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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Easy Party Decorations (as seen in baby shower post)

Check out my video tutorial to see how I create the flower bomb above. These cost about 75 cents per flower bomb. And it takes about 5 minutes to assemble once you get the hang of it. Cheap and easy! Just like my best girlfriends. Kidding. Mostly. Moving on…

I have to apologize. The videos on the rest of the decorations did not turn out, and I took basically no pictures at all during the process. I will describe what I did and show you the steps that I do have documented, and then include a link to one of the many tutorials that exist out there in blogosphere.

Let’s start with the orbs…

To create these stunning little beauties, you need:

-Yarn (I used crochet size 3, if that means anything to you…)

-Fabric Stiffener

-Balloons

-Bowl

-Water

-Paper clips or Christmas ornament hooks

-Newspaper, trashbag, or drop cloth

-24 hours

The BEST part about making these? Asking the 17 year old boy working at Michaels, “Hey, where’s your stiffy?” Because, yes, the “fabric stiffener” is a common craft store item, appropriately (but HIGHlariously) called “Stiffy”. See?

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA….Oh man, I have problems. I spend way too much time with middle schoolers.

Start off by setting up your work space. These babies are messy and drippy, so be sure to cover a large portion of your floor because Stiffy is some serious floor-ruining glue-like stuff. The orbs take 24 hours to dry, so you will also need a workspace that is out of the way so they can hang undisturbed. I suspended ribbon between the floor lamp and a chair in our spare bedroom. (You could just as easily use a length of the yarn, but I was paranoid I wouldn’t have enough.)

Blow up as many balloons as you need. I used small dollar store balloons, so I only filled them up about 1/2 way so they would have a rounder shape. If I were to make these orbs for a wedding (or a baby shower that wasn’t in my classroom…) I would definitely splurge on nicer balloons. I would have loved to use balloons that were truly round and use multiple sizes, but that will be next time (perhaps at your shower, Alicia??).

Next, pour the Stiffy into a big bowl and ADD A TABLESPOON OR TWO OF WATER. If you skip the water, the glue will be an unmanageable monster. The balloon will not destick from the yarn…ever. The glue will not dry translucent but white and flaky and gross. So please, take my advice and pass the bowl under the faucet for a couple seconds.

Now, the length of yarn you need depends on several factors. How big is your balloon? How airy do you want your orbs? How thick is the yarn you are using? I found that for my small orbs and size 3 yarn, I typically used about 4 feet of yarn. Sometimes I added a bit more if I thought the wrapping looked too hole-y, sometimes I added less if I tangled up the yarn and had no choice but to cut it. Play around with a few different lengths and see what works for you.

I measured out one piece of yarn at a time. After I cut the yarn, I placed it in the bowl of Stiffy. You have to be very delicate with this, because it is super easy for the yarn to get all angry and tangled. After a second or two, I picked up the end of the yarn and squeezed all the excess out. I then wrapped the yarn around the balloon–first horizontally, then vertically, and then every-which-way until I had just an inch left. I took the end of the yarn and wrapped it around another piece already flush to the balloon.

Then I stuck an ornament hook (but an open paperclip would work too) through the tie on the balloon and hung on ribbon to dry.

Wait a full 24 hours, and then pop each balloon using sharp scissors or a pin. Once the balloon is deflated, you might have to gently edge it out between the (now hard) strands of yarn.

While the orbs will be sturdy enough to hold their shape, they can easily be smooshed, so I recommend using a box (as opposed to plastic bags or the like) to transport.

For more photos of the process, check out this amazing/talented/beautiful blogger: http://www.meticulouslife.blogspot.com/2011/08/we-are-ballers-string-ballers.html

On to the medallions…

Sorry for the crummy pic, but I think you can get the idea. These medallions are super easy to make and really mod. All you do is accordion fold a square piece of paper…

Then, fold the accordion in half and glue it together…(I used elmer’s spray adhesive for this–the picture below is from the internet, not my photo)…

Repeat this process. You will have two things that look like this:

Now, simply glue the two fans together!

