Drink of The Week - Caramel Apple Cider

Time for a new segment; Drink of the Week or D.O.W. every Sunday.

Caramel Apple Cider - courtesy of

1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup water

caramel whipped cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Ina small chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream with the brown sugar until soft peaks form.

First, bring the cream and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider and the water and raise the heat to medium high, heating just until the cider begins to steam, about 4 minutes.

Divide among 4 mugs, top each one with 2 tablespoons of caramel whipped cream and serve immediately.

Color Party - I'll Have a Pink Christmas Without You

Are your feet recovered from pounding the pavement on Black Friday? Is the tree already up? No, and yes for me, I don't do the madness but we work on the tree over Thanksgiving, after we wake up from our dinner-induced comas.

In the spirit of the holidays, all (well most of them) my posts will be devoted to great holiday decor ideas, hostess gifts, presents, all things, well, holiday! Today's post will kick things off. I love a non-traditional color scheme, it's so fun and mod. Check out some of my finds that would make Lilly Pulitzer proud.

pink Christmas table topAn annual Christmas Eve dinner is dressed in shades of pink. I believe this is from the 2007 Christmas edition of Martha Stewart Living. (I rip out inspiration, and there is no marker on the page).

Fuschia napkins and ornaments are perfect for this small table setting.

A pink tablecloth gives this setting an unexpected shot of color under the white napkins tied with gingham bows.

And speaking of Lilly, no need for a pink tree when these ornaments do all the heavy lifting?

I love how Toast & Tables replaces red with pink for a very preppy look! Pink Christmas decorPink Christmas boxes

Fiesta Friday - Next Day I'm Your Super Girl

Man, this week is all about the catchy songs! I'm lovin' Christina Aguilera's comic-book inspired Target commercial where she's singing "Keeps Getting Better" in several superhero guises. Superhero parties never go out of style, so the commercial has inspired me to create a montage, if you will, of great party inspirations.super hero party invites

Get the Party Started
Cut action hero emblems and logos from felt, then cut out the same logos from double-sided iron-on interfacing paper. Iron the two layers together and mail the logos and the party details to your guests. Invite guests to have their parents iron the logos onto old T-shirts or capes, and to wear them to the party.

Meri Meri's super boy invite and Picture Perfect's super girl invite are both supercute cutouts.

JenAllen's custom superhero invitations: you send the picture and they add the mask!

Point-and-click simplicity with Evite's superhero theme.

Setting the Scene
You can't throw a stone without hitting a superhero party pack. But for the ladies, you'll have to go online to find the Wonder Woman and Supergirl party packs.

Buy streamers in colors associated with your child's favorite superhero—for example, use red, yellow, and blue streamers for Superman, or black and yellow streamers for Batman. Twist the streamers together, and hang them throughout the party area.

Cut cartoon caption bubbles out of foamcore and write action words on them, such as "POW!" "ZAP!" and "BAM!" Hang them on the walls and from the ceilings with fishing wire throughout the party area.

I am in LOVE with this table setting from Setting the Mood With Jamee. There are so many fun elements going on. They are rockin' my favorite plates from cb2, and check out the napkin rings...they're masks!super hero tablesuper hero table setting

What to Do
Make sugar cookies and use cookie cutters to cut out lightning bolts, bats, or diamond shapes, set out colored icing and let younger guests decorate. Make sure to send a few decorated ones home.

Set up an superhero obstacle course.

Purchase inexpensive kid sized masks that cover just the eyes and part of the nose. Let kids decorate their mask using feathers buttons, glitter glue stickers and markers. To speed up the drying process and allow kids to wear their masks right away, use a hair dryer on any wet glitter glue.

super hero party shirts
How clever is this party idea from The Puddin' and Princess Stories blog - Each child had a shirt made by the hostess, girls had Super Girl shirts and the boys had Superman shirts, and a friend face-painted on masks.

The Munchies
Get into the spirit and serve energy drinks like Gatorade and super snacks like Power Bars. Of course you have to have a "Build A (Super)hero Sandwich bar. Cut two long loaves of sourdough bread into small sections, and set up a buffet of various meats, cheeses, veggies and condiments.
super hero cup/cake collage
Summon all your super skills and create Superman Burst cupcakes from Wilton. Just change the colors to tailor-fit your particular hero theme. And I couldn't even imagine eating these works of art from Flickr's 4GoodnessCake or these star cupcakes form The Cupcake Company.

Still need more inspiration? Check out this super party and full details at Social Couture - the blog and this super party at Swanky Tables.

