Serving of pumpkin cake with cinnamon frosting and icing leaf

Thanksgiving fun

We love to try new recipes, so a ‘foodie’ day like Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity.  I am sharing a recipe I created for Pumpkin Butter Cake with Cinnamon Frosting, and including a free printable of a Thanksgiving Treat Topper. Also some links to amazing turkey and fruit dip recipes.

 

The pièce de résistance was this gorgeous turkey! It was extrememly moist, and surprisingly didn’t taste like bacon at all (unless you ate the bacon off the top. Which we totally did. Because well, it’s BACON!!).  We decorated it with fresh oregano, which is my favorite herb. Grow some — it will take your cooking to a whole new level!

roasted turkey with a bacon weave

Another big hit was the Pumpkin Pie Dip.  [Note to self: photocopy the recipe ahead of time because you will get many requests for it!]

 

The food labels and these wine tags are from my Thanksgiving collection. I chose the Autumn Leaves background (there are 3 backgrounds available).

wine glass with custom tag attached

Instead of Pumpkin Pie (which is too mushy for my taste), I decided to create my own recipe for a pumpkin-pie-like cake. I am not a fan of pie crust – I know lots of people are, but it isn’t my favorite – so I used a cake mix and made it more like a cookie crust. I made them 3 ways: small Fall-shaped cupcakes (using a silicone pan), jumbo cupcakes, and a cake. All 3 varieties were yummy! Not that I tried them all.
OK maybe I did.  🙂

I topped them with leaf-shaped icing decorations from Wilton, but the undecorated ones were equally delicious. I flipped the leaf-shaped one over so you could see the crust.

4 pumpkin-shaped cupcakes with cinnamon topping & Wilton colorful icing leaves

I wanted to make these adorable edible acorns (made with Hershey’s Kisses, mini Nilla wafers and mini chocolate chips) but didn’t feel like just putting them into a bowl. So I made them into favors, and created a favor topper to match. The wording was inspired by the acorn contents. {You can get the treat topper printable free on my Freebies page or via the link at the end of this post}

Here is a close-up of the treat topper, in case you can’t read it in the photo. It says, “Plant seeds of Thanks & Giving… always”.

Resources:

Bacon-Blanketed, Herb-Roasted Turkey recipe from The Runaway Spoon
Autumn Leaves Food Labels from my Etsy shop
Pumpkin Pie Dip recipe from Tablespoon.com
Pumpkin bowl from Pier1 (Fall 2011 seasonal item)
Pumpkin Butter Cake with Cinnamon Frosting recipe here (adapted from Paula Deen’s ‘Gooey Pumpkin Cake’ recipe)
Thanksgiving Treat Topper printable here

My sister Rochelle can’t resist the Pumpkin Dip…

Woman eating pumpkin pie dip

Candy turkey placecard holder with Fall placecard attached

Thanksgiving Printables

If ever there was an occasion for a beautiful and coordinated TABLESCAPE, it’s Thanksgiving!

Never fear! I have several different place cards available in my Etsy shop, and they come with coordinating buffet labels.

Here is a food tent / label, with the ‘Mixed Leaves’ print. There is also a damask background and a striped one.  Some of the labels are pre-filled with common Turkey Day foods, and some are blank for you to write on or type on in your paint or graphics-type program.

Food tent labeled Mashed Potatoes on a Fall table

Below is a name placecard with the Damask background. There are two wording options: “So blessed that John is here,” and, “So thankful that John is here.”

Table setting with edible turkey placecard holder

3 sets of Thanksgiving placecards

 

We also made a few other fun Thanksgiving foods…

Honeydew melon with skewered fruit that looks like a turkey  kids thanksgiving table

I made Turkey favors for our guests out of Moon Pies, and my 5-year-old wanted to make one, too. Although he had a very different interpretation of ‘turkey’. Based on his dinosaur face (maybe you don’t recognize it, but a Mother knows these things), I’m guessing he was making a dino with two big teeth. LOL!

