Drink Of The Week - Strawberry Muddle

Strawberry MuddleGet in those last minute strawberries for a dream of a drink. Don't even bother stirring—you want the heavy cubes to hold down bright bits of berry as well as keep the drink good and cold. Recipe courtesy of Jon Hoeber,via Bon Appétit.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups chopped hulled strawberries
6 thin lemon slices
Ice cubes
1 750-ml bottle chilled Prosecco

1. Stir sugar and water in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Cool syrup.

2. Divide strawberries among six 6- to 8-ounce glasses; add 1 tablespoon syrup to each and mash with muddler or handle of wooden spoon.

3. Add lemon slice to each and mash to release flavor. Add several ice cubes to each glass, then fill with Prosecco.

Fiesta Friday - The Original Supernanny!

Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Disney's Mary Poppins, thus the perfect occasion to highlight a few spoonfuls of amazing parties and treats from around the blogosphere.

Mary Poppins Party/Romanza EventsThrown for a four-year-old, Romanza Events created a perfect tea-party, complete with soda jerks, a chimney sweep, maids in mop hats and aprons, and parasols as decor. The young guests made kites and and stuffed teddy bears, a nod to the year the toy was introduced, 1907, and the setting of the story.

Mary Poppins Party/ Party WishesMary Poppins Party/Romanza Events 2Another fab tea-party from Donna at Party Wishes, complete with dress-up and stuffing penguins, thus making me want to run out and get myself preggers on the off-chance that I a. have a girl and b. she likes tea parties.
Mary Poppins cake
Mary Poppins cupcakesA beautiful and inspiring cake from a Disney board and too clever cupcakes from Flickr user Sarahs999, which is why I'm so taking the fondant-decorating classes at Michael's if it's the last thing I do!

We Read Wednesday - Bad Mother's Day

Every now and again, one of my numerous parenting magazines throw me a useful bone. Not to say that they aren't generally useful, although repetitive, like renaming broccoli to get kids to eat them (Silly Trees, anyone?) or Tantrum Tamers For Frustrated Moms (Parents, September 2009 cover story). Yes, we know, toddlers need to be empowered, give them choices like "Do you want to go now or in five minutes?", set limits, etc. etc. etc.

I can't remember who it was that suggested that I read "Bad Mother" by Ayelet Waldman. But once I picked up the book at the library and read the cover with the quote, " 'The Good Mother remembers to serve fruit at breakfast, is always cheerful and never yells, manages not to project her own neuroses and inadequacies onto her children, is an active and beloved community volunteer; she remembers to make playdates, her children's clothes fit, she does art projects with them and enjoys all their games. And she is never too tired for sex.' ", I couldn't put it down.

She wrote the book to help women crippled by the guilt of motherhood. And she should know...her 2005 New York Times piece generated a firestorm of ire when she declared, " 'But I'm not in love with any of them [her four children]. I am in love with my husband.' ", and could imagine a world without her children but not without her husband. She even went on Oprah, who defended her to an audience out for blood, crossed-examined her, and felt her children should be taken away.

This book is her response to the Bad Mother police force, as she calls them, who is always watching; condemning the mother who shrieks at her child in the grocery store, the mother who doesn't breast-feed, the mother with the kid on the backpack "leash", the mother who chooses her career over her children. It's about her own struggle as a working mom, a Harvard-trained lawyer, BTW, her husband a cheerful stay-at-home husband, a Pulitzer-prize winner author, BTW. And when she grew envious of his life and traded places, realized she hated being at home. " 'I, on the other hand, was supposed to be doing this Good Mother thing, this caretaking thing, this Gymboree and Music Together and baby-massage thing, but unlike Michael [her husband], I wasn't happy filling my traditional domestic role. It didn't feel like I had come into some deeper understanding of what it meant to be a woman and a mother. It just felt like I...was stuck in a hole I had dug for myself...And complicating all this was the fact that I loved these children so much.' "

It's her response to all of us who are riddled with guilt on a daily basis. Why am I sitting here blogging when I should be making Playdough with my kids/folding laundry/cooking a 4-course meal? Susy is 3 and doesn't know all of her colors/shapes/letters, I've doomed her to a life of crack and prostitution. I do want the $295 purse, but I have to shop for school clothes/we are going on vacation/I'm at home full time, what the hell do I need a $295 purse for?