...Then You Should Have Put a Ring On It

Arg! Another infectious song stuck in my head, Beyonce's "Single Ladies", stuck, stuck, stuck. Damn her and her talent. Might as well put it to good use. I really have no single ladies to plan a bridal shower for, but if I did, this is what I would do, a blinged-out shower centered around, what else, the engagement ring!

Twinklecards Engagement invite
The Invite
Twinklecard's fun bridal shower invite design has an engagement ring design embellished with a real Swarovski Austrian crystal.

The Decor
floating ring centerpieceIn The Gospel According to Parties That Wow!, an amazing idea - giant diamond rings made from an embroidery hoop and a clear faucet handle. I couldn't even begin to tell you how to do it, you'll have to get your hands on the book. It's an awesome party decor guide, so add it to your library.

Create diamond-studded centerpieces by filling tall glass vases with acrylic "ice" and top off with oversized crystal paperweights. Both can be found at your favorite craft or floral store. (I've found mine at Michael's).

The paperweights also used for loose table decor, and as "napkin weights" that guests can take them home as party favors.

Another napkin idea - OTC's diamond-ring napkin rings. Pair them with giant versions of themselves as more table decor.

What to Do
The scratch-off game Ring Bling! is a hoot! The object is to scratch the silver area over the opened ring box to reveal what type of "ring" the player will get. The host will supply a prize to the person who gets the winning "Engagement Ring" (Bling! Bling!) card. The losing cards are hilarious variations like onion ring, boxing ring, and coffee ring.
Ring collage
What to Serve
Check out these Swarvoski-blinged bottles from H20. Why not, right? Dish up these bling cupcakes from Rose Petals Cakery, or bake your own and top with a Ring Pop.

Send Them Home With a Smile
Fill small acrylic boxes with candy rings a la my candy watch favors, and tie with a coordinating ribbon.

Tuesday Tip - Toy Trade

Ever wonder what to do with the toys your kids are tired of playing with? That's the question enterprising mom Lori Pope decided to answer, with her business Think of it as a Netflix for your toys. As a subscriber, you create a wishlist of clean, safe play items that can be checked out and kept for 30 or 60 days. When you are ready to get some fresh toys, return the old ones, and they send out your next shipment.

The selection is geared for children 5 and younger, with plans starting at 5 toys per box for $27 a month, plus shipping and batteries are included. Talk about a green and ingenious idea!

Tuesday Trend - Pajama Jammie Jam

Hey ladies, still rockin' the college t-shirts and ratty shorts to bed? Ack, I hope not, because there are so many yummy options out there. Today's trend - make a New Year's resolution to throw out the grandma sleep shirt, and invest in some fabulous loungewear.Victoria's Secret is first you think of when it comes to sexy sleepwear, but they have wonderful (comfortable) pajama sets like the cami and boxer set and the orange flower print, plus if you order them online, you get free slippers. Comfy thermal long jane pajamas or a pintucked woven sleepshirt make lounging all day perfect.

Bellalino pj collageBellalino is a luxury linen company with products for the bed, bath and table, and they have the yummiest pajamas ever. Check out their Malibu wave pajama set, poppy set, exotic blue sateen and the bamboo knit loungewear.

luxury robesDon't forget the cover-ups. Yummy robes from Anthropolgie include this warm velvet burnout robe and a stem-printed habotai cover-up, embroidered with sunny forsythias. I am in love with the Tepper Jackson Aerodot terrycloth robe and Oscar De La Renta's paisley concoction.

What's the Word Pt. 3

Ok, so continuing my word "series"(here and here), more treasures....

Word tub tileword tileStone Tile Decor's pun series lets you become M.O.T.O. with fun and flair. Choose words for your tile to add a whimsical flourish to a bathroom.
word wood shelf
Ideal for small-space living, Thout's series of wall tiles provide specific storage function for the hallway.
Another space saver, this Beautiful coat rack from Urban

Real Party - Pink Girl's Night Out Dessert Party

Christine's Dessert Party CollageInspired by my Dessert Party she attended, my friend C recently had her own, that sadly I was unable to attend. But she has graciously shared pictures and party details.

" 'I made Cheesecake Brownies, Neiman Marcus cookies, and Berry Shortbread Cookies. My theme was Chocolate and Pink and different desserts, keeping with pink since it was a girls ONLY party.

