about us

Blonde Designs is an inspirational blog focused on invitations, parties, and good design. We are Angie Gubler and Kristin Rees, best friends, graphic designers and moms.
We are both former art directors at Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings, respectively. 
We own Blonde Designs, an invitation and stationery company.


Entries by Blonde Designs (9)


ninja party

I can't believe James is seven! This year he wanted a ninja party to celebrate.

I cut eyes out of sticker paper to turn some balloons into ninja faces.

The boys loved having a card to keep track of their ninja tasks and scores.

The punching bag in our garage was turned into a ninja so the boys could test their fighting skills.

The highlights of the party were the ninja masks that my sister, Laura, made for each guest out of stretchy black fabric and the swords that my dad created out of pipe materials. I wish I would have documented the sword how-to, but I was too busy helping! The boys had a great time building their swords and then trying them out on the obstacle course.

They used their swords to swat at the piñata.


The favor bags were filled with treats and candy from the piñata.

And finally, the cupcakes were topped with mini ninjas that I cut out of cardstock. James and his friends had a blast. Can't wait to see what he chooses for his theme next year!



will's 2nd birthday

October was a busy month for my family so I wasn't quite sure how I was going to squeeze in a birthday party for my almost 2-year old. I decided to use Cortney Novagratz's no-nonsense philosophy and just bake a cake and open some presents (she has 7 kids!). Will is currently obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba so that was the theme for his "party." He recently spotted some Brobee vans at Nordstrom and was thrilled when his grandma bought them for him.

I made a banana cake and adorned it with paper cut-outs of the Gabba characters. It was perfect for Will!

The thank you notes were inspired by the Yo Gabba Gabba logo. I don't think Will appreciated these, but I'm glad they helped tie the theme together. All in all, Will had a great birthday and he didn't even realize he missed out on a real party!


from santa's orchard

Our friend, Rachel, sent us the link to this idea: stickers from Santa's North Pole Orchards. Brilliant!


chocolate mousse

One benefit of being at my parents' house (besides the obvious joy of seeing family!) is the chance to rediscover my mom's cookbook collection. It is fantastic, not because of its size, necessarily, but because of its deliberately-selected contents. My mom has great taste in food, and her collection shows it. Especially the small sampling of books that reside on the countertop.  They've proven themselves to be a step above the books relegated to the overflow library behind a cupboard--so good, they're always an arm's-reach away.

One such book is Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. It's written by Dorie Greenspan, who is a great writer and chef in her own right, and I think it's the best cookbook I've ever read. I can look at the photos and read the instructions, and I honestly feel just as satiated and happy as if I had actually bitten into a beautiful French dessert. But if reading isn't enough for you (and let's be honest, it's usually not enough), here's one recipe that is easy, delicious and great for the holidays: simple chocolate mousse.

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate

1/3 cup whole milk

1 large egg yolk

4 large egg whites

2 T. sugar

Melt chocolate in bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Set aside. Bring milk to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Gently whisk to combine. Add egg yolk and whisk into chocolate, working gently, until incorporated. In clean bowl, beat egg whites on medium until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed and gradually add sugar. Continue to beat until whites are firm but still glossy. Scoop out one-third of the whites and whisk into the chocolate to lighten the mixture.  Then add the rest of the whites and fold gently with a rubber spatula into the chocolate.  Turn mousse into a large serving bowl or into individual cups and refigerate at least 1 hour to set.

So that wraps up my week as a guest-blogger.  Thank you, Angie and Kristin, for inviting me to do this.  And thank you, gracious readers, for doing your thing.


an easy winter dinner

Do you ever find yourself, after a long day of Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, planning, fraternizing, etc, with nothing to eat for dinner? Here's a delicious last-minute solution, especially good in cold climates: hearty tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentis).

For the soup:

1. In large soup pot, add: 2 T. butter, 1 onion (peeled and chopped), 1 cup carrots (peeled and chopped), 2 garlic cloves, chopped.  Cook for about 4 minutes.