You can change the overall look by making wider folds, using a patterned paper, etc. The diameter of the medallion will be the same size as the square you start with. Head back to meticulouslife.blogspot.com for details on this craft, too.

And finally, my favorite, the little pom poms…

For this happy little guy, all you have to do is wrap a (loooog) piece of yarn around your hand (or oatmeal container, vase, anything round) 100 times. Slide it off and cinch in the middle with another small piece of yarn. Cut all the loops and TaDa! Pom pom! The directions I used are here: http://www.crochetspot.com/how-to-make-pom-poms/

Now that you have decorations, all you have to do is open some booze and you are ready to party! Oh, maybe you should invite people, too. I’ll leave that up to you.

xo

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Outfit of the Day…Black, White, and Gold

Mondays are about good intentions. Every Monday I start the week off right, hitting the snooze button only three times (instead of six), eating a salad for lunch (instead of a bag of goldfish crackers and a york peppermint patty….ok, four peppermint patties), getting to the gym for an hour long bootcamp class (instead of giving up halfway through a P90X video), and dressing like an Adult (instead of a college student/pregnant woman/Miley Cyrus in stretch pants and a tunic top).

What is more grown up than a white brocade pencil skirt and a black silk sleeveless top? (And multi-tasking!? Just look at how grown up I am, talking on cellphone, posing, chewing lip, AND snapping picture at once!? I think I’m ready to take on a mortgage and adopt a baby. Just kidding, Mom. I don’t want property taxes.) To add a little “me” to the outfit, I adorned this look with a liberal amount of gold…

The top is from Target, the skirt is from JC Penney, and the shoes are Jessica Simpson by way of TJ Maxx. The gold watch is a gorgeous Michael Kors my boyfriend gave me for Christmas. The cuff was also a Christmas gift, from my Mom, and I think she got it at Kohl’s…The necklace is H&M. Now, the belt? That amazing tan leather with the ginormous gold and silver buckle? My Mom’s, from the 80’s. Shocking, right!?

And now you can tell I’m really just a 20-something with far too fabulous a life to take time to clean my mirror…….

xo

Baby Shower: Pat the Bunny Theme

My coworker and friend, Michelle, is pregnant with her first child. I’ve been thinking about her shower for months, and I always knew I wanted to make it a book theme…it seemed fitting for a shower thrown by a bunch of teachers. I considered several classics, but when Michelle shared that she was having a baby girl, I knew I wanted to use “Pat the Bunny” as inspiration…

What is more precious for a baby girl (named Lily!) than peach, robin’s egg blue, and love bunnies!?

For the decorations, I made these flower bombs, medallions, pom-poms, and orbs:

My amazing coworker, Arah, climbed a 6 foot ladder and grouped the decorations in multi-level hangings on the inner corner of each hanging light in my classroom–6 lights in all, so 6 clusters of these babies adorned the room:

All of the decorations were made by hand. I already posted a video on the white tissue paper flowers, and tutorials on the others will soon follow…

The tables looked like this:

I started with white tablecloths, and then layered blue paper and peach ribbon on top. Pink pots (from the dollar store!) and clear vases were filled with cookies and rice krispie treats, and I used free paint guides to label the goodies. “Pat the Bunny” coloring book pictures were available for the artistically inclined. Annie’s bunny-shaped treats were strewn about. And my favorite, a Celtic guide to personalities, with Lily’s (expected) due date…

I found the template on Martha Stewart’s website and printed it on white card stock. It was a huge hit with everyone…It’s always fun to read what your personality ought to be based on your birthday!

Several coworkers contributed food and drinks to the shower, and I baked the desserts. Again, all of the labels were hand-written on paint guides. This is a great tip for entertaining–paint guides come in an endless array of colors and are totally FREE!

(sugar cookies with royal almond icing; rice krispie bunny tails in plain, and peanut-butter-chocolate.)

