Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TJ Knows How to Party!

TJ = Trader Joe's (aka the other love of my life)

If you've been to a Trader Joe's, you understand my affection. Awesome, awesome price on organic apples any where...and if you stare long enough, they may even open that box of chocolate covered caramels for you to try & sample. :-D Oh...and every day they have a little corner cafe set up where you can sample one of their items. Not just on the weekends. See why I heart them?

Add to that list their great paper bags. I do occasionally remember my reusable grocery bags but most of the time, I end up with a collection of TJ's paper bags. The great thing about those bags is that they're recyclable. Just throw them in the recycle box....or...wait...could those bags know how to party?

Yep. I'm talking about these bad boys. 

They do....know how to party that is. And here are some great reuses of TJ's bags for your next shindig...

TJ's Napkin Ring

Simply take three TJ bag handles & braid together. Attach with tape, hot glue or paper clips & there you have it. 

Using the TJ bag handles, you can also make some great candle accessories.

I probably shouldn't have gone with the you spy my mug in the candle? :p 

Paper Placemats

I love these because there are so many different things you can do with these. You can use them as both placemats & name cards. I just used chalk to write Meg's name. You could do your own borders. If it's for a kids party, set some crayons at each place setting & let them decorate their own. Having a Memorial Day picnic? Make these up ahead of time, use them at the park, then toss them in a recycling can! 

My bags looked like a 99 yr old woman (or man...lets not discriminate). Instead of whipping out the eye cream (have you seen that Walmart cute) I whipped out my iron. Oh if we could get rid of our crow's feet that easily. :p 

At first, I tried using a dish towel in between the bag & iron. I ran out of patience (and the commercial was about to be up in between the Bachelorette segments ;p) so it was just the iron, bag & the heat between them. 

Results are in...

You can obviously still see some of the creases but isn't that just the way wrinkles usually go. 

You could also use part of the bag to write out the menu...

I just used one of my bamboo cutting boards & tied the menu to it. Easy & free! :-) 

And banners are totally "in" right now and this banner is certainly easy on the wallet...not too bad on the eye either...

I just cut a lot of triangles, then used markers to make different patterns. Using a glue gun, I adhered the triangles to a red ribbon I had left over. 

You could also do a mini version of this, tie the ends to two tooth picks & make a banner for a cake topping. 

Tj's bags also are great to wrap up sandwiches for a casual party.

A customized sandwich? Keep em' straight by labeling them. 

Backyard BBQ? TJ's can help keep the fries easy to handle...

I've also used TJ's bags to wrap up a bouquet of flowers, wrapped some twine around it & it looks beautiful! 

Do you have any additional ideas for Trader Joe's bags? Do you use reusable bags or get paper bags like these? If you get you reuse them in any cool way? 

Have a great Memorial Day weekend! Talk to you next week. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cake Pops...that Pop...okay, more like Fizzle...

If you've wandered into Starbucks lately, you've probably noticed the tempting so-called "cake balls/pops" in that beautiful display case. Cake balls/pops (feel free to giggle every time you read that term...we won't judge) are all the rage in the party world these days. So...I thought I'd give it a try. I thought I could show you the tutorial & see if they would fit the Parties for Pennies standard of cheap.

The first few ingredients are pretty simple - 

You can go with whatever type of cake mix your creativity takes you. And then pair with a complimentary icing. BTW...the icing that I made from the Trader Joe's mix was deeelish....US! It really tastes like buttercream homemade frosting. 

And also pick up some white chocolate candy melts or any type of chocolate you prefer (depending on your cake/icing combo). 

STEP 1: Bake the cake according to the box instructions. 

STEP 2: Once you bake the cake & it cools, take pieces of the cake & pulse in a food processor until it is crumbly. 

STEP 3: Once you have crumbled the entire cake, take your icing (I used all of mine but I think that was too much, so mix a little at a time to determine the amount you prefer) & mix it into the crumbs until it becomes doughy. 

STEP 4: Mix batter into round balls.

( mine may be a little clumpy...even dough has cellulite! :p I would recommend not putting quite as much icing in it as I did. Kinda like real life - More Icing = Clumpier thighs :p) 

I added pop rocks to part of the batch! I was going for the whole Memorial Day theme with fireworks & such. The only problemo is that the pop rocks starting doin their little Boom Boom Pow thing in the dough. Oh still tasted great & I felt a little fizzle in my mouth when all was said & done. 

STEP 5: Add the lollipop sticks. I got mine at Michaels, where I also got the Pop Rocks. Yep, Michaels sells pop rocks. Reason #576 to love that place. 

STEP 6: Put your pops in the refrigerator or freezer. I put mine in the fridge & wished I had stuck them in the freezer. They're probably a lot easier to dip in the chocolate when they're frozen. Those suckers have a little weight on them & I almost lost a couple in the depths of the white chocolate. 

STEP 7: Take your candy melts/whatever chocolate you've chosen & melt them in the micro. Then dip the pops into the chocolate so they're coated. 

STEP 8: Place the pops in a glass or container so they can stand upright & allow to harden.  

