Friday, June 10, 2016

Hugs, Kisses, Sweet Baby Wishes - Gender Neutral Baby Shower

Any of your friends or family members expecting a little bundle of joy this spring, summer, or fall?  Many expectant couples want to be surprised when baby finally arrives so keeping the baby shower simple, gender neutral and a little vintage works for either gender.  I recently helped organize a baby shower with this theme in mind.

I combined a neutral palette including burlap runners, a khaki-white-gray color scheme, baby's breath and other white flowers, and cute little chalkboards.  The scheme was just right - not too boyish or too girlish.

INVITATION - We're Having a Baby...Shower

I also had the graphic artist create an "advice card" for the mom and dad to be.  I used kraft paper envelopes to mail invitations.

I purchased a chalkboard art inspired invitation and additional card insert which instructs guests to bring a board book instead of a card.  Etsy has many shower invitations which can be customized for your occasion and then downloaded.  I highly recommend having your invitations printed at a local print shop such as Kinkos or FedEx, especially the blackboard invites because these take a lot of ink.

I created chalkboard art which looks very similar to invitation. It's hung with burlap ribbon to welcome guests.

Using the vintage dough riser as the center piece, I mixed children's books with glass bottles or jars filled with baby's breath and lilies.  

The small chalkboards interspersed in the arrangement have chalk art messages like "You are my sunshine" and "I love you to the moon and back".  I also interspersed typography letters - J - in different styles.

My co-organizer and I decided that we would order food for our shower to save time.  We ordered Petite Pita Sandwiches and the Hummus Trio Tray from Zoe's Kitchen.  A couple of other helpers brought a pasta salad and fresh strawberries with cream.  It was a perfect light snack for an afternoon shower.  We draped two burlap runners on the island then arranged the food on white serving dishes.  I created little chalkboard "place cards" to identify the foods and drinks in the decanters.

KITCHEN TABLE - It's All About the Cake
I purchased black chalkboard cupcake toppers at Hobby Lobby. I embellished toppers with the onesie stickers and "sweet baby" in chalk pen then dusted lightly with chalk.  

The small but special cake (for mom-to-be to take home) sits front and center on a footed cake stand.  The single tier Coconut Cream Cake is first frosted with coconut cream frosting then covered in fondant.  I tinted and texturized the fondant to look like burlap.  I used a onesie cookie cutter to make imprint on top of cake and filled in the frosting.  I wrapped an embossed fondant ribbon around cake and created a bow as well.  A chalkboard inspired cake banner with ribbon welcomes baby.  Confession time - I may have pressed the onesie cookie cutter into fondant a little too hard which cut all the way through.  Not good!  It doesn't show in the picture below but by the end of the party the fondant had gradually fallen down the sides of the cake.  It was such a mess that I couldn't bear to take a photo of it.  In hindsight, I wish I'd made the Coconut Cream Cake as I did in the original recipe and added something babyish to top.

For the shower guests, I baked 5 dozen Coconut Cream Cupcakes in gray cupcake liners using the same recipe for the small cake.  Using two cupcake risers, I place rings around main tiered cake stand, placed a gray and white dotted table cloth over risers.  Cupcakes were placed in two concentric rings around main cake.

I interspersed chalkboard and burlap triangles for the fireplace bunting.  I found the burlap bunting in the dollar section at Target.  I alternated pink and blue bows and white onesies on the black triangles.  I threaded a twine ribbon to hang the bunting.  


I placed blue jelly beans in one small jar and pink jelly beans in another jar.  The party goers guessed how many jelly beans were in each jar.  The best guess without going over won that jar of jelly beans. 

The hardest part of setting this up was counting the jelly beans.  I also placed Hershey's kisses in middle of pink jar to displace jelly beans so each jar had a different number.  


We arranged the party favors on top of the piano in the entryway so people could grab one on their way out.  We placed a burlap runner along top of piano.  The party favor sign was placed in the middle on an easel then flanked by two silver cupcake tiers filled with favors.  A few extras were interspersed around the sign.

I found tan and white chevron print baking cups at World Market for $3 for a package of 12.  I filled each one with Hershey's Kisses and Hugs.  I tied a kraft circle tag and sticker with burlap ribbon and embellished with a little silver pacifier charm that I found on etsy.

Hugs, Kisses, and Sweet Baby Wishes!

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Complete Jewelry Storage Solution - Finally!

