Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Well my very favorite day of the year happened just last week.  It was Mia's birthday!  My little baking assistant turned 2 and we celebrated with a big fun party with friends and family.  It was so perfect....all of our very favorite people were there, it was a beautiful sunny 80 degree day, the food and drinks were great, Mia looked adorable, and the cookies were SO. STINKIN. CUTE.

Move over honeypots....there's a new favorite in town! 

Mia's party theme all started back in June when Rob and I were really considering celebrating her birthday with a party at the lake.  You see, we go to the lake almost every weekend in the summer....but the problem is that the lake is 3 hours away.  So as much as it would've been fun to share her day with the select family and friends that would have been able to travel, it was WAY more important to us that Mia could be around as much family as possible if the party was in Pittsburgh.  So we decided to bring the lake to Pittsburgh with a sailboat themed party!  I can't tell you how many people were like...."A sailboat party?  For a girl?  That's weird."  I was like....seriously?  OK, so not that many people told me it was weird.  OK, it was only one lady at Pat Catan's that said it....but it really bothered me.  I mean...Mia is going to have so many years of telling me what kind of party she wants....and I can just hear it now....PRINCESS!  FAIRIES!  PINK PINK PINK!  And that's all great and I can't wait to do those themes, too.  But this year the theme was mine to choose....and Mia absolutely loved it!  We told her about the upcoming sailboat party whenever we sent the invitations, so maybe a month before the party.  And I'm not even kidding....this child did not stop talking about her birthday party even for a single day until the day of the event.  She was so excited! 

cutest invitation ever!

Speaking of the invitations, I follow this amazing blogger/designer Anna and Blue Paperie on facebook.(You should follow her, too!  I promise, you'll love it!)  I was just meant to have these invitations because she posted the design within hours of deciding on our party theme.  It was fate and I just fell in love with the colors, fonts, graphics and patterns.  My brain immediately started designing the cookies to fit the theme.  I couldn't believe that I had to wait weeks before having this party!  I was like a kid at Christmas counting down the days.

So maybe I went a little overboard with the details. No pun intended.  But I just. couldn't. stop.  I got so much of the Anna and Blue Paperie party materials printed at Kinkos.  Seriously, I was there almost every day for 3 weeks picking stuff up.  They now know me by name and that's pretty funny.  Not only did I get party material printed, but I found amazing stuff at Michaels, Pat Catans, Walmart, the $1 stores, etc. Oh...and Etsy, too!  It wasn't like I was on the hunt for particular things, but stuff would just jump out at me and I started a stockpile that quickly grew.  It was nice, though because I had shopped over a period of a few months so it didn't seem like a huge budget-buster.  And trust me, this party, much like everything else in our lives, was done on a budget.  I'd go into details about my exciting finds but it would probably bore you.

The best part about this party planning experience was the path that led to creating the "S.S. Mia Stella."  One day while at the lake I said to Rob..."You know what?  We should bring home that little row boat and set it out at the party for the kids to play on." And somehow instead of bringing home that already built boat, weeks later I found myself outside in our backyard in the dark, working by spotlight and flashlight, powertools in hand (definitely Rob's hands, not mine. That just wouldn't be safe people), drilling holes, and sawing wood, and we're building a play-boat for our daughter.  How'd that happen?  But let me tell you....that was one of those moments when I realized.....there's nothing that I wouldn't do for this child.  And the fact that Rob and I built it together from just pieces of wood and fabric was really special to me.  Rob and I are a really good team and we've always loved doing projects together.  Surprise!  I actually enjoy spending time with my husband!  Unless it has anything to do with golf or eating seafood.  He can do that stuff alone.  A few nights before the party we finished the boat by adding the sail and I dressed it up with some fun accessories..  Dock posts and all....that ship was ready to set sail at the party!

my little sailor :)
What a beautiful day to sail!