Oh, sorry, that was me slipping in there. Saw the purse at the Las Vegas store (awe-inspiring in purple and yellow), and stroked it softly, murmuring "Some day, some day". It didn't help that my sister-in-law (married, working, no kids), had just purchased $80 jeans from True Religion, wait, 7 For Mankind, I think. One of those brands the celebrities wear that I always read about, that make your ass look like heaven, and they have 10 of. Nope, the most I've spent on jeans was $39.99 at the Gap, and you bet your ass I wore them until they literally fell off. They did, with a gaping hole in the knee, and 9:30 a.m. aerobics classes 3 days a week.

Damn it, why can't I have the purse? Why can't it be just for me, a selfish, guilty pleasure because I deserve it? After 10 years of marriage, kids, military deployments (3 6-month ones, thank you very much!), and stretch marks, can't I have something just for me? Nope, that makes me a Bad Mother; they could have gone to camp where they would have discovered some hidden talent that makes them the next Stephen Hawking or Michael Jordan. Look what you just doomed them to, a life of mediocrity because you didn't enroll them in Kindermusik at 3 months. Instead, you bought the purse.

So to all you Bad Mothers out there, this book is for you.

Tuesday Tip - Plum Party Personalizes Parties/USO Gown Give-Away

Personalized by Plum PartyYeah, say that title 3 times fast! The perfect way to customize your next event; celebrate a birthday with the honoree's favorite quote or come up with a riddle, using the napkins or cups as ice breakers. They'll be adding more selections in the coming months, so stayed tuned.

And as an added bonus, the code PERS09, will get you 15% off and expires Aug 31st.

And speaking of celebrations, thanks to Couture Parties for sharing this email she received, aimed at active military in New England.

"All Military Brides - USO to Host a Designer Gown Give-Away in December 2009! Exciting news on the "Wedding Front" for members of the Armed Forces who are planning their nuptials. A local bridal retailer is looking to giveback to the brave men and women who serve our country. Through a partnership with USO New England, women who are currently serving in the military, or those who are to be wed to a serving military member, will be able to attend a holiday Gown Give-Away event this December, where hundreds of brides-to-be will be able to each choose a designer wedding gown as a gift from our generous donor.

In an effort to organize a successful event, we are looking to determine the number of brides in New England who may be interested in participating. If you are a bride-to-be or know someone who is interested in this offer, please take a moment and send your/their name, military status, state of residency and wedding date to

Details on where and how to participate in this event will be emailed back to you on October 1,2009. Please no phone calls at this time, as we are still in the planning stages and do not have specific details to offer."

Martha Stewart and Grandin Road Do Halloween

Yes, you've seen the pumpkins at all the craft stores, and my friends, you are already 2 months behind on your Halloween planning. Martha Stewart is casting her spell over at Grandin Road and Halloween has never looked so spirited!

And for those of you who know your Martha, you may recognize some of her products from previous Halloween craft projects. The Jack O'Clock example is based on her clock made from a real pumpkin. Because she knows we don't have Martha Time. Really, who has time to make a clock out of a pumpkin? Only Martha.

Drink Of The Week - Pomegranate Cherry Sakejito

I'm loving this twist on the mojito! I even love the name, it just floats off the tongue! Makes 2 cocktails, courtesy of Simple Stunning Parties at Home.

1 lime, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
4 ounces sake (use a light or smooth style, such as junmai or ginjo)
2 ounces pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon cherry syrup (see recipe below)
2 ounces club soda

1. In each serving glass, muddle 2 lime quarters, half the mint, and half the sugar.

2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix the sake, pomegranate juice, and cherry syrup.

3. Stir and strain into the serving glasses atop the lime and mint mixture. Divide the club soda between the two glasses, stir, and serve.

Cherry syrup - makes about 2-1/4 cups

1 pound frozen dark sweet cherries
1 cup sugar

1. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the ingredients with 2 cups water and stir.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and reduces by about half.

3. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer, reserving the liquid and discarding the cherry skins. Refrigerate the syrup until ready to use (it should keep for several weeks).

Fiesta Friday - Where In The World?

BHG sun-kissed drinkHere is a great way to start off the school year, especially for fall birthdays. Kids ages 8-12 often study the states in school, learning each state's location on a map and memorizing state capitals. Guests can sample yummy foods from different states and play games that tie the states together into a nation, bringing geography to life.

Get The Party Started
Let your invitation set the party's travel theme. Start with a postcard base, layer on travel-related stickers, and write details on the back.

What To Do
Give young explorers a compass as a take-home party favor and to use for some party fun. Show the kids how to operate a compass and use their newfound skills on a closed course. Have them mark where they start, walk 5 paces north, 10 paces west, 20 paces south, 15 paces east, 15 paces north, then walk 5 paces west. They should end up right where they started!

BHG state mixKeep them moving with a treasure hunt. Divide everyone up into teams and give each team a a note that includes directions like "Go 25 paces northwest" to a location with another set of directions to the next location, so on and so forth. If the team follows them correctly, they should find the treasure.

Settle them down with a few State Of The Union games; match states with their state birds, flowers or nicknames. For example, Arizona's state flower is the saguaro cactus, the state bird is the cactus wren and the state's nickname is the Grand Canyon State.

Play State Bingo - purchase state die-cuts from a teacher supply store and make bingo cards with state names instead of numbers. When you hold up a state die-cut, have the kids identify the shape and cross off their bingo card. The winner can receive a representation of your city or home state. For example, I would do a $5 Starbucks gift card to represent Seattle.

The Munchies
In the specialty magazine Better Homes and Gardens Kids' Parties 2007, they have a fabulous geography-themed party featuring truly inspired recipes.

*The Sun-Kissed Drink boasts Florida's orange juice and Georgia's peach nectar served in hollowed out oranges.

*The Arizona Corn Bread Cacti gives cornbread a new look by forming the dough into saguaro cactus found in its desert.

*Write state names on namecards and let guests create the State-Your-Own Snack Mix. Dish up blueberries (Maine or Michigan), cherries (Michigan), chocolate (Pennsylvania), peanuts (Georgia), and shoestring potatoes (Idaho). You can include other favorite snack foods and their state of origin.

*An Idaho Potato Bar has a yummy cross-country selection that features potatoes, Wisconsin cheese and Texas chili.

Hot Style In The City

What gets me through my days? Waiting for the new cb2 catalog. Running my fingers over the glossy pages that contain nothing pertaining to getting kids to eat their veggies or 10 ways to look thinner. Yes, I subscribe to everything from Cookie to High Five...but my Pottery Barn and cb2 catalogs are for just for me; dreams of full tablesettings, floor lamps,white furniture and bowls full of lit candles.
cb2 urban bedding and pillow collageAnd look what's new in my catalog today, urban decor to spice up your bedroom or bath! Duvets covers and shams of super-soft 300-thread count all-cotton percale.
cb2 pillowArtisans skyscrape hand-tied renewable bamboo sticks into Chicago and New York buildings, while high-rise life with energetic pops of bright yellow dance across your shower curtain.

We Go Wednesday - Ski Dubai

I love the Travel Network. The History Channel is a close second, because I love the shows that tell me exactly how the world may possibly end. You know, another freak meteor like the one that took out the dinosaurs, an exploding star sending deadly gamma rays (although they are usually thousands of light-years away, so we're clear), super viruses, etc. Love it all!

Anyways, so back to the Travel Network. They have introduced me to so many amazing places, thus inspiring the next few W.G.W. First stop, Ski Dubai, playground to the ultra-super-duper rich and part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world. Why only the ultra-super-duper rich you ask? First off, it's the world's largest indoor snow park, located in...wait for it...the middle of the desert...incased in a dome. Did I mention it's in the desert? A snow park. In the desert. I'll let you marinate on that. That's not Disneyworld, y'all.

