Category Archives: Entertaining

A BaByQ – A Barbecue-style Couples Baby Shower

This past weekend, we had the honor of celebrating one of my very best friends, Kelli, as she and her husband await the arrival of their baby girl.  Kelli is one of the most artistic and creative people I know, so you can imagine how intimidating it was when we offered to host a baby shower for her.  Lucky for us, she and her husband had recently attended a couples shower and they really liked that idea.  So rather than a cutesy, girly theme, my partners in crime – Kim and Andreia – and I opted for the more relaxed, gender-neutral, less conventional approach by hosting a barbecue.  Or in this case a BaByQ!

I love how you can take a simple theme, add a few little touches to pull it all together, and suddenly you have yourself a special affair rather than your ordinary party.  A barbecue turned BabyQ was the perfect opportunity to spruce up your typical barbecue.

For starters, the menu was a breeze.  We considered going the burgers route, but weather could be an obstacle and we had no interest in spending the entire event over a grill.  Instead, inspired by Kelli’s roots, we went with a focus on pulled meat and traditional southern barbecue sides.  Add a splash of gingham and twine, and you have yourself a party!

Here is a look at some of my favorite details from the party:

Apron BaByQ Invitations

Did I mention that Kelli is some kind of paper craft genius?  Taking on a paper craft without her mastermind behind it was a bit risky, but since this was her shower, I decided to let her sit this one out 🙂

BaByQ Invitation

Inspired by a couple of apron cards I saw online, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the invitations.   After spending a couple of Alister’s nap times designing, cutting, and pasting, I was very happy with the result.  I could have taken an extra step and added a ribbon around the “waist” but I wanted to keep it simple for fear of overdoing it.  I did not have any luck finding instructions online, so I plan to post apron card instructions at a later date.

Gingham Tablecloths

To say I handcrafted my tablecloths would be a stretch.  It was more like buying fabric, trying to cut in a straight line along the gingham pattern, and ironing the edges inward to create a fake hem.  I may get around to actually sewing a hem at a later date, but for the purposes of the party, the ironed hems did the trick and added the little bit of gingham splash on each of the tables.

Dessert Table

Here is a look at the dessert table.  You can see the splash of gingham on the table along with my impromptu centerpiece.  Since our flowers are well past their prime and my mums have completely faded, I decided to embrace the food theme of the shower by displaying red apples, tomatoes, and potatoes in vases.  Not my proudest moment, but it added a little dimension to the table.

Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I made mini carrot cake cupcakes (when making mini cupcakes, bake for 12 minutes) while Kim stayed in line with our southern barbecue theme and made a multi-berry cobbler and a cherry cobbler.  Both were delicious!

Caramel Apple Favors

When planning the favors for an October shower, we were not planning for 90-degrees.  We dismissed the lingering summer heat and moved forward with Kim’s suggestion of caramel apples.  Thanks to the genius of Paula Deen, who we turned to for more than one recipe when planning the menu, we were able to pull caramel apples together with a few simple ingredients.  Add some paper, a bag, and decorative ribbon, and we had ourselves a favor.  A very sticky favor.  If I did this again, I would have placed a small piece of wax paper or parchment paper between the apple and decorative paper.  After taste testing it myself, I can honestly say that if the guests had the patience to pull off the little pieces of paper from the caramel, they uncovered a very tasty treat!

Caramel Apples


Again, we kept it simple and true to barbecue form by serving up a selection of water, lemonade, iced tea, beer, Arnold Palmers, and John Dalys.  And to add a bit of gingham to the drink station, I wrapped gingham and plaid washi tape around the red straws and cut a flag pattern out of each.



How many crockpots can you fit on a table?  We were destined to find out this past weekend.  One contained pulled pork, another had pulled chipotle chicken, the other had homemade macaroni and cheese, and the last one had southern baked beans.  Both beans and macaroni and cheese were Paula Deen recipes.  Say what you will about the woman, but when it comes to southern recipes, she knows what she’s talking about.