Another really fun part of the party planning was finding just the perfect outfit for Mia to wear.  I'm NOT a big fan of spending a lot of $ on her clothes because it's just amazing how she manages to stain stuff in a matter of seconds.  But for her birthday I just wanted her to have something special, you know?  So I was searching online for some cute pink/navy outfits but nothing was really jumping out at me.  Or if I did like something it would cost $50 and I wasn't prepared to spend that.  So one day while meeting someone to deliver cookies at the Galleria (and I'm NEVER at the Galleria) I wandered into Janie and Jack just knowing that I would quickly regret it because everything there is so expensive.  And then I saw it.  A whole wall of nautical themed girls clothes that were pink and navy and sooooo cute.  The line was called "Sail Away".  I could've cried it was so pretty.  Wait and get was on sale!  The cutest shirt in the whole store, the shirt that I could immediately picture Mia wearing was only $11.99.  Sold. OK, and I bought a headband, too.  It was only $2.99!  This cute shirt paired with some jean capris and amazing pink and navy boat shoes found at Burlington for $4.99 and the outfit was complete. 

she's the best :)

Back to the reallllly important part, the cookies.  And the cake....did I mention the cake yet?  I know that I've mentioned before that I lovvvve Bethel Bakery cake (who doesn't?) but I don't love their decorations.  And I don't love spending a million dollars to put icky edible paper designs on a cake.  So I ordered the cake plain white and planned to decorate it myself.  Like I had nothing else to do the morning of the party!!  I kept it simple....I iced Mia's name on the cake in the same font that was used throughout the party decor.  Honestly, for my first time EVER icing a cake, I think I nailed the font.  And I piped a pink rope border around the edge of the cake.  That could've been much much better but the problem is that most of my decorating tips are really small (for cookies) so I didn't have a large one to use for icing the rope.  So the proportion was off....but it was still cute.  And then I added one of my many printable decorations posted on two of my paper drinking straws and finally just a few cookies to finish it off.  It was a simple design that was exactly what I wanted.  I loved how it turned out....and it maybe....just maybe sparked my interest in cake decorating.  We'll see.....

Cookies in progress

The cookies were a true joy to make.  I was up verrrry late the night before the party finishing them, but it was so worth every lost minute of sleep.  From anchors to sailboats, ships wheels to nautical stripes, pink and navy and yellow....true cookie love.  I don't know that I'll ever make cookies that I'll love more than these.  All for my Mia Stella. 

So the set-up of the dessert table went surprising smoothly.  Last year I was a complete crazy person traying cookies and adding sprinkles all at the last second.  This year, I got smart.  Most of the cookies that I made were bar cookies so they were all made the day before, cut and stored in sealed containers, and ready to tray the day of.   So I used all of my party supplies to set up the table, used my every day white pottery barn dinner plates to tray the cookies, and added the place cards which I had printed (at Kinkos!) weeks before.  That was another key to not going completely crazy and overboard with the dessert table.  I only made labels for the cookies that I planned to make.  So the night before when I started having anxiety about not having enough of an assortment of cookies....there was nothing I could do....because there was no time to have more tags printed (although I probably could've called my new buddies at Kinkos at midnight and I'm sure they would've done it. OMG, I just realized that it's called The Fedex Office store now, not Kinkos anymore.  Showing my age I guess.  Whatevs, I'm still gonna call it Kinkos because I'm a regular there now...and regulars can do stuff like that).  So anyway, the cookie table was done and I mean DONE an hour before the party even started.  It was so enjoyable to not have to rush...and I loved how it turned out!

grrr....I just realized that this picture was taken before the chocolate chip cheesecake bars were brought out
 (empty plate -top right)

notice that my stands are actually photo boxes flipped upside down.  They can be found at Michaels on sale sometimes 3 for $5!  All types of colors and styles!

My favorite cookies ever.  I think the navy striped ones are adorable


Chips AHOY cookies.  I just couldn't pass them up at the grocery store. Witty, I know.

Along with the cookie table we also had a drink station with pink lemonade and fresh iced tea.  The paper straws were ordered from Etsy and I thought they were so fun.  For a very small amount of money they added a lot of color to the party and people just raved about them.  Of course they had Happy Birthday flags on them, too.  Yes, I had to cut and glue each one of those flags by hand.  What?  Normal people don't do that kind of stuff at 3 am while watching Teen Mom on DVR? Oh.

wrapped silverware with a mint life preserver :)

So Mia had an absolutely amazing day.  She just loved playing with all of the kids and opening all of her fun girly presents.  She smiled and laughed when everyone sang happy birthday to her and she blew out her 2 candles like a champ.  And I cried.  No surprise there.

seeing her smile makes me so happy!
on a side note....geeeeeez my hair is long.  I gotta do something about that!