Tuesday Trend - Take Lunch To-Go

lunchbox collageIt's that time of year again; fighting the crowds for the coolest backpack, lunchbox and 10 cent notebooks, wondering why you are buying shoes again, when you just did 2 months ago, ad nauseum. For those of you not thrilled with the G.I. Joe/Hannah Montana selection at your local Tar-jay, check out these lunchbox gems. You'll never have to worry about yours getting mixed up with all the other clones.

Up your kid's (or your own) coolness factor with a renewable reusable food grade stainless-steel lunch boxes. It features two separate levels and one integrated plate.

Let your little lady dine in style with Thermos' rhinestone princess lunch purse.

Sorry, couldn't resist, also from Thermos; the Batman lunch tote has a cape, for Pete's sake!

Pottery Barn Kids preschool lunchbags feature wrap-around felt appliqués and a simple flap closure.

Minimize your child’s carbon footprint with Kid Konserve’s Butterfly waste-free lunch kit. The set offers a reusable recycled-cotton sack, cloth napkin, two dishwasher-safe stainless-steel food containers, a food cozy and sustainable water bottle.

Forget bulky, square lunchboxes - BuiltNY's Nolita Stripe tasty lunch tote is lightweight neoprene bag that stores flat when it's not in use.

Frecklebox has a wonderful selection of old-school personalized metal lunchboxes.

Tuesday Tutorial - Lollipop Trees

I discovered these whimsical lollipop trees created by Cheree Berry of Cheree Berry Paper and I am so in love with them! Change the colors and they will be perfect for any soiree.

They are easy to make yourself, but you can also buy one from Cheree Berry's website. Tutorial courtesy of Twist Entertaining.

-styrofoam cone
-floral spray paint (choose a color that will match your ribbon)
-extra-wide flat washers (these will add weight to the bottom of the cone and keep it steady; to get a heavy-enough weight, Cheree used 2 and hot-glued them together. The more surface of the base that the washer covers, the steadier the cone will be; so, if you can find a "Large OD" washer that's 8 millimeters or wider from a plumbing-supply store, that would be best)
-hot-glue gun
-8 yards of 5/8-inch-wide ribbon (use 1-inch-wide ribbon for a 24-inch-tall cone)
-gold-topped boutonniere pins (about 30)
-slim wooden dowel (for flag)
-craft glue

1. Spray paint cone with floral spray paint, and let dry. Hot-glue the flat washer to the bottom of the cone, and let set.

2. Cut the ribbon into graduated lengths so each wraps once around the cone, with extra for overlap; the shortest piece (for the top of the cone) will be about 5 inches. You will need 25 pieces of ribbon for a 16-inch cone, 28 pieces of ribbon for a 18-inch cone, and 27 pieces of ribbon (of 1-inch-wide ribbon) for a 24-inch cone.

3. Cover cone with ribbon, starting from the top. Wrap the first ribbon snugly around the cone (you will need to wrap the ribbon at a slight angle so that it lays flat on the conical surface). Fold the end under to hide the raw edge, and use a pin to secure. Continue down the cone, overlapping the ribbons only slightly.

4. Insert your favorite lollipops into the cone, slipping the sticks between the ribbons and angling them down.

5. Stick a sign into the top of the cone, or insert a single lollipop instead. Use a craft knife and a metal straight edge to cut the flag just inside the lines. Glue it to a slim wooden dowel; if you like, cut a second sheet of paper and glue it to the back of the flag to cover the dowel.

Drink Of The Week - Chameleon Peach Cocktail

Another great recipe from the 70-30 doyenne's magazine...and a perfect way to end an end-of-summer soiree. Recipe serves 8.

2 cups V-8 V-Fusion® goji-rasperry juice
1 1/2 cups sour mix
1 cup lemon-lime-flvored soday
1 cup peach vodka
1/2 cup peach schnapps

1. Pour juice into ice cube trays and freeze until firm.
2. In a large pitcher, combine remaining ingredients. Serve in martini glasses and place 1 frozen juice cube into each glass. Serve immediately.

Note: As the ice cube melts, this cocktail changes from yellow to a bright orange color.

Making The Ordinary Extraordinary

centerpiece collageA true hostess can make any last-minute event fabulous with just what she has on hand, being chic and green at the same time. Case in point, check out Rachel Ray's centerpiece slideshow.

