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LIFE | Dress Up

Thursday, October 31

Halloween is upon us and with "Dressing Up" on everyone's minds today I thought it would be the perfect time to share with you a different sort of "Dress Up" from a special night a few weekends ago.

My two older daughters, Clara and Ema, attended Homecoming together.
It was a big night for both of them because it was Clara's very LAST Homecoming as a Senior and Ema's very FIRST as a Freshman. I didn't even let Clara go to Homecoming as a Freshman because I thought she was too young so my heart was torn with allowing Ema to go as a Freshman. In the end though, I just couldn't let go of the fact that this would be the only opportunity they'd ever get to attend together.

I had big plans of photographing them using the beautiful natural light at the end of the day...just before they headed out for their big night.

The photo-taking didn't go as planned though because my day was saturated with the Neighborhood Fall Family Picnic that started in the late afternoon. On top of that, both of my girls were at a school band competition all day long. Any student attending Homecoming was allowed to leave the competition early to allow themselves time to get ready for their big night. However, the kids had been performing in the sun all day long and returned home with sunburned faces, chests and arms. You all know this isn't a very flattering look in a dress for photo-taking. Ugh!!

Anyway, I was supposed to leave the picnic, snap some photos of the girls after they were all finished getting ready, see them off on their big night and then return to the picnic.

What really happened was that I left the picnic about 30 minutes before it ended, got to the house and the girls weren't near being ready. Ema needed help with her hair and by the time they were finished the beautiful natural light I had intended on using had long disappeared. And I never made it back to the picnic.

The girls were stressed because they were already late meeting their friends for dinner and were anxious to get out the door. (Clara, especially). I begrudgingly snapped indoor photos with harsh lighting and they both managed to fake a couple of smiles. Ha!!

I was definitely disappointed in the way the night turned out with regards to the photo-taking.
I knew the day would be crazy and I did everything I could to make it go as smoothly as possible but we all know there are just some things we can't control.

So a couple of days later I decided to snap some photos of their dresses, shoes and jewelry hoping to capture the memory of their night.

I don't know where the time has gone?
I look at my two older girls all grown up and my heart wants to burst.

Often, when I'm feeling nostalgic about how quickly they've grown up...
I feel a little tug on my shirt from 4 year old.
I look down at her and her sweet little face filled with innocence and wonder and then all seems right in the world again.
My older girls help remind me to eat up the sweet moments I still have with Ella right now...
and so many more I have to look forward to.

Speaking of which...we've got Halloween to celebrate tonight!
I'm looking forward to transforming that cute little 4 year old into a darling Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader!

I hope you all have a fun, safe night Trick or Treating!
See you back here tomorrow to close out the month of October with a really SPECIAL giveaway!
See you soon friends!!

I can tell you my older girls and I really butt heads sometimes and there are moments of frustration that make my eyes want to pop out.
I've even kicked myself for wishing (begging) for girls with each pregnancy, knowing now if I'd had boys there would be so much less drama and I'd have the joy of experiencing the unique love of a son.
BUT...that doesn't change how much I love them both and despite the exasperation that comes with teenage daughters, I really wouldn't trade them for the world. I am blessed to have two of the smartest, most beautiful girls on the planet. I'm proud of who they are as young women and the high moral standards they choose to live by.

Even MORE Real...
On the morning of the Fall Family Picnic and Homecoming, I suddenly realized I still had not gotten any jewelry for the girls to wear. There were some things here at the house I'm sure we could've made do with but I decided to sneak in a quick stop to Kohl's as I was running around that morning picking up last minute things for the picnic. I prayed I would find something they'd both like and after nearly an hour of searching through all of the jewelry, I found them both earrings and necklaces. Knowing the picnic would be in full swing and I wouldn't be home when they got home from the competition, I raced home and put the jewelry on their dressers as a surprise for them to find.

CRAFT | Witch Broom Hi Hat Cupcake Toppers

Tuesday, October 29

So here's the how-to on making the adorable Rustic Witch Broom Cupcake Toppers
for the "Bewitching Hi Hat Cupcakes" I shared yesterday. You'll need just a few supplies to get started...

SUGAR | Bewitching Hi Hat Cupcakes

Monday, October 28

Hi Pen N' Paperflowers Friends!

Looking for a creative treat for spreading some Halloween cheer?
These bewitching Hi Hat Cupcakes are so darn's SCARY!!