Other sides included chips and onion dip, chips and guacamole, a corn dish, roasted red potatoes, sweet potato fries, and two types of homemade bread.

Forks and spoons

Here’s another way to spruce up the presentation of plastic spoons, forks, and knives.  Wrap them in a paper napkin and tie a ribbon around it.  Andreia ordered personalized ribbon for the apples with the phrase, “Sugar and spice and everything nice” and we had plenty left after we finished the apples.  I was handed the remaining ribbon and instructed to use it when decorating.  I couldn’t think of a better place to use it than the servingware, particularly since the phrase includes “sugar and spice.”


Keeping with the – you guessed it – gingham theme, I pulled together a banner to place above the fireplace, where I anticipated they would open presents.

Kelli and Adam

Here is a shot while Kelli and Adam opened presents.  We are so excited for these two!

And with that, I am out of details to share about the party.  Which means, time to share some of my favorite photos of the event!

Kelli entertains Alister while opening presents as he hands her an impromptu gift, which may be a chip or a piece of trash.  Can't be sure.

Kelli humors Alister while opening presents as he hands her a chip as an impromptu gift.  He made sure each guest received the same gift at some point throughout the evening.

Kelli grabs a photo with her happy hosts.

Kelli grabs a photo with her happy hosts.

Hosting can be exhausting.  After he said good-bye to the last of the guests, Alister was ready to call it a night.

Hosting can be exhausting. After he said good-bye to the last of the guests, Alister was ready to call it a night.


Watermelon! And Blueberries! And Mint! Oh My!

Whether you pride yourself on the ability to feed your entire family from your garden or you find yourself forgetting to water the couple houseplants you own that require nothing more than water every couple weeks (ahem, me, ahem), you will have no trouble caring for the natural phenomenon that is fresh mint.  We have been blessed (or cursed) with wild mint growing alongside our home.  And if you know wild mint, you know it could be mistaken as a weed if it weren’t for its deliciously fresh smell and taste.  So what do you do at this time of year when you have an abundance of mint?  Well, after you cut and clean a bunch and give it to friends and neighbors, make mojitos and mint lemonade, and keep some in your fridge to use in dishes over the week, here’s a quick and easy way to take advantage of fresh mint as well as the produce that is currently in season and taking over your grocer’s (and farmer’s market) aisles.

Watermelon and Blueberry Salad (measurements are approximated)

Serves 10

In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of watermelon cubes (1/2 – 1 inch size) with 3 cups of blueberries (or other berry of your preference).

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 – 1/3 cup of minced mint leaves with 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of honey in a small bowl.  Whisk or stir the mint mixture together.

Gently combine the mint mixture with the watermelon and blueberry mixture.



Up, Up, and Away – A Hot-Air Balloon /Travel-Themed Baby Shower – Part 2

As promised, here is my follow-up post to the details I started to share with you about a hot air balloon/travel-themed baby shower two of my good friends and I recently hosted.   In addition to the Pin Your Birthplace Guestbook and Favorite Destination Onesies I shared in the original post, here are some of my favorite details that helped pull the shower together.


Here is an inexpensive and easy way to make the room a bit more festive.  Kelli lent me 7 or 8  tin cans she had on hand where she had already removed the labels.  I took pink cardstock, cutting each sheet into thirds, and then wrapped and pasted (or taped) each strip around a can.  Then I tied pieces of twine around each strip to pull in the pink and tan look.  Lucky for me, we had pink hydrangeas and a few dark pink roses blooming on the side of our home at the time of the shower.  About an hour or two before the shower, I snipped enough flowers to fill all the vases and set one or two on top of each can.  I really could not have asked for an easier flower decoration.

We placed the flower decorations around the food and drink area in the kitchen as well as the gift opening area in the living room.  To add some height and make it feel more like a centerpiece on the coffee table, we added some of the pink and tan photo boxes I picked up at Michael’s .