Fill glass bottles with olive oil and add ingredients like rosemary sprigs, fresh chiles and citrus peel.

Arrange flowers from your garden in a teapot, and give them extra height by standing the pot on a cup.

A perfectly accessorized meal - drape stemmed glasses with necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Pile thick spools of brightly colored ribbon in the center of the table, and top the stacks with small salad plates.

Drop some lemons and limes into clear glasses and vases and top off with water.

Make a striking centerpiece just by reaching into your veggie crisper! Casually tuck kale, rosemary and oregano between heads of leafy cabbage, lettuce and radicchio. Try your own combinations to match your mood or menu. Then disassemble it into a big tossed salad for next night's dinner.

Fiesta Friday - Back To School Bashes Part II

Continuing on from Part I, the focus is now on neighborhood block back to school bashes and get-togethers; a great way to reconnect with everyone, celebrate with new neighbors and ease the jitters of Kindergartners. Here are some fun ways to create a new tradition, or incorporate into your neighborhood's existing function, especially if you are planning a Labor Day celebration.

Neighborhood back to school bash ideas

Bus-Stop Breakfast Buffet
Congregate about 15 minutes before bus arrival with treats for all! Set up a fun buffet of doughnuts, muffins, yogurt tubes, apples and bananas. Keep it simple and portable with milk boxes or small plastic bottles of orange juice and apple juice. Avoid red juices and grape juice; who needs stained clothes on the first day of school? This lovely party on Lil Luna has more great tips like these skewered mini cinnamon rolls,  perfect for on-the-go eating.

First-day jitters too much for breakfast? How about an after-school bus-stop bash instead? Set up a snack table with icy drinks and fruit to greet bus-riders as they arrive at the neighborhood stop. After recharging with a bite to eat, the kids can turn to sidewalk chalk and lawn games, while parents exchange notes on the new school year.

The Sweetest Thing
Nothing brings people together like sweets! Invite neighbors out for a cupcake or cookie-decorating buffet. Participating families can bring a tray of cookies, unfrosted cupcakes, and fun toppings. Set out bowls of frosting and popsicle sticks, set up folding and card tables and let the fun begin.

Neighborhood back to school bash ideas

I scream, you about a ice-cream sundae buffet? Families can bring a quart of their favorite ice-cream, brownies, cookies, whipped cream, the works! Make sure to have lots of ice-filled coolers to keep everything cool, unless ice-cream soup is one of your creations. This lovely set up from Lia Griffith comes with free printables.

Show and TellA great way to end summer is to take a walk down memory lane. Invite your guests to bring pictures of their favorite summertime activities, a recent family vacation, etc. Set aside time for “Show and Tell,” so everyone can learn what one another did over the summer!

Take it a step further with scrapbooking supplies, glue, stickers, etc. and let each family scrapbook their photos into mini albums. Chipboard sheets for covers and tied together with ribbons make quick and easy family projects.

School Supply Scavenger Hunt
Create simple maps for younger guests and question clues for older kids; have them use their backpacks to gather up much needed school supplies. Have baskets set up at each check point with a large item like a box of markers or a pad of paper, or smaller bundles of supplies like pencils or glue sticks for each participant.

We Go Wednesday - Bumbershoot 2009

Calling all Pac Northwesterners, Bumbershoot is back, Labor Day weekend! That's right, one of the largest international music and arts festival in North America is right in my backyard, and yet, we've yet to make it.

This year is no exception since a. we'll be campin', b. my husband does not believe in trying to get to Seattle, parking and inevitably losing a child in the madness that will be Seattle Center and c. we have kids I quote " 'It would be no fun' ". Big name acts have come through in the past few years, and this year Sheryl Crow, Katy Perry, and Jason Mraz are hanging up here.

For those who do go, this year will be featuring Youngershoot; kid-specific and family friendly activities like great music and other shows on 6 stages, Dizzy's Tumblebus, a sound bridge, the works. But get your tix soon, prices go up Saturday the 22nd.