Recipes to follow…

xo

Valentine’s Day Dinner Menu #1

NYC is a shit show on February 14. Restaurants book up weeks in advance and often adopt an unspectacular/overpriced prixe fixe menu for the night. Furthermore, at most NYC restaurants, you are sitting so close to the next table you can literally hear the food digesting in their stomachs. The weather is generally terrible, it’s impossible to get a cab,  and (surprise, surprise) the L decides to stop running after 9pm. All this adds up to the least romantic night ever.

That’s why I suggest you stay in this Valentine’s. You can control the lighting, the music, the temperature, and most importantly, THE FOOD. The menu I’m sharing is perfect for any couple–whether you’re just starting out or have been together for years, this meal will feel special. It is easy enough for novice cooks and bakers to make, but its taste is anything but simple. It takes about 20 minutes of hands-on time, so then you can do *ahem* other things with your hands….(It is Valentine’s Day afterall…) OH! And it includes three types of alcohol.

Alcohol is great for Valentine’s Day because if you’re nervous it makes you more comfortable, if you’re bored it makes you amused, if you’re tired it revs your libido, and if you’re me it makes you pink-faced like a cherub.

Drunken Chicken (with asparagus and wild rice), Red Wine Molten Lava Cakes (with vanilla bean ice cream).

DINNER:

-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

-salt and pepper to taste

-1 cup flour

-2 tbsp butter

-2 tbsp olive oil

-1 medium onion

-1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-1/4 tsp cloves

-1/4 cup brown sugar

-1/2 cup golden raisins

-1 cup dry wine (sherry, vermouth, or whatever dry white wine you have idling in the fridge)

-2 tbsp bourbon (or more, if like me you’ve already finished a glass of the white wine and can’t be bothered to measure)

-1/2 cup slivered almonds

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put olive oil and butter in large skillet with deep sides and heat over medium-high heat.

3. Pat chicken dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.

4. Dredge chicken in flour and place in skillet to brown on both sides.

5. Chop onion.

6. Remove browned chicken and place in  a 8×8 baking dish (all I own is a 9×13, it works fine)

7. In same skillet, cook onion until translucent and turning brown

8. Add in the tomatoes (do NOT drain), spices, sugar, raisins, and alcohol

9. Stir, inhale, smile

10. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occassionally

11. Pour over chicken

12. Sprinkle almonds over top of chicken

13. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes

14. If serving asparagus, trim ends and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and lie flat on a foil-covered baking sheet. Place in oven with chicken for the last 10 minutes.

15. If using lazy rice, microwave 90 seconds right after you take chicken and asparagus out of the oven.

16. Serve and enjoy.

DESSERT:

-4 ounces best quality chocolate bar in your preferred intensity, roughly chopped (I used, and highly recommend, Ghirardelli 72% cacao bar)

-1 stick butter

-1 generous tbsp red wine (again, whatever you have on hand, I used a cabernet sauvignon blend)

-1 tsp vanilla

-1 cup confectioner’s sugar

-2 eggs

-1 egg yolk

-6 tbsp flour

-1/4 tsp cinnamon

-1/4 tsp ginger

-1/8 tsp cloves

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in large bowl 1 minute. Stir with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted.

3. Stir in wine, vanilla and sugar until well blended.

4. Stir in eggs and yolk.

5. Stir in flour and spices.

6. Pour batter evenly into 4 (6 oz) ramekins. (If you want to eat straight from the dish, pour batter straight in. If you want to turn out onto a plate or bowl, butter the ramekin first.)

7. Place on baking sheet and bake 13-15 minutes, until edges are set but center is still soft. DO NOT OVERBAKE.

8. Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then overturn onto plate, add ice cream, and indulge.

Thank you, Marti, for original drunken chicken recipe and (oddly enough) McCormick’s cinnamon for the original lava cake recipe.

More menus (for the culinary adventurous, lazy, man-pleasing, or woman-pleasing) on the way…

xo

 

Bow Tie Tuesday + HM Gloves

I’m a lucky woman. I have a man who observes Bow Tie Tuesdays.

