My Favorite Party Dip

I love Artichoke Dip,
so I serve this when ever I can...It is always a big hit.
1 bar cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise (do NOT use "Miracle Whip"!)
2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 can artichoke heart, drained and roughly chopped
A Lot of Parmesan Cheese, fresh grated is always better (to taste...I use about 3/4 to 1 cup)
Baguettes, sliced, for serving
***Mix all ingredients, bake in a 9x9" pan at 350 until bubbly, serve warm.


The Best Birthday Treats To Bring To School...

Don't you love when you pick up your kids from school and they are covered in neon blue (or pink) frosting?
The solution:
Cake Pops!
They take a little extra work to make, but they are well worth it, and packaged individually they make the perfect non-messy birthday treats to bring to school.
(Plus the teachers think you are awesome) :)
For cake pop how-to and more ideas go to:


My 30th...The Decorations

I like simple decorations, that don't cost a lot...here is what I came up with...
this was a casual "buffet style" meal. Here is what I used to make 1 wide runner, 1 accent runner, 1 small table cloth, 10 cocktail size napkins, 3 floral arrangements, & assorted candle holders...

2 1/2 yds natural "linen" look fabric
1 1/2 yds. floral fabric
1 ball dark chocolate brown hemp twine
1/2 pint quilted jelly jars
1/4 pint quilted jelly jars
tea lights
2 bunches mini roses
1 re-purposed curtain
printer & paper
3 sheets scrapbooking paper
"Crop-a-dile" scrapbooking tool
scalloped scissors
I used trays, flat wear, plates and cups that I already had

My mom inspired these candle holders...well she gave me the idea :)

I used quilted jelly jars, you can find these anywhere they sell canning supplies, they are really inexpensive and easy to find, and brown hemp twine.

All you do is wrap the twine around as many times as it takes to cover the tread where the lid screws on, then tie a not and trim the ends, add a tea light and your done. I also used three of these to put the roses in.

I am not a flower arranger... So I just divided two bunches of mini roses among the three containers cut them to a good length, and plopped them in, that is about it.

I decided it would be nice to have real napkins, that I can use again and I am not paying to throw away. They were very simple to make. These are cocktail size napkins.

1.measure 9 1/2 inch squares out of each fabric.

2.Put the right sides together and stitch them (I used the width of the foot as the seam allowance) on three sides.

3.Turn the napkin right side out and press, also press the open side to have the same seam allowance as the sewn sides.

4.Top stitch all around...I did twice, the same seam allowance, once with the needle to the left, and once with the needle to the right.

The table runner was extremely easy...I measured how large I wanted it (this depends on your table size), tore it, which makes a straight line with out having to use a cutting wheel + I wanted the rough edges. I didn't hem it, just sewed a border with green thread, all the way to each edge.

I wanted some accent color, so I decided to to use the floral left over from the napkins. I didn't have enough to make the runner as long as I wanted, and I didn't want a seam just in the middle so I measured half of the length of the runner, then cut each half in half again, so there were 4 panels. I sewed each of them together, pressed the seams, and top-stitched each side of each seam, in the same green. Then hemmed the entire runner.

I couldn't keep the labels on the Italian Syrups and Club soda how they were (they were just not pretty), so I covered them. I left the labels on the syrups (for later use), under my decorative label. (see the picture below for a reference)

1. print out the flavors of the syrups on regular printer paper in a color & nice font (I used "Jane Austen".
2. Trim decorative paper to the appropriate size to cover label, and wrap around the bottle.
3. Use a tape runner, or double sided tape to affix the decorative paper.
4. Trim the flavor label to the right size to wrap around the bottle, I left a large border of the decorative paper showing.
5. Cut the top edge of the flavor label with the scallop scissors and punch each scallop with the "Crop-a-dile" (I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn't take a long time and looks super cute.)
6. Tape on the flavor label.
7. Wrap the hemp twine two times around the bottle and knot, trim the excess.

I also removed the labels from the club soda and wrapped them with a thin, plain textured cardstock in yellow.

For the small table, in the living room with the cheese tray, I purposed a curtain I was no longer using. I simply cut it to the right side, and hemmed the side I cut. Then just added 3 more candle holders.

I hope you found something you like...give it a try...I had a lot of fun planning it.

My 30th...The Recipes


Cheese Tray
Prosciutto & Gouda Finger Sandwiches (Grown Up Ham & Cheese Sandwiches)
Mini Portobello & Pesto Calzones
Antipasto Skewers
Balsamic Chicken Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola
10-Layer Cake
Make Your Own Italian Creme Sodas

Cheese Tray:

Find an assortment of Cheeses, breads and crackers that you like. I used:
Baked Ricotta with Garlic Ciabatta
Marinated Mozzarella
Rosemary and Salt Focaccia Sticks
Sliced Baguette

Italian Creme Sodas:
Italian Syrups, I used Raspberry, Strawberry, Caramel, Vanilla, Hazelnut, and White Chocolate
Half & Half
Club Soda

I used Torani brand syrups (found in most grocery stores in the coffee section). The basic recipe is 2-4 tablespoons syrup, 2-4 tablespoons half & half, ice and club soda. Really it is to taste, If you don't like the taste of club soda, add more syrup. The half & half is optional. Encourage everyone to mix flavors.

Portobello & Pesto Mini Calzones
extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
2 pkg. frozen pizza dough, thawed (or make you own)
1- 8oz pkg. baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed & sliced
1 small jar basil pesto
fresh grated Parmesan
grated mozzarella
In a saute pan, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add onions and garlic, saute for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms, crushed red pepper, kosher salt, and pepper, cook until tender. Set aside.