Everyone brought their favorite homemade dessert and wrote the recipe on a recipe card I had attached to the inside of the invitation. I had a door prize for the first to arrive to receive a package of recipe cards. Keeping with a baking theme, we also played a baking trivia game. Quite a few were stumped on the questions and they all learned a few things. The last question was "What is your favorite dessert?", so everyone had to go around and say what it was. My daughter won the game and received a gourmet brownie mix. I also picked my favorite dessert, I had to take tiny pieces of everything to try it all to be fair. Mind you I did not eat any dinner before this night. I chose L's mom's as my favorite. She made homemade biscotti. It had pistachios and craisins in it.

I had to make 2 pots of coffee because we went through it fast. I had a huge punch that was 1 gallon of Hawaiian punch with a 2 liter of Sprite and a whole tub of pineapple sherbet. There was hot water for those who wanted tea. We had a Hershey's Kiss fondue pot going with chocolate to dip apples in.

Everyone placed their recipe card by their dessert and if you liked someone's recipe, I had set out blank recipe cards for the girls to copy them down. I was thrilled to also use my vintage glass luncheon plate sets from the 1950's that can hold your punch cup on them. I also made cute little favors to take home. A pink spoon with 2 Hershey's kisses inside wrapped in tool and tied with pink and chocolate colored ribbon, to stir them into your coffee or hot chocolate later. It was nice with Christmas music playing in the background and I hope helped everyone get into the holiday spirit. ' "

Thanksgiving Crafts (aka keeping little hands busy and not picking at the turkey)

Thanksgiving craft collageAs you all know, I have kids. And keeping them busy is Numero Uno. Especially on Thanksgiving, once the parade is over, there are still a few hours to dinner. Here are some fabu ideas that can keep them out of your hair and kitchen.

Nothing beats a collage. Set out construction paper in autumnal colors, such as brown, orange, red, and gold; and packages of feathers, pipe cleaners, and foam buttons. Put out glue and scissors and let the children cut and paste. Since you've determined the color theme, the end result is sure to be festive.

Assemble place cards from OTC's Thanksgiving place card craft kit.

Cover the kids' table in butcher paper and create a unique place for each child with patterned paper utensil pockets. Added bonus: they can color right on it!

Create paper boat placecards and embellish with feathers and sequins.

Create these corn-cob crackers and add little candies and a gratitude form to be filled out and read aloud as part of your festivites.

Paint stones with brightly colored tempera paint and glue on pasta letters for place settings, or just let the imagination roll with their own paint designs. Try the same on pinecones and acorns.

These fun leaf placemats can become a permanent fixture when covered with Con-Tact paper.

I love polymer clay, and these creations are fun and easy to make.

Fiesta Friday - Fiesta Inspirations

I'm always on the lookout for party inspiration; here are some amazing boards and pictures from around the Web with unique themes to jump-start your party planning ideas.....

James Bond/casino theme partytennis-themed partyJames Bond and tennis themes from Setting the Mood With Jaime.

Garden birthday partyA 4th birthday garden party from LMNOP.

Great Gatsby Murder Mystery partyA Great Gatspy Murder Mystery party by Most Likely LATE.

Moroccan Dinner PartyA Moroccan Dinner Party from Stem Parties.

Baseball ticket invitesA Baseball-themed party from Britssy.

crayon party1st birthday Crayon Party at Tastefully Entertaining.

Ice cream/pickle themed baby showerPickles and ice-cream-themed shower at Head of the Table.

Shark Bait partyShark Bait party from Flickr's Mommawants1more.

Thanksgiving Libations

With the big day a week away, some libations are in order. Here are some great cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages for all your guests.

Pilgrim's Punch - recipe courtesy of
Create enough for any sized group by keeping the ratio at 3 parts each grape and cranberry juices and 4 parts water.
3 oz grape juice
3 oz cranberry juice
4 oz cold sparkling water
lemon twist for garnish

Pour the cranberry and grape juice into a highball glass with ice cubes. Add the sparkling water, stir well, garnish with the lemon twist.
apple ginger sparkler
Apple-Ginger Sparkler - recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart
Our all-time favorite drink, I made it last year for a party, and now it's a regular on the party circuit.
1/4 cup ginger syrup (recipe below)
4 1/2 cups sparkling apple cider
6 cinnamon sticks
6 pieces crystallized ginger

Ginger syrup - Allowing the ginger to sit in the syrup, refrigerated, overnight really makes it strong! Then it's perfect. This recipe makes 2 cups.

2 cups sugar
1 six-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, and finely diced
2 cups water

Place sugar, ginger, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook about 1 hour, until ginger flavor is quite strong. Let cool; strain before using. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to a week.