I've struggled with storage options for my jewelry collection over the years and never actually had it all in one space.  I had an organizer for my favorite earrings which lived on my chest of drawers.  I carved out another area on a shelf in my closet to store necklaces (mostly) but several pair of rogue earrings, pendants, charms, and watches also took up residence least some of the time.  Things really got out of control and the area became a tangled mess and other non-jewelry items also invaded the area.  I actually found a few interesting items as I purged the shelf into keep, donate, and trash - a plastic Easter egg filled with my youngest son's hair from his first haircut (he's 12 years old!), my expired passport, and a new car sticker from my college alma mater.  The jewelry, among other things, seemed to be here and there and everywhere!  I finally put a simple (and functional) system in place that's allowed me to organize ALL my jewelry in one spot.

My inspiration came in the form of an email from The Container Store which advertised the elfa closet system on sale for 30% off.  Woohoo!  Have you ever used this simple but super functional closet organizing system?  It's awesome!  We installed this system in all the small closets in our previous home to utilize the vertical wall space and expand our storage options.  But it's not just for closets.  I currently have the platinum line in my laundry room and we created a wall-mounted desk area in my son's room.  There are myriad uses and components with a variety of finishes.  

But back to organizing my jewelry... I created my storage solution using elfa door and wall rack components in white.  

I quickly installed it on the outside of my closet door with a helping hand from my husband.  I think it took us longer to find a park at The Container Store than actually installing the system!

  • First things first - we installed the standard rod using the over the door hooks which means we can take it with us if we ever move.  Once set, the system comes together in no time at all.
  • I added two skinny utility boards (~17" x 2.5") and hooks for necklaces at the top.  The top board holds extra long necklaces.  The lower board holds shorter necklaces.  I placed 14 hooks on each board.  
  • I placed a third board under the necklaces and inserted 4 plastic bins for bracelets and watches.
  • I inserted two slim hooks directly into door standard below bracelet organizer.  I found multi-pouch earring organizer which hangs from hooks.

This system takes up very little space in an area that generally goes unutilized.  I didn't have to find space - it was already there.  The elfa door and wall rack components allowed me to make the back of my closet door a functional part of my dressing area.  I use this system every single day and my jewelry has never remained this organized.  Do you know why I love this jewelry storage system?  Because it works! 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Play {Therapy} Room Design Plan

Have you ever heard the expression, "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb"?  I always thought it had something to do with the Easter season since it's generally celebrated toward the end of March.  But the saying is actually related to the unpredictable weather in early spring with March often being blustery and cold one day then calm and sunny another day.  That's how my month has been and it hasn't had anything to do with the weather!  It's been a crazy month in our household so my posts (okay, post) have been lacking (to say the least).  Between my birthday at the beginning of the month, travel-work demands, a dog with chronic allergies, spring break, and my son's oral surgery (NOT a fun way to spend a break from school), our month is finally beginning to calm down.  Keep your fingers crossed!

During my limited down time and periods of relative calm (I do live in a house full of boys), I've been helping a friend redesign her family play room.  I like the design so much that I think I'm going to steal it for my new therapy room! Here's the design:

I say "family" because she wanted the gender neutral room to be functional for both children and adults.  My friend needs a work space within the room where she can pay bills, plan meals, or peruse Pinterest when she's not playing with the kids. 

I incorporated the Kallax workstation (IKEA) which combines a desk with storage shelving for books or craft supplies.  She could even add a smaller Kallax shelf with four openings on each side of workstation for additional storage.  As an added bonus, it would also offer display space on top of the side shelving.

My original inspiration for the room came from children's artwork by Melanie Mikecz.  You can find it online at Rosenberry Rooms and Oopsy Daisy.  

The Elephant and Red Bird

Too Tall Giraffe

Rainbow Zebra

The art is happy and kid-friendly but not babyish.  The fun but slightly muted colors really inspired me and would flow with the rest of her home. Another friend (Hi - Dr. Amy) has this same art in the waiting room of her pediatric dental practice.  It makes me smile every time I walk in the door.  


I added the Branas basket (IKEA) to the workstation shelving to offer much needed hidden storage.  I actually have these in my home office/craft room. They are very sturdy and hold a lot of stuff.  The tag holder (below) from The Container Store can be added to baskets to identify their contents.  I'm BIG into labeling.  It helps you see at-a-glance what you have in a particular container.  It also helps you stay organized.  