And that ain’t no clip on…! Swoon.

When I’m on the arm of such a dashing fella, I of course have to be equally well styled. On winter’s coldest days, that can be a bit of a challenge, since temptation to dress like an Eskimo is high. If only I could find a pair or exquisitely chic, insanely warm, and dirt cheap gloves that go with everything!

Enter my new H&M gloves:

These gorgeous gloves are pretty close to perfect. While they are, of course, synthetic pony hair and leather, the quality is very high. The gloves are lined to add extra warmth. They are classy while still being funky, and they will go with every outfit. I also love that they are fitted enough to wear rings over (I LOVE doing this!), without being too tight to bend my fingers in.

Oh, and did I mention they were only &6.99!!!???

xo

Valentine’s Day: The Approach…

Confession: I love Valentine’s Day. And I always have, even as I spent the first 24 of them as a single gal. This is in part because my mother always made a lovely fuss about it–pink and red and purple and white decorated every corner of the house, she cut our lunchbox sandwiches into hearts, baked yummy sweets, and always gave us little tokens of love. (I can distinctly remember one year getting the “Titanic” soundtrack in my Valentine’s goody bag, and I seriously thought I died and went to Leonardo DiCaprio filled heaven.) In addition, I simply enjoy any opportunity to celebrate.

I have just started decorating…

I’ve already gathered all the treats for my students’ Valentine’s bags:

All items from the dollar store. Low in cost, HIGH in fun! Check it out…

 

Valentine’s treats for co-workers and suggested Valentine’s Day dinner menus are on the way…

xo

PS I know this sounds really pathetic given all the actual tragedies in the world…hunger, AIDS, Newt Gingrich winning SC…but I am so sad to hear Heidi Klum and Seal are splitting up! Especially around Valentine’s Day, break-ups make me sad. And their kids! Annual Halloween costumes! Sigh…..

Movies to Watch in a Snow Storm

NYC is finally experiencing its first winter weather! Which makes for the perfect excuse to snuggle on the couch with a stack of magazines, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, and a good movie….so basically, it’s just a regular Saturday night.

So what makes for great snowed in entertainment you ask? Three things: equal parts humor and heartache, superb one liners, and Keanu Reeves. Oh, and most importantly, the boyfriend has to approve, which sadly means no “She’s the Man,” “When Harry Met Sally,” or “The Newsies.”

In all honestly, I’m just in the mood to watch an old favorite, a movie that makes me feel like I have a living room full of friends. And here are the 5 films I narrowed it down to tonight…

1. Point Break

Obviously. I mean, the main characters are named Johnny Utah and Bodhi! And Reeves+Swayze=Magic! I don’t understand how this wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards. “Vaya con Dios, Brah.”

2. Forrest Gump

I think that this movie, subconsciously, is the reason I became a special education teacher. The scene where Forrest asks Jenny if their son is “smart, or….” with that look of horror!? It makes me weep. Big, gulping-air sobs. I want to crawl in through that screen and hold his hand to my heart so he can feel how much I love him exactly as he is. Sigh…

3. Bad Boys (always 1, but occasionally 2 if I’m in the right mood)

I’m not sure if this is evidence of a childhood misspent or well spent, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I knew this entire film by heart when I was 11 years old. 15 years later, the sight of Will Smith chasing after a kidnapped Tea Leoni wearing an unbuttoned purple silk shirt still gets me going. (Just to clarify–he’s wearing the shirt, not her, though admittedly that would be pretty hot…)

4. Saved!

Cassandra: There’s only one reason Christian girls come down to the Planned Parenthood! Roland: She’s planting a pipe bomb!?

5. Tommy Boy

Another childhood favorite. Chris Farley, David Spade, Rob Lowe. Laughter induced stomach ache guaranteed.

Now excuse me, I have some wine to pour and a movie to cue up…

xo