Place 2 tablespoons ginger syrup in each of six glasses. Fill glasses with ice cubes, pour in cider, and stir to combine. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and crystallized ginger and serve.

Thanksgiving cocktailsCocktails
Gobble-tini - recipe courtesy of
1 1/2 oz Smirnoff cranberry twist vodka
1/4 oz Chambord
1/2 oz cranberry juice
1 tsp lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with 3 cranberries on stick.

Cranberry Punch - recipe courtesy of
2 cups red wine
1 cup vodka
1/4 cup spiced rum
1/2 cup Ocean Spray Ruby Tangerine Grapefruit Juice Drink, chilled
2 cups Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry Raspberry Cranberry Juice Drink, chilled
1/2 cup green or red grapes, sliced in half
1/4 cup fresh cranberries
1 lemon, lime, orange and apple, each sliced
1 cup sparkling water or club soda

Combine wine, vodka, spiced rum and juices in a punch bowl. Add fruit and chill. Add sparking water just before serving. Makes approximately 10 5-ounce servings.

Apple Cinnamon Toast - recipe courtesy of
1 1/4 oz. Smirnoff Green Apple Twist vodka
1/2 oz. Goldschlager
Dash of Green Apple Jell-O

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with cinnamon. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and apple slice.

Pumpkin Pie - Recipe courtesy of
2 parts Absolut Vanilla vodka
1 part pumpkin schnapps

Splash of cream (or substitute a splash of orange juice) Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with nutmeg and cherry.

Hello, Cupcake!

So FINALLY got my hands on our library's copy of Hello, Cupcake! Ahhh...I've died and gone to cupcake heaven. Feast your eyes on some of their cleverness, then get the book to see even more works of art.Hello, Cupcake! collage

Color Party - Striking Silhouettes

Silhouette ideas

While spending way too much time at Martha's, I came across this beautiful pink and cameo place setting and just fell in love with it. So of course I had to find more silhouette ideas.

Tuesday Tip - Fabulous Thanksgiving Tabletops

Thanksgiving tabletopAh, I've finally slowed down long enough to enjoy the beautiful, falling leaves, the abundance of apple cider and the digging out of the turkey platter. Somewhere between Halloween and Christmas is that gut-busting holiday called Thanksgiving. It's really about the food, not the decor like the other two, so today's post has a few easy and stunning ways to glorify your tabletop.

When I saw this absolutely fab table from cb2, I had to order the bark and orange comma plates, plus, they're on sale! I love the leaves and the runner on the table, so clean and mod, and easily duplicated.

Here are some other great tabletop ideas....what can be simpler than a candle surrounded by dry corn? Line up a set of appetizer plates intriguingly garnished with large sunflower heads. A white-pumpkin shell becomes the vase for a colorful arrangement of roses, daffodils, ranunculuses, and other flora in fall colors. Smaller pumpkins and votive candles in orange-glass holders fill out the centerpiece. This luscious table arrangement of wheat and other dried grasses can be made weeks ahead. A pine cone place card on a bed of leaves. Make a "Thankful Tree” - Insert a branch into a terracotta pot filled with stones or rice. Cut out leaf shapes and have guests write on them what they are thankful for, and hang onto the tree. Use magnolia leaves to create a series of glowing centerpieces with large white pillar candles in glass vases. Use your menu as decor. Set pears, mini pumpkins and other seasonal offerings as place settings, and group bread sticks in drinking glasses.

A Case of the Mondays

Office Space collageI love the movie Office Space, so logically I should be all into NBC's The Office, especially since I love Steve Carell, way back in his Jon Stewart days. And yet, I don't. But wouldn't this year's office Christmas party (0r your own party) be a hoot if it were an Office Space theme? (You could do The Office as a theme instead.)

Setting the Scene
You so have to have a T.P.S. Report Cover Sheet as invites, check out this PDF file, and just fill in your party info.

Make fun centerpieces with pencils wrapped around food cans and secured with rubber bands.

Although the red Swingline stapler is key to making your party a hit, chances are, you won't have any. Collect everyone's staplers and prominently display them with labels "I believe you have my stapler".

Use shredded paper as confetti and set out memo pads everyone.

Create graphs and charts on white boards and display on office easels. Or create your own on posterboard.

The movie's soundtrack may be a bit risque for the office. One famous scene has "Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta" by the Geto Boys. Try more neutral songs like "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, Loverboy's "Everybody's Workin For The Weekend", Rose Royce's "Car Wash", "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles, "Manic Monday" by the Bangles, and if you dare, "Take This Job and Shove It". Anything by Michael Bolton, however painful, would be awesome as well.

