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{real parties} chutes & ladders (by tiffany nelson)

Sunday, August 29

are you ready to be energized?
i've got a fabulous party i want to share with you!
it's centered around a "CHUTES & LADDERS" themed 2nd birthday party...


when tiffany nelson of pedicures to puddles contacted me about a custom invitation design...
i was up for the challenge.
she was planning a 2nd birthday party for her adorable son named cohen.
she wanted the invitation to reflect the NEW design for the chutes & ladders board game.
i have to admit...
attempting to recreate the vibe of the board game proved to be quite a challenge.
if you are a regular follower/fan of my designs...
you know i keep things pretty simple and clean.
but we needed some "action" in this invitation.
we needed some real "energy"...

after some serious collaborating between tiffany & i, we were able to reach a final invite design she was in love with.

she had the brilliant idea of having me create an actual "working" spinner into the invitation...PERFECT!

i was delighted...
to say the least...
when i received an email on friday with the photos from the party!

first of all...check out the PARTY LOCATION!!
i think this is the PERFECT locale & completely "age-appropriate"...
a local park with chutes & ladders centered around lots of water to stay cool in the heat of summer.

check out the dessert table...
the hand-painted backdrop matches the invite perfectly!!!

a close-up of the dessert table details...
sugar chutes? SO creative!
tiffany's sugar chutes were created by stacking chocolate-dipped marshmallows, orange candy slices and a cake ball onto a lollipop stick.

and the amazing chutes & ladders cake...
(what kid wouldn't LOVE this cake)??

another age-appropriate activity...
a "make your own snack mix" bar
the entire snack bar included twizzlers, m&m's, chocolate flakes, gummy bears, popcorn,
cheerios, pretzels, marshmallows & chocolate animal crackers.

there was an endless supply of VIBRANT, coordinating treats & beverages...
who doesn't love a chocolate dipped pretzel covered in mini m&m's??

how perfect are these brightly-colored carafes of hi-C?!

and these cans of izze sparkling juice?

the kids were given packed lunches served up in these adorable gable boxes

each lunch packed with age appropriate foods...
pb&j sandwiches, a fruit cup & goldfish crackers.
tiffany carried the party colors into the lunch box by adding a customized party sticker to the fruit cup, used vibrant-colored tissue paper & plastic utensils along with wrapping the sandwich in a strip of fun coordinating paper...

even personalized matching drinking cups were included for each child...

tiffany created these adorable cutouts to mimic the game board playing pieces...
they provided the PERFECT photo ops, continued the theme throughout the party
and again....were completely age-appropriate.

one of my favorite details is tiffany's birthday tradition of providing a coordinating book
for guests to sign.
not only does this build cohen's library but it provides a keepsake from the BIG day as well...

guests didn't leave empty-handed either...
favors included a chutes & ladders board game for each family...

and personalized bubbles...

CHUTE!!!.... it's safe to say this was one happy little birthday guy!!

tiffany did such a wonderful job with this unique theme!!
she had a vision and completely brought it to life...
go check out her site for ALL of the party details -
she's even got a fb fan page if you'd like to follow along...

celebration circle stickers • pen n' paperflowers studio & design
birthday cake • cakes by auntie m
gable boxes • world market

the "how did she?"
Dessert Table Backdrop & Cut Outs...
in tiffany's own words:
"We printed the invite on transparency paper and used an overhead projector to trace Cohen's name. We used the same process for the cut outs."

i hope you enjoyed the recap of this super FUN party!!
thank you tiffany, for coming back to share all of the details!!
it turned out amazing and this is why i LOVE what i do!!!

little opportunities along the way...