I did have a casualty. Kinda. It went into my mouth...and onto my thighs. :p This is where I think the frozen cake balls would've survived hanging upright in the glass. 

Step 9: Put the cake pops in the refrigerator/freezer until time to serve or you can decorate the tops with sprinkles, icing, chocolate drizzle, etc. I attempted to do a red & blue chocolate drizzle on the top of mine but the food coloring I have didn't mix well at all with the white chocolate. I think you have to have a certain type of food coloring to do that? So...all I had was sugar. I dyed the sugar blue & red & sprinkled that on top. I wasn't exactly happy with that part. 

NOW...How do you display these suckers? Well...I'm glad you asked. Here's what I did...but after going through the process, I think it would be easier & more efficient to use floral foam or styrofoam. 

* Take an old shoe box...

* Decorate it however you'd like but I found this really cool foam with an adhesive backing. The sparkles sucked me in. You could easily do something just as beautiful with scrapbook paper. 

* Cover the box with your paper...

I love the sparkles! :p 

* Cut holes in the top where you want to place the pops. I used an X-acto knife but you could probably use a nail or the end of a pair of scissors. I made an "X" with my knife & slip the pops into the hole. 

* Add any extras to make your cake pop stand sparkle. :p I really wanted sparklers on mine but I couldn't find the ones I thought I had & wouldn't you know...most places don't have them out yet. I went with "sparkler candles" from Party City but they could drop the "sparkler" part in the name b/c they basically were just plain ole candles. 

Well, they didn't exactly turn out the way I had imagined but the consensus across the board...they tasted out of this world. Here are a few tips & overall things I learned - 

1) Be careful how much icing you add
2) Freeze the pops before dipping into the chocolate coating
3) Pop rocks don't pop so much after they hit a moist surface
4) Use styrofoam or floral foam to stand them up...they tended to want to sway to one side or the other in the box b/c of their weight. 
5) They take a good amount of time & aren't exactly the more economical route but you can make them ahead which is a plus. 

And finally - Cake pops taste delicious no matter how you decorate them or display enjoy! 

Have you tried making cake pops? How did it turn out? Any good suggestions? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yard Sale Party

Thank You so much for stopping by! You're expecting to see a Yard Sale party! 
You can find it, by clicking here. It will take you to my blog that is now on Wordpress. 

Sorry about that but you'll find a lot more cool ideas on the new & improved Parties for Pennies page

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some of the Best Gifts are Free...or at least close to it...

This is one of those weeks I wish I had more time to post every day. There's so much going on - projects for my wedding reception, an answer to a frequent question I get, Cinco de Mayo, Teacher Appreciation Day...oh, yes...and Mother's day!

Since I've committed to doing one post a week...I chose Mothers Day for this week. (BTW...I post a new project/idea/party pics/etc every Wednesday...if you want to check back from week to week)

My mom always said, "The best gifts are free." Well here is a little Mother's Day centerpiece/gift that's just about free.

These are the materials you'll need - 

                                      * 3 old wine bottles (Other bottles can be used)
                                      * Goo Be Gone
                                      * Primer Spray Paint 
                                      * White Spray Paint
                                      * Computer printer
                                      * Glue Stick 
                                      * Flowers (bought or picked from your yard)

* This is the primer I used. 

STEP 1: Get all the goobly goop off the bottle. 

Enter my pal...

Sort of a super hero, if you will. Goo be Gone comes to my rescue occasionally when that stubborn tag likes to hang on. He's real easy to use. Just get ready, aim & fire away at the silly old residue. It's like the party goer who just won't leave...even after you've put on your pjs & everyone else left hours ago. (I'm just sayin) 

STEP 2: Print large letters of your mom's initials from your computer. I think I used the monotype cursive font. Cut out each letter. 

STEP 3: You can learn from my mistake...make sure the bottles are not "moist" (that words for my friend Jenny :p) on the outside. Weird thing...spray paint doesn't adhere too well to water. hmmm... Take the letter & add a tiny bit of glue from a glue stick to the back of the letter.

*Add just enough so that the ends won't come up

STEP 4: Place the letter on the bottle. Immediately spray with primer. 

STEP 5: As soon as the primer dries (it took less than 5 minutes for mine), spray the white spray paint (or whatever color you want) over the bottle covering completely. 

STEP 6: Wait about 5 minutes or so, then peel the letter away from the glass. Don't wait too long or else you won't be able to peel it off. 

SIDE NOTE: There were some splatters that sneaked their way into the letter, so I took a q-tip & nail polish remover & cleaned up the inside. Here's the...



Just the little hook part...I hadn't gotten to the rest of it at this point. 

Now you have a beautiful centerpiece to that breakfast in bed for mom that is personalized (with mom's initials) 


Wine glasses     free (already had them)
Primer      free (already had)
Spray paint    $0.99 (Home Depot)
Various materials (glue, scissors, etc)    free (already owned)

I know...I was trying to take an artistic pic below. Just humor me. :p

I think, especially if your children are older, most moms just covet time with their children. I hope you have a wonderful Mothers Day & Cinco de Mayo! :p