2 different moon pie turkeys

Food label on a Fall table

Now the only issue is, which of the beautiful centerpieces on Pinterest to use on the big day?!

  • Turkey Moon Pie adapted from La*T*Da
  • Turkey melon idea from Family Fun Magazine
  • Directions for the Popcorn-stuffed paper bag turkey (on kids table) here
  • Can’t remember where I got the Candy Turkey idea from, but they are pretty self-explanatory.  I turned them into placecard holders by taping a toothpick to the back of the name tag, and sticking that inside the Oreo filling.  Low-tech but the kids were thrilled when they walked in and saw their table.  🙂

 

paper box with 25 small drawers, covered in Halloween paper

Halloween Advent { Countdown Calendar }

In our house, advent calendars apply all year round. In other words, we count down to everything! I started doing it when my oldest was 4, just to give him some reading practice. Every holiday has a completely different style of countdown calendar; so no two look alike.  Typically I put in a joke or factoid for each day, plus a small treat or fun activity. Sometimes I use puzzle pieces, or scavenger hunt clues, tiny toys, etc (the drawers are 1 1/2″ square).

For Halloween, we use this 25-drawer box; therefore we have to start the countdown on day 7. (Unfortunately it stays hot here until long after October 1st, so I usually don’t think to unpack the Fall stuff until the second week of October anyway).

 

paper box with 25 small drawers, covered in Halloween paper

And here is my 6 year old, reading his joke. I put in one joke per kid in each drawer, and one treat per person (in this drawer it was a single candy corn).

The added benefit is that it is helping him understand humor, puns, plays on words, etc. He re-tells the jokes to his dad, his friends, the neighbors, and strangers in the supermarket.

A young boy reading a piece of paper with a Halloween joke on it

And this last one I call, “Because he’s six. And a goofball…!!”

Child using candy corn as vampire fangs

I have also been thinking of using one of these (with generic decorations) as a chore rewarder. Finish your chores (or pick up an extra one) and you get to pick a drawer. Turn the drawers around once they’re empty, until you refill them.

PS
The drawers are called a ‘3-D Countdown Calendar’, and you can find out where to buy them locally (for $16-20) here (click on ‘Store Locator’ in the upper right corner).  If you can’t find them in local stores, you can buy them from Amazon for $22. They are white, and you then cover them with appropriate scrapbook paper (if you have a 1/2″ circle punch, it will be your BFF on this project).

By the way, because there are 25 drawers, these work great for actual Christmas Advent calendars! I use a Christmas advent that my mother sewed when I was little, so I didn’t need one for that holiday.  But there are examples all over of how to decorate it for Christmas, for instance, here, and here.

Hotdog wrapped in biscuit dough like a mummy

Fun Fall Foods

We have been finding some great Fall ideas on Pinterest, so I decided to share a few!

Mummy Dogs (recipe via Family Fun)

Hotdog wrapped in biscuit dough like a mummy

 

Jack-o-Lantern Quesadillas (idea came from here)

 

and… (wait for it…)

Frankenpizza!

Mine was nowhere near as cute as the original from Munchkin Munchies, but I let the kids design it, and they thought it tasted great.

Pizza that looks like a monster

And we went the super lazy route and just cut a Boboli premade crust into a rectangle. Quick and yummy!

PS
I’m not sure why my older son feels the need to make a ‘dinosaur face’ in every photo, but it’s a lot less scary since he lost all four front teeth! LOL!

Feel free to share your Halloween fun!

 

{FREEBIE} Boo’d Signs!

Well everyone loves being Boo’d, but no one loves having to make a color copy, so here is one you can print in black and white!  PLUS, the Boo’d sign and the instructions are all on one page, so you only need to make one copy per recipient.

Download the “We’ve Been Boo’d” sign here
or the Office version here
And spread some Halloween cheer!

Look for a post in the next few days, detailing what I included in my Boo Bags!