Wednesday, August 25

i've got so many little fun projects going on behind the scenes...
• digital invitations
• party planning
• cute mini desserts...
• an adorable tutorial for a guest blogging post...
• and some fun little surprises mixed in there.

but in the middle of all of that is "life".
• my children started school this week.
• grandparents fly into town today for a 5-day visit
• just finished school supply shopping last night!
• band parent meetings
• clara's 1st high school football game this friday night
• the annual task of signing the EXCESS amount of school paperwork
• housework...(yes...on occasion, i actually do housework). *wink*

admittedly, i'm no expert on "balance".
however, i HAVE found one thing to be vitally important.
i'm MUCH happier when i can involve my kids in the "creative" side of my life.
by doing so, i'm accomplishing two things:
• quality time with my kids
• providing them a glimpse into who i am - beyond my favorite title of "mom".

and so...
over the weekend...
as i made some final preparations for the guest blogging tutorial i mentioned earlier...
ella came along...


of course i can't divulge what we were doing together -
(otherwise you may figure out the secret project i'm up to).
but wow!
it makes my heart so happy to have captured this darling photo of her...
i COULD HAVE rushed right out of the door all by myself...
and finished the task much more quickly.
but i didn't do that.
and i'm so glad i didn't.
taking her along and spending that time together made all the difference.
and that's the point of it all...
isn't it?
enjoying the process....
taking advantage of those little opportunities along the way...
being in the present moment...
i'm definitely a believer in the importance of those things.
but i'm also one who needs to be reminded on occasion too!

{mini desserts} ice cream apples

Monday, August 23

it's the first day of a new school year.
let's celebrate with an adorable mini-sized treat...



these adorable little creations came about when i had to come up with an alternative plan for the original idea i had in my mind for our "back-to-school" dinner last night.
i had hoped to make THESE apple cupcakes as a special surprise dessert for my girls.
when i realized there was no time for baking, i quickly went to "plan B".


they were a hit!
and they were pretty simple to make.
they are a little messy...but oh so easy!


i especially love the "bitten" apples...

here are some of the ingredients you'll need...
(you can get creative and come up with some alternative things - i just happened to have each of these in my pantry).

and here's the entire process...for those interested in recreating these!!
cute, right?
i love it when a first plan fails only to be led to an even better idea...
it happens to me ALL of the time! *wink*

picture #4 are the "ice cream apples" i made for the girls last night...
i made another batch this morning, tweaking some of the techniques.
Notice the difference in the "finish" of the sugar crystals between picture #4 and the rest of the pictures.
If you let your ice cream become too soft, the sugar crystals dissolve and you end up without a "glitter-crystal" finish.
I don't think it matters much - both versions are pretty darn cute!
oh! and the rest of our back-to-school dinner consisted of:
fried chicken
corn on the cob
mashed potatoes (these were supposed to be a potato salad but me getting side-tracked led to them becoming too soft).
(thanks kfc for the chicken, corn and biscuits) made dinner prep a cinch! *wink*
The girls LOVED it - we never eat kfc - so this was a surprise treat for them.
and it was also j's idea as i was fretting over what to make.
i thought it was the perfect way to bring summer to a close...

where did summer go?

Friday, August 20

where did summer go?


aside from the treacherous heat...
all that remains of summer are the memories.
i'm always torn as a new school year approaches.
i appreciate the lazy days of summer and the extra time with the kids.
at the same time,
i miss the structure.
with that said -
and with this being the last weekend before the start of school...
i hope to sip on one more glass of lemonade...
squeeze in some time to make that key lime pie...
& spend some good quality time with the kids!
i sincerely hope you enjoy yours as well!!

of course before i can do any of that...
we've got one more open house to attend this morning...
as well as finalize school supply shopping.
regardless - i'm determined not to be bound by "deadlines" this weekend.


