Decorate Desserts Inspire Parties

Scarily Easy Tips for a Halloween Party!

It’s scary how much I love Halloween!

However, Halloween always seems like such a hectic time of year. We’ve finally adjusted to the back-to-school routine and then *BAM* it’s time to make costumes, carve pumpkins and get ready for trick-or-treat! The next thing you know I’m watching the Macy’s day parade while baking a turkey and then turn around to find that Christmas carols are playing and my kids are married and have kids of their own! O.k. perhaps it’s not that hectic but it seems like it is especially when my oldest is actually turning 13 years old this weekend.



How can this be?

It was only yesterday that I was looking into the sweet, pink, wrinkled little face of my first born child wasn’t it?

<gulp, sniff, sob>

See my point?

Time flies in the blink of an eye.

And this is precisely why I am so happy to have these quick and easy little ditties to turn to while I’m trying to forget, I mean, celebrate my first born turning into a teenager.

Wait until you see how easy it is to pull together a last minute Halloween soiree in about 30 minutes flat.

First I’m going to show you how to make cute little spider cookies with oreo cookies!

I made these for her Birthday Halloween themed party about 6 years ago, when I was allowed to do cute little things for her party. I believe that I got the idea from Martha herself, but I can’t be certain.

These are the ingredients: double stuff Oreo® cookies, mini M&M®‘s, rope black licorice and white icing.

First thing you’ll want to do is make the icing. Just mix 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar with 2 tablespoons of water. Easy peasy.

Pour the icing into a sandwich baggie.

By the way my tween soon to be TEEN helped me with this fun little treat.

I have to milk every opportunity to share time with her and I’m not above enticing her to assist me in photos.

Squeeze excess air out of the baggie and twist to keep icing in the tip of the baggie.

This will be your glue for the spider eyes.

Now it’s time for the spider legs. Just snip off pairs of 2 inch pieces and badda boom badda bing…spider legs!

Gently insert licorice into the sides of the double stuff oreo. This is why I like to use double stuff oreos, you’ll have plenty of room to fit the licorice!

Cut the tip off of the plastic baggie filled with icing and gently squeeze out 2 cute little dollops of icing where the eyes should be…

and place 2 mini m&m’s on top of the icing.

Aren’t they just the cutest little spiders that you ever did see?

Now it’s time for some fun decorations…all you need are a few paper napkins!

Now if you’re like me you have a drawer (o.k. a few drawers) of festive paper napkins. And if you don’t, well, do yourself a favor and go buy some. Now be sure to buy 2 sets like I do so that you’ll always have some on hand and I won’t be the only crazy person with drawers full of paper napkins! This summer I was reading one of my 432 magazines, I think that it was Country Living, anyway I saw some darling tablecloths made out of paper napkins and thought “great scott! now I can use up some of my napkin stash!” I decided to take it a step further and came up with the idea to make banners with the paper napkins as well! I mean everyone needs celebratory banners hanging about don’t they?

Here’s all that you’ll need to make some darling banners to hang around the house.

Napkins and ribbon.

Fold the napkin in 1/2 leaving fold of the napkin at the top then cut on a diagonal upward leaving the fold in tact at the widest part.

This is the easy way to cut out a perfect triangle.

Next lay out your napkins in the pattern that you want them to hang. I personally like to use 4 different napkins with one being a smaller size and alternate that smaller one between the larger ones.

Oh, and you’ll want glue too. Forgot to mention that earlier. Sorry. I’m overworked and underpaid.

Open up the triangles and lay the ribbon in the crease of the napkin and then dab a dot of glue at the crease and tip.

Gently smooth out any wrinkles and repeat until you’ve used desired amount of napkin triangles. I like to use this banner idea for any occasion – birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day – truly you could go on and on…see why I need drawers of paper napkins?

I like to hang my banners along my fireplaces.

It’s festive dontcha think?

Now for the tablecloth, actually I decided to make a table runner at the last moment to save time.

Here’s what you’ll need: paper napkins and scotch tape.

Lay the napkins out in a pattern that makes you swoon…

turn them over and tape the seems together. That’s it.

And then my friend, you’ve got a party!

Decorating and entertaining really don’t have to be expensive and difficult!

Just let you’re imagination run wild.

Wishing you a spooktacular stress-free Halloween!


Decorate Parties

Dining Al Fresco with Style

If you’ve never dragged a table and a few chairs into your backyard for an al fresco dinner, then I must tell you, you’re missing out.

I have been consumed by this delightful concept ever since our honeymoon in Greece 19 years ago.