Tuesday Tip - Do Me A Favor

Play dough favor jar
Arg! Those damn plastic character goody bags filled with useless piñata trinkets that end up all over the car or in every toy bin or basket in the house. And somehow, we've all come to believe the success of our kid's party lies in the bottom of those plastic bags. I personally despise them and piñatas...really? Nothing is more fun than dive-bombing for crap, then one child hoards everything, leaving the less-aggressive (read: rude) kids standing around empty-handed.

Think beyond those bags, it's so easy and sometimes just as affordable. Even plain paper bags bulked out with tissue paper and decorated with themed stickers is so much more personable. Take a cue from your party theme. Top off a fishing party with a pail with a twig fishing pole made from stick or string, gummy worms and a few chocolate fish wrapped together in cellophane, tissue paper, or wax paper and tied with a ribbon.

In the Gospel According To Great Parties For Kids, they share a few creative suggestions. Jars of homemade playdough look charming and are perfect for the three and under crowd when paired with a fun-shaped cookie cutter. Add a label bearing it's recipe: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup salt, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon food coloring in a heavy pan over medium heat. Stir as the mixture thickens and, when it comes together as a dough, remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, knead the mixture for a minute or two and it's ready!

Party favor collageWhen it comes to favors, don't think about quantity or dollar value, think instead about how to present what you are giving. Sports cups filled with felt tips are perfect for a sports party, while a stack of ribbon-topped boxes filled with a few barrettes and a bottle of bubble bath easily found at a local dollar store. A pretty bag with a floral pin attached is perfect as is, and needs no wrapping. The same goes for a miniature water can and trowel, to top off a beach-themed party.

Have fun with clear containers like small acrylic boxes and tubes. Fill with fun candy, crayons, plastic necklaces and bracelets. Remember mine from the Around The Clock shower? Shh...scored mine at Michael's. Even a cellophane bag filled with animal crackers or homemade cookies tied with a pretty ribbon seems extravagant.

Layer dry ingredients in a larger box so guests can add wet ingredients at home to make delicious cookies from a cooking party. These long tubes from Garnish are perfect for Lego blocks, jelly beans, etc.Clear favor collage

I like my guests to work at my party; crafts serve as an activity and a take-home favor! Have them paint small wooden chests, then go on a treasure hunt for gold coins to fill them with. Try painting plant pots and planting seedlings or T-shirt decorating.

Unfinished wooden frames, purchased cheaply at a local craft store, can be painted and decorated with sequins, pom-poms and stickers. Take a picture of each child at the party and give it to them to put in their frame when they leave.

Tuesday Tutorial - Colorburst Cupcakes

First it was the rainbow cake; now for the cake challenged I proudly present Colorburst Cupcakes. Check out the fabulous tutorial over at Our Best Bites; more Sandra Lee than Martha, with store bought mix jazzed up with sour cream. Now that's my kind of recipe!

Drink Of The Week - Carrot-Ginger Cocktail

Sandra Lee Carrot-Ginger CocktailThe great thing about plane rides, you can catch up on a little reading. I finally got through the latest Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine (August-September 2009) that features this amazing drink that makes 4 servings. Come on, it has fresh know it's going to be amazing. Plus, there is a mocktail version; just substitute 1/2 cup orange juice for the liqueur and tequila.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 cups carrot juice
1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Garnish: lemon slices

1. In a large pitcher, crush ginger using the back of a spoon. Stir in all ingredients and serve immediately over ice. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

Not Just For Eating

cup plate displayCheck out the cleverness discovered at one of my favorite party inspiration places, Display and Costume. From the Admit One ticket table cover to the cup-light garland to the drinking-cup ball so reminiscent of the Sparkleball from a few months ago, I love it all.

I can totally see a banner wall with the plates, with giant cut-out letters on the plates that spell out, well, whatever the occasion; "Happy Birthday" "Welcome Home" "Happy Retirement", etc.
Martha Steawart paper plate cake standMake coordinating cake stands, courtesy of Martha's now-defunct Good Things For Kids magazine. Single-tiered stands can hold light cakes while two-tiered ones are best for smaller treats.

