Fiesta Friday (On A Monday)/Real {Reader} Party - Pink Damask Dessert Table

Sandra from Sweet Sensations shares this fabulous pink damask birthday party she threw for herself.  That's right, because if you wait for other people to do one for you, you may be waiting awhile!  This is also perfect inspiration for Valentine's Day.

Check out the full post with lots more photos and her great DIY projects, from lining platters with paper (my favorite party tip) to paper cones and that fabulous cake!!

Love Stinks

dinosaur valentines from The Twinery
Before I get caught up in the non-love side of Valentine's Day, check out my Today's Mama post on too-cute handmade valentine ideas. I know, you are busy, but if you do a few a day, you'll have a class set (or two) of ohh's and ahh's. That's what I do, and I'll be sharing some great ideas.

photo from BitterSweets

I love doing anti-Valentine's Day's the one holiday, I as an old married woman, actually hate.  The overpriced/cheesiness/chocolate you shouldn't eat craziness of it all.  It was fun when you were younger, with school valentines and heart cookies.  That's why I love sharing handmade valentines, cute food & crafts for the kids.  But once you are an adult, the expectations are too high! Do you know what I want for Valentine's Day? A night away from the kids so I can sleep in.

So I thought today would be a soundtrack for your bitter, to those of you who are single and proud or newly single and sad on Valentine's Day, or just don't really care about chocolate roses and stuffed animals with large, puppy eyes.

'They Aren't Leaving Their Spouses' Bitter
Secret Lovers by Atlantic Starr
Closet by R Kelly
Whitney Houston's Saving All My Love (how did I just realize what this song was about?)
Stay by Sugarland

'Down From Blowing Up His Car To Just Keying It' Bitter
Adele is currently reigning with her Rolling In The Deep
Lily Allen's Smile
These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra
Call Tyrone by Erykah Badu
Don’t Speak by No Doubt
Joss Stone's You Had Me
Beautiful Liar by Beyoncé & Shakira
Irreplaceable by Beyoncé

In Bed Eating Twinkies For A Week
Again, Adele takes the Twinkie with Someone Like You
Maroon 5's Misery
Emotional Roller Coaster by Vivian Green
Musiq Soulchild's Half Crazy
One Republic's Too Late To Apologize
Nothing Compares to You by Sinead O’Connor
Grenade by Bruno Mars
Alicia Keys' Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

Single And Ready To Mingle
She-Wolf by Shakira
Ridin’ Solo by Jason Derulo
Man! I Feel Like A Woman by Shania Twain
U + Ur Hand by Pink
Me, Myself And I by Beyoncé
Bon Jovi's It’s My Life

Yes, yes, I didn't forget Single Ladies by Beyoncé just seemed redundant to say since the woman has a song for every level of singlehood...don't even start me on her Destiny's Child days.

Do you have a song that got you through some hard times, that spoke to you, your 'you go girl/boy' anthem?

Check out my previous bitterfests for great ideas on how to celebrate singlehood...All My Single Ladies, He Had It Coming, How About A Round Of Applause and a plethora of other break up goodies.

$50 Valentine's Day Pack Giveaway With NickWillJack/Knot & Bow/Lucky Leaf

I'm so glad Christmas is over, didn't it seem like it was going since July? I'm excited to share my first giveaway of the year, just in time for Valentine's Day.  I'm super excited because one of the prizes has inspired our Valentine playdate, robots!  But more on that later...
I've been a fan of NickWillJack from when she started off as Parties By Hardie....if you remember, I used her printables for our Cars party and our Welcome Home table and t-shirts.

2012 marks a new beginning for Jenn's shop, not just with a new name, but new offerings in her shop besides  party printables.  For example....

Aren't they adorable? And these are just a few of what she has to offer. If you're looking for something other than the flimsy store-bought valentines (which I always am!) these are perfect.

Each Valentine kit includes 8 custom Valentines printed on heavy cardstock, 8 heart-shaped crayons and a coordinating cotton muslin drawstring bag to carry them all in.

And guess what? Jenn is offering one of my lucky readers 
their choice of any of her Valentine Kits!

Knot & Bow giveaway
But wait...there's more!  I'm also going to send the winner

a $20 gift certificate to my favorite party place, Knot & Bow 

Serious cuteness going on! I just ordered library cards to make valentines, and they have glittery twine, stickers, tags, doilies, and my absolute fave, the embossed pencils! Perfect to get your Valentine's Day craft on!

And here’s the cherry on top – remember my Lucky Leaf Sweetheart Ginger Apple Pie? Well, now you can make your own tasty goodness and whip up other treats because Lucky Leaf is graciously offering a

gift package including Lucky Leaf Premium Pie Filling, 
their new Bake Your Heart Out Recipe Book, crisp mix and a pot holder.

I know, right?  All this stuff to kick off Valentine's Day!  All you have to do is enter below on Rafflecopter.  There are lots of ways to enter, but make sure you get those mandatory entries, otherwise, all other entries are voided.

