A Halloween Inspiration Table and your new favorite candy

ALLERGEN STATEMENT: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS NUTS. REALLY, REALLY TASTY BUTTER CRUNCH CANDY WITH NUTS

Are any of you surprised to see a post about a candy with nuts on here? I kind of am. But obviously you have never tried P.O.P. Candy Butter Crunch Treats. P.O.P Candy Butter Crunch is made in Santa Monica and is made with the best, all-natural ingredients. My son has multiple food allergies and since nuts and peanuts are the most severe I make every effort to keep them out of our home. But when I tasted the P.O.P. Candy, the Rosemary Almond flavor, at Unique LA I had to bring some home. It is treated as though it is a nuclear warhead and stuffed way up in a cupboard until well after bed time. It is only then that I get out the candy, savor it’s buttery amazingness and then sanitize my hands to within an inch of their life. I am dying to try all the flavors and I just saw that they have granola bars – the perfect late night snack. When I sawP.O.P. Candy again, this time at Unique OC, I saw that they had various labeling options available including the most delightful, happy Halloween, “boo.” I was drawn to the orange color, with pops of other bright colors that are not always seen in Halloween color palettes. It seemed happier, and less creepy then most holiday items and I instantly knew I had to create a Halloween theme to go with this candy.
I didn’t want to copy the circles shown on labels but I wanted to keep it happy and light with lots of modern touches. The candy shown above is a “taster” size (see here for taster optionsand Halloween “pop ups” options) which are perfect to pass out for Halloween. While on the site, browse around and check out all of their flavors and gift and favor options. I want to warn you, the taster size is like a gateway drug. You’re going to want as much as you can get your hands on.
Have I mentioned that I don’t like Halloween? It’s all dark, and scary. I knew what I wanted my Halloween to look like and instead of putting together the standard inspiration board, I decided to do an inspiration table. I didn’t really go about this as a standard photo shoot, but wanted to emphasize the details. When I came across Paper and Cake’s Creepy Chic downloadable party I shrieked. Literally yelled out loud. It totally had the look I wanted. I changed the colors a bit to go with my palette but all of the paper items you see in any of the shots are their design with my wording. See, their parties really ARE customizable. I know it is hard to see in the above photo but they even created a paper chandelier! And you can only see a bit of it, but this kit includes their paper doilies again!!!!!!!! (I seriously LOVE those!)
I made little surprise balls out of rings cut from a paper towel roll and orange crepe streamers. A good tutorial is here. I wrapped them with twine from Whisker Graphics and thought that if someone wanted to opt out of handing out candy at Halloween, this could be a great alternative. I liked the idea of going against the dark side so I made the ‘Can of Courage’ and the ‘Evil Be Gone’ to brighten spirits and help ward off evil. I made ghosts out of Styrofoam balls, dowels and cute, bright fabrics as a nod to the actual holiday. But you may agree, these are the happiest ghosts ever. I covered the table with white eyelet because ain’t nothing spooky about eyelet. :)
Aside from the butter crunch candy, I kept snacks simple and easy. I took Nilla wafers, squeezed a dab of ready made vanilla frosting until it oozed out the sides and then coated with sprinkles. I found these bright green gumballs at Michaels and the ready made sugar cookies, complete with orange sprinkles at Albertsons. FYI, these sugar cookies are SO GOOD! And then quickly dipped pretzel sticks in white chocolate.
Here is my sweet baby boy. He would not take kindly to me using the word baby. He is a big boy. He never lets me take pictures of him so I was so surprised when he pretty much tried to get in every shot. He and I would like to wish you all a truly HAPPY Halloween!
And go buy some P.O.P. Candy butter crunch and tell me how you like it!
And follow them on Twitter and Facebook!
Sharon
All photos are mine.

Stylecology – Plan your next party in style

Stylecology is an online store that offers stylish and unique accessories, gifts and products for every phase of life but also is the perfect place to browse for your wedding supplies. They have a variety of hostess and baby gift options, jewelry, home decor and more but it is also a place I bet you haven’t thought to look when designing a party.

Their wedding section is ripe with great party items. Sure, you might not need table numbers for your next fete but these darling peacock seals and favor tags are a must. (other styles available) Set of 25 for $42.

Who doesn’t love this old-fashioned one gallon candy jar? So cute. And the price at $13.32 (price break at 4) is very reasonable. Compared to how much some places charge for the apothecary jars, this is a steal! Oh and Stylecology sells some bulk candy too (by color!).