How-to; step one, center the cup's bottom on the underside of the plate and hot-glue cup to plate for pedestal. Step two, for the base, trace a round object onto another plate; cut out with scallop scissors. Put base face up; glue a large rock to the center and glue pedestal mouth to base, covering rock.

Martha Stewart paper cup garlandAlso from the magazine, this delightful garland hangs overhead like lanterns. Just poke two holes on opposite sides, near the bottom and thread yarn through. Knot yarn on sides to keep cups in place.

party cup collageAnd one more treasure; with a little garland and paper ribbon or pipe cleaners threaded through punched holes for handles, send guests home with take-home goody buckets.

Back To School Bashes Part I

Back To School Cupcakes/CakeHaving a Back To School party is a great way to get elementary kids ready to mark the end of summer and the beginning of a new routine. Here are a few ideas to help get you started creating your own fun!

Select a party theme that says going back-to-school is cool, plus it will help you focus your decor, activities and food. A High School Musical theme or sports and activities themes are great for your pre-teen or teenager, while school bus and apple themes are ideal for elementary and preschool kids.

Get The Party Started
Make your own invitations by cutting out apple shapes from construction paper. Hand-deliver apples with party info on green tags and tied to the stems. Print party info on labels and attach to small boxes of crayons, or pencil boxes, even small bottles of glue!

Setting The Scene
Many stores are already getting ready for the BTS onslaught, especially for classroom decor. Check out retailers like Target's Dollar Spot and Dollar Tree for inspiration. Adorn your walls with die-cuts shapes and instructional posters. Hang foam or cardboard letters and numbers from the ceiling with clear fishing line, along with streamers in red, yellow and black.

The ubiquitous apple is the perfect prop. In tall vases, they double as design elements and take-home favors; pass them out as guests leave.

paper plane centerpieceHow clever is this paper plane centerpiece from Rachel Ray? Make the planes out of primary colors to match your decor.

A fun photo op: make a cutout of the front of a school bus out of yellow poster board or butcher paper, where guests can pose with for silly pictures.

The Munchies
•Make or purchase alphabet and number cookies and serve with juice for "snack time".
•Provide a lunch sack for each child using brown paper lunch bags. Fill with an apple or fruit cup, juice box, bag of chips and a sandwich.
•Serve cafeteria classics like tater tots and mac and cheese on melamine lunch trays.
•For a fun treat, check out these cake and cupcake creations from FamilyFun.

What To Do
The possibilities are really endless! For the preschool and elementary set, schedule the party like a school day and ring a bell between sessions. Or have different centers like Reading, Art, etc. and have everyone rotate through them all.

Personalize lunch bags or pencil boxes with stickers and permanent markers. Favors like pencils, crayons, etc. can be passed out at the end of the party to add to their bags or boxes.

For the middle and high-school set, decorate mini blackboards or mirrors for lockers; hot glue a magnet on the back. Show a classic school-themed movie like Grease, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or The Breakfast Club.

Check out the Back-To-School, Woo-Hoo! playdate we had last year for more fun ideas....and join us next time for neighborhood Back To School ideas.

We Eat Wednesday - Pink Taco (the restaurant)

Yes, finally, back in the blogosphere! I know, I'm sorry, it's been awhile. After a fab week alone with my husband in Vegas, partying at exclusive spots, walking through as a V.I.P. (as our friend pointed out, he doesn't wait in lines), hiding from the heat by running from hotel to hotel on the Strip and lots of drinking, we spent another week in Spokane, WA with the in-laws.

Not quite the same; in fact, we kept talking about the differences between Sin City, and what the locals refer to as Spo-Compton. Yes, not quite the same. Sigh.

So back to Vegas...we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, or HRH for those of you hipsters, and it boasts the world famous Mr. Lucky's 24-7 and Pink Taco, which I've also learned is a lovely euphemism for the delicate part of the female anatomy. So I guess when you say you've eaten, never mind, gotta keep the blog clean. :)

We ate there several times (the restaurant) and my husband loves it there (the restaurant), the portions are amazing and oh, the drinking....the best margaritas I've ever had. We had breakfast at Mr. Lucky' bit overpriced for ok-tasting food.
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