I just happened to come across the gray play table and chairs for kids (which my friend loved) when shopping online for an upcoming baby shower at Toys R Us.  It fits the design scheme perfectly because we wanted the table in gray but didn't want to spend big bucks.  I think $99 is an excellent price for all three pieces.  It's much less expensive than the Pottery Barn or Land of Nod versions (although I love what these stores have to offer).  Some of us are on a budget.  Down here in Texas, I have not seen any money growing on trees. :-)  Bummer!
So we've covered covered the art, workspace (for mom), and play table.  Let's talk storage.  I think the Antonius frame and wire baskets unit (IKEA) is a great option for toy storage.  Whether you are storing lincoln logs, leggos, barbie dolls, or board games this will provide functional storage at a very affordable price.  The Container Store has a similar (but pricier) option in their elfa system.

Other items - throw pillows and storage seating - give the room interest and function.  We are thinking of adding an iron-on detail to striped pillow in a dark gray but haven't quite figured that out just yet. The Poppin Storage Seat has interior storage and also offers extra seating.  It can hold a person over 250 pounds!  

Poppin Box Seat 
The Container Store

Bubble Storage Stool
The Container Store

Striped Pillow Cover
Hobby Lobby

I really hope my friend doesn't mind me "borrowing" the design for my therapy room.  I'm loving it that much!  

Do you have a craft room, play space or multipurpose room that needs a family-friendly revamping?  Maybe this design plan will work for you too!  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Coconut Cream Cake

What kind of cake do you like for your birthday celebration? You could always go with chocolate which is one of my favorites.  I celebrated my big day over the weekend.  This year I had a serious craving for coconut. I was tempted to make a coconut cream pie but pie just seemed wrong for a birthday. Instead of picking up a store bought cake (which my family had every intention of doing), I told them I would satisfy my birthday cake craving by baking a Coconut Cream Cake.

Using a boxed vanilla cake mix as my base, I used canned coconut milk instead of water and added a teaspoon of coconut flavoring.  I placed all ingredients in stand mixer and mixed until blended.

I buttered and floured a 6" x 3" round aluminum cake pan.  I also added a parchment round inside pan and coated it with cooking spray.  I did not want this cake to stick!  My cake didn't quite come to top edge but it easily came out of the pan.

Fill pan three-quarters of the way full.  You want the cake to bake up to top edge of pan.  This will allow you to have 2 - 1.5" layers or 3 - 1" layers.  I went with 2 layers on this cake.  I used a cake leveler to level cake and then cut cake in half.

Place first layer on foil-covered cake round.  Add 1/2 cup of frosting and spread over layer.  Place second layer on top of first layer.  Add 1/2 cup of frosting on second layer and spread evenly.  

Using an offset spatula, add additional frosting around sides of cake  and spread evenly.  This doesn't have to be perfect because you will cover sides with toasted coconut flakes.

Frosting Top of Cake:  Place remaining frosting in piping bag fitted with #12 round tip.  Started on top edge of cake, pipe large dot of frosting.  Using tip of spatula, gently push frosting toward the right to create a "petal" on the left.  Continue making frosting petals all along edge, then move to inner circle making 3 concentric circles of petals.  Leave center empty - you will fill this with toasted coconut.

Toasting Coconut:  After cake is finished baking, reduce oven heat to 300 degrees.  Place 2-3 cups of sweetened coconut flakes on parchment lined baking sheet.  Spread out evenly.  Bake coconut flakes until lightly toasted.  I toasted coconut in 5 min increments (set a timer) until flakes are lightly toasted.  Keep your eye on it!  Edges tend to toast before center so you may need to move flakes around with spatula after each 5 minute baking increment. 

Coating Sides with Toasted Coconut:  In an effort of full disclosure, I must warn you - THIS STEP IS MESSY and there's no easy way around it.  I'm open to suggestions to make this step neater.  After coconut has cooled completely, it will be toasty, crispy, and yummy.  Place cake on cooling rack over baking sheet (to collect coconut flakes that fall).  Pick up a bunch of flakes with your fingers and gently push onto side of frosted cake.  Continue all around side of cake until completely covered.  You can use flakes that fall in pan below.  I made a lot of toasted coconut because I wasn't sure how much I'd need.  You probably only need 2 cups total.

I had enough batter left over to make a small batch of mini cup-cakes.  I added the same frosting and sprinkled tops with toasted coconut flakes.  These were a bonus and the perfect bite of deliciousness (I had to try one or two, maybe three, out for quality control purposes ;-).

This recipe was even a big hit with our canine family member.  Our golden doodle Bella thought the platter of mini cupcakes on the table was meant for her.  She enjoyed at least 3 or 4 (including the paper) before being busted by her big brother! Bad doggy!