Thursday, August 19

"we interrupt this regularly scheduled program..."

that's how i feel about the past two weeks....
no time for regular blog posting.
weird...sporadic internet connection all day tuesday...
leaving me unable answer/check emails, post on my fan page, twitter, etc....
unable to update my 543 challenge...
consumed with back-to-school shopping.
started my day at 4a.m. yesterday.
ended my day at 2a.m.
school open houses today and tomorrow.
and the list goes on.

just wanted to take a minute and send out a little love to all of you sensing a "disconnect..."
and yet still faithfully following along...

i can tell you something i'm just "busting-at-the-seams-excited" about...


i'm working on a fun interview with a super amazing artist!
i've had to resist sharing any sneak peeks so that i don't ruin the surprise.
i can tell you this.
i have been smitten by her work...
and you will undoubtedly be too.
there just might be a teeny-tiny super awesome GIVEAWAY associated with this interview.
you do NOT want to miss out on this!!

in the mean time...
gotta get back to focusing on "back-to-school"....

what "pink-loving" gal wouldn't want these adorable pencils from personlization mall?

hugs to everyone!
have a GREAT thursday!!

as i've been running around the past two weeks...
enveloped in all of this "busy-ness"...
completing errands during the day with temperatures of 100°...
it's been miserable and i've been grumpy!

{real parties} girly GECKO party - Bella Grace Party Designs

Tuesday, August 17

she had me at "gecko"....

when Lindsey from Bella Grace Party Designs enlisted my help for some coordinating gecko themed party accessories...
i was excited!
"excited"...not just because i was up for the design challenge! *wink*
"excited" because i adore Bella Grace Party Designs and was thrilled to be working together.
she filled me on her "soon-to-be two" daughter's love of lizards and how she'd decided to go with a "beachy-girly gecko" theme.
she sent over a picture of a die-cut gecko she was already planning on incorporating into the party elements.
from there, we put our heads together and came up with the birthday graphics & accessories...


want to see the accessories "in-action"?
you may want to sit down for this.
"Leapin' Lizards!" *wink*
these party details are TOO adorable!!

party favor buckets
isn't the coordinating towel wrap lindsey designed adorable?

customized suntan lotion bottles
taking something you'll be using at the party and customizing it
is the perfect way to keep things practical as well as cute!!
(lindsey picked up these lotion bottles at the dollar store!!)

i always love a customized water bottle wrap...

favor cute.

coordinating sugar adorable!

favor clever.
using coordinating ribbon and die-cut geckos,
Lindsey transformed a simple white paper bag into something fun and fabulous!

love how lindsey added a little gecko and used coordinating polka dot cupcake liners -
it's the simple things that go a LONG way...

close-up of the birthday banner
LOVE how lindsey wrapped the gecko tail around the letter...details!

the full banner strung between two beach umbrellas

and my favorite pictures....
the beautiful birthday girl!!
loving her coordinating hair bow & polka dot bathing suit!

how cute is she!!??

i'm thrilled to have played a small part in helping Lindsey get this party together.
I think it turned out SO fun!!
And not only's the perfect party to feature as we finish up this last week of summer before school starts!
For ALL of the party details go check out Lindsey's blog post over at Bella Grace Party Designs: Girly Gecko Birthday Party

party sources
candy kabobs (not pictured) • Sweets Indeed
hair bow • Little Bits of Joy
printable party designs • Pen N' Paperflowers Studio & Design

I was concerned at how well the custom lotion bottle labels would match up to the actual bottle.
Thankfully...Lindsey did a fantastic job with sending me measurements and they turned out PERFECT!!

{our family} refreshed...

Monday, August 16


i feel refreshed!
we are back from our weekend of fun!
we are all sun-kissed...
"lazy-rivered" out...
water logged...
and feeling good to be home.

i'm also happy to report i crossed off goal #1 on my list!
it proved to be more challenging than i expected.
we were originally going to be staying at the Marriot Orlando World Center.
i'm quite familiar with the water slide there.
therefore, i knew EXACTLY what to expect when i wrote down my water slide goal;
wide slide, full sun, not too many twists.
however, a last minute "switcheroo" found us staying at the Omni Resort instead.
they had a corkscrew slide.
i'll have you know i don't like enclosed spaces...
especially DARK dark you can't see a thing.
add getting blasted in the face and head with water...
just before you slip into the black abyss!
not necessarily the most comfortable combination for me. *wink*
i reached my goal.
and i surprised my girls by going twice!