Remember the No-Bake Hi Hat Cupcakes I shared with you last week?
Since the Hi Hat resembles the peek of a witch hat, I couldn't help myself by turning it into the perfect Halloween Treat.

1. Start with a No-Bake Hi Hat Cupcake (or Hi Hat Brownie Bite)
2. Wrap the cupcake with a cute cupcake wrapper. 
3. Attach a ribbon using a dab of hot glue under the knot and some tape in the back to keep it from sliding down.
4. Add a mini novelty witch broom from your local craft store or create your own using a toothpick or wooden skewer and some raffia. (see tutorial HERE).
5. Use some orange striped straws and then cut out black witch shoes to attach. Insert your silly DIY witch legs into the hi hat cupcake!

Ta Dah!!
You've got the most adorable cupcakes on the Halloween Party Block!!

Add these to a decked out cake plate on your Halloween Party Dessert table, pop them on top of The Pastry Pedestal, or surprise a co-worker, family member, or teacher by delivering an individual cupcake to them packaged in a cute cupcake box wrapped in coordinating fabric or ribbon.

These are an impressive treat without a lot of fuss.
I hope this idea has left you SPELLBOUND!

You can find the adorable cupcake wrappers , darling white cupcake boxes and cute orange striped straws at The TomKat Studio. 

The chocolate cupcake (or brownie bite) base with the peanut butter frosting PLUS the chocolate coating is an absolutely amazing combination!!
Just saying!! *wink*

BEHIND THE SCENES | The Pastry Pedestal Platforms are Shipping!!

Guess what I've been busy behind the scenes doing?
Packaging up all of the NEW Pastry Pedestal Platforms you all pre-ordered!!
It's been a lot of work...
but I can absolutely tell you it's been a labor of love!!

There's nothing quite like wrapping up something I worked so hard (for so long) to bring to life...
with all of you encouraging me along the way...reminding me how much you wanted this product and

RECIPE RADAR | Super Easy No Bake Hi Hat Cupcakes

Monday, October 21

I've been intrigued by the thought of these Hi Hat Cupcakes for some time...
and also very intimidated. 
Despite my apprehension I was determined to make them...
and I was also determined to make sure they weren't complicated!

A Hi Hat Cupcake is simply a cupcake frosted with a technique that resembles a twisty ice cream cone dipped in chocolate. 

After finding a couple of recipes explaining the technique for making a hi hat cupcake...
here's what I did first...

I ran out and purchased store-bought chocolate cupcakes and quickly eliminated my need for having to bake any. Afterall, the frosting technique is what makes these cupcakes a hi hat and that was my real focus and challenge.

Next, I refrigerated the cupcakes in their original container for about 30 minutes so I could then cleanly pop off the blob of frosting that had already been piped on! Ha! (You can also request unfrosted cupcakes from your local bakery to eliminate having to do this step).

I then grabbed AND DOUBLED my favorite super easy Peanut Butter Frosting recipe (see the bottom of the post) filled a piping bag (or ziploc) and grabbed my oversized 9P frosting tip from The TomKat Studio and began piping it on! (If you don't see it in the shop, shoot them an email).

Perfection!! I knew this frosting would be the perfect (thicker) consistency you need when making a Hi Hat Cupcake. Don't be afraid to practice piping - either on the cupcake or on a piece of wax paper.
You can always scrape the frosting right back into your piping bag when you are done practicing.

Side Note: It's been referenced that any 7 minute or 12 minute icing or thick frosting with a consistency for maintaining its shape will work for making Hi Hat Cupcakes.

When the cupcakes are all frosted - place them on a cookie sheet and pop them into the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.  If you are short on can also choose to store the frosted cupcakes in an airtight container and refrigerate them overnight so they'll be perfectly ready for dipping the next day.

Freezing your frosted cupcakes (or refrigerating overnight) is VITAL to the success of your hi hats. If your frosting is soft or room temperature you are guaranteed disappointment in your outcome.

Aside from making sure your frosting consistency is nice and thick in order to achieve good height on your "Hi Hat"  and then chilling your cupcakes - melting the chocolate is the next MOST IMPORTANT step.

The chocolate can't be too hot - the frosting will melt.
The chocolate can't be too cold - it'll be too thick for dipping.

I'm happy to say was able to figure out a way to achieve the PERFECT chocolate temperature and without a candy thermometer or any waiting.  (see the process at the bottom of the post).

Slowly dip your cupcake frosting into the chocolate and if you want the edges to be completely covered  be sure to tilt and roll your cupcake to do so. Touchups can be done with a wooden skewer or toothpick dipped in chocolate.