Since I want you to get your goodies in plenty of time for Valentine's Day, this giveaway isn't running for a full week, in fact, you have until Wednesday!

Lucky Leaf Sweetheart Ginger Spice Apple Pie Review

Lucky Leaf Lucky Stars Ginger Spice Apple Tart review
I've got another super sweet and and easy Valentine's recipe from Lucky Leaf that is perfect for those of you who are baker-challenged like me. If you haven't already, check out another easy Lucky Leaf recipe I made, cherry chocolate brownie cheesecake.

The original recipe is called Lucky Stars Ginger Spice Apple Tart and uses stars and a pie tart pan, but since I don't have a pie tart pan and this is for Valentine's Day, I gave mine a new name. Check out their Facebook page under the videos tab for the how-to video.

What you'll need:
1 15-ounce package rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crust (2 crusts)
2 21-ounce cans Lucky Leaf® apple pie filling
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (find crystallized ginger in the bulk section of your grocery store, then chop it up yourself)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
butter-flavor nonstick cooking spray
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed, or vanilla ice cream (optional)
chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Let pie crusts stand at room temperature according to package directions.

2. Unroll one of the pie crusts. On a lightly floured surface, roll crust to a 13- to 14-inch circle, then transfer pie crust to a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate and set aside.

3. Unroll remaining pie crust. Using a 2- to 3-inch heart cutter, make 5 to 6 cutouts in the pastry. Set pastry and cutouts aside.

4. In a large saucepan heat pie filling, butter, 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh ginger over medium heat until butter is melted, gently stirring frequently.

5. Pour apple filling into the pastry lined pie pan. Place the pastry with the cutouts atop the filling. Fold the top pastry under the bottom pastry and pinch to seal; crimp edge as desired.

6. Place the heart cutouts atop the pastry, leaving most of the openings in the crust exposed. Lightly coat pastry with nonstick cooking spray (I forgot to do this part, so mine doesn't look all pretty and shiny).

7. In a small bowl combine sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon then sprinkle over pastry. Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet.

8. To prevent overbrowning, cover the edge of the pie with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake about 10 minutes more or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. (This is where I deviated from the recipe, mine took about an additional 20 minutes more to get all bubbly...)

9.  Cool on a wire rack about 1 hour and serve warm. If desired, top with whipped topping and additional crystallized ginger. And yes, you will desire.
 Lucky Stars Ginger Spice Apple Tart review pie slice's really good. The ginger gives it a real kick you don't normally get in apple pie.  We were out, but vanilla ice cream would go awesomely with as well.  So on my shopping list for tomorrow.

Would you like to try it for yourself?  Check out my giveaway!! 

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

Tuesday Tutorial (On A Wednesday) - Foam Ball Party Decor

Valentine's Day foam ball/chenille stem party decorating
On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby, they had a flyer devoted to party decorating with chenille stems, AKA pipe cleaners.  They showed fun project ideas that won't break the decorating bank, and my favorite one was using foam balls.  I must confess, I saw this before Christmas, and so meant to make ornaments out of them, but eh...

foam ball/chenille stem party decorating

foam ball/chenille stem party decorating for Valentine's Day
Mine are 2 1/2" smooth foam balls, but you can use any size your heart desires.  Break out your hot glue gun, twist your stems into the design of your choice, then adhere them to the foam ball. That's it!

 It's perfect because you can make spirals, curly-q's, anything you want! I did mine in Valentine's Day colors, but you can do yours in any color!  I even made one with a heart.

We Go Wednesday - Sugar Rush Baking Company

Sugar Rush Baking Company cupcakes
Soo...somehow I forgot to mention my Cupcake Spy mission for Two Sugar Babies.  I think I said something on FB, but somehow it didn't make it here! I had to do the painful job of visiting West Seattle's Sugar Rush Baking Company and sampling some of their products.  Check out my thoughts on these drool-worthy cupcakes and more...

Tuesday Tip - Elements Of Design In Party Decor - Emphasis

My elements of design in party decor post generated lots of buzz; I also received several emails for more in-depth ideas about why these ideas 'work'. By no means am I an expert with years of design under my belt.  But as you work on more events, you start getting 'the eye'...something doesn't look right, something's missing...and you'll keep playing around until you get what feels right to you.

Thus, I'm inspired to do a mini series using all eight principals of design (check out the post to see what I'm talking about); last time it was balance, today's principal is emphasis.

Emphasis is the stressing an element of your party design. One way of achieving emphasis is by creating a focal point. Your party table should ideally only have one, but it can't just be there all alone, everything else should support it. It can be the largest, brightest, or most complex part of the whole. It gets special attention because it stands out.

elements of design emphasis clementine centerpiece

The stand of clementines is the clear focal point of this table from Brunch At Saks, but it doesn't scream it...the contrast between the soft aqua tablecloth is perfect.

My Valentine's Day Sweets And Treats Post On Today's Mama

Valentine's Day sweets and treats red velvet heart cake
The Valentine's Day rush is on! Check out my Today's Mama post on great sweets and treats to inspire you like this fabulous red velvet heart cake. Whether you are having a quiet evening for two, a houseful of kids for a party or a GNO with your single ladies, there's a little something for everyone!