The Menu
Of course, one must duplicate the menu from Chotchkie's, the movie's version of TGI Friday's. Leave the diets behind and serve potato skins, buffalo wings, mini hamburgers and beer.

What to Do
The White Elephant Exchange is so last decade. If your group isn't too large, play a paper version of the Telephone Game using Post-Its. Each person gets the same number of Post-Its as there are in the group, and numbers each accordingly. For example, if there are 15 people in your group, each person gets 15 Post-Its, and numbers each through 15. Everyone sits in a circle and on the first Post-It, writes a famous phrase, then passes their entire pile of Post-Its to the person on their left. On the second Post-It, that person draws the phrase, then passes the pile on. On the third Post-It, the next person writes what they think the picture is, and passes the pile on. You keep this up, until everyone gets their original pile back. Then, go through your pile, and the hilarity ensues. A friend of mine did this at her Halloween party, and it was amazing how dirty ideas came out of innocent phrases.

Set out large cardstock circles, swipe the office markers and have everyone design a "Piece of Flair". The winner receives the Office Space Party Game.

Send Them Home With a Smile
Pass out your company's own flair by creating promotional badges at Lapel, Pin & Button. Or take a flip through the phone book and find a company that rents button machines, and create your own. Our school's PTSA has one, and one of the moms is a button-making fool now, they are quite easy to use.

Real Wedding - An Elegant Affair

This past week has been packed with patriotism. Last Saturday was the 223rd Marine Corps Birthday Ball (no camera, no pictures, and I will NOT be sharing our ball photo, I do have some pride!) and on Veteran's Day, we had the pleasure of attending the wedding of an old friend from our Camp Lejeune days (Marine Corps base in NC).

The hour-long Catholic ceremony was in the breathtaking Blessed Sacrament Church here in Seattle, I took a few shots, but my poor camera didn't capture as much of the beauty as I hoped.

My husband in his dress blues, isn't he hot??!!

The groom waits for his bride.

The bridesmaids and their bouquets of local flowers, tied with simple ribbons, that echoed the bride's. I love it!

The groom is an active duty member, so he has a number of friends in their dress blues so they could perform the Arch of Swords ceremony, where the bride and groom walk down through raised swords, a symbolic pledge of loyalty to the newly married couple from their Marine family. At the end, one Marine gently swats the bride on the behind with a sword, uttering, "Welcome to the Marines Corps".

The reception was held at another local gem, the Stimson-Green Mansion. OK, so if I ever do anything for our anniversary, I must have it here. It's an absolutely beautiful place, with gorgeous woodwork and steeped in history, as the home of one of Seattle's founders. Once again, my pictures don't do it justice. This is a shot of the main room, and down the main hall. The service was impeccable, and the food was amazing. We had an amazing time!

Fiesta Friday - I Spy

Spy party collageWith today's release of the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, and my step-daughter's Mystery party coming up for her birthday, it seemed quite appropriate for today's Fiesta Friday to be about spies and our continued fascination with those who lead a double life. Here are some ideas for your own soiree. For starters, check out my previous post on a dazzling 007-themed party.

Get The Party Started
Create an invisible message - Write party details in white crayon to be "invisible", and instruct agents to rub a Q-tip dipped in colored water over the inside to reveal.

Set the scene with Birthday in a Box's Top Secret party pack. Add fun extras like spy school certificates and plastic fedoras.

What To Do
Obstacle Course - At a friend's recent spy party, she set up an obstacle course with different checkpoints; the first they had to put on a hat, coat and sunglasses, then roll, tiptoe or run as fast as they could to the second point, where they had to load up a briefcase with important spy gear, take everything to the third point, empty the briefcase and change clothes, take the briefcase back to the second point, then run to the fourth point, where they were blindfolded, and had to pin the sunglasses on the spy.

ID Badges - Set up a craft table for "agents" to create their own ID badges. Provide them with business card sized cardstock. If possible, use an instant camera for small photos, like Polaroid's iZone, so you can add a photo to each ID.

Fingerprinting - How cool is this fingerprinting kit? Or create your own using washable ink pads and index cards, have your guests take each other’s thumbprints. Make sure to have a box of hand wipes ready to clean their fingers afterwards.

A great group game, “Wink Murder” - One player is assigned the role of murderer, with the ability to "murder" other players by making eye contact and winking at them. If a player is winked at, they must die a dramatic death and are removed from the game, and another player, the detective must discover who the murderer is.