Centerpiece and can vases



You can’t have an “Up, Up and Away” shower theme without decorating “up” – can you?  Well, we thought it was necessary and the couple of “up” decorations pulled the theme together.  First, Kelli worked her paper magic and created this hot air balloon-inspired banner.  The flag above each string reads a word – Up – Up – &  – Away!  We hung this banner along the mirror above the food table.

Up Up & Away

Then I made a flag banner similar to the one I made for Alister’s First Birthday.  Only using craft paper card stock and maps from an atlas instead of photos of my son.  After weaving pink ribbon through the top of each flag, we hung it along the large window in the living room, where everyone congregated during the shower.

Map flag banner


What would a baby shower be without food and drink?  We filled the table with standard baby shower dishes, ranging from savory to sweet.  Hummus and veggies, fresh fruit, a cheese plate, tea sandwiches, avocado deviled eggs, spinach and artichoke dip, mini cupcakes, and chocolate dipped pretzels kept the guests satiated while we kept them busy pinning maps and ironing onesies.

Flowers and Food

A closer look at the sweet section of the table.  Kelli tackled her delicious Sprinkles’-inspired Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes while I made my go-to chocolate and vanilla buttercream cupcakes.  Having some success with chocolate-dipped pretzel rods at Alister’s First Birthday, I decided to go ahead and make them for the shower at the last minute.  More for a splash of pink on the table than anything.  Half of the pretzel rods had crushed peanuts on top of the chocolate and the others were just chocolate.  Most, if not all, of the pretzel rods were gone at the end of the shower, so I’m glad I added them to the mix.


Near the food, we set up a “Beverage Cart,” complete with one of Kelli’s hand-crafted signs.  While I originally intended to make strawberry lemonade, I decided to take advantage of the fresh mint that was taking over the side of our house.  So instead of strawberry lemonade, we had mint lemonade.  Basically, a pregnancy-friendly mojito.  Andreia, the other host, stocked the beverage cart with rose wine to complement the pink theme as well.

Drink Station


Last but certainly not least, we couldn’t let the guests go empty-handed, so Kelli pulled these little gift bags together by filling snack-sized ziplock bags with  iced animal cookies and stapling her handmade labels to the top.  Also, it allowed her to use her adorable hot air balloon stamp!

Baggage Claim Favors

Well, I think that’s all for now!  What a great time we had at the shower and what a great excuse we had to get together to “plan” over the past few months.  Now that I no longer have party planning as my excuse, I guess that means I should start working on organizing our closets.  Shocking, but I do not have the same motivation to get going on that.

Instead, I think I’ll spend more time sharing photos from the shower!

Mom-to-be with the Hostesses

The Guest of Honor grabs a photo with the Hostesses.

Happy Day

The beautiful expecting mother glows as she and her husband announced the baby’s beautiful name.


Up, Up, and Away – A Hot-Air Balloon /Travel-Themed Baby Shower – Part 1

This August will mark ten years since I moved from Indiana to the Nation’s Capitol for a new job.  That means, ten years of adjusting to a faster pace of life and a much slower pace of traffic.  Ten years of exploring different ethnic cuisines and cultures. Ten years of watching every conceivable protest march between the Hill and the White House.  And ten years since I met one of my very best friends, and former roommate, Kim.

It has been five years since we lived together, and those five years have been filled with major life milestones we experienced along a very similar timeline yet independent of one another:  buying a first home (defined as a one-bedroom condo in DC ), changing careers, getting married, and moving from DC to Arlington.  And come August, Kim will be celebrating more than just her 10 year anniversary in DC.  She will be joining me in this new world of parenthood as she becomes a mother.

To get a head start on the celebration, two of my good friends and I had the honor of hosting a baby shower for Kim.  All three of us quickly agreed to a travel-themed shower given Kim’s love for world travel and exploration.  We were inspired by countless different vintage travel-themed showers we saw on Pinterest, but it did not take long to realize a common theme with these parties – they were for boys.  It made sense, after all, with the bright reds and blues in vintage passport stamps and little airplane decorations.  Thanks to the suggestion by one of the co-hosts, Kelli, we overlapped the feminine and whimsical qualities of hot air balloons with the travel theme, and just like that, we had ourselves a baby shower theme.