Allow the extra chocolate to drip off of the cupcake (and encourage this with small shaking movements).

Allow the chocolate to set - put them in the refrigerator to speed up the process - and then wrap your Hi Hat cupcakes with a super cute cupcake wrapper - like these white and black polka dot wraps from The TomKat Studio.

Tie on a cute ribbon as an accent and you are ready to wow your guests or the lucky recipients of these tasty treats! (I add a dab of hot glue under the knot of the ribbon on the front and secure the cupcake wrapper and ribbon with tape on the backside).

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Now...let me say this!
These cupcakes are impressive to look at and as you might imagine...
they are SUPER SUGARY!!
The abundance of frosting may be a bit too much for your palate and I found them to be little difficult to eat and maintain your dignity at the same time! *wink*

Noooo problem!!
Let's just mini size these!
Besides, anytime I can find an excuse to mini-size something you know I'm going to take the opportunity to do so.

So....this time I used store-bought mini brownie bites (againto avoid having to bake) and followed the same process...

Aren't they adorable?
See how shiny they are when they are first dipped?
The large cupcakes in the background are already set so I love the comparison of the two finishes.

Want to see inside?

YUM!!! And cool, right?!

Be sure to PIN THIS idea for the future and come back and let me know if you try these out!
Stay tuned for the Halloween version of these adorable and tasty Hi Hats...coming soon!

Peanut Butter Frosting (Double this for 24 cupcakes)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 TBSP butter, softened
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
For Hi Hat Cupcakes:
Add more powdered sugar for achieving the perfect consistency for a Hi Hat - amount will be dependent on your altitude, temperature of your kitchen, etc. I ended up using an additional 1 cup of extra powdered sugar when I doubled the recipe.

Combine cream cheese, butter and peanut butter in a bowl. Beat until creamy for about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add powdered sugar. Beat another 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to achieve the desired consistency for piping.

Chocolate for Dipping (Double this for 24 cupcakes)
16oz. bag of chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi sweet)
3 TBSP. Canola Oil

Boil 2-3 cups of water in a pan. I used the bottom part of my double boiler but any pan will do.
While your water is boiling in the bottom pan add HALF of your chocolate  and 3 TBSP. of canola oil to the top pan of your double boiler. (or just find a bowl that will rest on top of the bottom pan - without it touching the boiling water).

Once your water has come to a rolling bubble, turn off heat and remove pan from the heat source.
Place your top pan (or bowl) of chocolate and oil mixture on top of the boiling water pan.
Stir and continue to stir until the chocolate has melted completely.
Add the remaining chocolate and stir until melted.
Adding the other half of the bag of chocolate to the already melted chocolate helps to bring the overall temperature down making it perfect for dipping and eliminating the need to have the chocolate rest for 2 or 3 minutes to cool down. Test it with your finger - make sure it feels like the right temperature to you. It should be warm.

Transfer chocolate to cup that is both tall enough to allow your frosted cupcake to be coated without the tip touching the bottom of the cup as well as wide enough to fit your cupcake into.

The bigger the cup you use, the more chocolate you will need to be able to fill the cup and keep the chocolate level deep enough for dipping. A teacup worked perfectly for me but I have seen people use a plastic kids cup or Bakerella used a leftover plastic easter cup.

If you'd like a great chocolate cupcake recipe for making homemade cupcakes instead of doing store-bought , GO HERE!

I turned these into Halloween Witch Hat Cupcakes by making cute Witch Shoes Cupcake Toppers and a cute DIY mini Halloween Witch Brooms.

My first attempts at piping were NOT perfect!
I piped and scraped and piped again a few times! *wink*
It's all in the wrist - as the saying goes!

LIFE | Neighborhood Fall Family Picnic

Friday, October 18

I wanted to send you off into the weekend with some great images from the Fall Family Picnic we had a couple of weekends ago.

I was in charge of organizing it so I was all about trying to come up with a variety of activities to keep the kids (and adults) busy. But I wanted the activities to be pretty simple so there wasn't a lot of prep work that needed to be done for myself or for the other volunteers that helped to make this all happen!

We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood that is centered around an expansive area of...

Gorgeous old oaks and a beautiful open field of green grass.

There's also a pretty gazebo on one end 
our typical meeting place for neighborhood events like this one.