The Munchies
For those suave kids who prefer their party beverages shaken, not stirred, serve drinks in plastic martini glasses with a cherry garnish. "Concealed" food like pigs in a blanket, pizza rolls, and ham and cheese bombs are sure to hit the spot. Give them fun names like "CIA Rolls". A very clever Secret Agent birthday cake, and an even cooler bomb cake. You can create your own with a Wilton's ball cake pan.

Send Them Home With A Smile
Instead of a goody bag, hand out a manila envelope filled with a pencil, notepad, eraser, sunglasses, fake nose, magnifying glass, toy binoculars, etc.

Need more help? Check out Quest Experiences's e-book with over 100 unique and creative ideas and graphic templates.

Birthday Wishes - Bringing Parties to Homeless Children

I came across an article in my Parents magazine about a wonderful non-profit organization called Birthday Wishes, that brings birthday parties to children living in homeless shelters. Started in the Boston area in 2002, they now serve about 1,000 children in 65 local shelters in Eastern Massachusetts and Worcester.

Donations come from a variety of places, and hundreds of volunteers donate their time by either participating in the celebrations on-site or dropping off party supplies for shelters that do not allow outside volunteers. They have a great website, where you can sign up to donate time or money. You can even show support by having Birthday Wishes as your party theme. When you bring in your items from the party, they'll take a picture of the birthday child with their donations for the newsletter. Check them out for more information.

A SPA-rty Mommy shower

A friend of mine recently had her third child (congrats C!!!) and felt a little uncomfortable about having a baby shower (etiquette wars are being waged on this issue even as we speak). Some say it is OK if your child is a different sex from the previous two, or there is a large gap between the second and third, or it's just wrong, no matter what.

So, to circumvent this problem, break tradition and focus on mommy instead of the baby. Have a SPA-rty Mommy shower! The mom-to-be will be able relax with the gals and the guests will have a great time.

Get the Buzz Going
Splurge on Swarovski crystal-studded invitations by Twinklecards. Create a replica of a spa brochure or place a small candle in a clear bag labeled with shower info. Break out the supplies and create your own sleep-mask invites. Evite has several spa invites that will also help you keep track of your RSVPs.

Invite guests to bring loungewear, chocolates, spa certificates, anything luxurious or relaxing as gifts for mom.

Creating the Mood
Try to engage as many of the senses as possible. Use lots of candles, set up in clusters to decorate. If you have any water or mist fountains, set them up. Turn your place into a serene haven with soft lighting and a palette of aqua and white. Drape white or sheer material around the room. Add soothing aromatics with scented candles. Set a large blue bowl filled with water and float white rose petals and white votives in it. A beautiful buffet with potted orchids and snacks on white and blue platters, courtesy of InStyle Parties.

Play nature music in the background or make it all about the girls; try “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain, “It's Raining Men” by The Weather Girls, and Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women”.

Have your guest indulge at stations where they make their own skin treatments like face masks and sugar scrubs. Find seasonal treatments like a papaya pumpkin mask or a lemon sugar scrub. Do an online search for homemade skin products.

Find pretty glass bottles and jars for guests to store their creations in. Small canning jars are perfect, and can be economical.

Book a massage therapist for mini massages and a manicurist to shape their nails, or even a make-up consultant for fun. Consider calling a local massage school or cosmetology facility to recommend their best students or soon-to-be graduates.

The Menu
Have delicious creamy or zesty dips for vegetables and chocolate fondue, whipped yogurt or caramel dips for the fruit. Don't be a slave to the stove, store-bought treats can be placed on pretty platters and drizzled with chocolate or fruit syrups.

Serve non-alcoholic drinks like a tray of fruit smoothies in shot glasses, along with your signature drink, SPArty punch. Pour into a ice-filled punch bowl 4 cups chilled club soda, 1 cup chilled blue curacao, 2 cups each chilled vodka and white cranberry juice and lemon and orange slices.

Set up a goody bar of favors, such as sample size cleansers, bath beads, lip gloss, orange sticks and nail files. Let the ladies scoop their favorites into small gift bags.

Tuesday Tip - Countdown to Holiday Savings

Things are tight, there's no doubt, so today's tip is to help you get ready for the holidays with these great ideas from the November 21 edition of All You.

6 WEEKS TO GO - November 9-15

Start shopping online.
Hit the Web early to compare prices and shipping fees.

Finalize travel plans.

Get crafty.
Start making handmade gifts now to pace yourself.

Pool old gift cards.