To set the tone of the shower – travel, hot air balloons, and pink – Kelli designed the invitations.  Then, making a crafternoon of it, Andreia (the other co-host) and I helped her assemble them.  So basically, Kelli did the hard work and we helped punch paper and glue pieces together.  My kind of project.  Here’s a look at the final product (blacked out in areas to protect everyone’s anonymity).


In addition to the theme, we also agreed that there would be no traditional games at this shower.  Like a lot of ladies, self included, Kim is not a tie-a-ribbon-around-my-expanding-belly kind of girl.  Instead, we decided to harness that creative energy and put it into other activities or gifts for the expecting mother.

Not knowing exactly what we had in mind, as guests began to RSVP, we asked each for their top vacation spot and place of birth.  We later realized that we probably sounded like potential hackers knowing how many of us use this type of information for our passwords.  We promise our intentions were good and solely focused on shower activities. In the end, we decided on the following two activities, each with its travel-themed card: (1) Check-In: Pin your Birthplace on the Map and (2) Souvenirs: Decorate a Favorite Travel Destination Onesie

Check-In: Pin Your Birthplace on the Map

Knowing the nursery was going to be in neutral hues with photos from Kim’s African safari, we  asked each guest to pin their birthplace on a vintage-style map.  While originally intending to apply the map to a cork board, it was not feasible.  Instead, Andreia had the map laminated to strengthen and protect it.  We placed the map on a table with pushpins and a “Check-In” sign.  As guests arrived, they were instructed to pin their birthplace on the large map.  Kim received the map at the end of the shower as a decoration for the nursery.


Souvenir Station: Decorate a Onesie

At the risk of disappointing guests by requesting they iron during a baby shower, we knew they would go for it in honor of Kim.  We took the list of top vacation spots the guests provided and I had the joy of finding graphics that embodied the location yet seemed appropriate for an infant onesie.  Lucky for Kim, her guests have been all over the globe.  I selected anything from a baby and mama giraffe for Africa to a painting of a sleepy moon and stars for Turkey (inspired by the symbols on the flag).  Other graphics included a kangaroo for Australia, a sandcastle for a beach vacation, a tango silhouette for Argentina, and a hula girl for Hawaii.  I had a lot of fun finding different graphics that would make fun onesies, and the end result was definitely worth the effort.  Once I had the graphics, we printed them onto transfer paper like I did for Alister’s monthly onesies. We set up an ironing table and iron and laid out the iron-on graphics and blank onesies at the Souvenir Station in Andreia’s basement.Image

About an hour into the shower, we requested the guests to take a trip down to the basement, find their favorite travel destination iron-on and select a onesie to iron.  In an effort to make it feel more fun and less like household chores, we also provided a couple of fabric markers so the guests could personalize the onesie they ironed for Kim.    Here are a couple photos of  the Souvenir Station:


Aren’t they adorable?  Not able to let an obvious play on words pass me by, I went ahead and included a couple phrases for some of the graphics – “Like Mother, Like Daughter” for the giraffes, “My Fine Whine” suggested by Kelli for the Napa wine glass, “Future Engineer, Just like Grandpa” for the sandcastle, and “Daddy’s Little Sack of Potatoes” for the Ireland potatoes.



We were very excited about them, and the guests were great sports in making something special for Kim.

Realizing this is getting a lot longer than I anticipated, I will hold off on the rest of the shower details for a separate post.  Now that I have put it out there, I will try not to wait three to four months before posting it.

We All Live In A Yellow Submarine – Alister’s First Birthday

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since we welcomed our bundle of joy into our lives. It is true what they say that there is nothing more exhausting and rewarding than having a baby.