Did I just say 19 years? Wow, that’s a loooooong time to be dragging furniture in and out of my house and into my backyard.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s totally worth it!

Your yard can make a stunning backdrop to a delicious meal any ol’ time you fancy. In my opinion, late summer or early fall is the perfect time for outside dining. The temperatures are cooling off, the bugs have seemed to disappear and the evening air is exhilarating!

And guess what? That just happens to be right now!

There’s just something elegant about enjoying a meal underneath a tree in the middle of your yard.

Don’t ask me why. It just is. Trust me.

There’s really nothing to it. Once you place a table and some chairs in the grass, you’re good to go.

I’ve got a few simple tips to share that will make your evening complete. No worries, they’re easy and quick, no making paper from scratch for place cards here.

For starters, I like to use a simple white tablecloth and then take my color cues from my backyard, green seemed the obvious way to go. I want my centerpieces to be quick and easy. Don’t stress over complicated arrangements and definitely don’t go spend a lot of money on flowers! Just look around your yard and use what you’ve got at your fingertips! You’ll be surprised at all you can do.

As you can see, I just cut some green foliage from my Baptisia plant that had already finished blooming and then trimmed some lavender that was in its’ full glory… and voila!

A centerpiece was born!

I like to spruce up my white tablecloth with some color and I’ve found that placemats work like a dream. Bet you’ll never guess what I use as placemats…

Scrapbook paper.

I’m serious! They cost pennies a piece and you’ll have an unlimited selection of color, texture and design. Not to mention, no worries about food and stains to clean up later! Here I used different designs within the same color family and alternated them between place settings.

I decided to jazz up the table a bit with green & white polka dot plates. Personally, I adore polka dots. They’re just so happy and festive, but you can use what you like.

Instead of place cards, I like to use cardboard letters. They’re fun and hip and if the mood strikes, you and your guests can stick them on your shirts like Laverne. Or not. See, no tedious paper making or calligraphy in sight. You could even use a letter shape paper punch or even cut out letters from the newspaper.

The world is your oyster.

Now, my next tip is my all time favorite…

Try tying different color ribbons on the stems of your glasses, this way everyone will easily remember which glass belongs to them (hopefully).

Simple. Fun. Easy.

For a little sparkle and sophistication I like to set the table with fun flatware. It also gives me an excuse for my antique silver flatware fetish.

I love to find old silver at antique shows- it’s so affordable and charming. Of course the monograms aren’t always mine, but don’t tell anyone.

Now for the show-stopper of the evening…(drum roll please) the “CHANdelabra.”

“What the world is a chandelabra”, you ask?

Well my friends, this is a chandelabra…

… a Chandelier turned into a Candelabra. It’s an old brass chandelier that has been spray painted white and filled with candles rather than light bulbs. I like to tie a ribbon to mine and hang it from the tree in the center of my yard. I light it as dusk settles in and the crickets begin their evening serenade. And let me tell you, an applause of  “oooooooo’s” and “aaaaaaah’s” from the mouths of my guests never fails.

There is just nothing like candlelight dancing from a tree to make your evening complete.

Well, have I convinced you? I hope so! And don’t worry, you can blame it all on me when your neighbors wonder why in the world you keep schlepping that table back and forth.

And who knows…I may just leave my table outside until it snows.

Happy dining al fresco style!


Decorate Inspire Parties

Hydrangeas aren’t just for Bouquets Anymore.

Lately, we’ve had enough rain to justify building an ark or at the very least a small raft.

Which may be why my hydrangeas are going gangbusters this year. I personally would like to think that it has something to do with my super-di-duper gardening abilities, but whatever it is, my hydrangea are happy and blooming like there’s no tomorrow, therefore I’m happy and blooming as well.

I heart hydrangeas.

This year I made a New Year’s resolution to have fresh flowers in my home at all times, or at the very least, every single week. I figured that I might as well make a resolution that I could actually keep and why not make one that makes me happy too!?

So being the dutiful resolution 2010-carry-outer that I am, I decided to fill my home with hydrangeas yesterday. As I eagerly approached my happy hydrangeas, clippers in hand, I stumbled upon this beautiful butterfly.

Or is it a moth?

Well, all I know is that I was mesmerized by its’ gentle, sweet, beauty.

Then it flew away.

And I clipped the bloom that the butterfly had been resting on.

Then I clipped a bundle of other blooms.

And arranged them into my favorite vase.

In case you don’t already know this, a hydrangea stem is very thick and fibrous, (woody if you will). It is necessary to trim stems to desired length,then cut the stem at an angle and gently tap the end a few times with your clippers. This will mash the stem a bit but will create better flow of water up the stem. Those lovely blooms love their water. I can’t tell you how many times I had arranged the perfect bouquet only to find them wilted and droopy by morning.