5 WEEKS TO GO - November 18-22

Check out sale racks.
Scope out markdown racks before searching for specific presents, you never know what you might find.

Look at online classifieds
Places like Craigslist and Kijiji offer merchandise from thousands of local sellers.

Stick to a list on Black Friday
It's a good time to get deals on big-ticket items, just don't be tempted to go over-budget.

4 WEEKS TO GO - November 23-29

Buy your paper, cards and bows

3 WEEKS TO GO - November 30 - Dec. 6

Finalize online buys
Finishing now means you'll have plenty of time to avoid last-minute rush delivery charges.

Do a reality check
A good budget is flexible, so trim your gift list or shrink your holiday menu if it looks like you might exceed your limit.

Shop for groceries
Stock up on non perishables and freezable items.

2 WEEKS TO GO - December 7 -13

Wrap and send gifts
Aim to get them out before December 15, which is the busiest mailing day of the year.

Deck the halls

Seek out car pools
Hook up with family or friends traveling to holiday shindigs and split gas costs.

1 WEEK TO GO - December 14-20

Do last-minute shopping online
If someone has slipped through the gift list, don't panic. Go online for inexpensive, personalized gifts like iTunes and Netflix gift cards and magazine subscriptions.

Wait to buy gifts
Seeing family after the 25th? With so many post-Christmas sales, hold off until after the holiday to pick up those presents.

Color Party - Tangerine (and Lime) Dream

One of my favorite color combos is tangerine and lime, or in layman's terms, orange and green. There are lots of ways to decorate with these vibrant colors. You could have orange with different shades of green as accents, or vice-versa. Today's inspiration comes from these Jelly Belly favors. I know people who have planned parties just because of the favors....

Who can resist your party with this Popsicle invite? Light your space with with Plum Party's colored lantern string of lights, jazz up a chair back small pomanders of green button mums attached with orange ribbon, or create a memorable tabletop with a centerpiece of mini green apples in clear vases. Bridesmaids' dresses you could actually wear again!A tasty dream cake from InStyle Weddings via LeFiores or cupcakes from Cupcake Envy will thrill everyone. How fun are these umbrella favors used for an outdoor wedding?

American Girl, an American insanity

The economy can't be in the toilet, do you want to know why? Because someone is making these damn dolls, and someone is buying them. Somehow I got on the American Girl doll catalog list, and received one. Being as I have 2 boys and a 14 year old girl, I don't think I'm in their buyer demographic. I had heard of this phenom back when a friend of ours saved up all of her allowance and Christmas money to purchase the $90 doll. That's right. I said $90. Mom refused to get it, and I don't blame her. Mom also saw a generic version of the daybed at Target and was promptly rebuffed in her effort to purchase it for said doll. Apparently the doll would chafe if set in anything less, and since the daybed is $68, it may be another year before she can get her hands on that. That's right. I said $68.

I guess, once again, I'm under a rock, smoking something, to have missed the memo on these dolls. Especially going through the catalog and nearly choking on the prices. There is the Just Like You line, where you can get your doll to look, well, just like you. A tad bit creepy, if you ask me, but then again, I don't have girls. They are $90, and another $14 if you want her to come with pierced ears and studs and dangles to mix and match. Add a cell phone and charms for a grand total of $119. That's right. I said $119. But she comes with an outfit and a book, so it's totally worth it.

So of course, you have to have clothes for your doll, and let me tell you, these aren't dress up like Barbie. There's everything you can imagine, from the Singing Star, where you can purchase an acoustic guitar ($30) to go with her ensemble, to a snowboarding outfit and accessories. I mean boots, helmet, goggles, and oh yeah, a snowboard. The snowboard outfit and book will set you back $28, her snowboard and accoutrement will set you back another $32. That's right, that doll is dressing better than you my friend.

That's just the tip of the iceberg; there is the American Girl line, I'm assuming all this other stuff grew out of the popularity of the flagship? They have tree houses ($250), trestle tables ($78) made from solid pine, even a stable ($75). I could go on and on. There's the Bitty Baby with all their stuff, coordinating outfits for you and your doll, go to the stores and eat with your doll. Seriously, I could go on and on. These dolls are eating off of a better table than most people. Do you have a solid pine table?

I'm sure that somewhere Shiloh Jolie-Pitt is dragging around a $42 Bitty Baby, like it was a $5 Wal-Mart doll. And I'm sure the wait-list to throw a $32/person party at one of their stores is months long. But when DOLLS are living better than I am, I must question the insanity that is the so-called American Dream, keeping up with the Jones, everyone wanting to do better than their parents and give their kids the world. Parents still stand in line to get their kid the hottest toy. Why? Because that kid will be the laughing stock of the preschool if they don't have the latest Tickle-Me Seizure (I mean Elmo, sorry)?

