka-dotted cupcake liners to hold bright yellow lemonheads.
Once the guests arrived, my oldest daughter instructed the children on how to make simple bee antennae using cloth-covered headbands (purchased at Target), pipe cleaners and pom pom's. Basically, you just twist the pipe cleaners around the headbands and then around the pom pom's – no glue required. It was the easiest craft I could come up with since the guests' ages ranged from under 1, to 6 years old. Lest you think me a control freak, I threw caution to the wind on the color palette here, figuring the kids would like to be creative and choose their own color combinations!
For dinner, I served homemade London Macaroni and Cheese (I swear the adults enjoyed this more than the kids!), turkey ciabatta sandwiches with homemade basil mayonnaise (the rewards of my small herb garden), roasted red pepper hummus and carrots, Ina Garten's Roasted Eggplant Dip and pita chips, and wedges of watermelon.
For dessert, along with the "B" cake and cookies, I needed some height on the table so, at the last minute, I added my favorite brownies and peanut butter-frosted brownies to the mix. It pays to keep desserts on hand in the freezer for last minute emergencies (or late-night snacks!).
The drinks were perfectly color-coordinated orange Izze's (love the packaging!) and, of course, water with cute labels.
After dinner, we played "Pin-the-Wings-on-the-Bee", reserving the blindfold for anyone over the age of 3.
My husband took charge of the game.
Finally, the favors were distributed and all went home happy (I think!). The most important thing was that Bea had a great time and will have many photos to look back on for her first birthday. Now onto the party planning for the 2nd birthday.... (kidding).
Bea's cake for her actual birthday was a honey lemon beehive cake made from a vintage Williams-Sonoma pan. I bought this a few years ago for no particular reason other than I thought it was cute. So glad it is finally getting some use!
For the actual party, I decided to make a "B" cake. Rather than buy a special pan for the "B", I made a double-batch of my favorite homemade classic yellow cake and baked it in a cookie sheet (bake for about 15 minutes, until just barely beginning to brown). I made the cake way in advance, wrapped it in Saran Wrap and then aluminum foil (to prevent freezer burn) and stuck it in the freezer.
The morning of the party, I printed out an oversize letter "B", cut it out and placed it on my frozen cake. I then carefully traced around the paper "B" with a toothpick, making a small indentation, in case I made a mistake.
Satisfied, with my handiwork, I then cut the cake out with a knife. Next, the cake was frosted with my favorite cream cheese frosting (1 lb. softened cream cheese, 1 stick softened butter, 1 t. vanilla, a ton of powdered sugar – about 3 cups). The trick with the exposed sides of the cake is to crumb coat it first with frosting. This sounds much fancier than it is. Basically, you just spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake to seal in stray crumbs. Then, you spread a much thicker layer of frosting on top.
Finally, I piped white frosting using a star tip around the bottom of the cake and then threw on a few extra bumblebee cookies on top. Bea wasn't so into the actual eating of the cake (she'd prefer a piece of watermelon instead) but everyone else seemed to enjoy it!
The party preparations for Bea's first birthday continue...
I have found that it is best to spread any party preparations out over a few weeks. Do not wait until the week before to accomplish everything – you'll lose your mind! If I do an "activity" every few days leading up to the big event, I don't feel quite so overwhelmed (and I enjoy the process a whole lot more). Hence, three weeks ago, I made a double batch of my favorite sugar cookie dough (recipe below), cutting it out in the shape of beehives and bumblebees (I found the cutters on Amazon for $5). Sugar cookies freeze beautifully and can then be frosted the day before the party.
I used a simple buttercream frosting (see recipe below) which I tinted yellow and then piped each child's name on the beehives with white frosting (lest you think me completely insane, it was a small family party so there weren't too many to frost!). I let the cookies dry overnight. Please note: buttercream frosting, even after drying for 24 hours, is still a bit soft to the touch. If you want foolproof frosting that dries hard, use Royal Icing (I just don't love the taste of it nearly as much as buttercream).
The morning of the party, I packaged each cookie in a glassine bag and stapled a foldover label to the top. The cookies were then added to the favor bags.
My all-time favorite dresses for little girls are from Pears & Bears. The designer, Kacye Hughes is a mother of 7(!) and manages to consistently produce the most classic, beautiful clothes (she used to work for Ralph Lauren). I am purchasing this red & pink party dot dress for one of my daughters (it is a total deal, marked down from $90 to $22.50!) – strangely enough, one of our birth announcement designs looks vaguely similar.
We were asked to label EVERYTHING that my kids take with them to school. Apparently the lost and found box fills up pretty quickly! I printed their names and information on label paper. Then I covered the page with clear packing tape before cutting the individual labels with an x-acto knife. This made the labels waterproof and a bit more durable. I adhered them to backpacks, lunch boxes, and jackets. Nothing has been lost (yet)!