11 Hot Blog Stuff From 2011

Here we are, another year is coming to a close! Of course, that means it time for my blog-in-review (check out 2010). Once again, the boys got everything they wanted, and this year, I'm working on a New Year's Brunch, because, once again, we are home-bound for New Year's Eve.

There was just so much going on this year in both my professional and personal life, and so hard to narrow down to 11 but if you are keeping score, you'll see I didn't but that's ok! So here they are, starting from the beginning of the year....
1. Our Rockin' New Year's Eve Bash from last year and the very popular Snowflake Tutorial.

2.  It was all about the meetups; attended several this year like the Seattle blogger meetup at CakeSpy and the Night Of witchCraft , and the chance to meet  to meet some of my online crushes is priceless.

3. I finally got on the push pop bandwagon and my first project was my carrot cupcake push pops...I never looked back.

4. Literal sweat and tears in all the parties I hosted this year like the construction birthday party. I learned so much every time, things may not go according to my plan, but turned out amazing regardless.

5. 2011 was the Year Of The Guest posting...from becoming the party blogger for Today's Mama - Seattle Mamas, to guest posting on fabulous sites like Under The Table And Dreaming Pamela Smerker Designs and GigMasters.

6. My paper snowflakes revamped for the 4th Of July for The Hostess Blog...insert squeal.

7. A special pink safari baby shower for my sister-in-law's first baby; so honored to have it  featured on Project Nursery as Project Of The Week and Bump Smitten.

8.  My boys and their first business venture and of course mama couldn't have them just putting up any old lemonade stand.

9. Hosting the Arthur Christmas premiere party and a holiday article for Nickelodeon's ParentsConnect.

10. Being asked by Wrigley and California Black Olives to get my creative groove on. Insert eek!

11. Of course I had to close out the list with my Christmas Gift Wrapping Party featuring the very popular ornamental cocktails..

And since this IS a party blog, I can't resist a wrap up of the rest of the crazy parties I've done this case you missed them...

Milk And Cookies Valentine's Day Party

Tae Kwon Do Party

My birthday Cocktails + Cupcakes Party

Movie Night

The boy's Mario Party

The little one's LEGO Party

70's Disco Birthday Party

Hubby's There's No Place Like Home Party

Happy School Year!

Hope you have a fabulous and Happy New Year! See you in 2012!

We Go Wednesday - Seattle's 50 North Restaurant

Seattle restaurant 50 North vegan gluten-free
If you are looking for a chic/family-friendly/gluten-free/vegan & vegetarian restaurant in Seattle, check out our trip there in my Today's Mama post on University Village's 50 North.

Interview With Monica Leonelle + Kindle Fire Giveaway

When I was younger and had all the time in the world, I was a serious reader...I devoured books by authors like Stephen King, Piers Anthony, and Anne McCaffrey. Yeah, I was all into sci-fi, fantasy and horror back in the day. But I also loved Erma Bombeck, which helped to mix up the darkness a little.

So imagine my delight when Monica Leonelle, author of the Seven Halos young adult (YA) fantasy series, invited me to join her blog tour to promote her 12 Days Of Fire Contest celebrating the release of  Tin Soldier, second in the series. She's having a giveaway for Silver Smoke, the first novel in the series, which includes a Kindle Fire giveaway.

Silver Smoke is the highly-rated (4.8 stars on Amazon) first in a series about the Hallows and the Nephilim, the descendants of archangels and humans. See why I'm already interested in reading it?

I got the chance to ask her a few questions, I mean, how often does one get to interview an author?

Please tell my readers a little about Monica Leonelle...
ML - I'm a young adult fantasy and science fiction writer living in Chicago. I started out as a computer programmer and made a career shift to marketing several years ago. I consult companies on their digital strategy as I work to build a fan base for my books. I've been blogging since about 2007 and have always enjoyed sharing my ideas through writing. I have wanted to be an author since I was a little kid.

To go from reading young adult fantasy and science fiction novels to writing them is a big leap. What challenges did you face in becoming an author and how did you overcome those challenges?
ML - I'm still facing challenges, certainly! One of the biggest challenges was writing the first novel. It was a very different type of writing than I was used to. I'm accustomed to writing a lot of words quickly, but novel structure is its own beast. Another big challenge was learning how to publish books. Now, my biggest challenge is finding readers, or the marketing aspect of the process. I know how to market things, but again, marketing a novel is quite different from the other work I've done.

