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November 2017

3-2-1…Launch!

What an amazing day yesterday turned out to be! I’ve been trying to make time to sit down and write this since I got home last night, but I guess with three kids things don’t really go as planned!

It was a huge day for me – the launch party for CandiGrams! Not something I ever dreamed could happen, but it just goes to show that when you really want something there’s usually a way to make it happen.

This all started back in mid-October when one of my friends suggested doing a launch party. I’m always down for a party, so it sounded like a great idea to me. My husband immediately assumed this meant a lot of people partying it up in our house while he tried to keep the kids sleeping upstairs, so it was time to get creative. I was talking this through with another friend and she suggested doing it at a store that I love. Athleta was the obvious first choice being that I’m there at least once a week. The very next day I happened to be there making a purchase and decided why not at least ask. The worst that could happen was they tell me they don’t do things like that. It all worked out because here I am a month and a half later writing about what an amazing event the launch party turned out to be! Actually, the entire day was almost perfect (will get to that “almost” later).

The morning was crazy as always, getting the kids breakfast and out the door to school. They sensed something was going on and of course were more difficult than usual (screaming and not letting me go at drop off, etc.), but they all got where they had to be AND on time. My next stop after dropping them off at school was Athleta. They let me set up a table in the store to promote my blog and products! It was a great experience being in the store for a few hours and having the opportunity to meet and talk to people I otherwise would have never had the chance to. (I also enjoyed trying on some of the clothes I don’t get a chance to when I have the boys with me!)

After a few hours at the store, I had to get home to frost the cupcakes and start getting ready for the evening. (Confession, I did order a margherita pizza from Cipollini because it was right there, and why not celebrate a little early?)

In the middle of decorating the cupcakes my doorbell rang. What a huge surprise to see a flower delivery! (Thank you so much to my sister-in-law and her family!!) Totally made my day – sometimes it’s the little things that mean so much 🙂

By the time I finished frosting and decorating 48 cupcakes it was time to get my oldest guy off the bus. Then straight to the salon for a blowout. This was a big treat – I don’t get blowouts, EVER – and I was SO excited!!! Then 30 minutes later walking out of the salon my son looks at me and says “Mom, what did they DO to your hair? Why does it look like that?” It was so bad, even my almost-six-year-old knew I could not go anywhere looking like that! (That was the “almost” part of the perfect day…) So now I’m down to an hour and a half until I have to be at Athleta, and in addition to putting the cheese & cracker and vegetable trays together, blowing up balloons and loading the car, I now have to shower because that was the only possible way to fix the disaster that was my hair. And then I get the call from my husband that he is running almost an hour late because of an accident causing worse-than-usual traffic. Fortunately my in-laws took my two youngest guys for the afternoon so I was able to squeeze in my quickest shower ever and manage to get ready in time! Even better – I had probably the best hair day that I’ve had in the past year (not saying much, but I’ll take it!).

The next several hours are mostly a blur. The hour I spent unloading the car and setting up felt like 15 minutes. I was able to grab all my favorite pieces and display them on a rack – it felt way cooler than it probably was, haha. My mom and sister-in-law and my husband’s family were there before I realized it was even approaching 7pm. The store looked great and I felt more relaxed after seeing my family there!

Main table set up with raffles, favors and some of my products!
The awesome sign my husband made!! (The background can change color!!)
Raffle baskets in the back, monogrammed stationary in the front.
Note card favors, custom mugs and candles
Custom and monogrammed wine glasses
With my mom and sister-in-law!
Food Table!
Cupcakes 🙂
More cupakes…

It wouldn’t be one of my parties without the wine table!!

 

If you haven’t, tag any photos on Instagram!

There were already so many surprises throughout the day, and then right before the event started and when my sister-in-law arrived, she gave me this adorable and thoughtful gift from her, my brother and their kids!! How cute is this?? Right now, too cute to write on and use up 🙂

Let’s get the party started!