Alister - New Born
Of course, no one ever told me that part of the deal was singing Yellow Submarine at least once per day for an entire year.  But can you blame us?  The moment we sang it to him, he started smiling.  And from that moment on, whenever he was fussy or resisted to eat, all we had to do was belt out the first line of the song and he was back to his happy self.  Alister has picked up quite the dancing moves over the year as well, and when we chime in with lyrics from his favorite song, he stops what he is doing and starts swaying along with surprising rhythm.  It was only fitting that his first birthday celebration focus on his favorite song.

After scouring all things Yellow Submarine, Yellow Party, and First Birthday on Pinterest, I narrowed my projects down to a few reasonable tasks.  From here on out, they are appropriately referred to as my naptime projects, because each project was started and finished or at least substantially complete during a weekend nap.  So much for “sleep when the baby sleeps.”


My first project allowed me to recycle the giant box that carried Alister’s new big-boy car seat.  The added bonus was that  I was able to take advantage of a beautiful Spring day.  Inspired by Yellow Submarine photo-shoot props, I was determined to make one of my own.  Sure it was not an exact replica of the album artwork, but with the bold colors and obvious Submarine shape, who would know?

For starters, I sketched a very loose outline of a Yellow Submarine photo I saw online on the backside of the expanded box, making a point of maximizing the cardboard area.  Next, I got out my heavy duty scissors, which I’m pretty sure are supposed to cut metal, and started cutting out the holes I traced from a serving plate.

Sketch and cut

Three holes later and the hard work was done.  Cut the peep holes

Next, I started filling in the lines with similar colors.  It may not have been a perfect match, but once I added the yellow, it really started to resemble the Yellow Submarine I had in mind.

Paint and paint.

I considered cutting around the outside of the submarine, but Justin convinced me to paint the background blue.  Not only was this a lot easier than cutting through thick cardboard, but it really helped making the submarine pop.  Also, it allowed me to use some leftover blue paint we had from remodeling our bedroom, so I felt like I was recycling the paint instead of tossing it.  How appropriate given Earth Day was just around the corner.

Finishing touches

If I were to do this over, I would have moved the holes a little higher on the cardboard.  I did not think that through and when all was said and done, I wasn’t quite sure how people would pop their head through without lying on the ground.  Fortunately, I had blue tissue paper at home, so I draped it over a card table and propped the cut out on top of it.  The little ones could just pop behind there while we took their photos.Say cheese!

Unfortunately, I do not have Alister’s photo to share right now, but I will post that at another time.


What I lack in Alister Yellow Submarine photos, I make up for in the flag banner.  This was my personal highlight of the decorations for obvious reasons.  What do I love more than one photo of Alister?  Twelve photos.

 I do not even remember how I stumbled upon this blog post, but I am so happy I did.  It was exactly what I was looking for to showcase Alister’s monthly onesie photos while decorating with a yellow banner.  I printed out 4×6 copies of Alister’s monthly photos onto regular computer paper and followed the directions and the template for measuring and cutting out flags.  Once the flags were cut, I  measured one of the photos onto the center of the flag and cut around it.  Then, as recommended in the post, I used the photo to trace the shape for all other photos.   I did the same with the yellow and white diagonal striped card stock, which I used in between each of the photos.

Cut and paste

Once the cutting was complete, I simply used a glue stick to attach all the pieces.  Then I punched holes in the corners of each flag and wove a yellow ribbon to attach them.  It was a perfect decoration to hang in our living room where most guests would congregate.

12 mos of Alister

Here is another close up shot of the banner.
A close-up


 In the hustle and bustle of looking up all things first birthday party, I must have stumbled upon this post about DIY party hats.  Not only does it share a few ideas for decorating hats, but it provides you with a printable template for tracing and cutting your own hats.  I traced the template onto pale yellow cardstock (with the exception of one bright yellow piece for Alister).  Then I simply connected the pieces, forming a cone shape, and taped the interior to prevent it from flying open.  Next came the fun part.  I had a few leftover tissue paper balls after making large ones to hang from the ceiling.  I attached the balls  to resemble yellow flowers for some of the hats.  For the others, I got out my new hole punch toys and went to work cutting and pasting.

