Monday, April 30, 2012

{Roundup} Cinco de Mayo & Derby Printables

You know I can't let a holiday pass without pulling together free printables I've found from all over.  It doesn't seem that people go all out with the printables for Cinco de May or the Derby, but that didn't stop me from looking!

Cinco De Mayo


Derby/Triple Crown


Looking for more?  Check out other printables roundups over at the Roundups tab!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Triple Crown Time

Yesterday I posted some inspiration for Cinco de Mayo; but as it turns out there's more than one reason to party on May 5th this year - that's also Derby Day!  Most people are familiar with the Kentucky Derby, but here in Maryland it's all about Pimlico and the Preakness.  Rounding out the whole Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes in New York.

When most people think of horse racing, the first things that come to mind are the Derby and Mint Juleps.  But all three races have their own traditions.  When I think of the races (typically Preakness - having been a Marylander for the last 5.5 years!) I think of big hats, flowers, and drinks.

Credits: Candy Hats via Hatter and Hare Events, Bonnet Cookies via Bakerella, Race Day Hat via Maryland Life
I don't know how or why it started, by hats and horse racing go hand in hand.  If you're having your own party, invite your guests to participate in a crazy hat contest and serve some sweets that give a pretty nod to the tradition.
Photo Credits: Roses via Mimi Frou Frou, Preakness photo via Human Flower Project, Belmont photo via The Saturday Post
Flowers are definitely a HUGE part of race day.  The Kentucky Derby traditionally uses roses, the Preakness highlights black eyed susans and Belmont features white carnations.  Like most flower arrangements, using just one of these in abundance makes a huge impact to any display or centerpiece.  I love the cost-effectiveness of black eyed susans and carnations; but must admit that roses always make a classic and stunning display.
Photo Credits: Mint Julep via My Kitchen by the Lake, Black Eyed Susan via Southern Living, Belmont Breeze via Driscoll’s
Signature drinks are a staple for most parties these days.  Of course Derby parties feature the traditional Mint Julep - made with fresh mint, simple syrup or sugar, and bourbon.  The Black-Eyed Susan is the traditional drink of the Preakness - made with vodka, whiskey, sweet & sour mix and orange juice.  The Belmont Breeze is the official drink of the Belmont Stakes, which is actually a tradition just a few years old.  The most complicated of all three, it includes whiskey, cream sherry, fresh fruit juices, and club soda.

Do you celebrate any of the Triple Crown races?  If so, what does your family do?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

{Inspiration Board} Cinco de Mayo

How is it that May is just around the corner?  That means that Cinco de Mayo is coming up quickly!  Even better, it's on a Saturday this year; which means it's the perfect reason to party!  If you're going to be celebrating at all this Cinco de Mayo, here are a few ideas to spice up your day:

Keep the food colorful, simple and fun.  Enjoy a refreshing cold glass of Strawberry Basil Margarita (via The Backyard Bartender), make your desserts colorful with a papel picado banner like this one at Style Me Pretty. Or you can keep dessert simple and tasty with a tres leches cake (via BHG). Don't forget the finger food, like some homemade tortilla chips and some guacamole (image via Budget Bytes).

With Cinco de Mayo decorations, it's all about color and texture! I love the idea of using lots of colorful sombreros (image via The Sweetest Occasion). I can imagine sombreros hanging from trees or used as centerpieces. I love these colorful ruffled streamers from Dana Made It, perhaps strewn all over. Finally, I love these chevron painted wooden spoons from Glitter Daisy Shop to add a fun pop of color to your table settings!

Get the kids involved with everything from decor to favors. Instead of hanging Papel Picado, have the kids paint some colorful pages and hang them up just like the delicate counterpart (via Hello Bee) It also seems like every party needs to have a how about filling up some water balloons and creating a DIY pinata that's sure to delight (via Ziggity Zoom)! Lastly, these favor bags from NHA Creatives are adorable...have your kids pick out some colorful candy and help fill them up for your guests.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thinking Outside the Backyard Box

I have a tendency to take on too many projects at once.  Right now, I'm working on the nursery and T's bedroom.  Shouldn't be too bad, right?  Lately, I've gotten the urge to make significant changes to our backyard as well.

Log Stump play table from Little Eco Footprints
You see, T is at an age where playing in the backyard is the highlight of her day.  While she's pretty good at staying in place, we have little to no play equipment for someone her age.  And while I'd love to just get a swingset or something, that would require thousands of dollars of re-grading and retaining walls.

Giant wooden Xylophone DIY from Child Central Station
Which is why I'm really excited to see this new movement toward natural playgrounds and play equipment.  I've collected here and on my Pinterest "Around the House" board, several inspirational ideas for turning our backyard into a fun and creative playground.

In-ground slides make use of natural slopes. via The Wonder Years
Easily hide the neighbor's ugly retaining wall with a giant chalkboard (via Simply Natural Mom)
I love the idea of backyard mazes and labyrinths...if only I had as many boxes as this maze from The Spann Family!
In all honesty, we'll probably end up with only a couple variations of these ideas, but they all sound like so much fun!  Hopefully, I can just find some patience to wait until the bedrooms are finished!

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's My SITS Day!

Hello Friday...and hello SITS Girls!

What is SITS?  To put it bluntly, SITS = Support.  Lots and lots of support.  SITS is a blogging community with over 15,000 members; and a goal of helping bloggers communicate with each other and improve their own sites.  Over the last several months, I've met many wonderful and supportive women through this site; and even implemented some improvements that I never would have even known about without SITS.