My mom and me!
With my husband’s family 🙂

At 7:10 I was extremely anxious because it was still just family at the store. Were people really going to show up? Lots of kids are sick, is anyone coming out on a Monday evening,… Then within the next 10 minutes the place was filling up. The vibe was awesome – everyone was hanging out, having a drink, shopping, trying on clothes and just seemed to be enjoying themselves! There were two or three times during the night that I stepped back to take in the scene of the entire store. It was surreal to have all my friends and family in my favorite store – open just to us – having a great time together. It amazes me how supportive everyone is and it’s absolutely the greatest feeling!!!

Entering for a chance to win some cool prizes!

The staff at Athleta were amazing, they didn’t stop all night! The fitting rooms were crazy for about 2 hours straight! The 20% discount was an added bonus 🙂 As were the 2 Athleta Girl raffle baskets they donated!!

Just about all 50 guests spent most of the evening with me at the store! As everyone was wrapping up their purchases my mom walked around handing out the favors and we called the winners of the raffles. The favors seemed to be a hit (thank you to another awesome friend for that fun idea)! I made each guest a set of 5 note cards with lined envelopes. (You can find similar ones for sale on my Etsy Shop!!)

 

And the winner is….!

And one more pic just because this hat was my favorite purchase of the night!

I never anticipated that so many people would come out to support me like they did last night. Family traveled over 2 hours to be there, friends made arrangements for people to watch their kids and all 50 people made room in their schedules to come celebrate. One of my very good friends and my sister-in-law both spent much of their evening taking the awesome pictures above!! My husband has been more supportive than I could have ever asked. He’s entertained the kids after work most days so I could work on pulling all of this together, and after putting them to bed he’s been helping me in every way possible! I truly appreciate it all!!!! The night was an absolute success thanks to so many of you reading this, so THANK YOU!

XOXO

 

CandiGramsShop is now open on Etsy!!

This past weekend I opened my Etsy shop – CandiGramsShop!! There’s not a whole lot out there right now as I’m just getting started, but I hope to add a couple new items each week. (It’s just getting pictures of all the items that’s holding me up!!)

The products I am going to start with are handmade and custom stationary and invitations, custom wine glasses and mugs and party decor. Are there products that you would like to see me add? What can I improve on the items currently out there? How are the price points? Any feedback you have is greatly appreciated! Feel free to comment below or email me at Candi@CandiGrams.net.

XOXO

Cast Iron Skillet Lasagna

It’s been just over a week since I made this for dinner and I’m finally getting around to sharing it. That’s what happens when all three kids get sick in the same week, at the same time….

This is not a quick weeknight recipe – I only make this on a Friday or Saturday when things are usually not as crazy around the house. It’s very easy to make but involves taking out the food processor. I HATE the food processor. Digging it out, using it for 30 seconds, then cleaning and putting away all those parts!  The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen and I’ve adapted it slightly for my family’s tastes. You can find the link to the original recipe here and my variations will be noted below.

Ingredients

  • Three 14.5 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 pound ground beef (recipe calls for Italian sausage but we like to use 93% lean)
  • 12 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (original recipe calls for 2 cups, we like extra)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I have also used Pecorino Romano)
  • 1 box lasagna noodles, cooked and broken in half (original recipe uses no-boil noodles)

1. Preheat ove‌n to 400º F. Boil water and cook lasagna noodles according to instructions on the box. I cook about a minute or two less since they will be going in the oven. (ATC’s recipe calls for the no-boil lasagna noodles, however I find that in my oven it takes too long for them to cook all the way through in the middle).

2. Pulse tomatoes and their juice in a food processor. The original recipe suggests for 10 seconds, until coarsely ground. My kids don’t like chunks of tomato so I do about 20-30 seconds.

3. Heat 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering and hot. Add onion and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another 30 seconds. (Original recipe also calls for the addition of 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes here. My kids are not happy if they get a taste of the tiniest flake so usually I just add regular ground black pepper instead.)

4. Add the ground beef and cook all the way through, until no pink remains. Sometimes I use my potato masher to help break up the meat.

5. Stir in tomatoes and simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.

6. While sauce simmers, prepare the cheeses. In one bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg yolk, thyme and a dash of salt and pepper. In another bowl combine the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Set 1 cup of this mixture aside.

