Dark Chocolate Brownie cookies with Mint M&Ms

In case you need a simple, tasty cookie, here it is.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer dutch blend)
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
3/4 cup sugar 
2 eggs 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (regular or mini’s)
1 cup Mint M&Ms
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a mixer beat together the butter with the sugars until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until smooth after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla. On a low speed beat in the flour mixture a little at a time. Gently mix in chocolate chips and the mint M&Ms.  
On an ungreased cookie sheet, drop teaspoons of the batter about 2 inches apart. Bake until just cracked on top, about 8 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. Flatten the cookies slightly with a spatula after removing from oven. Cool completely.

Great new approach to party invitations-just in time for New Years Eve parties!

With all of the craziness of Christmas and family, I love to just invite good friends over for a classy dinner party and some games for New Year's Eve...we usually just set up pack and plays for babies and have guests bring sleeping bags for their kids then we just hang out until the wee hours when everyone crashes at our house.  Whatever style New Year's Eve party you like to throw, you should check out the new invitations that Shutterfly has created!
For the elegant celebration, you could do one of these:

And for your super fun family sleepover party, maybe try one of these:

Christmas is two weeks away, but there is still hope for you to get your family Christmas cards sent out.

I know you like parties, but in keeping with this blog's original intent of celebrating all things cute,  I feel it is my duty to tell you about the super cute Christmas card styles being offered on www.shutterfly.com this season.  Don't get me wrong:  I have been using Shutterfly for my annual family Christmas cards since 2007.  They always seem to have the best designs from traditional to simple and modern.

As for my family, we are stepping up our game a little this year by getting folded cards printed on premium cardstock. You can also add small images and personal messages inside.  Here's a sample:
If you are more into the typical photo cards, what I like the best about Shutterfly is that they have several designs for multiple photos.  SInce I spend good money on adorable family pictures, I can never choose just one!  Here's a sample of a cute one I found. 

For the first time ever, I think I am gonna do address labels because Shutterfly offers cute modern ones, unlike the cheesy ones I so often see. Here are a few samples, but you can see them all here.

Oh!  And if you need some great gift ideas, I am a HUGE fan of photo books.  I know there are several sites who make them, but Shutterfly is the best one that I have found to date. They are user friendly, fast and highly customizable.  I have made three or four of them and always get rave reviews.  Check out this one that I made for my girls: Sisters Photo Book Project

Here's a little secret, for all of you bloggers out there, you can earn 50 FREE photo cards.  What's not to love about that!?!  

REAL Party: More "Sunshine and Cupcakes" Sip and See

The Cupcakes

I made the following four varieties of cupcake treats:

Devil's Food with Marshmallow Cream Filling
Banana Malt Shoppe  

Pink Velveteen  
Mini Pavlovas  

Real Party: A Sip and See

When my brother and his wife were in town visiting with their twin daughters (Kelsey and Stella, 5 months) for the first time, I thought that a Sip and See would be a great chance for their friends to catch up with them and meet the girls at the same time. Since the majority of their friends have a few kids of their own, I chose to do the Sip and See on a Sunday afternoon open house style so that people could feel free to come and go as they pleased as well as to bring or not bring a baby gift.  So I chose a "Sunshine and Cupcakes" theme to incorporate that summer afternoon with tasty treats feel and chose a yellow and white palette for the decor.  Here a just a few photos:

Door Decoration

Cupcake Table
More pictures with great details and DIY info to come later in the week.

Cinco de Mayo Dinner Party

Cinco de Mayo is the perfect event for hosting a dinner party.  It's a fun, laid back holiday, no pressure, no hustle and bustle, everyone is just ready for a good time and the decor is bright and cheery!

We used bright table linens, a very loud table cloth partially covered in bright pink.  We brought the tone back down by focusing on only green and white for the tableware, flowers, candles and lanterns overhead.  

Each setting had a cloth napkin with tissue paper pom attached and a place card.  The poms matched the bright green flowers (stems cut very short and placed in shallow bowls) perfectly.  The place cards were backed with bright colored paper and the font had a 'fiesta' vibe.  

We hung more brightly colored, coordinating lanterns in the corner of the room.

The tablescape was bright and funky, but also elegant.

The meal, of course, was the focus!

Guests were greeted with chips and homemade salsa and guacamole and frozen margaritas.
For dinner, we feasted on the most amazing chicken fajitas with all the fixings, sauteed veggies and spanish rice.  The kids had chicken and cheese quesadillas.

The Margaritas were served in mason jars with the cutest pink and white swirled paper straws.  We printed out these freebies and used them as 'charms' on our glasses, on the other side, number the drinks: uno, dos, tres... so guests can keep track of their drink

We even touched up the water with bright limes

AND dessert!!  We kept with traditional mexican fare and finished our meal with Tres Leches cake and cinnamon sugar Sopapillas served with honey.  Oh.  My. Goodness.  What a treat!

Everyone had a wonderful time!

You don't have to wait for next Cinco de Mayo!  It can be any reason to celebrate, just use a Fiesta as the theme!  Plus, who doesn't love Mexican food?!

Baked desserts in a tin: A new kind of birthday gift

A friend of mine has recently gone gluten free due to health reasons and she is often discouraged by the yummy dessert options, so I decided that the best birthday gift that I could give her would be an amazing birthday indulgence that she can eat without health repercussions. So I combed the internet for the perfect Flourless chocolate cake recipe coupled with a Chocolate ganache frosting recipe (both courtesy of Martha Stewart site).
I love the potential of this idea: Bake and wrap up the birthday boy or girl's favorite dessert and deliver it for him or her to be able to enjoy at his or her leisure!

Barnyard Birthday Party

In March I posted ideas for a Barnyard theme first birthday party.  My friend, whose parties you've seen before, took inspiration and threw this fun party for her son, Colby, who turned one!

We were greeted by a barn door

The table spread:
I love the use of the picnic tablecloth, baskets, bandana and other cute linens like the yellow and red napkins to line bowls and baskets (or in this picture, cover the food until ready to eat).
Some of the food served was BBQ sandwiches on buns, 'Colby' Mac n' Cheese, a 'veggie garden' platter, 'Little Piggies'- mini bigs in a blanket, and potato chips.  

(Click on picture to see larger)

The Cake

Drinks were chilled on ice in a wheelbarrow
also served were sweet tea and lemonade.

Homemade birthday banner, also seen at Claire's party, instructions here.  This garland is so easily customized using scrapbook paper and ribbon or your choice and fills a large space on the wall.

Fun, large animal ballons

Pictures from baby's first year

Favor table
Bandana's and boxes filled with farm themed treats for the older kids

and t-shirts for the other babies at the party
All complete with "Thanks Y'all" tags.

Since we all know kids need to be entertained at a party, one activity was planting seeds to take home and grow.  All supplies were provided and seeds, such as different flowers, vegetables and even herbs, were laid out for easy planting (with parents help).

Outdoor craft table

The other activity was a hayride!  How handy that Colby's dad already had the ATV and trailer, all he had to do was throw a couple bails of hay in the back.  The kids (and parents) loved this!

Lastly, don't forget to dress the part!  Farm attire doesn't have to be overalls, the birthday boy's outfit was found at Gap.