This glass plate ($29) is billed as a sign-on guest plate. I think it would make a perfect serving tray. Could this by my next inspiration board challenge piece? Because my head is swimming with possibilities.
Looking for personalized ribbon? You can find it here a bevy of colors. Not only can you take care of favors for your bridal shower or bachelorette party, but you can also package them up beautifully. They have dozens of options for boxes and bags but I’m partial to their small cloth bags. So cute!
Ribbon wands ($5.50 each), created by Mary Dann, aren’t just for weddings any more. They come in several colors and I happen to know several little girls who love to have these at their next birthday parties.
These votive wraps $2.29 each (set of 24) are a stylish option for adding a little special touch to your event. The available designs are very.
There are great baby gifts, items you are going to want for your home, the most beautiful wrapped soaps. This post doesn’t even begin to showcase all that Stylecology has to offer. Check them out for yourself.
Follow them on twitter (@Stylecology) for daily discounts.
Sharon
All photos via Stylecology

A cupcake decorating machine!

Okay, so maybe it is not actually a machine. But it totally has batteries and makes your life way easier. I was recently sent a Kuhn Rikon Frosting Decorating Pen to review. Have you seen this product? When I was approached about this item I was super excited. In my head, my cupcake and cake decorating is exquisite. In reality, not so much. I was super curious to see if my finished treats would be something I would proudly call my own. The minute I got this pen, my 4 year old son, O, HAD to try it. And when I mentioned it to my friend, Kristin of Meringue Bake Shop, she was interested in it too. So I thought all three of us should try it and give our opinions. I invited Kristin over and set out baking cupcakes and frostings. My son has food allergies so I made sure to bake some allergy friendly chocolate for him and since I was baking for a professional baker, I decided to to also prepare my best recipe, Betty Crocker Cherry Chip – seriously, look in to it, yum!

So the kit comes with one “pen” and three cartridges that you fill with icing. It also includes four decorating tips and a “filler” for adding extra goodness to the middle of your cupcakes. The pen is designed for use with ready made frosting (right up my alley!!!) so they include three plates for filling the cartridges as well. I wanted to make my own vanilla buttercream as well as using store bought so I easily filled one of the cartridges with a baby spoon. I’m pretty sure an offset spatula would have worked too, but the baby spoon was the perfect size!
Kristin helped me fill another cartridge with the Cherry Chip frosting. It’s amazing how easy it is (I should note, as long as whatever frosting you are using is the perfect room temperature it is super easy. If the frosting is harder, filling becomes quite messy…). You put a cartridge in the filling plate and press down evenly on the top. The pressure forces the frosting up into the cartridge. Then you just pop it in to the pen.
Here we loaded some caramel sauce to try out the filler. That worked like a charm. And how can anything with caramel in it turn out bad?

As you can imagine, when trying to do a post with a four year old and your 20 month old is running wild, my focus was not well, focused. I didn’t get a photo of the finished cake that Kristin did, above. She tested out several of the tips and I thought they came out pretty cute. But I really prefer her normal decorations.

My son was super excited about her work. Or maybe he had had too much frosting. I think it is important to point out, also, that the day we did this, it was about 90 degrees outside and my air conditioner was broken. All of the frosting was a little more runny then usual and I will tell you, that on a previous attempt with the pen, the decorating effects from the tips held up a bit better.
The decorating pen was really easy for my son to use and I wouldn’t think twice about having him use it to decorate cupcakes for his own parties. Is that considered child labor? He really enjoyed using it and I think it could have kept him busy for hours. He did enjoy squirting the frosting directly in to his mouth, though, so you may have to stay up on food safety and hygiene when kids are using it…

Here are some of my attempts at decorating with the Kuhn Rikon decorating pen. The two tiered cakelet was my only attempt from the night Kristin was over. With all the baby wrangling, this is the only one that I managed. I frosted some more the next day so I could really see how the different tips worked.

I think that I will use this pen to decorate all my cupcakes from now on. In my opinion, they look far superior to when I try to slap a nice simple coat of icing on the top with a spatula. Here are some things I learned about the decorating pen though:

-Be sure the icing is the right temperature to fill the cartridge. If it has been in the fridge, be sure to give it plenty of time to come to room temp.
-If it is too hot (above average temps here, not like 10 degrees hotter then normal) the designs will sort of slide so the cupcake will look good, but in a more abstract sort of a way.
-There are two speeds on the pen, slow and fast. Both are pretty fast. I think it just takes some getting used to it, but when you take your finger off the button, the frosting still comes out a little so you have to account for that.
-I much prefer this over decorating bags as you don’t have to work the frosting down to the tip. The pen does it for you. And when you run out of frosting, or want to change flavors, you just pop in a new cartridge.
Clean up was awesome. And I will totally use this pen again.
Here is the final opinion from my four year old son:
“I tried to put the chocolate in the side of my cupcake and it didn’t work very well (talking about the filler tip). I liked the pen. I would use it again. Mom, can we make some frosting today?”
and here is the final word from Kristin of Meringue Bake Shop:
“Using the pen was fun. I can see kids enjoying the shapes that come out of the different tips and feeling like they are creating their own cake show masterpiece. I think it’s definitely something for older kids though because it requires patience, hand/eye coordination, dexterity and a level of cleanliness. But I could definitely see having the pen as an option for my cupcake decorating parties. If someone were to buy this, I would definitely recommend getting more tubes for frosting and another set of tips to help make the process of using it go a little faster.”
Sharon
All photos are mine.
*I was sent the Kuhn Rikon Frosting Deco Pen for free. All thoughts, opinions and sugar highs are mine.

The Junior Society and Mahar Drygoods





*BEST OF…The following post was originally posted on 4/14/08. And I still love Mahar Drygoods. Take a look around their site. They have some amazing new products including an adorable printable decorations.

I have been a proud member of Junior Society for about a year now. What can I say, I love to be part of a club. And I love humor. So Robert Mahar, the self proclaimed Grand Poobah of Junior Society is definitely someone I could be friends with. On the website, he says he mainly chose this title because “it makes me sound like a big shot and somehow justifies my desire to wear a tasseled fez and develop secret handshakes.” Secret handshakes people! That is right up my alley. As Grand Poobah, he scours the web to bring the members amazing finds of clever new and vintage items and unusual activities related to children. With a great archive to peruse, you should head over immediately to check it out. With sections titled Arts & Crafts, Benevolence and Education, your are sure to find something you fancy. Be sure not to miss the section called Celebrations. You will view some amazing international tid bits culled from the web. Whether it is all different interpretations of the Easter bunny or whimsical Danish decorations and toys for Christmas, you will enjoy the eye candy. I am positive you will love the site’s illustrations and design.
But let’s get back to Mr. Mahar. Aside from putting together this fabulous site, he also runs an online store called Mahar Drygoods which “specializes in vintage and artisan crafted curiosities for kids.” What a way with words! All items are handmade and are so cheerful. I want to buy one of everything. Browse sections called Get Dressed, Go Play, Settle Down or Go to Your Room. But, of course, don’t forget to Celebrate! The party section is totally unique and awesome. From party favors to holiday decorations, you are sure to be pleased and will take pride in knowing you won’t have what everyone else on the block has. You’ve got something special. A few of my favorites are the felt cupcake picks, the pennant garlands, and the crochet party hats. I love that these items are handmade but are so high in quality that you would never try to make them yourself. Unlike some of the themey party items that you use once and toss, these are sure to become keepsakes and be reused over and over. I can’t wait to purchase the My Big Day placemat. I just know my son would feel so special using it. And I bet your kids will too! And you know the price is right or we wouldn’t tease you with it. What are you waiting for? Go!
s-

Is that a polo on my animal crackers?!?

From the outside, I may not look preppy. But I am totally preppy at heart. While I haven’t donned a polo shirt since forced to for a family Christmas card in 2006, my heart races a little when I pass the tiny Ralph Lauren’s at Macy’s. So color me surprised when whilst luxuriating in Target (is that weird? Target comforts me. Hullo, how genius is Starbucks, underwear and gardening supplies all in one place?) and I happened upon boxes of Nabisco Animal Crackers designed by Lilly Pulitzer!!!! To horrified stares, I began piling the cookie boxes in to my cart. Who knows how long they will be around! My husband was not pleased that I seemed to be feeding my two sons “girly” cookies but the kids certainly don’t seem to mind. And quite frankly I think they classed us up a bit. And as any good party enthralled woman would do, I immediately planned a party in my head around the cookies. It really isn’t that inspired since I went straight to the Lilly Pulitzer party supplies. But since I haven’t gotten a chance to do a girly party in some time, I felt a full on pink and green assault exploding out of me.
Could these Lilly Pulitzer Animal Crackers invites from FineStationery.com match any better? Seriously.

And although it looks like she doesn’t have all her party goods available in the same Animal Crackers pattern as the invite, these in the Taboo collection are pretty darn perfect (also available from FineStationery.com). Add in the specialty boxes of Animal Crackers as place cards and favor. Boom. Party planning done. I should also mention that the boxes were done as a way to raise money and awareness for the World Wildlife Fund. Yes, um, very important stuff. But aren’t they adorable!! And now if you’ll excuse me, there is a box of animal crackers begging me to eat them. I don’t want to disappoint.

S-
First photo is mine, all mine. All other photos via FineStationery.com.