What draws me to Silver Smoke, the first in your series about the Hallows and the Nephilim, the descendants of archangels and humans, is the similar mythology found in Many Waters, a novel by Madeleine L'Engle, one of my favorite authors. Who are your favorite authors and how do you feel you draw inspiration from them?
ML - Some of my favorite authors include Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. Both have been in the biz awhile and have had wild success with their YA and middle grade work, respectively. I definitely draw inspiration from them in terms of how they structure their stories, how they develop their characters, and how they describe their worlds. I consider both the best of the best.

You've got a great website to inspire others on becoming authors. What is your go-to resource? Do you have favorite blogs and/or websites you like to visit when you have a moment?
ML - My go-to resources for How To Be An Author are my own experiences and books about writing. I love books about writing. I have a stack of about 50 of them sitting in my living room.

My favorite, must-read blogs are Seth Godin and Penelope Trunk.

Tell us in one sentence why we should read your book.
ML - The book has everything you could want in a YA novel--friendship, romance, a struggle between good and evil, and an interesting world that the book barely scratches the surface of. What's not to love?

And just for fun, you are stranded on a desert island and can take one item and one meal. What would they be?
ML - I guess my one item would have to be a Kindle due to its long battery life and potential to find WiFi no matter where I go. My one meal would probably be some sort of Mexican dish. I could basically eat Mexican 2-taco dinner with rice and beans every day for the rest of my life.

Thank you so much Monica for sharing your passion with my readers! Get a look at Silver Smoke online and if you would like more of her wisdom, follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Want to enter the contest? Visit her site, How To Be An Author, for details. And you better skedaddle, it ends December 31st.

Merry Christmas 2011!

From our family to yours, the best of times during the holiday season!

Antipasto Kabobs With California Black Olives

antipasto kabobs with California Black Olives
If you have holiday potlucks to attend, nothing beats food on a stick. The presentation makes everything look so much prettier.  I discovered this recipe from The Hungry Housewife and thought it would be perfect for the Christmas Eve party we are going to. I seriously had to resist eating more of them. They are simple to make, and are a little meal in themselves.  I tell you, black olives are really growing on me, now that I've been having fun with them.

1 9 oz package of Buitoni's Chicken & Prosciutto Tortellini, cooked to package directions
1 can California Black Olives, extra large
1 12 oz container of marinated mozzarella balls (I used Galbani's)
slices of salami (enough for 2 per skewer)
1 cup Italian dressing (I used Kraft's Tuscan House Italian)
cherry tomatoes
fresh basil leaves
wooden skewers

 1. Marinate the cooked tortellini in the Italian dressing for a few hours, then drain the pasta. Place one of each item onto the skewer using the pointy side.

2.  They can be made a few hours in advance, just cover tightly and place in the refrigerator.

If you are looking for more fun ways to play with California Black Olives, check out their site with lots of great recipes, tips on cooking with kids, and fun facts. Missed my last olive cleverness? Take a gander at my my California Black Olives penguins.

Disclaimer - I was provided the California Black Olives and supplies for review and no compensation was given, real or implied. This review is my own personal opinion.

Last Minute Christmas Party Ideas

I almost forgot to share some of my ideas I've been using lately, I'm all about fun but easy projects and I've got a few for you...
cupcake gift boxes
Have a party to attend and need an easy way to get everyone in the spirit? My sister, Kaleidescope Cupcakes, put together a decorate-your-own-cupcake display for two company offices parties, and it is perfect for every Christmas party. Instead of using cake platters, wrap boxes like presents.  Clear 9 oz tumblers make great topping holders.

Need an easy hostess gift to carry your through New Year's? Seven Trader Joe's Chocolate Drizzle Star cookies fit perfectly in a 3 1/2" square gift box like these I found at the Hallmark store. Add a cute tag and voila!

Oh, did you need a close up on these pretty cookies? Those are salt crystals, and the sweet and salty is so yummy!

Trader Joe's cookie gift

Have a little more time on your hands? Silicone molds like this one from Wilton's, make great petits fours for holiday parties, or package a few to give as gifts.   I filled this one with brownie mix...

brownie tree petit fours 2
...and since I don't have fondant skills, I melted frosting and tinted it green....

brownie tree petit fours
...poured it over them on a  cooling tray to catch the frosting below.

brownie tree petit fours on platter
Line a platter with Christmas paper and dazzle your guests.  This was my first batch, I over heated the frosting a bit, so it was not as smooth as I hoped...round two is for Christmas Eve so I better figure it out.

wooden berry box favors
Do you have wooden strawberry boxes? Baker's twine? Mini pies? Then you have the makings of another hostess idea or a great way to send off holiday guests. I made these for our front offices ladies at school. I slipped a mini pie into glassine bags, tucked in a little coffee packet and a wooden spoon and you have the perfect after-dinner treat.  Where did I score all my supplies? Why, Garnish, of course!