On a floured board roll out pizza dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 3 1/2-inch rounds. Top 1 half of each round with a scant tsp. pesto, some mushrooms, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Fold over dough and seal (to form a half-moon), I used my Pampered Chef "Cut and Seal", but a fork works just as easily. Prick with a fork 2 times on the top to release steam, brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 until golden brown.

Balsamic Chicken Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola
1 pkg chicken tenders
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 small onion finely diced
salt and pepper
Spring mix lettuce
balsamic salad spritzer
Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1 Bartlett pear(I used a harp peeler, you can just chop it up)

First mix together 1 part balsamic vinegar to 2 parts olive oil (eyeball it). Whisk together until it emulsifies (becomes one liquid), stir in garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Add chicken turn to coat, cover and refrigerate about 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Remove chicken from refrigerator, roast until cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, place lettuce in a bowl, add pears and spritz with salad dressing, toss. Tear or chop chicken and place on top of salad. Top with Gorgonzola cheese to taste.

The recipes for the Grown up Ham and Cheese Finger Sandwiches and Antipasto Skewers are courtesy of the Food Network, they can be found at:

The recipe for the 10 layer cake I found at Bakerella.blogspot.com (her's was 14)...here is the link..

Enjoy all the recipes!

My 30th...Timeline

After shopping for all the needs for the party (food & decorations), I plan my time line. It went something like this (of course I did go a little off schedule-I have 3 kids & my husband is away)...always give yourself a little extra time...
*Shop for cloth, non perishable food
*Basic cleaning, have the house ready
*Shop for flowers & perishables
(I always like to have a second shopping trip...
I usually forget at least one thing the first time)
*Arrange flowers
* Cover Italian Syrup & Club Soda Bottles
*Lay out table (make sure you like everything, before you start sewing & final prep)
*Make candle holders
* Bake layers for cake
* Sew table runners & napkins
* Arrange Furniture
* Set Table
*Last minute straitening
*Assemble & frost the cake
(I started cooking about 3 hours before party time)
I generally cook parts of each dish, then assemble them as close as possible to party time)
1. Saute mushrooms, set aside
2. Assemble Skewers, except sausage, set aside
3. Pickle onions, set aside
4. Cut sausage, brown on each side, move to crock pot to finish cooking.
5. Cut and toast bread for finger sandwiches
6. Marinate Chicken, refrigerate
7. Assemble finger sandwiches, refrigerate
8. Bake Chicken, set aside
9. Assemble Cheese Tray
10. Assemble Calzones, bake
11. Assemble Salad
12. Finish Assembling Skewers
13. Put food & Ice out as guests arrive.


Ball Birthday

My youngest son loved balls (it was his first word, it was all he played with) so it was easy to come up with a ball birthday party for his 1st. This was a large party (all our family & friends were invited, as with all our 1st birthday parties).

The Decorations:
I found every ball I could... I bought a bag of play balls (the ones that go in ball pits) at Toys R Us and filled a clear bucket for the centerpiece. Then basically put balls wherever I could. I got kick ball- size playground balls at the dollar store that doubled as decorations and favors (this was a huge party...my husband's family is very large...there were a lot of balls around).
I found the "paper lanterns" at a party store, they actually had graduation caps hanging off of them (which I cut off) and no colorful ribbons to hang them from (which I added), don't be afraid to alter something to make it work for you. His banner was just letters I printed out on the computer, cut out, matted with colorful paper, and strung together with paper ribbon.
The Cake:
This cake I actually didn't bake, just decorated. I ordered a pre-made cake from Sam's Club, and had them just frost it white, smooth, with no borders (I think they thought I was a little crazy). This made it really easy to just add the bouncing balls and dash marks (thanks to Martha Stewart for this design) and it tasted great.
The Menu:
We don't do meals for big parties, so we plan it for mid-afternoon and serve snacks. This party was very laid back.

Veggies & Dip
Cowboy Caviar & Tortilla Chips
Lil' Smokies in a blanket & Barbecue Sauce
Fruit & Cream Cheese Dip
Ice Cream & Cake

Baseball Birthday

This was our first "sit down" birthday party. It was for my oldest son's 5th birthday...he was able to invite 7 of his closest friends and they all had a great time...there was a lot of laughter.

I was inspired by these baseball Easter eggs that I found on clearance. I "signed an autograph" of the kids' name on each & filled them with candy, these doubled as place markers and favors.

For the table I made pennants out of stiff felt. First I cut elongated triangles out of the felt, used ribbon to trim one edge and make ties. Next I printed out Happy 5th Birthday, Play Ball, and Home Run in "Team Spirit" font in appropriate sizes on the computer, and traced the words onto the felt; use a light box (or your window), then I colored them in with markers. I tied them to dowels and stuck them in a bucket of sand...super easy!

I set the table with matching plates and cups and baseball printed table cloth, and of course, cracker jacks.

We also had the usual streamers and balloons, and a giant blow-up baseball for everyone to play with later.

For a fun activity the kids decorated fun foam visors with foam stickers in sports designs.
Fun. Easy. Inexpensive.

The Menu:
(typical ball park food)
Hot dogs
Jello salad (just because my son likes it)
Cracker jacks
Ice Cream & Cake

The Cake:

The cake was super easy...I baked a cake in a glass bowl, turned it out and froze it (to make it easier to frost) Then simply decorated it to look like a baseball, white with red gel icing stitches (if I did it again I would use regular frosting for the stitches...I don't like the gel too much). I died shredded coconut green (for the grass) and placed the cake on it.
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