In the meantime, check out the plethora of Halloween craft, costume and food ideas on my Halloween Pinterest board.

 

 

{Real Party} Sunflowers & Burlap

This Sunflower collection was inspired by my amazing mother, because she grew up in Kansas and has an August birthday, so whenever I see sunflowers, I think of her.

We held this party in the Fall, which was perfect timing because sunflowers were everywhere in the stores. But you could also stock up on end of season clearance items and hold the party whenever you’re in a floral mood.  🙂  I had been planning on using burlap for a while, because the natural feel of it just seemed suited for a party evoking nature themes.

This collection can be used for bridal showers, baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries or weddings.   In this case, it was used for my assistant’s sweet daughter Gianna, who was celebrating her 7th birthday.


I used one of the 4″ medallions from my Sunflower collection on the wreath that we hung on the front door.

wreath with sunflowers and HAPPY BIRTHDAY medallion

Several of the Sunflower items in action:

– Party Circles used as cupcake toppers,
– Drink Labels on the water bottles
– 4″ Medallion on the drink dispenser
– Food Labels on the apothecary jars and in front of the cupcakes
– 8×10″ Frameable in the picture frame, with a photo of the birthday girl added

Sunflower printables on cupcakes, water bottles and framed prints

We embellished the banner with some sunflower stickers from Martha Stewart. They matched perfectly!

Sunflower banner on a burlap tablecloth on party table

This is another 4″ Medallion, attached to the silverware dispenser.

4 inch sunflower printable on a silverware dispenser

These Sunflower brownie pops were so fun!

close-up of brownie pop fashioned to look like a sunflower

 

This Caramel Apple Dessert Dip was amazing! And so easy to make!

 

apples and dip in the shape of a sunflower with a food label
This fun cheese and grape plate continued the sunflower theme:
Sunflower cheese and grape plate

A few other fun table shots:
4 inch medallion on a drink dispenser

sunflower Bottle wraps on water bottles

Food labels on apothecary jars

 

The favors were sunflower seeds (some to eat and some to plant) and a sunflower chocolate lollipop.
Martha Stewart sunflower seed packet in tulle

 

I used the cupcake toppers as a favor tag (attached to the tulle) and favor embellishment (stuck to the sunflower chocolate lollipop). They are so versatile!

Doesn’t the birthday girl look adorable? Her mom and I laughed about the fact that we met at Gianna’s 6th birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza last year. Who knew back then that she’d be having her next birthday at my house?!

girl wearing applique sunflower shirt and sunflower tutu

I think the birthday girl was happy with the party, and so was I!

See more Sunflower party ideas on my Pinterest board!

{PARTY PARTNERS}

Handmade cake plates from Bee In Our Bonnet
Sunflower tutu by Tutu Girlz
Sunflower applique shirt by Three Lindys
Burlap wreath by Ginger Bloom Gifts
Sunflower wreath from Today’s Patio (AZ only) but similar items are available on Etsy
Sunflower plate by Sur le Table
Caramel Apple Dip recipe from Fake It Frugal
Sunflower Brownie Pops recipe from Munchkin Munchies
Sunflower chocolate lollipop from Safeway, but are much more affordable here
Sunflower garden seeds by Martha Stewart
Photography by Amanda Saccuci at Rule of Faith Photography
Sunflower party printables by Renees Soirees

 

This party has been featured on:

Tip Junkie

DIY Party Ideas

Hostess With The Mostess

 

 Catch My Party
Catch My Party

Free Counter

{New Collection} BALLOON PARTY !

This balloon collection was inspired by my toddler, who LOVES balloons and thinks they are called BOW-loons. So I knew that his 2nd birthday just had to be full of BOW-loons and bright, primary colors. I hope you enjoy some photos of Deac0n’s recent Balloon Party!

I printed up the invitations as a regular color copy, in 4×6″ size. Any bigger than that and you will have a hard time finding a balloon long enough to hold it. I rolled the invite tightly, taped it, and had someone hold the mouth of the balloon open a bit while I slid it in. Then I added some confetti and blew up the balloon. I attached a tag that said, “POP ME!” so the kids could get excited about the party.