7. Once sauce has thickened slightly, transfer it to a third bowl. Spread about a cup of the sauce over the skillet and then arrange lasagna noodles around it as shown below. Scoop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and then sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella mixture on top of that. Add 1/3 of the sauce on top of the cheeses. Repeat this layering process two more times, beginning with the noodles and ending with the sauce. Sprinkle the reserved 1 cop mozzarella mixture over top. **Note – We do not love ricotta cheese in this house so I typically use about 1/2 to 3/4 of the ricotta mixture. We also love our carbs, so I use more noodles than shown in the original recipe.

Noodles!
Layering
Ready to go in the oven

8. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook about 30 minutes – sauce should be boiling and cheese browning on top. It’s best to let cook about 10 minutes, as suggested in the original recipe. However, my kids are usually starving and can’t wait – so it ends up looking like this when you cut into it to soon (but tastes just as delicious!)…..

If you would like the perfect dinner roll to serve with this, try Cook’s Illustrated Fluffy Dinner Rolls. I’ve made them several times and the dog never gets a crumb!

Give these both a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

Halloween Recap 2017!

The kids are finally off their sugar-highs, decorations are mostly away and we have fully recovered (I think…) from the craziness of hosting over 60 people at this year’s Halloween Bash! Now I can sit down and write about it 🙂

This year instead of sending an evite, I crafted invitations to mail out to our guests. You can read more about those here. I’m already designing next year’s invitation and have some ideas that make these look kind of boring!

2017 Halloween Bash Invite

My husband and I started decorating for Halloween several weeks in advance. We wanted the scene to be a little more dramatic than it was last year but also something that the youngest kids (1-2 years old) could deal with. My two favorite projects this year were transforming all of our picture frames from family photos to Halloween scenes and making themed wine glasses. For the picture frames, I cut out the different Halloween images using my Cricut machine, glued them onto orange and black cardstock and inserted them into the frames over our family photos.

Before
After

I finished the main wall by moving the pictures off-center and covering them with cobwebs and spiders. This project took a LOT of time but I’m saving them for next year!

Our engagement photo was professionally framed and matted so it was pretty much impossible to put another picture in the frame. Instead I made creepy vinyl cutouts and stuck those onto the glass.

Vinyl cutouts

Onto the next project… Wine never tastes as good to me in a plastic cup as it does in an actual glass, so this year I decided to ditch the plastic and use glass. Obviously a regular, plain wine glass wouldn’t be festive enough for this party so I had to dress them up a bit. Originally each glass was going to have the same design until I realized everyone would get their glasses mixed up whenever they set it down. This would get seriously annoying and I decided to create a different design for each glass….

Halloween Wine Glasses

The entryway was simple and easy to do but also set the mood when guests entered. I used a pop up coffin (I found this one at Michael’s and stuck two arms out of it) to block the stairway and keep kids from going up. Then I draped cobwebs over the railing and used an LED tea light on each step.

Entryway

Some more decorating….

The cupcakes are my go-to chocolate pudding cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting. (I’ll eventually be posting that recipe!!) These were decorated with Halloween sprinkles and chocolates that I made using skeleton molds.

Cupcakes

This is my favorite New York Style cheesecake (another recipe I’ll get around to posting…) Apparently the kids got to the hand decoration before I did because and when I finally found it, half its thumb was missing. The red cookie frosting was unused from a previous birthday party and turned out to be the quickest fix I could find.

Cheesecake

My husband is always in charge of decorating outside. He had some pretty fun ideas this year, and making them work was WAY beyond anything I could help with!! My favorite was this box he built (shown below), and as guests walked by it the lid opened slightly and it started shaking. This scared the crap out of quite a few people!!!! Once guests (and trick-or-treaters) made their way past the box and under the cobwebs hanging over the porch, they were greeted by two skeletons – one of which even spoke to them!

With all the craziness, we never managed to get a family picture in our Star Wars costumes 🙁 At least a friend grabbed this one for us….

Until next year……