Tuesday Tip (On A Wednesday) New Year's With Kids/Candy Jewelry Box With Wrigley's

OK, so I make a lot of blog promises, that I keep but for some reason, I've been ridiculously busy with Christmas stuff and haven't been keeping my promises, like sharing all the projects I'm supposed to be working on, Merry Pinterest posts, etc.  So I'm cramming it into this post, and perhaps squeeze in one more before Christmas!
New Year's Eve party with children
First up, if your New Year's Eve attire consists of sneakers instead of sparkly heels, that's ok.  That will be me, so I'm focusing my creativity on a New Year's Brunch, Toast In The New Year.  Have a little fun with the kiddos (and I'm assuming that is the only reason are in, because you couldn't find a sitter) and check out my Today's Mama post on how to rock in 2012.

Candy ring with Ring Pop base
And speaking of fun with kids, remember my big box of goodies from Wrigley and the wooden gingerbread house and cake?  Well, I saw a post from The Idea Room reusing Ring Pop bases for candy rings and I thought, hey, I can do that!

If you want to make your rings more hygienic (not eating the candy off first), soak them in a cup of water and the candy will dissolve right off.  Hot glue on your favorite candy and you're set.  Of course, if you want to make them edible, use melted candy melts as glue instead.  I used a small gumball, gum and purple Skittles® here.

Then the wheels really started turning...what if you made a whole collection? if you are looking for an easy and fun gift for a special little girl in your life, how about a candy jewelry box?

candy jewelry box
I found this Melissa & Doug keepsake heart kit on clearance at Michael's and realized the actual box it came in was exactly what I wanted.  Of course, if you found a real jewelry box or paint an unfinished one, it would be just as special.

candy jewelry box gumball and Skittles ring
I made another ring with a giant gumball and Skittles Blenders®, every girl needs a giant rock, right?

candy jewelry box Life Savers/baker's twine candy bracelet
A twist on an old classic...for years, we've been making bracelets threading cereal and candy on pull-apart licorice.  This time, I thought using baker's twine would make for sturdier arm bling with Life Savers® hard candy in Tropicals and Life Savers Gummies® Collisions.  She can nibble them off to her heart's content!

I had a lot of fun but craft-fails working with the Skittles®. At one point, I actually tried to drill a hole through them to mimic the candy necklaces, but the candy kept cracking.  Then I tried hot-gluing it to the baker's twine, but the logistics of making them line up through the candy's center (my crafting OCD kicking in) made my head hurt. Stay tuned...more projects are on the horizon.

Oh, and check out my Merry Pinterest page...serious Christmas craftiness ensues! My new faves are the Christmas Card Lineup and the Rudolph gotta check out the Princess Piggies site, she has so many other crazy bananas hairstyles.

Disclaimer: I received free product courtesy of Wrigley, no compensation was given, real or implied. This review is my own personal opinion. I used my own non-Wrigley brand product.

Drink Of The Week - Holiday Cocktail Bar

holiday cocktail bar
I love a good cocktail, and signature cocktails are my party staple.  I love having guests become Tom Cruise and create their own concoctions. Which is why I love this fabulous holiday bar from Chris of Celebrations At Home, a lovely addition to her already fabulous Cocktails & Cheers Party.  Be sure to check out the tutorial for the ice cooler on the vodka bottle!

I know, no time to squeeze this in for Christmas, but swap out the colors and this would be amazing for your New Year's shindig.

We Go Wednesday (On A Friday) - Wight's Wonderland Of Christmas

Hey PNW peeps (Pacific Northwest to the rest of you), if you haven't been to Wight's Wonderland Of Christmas, you are seriously missing out! Check out my Seattle Mamas post with lots of pictures that seriously, cannot contain the gloriousness that is Wight's.

Fiesta Friday (On A Thursday) - California Black Olives & Penguins

California Black Olive penguins
The lovely folks at California Black Olives sent me a box of goodies to come up with fun ways to nibble guessed it, black olives. I saw these too-cute olive penguins awhile back on Cut Out & Keep and knew they had to be my first project. Stay tuned for future treats, just in time for holiday entertaining.

For these fabulous flightless friends, all you need...
They are a little time consuming, but for ├╝ber-cuteness, it's worth it! Yes, you probably shouldn't use fake snow if these are to be eaten...those had to be sacrificed for the greater good. Take care around younger kids, eating a toothpick can ruin a party fast!

