Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hot Chocolate Bar

Hey there! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! We had a great time with the family...eating, playing games, eating, talking, eating, laughing...we did a lot of laughing & that burns calories so I'm even. ;p Here's a picture to show how serious the men of the family take Movember -

I just realized that I gave the guys that had the least amount of hair on their head the longest beards. ;p Love you Dad & Uncle Ken. ;p 

Okay...back to parties people. What's one of the best things about cold Christmas nights? Snuggling up with a cup of hot chocolate! And if you're planning a Christmas party in the midst of the hustle & bustle you want something easy, fast & not too bad for your wallet. 

Enter the Hot Chocolate Bar...

Simple treats, great for adults & kids, self-serve drinks & easy. 

This was my menu - 

Gingerbread Biscotti (made from Gingerbread cake mix) 
Popcorn Cones
Mini Grilled Cheese Croissants
Sugar Cookie Peppermint pops

For the Hot Chocolate, I gave suggestions of drink combinations, giving each a name based on Santas reindeer:

Sea Salt + Caramel + Whipped Cream

Rasberry Syrup + White Chocolate Shavings + Whipped Cream

Crushed Graham Crackers + Chocolate Syrup + Marshmallows

Crushed Peppermint + Marshmallows + Whipped Cream 

It was really fun & easy to put together. For favors, I made No Sew Sock Mug Jackets & got some cheap white mugs so guests could bring those home too. 

But...I'll show you those next Wednesday morning. I know...cruel. I'll also tell you how I made the grilled cheese croissants, gingerbread biscotti, popcorn cones & peppermint cookie pops. 

One thing I will tell you is that snowball garland strung above the table??? 

That's made from cotton balls. I took a needle & ran string through cotton balls. 

Let me know if there's any questions you have so I can answer them next week. 

P.S. Sorry about the pictures. It was the gloomiest day ever & I couldn't get the lighting right. I was hoping I could edit it to look okay but I still don't like it. :-( 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Liebster Award

A few weeks ago, Heather Champion at chevymommasramblings.blogspot.com bestowed upon little ole Parties for Pennies the Liebster Award. I hadn't heard too much about it but it's basically a great way to honor other up & coming blogs or blogs you just love & want to share with others. 

The Liebster Blog Award is given to blogs with under 200 followers. Liebster is a German word meaning dear, sweet, kind, nice, good, beloved, lovely, kindly, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome. 

My job is to pass this award onto 5 other deserving blogs. There are so many blogs that are worthy of this, it was so hard to choose. I tried to pick blogs that had something to do with parties or party-planning. (Sticking with the theme of this one, ofcourse)

The rules for the Liebster Award are -

1) Thank the giver & link back to the blogger that gave you the award. 
2) Reveal your top 5 picks & let them know by leaving them a comment on their blog. 
3) Copy & paste the award on your blog.
4) Have faith that your followers will spread the love too. 

I'd like to pass on the Liebster Award to: 

* VivianElle Invitations (I'm a little biased b/c this is one of my best friend's blog & she did my reception invites & programs here...she's pretty awesome) 
* Passion~For~Parties.com - this blog is eye candy for party planners! Great ideas! 
* Bird on a Cake - check out Robins Andes Cake! Yum! 
* Aimee Bee - she has awesome crafts! You will not be disappointed!
* Sunny Vanilla - Adorable blog & flowing with creativity! 

These blogs will inspire you & give you amazing ideas! 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! :-) 
The rules for the Liebster Award are:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cake Pops...How to Do Em Up Right...

So...just wondering...have you heard of these things called Cake Pops? Hmm? No? Yeah...they're kinda up & coming.

I love being sarcastic. My husband can totally beat me in the game of sarcasm, though. Yeah, we're a strange couple who will try & one up each other in sarcasm. We go until someone says something completely indistinguishable & stupid. I'll give you one guess who that person is... ;p

Okay, back to Cake Pops. I've attempted Cake Pops two times. First time, they were alright but I hate reading directions so I kinda just guessed my way through making them. Second time, I went a way cheaper & quicker route. I'm talking about it took me like 15 minutes from start to finish. And I'll show you what I did in a later post. But this week, I asked a friend Tabitha to tell us the proper way to make cake pops.

Isn't her family adorable? Picture perfect. 

Tabitha & her sister have a cake pop business here in Atlanta that make some impressive displays. 

I haven't met Tiffani yet but Tabitha is just so tiny & cute & so sweet. 

Before Tabitha tells you how to do some cake pops up right, how bout we see some of their handywork? 

Gorgeous, huh? 

Here's Tabitha & Tiffani's how to for cake pops. 