Drink Of The Week - Mimosa Bar

New Year's Brunch mimosa bar
For our Toast In The New Year Brunch, I set up an easy bar with garnishes, juice and my weapon of choice, spumante, an Italian sparkling wine. I'm not a champagne connoisseur, but I do know my sparkling wines. It makes a perfect and budget friendly alternative.

This should definitely be on your party bucket list, after all, mimosas aren't just for brunch....

mimosa bar for a  baby shower
Perfect for a baby shower from On To Baby...

mimosa bar for a  spring party
Or for spring cocktails from The Party Dress...

Fresh OJ is on the menu at Eddie Ross...

mimosa bar for a  bridal shower
A Marimekko-inspired bridal shower at Amy Atlas...

mimosa bar for a  Christmas cocktail party
Christmas cupcakes and cocktails from The Party Dress.

Fiesta Friday - National Penguin Awareness Day

Did you know today is Penguin Awareness Day? Not to be confused with World Penguin Day, which is April 25th.  How do I know this?  I don't know how I found out, I'm a fountain of interesting knowledge.

Anyways, in honor, I thought I would point you back to my penguin post, because a. it is full of great party stuff and b. it is full of stuff on penguins and c. just in case you missed it.

Not enough penguin? Here are a few more ideas...

National Penguin Day cocoa & s'mores penguin party
Cocoa & S'mores party featured on Kara's Party Ideas

National Penguin Day penguin cupcakes
Penguin cupcakes from Cotton Candy Bake Shop.

National Penguin Day penguin cookies
Gingerbread cookie tutorial from The Crafty Penguin.

National Penguin Day Two Prince Bakery penguin party
A fun Cool Igloo party from Two Prince Bakery.

Elements Of Design In Party Decor - Balance

My elements of design in party decor post generated lots of buzz; I also received several emails for more in-depth ideas about why these ideas 'work'. By no means am I an expert with years of design under my belt.  But as you work on more events, you start getting 'the eye'...something doesn't look right, something's missing...and you'll keep playing around until you get what feels right to you.

Thus, I'm inspired to do a mini series using all eight principals of design (check out the post to see what I'm talking about) and today we'll start with balance. 

all black/yellow sketch photos from Blue Moon Original Oil Paintings

Imagine you are looking at a see-saw.  Two objects that are the same weight will balance the see saw.  One large object will balance with smaller objects. And in the middle is every combo you can think of; one larger object balances with a middle and a small object, two large objects on each side, etc. 

Balance is about the illusion of balance and there are three types; horizontal, vertical and radial.

My Santa's Mustache Bash has horizontal balance...draw an imaginary  line down the middle of the cupcakes and you can clearly see the mod tree boxes, poms and white platter mirror each other.

Tuesday Tip - Lucky Leaf Cherry Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake Review

I love when Lucky Leaf sends me some fact, more Valentine's Day stuff is on it's way, and there's a giveaway in the works...but I digress.  Today,  I'm sharing their fun recipe...impressive for me because I don't bake anything bigger than cupcakes and simple pies.  But I do LOVE cheesecake, and this is perfect for a special evening with a glass of champagne.

Feast your eyes on this....
The bottom layer is brownie, with a cherry center inside the cheesecake.  I still can't believe I made it.  It needed to set overnight, eliciting lots of groans from my menfolk who for some reason thought it would be done instantaneously.

OK, so how did I do it???

What you'll need...
one package 8 oz. brownie mix OR 1 2/3 cup brownie mix
4 eggs
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate pieces
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 can (21 oz.) Lucky Leaf® cherry pie filling
frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed

I've also never made a cheesecake because it requires a springform pan, but Wayfair (formely CSN) sent me the Frieling leak-proof 10" Springform pan to review. It's so cool with the snappy off base and collar.  Sorry, I'm easily amused...and it worked fabulously, as you'll see later. 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together brownie mix, one egg and oil until combined. Stir in chocolate pieces.

3.  Spread batter in prepared pan. Hmmm....isn't that pretty?

4.   Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until brownie is just set. (It will not be completely done at this point.)

5.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Yes, I don't have a fancy-schmancy KitchenAid mixer, which would probably make this part easier, but my hand mixer eventually gets the job done.

6.  Add in the remaining 3 eggs on low speed and set the mixture aside.

7.  Carefully spoon 1/2 can of pie filling into center of brownie, leaving a 2-inch brownie border along sides of pan.

8.  Dollop cream cheese mixture over surface; carefully spread to edges of pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is set, but jiggles when the pan is lightly tapped.

9.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour, making sure no one touches it.  I had to keep pushing people away. Cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving. Top cheesecake with remaining cherry pie filling.
10. Garnish with whipped topping, if desired.  And yes, you will desire.

Disclaimer - I was provided the supplies from Lucky Leaf and Wayfair (formerly CSN) for review and no compensation was given, real or implied. This review is my own personal opinion.
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