If you are looking for more fun ways to play with California Black Olives, check out their site with lots of great recipes, tips on cooking with kids, and fun facts.

So in honor of my little treats, let them inspire your own poppin' penguin party; it's the perfect winter theme.  I can totally see this done in black and white chevron and polka dots with pops of orange.

Set the party mood by inviting guests to dress in black and white with the guest of honor in orange.  Decorate the party space with cardboard boxes as giant ice cubes by painting them white or wrapping them in plain white wrapping paper   Add a few snowballs of white Styrofoam balls around the ice cubes, sprinkle lots of fake snow and you're set!

penguins party decor collage
Use black and white decor like chevron treat bags and tissue poufs from Shop Sweet Lulu to light up the room like this baby shower from Small Shop.  Mix in a polka dot backdrop like this party from Anders Ruff and a pretty wreath for your front door.   White boxes from Flickr user Kouiskas.

penguins party food collage
Serve orange food, it will pop against the black and white like these macarons from Amy Atlas and drinks from The Hostess Blog. Of course, Bakerella's penguins are too cute not to have.  Check out the how-to for these penguins in cute sweaters from Eighteen25.  A fun craft for the kiddos to work on, penguin cupcakes from Cupcakes Take The Cake. Have all the pieces pre-assembled and let them get creative.

Of course you will have to show Mr. Popper's Penguins, Happy Feet or Madacasgar.

Christmas penguin party Frog Prince Paperie
Check out these hot parties with serious charm....this Christmas Penguin Party from Frog Prince Paperie is over the top cuteness.  The printables are available in her Etsy shop so you can be inspired for your own.

pink purple penguin party Glorious Treats
Go completely unique with pretty pink and purple from Glorious Treats; there are even tutorials for the cookies for those of you with mad skills.
I just had to sneak in one more super cute party, this time from Gwynn Wasson Designs featured on Amy Atlas, a Winter ONEderland.

Disclaimer - I was provided the California Black Olives and supplies for review and no compensation was given, real or implied. This review is my own personal opinion.

Tuesday Tip - LoveSac, Baby! Review

LoveSac PhurFeet slippers
Is the B-52's song running through your head? It does whenever of think of my latest acquisition from LoveSac. I was offered the chance to try out and reivew their slippers PhurFeet, a warm, fuzzy concoction  of hypo-allergenic synthetic knit that's like walking on a cloud.

First off, it comes fabulously packaged...which you know is my weakness and the box is press board so it is seriously sturdy...yeah, I'm definitely keeping it or gifting something in it.

LoveSac PhurFeet slippers review
The vintage LoveSac tattoo is neatly embroidered under-foot...

I've never paid real money for slippers, in fact, my current house-foot wear are flip-flops. Not quite the best for chilly winters, so if have someone who could use a beautiful pair of slippers, this gets my vote.  Seriously, like walking on a cloud!
They come in various colors; the mink (purr...) and green are $39 (normally $59) while the cow phur (it has a tail!!!) and knit styles are $59.  All come with free shipping so you may actually get these in time to slip under someone's Christmas tree...or maybe under your own.

Disclaimer - I was provided the LoveSac slippers for review and no compensation was given, real or implied. This review is my own personal opinion.

Hanukkah 2011

Hanukkah begins December 20 and in the midst of the Christmas madness, it's hard to remember not everyone celebrates it.  I can't forget my Jewish peeps so here are some new ideas to help celebrate The Festival Of Lights.
Hanukkah tablesettings
A roundup of modern tables from Apartment Therapy.

Hanukkah party tablesettings
From edible dreidels to a menorah made with candy sticks, a fun table from Party Pinching.

Crate & Barrel Hanukkah tablesettings
Crate & Barrel carries tablesettings, candles and menorahs.

Pottery Barn's Hanukkah tablesettings
Pottery Barn's Hanukkah party guide has you covered from beautiful tableware to a kosher menu.

Pottery Barn Kids' Hanukkah tablesettings
Speaking of Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids has a new Hanukkah collection and their party guide has great kid-friendly crafts and recipes.

The Jewish Hostess Hanukkah tablesettings
The Jewish Hostess shares her finds from IKEA and West Elm for table decor on a budget.

Check out my other posts...
Great cookie menorah and printable round-up in Put On Your Yamulke, Here Comes Hanukkah.

Martha's Festival Of Lights.

Another awesome round up in Eight Crazy Nights.
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