Balloon with rolled up invitation inside

Guests were greeted by a path lined with balloons increasing in height, so as to build anticipation!

Front door with balloons leading up to it

Then came the colorful balloon wreath, created by my assistant, who was handed several bags of balloons and an 18″ wreath, and given only this instruction: “Make it purdy…” I love the outcome, and I think it really made the 4″ medallion from my collection POP! (No pun intended!)

Balloon-covered wreath on a front door

We decided to give the decorations ‘height’, just because it was a Balloon party. So we utilized the balcony (which my kids call the ‘Rapunzel Room’).

Balcony decorated with a balloon wall and streamers below

This is the ‘dessert table’, which actually had veggies on it too, in my [feeble] attempt to balance cupcakes with crudites. 🙂

Balloon dessert table with banner, streamers, cake pops etc

The cupcake toppers, which also made an appearance in several other places…

Cupcakes with 2 inch cupcake toppers inserted

Who says Cupcake Toppers are just for cupcakes?!

Crudites with cupcake toppers

These adorable balloon-shaped cake pops made the kids positively wide-eyed!

cake pops in primary colors in the shape of balloons

The balloon-shaped Fruit Pizzas were my idea. What do you think? Hit or miss?

3 plates with balloon-shaped cookie dough fruit pizza

And this may have been my favorite part of the whole party… I handed my assistant a bag of Babybel cheeses and asked her to make them look like balloons. ADORABLE! And a great way to get some healthier foods into the mix.

Babybel red cheese rounds made to look like a bouque of balloons

My Aussie mates know that no kids party is complete without FAIRY BREAD! But I decided to pinwheel them to give them a balloon look. For non-Aussie readers, Fairy Bread is very easy to make, and very popular with the Tin Lids (aka KIDS).

a tray with rolled-up Fairy Bread on toothpicks, pinwheel style

And here are the favors… the kids got a box with a water balloon kit, a helium balloon tied to it, and a Rice Krispie balloon pop. I attached the Favor Tags included in this collection to the box with a balloon sticker from Creative Memories.

3 party boxes with a balloon attached and a label that says THANKS FOR POPPING BY

A tag with a balloon photo that says THANKS FOR POPPING BY

 

And these were the cookie favors I gave out:

Sugar cookies made to look like balloons, on a stick. By Renee's Soirees

They were super easy and inexpensive. I got pre-made sugar cookie dough, and rolled it into balls and flattened them a bit. Then after they came out of the over, I stuck a popsicle stick inside (and later lollipop sticks, although they didn’t work as well on a heavy cookie). Then I frosted them in bright colors (I bought cans of white buttercream frosting and tinted them with food coloring).  Then I wrapped them and added the favor tags. Easy!

 

water bottles with Balloon-themed labels on them

I think the birthday boy had a great time! He squealed over every balloon he saw, even the one on his shirt. 🙂Birthday child in applique shirt with a balloon

Here is the invitation, it can be personalized with or without a photo.

Printable Birthday Invitation with balloons

And here are the coordinating items:

I could see this collection being adapted for many different functions: a Welcome Home party, graduation, or pretty much any occasion where balloons would be welcome (and for me, that means ALL occasions. LOL).

See my Balloon Pinterest board for more ideas!

Party Partners!

Balloon Invitation and Printable Accessories by Renees Soirees
Photos by Rule of Faith Photography, Phoenix, Arizona
Birthday Boy applique shirt by Absolutely Handmade
Balloon Cake Pops by Mind Over Batter, Tempe, Arizona
Red basket (for veggies) from Sur la Table – now on clearance for 75% less than I paid!
Red round serving tray from Sur la Table
Balloon favor boxes – Walmart party section

 

Cake pops shaped lke Bumble Bees

Bumble Bee Baby Shower

I hosted this shower for two moms-to-be, who were expecting different gender babies. I decided to leave the traditional pinks and blues behind, and go for a yellow and black theme. I call it, “Welcome Ba-Bee!” This theme would also work for a birthday party, bridal shower, etc. (Various banners and invitation wording available in my shop).

