Sparkles & Spirits – a wine tasting and jewelry party

Over the summer I hosted a fun girls' night out wine tasting and jewelry party. Karen, a friend of mine from back east, is a rep for Traveling Vineyard – they send you five bottles of wine, along with recommended food pairings. You have the wine and food ready to go, and your wine guide will walk your guests through the tasting, explaining the characteristics of the different wines and how the food pairs with them. In my case, my wine guide was over 2000 miles away, but she did the tasting over speakerphone and it was fabulous! Karen and I were a little unsure of how the long-distance tasting would go, but it was surprisingly easy to do. It helped that Karen is very good at what she does and made it fun for all of the guests!

I paired the wine tasting with a Chloe + Isabel pop-up shop. I set up a display of jewelry so my guests could shop, snack, and sip – not a bad way to spend an evening. I had fun creating little printable Chloe + Isabel-themed wine glass tags and setting up the table with wine and food pairings - thanks, as always to Pinterest for the inspiration. 

If you're interested in hosting a Traveling Vineyard wine tasting, contact Karen – I promise you and your guests will have a wonderful time! And if you'd like to host a Chloe+Isabel pop-up shop of your own, either locally or long-distance, email me and we'll get the ball rolling! You can earn tons of free jewelry just in time for the holiday season. 

best pumpkin cookie recipe

best pumpkin cookie recipe

It may not feel like fall in Arizona, but I'm so tired of summer weather that I'm not waiting any longer. We dusted off the fall decorations today and my house is sporting some pumpkins and (fake) fall leaves. It's time to make my favorite pumpkin cookies - check out this old post for the details!

Fairy birthday party

One of my favorite birthday party themes that we've done for my daughter is her fairy party. I designed a cute fairy invitation, with a pink watercolor background and silhouettes: 

For the cake, I bought the delicious chocolate round cake from Costco and just spruced it up with a bunch of sprinkles and a topper I designed to coordinate with the theme. We placed it on a dessert table decorated with a banner and tissue paper pom-poms. I purchased fairy wings, tutus, and wands for the girls to wear at the party and take home as favors (comment below if you want the source - great prices!). It was fun, cute, and a great memory for my daughter!

fairy themed little girl's birthday party

First Communion Invitation and Party

It's a busy time of year for my Etsy shop - I always do a lot of invitations and party printables for people celebrating their children's First Communion. Check out the invitation and party I did for my own son's First Communion last year. I went with a simple, clean gray design for the invitation:

And for the party, a table setup including wheat and grapes (a little Catholic symbolism there) and a fabulous cake by Lucy at Pretty Sweet Desserts (chocolate and salted caramel buttercream!) that she designed to coordinate with the theme:

We had a barbecue lunch catered and invited close family and friends - a perfect way to celebrate Luke's special day!

best pumpkin cookies ever!

My friend Stephanie sent me a recipe for some fabulous pumpkin cookies. I am not a good baker (I've mentioned that before), but every now and then I luck out. Like a good girl, I followed the recipe carefully this time (I prefer to wing it, which is probably why my baking doesn't usually come out so great). It was easy and they came out really good  —  a nice, soft consistency with good cinnamony pumpkiny flavor. Here they are, swimming in their icing (I added extra cinnamon to the glaze....you can never have too much cinnamon, right?):

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In an effort to keep myself from eating them all, I packaged some up in little cellophane bags, tied them with a ribbon, and added a cute sticker I made for each of the kids' teachers. I'm sending them to school tomorrow as a random treat. I know in my teaching days, I wouldn't have minded a little mid-week surprise, especially if it involved baked goods.

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Luke said, "Mom, I think it's nice we're bringing these for my teachers. They've been working really hard."

Here's the link to the recipe: Iced Pumpkin Cookies

I'm adding this to Kimba's DIY Day and Works for Me Wednesday!

brunch

I had a long-overdue little get-together with some of my friends today. Now that the kids are in school, I thought I'd have all kinds of free time on my hands to get errands run, see friends for coffee, and clean my house. Not to mention work. I don't know where the time is going, but those things aren't happening quite as easily as I expected. So last week I decided it was time and sent out an Evite to a group of girlfriends, most of whom have kids around Luke and Maggie's age. It's very weird that we can have a kid-less gathering now.

I served a ham and cheese strata, which is a super-easy breakfast casserole made with bread, eggs, a little milk, ham, & cheese. There are dozens of variations you can make; I have often made it with chorizo, black beans, cheddar, and salsa for a southwestern version. I also made an easy pumpkin coffee cake, and the girls brought stuff to share.

fw200309_115strataphoto from foodandwine.com; click for recipe!

It was such a nice way to spend a morning. I recently stumbled across the blog 4 Reluctant Entertainers, and I highly recommend that you drop in! Lots of good tips to encourage you to open up your home and spend some time with friends. I love to entertain, but I find I often let life and busy-ness get in the way.

Have you hosted any get-togethers recently? I want to hear about them!

school lunches

Have you heard of the now-famous bento box preschool lunches? 2595743954_dc1a75533e

Wendy Copley's blog, wendolonia, features some various categories, but the amazing bento lunches that she prepares for her son are the main attraction over there. The adorable arrangements look so creative and so much more nutritious than my kids' lunches....they make me vow that this year it will be different. This is Luke's first year of all-day school, so previously he only needed a snack, but I always tended to overpack since I was unsure of what he would eat. Maybe if I step up the presentation (photo-worthy kiddie lunches!? sheesh!) I'll have better luck with him. I speak from experience when I say that a half-squished pb&j in a rumpled baggie is not the most enticing thing after a rough morning of reading and math (thanks, mom!).

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It's hard to believe that school starts next week, and that my little boy will be a kindergartner! What do you do to make back-to-school go smoothly? Lunch ideas? Routine ideas? I want to get off to a good start!

photos from wendolonia