i'm ready to face a new week!
it's the last week before school starts so it should be quite productive...
finishing up school clothes shopping, open houses/orientations, etc.

i hope everyone else had a super nice weekend!
here's to a great week for all of us!!

all of us slept HORRIBLY saturday evening.
ella woke up at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 & 5:30.
the beds weren't all that comfy and the room was FREEZING.
i ended up pulling ella into bed with us which only sealed my fate of absolutely NO sleep.
And even though we were all a bit "short-fused" Sunday morning - we managed to enjoy our last day together! *wink*
now THAT'S what i call "keeping it real" on a weekend family vacation...*big grin*

squeezin' in some SUMMER FUN!!

Friday, August 13

getting ready to enjoy this over the weekend...


this year...
we decided to change things up.

looking forward to some fun, sun & relaxation with my family!!
summer is almost over...

hope you all have a wonderful weekend as well!!

• this will allow me the opportunity to cross off goal #1 on my list
• thinking this little get-a-way will prove to be quite challenging for my 543 goals...
(i won't be doing any 543 updates over the for those following along - STAY STRONG!!)

{thirsty thursday} a TOAST to italy

Thursday, August 12

defined as a day to share something...ANYTHING... that makes my mouth water...
quenches my creative tastebuds...or satisfies my thirst for inspiration.

i'm SUCH a visual person.
i crave looking at beautiful things...

it's no wonder one of my dreams is to go to italy one day.
i imagine it will be all of those things i just mentioned...
mixed into one amazing place.
the history intrigues me.

i came across this amazing short film from TOAST.
TOAST is a company with retail stores throughout the UK.
i found their products reflect an anthropologie meets j.crew vibe?!
this short film is actually a photoshoot for the launch of their Fall 2010 catalog.

i share this with you because the filming took place in venice & the south tyrol.
needless to say i found myself lost in the imagery and music.
perhaps you will get lost too...

and if that wasn't enough visual inspiration...
let's get lost together in the beautiful landscaping of south tyrol.

amazing, right?

i'm not sure if this "thirsty thursday" post on italy "quenched" my thirst
or has left me parched!?
perhaps that was the purpose?

since i had NO clue what South Tyrol was...
my research on it led me to the 2nd video I shared.
I'm SO glad to have found it.

Are you keeping up with the 543 challenge?
You won't believe what I had to do on Day 3...go read the recap! *wink*

{inspiration} back-to-school treat tags

Wednesday, August 11

i'm always inspired when someone else is inspired to do something good/nice for someone else.
i was approached with a design request last week from a reader named Athienna.
here's what she said:

I was so inspired by an old post of yours where you made cookie trays for the office of your children's school, I have been inspired to take it a step further. I will be making individual cookie bags for 100 staff and teachers by Aug 30 (Our first teacher work day). I was wondering if you could make me a custom tag to place on the bag. Maybe one I can type in the type of cookie or a space to write the type of cookie. Thank you for your help.

Athienna Calixto
P.S. I am in love with your blog!!

i was touched by Athienna's generosity and excitement to do something sweet for others.
so, i decided to create a cute custom tag for her at no charge and this is what we came up with:


pretty adorable...right?
because of Athienna's generosity...
i felt inspired to share the tag with ALL of YOU too...


maybe this little freebie will help motivate the rest of us to surprise a few teachers, staff members, school bus drivers or crossing guards with a little something special on the first day back to school.
to keep things simple, you could even cut these out...
sign the tag with a special note or just with your family name...
and insert them into doughnuts or cupcakes.

Thanks again for the inspiration Athienna...i look forward to the pictures of all of your delicious treats...

honestly, i wasn't planning on doing any sort of "welcome back" treat...
but now that i have these adorable tags, i can't let them go to waste! *wink*
my girls are older so it's not really "cool" for me to bring teacher treats to middle school or high school. but that's not going to stop me from dropping something off
to the staff of both schools - (
without the girls knowing, of course)...
(i'm rubbing my hands together with a cackling witch's laugh)...