2. Add:  1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes, 3 cups chicken broth, 1 bay leaf, 2 t. minced rosemary, 1/2 t. red pepper flakes, 3/4 t. salt.  Bring to boil, then reduce, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Discard bay leaf and puree soup in food processor or with an immersion blender, season with additional salt, if necessary, and pepper.  Serve immediately with a bit of heavy cream drizzled over the top.

For the sandwiches: (these are likely self-explanatory, but here are instructions none-the-less)

1.  Throw sliced cheese (ideally, a cheddar with some bite--my favorite is extra-sharp white cheddar by Tillamook) between two buttered slices of good bread.  Grill in a frying pan, flipping as each side gets brown.

And in 30-45 minutes, dinner is served!


the Grinch Party, Part III: FAVORS

Angie never lets her party guests leave empty-handed. She's like Oprah. In aspiring to the same level of generosity, I decided on some grown-up party-favors: Hot Chocolate Kits.


The best hot chocolate I've had was in France, where the method was often to put milk on the stove and then break up real chocolate bars into the simmering milk. I should point out that French people also commonly resort to powdered hot chocolate, and some of those are delicious, too. I, however, wanted to experiment with the real thing. Williams-Sonoma makes a great hot chocoate mix that is basically shaved bittersweet chocolate. If you don't work there, however, and thus have to pay full-price for the stuff, it's a bit of a rip-off. So I made my own by chopping up dark chocolate chips and bagging one cup per person. (The dark chocolate was a bit too much for my husband who would have preferred semi-sweet or even milk chocolate hot chocolate. Obviously go with the dictates of your tastebuds.)


Even better than the real chocolate, though, were the homemade marshmallows. Now this is where I would not resort to the jet-puffed, store-bought kind--they don't melt well into hot chocolate, and they are gross. Sorry. Making them at home produces a completely different product that is simply delicious. And it's not hard. Check out how effortlessly I cut them into squares...Easy, right?

I packaged the chocolate and marshmallows with colorful tissue paper and a Blonde-Designs-created label. The final product looked cute and tasted delicious. Party-favor tip: You should ultimately give the treats to your guests. As it turns out, I forgot I had these little gems, and after all that my guests did leave empty-handed! I bet Oprah never does that.


Despite forgetting the favors, I'd say this party was a success. Everyone seemed impressed by the festive decor, and I definitely heard a couple rave reviews of the food. And while Oliver will likely have no memory of all the party-details, the time and thought we put into this celebration made it feel all the more special to us.


the Grinch Party, Part II: MENU

Let's get to my favorite part of any party, the menu. There were a few things to keep in mind when planning dinner. First, we live in a small apartment with no dining room table and no overabundance of seating. So we needed food that, worst-case scenario, could be eaten while standing. Second, most of our guests were law students, and it's their first week of finals. Since they'd be stopping by for little more than a quick break, we could not serve anything too fancy or time-consuming to eat. Finally, the food had to be somewhat tied to our theme of the Grinch.


So for dinner, we had: “Roast Beast” Sandwiches (roast beef, blue cheese spread, arugula and butter on 9-grain bread), “Who Pudding” (corn pudding, from Angie's recipe repertoire), Mixed Greens (with pear vinaigrette, pears and toasted hazelnuts), and Hot Apple Cider.


This was as easy to prepare as it was to eat. I made the blue cheese spread and pear vinaigrette the day before the party. I also toasted the hazelnuts and washed all my greens in advance. 


An hour before party time, I threw the corn pudding in the oven, assembled sandwiches and wrapped them in parchment, and combined my salad ingredients. Easy.


For dessert, guests chose from: Birthday cake (white cake with white chocolate frosting), Chocolate ice cream, Chocolate chip cookies, Ginger chocolate chunk cookies, Candies (chocolates, M&M’s and candy canes), and Clementines. Two desserts for every savory item—my mom would be proud.


While dessert is kind of my forte, I was a worried about making a three-tiered cake, this being my first try. It came out great (except for my writing on the top, which was horrendous), and I came out of the experience with some tips: First, it is much easier to assemble and frost cake layers when they are cold. I made mine a week in advance, froze them, then set them out an hour before I frosted. Second, all is not lost if your layers are not uniform and perfect. I used disposable aluminum cake pans that screwed my layers up—thin on one side and fat on the other. To fix such a problem, while the layers are still frozen, stack them to compensate for one another—thin side of one layer under thick side of the other, etc. Then when you unwrap the frozen layers and stack them with frosting in between, keep them lined up the same way. If you're lucky, the finished cake will look perfectly straight, and even a slice of it won't give away the layers' flaws.