What you will need:

Cake Mix (any flavor)
Two containers of icing (preferably not creamy)
Ice cream scoop
 Chocolate mold sticks
Chocolate wafers*
 Aluminum foil
Cookie pan
Big block of Styrofoam (to put pops in while decorating)

Begin with baking a cake with the flavor of your choice. 
Let the cake cool after baking
Crumple the cake into small pieces
Mix in complete container of icing (half if creamy) into the cake crumbles. 
Place a piece of aluminum foil of the cookie sheet 
Create small balls with the mixture by rolling in palm of your hand (recommend using ice cream scoop to get a constant size)
Poke the stick halfway in the cake ball and pull back out
Melt small amount of chocolate in a glass bowl( or coffee mug) for about two seconds or until melted
Dip the end of the stick in the melted chocolate and place back into the cake pop
Place the pops on the cookie sheet and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes

Melt chocolate in a coffee cup about 3/4 full
Take out cake pops one at a time and dip in the chocolate
(Do not spin cake pop in the cup this will loosen the stick and the pop will come off)
Tap the stick on the side of the cup to make the excess chocolate come off 
If you are adding sprinkles to your pops cake sure to do them immediately after dipping so they will stick
Stick each pop in the Styrofoam straight up to dry
After the pops dry, decorate with icing 

I had a few extra questions for Tabitha. They make it look so easy! But I needed some amatuer guidance -

1) What are chocolate wafers? Regular chocolate bark? 

It's the name of the chocolate melt at Hobby Lobby (It's the only kind we use). This is a link to where you can find the chocolate wafers online

2) Tabitha, you mentioned freezing the pops. The last batch of cake pops I did, I froze them then when I dipped them in chocolate, it began to crack. What did I do wrong? 

Never  freeze the pops for more them the 30 minutes.  It makes the chocolate crack, and changes the color.

(Ahh...my multitasking while they were in the freezer was definitely longer than 30 min.) 

3) How do you make such beautiful displays for the cake pops? 

First, put something heavy in the vase or whatever you're using for the arrangement. The cake pops are heavy, so you want to make sure it doesn't fall over. Then put the styrofoam in.

 Cover the styrofoam up with flowers, a  feather boa or anything pretty! Be creative. 

DO NOT put the arrangement in the sun or outside on a hot day. It's chocolate and will fall apart and melt.

Here are some more examples of the cake pops Tabitha & Tiffani have made...

Wouldn't this be perfect for a New Years Eve party? 

Baseball party...or as a gift. Bouquet of baseball cake pops. 

I'd go back to school just to get this! :-) 

This is really a work of art!

This works great as a centerpiece. 

Love those little chicks. This would be great for Easter or a baby shower. 

Last one...

I just had to show some love for the feathers! :-) 

Thanks so much Tabitha & Tiffani for teaching us the ways of cake pops. :-) 

Heads up...I'm posting again tomorrow night & it's about an award I got & I'm passing it on to others & I'm gonna show you an awesome last minute Thanksgiving idea. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Table - White House Quality on a Dollar Menu Budget

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving growing up was the fact it was one of the few times we got to use Dad & Mom's china. It made everything seem so special.

Unfortunately, I don't have the money to go all out on fancy dishes for Thanksgiving...so with one little helper, I came up with a tablescape/setting for $0! 

That helper? A gold pen I got last year to address Christmas cards. 

Let's start with the table BEFORE - (I'm sorry...but I'm gonna make you scroll all the way down to see the AFTER) ;p

Just ordinary white plates (Crate & Barrel that I got at Goodwill). 

I wanted some swanky dessert plates but didn't have any. Enter a leftover stash of white plastic dessert plates. They needed some bling bling, though...

I wanted to write something on the plate but wasn't sure how "health friendly" that gold pen would be underneath all the food. I decided to write it on the backside so you'd still see the word but it wouldn't be touching the food. 

Problem was...I didn't know how to write backwards. I used wax paper as my stencil & traced over it. It turned out great & was really easy. 

After I traced "Thanks", I used the gold pen & glammed up the edges. I feel like this is something JLo would be proud of, for some reason. Gold = Glam = Jenny from the Block...I don't know. Anyways...

Next, I had several mini pumpkins I had used to decorate for Halloween. 

They got an Edward-like makeover (you know from Twilight...my lover Mike always tells me that if you have to explain jokes, don't say them. But that would mean I'd never ever tell a joke the rest of my life...so sorry for my lack of funny. ;p). I spray painted them white with some leftover spray paint. 

Using my handy dandy gold pen, I colored the stems gold then I wrote different things I was thankful for  on each pumpkin. 

Family, Gods Love, Health, Husband, Friends, Home...& one more thing I'll share at the end. 

See those leaves around the pumpkin? I gathered those from our backyard & outlined them in gold...

Can you tell how tight my gold pen & I are getting? :p Just wait...