Now, it’s also a good idea to pluck off any leaves that would otherwise be resting in the water. This allows for your water to remain cleaner, longer and hence you will have beautiful flowers greeting you in every room longer.

“What will you do with all of those gorgeous leaves”, you say?

Well, I have found that they make a gorgeous backdrop for a cheese plate or a dessert plate or any kind of plate!

Just wash them with soap & water and you’re ready for action!

I dug around in my fridge and found a chunk of cheese, grapes would have been a nice addition but I was out cutting flowers in my garden rather than grocery shopping so, just cheese will do. Then I found a few crackers and sat down for a mid afternoon snack while enjoying my beautiful bouquet.

And it was only Monday…

How do you like that?

Total bliss.

I’m telling you, do yourself a favor, next year (or even right this very minute) make a resolution to yourself to always have fresh flowers around your home!

You won’t regret it!


Appetizers Decorate Eat Inspire Parties

Simple & Sweet Farmer’s Market Treat!

I just adore my local Farmer’s Market! There is nothing more satisfying than waking up on a Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, grabbing a cup of coffee, my favorite straw bag and heading out to a Farmer’s Market! I love strolling up and down the white tent lined streets, admiring the many fresh just-picked-from-the-garden-fruits and vegetables… and the flowers! Be still my heart. Just being surrounded by such beauty and color tantalizes all of my senses and inspires me to come up with new fun ways to prepare simple, delicious, wholesome food.

I know what you’re probably thinking…

why am I talking about fresh fruits and veggies while showing photos of jam? Right?

Well just so you know, I did buy some fabulous veggies while enjoying my first Farmer’s Market trip of the season! I will be sharing those recipes with you in the days to come and will feature weekly recipes that will be inspired by my Farmer’s Market endeavors. For now, I thought it best to ease you into the Farmer’s Market experience with something as simple and delicious as it is easy. So for now, it’s all about the jam.

Jam… sweet, sweet jammie jam.

While I was strolling along amongst the fruits and veggies, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a darling tent filled with vibrant colors and sweet little precious  jars of jam. It was so full of cheer and happy chatter that I found myself eager to join in the fun by grabbing a spoon and sampling the sweet jam nestled in these cute little jars…

I could have stood there forever, happy as a little lark, licking spoons full of jam all afternoon.

Then I realized that people would stare, and start to talk about the lady licking spoons full of jam, so I decided against it.

But talk about a party in your mouth!

Oh MY!

And it’s made of fruit so it HAS to be good for you, right? Well at least I think so.

After sampling a few more jams, I decided that I just couldn’t live without the Hot Pepper Strawberry jam. It had the perfect balance of sweet meets spicy and I instantly new what I wanted to prepare.

I headed for home, straw bag in tow, eager to treat my family to the sweet, spicy goodness that I had just fallen in love with. And boy let me tell you, I had no clue what a hit it would be.

If I had known, I’d have bought a case of the sweet & spicy stuff!

So here we go…

And these are the three ingredients folks…homemade hot pepper strawberry jam, a brick of cream cheese and some of your favorite crackers (I prefer whole grain crackers myself) and…

but of course… a spoon!

Grab the main ingredient….Hot Pepper Strawberry jam (just typing those words makes me start to drool).

As you can see, I prefer to empty the jar into a separate bowl for extra dollops of the good stuff.

Go ahead and enjoy a few spoonfuls, but I’ll caution you that once you start it’s hard to stop. You may just want to buy two jars, one for tasting and the other for this yummy snack/ delightful appetizer.

It’s just a thought.

Now with your spoon just slather enough jam to cover the top of the cream cheese and allow a few artistic dribbles to cascade down the sides.

But make sure not to use the spoon that you’ve been sampling with.

It just doesn’t get any simpler than this does it?

Next grab a cracker, dip it into the cream cheese slathered with sweet, spicy hot pepper strawberry jam…

now close your eyes…and enjoy the oooey gooey sweet and spicy flavors mixed with the cool cream cheese and salty crunch of the cracker.

Don’t be surprised when you hear an involuntary “mmmmmm” come humming out of the corners of your mouth, which can get kinda messy with cracker crumbs and all.

And remember that a simple, sweet Farmer’s Market treat is only a jar of jam away!

Or an empty jar of jam that is…boo hoo!


(and don’t forget to lick the spoon)


Do you enjoy your local Farmer’s Market? What’s your favorite Farmer’s Market food find? Please share below!