Going, going...

This cake was gobbled up in less than 24 hours.  On a yumminess scale from 1 (yuck) -10 (amazing), my fourteen year old son gave the recipe an "11".  Yay!  That's very high marks coming from him because he can be picky.  He's actually eating the very last piece as I write this post (and the dog is eyeing him longingly begging for a bite).

Check out the recipe below

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bikini Cake

Every February for the past 10 years, my sister has hosted a pre-Valentine's Day girls night out celebration and panty exchange called Pink Panty Party.  Each attendee brings a NEW wrapped pair of panties (the more outrageous, the better and funnier) for a gift exchange.  No one is actually taking off their panties (not at the party anyway - wink, wink).  Well, the husbands completely embrace this girls night out get-together and hope their lovely wives will later "model" the newly acquired undies.  Just sayin' people... #loveisintheair.

Unfortunately, I missed the festivities last year due to a pesky case influenza which turned into an even peskier case of pneumonia.  So much for that flu shot!  I didn't figure the ladies would appreciate me coughing up a lung on their new panties last year so I stayed home with my nebulizer.  

So, that brings us to this year's party...I went all out and made a Bikini Cake that looks like a pink panty and bra set.  

Some of you may know that I have a "thing" for making special cakes.  I love baking and it's a hobby that I've enjoyed for many years.  I've come a long way since I first started baking.  The first time I made a cake all by myself at the ripe age of 11 years old, I thought "egg whites" meant the shell.  Seriously!  So, yes, I crunched up the egg shell and put it in the cake.  It was quite crunchy to say the least.  I never made that mistake again!  I've teamed up with my sister on a few occasions as well.  I have fond memories of assisting her with a multi-tiered luau party cake (while drinking margaritas) for my niece's 8th birthday.  My husband was supervising us (haha!) and making margaritas.  It's a miracle that cake turned out so well in our tipsy-turvy state.

So, back to my Bikini Cake.  A friend made a similar cake years ago for a coworker's lingerie shower and I thought it was so cute. I knew it would be perfect for our little celebration.  I scoured the internet and Pinterest for examples and got a plan together hoping to use a specialty cake tee-shirt shaped pan I already had on hand.   

Can you believe this is how my cake started out?  Using one boxed cake mix, I poured a little bit of batter into 2 small round dishes which would eventually become the "boobs" for the woman's torso.  Here are the boob cakes before being attached.  The inset photo shows the cups I used for baking.

I poured the remaining cake batter in the tee-shirt pan.  I baked the tee-shirt cake first because it would take longer than the small cups.  After everything finished baking, I allowed the cakes to cool completely.  Using a bread knife, I carved the waist of the torso in slightly to give it a more feminine curve.

I then "attached" the boob cakes to the torso using frosting.  I continued with a crumb coat of icing on the entire cake including the boobs.  I placed cake in freezer so everything would set.  I later added a more substantial layer of icing.  I placed cake in the freezer again.

This was my first time to ever use fondant so I was a bit nervous about this step.  The next morning I rolled out the ivory colored fondant to cover the entire cake which simulates the "skin" for the body.  I smoothed it out and trimmed around the edges.  I had a few areas that looked slightly cracked but overall I think I did pretty good for a fondant first timer.

I cut out a template for the undies and bra using regular printer paper.  I placed templates on cake and used a toothpick to trace little dots around edge of pattern.  

For the bra template, I only traced the front of bra and the straps.  I piped frosting along the side and underside of the natural shape of the "boobs" but left a little "cleavage" at the front.

I piped pink frosting for bra/panty set using a #16 star tip.  

I also embellished the bra and panties using edible heart candies and pearlized candies (which look like beads).  

For the border, I piped same color pink frosting using a #12 round tip to make dots.  I alternated red and white sixlet candies all around border on each dot.

This cake would be perfect for other celebrations too:
  • a lingerie shower
  • a pool party (make it look for like a swim suit)
  • a swim team party
  • a tropic or luau themed engagement party or a couples shower (make one cake a bikini swim suit for woman, make another cake as swim trunks for the man)
  • a bachelor party
  • a bachelorette party
  • a bachelor birthday party
No matter what kind of celebration you are planning, make it special by ordering (or creating) a unique cake.  

This type of cake would cost a lot of money if purchased in a bakery.  I saved myself some cash and it was a fun, creative adventure!

Happy Baking!