I love Bottega Louie's *Valentine's Day Window Display*. I am seriously crushin'. They make me want to move to LA. I hope they open up something on the east coast, then I might have a shot at visiting them. Their macarons look to die for (I might have to send myself a Valentine's Day gift).
*Heart Brownies* are a staple in my house and at almost any gathering I attend. They are easy to make and they are delicious--crunchy edges with soft, gooey centers. A priest once told me they were 'walk on water good'. I almost died at the compliment (hubby doesn't believe or likes to pretend he doesn't)! However, since I make them all the time they hardly seem special for Valentine's Day and I have to remind myself they are the perfect Valentine's Day sweet. Keep reading for my super secret recipe...
...which is not really secret at all. The key to making the perfect heart brownies is having a heart-shaped pan...this is a must and it's the only way to get brownies with crunchy edges and soft middles. I use this pan from Nordic Ware, in fact when making brownies I use three pans at once because I never make just one batch (each pan makes 6 heart brownies)--it may be somewhat of an investment, but totally worth it. The next key step is to spray the pan(s) with Pam Baking spray (or an equivalent baking spray), regular Pam will not keep the brownies from sticking to the pan so do not use it. Most boxed brownie mixes will yield good results, but the best mix I have found is Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate Brownie mix, which can be found in bulk at Costco. Follow the directions to mix up the batter and use a cookie dough scooper to fill up the hearts 1/2 - 2/3's full. One bag/box of mix usually makes 13-14 brownies. Then bake the brownies at 350 degrees (instead of prescribed 325) for 19 minutes (adjust time to your oven). Allow them to cool for 2 minutes in the pan before dumping them out on a cooling rack. I have found that the brownies taste better the next day as long as they are stored in an air tight container. Make sure you spray the pans in between batches to make sure the brownies don't stick.
This year I plan to pack up the brownies in cute heart-shaped containers I purchased from Target for Brooks' teachers. Last year I packed them in polka dot bakery boxes from Martha Stewart Crafts. I included a festive badge on top of the boxes which were made from cupcake wrappers and animals cut out from Paper Source wrapping paper (instructions found here).
Happy Baking & Happy Valentine's Day!
I previewed these new printable *Valentine's Day Cards* on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. I am finally finding some time to post them to the blog. These cards have a simple and clear message: 'Love You' and are perfect for anyone near and dear to you. You can download them in with all red hearts here OR with a mix of red and pink hearts here. There is blank space at the bottom of the cards to add a name or a short, sweet message. If you would like a personalized version then head over to my Etsy shop. Each file contains 6 cards and is best printed out on heavy card stock (110 lbs or thicker), which can be found at any office supply store.
Here's a picture of this year's Love You card hanging on the 'bulletin' board in my youngest's room along with mini-versions of some of our other Valentine's Day cards available for download.
Happy printing and cutting!
Last weekend we hosted a Goodbye Party for good friends moving to Rome. I had a lot of time to plan for the event, but I found little inspiration for goodbye parties...even Pinterest let me down. After nixing the toga party idea I was left at square one. I finally found some inspiration in a Minted Save the Date card for a destination wedding which depicted a suitcase and flag bunting. I created my own custom version of the image and added the bitter sweet line, 'Kiss me and Smile for me,' from John Denver's Leaving on a Jet Plane and was off to the races. From there I went with a heart theme and a color palette of dark blue, pink & gold.
My favorite detail was the background for the dessert bar. I followed Ruffle Blog's instructions to create a backdrop using crepe streamers. This did take some time to complete so I was happy that I started the project well in advance (I also planned to change out the pinks and reuse the backdrop for B's first birthday party, so the effort was well worth it). I floated the Kiss Me & Smile for Me poster over the backdrop and had another copy of the poster wrapped for the guests of honor to take with them. Other details included a tissue paper flower heart with a 'Washington to Rome' banner, which I hung above the favors (directions for the tissue heart found on Martha). For the favors I wrapped up twinkies and attached a heart-shaped note which read 'Sweet Returns'--the twinkies themselves being a symbol of renewed homecoming were the perfect favor. For the fare we decided to pair American and Italian foods (pigs-in-the-blanket/meatballs, pulled pork BBQ/chicken parm, mac & cheese/penne with red sauce, cupcakes/cannoli) along with salad and garlic bread. Large blooms of creamy hydrangea and hot pink crepe myrtle were straight from our backyard and provided some added color and cheer. In the largest arrangement we tucked another 'Washington to Rome' banner. For the dessert bar we had mini cupcakes from A Touch of Sweetness Bakery, homemade cookies, heart-shaped brownies and mini cannoli and a few other goodies.
Here are some of the pictures which were taken the day after the event and leading up to the event. Unfortunately I didn't manage to take any pictures the day of the party because I was so busy running around--can you believe it!?! The day-after pictures feature mini-angel food cakes made by my sister for a little birthday celebration we post-Goodbye Party. It was a fun and busy weekend!