I'll label the photos so you know what's going on in the images and then if you want to pull off one of these for your own neighborhood (or for family events, birthday celebrations and my favorite…family reunions!!) 
you can find more of the detailed information at the bottom of the post.










There were plenty of activities to keep the little ones busy but the highlight of my day was the very last event of the Family Picnic - the pie-eating contest!!

We wrangled up 5 willing (and not so willing) participants. One of them was a (SUPER) mom who volunteered to sit alongside the line up of male contestants. Her husband couldn't be there that day and so she sat in his place to make the day memorable for her kids! If that's not LOVE that then I don't know what is.

We presented each contestant with a plain pumpkin pie and explained the rules. (They had 2 minutes to finish as much of the pie as they could and whoever ate the most would be declared the winner).

BUT just before we started the contest, I presented the crowd of onlookers with a question: "Wouldn't everyone agree pie is so much better with some whipped cream?" Of course they agreed so myself and a couple of assistants squirted on a generous helping of whipped cream - which was all a ploy for better photographs! *wink*

It was a really close call between two of the more competitive males in the bunch.
The prize? A gift card to Perkins for...what else??? A fabulous pie! Ha!! *wink*

The day was absolutely FUN! It's something I'll remember for a long time to come.
There were a lot of families, couples, both older and younger and lots of kids who took part.
We had about 60+ people participate so I was happy to have such a good turnout.

The only bummer about the day was that neither of my older girls were able to attend due to a competition they were participating in AND they both had Homecoming that same night.


Pumpkin Run (which was really a fast walk)
Object: Balance a mini pumpkin on your head and walk quickly to the finish line.

Tic Tac Toe Loved this brilliant, simple idea I randomly came up with.
Use mini frisbees as the tac tac toe pieces.
Spray paint the game board in the grass.

The fact that you can set this game up anywhere makes it great for any outside activity/event and I will DEFINITELY be doing this again. The plastic playing pieces are durable and weather resistant and set up and clean up is a cinch!

Was thinking you could use bucket lids as game pieces too.
I created an "X" on some of the frisbees using duct tape and then left the other frisbees plain for the "O" pieces.

Bobbing for Apples
We set up a long bench with individual pails and one apple in each pail right next to the gazebo.
(We needed a water resource and there was already a hose there).
For sanitary purposes we refilled the water and added a new apple for each new contestant.

Crafts Tables
Craft #1: Decorated White Paper Lunch Sacks
We had the kids decorate paper bags when they arrived at the picnic with crayons and foam autumn leaf stickers. The idea was for them to then use the bag to put the small prizes they'd be receiving at each game station. 

Craft #2: Coloring Page
We provided Fall themed coloring pages for the kids to color.

Craft #3: Scarecrow Foam Craft
Scarecrow Foam Craft Packages were given to the kids interested in making a scarecrow.

3-Legged Race
I cut strips of fabric from my stash of material and kept these in a metal bucket right next to the sign for 
racers to grab and put back as they were done.

Sack Race
Grain sacks would've been so much more appropriate but we just used pillowcases for the races.

Corn Hole
We had a corn hole game set up - even though there are no photos to share. 
Thanks for bringing this to the picnic Renee!!

Raffle Contests
Attendees were given tickets as they signed in to the picnic.
If they RSVP'd prior to the picnic they earned extra tickets at sign in.

Raffle Prize #1: Cupcake Delights Gift Card - our favorite local cupcakery
Raffle Prize #2: Starbucks Gift Card and package of SB Pumpkin Coffee 
Raffle Prize #3: Kernel Seasons Movie Night Prize Pack

We had different prizes at each game station which included the following:
- stickers
- finger pulls
- variety of candy
- rainbow loom bracelets - made by a sweet 9 year old girl in our neighborhood and donated as part of the picnic prizes!

The neighborhood association provided subs and water bottles for everyone.
Attendees were asked to bring a side dish - and boy did they! We had two long tables packed with delicious picnic foods! There was also a Popcorn Bar set up and it was a hit. (more details HERE).

All of the photos you see here were taken by other people.
My sweet friend and neighbor, Allison, took a few photos and the rest were taken by her dad.
I'm so grateful they were able to snap these for me to be able to look back on all of the fun details from the day. 

I'm also grateful to the handful of volunteers that showed up with tables, chairs, ice, trash cans and willing hands to man some of the game/activity stations and set everything up and then take it all down. It was definitely a collaborative effort and I couldn't have made it all happen without their help! (Amy, Allison, Renee, Joan, Stu & Perry). Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!