Mia with her Mimi and Grand-dad

Pap-Pap and Ga-Ga got in the boat, too!  (they kinda look like drunk sailors, no?)
all of the kids <3 ...and Becky, too :)  wait!  where's Cole???
what an amazing day :)

So a big giant THANK YOU to everyone who came to Mia's party.  She still talks about it every day and it just meant so much to her...and to Rob and I...that you were there.  For now it's back to business as usual!  The week after Labor Day is going to be quite a busy one for me so I'm going to enjoy the holiday and then it's major cookie craziness coming up in the fall and winter.  I've got a full schedule for the entire month of September and I couldn't be more thankful. If you have any upcoming events in October and November please email me soon!  Thanks! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bucco baseball

Lots and lots of requests for Pittsburgh Pirate cookies lately.  The only reason I would ever go to a Pirate game is to eat ballpark food.  Did you know that you can get all-you-can-eat seats????  If I wouldn't be so super-embarrassed about  people seeing how many rounds of nachos I would order then I would so be a season ticket holder in that section.  But with my luck they'd put my picture on the jumbo-tron and keep a tally of how much I've eaten.  I just can't subject myself to that possibility.

So back to the Pirate cookies (even though I'm totally wanting some nachos right now even while typing this at 9 am).  Apparently the Pirates are having a really great season...which is a real surprise because any other summer in the past 20 years you really wouldn't even hear a peep about baseball in this town.  I mean,  people wait to go to Steelers training camp because we're just all so ready for baseball season to be over.  And even when football season comes around some people are just so thrilled that it's that much closer to hockey season!  I know that there are some die-hard Pirate fans out there...and man, you must all be so mad about all of this fair-weather fan-ness going on right now.  You've been committed fans for all of these bad seasons and now you've got these random people doing some Zoltan sign in your face(I still don't get that by the way).  If I were you, I'd be super annoyed.   So these cookies are for you....the REAL Pirate fans who have supported the team with or without all of the wins. (i.e. my dad, who makes us watch every single game on the only tv at the lake.  Watching baseball on tv = instantly falling asleep for me)  I'm not one of you because clearly I like nachos and ice cream and fireworks night more than baseball. 

And here's a promise....if the Pirates make the playoffs or post-season or whatever it's called when you're doing good in baseball then I'll make some Zoltan cookies and do a giveaway on the blog.  So stay tuned for that!

And for those of you who just wait for football and hockey season here's a picture for you, too.  Please don't judge my work by those Penguins cookies.  I literally wanted to rip my hair out trying to do that logo on a 4-inch cookie.  Next time I'll definitely make them bigger so I can get the details more accurate!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You're my favorite!

I think it's actually been proven that most parents really do have a favorite child...even if they won't admit it.  Listen, I read about studies and theories and that's how I know it.  OK, that's false.  I think I heard it on a morning radio show one time and that totally makes it valid because sometimes that and the AOL homepage are my only news sources of the day.  Rob and I really bond over the fact that we're both of our parent's favorites.  (Can't wait to see the comments from our brother and sisters!)  Maybe it's because we're each the youngest that makes us feel so favored.  Or maybe it's because we're just that awesome and fun to be around.  Crap, maybe it's because we're needy and require the extra attention for self-esteem.  Nah, can't be.  We're just pretty awesome.

When I create cookies sometimes I have an attachment to the whole design or theme.  Like I love an idea so much that I wish I was invited to the event.  This was one of those times.  Ever since I got the initial email about a baby shower theme entitled "What will it bee?"  I just thought....AWWWWW HOW CUTE!  So I know that I think that about most cookie ideas....but this one was just so cool to me.  It was a gender reveal baby shower and the colors were a modern combination of yellow and gray.  I also really really love when a customer requests something that's just a little bit outside the box.  Like instead of asking for bumblebee cookies she wanted some basic shapes with a honeycomb pattern.  And then we came up with the idea of doing some honeypots and beehives, too. 

The pattern kind of made me dizzy!  But I'll do honeycomb pattern over soccer balls any day of the week!

What do you do when you have extra of your
favorite cookies?  Do a photo shoot, of course!
And then drink tea and eat cookies!  Duh!
It just hit me when I finished these cookies that I was a really proud parent to these creations.  It's a combination of the modern colors and the clean and simple designs that just stole my heart.   You may be thinking...after hundreds of designs, these are your favorites?  But they just are!  I never ever feel really confident in my finished products so it was a great feeling to just know that these were my favorite cookies to-date!  Kind of like how I just know that Mia is my favorite child (somewhere Layla is rolling her eyes thinking "Yeah...she used to tell me that, too people."). 

But watch out honeycomb cookies....I've got some really cute ideas up my sleeve for Mia's 2nd birthday party cookies....will they take the top spot?  Stay tuned!!