Coming up with a fun Valentine's Day Card for my fifth graders was not easy. It was made extra challenging because their school did not allow anything edible with the cards. Candy makes any card cool, so without it we were stuck a square one. We were stuck there for a long time (even with Pinterest)! Finally I became inspired by Erin Jang's accordion fold Valentine's Day card. We added our own twist by including lines from Carly Rae Jepsen's ubiqutous hit, Call Me Maybe. Then I came up with the brilliant idea of including $1 scratch off lottery tickets with the cards. We were already using the 'Pennies and dimes' line and copper envelopes, so now we had a money theme going (sort of). I loved it, what kid wouldn't love getting a chance to win $1000 dollars!?! Soon after (luckily before I bought 60 scratch off lottery tickets) my brilliant idea got scratched, something about it being illegal to give minors lottery tickets...blah, blah, blah. We still moved forward with our *Call Me Maybe Valentine's Day* cards and I made little clay hearts to tie around our copper envelopes, but the cards were still lacking the favor element. The weekend before Valentine's Day I delayed having the boys and I assemble the cards because they were still incomplete. It wasn't till the Tuesday before v-day when we came up with the idea to include Frosty key tags from Wendy's. If you are unfamiliar with these babies, they will score you a FREE Jr. Frosty with ANY purchase every single time you go to Wendy’s, for the rest of the year. But wait there's more...Wendy's donates the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Finally our cards were complete!
In case you can't read the wording on the cards, here's what they said: 'I threw a wish in the well. Since you asked me, I'll tell. Pennies and Dimes. Happy Valentine's (initially they said, 'Will You Be My Valentine's', but the boys thought it was not gender neutral enough). P.S. Your dungarees are ripped and your epidermis is showing. Call Me Maybe.' We definitely took some poetic license with the original lyrics. Their classmates thought the cards were awesome, though most kids had no idea what dungarees were (kids these days).
You know when you find something you really like and want to tell everyone about it and you can't believe everyone else isn't already using it (like why isn't everyone watching Game of Thrones)!?! For me that something is Paper Culture. I love them: their products, their values (eco-friendly and cool) and their service. For the last 3 years my sister and I have both ordered our Christmas cards through them. And for the first time, I also ordered Valentine's Day Photo cards from them. I usually don't send out Valentine's Day cards to the family because I am so busy with C & J's Valentine's Day cards for their classmates. However, this year I took a picture of Baby B that begged for a card. Even though I am biased towards Paper Culture I kept an open mind and went Minted, Tiny Prints, Shutteryfly and Paper Culture to create the perfect card with my photo. I started out at Minted because they have great designs, but the final product was way too expensive (all the little add ons really added up: $13.75 for rounded corners, $13.75 to have the back of the card printed and $5 to get premium recycled paper, which totaled $79.50 for 15 cards!!!!) and I just couldn't get over the size of their cards (5x7 is just too big). Next I went to Tiny Prints, I had a 'spend $40 for $20' deal to use with them so I was all set to order, but I couldn't find any cards I loved plus I knew the quality would be slightly less than Paper Culture so I moved on. My trip to Shutterfly was brief, I figured if I could get a super good deal then I would sacrifice on the quality and design of the card, but that didn't happen. So my open-minded journey ended at Paper Culture (PC). I have to say I did not find a Valentine's Day card design at PC that suited my portrait-oriented picture and was ready to go with a Christmas design which I could convert to V-day until I remembered their free designer services (you get two free designer edits per card--you can even get the edits before you commit to ordering). I asked if they could convert a landscape design for my portrait picture, which they did (love them) and the rest is history. OK, here is where I go off on why I like PC so much...(1) rounded corners on every card are standard; (2) cards are the perfect size...4x6; (3) premium 130lb 100% post consumer recycled paper is standard; (4) card back designs are free; (5) two free designer edits for your card allows you to achieve the perfect card; (6) THEY PLANT A TREE WITH EVERY ORDER (plus, they use wind power to create their paper--who does that?!). Anyways, that's why I like them so much and I will certainly remind you around Christmas time. I want you to know that I have no affiliation with them or get any compensation from them, I just really like them. Next time you want the perfect card, check them out.
Here is my Valentine' Day card printed from Paper Culture...
And here is their original card design (before any of the designer edits were applied)...
In Baby Brooks' room we mounted a metal card holder to hold pictures and little mementos. It sat pretty barren with only a card (with his footprint) and a mini clay elephant mobile until Christmas, when I finally added our family Christmas card and some other festive goodies. Brooks and I both enjoyed gazing at it during feedings so I decided to give it a fresh Valentine's Day look. To start with I created a 'Be Mine' banner made from red glitter paper and then simply taped to some red and white bakers twine. Then I added some baby/mini versions of our previous Valentine's Day cards (the smaller versions looked so cute!) to the twine. Finally I added a few more hearts (including one made out of salt dough with Brooks' handprint) and a v-day elephant ribbon to create more cheer. I left a little room on the card holder in case we get some special Valentines.
Baby B is a big fan of the mini Valentine's day cards...they fit so nicely in his mouth hand.
Less than a month till Valentine's Day! This is the last year my older boys will be passing out Valentine's Day cards to their classmates (*sniff, sniff*) and I really do not know what to make for them. Since they are in 5th grade they are too cool for most of the Valentine's Day cutsie stuff and are not allowed to bring in any sweets or food. I need some serious inspiration! I turned to my V-day Pinterest board (ah, I love Pinterest) and though I feel more inspired, I am still at a loss. But just in case you need a little inspiration here are some pictures to get you in the mood...