Bambina Mia
Toddlers, Parties and a Day in the Life.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Owl Baby Shower

Kim's Owl themed baby shower came and went off without a hitch. Everything looked as great as I'd hoped and Janelle, the shower's hostess, was really pleased and appreciative of all the effort expended, which made everything so worthwhile.

Janelle and I set up the room at El Paso Cantina, a great Mexican restaurant in Torrance. Above the dessert buffet we hung the handmade felt banner welcoming Kim's newest addition to the family, Chloe. I love making these banners as a sentimental keepsake for the guest of honor. Done in pale pink and raspberry, I made sure to incorporate the adorable owl icon Janelle had chosen for her invitations to tie her theme together.

The dessert buffet turned out beautifully and the owl masks I'd painted really added a lot of whimsy. I basically laid out a diabetic coma on that table; marshmallow straws, giant rainbow lollipops, designer Ding-Dongs, green apple licorice, Oreos, custom wrapped chocolate bars, chocolate birds' nests, Pixie Stix, meringue cones, strawberry baby cakes, pink M&Ms and giant chocolate chip cookies. In addition to all of those goodies was a beautiful owl cake one of the guests had brought from Kim's favorite bakery. It was the perfect cherry on top of this sugar sundae. See below for details:

Sugar rush!

A little ribbon really dresses up these humble Ding Dongs.

Since this party was for Kim's second child, it was more of a "sprinkle" than a full on shower, as represented by this giant baby bottle filled with a gazillion colorful sprinkles.

Chocolate nests detail - love these!

Meringue cones detail

Kim and her daughter in her Big Sister crown and sash. They had a great time and I was happy to be a part of her celebration. Congrats and welcome baby Chloe!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cake Pops

How cute are these mushrooms?! These tasty toadstools are actually cake pops, a candy-dipped cakey confection perfected by the one and only Bakerella. I've been surfing her site forever, just gaga over what she manages to create and finally screwed up the courage to give it a whirl myself. I was thrilled with how easy they were to do and how great they turned out!

Bake up one boxed white cake and crumble finely in your mixer. Add to that about 3/4 can of white frosting and mix together to form a moist dough.

Roll dough into about 2 inch balls.

Squeeze the bottom half of ball in your fist to create the stem and form the mushroom cap with the top portion of ball using your fingers to pinch and sculpt cap to desired shape.

I made three different types of mushrooms for a wider variety and more visual interest - pointy topped, rounded topped and flat topped - and pressed them on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Then put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool and firm up.

Heat white candy melts in the microwave in 30 second intervals until you can stir them smooth. Holding mushroom by the cap, spread coating on stem and smooth/remove excess with your finger. Work quickly as the candy will start to set up. Dip one end of a lollipop stick into white candy and insert into bottom of stem. Insert mushroom pops into floral foam to dry and put back in the refrigerator to harden. (TIP: wrap floral foam in Seran Wrap to keep clean for future use.)

When all mushroom stems are dipped and chilled, heat red candy melts the same as the whites. Holding on to the lollipop stick, roll the mushroom cap on edge in the red candy so it touches and just covers where the white stem meets the cap. Then dip cap straight down and wiggle out to get a smooth covered surface.

Press in large white nonpareils to mushroom cap while still wet to finish off the look.

Place mushrooms back in styrofoam block to dry. Voila! Mushroom cake pops! These red capped beauties are too cute for words.

Cake pop detail.

I stumbled upon this fab hollow log-shaped I-don't-know-what at the thrift store for only $2 and just knew I'd find a use for it. Filled with floral foam and covered with moss, it makes the perfect serving piece for these fanciful fungi. Just the thing for the garden themed baby shower they were made for.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pink and Green Baby Shower

It's A Sprinkle! I'd never heard the term "baby sprinkle" before in a context that did not culminate in the use of baby wipes. That is, not until I threw this adorable pink and green themed baby shower for a good friend who was pregnant with her second child. My co-hostess and partner in crime, Erin, came across the idea of a baby "sprinkle" (lighter than a "shower") and away we ran with visions of cupcakes, cookies and all things made better with sprinkles. Plus, I'd really been wanting to try my hand at putting together a dessert buffet a la Amy Atlas, and here was the perfect excuse!

The sprinkle was held in my backyard where dozens of green and white paper lanterns dressed up with pink ribbon were hung from the pergola (all scored from the Dollar Tree!). We also strung the obligatory clothes line stocked with sweet green and pink onesies to pull double duty of carrying out our color scheme and acting as our gifts to the guest of honor.

Inside the kitchen was the food buffet and "candy bar." Erin and I worked hard to throw a really beautiful party while still staying within our meager budget of around $200. We found that with equal amounts of leg work (including multiple trips to discount chain stores like the Dollar Tree, The 99 Cent Store and Walmart) and elbow grease (hand made EVERYthing) we were able to get a lot of bang for our buck. Check out the photos below to see how we pulled it off. Enjoy!