Of course...I have to also thank my stepdad for helping me re-work the popcorn cart to make it presentable for the picnic. It had been sitting for nearly two years and the top wood piece needed to be replaced and I wanted the two front posts removed that I had used to create the canopy on the original Popcorn Cart. He also showed up on the day of the event with his truck to help us get the popcorn cart to the designated picnic area. Thank you Rick!!

J takes no part in the preparations for any of the events/parties I plan and organize out of protest in a sense because he knows how busy I already am with running multiple businesses, managing a household and having a busy schedule with three children. He doesn't support the idea of me volunteering (or getting volunteered) to do things like this. 

HOWEVER, I have to say he always comes through on the actual day of the event and helps me execute the last minute details that need to be taken care of. (transporting the popcorn cart, picking up the food items, stopping by Sam's for the bulk paper products and water bottles, set up and clean up). I was exceptionally grateful on the day of the picnic when he shooed me off from the event early to be able to help my two older girls get ready for their special Homecoming night together! He thinks I always take on too much and I know in a lot of ways he's right. At the same time I love doing things like this and if there weren't for more people like "me" (willing to take on too much) then I believe the world would be a very different place...with absolutely less celebrations - that's for sure! Ha!!

Because of the Homecoming, I ended up having to leave the picnic early and didn't make it back to help with clean up! To make things worse, my girls weren't ready before the sun went down so I didn't get the photos I wanted using natural light. Despite that, here are some photos from their big night!

I only picked up a total of 6 mini frisbees for the Tic Tac Toe game. (3 X's and 3 O's). It wasn't until someone pointed it out that I realized I'd made an error! You might only need 3 X's or 3 O's to get 3-in-a-row but you actually need 4-5 of each color in order to REALLY play the game! Oops!

The sack race almost didn't happen because we ended up having only two pillowcases.
At the brilliant suggestion of one of the neighbors we turned the race into a team relay - having the kids put on and take off the pillowcases as part of the race. Yay! We solved the dilemma and played on. of the pillowcases was completely shredded after a couple of the older kids raced with them so this particular activity was very short-lived. (we got some great photos though before it ended).

The large black trash bags I gave J for the trash cans ended up being too small so we couldn't line our trash cans with anything. Yucky clean up!

Boys + Popcorn Bar = Disaster
As a mother of 3 girls I don't have any experience with how boys operate - except the memories I have growing up with my younger brother. I'm sure not all 8-10 year old boys are like this but I was a little taken back when I looked over to see a group of boys sitting down at a table with plates piled high and spilling over with popcorn and candy toppings from the popcorn bar. (I guess the brown bags that were provided to them weren't big enough)? Then, as I listened to their conversation, I realized they had filled their water bottles with reeses pieces (from the popcorn bar) and were shaking them up to make the water turn into something that looked like something I won't repeat. Yuck!

UNPLUGGED #5 - A Black Eye
This was actually pre-picnic but it's worth mentioning!
When I picked Ella up from pre-school on Friday, the day before the picnic, she had a HUGE shiner/black eye. It was swollen and cut and looked like she'd joined the MMA. Seriously. She had apparently bumped it (really hard) on the monkey bars while on the playground. But guess what?! None of the teachers even knew because Ella never cried!! What?!
They noticed it when the kids lined up to go back inside the classroom and by that time it was almost time for school to be dismissed. My poor sweet girl.

She's such a tough cookie. 
I have to give her daddy credit for that because he's always doing things to try to toughen her up.
(Wrestling with her and writing off boo-boos as if they're non-existent or no big deal).
I'm pretty much opposite of that - although I've gotten MUCH better with time and multiple kids.

You can hardly see it in the couple of photos in this post thankfully but trust me - I was freaked out!
It was so much worse on Friday so I was so grateful it wasn't as swollen on Saturday.
I was so sad to have her attend the picnic looking like we'd beaten her. *wink*
It's almost all gone now - just a tee tiny bit of yellowing left. 
Too bad it wasn't closer to Halloween when it happened - we could've played off of it for her costume. A Boxer? Monster? Frankenstein? We could've put on an eye patch and called her a PIRATE. Ha! I'm kidding!!

Don't laugh! Did you know I had never even stepped foot into a Starbucks until I went and picked up the gift card for one of the Raffle Ticket Winners? I'm not a coffee drinker so there's been no reason for me to check it out. Can you believe that? I did eye some tasty treats while I was in there though! *wink*
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