Wow, I could go on and on about food. But that's plenty of blogging for one day. Check out the final Grinch-party installment tomorrow. This is getting fun.


the Grinch party, Part I: DECORATIONS

I was flattered when Angie asked me to be a guest-blogger, especially since I haven't always shared her passion for throwing beautiful parties. I am of the mind that for a great party, you need nothing more than fantastic food.  This explains why I rarely plan past the menu. But I am constantly evolving, and never more-so than during this last year, my first year as a parent. Recently my husband and I started replaying what we were doing this time last year, before we had any understanding of how our son would change our lives in an instant. And for some reason, it felt like a good time to celebrate with a bigger party than normal. So here it is, my first big shindig. Cut me some slack, people...I'm new to this.


I first decided on a theme: the Grinch. It’s December, after all, and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a festive, heart-warming story…and my son kind of looks like a male version of Cindy-Lou Who. We had to move quickly, since I came up with this over Thanksgiving (apparently, you should plan these things a bit further in advance). So for the invitation, I penned a poem, Angie got to designing, and the finished product is posted above.


Onto Decorations. The illustrations in Dr. Seuss’ book are black and white, with an occasional sprinkling of red-orange. So I decided to decorate based on the 1960’s film version--very colorful, almost like a carnival.  This brings me to my first handmade goodie: a flag garland, also called “bunting.”


Jordan Ferney explains how to make this little gem of a decoration, but I’d like to add some additional insights. First, while this is technically “easy,” it should be noted that tissue paper is finicky. It’s hard to cut straight, especially if trying to cutting too many sheets at the same time—it moves around easily. Also, this is tedious work. Ms. Ferney alludes to such, but I’d like to reiterate. It took me a long time. And to make my efforts worth it, this decoration will surely reappear at every subsequent party we throw in this household—I may even send it off to college with my son to string around his dorm room. That being said, I love the end result.


Next, I bought colorful ornaments at Target and hung them with pretty ribbon. That was much easier than the bunting. And arguably just as cute. Oh well—Oliver’s dorm room will look festive. We also put up our Christmas tree--a fake one that fits perfectly on our desk, thereby remaining safe from little hands that like to yank at anything within reach.

And that was the extent of decorations. When you live in modest student-housing, it doesn't take much to turn the small space into a veritable Who-ville.  

Tune in tomorrow for a few more goodies, these ones edible...


kids halloween party ideas

Our friend, Courtney, is always on the move (literally). She just moved cross-county for the second time in a year and, with most of her belongings in storage (including Halloween decorations), she still managed to throw a darling Halloween party for her children (she has 2 boys and triplet girls). Courtney's friend, Nanette, silk-screened cute Halloween t-shirts for prizes.


The party began by decorating graham cracker "haunted houses." I have said it before and I'll say it again: do as much party preparation as possible in the weeks leading up to the party. You will be much less stressed, making the party much more enjoyable for everyone (yourself and your husband included!). With that being said, hot glue the graham crackers houses together in advance.

Courtney's husband was worried that this activity might be too juvenile for some of the older boys but everyone, from ages 2-10, quickly got into the candy decorating fun.


Courtney strategically planned the food for lunch, trying to keep the sugar content to a minimum since many sugary sweets were to follow. She made "mummy" pizzas on mini bagels using pasta sauce, mozzarella string cheese and sliced olives for "eyeballs."


Miniature "mummies" were made by wrapping Pillsbury Crescent dough around Lit'l Smokies sausages.


I absolutely love Courtney's Nutter Butter ghosts. These couldn't be easier to make – simply dip half of the cookie in melted white chocolate and add miniature chocolate chips for "eyes." I suggest making these well in advance.


Powdered doughnuts on strings were quickly devoured and the guests set off, their tummies full, for trick-or-treating around the house.