My daughter's blocks made a great (and free!) buffet centerpiece.

Erin had seen a similar watermelon baby carriage for fruit salad at another shower she had attended and when she told me about it we both become obsessed with the idea of incorporating it into our menu. Thank God for Youtube where I found a tutorial, which provided clear step by step instructions.

The fruits of our labor

One pad of double sided Martha Stewart 12" x 12" scrap booking paper went a loooong way (only $8.99 at Wallmart)! We used it to coordinate EVERYTHING - invitations, banner, gift tags, cupcake and candy bar wrappers, food labels, cupcake picks, straw flags and these great potato chip cones:

Cranberry chicken salad sandwiches

The dessert bar was so much fun to plan. I had the idea of a milk and cookie bar stuck in my head and began collecting vessels of different shapes and sizes to pull it together. We put out a nice mix of old school favorites like Oreos, ding dongs and chocolate chip cookies and fun pink and green novelties like strawberry Whoppers, marshmallow straws and pink wafer cookies. Hand made tissue poms were strung together and hung from the ceiling to create a happy backdrop and the entire spread was flanked with empty goody bags for guests to fill and take home as party favors. See below for more details:

Hand cut cupcakes and gift tags

Home made cupcake wrappers and picks

A little ribbon makes a big impact

Decorative papers dress up every day chocolate bars

Old school faves

Yum indeed!

Happy Campers

Load up the car and bust out the marshmallows! It's time for the Rudy's Annual Camping Trip!

This year we went back to Ocean Mesa near Santa Barbara for some fabulous, hardly-roughing-it camping. This site is phenomenal - great grounds, fully stocked snack shack under grapevine covered pergolas, pool, massage room, immaculate bathrooms and showers. This place rules.

And the location is kinda perfect, too. Gorgeous beaches just down the road (where Brad literally swam with dolphins!), close enough to charming little towns like Los Olivos and Solvang for day trips, and tons of local wineries to explore. Let the fun begin!

We were meeting my sister's family and our good friends the Dobsons at camp, but we had to make one little stop before we got there - McConnell's ice cream shop. My husband (then boyfriend) and I took our first trip together to Santa Barbara (at an even posher campsite - El Capitan) where we first stopped at McConnell's for a little frozen treat. Brad suggested we take the babe with us on a detour down Memory Lane for a leg stretch and an ice cream break. I like the way this man thinks!

Abby enjoying the tiniest ice cream cone ever.

We checked in and set up camp quickly, even though the winds were stirring up pretty heavy. They kids enjoyed farting around in the dirt, running in and out of all the different tents, and sitting around the old campfire.

Campfire girls

But all of this was just a preamble to the main event: S'MORES! Abby'd never roasted a marshmallow before, but she took to it like a pro. Well, I guess technically she didn't roast her own, but she took to eating them like a pro.

"Try it, Daddy!"

I had one of those perfect Hollywood movie moments with the girls at bed time. Both of them were in the tent curled up with me, one under each arm. We were snuggled beneath a mountain of sleeping bags and blankets while I attempted to read Snow White to them. I say attempted because of the countless interruptions, asides and nonsequeters from the peanut gallery. It was all pretty cute and I absolutely ate up the bouts of giggly silliness and subsequent wrestling matches that followed. (My sister has since reported that Kailey is still talking about Snow White in the tent with Angela. Not gonna lie - warms my heart a little bit.)

The second day was hot as hell and we wanted to get out of the shadeless campsite. The Dobsons followed us into town for a delicious lunch in picturesque Los Olivos at the Wine Merchant Cafe.

Now this is camping!

Next stop the ostrich farm. It takes all of five minutes to walk through this rinky dink operation, but I just can't resist the opportunity to feed these prehistoric buzzards.

Sweet Jeebus, are these creatures ugly.

Brave girl

Down the road is the most amazing gardening center ever. Just crawling with funky tin sculptures and garden tchotchkes and fabulous blooms all around. We never buy anything when we go there, but always threaten to return sans child to haul home an SUV-full of plants and a random sheet metal boar or two. One of these days we'll make good on it.

My golden goddess

Shrek, Fiona and Donkey

The rest of the day was spent trying to keep cool at the pool that second afternoon. And after a few rounds of margaritas and another night of ooey-gooey marshmallowy goodness, this camper was ready to hit the sack.

The next morning as we were busy packing up and heading for home, we had an unexpected guest in our campsite. Up the trail, who should come traipsing in but Brent, our next door neighbor from back in Long Beach! It was the most jarring sensation to be away from home and out of your element and then see a character from your "real life" make an entrance. He happened to have a business meeting up this way and thought he'd surprise us. Mission accomplished!

We bid farewell to Ocean Mesa (and Brent) and headed home dirty, tired and totally happy. Can't wait for next year to do it all again.

My happy campers.