Cut and decorate

It was another great accent to the corner of the room for the little kids who attended.  I hadn’t thought about this at the time, but the kids (or the parents of the kids) ended up writing their names on the circle attachment to the front of the hats.  So it ended up doubling as name tags for the little ones.  Also, to make it a little more enjoyable for them, I hid a bottle of bubbles under each hat.  Who doesn’t love bubbles?Put on your party hats!

Here is Alister in his one-of-a-kind, made-by-mommy birthday hat ready to try his first bite of cake!The Birthday Boy


In no particular order, here is a look at some of the other decorations we had scattered around the house.

Come aboard our Yellow Submarine!

Front Door Sign

 A room with a view.  A very yellow view.  Also a look at my very first attempt at making tissue paper balls.  Not perfect, but not bad.


The cake table was full of yellow treats before we brought out the cake.  With Easter just a few weeks before his birthday, it was the perfect time of year to find yellow-colored treats in the store.  Yellow Peeps, Reeses Eggs, pretzel rods dipped in yellow melting chocolate leftover from the favors (more on that below), yellow M&Ms, Lemonheads.  And of course a lemon and daisy centerpiece.Yellow Table Decorations

The drink stand focused on yellow drinks as well.  From left to right:

  • Pineapple Sangria – recipe here – doubled the ingredients and used 3L of wine
  • Lemonade – good old fashioned Country Time mix with lots of lemon slices
  • Adult Lemonade – 3-4 parts lemonade, 1 part vodka, 1 part seltzer water
  • In the back are two bowls full of lemon slices and pineapples to accompany the drinks.

Yellow Drinks

We couldn’t let the guests go hungry, so keeping with the theme, we put up a Design Your Own Yellow Submarine (sandwich) Bar.  From left to right:

  • Turkey Meatballs – doubled the recipe seen here
  • Beef and Sausage Meatballs – doubled the recipe seen here
  • Italian Rolls
  • Turkey and Ham
  • Cheese, Tomatoes, Onions, and Lettuce
  • And unrelated to the design-your-own-submarine theme, but still keeping with yellow, there is my favorite corn salsa recipe, a simple onion dip, and another bowl of pineapple chunks.

Submarine Bar

Here is the birthday boy not too happy with his birthday hat that slid onto his face.  I didn’t bother too much with his high chair since there was a small window between lunch and the start of the party, but I managed to string some yellow balloons to the back and hang some crepe paper along with a little “ONE” sign from the tray.
Cake Time!

Once that hat came off, he was ready for anything.  And by “anything,” I mean staring down a tiny piece of cake until we forced him to smash his hands in it.  So much for a cake smash photo.  Justin just looked at him and said, “you are your Mother’s child” as he did not get a single speck of food on him.  
Hmmm, I only trust Cheerios.


Even if they had enough sugar to last the year, we couldn’t send the guests away empty handed.  Recommended by a pin I had previously seen when used as a cupcake topper, I purchased a Yellow Submarine ice cube tray from Amazon along with more than enough packages of Wilton yellow melting chocolate, hence the pretzel rods previously mentioned, and got to work.  After sixty seconds in the microwave at reduced power, I poured the melted chocolate into the ice cube tray to cool at room temperature for about twenty minutes.  With only nine molds in the tray, I finished this project over the course of the day.
Melt the chocolate

I placed three chocolates in a cellophane bag, tied it with a yellow ribbon and placed it in a white basket I filled with yellow grass I picked up after the Easter rush.Thanks for coming!

Once the last of the guests were gone, our little buddy finally relaxed and enjoyed a piece of cake.  With a spoon.Sneaking secondsWell, I think that about wraps up Alister’s First Birthday party!  We had a wonderful time celebrating his first year with our friends and family.  Here’s looking forward to another memorable year with this amazing addition to our lives.


mignon lecomte

Simple Scratch Cooking

A Guide to Easy, Everyday Meals

wedding withdrawal

paper crafts & baked goods

The Sweet Life

baking, Boston, and the pursuit of happiness

The Honest Toddler

Juice. Crackers. TV.