For the napking rings, I used twine I had left from the wedding & wrapped it several times around the napkin then tied it in a bow. We have GOBS of acorns around our yard so I picked up a satchel full & painted the belly part with my buddy, the gold pen. The whole time, I'm wondering what my neighbors are thinking...1) She's such a lazy butt...she goes & picks up a few leaves then lets her husband rake the rest 2) What is she picking up? (Enter husband of neighbor) Probably their dogs poo. But with her bare hands? Disgusting. 3) She seems so interested in leaves in her yard, why doesn't she plant something...like grass so our neighborhood looks better! (There's an actual story behind this...maybe I'll share later...I can see you nodding off so I'll stop. ;p)

I wanted to add a lot of candles but dress em up a bit. So I decided to do poor man's gold crackling on some extra glass tealights I had. 

I've seen tealight holders like this at West Elm & Z Gallerie. It was so fun to recreate them & not spend a dime! My buddy goldie (the pen) is permanent so I can use these for years.  

Let's see the Before one more time...

Plain Jane


Those white candleholders I got at Goodwill ages ago for $1 for both & have used them for all kinds of things. 

I also wanted to see what it would look like without the leaves. I added the leaves because I felt it needed some color but I think I'm really digging this classic look. 

What do you think?

Me & goldie glammed up some more acorns to add to the candlescape. 

If you're wondering about that pretty white cake stand...I got it from Wisteria back in the spring when it was on clearance. 

I love to look at our dining room table. It makes me smile & makes me think of all the things I'm truly grateful for. One of those things is...

I'm not just saying that. I really am. When I started this blog last New Years Eve, I knew I loved to plan parties on a budget but I never knew anyone would read this. ;p Your encouragement, comments, support (with the Better Homes & Garden contest) & just plain reading this thing...makes me smile bigger than a teenager getting to meet Justin Bieber. :-) Thank you!

I've got another post I'll post this week, then I have an awesome guest blogger for next week. So much fun stuff to come! Happy Thanksgiving! 

One Artsy Mama

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Pops

...I guess I could also label this "Strawberry Cheesecake Pops" because that's what they taste like but I just loved adorable little Strawberry Shortcake as a kid...and...I'm short...so anything that sounds cute with "short" in it....sign. me. up.

The idea for this came from a snack my mom used to make when I was a kid. She'd take a graham cracker & spread it with low fat/light strawberry cream cheese. Yummy in my tummy. It gave you just enough sweetness but not enough to spiral you into a sweet coma.

So...I decided to recreate that in the form of a "pop" since...

...that's what they're all doin these days & I'm totally game with jumpin off that bridge.

Here's what you need to gather - :-)

Graham Crackers
Strawberry Cream Cheese
White Chocolate Candy Melts or Bark
Lollipop Sticks (Sorry they didn't make it into the "shoot"...they're kinda divas & took too long with hair & makeup...ugh) ;p 

First you spread a generous amount on one graham cracker (as the picture demonstrates ;p).

Then place the lollipop stick in the center of the graham cracker. I added some more cream cheese on top of the stick as well. 

Marry the two like shown in the picture above & refrigerate or freeze. I put mine in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so & that worked perfectly. 

The next part comes illustration-free. :-( So sorry. I got so excited & my hands were all messy with the chocolate & I kept licking it & some got in my hair & so I just didn't end up reaching for my camera. But this part is easy. You can so do it & lets be honest...I make my illustrations/picture instructions easy like kindergarten level. Yes, this is a reflection of ME not YOU. So your intelligence can handle these next steps. 

~ Microwave chocolate according to the instructions on the bag in a glass measuring cup or deep bowl.
~ Take the strawberry cream cheese/graham pops & dip them in the chocolate. 

hint: I would dip them then rest the bottom (w/out the stick) on a spoon & let the excess chocolate drip off. 

~ Lay your dipped pops on wax paper & allow to dry. 

They are delicious! They really do taste like strawberry cheesecake dipped in white chocolate. This would be a great dessert for a little girls Strawberry Shortcake party or a baby shower. One of my taste testers (Jeff Carter) suggested freezing them. Yummo! 

Bonus - I added some pink sprinkles I had on hand. You could add all kinds of decorations - initials, graham cracker crumbs, etc. 

To keep the pops in place, I used floral foam I had got from Goodwill awhile back. The pink basket was in the dollar bin at Target (umm...I get so excited about that area! My man definitely tries to steer me away but he can't help the pull of fate. ;p). 

The white "fluff" is just white paper put through a shredder & "scrunched" (like you do when you're trying to get your hair to curl up). 

The breakdown -

Total amount spent = $9.00
Total time spent = 20 minutes (minus time in the freezer)
Total cakes made = Dozen 

$0.75 each cake