For those who are visiting for the first time - welcome!  My name is Leslie, and this blog is my little creative side-project.  Right around the time my daughter turned one, I realized that I'd stopped being creative.  In the wee hours of the night (when I'm not working or parenting - which, if we're perfectly honest, are both work!), I love to scour the internet for creative inspiration...and I even sometimes get the opportunity to make something of my own!

Around here you can expect to see a lot of inspiration for whatever you may be celebrating in life.  I've started a habit of sharing free printables that other bloggers have created from around the net...and it seems like these roundups just keep getting bigger and bigger!  I also have a love of planning and hosting parties for my family and friends and trying lots and lots of new recipes.

Let's face it, these two are really what my life is all about!
So please take a look around and join in the inspiration!  If you like what you see, feel free to join me on Twitter or Facebook.  I promise not to spam you too many times each day!  Most importantly, have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

{Inspiration in Action} Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies?  They are a personal favorite of mine; and a serious weakness at that.  That said, I’m picky.  While the Husband has no problem devouring some Chips Ahoy...I’d rather hold out for a freshly baked version.  To me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie has to be sweet, soft, loaded with chocolate, and with a bit of a caramel taste (usually achieved with brown sugar).

Several months ago, I saw this post from my friend Jackie Fo proclaiming The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie EVER!  Of course I had to try it.  And it was spot on.  Turns out that the recipe is the famed Jacques Torres recipe posted in the NY Times years ago.

The version Jackie posted is actually an adaptation from the Martha Stewart website.  Some people complain about the differences, but they’re mostly a result of proportion...and I’ve hardly had any issues with the Martha version.  After several (yes, I mean several) batches of these cookies, here are a few tips I’ve learned to get a scrumptious cookie every time.

- Don’t skip the refrigeration.  Sure they’ll still taste good if you bake them right away, but they’re much prettier and tastier if you exercise some patience.  
- Roll the dough into balls before refrigerating, and refrigerate uncovered.  Sounds weird, right?  Letting the dough get a little crusty and stale actually results in beautifully cracked cookies.  I’ve even let them sit uncovered in the fridge for a week before baking.  Not that I didn’t want to bake them, I just didn’t have a chance that week.  (Please exercise some judgement and don’t put the uncovered dough next to something extra potent - like chopped onion or garlic. Just sayin’)
- To make sure your cookies are still soft the next day: Slightly underbake the cookies and let them finish on the pan.  I use the Wilton cookie scoop to make smaller cookies, and they cook for right about 10 minutes (12 minutes if straight from the freezer).  They’re ready when they look like they’re set, but not yet really brown on the edges.  If overcooked, these cookies can easily loose their softness overnight...which is just so sad!

I don't usually post recipes that aren't my own or my family's, but considering the abundance times it's been posted elsewhere, here you go!

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 pound unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 pounds high quality (60 percent cocoa) bittersweet/semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.

2. Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough into balls. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or freeze in ziploc freezer bag.  

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.  Place dough balls onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until ever so slightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 10 -15 minutes for smaller cookies. Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Yields about 2 dozen large cookies or up to 8-10 dozen small cookies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

{Etsy Finds} BB Sweets Love

If you didn’t already know, I love cookies.  Seriously...I’ll take freshly baked cookies over cake or cupcakes any day of the week.  I’ve featured and ordered cookies from Dainty Delights in the past (highly recommended...tasty and wonderful to work with!)

Typically, my absolute favorite cookies are of the chocolate chip variety (recipe post coming soon!); but I can’t help swooning over beautifully decorated sugar and shortbread cookies, too.  While researching sweets for Easter, I found my latest cookie decorating eye candy at BB Sweets Love:

Aren’t they gorgeous?  After seeing those, I had to look at other designs available, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m now dreaming of ways to incorporate these cookies into some kind of coming event. My family seems to have developed "birthday season" during the months of June, July and there are plenty of opportunities!

P.S. - This is not a sponsored post...I just like to share awesomeness when I find it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

{Mama Monday}...And the Third Trimester Begins

Twelve weeks left.  It seems so close, yet so far away.  At this point last time, the nursery was painted and mostly decorated.  (Only because I was hosting a party for the husband’s 30th birthday that Spring, and like a crazy lady, insisted that the nursery be ready and adorable for everyone to see.)  We were able to get the nursery mostly painted this weekend; but furniture is in the way and items cleaned out of the former guest bedroom-turned toddler room have spilled out into the office.

An unexpected 3D image at a specialized ultrasound a couple weeks ago!
Life just seems to be crowding in around us.  I look at T’s new room (which she’s sleeping in full time now - yay!) and see project after project that needs to be finished.  Next to her room, I see the nursery which is just one giant project to complete.  Messes in the office, an over-stuffed linen closet, carpets that need to be cleaned, laundry overflowing from the bin, toys that need to be separated for the safety of the new baby, and my as-yet unfinished craft room that I LONG to have as a private sanctuary.

Less than 12 weeks to get most of this done.  

I shouldn’t many people would love to have a comfortable not-too-big home, food on the table, a healthy child, and another one on the way.  Plus...I can still see my feet at 28 weeks!

I don't carry pretty, so this is the closest you'll see to a belly picture from me!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bright, Shiny and New!

Welcome to the new Pampers, Play Dates & Parties!  As many of you know, I’ve been working on a blog redesign for quite some time now.  Mostly, I’ve been toying around with different designs on a couple private blogs that I keep just for this type of tinkering.  

What do you think? Did you also notice another change? I've finally gotten my own domain! Wahoo!   There's also a new blog button:

Over the next couple weeks, I'll be making some minor fixes and re-doing some of the labels as time allows.   For now, it's just so nice to see something a bit brighter around these parts.  I hope you enjoy and have fun poking around!

P.S. - I'm totally open to suggestions, so feel free to let me know if there's something you'd like to see on the site.