I remember when Cabbage Patch Kids came onto the scene, not these sad, recent versions, I mean the ones with the cloth bodies and plastic heads that with a good swing could knock your brother out. I got one for Christmas, her name was Marcella Bertha. I don't know how my mother procured one...that could explain the bites on her arm....just kidding! Who knew that would be the beginning of the end? That we would be willing to pay hundreds on a toy? Thank heaven I have boys...unless there is some overpriced gadget I'm missing? Oh yeah, it's called XBOX 360. Was my husband not the laughing stock when he didn't run out and buy Guitar Hero? He refused to pay full price, when it first came out, that brave and solitary soul. He did eventually...but now we are like three Heroes behind. I guess things don't change.

BTW, the line featured at the top, is the American Girl of the Year 2008, Mia. This is her Whole World Collection , if you just want to knock it all out at once, it's all yours for $459. Which, if you purchased everything separate would be $510.95, a steal if you ask me. I mean, it does come with an ice-rink for her to practice on.

Real Party - Halloween Costumes

Halloween costume collageDue to all the Halloween parties we had been to, I had 3 costumes, and thought wouldn't it be nice to share all the madness of our different costumes. First, for the kid parties, I became an undead maid (last year's skanky costume), that had to have a shirt and leggings added to make it appropriate. More on that later.

At my husband's work, each floor does a theme, and theirs was Mount Olympus, and of course, as boss, he's Zeus, King of the Gods.

At our Halloween Party, I was a Mad Scientist's Lab student, because I just didn't focus enough on it....had too many other things to think about.

For an adult Halloween party, we fussed about what we were going to do for weeks, being as it was a Hero/Villain party. I personally wanted to go as Michelle and Barack Obama, he was like, yeah, how is that original? He was set on Dog the Bounty Hunter. Why? Ah, my husband enjoys irony. And it just didn't feel right if I wasn't Mrs. Dog, so there we are. I even made our stinkin' badges. And we won the costume contest, second year in a row. Here's last year's winning debacle of a costume....only because I'm tired of being the hoochie and yet, here I was again this year....Flava Flav and one of his was too short, too tight, too revealing.

Our hostess had a great photo op, reenacting the shower scene from Psycho.hoochie maid costumeFlava Flav costume

Fiesta Friday - Apple of My Eye

Apple Party inviteNow that we are knee-deep in fall, a party based on the season's poster child seems quite appropriate. So, I'm sharing our version of an preschool Apple Party we attended a few years ago, and a few ideas to get you on your way for your own.

The Invitations
Set your party’s tone with a fun invitation. I created this dry-embossed bushel full of apples and straw that beckoned guests to the fun.

Create an apple stamp by cutting an apple in half from top to bottom, press the flesh side against a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Apply to a stamp pad or brush on a thin layer of red, yellow or green acrylic paint.

Use a painted wood cutout of an apple and write party info on the front

The Menu
Our guests were invited to bring a special apple treat to share from apple spice cake to slices of caramel apples. You can do the same, or serve other seasonal treats.

An Apple-Tasting Party works perfectly for older children and adults. You will need twelve different apples and when served with natural cheddar cheese, French bread and butter, the apple tasting is a complete menu.

The Activities
stamped apple bagsThe highlight of our party was apple stamping trick-or-treat bags since it was right before Halloween. I purchased inexpensive orange gift bags, and each child got an apple half and a plate of black or white acrylic paint. Do the same with fabric paint, and have guests create unique apple-print place mats, T-shirts, aprons, or a canvas bag for apple picking. Check out Martha's suggestions.

Take a trip out to a local orchard for a day of apple-picking.

Have an apple relay where kids race to see who can push an apple with a spoon across the backyard the fastest, or try passing the apple to your team member using your chin, no hands!

Have older guests caramel apples. Set out a buffet of various toppings and let them go wild. At the end have a cookie tray set out to put apples on. Write their name next to their apple, and wrap in cellophane to send them home. Younger guests can help make apple crisps and baked apples.

Purchase or make apple-shaped cookies for decorating and save a few to send home.

And speaking of apple parties, I just had to share this absolutely, positively, adorable Apple of My Eye party submitted to Party Perfect. Check out the blog for full details. You could use a lot of these ideas for a fall party, changing the color scheme for a more autumn feel if you choose.Apple of My Eye party
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