8x10 bee prints on front door

Buffet table with banner, balloons, bee-themed decorations

Putting together yellow and black foods, and honey-themed items for the buffet was so much fun!

Photo of yellow and black buffet food

Big sis in a coordinating shirt from the Gymboree Bee Chic line.

Girl-wearing-Gymboree-shirt-with-bees

I’m always amazed at how many comments I get about water bottle labels at my parties. It is a detail that I don’t think many people have seen, and guests will invariably pick up a bottle and say, “NO. WAY. This is so cool!”  I’ll let you in on a little secret though… they are the easiest part of the party!  I print them on regular paper, do a few quick cuts on the paper cutter, and attach them with a bit of tape. Voila! Quick party glam.

These bumble bee pops elicited squeals of glee from both children and adults. They were not only adorable, they tasted amazing!

Cake pops shaped lke Bumble Bees

I made these cake shooters with a slight twist… I used brownie bites and cheesecake that I made and then cut into circles (using the push pop container as a ‘cookie cutter’. Then I added a touch of chocolate frosting. YUMMO!

And here is the entire collection, as available in my shop!

bumble bee printables from Renees Soirees

   Soiree Sweeties (Vendors):

Bee Cake Pops by Gourmet Cakes and More (located in the Phoenix metro area)
Bee Party Printables by Renee’s Soirees
Stoneware Flower Utensil Holder (holding push pops) & Bee coffee mug from Pier1
Push Pop containers from Etsy
Bee shirt from Gymboree

To Gift or Not To Gift? That is the question…

What do you do when you receive an invitation that requests no gift for the birthday child? Comply and risk being the only person who arrives sans gift? Or bring one and face the ire of parents who wonder why no one can follow directions anymore?

Do you request no gifts when you throw a party?  A friend gave me her perspective during an email conversation (remember those? They fell somewhere post-verbal, but pre-text).  She said:

“I think any kid in a middle or upper-middle class neighborhood probably has more toys than they need as it is. Or in less well-0ff areas, well it could be a financial hardship to expect friends to bring gifts. So either way, I think it’s just tacky to not ask your guests to refrain from bringing a gift. But you have to be firm about it. Say something like, ‘Our Grace has a room bursting with toys and clothes, so please bring only your smiling face!’ That has worked for me.”

I tend to agree that most children in western nations could use a lesson in living simply. I have tried various techniques, with varying degrees of success. For my oldest child’s first birthday, I put, “Your presence is your present!” on the invitation. Most guests brought gifts anyway.

If you are looking for an approach with better success rates, here are a few ideas:

White box with pink bow and a Princess embellishment** Ask friends to bring a bag of cat or dog food, and have your child make a welcome donation to a local no-kill animal shelter.

** Ask for unwrapped gifts that will be donated to a toy drive or child crisis center. Or wrapped items that fulfill an Adopt-A-Family wishlist. This works great for a November or December party, when gift drives are very active.  If you think your child will be tempted by the site of all the new toys, request they be for the opposite gender from your child’s (request girl toys for your son’s party, for example).  Call around until you find a shelter that will allow a tour when your child arrives, or at least a peek at how some families live. Seeing the small bunk and few stuffed animals that are the sole possession of a child in a long-term shelter will make it easier for your child to part with the toys, and will really drive the ‘giving’ message home.

** I would never deprive a family member, especially a grandparent, from the pleasure of surprising their grandchild for their birthday. But you can limit the focus on consumerism by asking others for gifts of time. Trips to the zoo, a bike ride and picnic, an art lesson or lunch date will be remembered much longer than the latest toy or cute outfit. Continue reading

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Party Printables for a Memorable Event!