Tuesday, August 10


with blueberries in abundance right now,
i was inspired to bake some blueberry muffins.
for those of you following along on my journey through the babycakes cookbook...
you'll be happy to know i've created a "page" specifically for documenting the recipes as i sample them.
so go try out the page.
click on the BABYCAKES link at the top of my blog header to find out how the muffins turned out.

in other news...
i've had SO many fun things going on in my little creative world.
because i'm always sharing things on my fb fan page...
i sometimes neglect to share those things here. (shame on me).

so here are some things i'm REALLY excited about right's a LONG list
• i just received this pan in the mail...can't WAIT to try it out!
• i ordered this book and i'm waiting for it to arrive...thanks Kim for the recommendation!
• i recently joined the martha stewart's dreamers into doers and one of my photos was featured on sunday
• i'll be featured in an upcoming publication of "Artful Blogging" - that's the article I mentioned I was writing.
• i designed the most adorable silhouette for kate lander's events, llc - go check it out!
• collaborating with the TomKat Studio & Kate Lander's Events, LLC on a secret project...
• i'm working with My Baking Addiction - my favorite baking site - on some design projects
• i'll be doing a guest blogging post for Carrie over at Half Baked - the Cake Blog
• i'll be interviewing TWO very talented people and will be sharing those interviews with you right. here!
• i'm excited to share some new product ideas - photos coming soon.
• LOVED working with Lindsey from Bella Grace Party Designs on some cute little gecko designs for her daughter's upcoming birthday
• i've been approached by a website dedicated to all things baby shower, wanting to feature some of the parties i've hosted. - it will be launched late summer/early fall.
• working on a completely FUN baby shower coming up in november...the theme is absolutely adorable!
• getting ready to post a back-to-school FREEBIE inspired by a reader request...(thanks Athienna!)
• going full speed ahead on my newest personal challenge: 543
• recent features on Craft Gossip and Catch My Party...
• finalized the custom harvest table we are having made for the dining area! CAN'T WAIT!

super busy...but with a lot of exciting things!
what's got YOU excited these days?

Happy Tuesday everyone!!

in the studio • cupcake delights & two new collections

Friday, August 6

delicious cupcakes from Cupcake Delights - my favorite local cupcakery
+ my two newest party collections...
= photo shoot!!

introducing the

invitation, water bottle wrap & celebration circles

adorable "strawberry delight" cupcake from cupcake delights!

or how about the coordinating teacup celebration circle instead?

"red velvet"cupcake anyone?

perfect trio for your cottage garden tea...
carrot cake (front and center), red velvet & strawberry delight

next up...



invitation, water bottle wrap, thank you tags, table label & celebration circles - banner available but not pictured

"peanut butter crunch" cupcake...mmmm - yum!

"cookie dough"
LOVE how the frosting presentation on this looks so much like REAL cookie dough!

"chocolate madness" in the center

need an upclose of that "chocolate madness"?

even closer for those chocolate lovers out there...

i had SUCH fun taking these photos...
and me & the girls had even more fun eating them afterwards! *wink*

a special thank you to heather sullivan and gaye mcmanus -
the two customers behind the inspiration for these new party collections!!

hoping you all had a great weekend...
perhaps filled with tasty treats like these?

speaking of tasty treats...
today is the first day of THIS:

to find out all of the details...
click on the tab in my blog header or the cute little "button" i created in my side bar.
i'd love for you to join me if you are up to it!
(by the you think the carrot cupcake counts as a vegetable? *wink*)

because i did this shoot on my back porch, by the time it was over, the frosting on the "strawberry delight" cupcake was sliding off and lopsided! (you can see it starting to shift ever-so-slightly in the "trio" photo just before the "giraffe collection"). it still tasted heavenly though!

coming up:
still baking my way through the babycakes cookbook...
blueberry muffin results coming soon.

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