Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Halloween 2011 - Itsy Bitsy Spider...

UPDATE:  Did you like the party printables I used for this Halloween party?  You can find them (and more!) for purchase here and a matching pennant banner here.  Check it out!

As I mentioned before, this year's Halloween celebration was going to be all about spiders, so here they are:
I made this invitation for our Halloween Party and printed them on cardstock to send out to our guests.  I put this design together fairly quickly and am satisfied with the result.  I know, it is a pretty basic card, but for someone like me, who is so unfamiliar with graphic design and photo editing, it is a real accomplishment :-)
I had an "adults-only" beverage station separate from the other food tables.  The two drinks shown are a tangerine mimosa (champagne + tangerine juice) and a black cherry + black vodka "concoction", which I named Spidertinis and served in... oh well, martini glasses.  You can purchase this "welcome" bunting here (digital file.)
I wet the rim of the glasses and then dipped them in orange and black sanding sugar.
I cut a plastic spider ring and wrapped it around a martini glass stem. You might want to add glitter to the spiders if it suits your fancy :-)
This is a little trick I got from Martha Stewart: "bloody eyes" made out of lychees stuffed with maraschino cherries.  They were the little surprise at the end of the drink picks...
My original idea was to get a handful of test tubes and use them as shot glasses, adding dry ice for a more "eerie" effect.  Since I couldn't find neither dry ice nor a test tube stand that I liked, I poured the drinks in Erlenmeyer flasks for a "mad scientist" look, and decorated the "drinking glasses" with some adorned straws. 

The buffet table from every angle...

Mini candelabra and cake stands snagged at eBay. Cuuuuuute!!!  Spider web cupcakes tutorial here.

  Halloween-inspired fortune cookies. Black and orange in color with spooky messages inside...
"A crazy bat will get stuck in your hair"
Glass cylinders got a "facelift" with black, white and orange ribbons.  I made polka dot "Boo" labels for the orange and black swirl lollipops.

Ornate glass bottles for the juices
 Remember the upcycled jars from the previous post
Black and orange fabric flowers with spiders climbing on them.  I wrapped the candles with orange and black spider lace found at Etsy.  The black plate is a plastic charger plate from Party City.
 Mercury glass candle holders give it a haunted mansion feeling...
Mini croissant sandwiches: Turkey, Swiss & Tomato; Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese & Chives; Roasted Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella & Basil 
After a previous disappointing experience with my stovetop smoker, I am glad to report that this second time around, the homemade smoked chicken tasted divine!  I was looking for an "upgrade" to a basic Waldorf salad and that added the rich flavor I was after...
Greek salad with mint oil.  As a garnish, ghost-shaped potato chips found at Whole Foods Market.  It is hard to see, but the paper cone has a spider web pattern against a black background.
Even the soups served were color-coordinated: Chipotle Black Bean and Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper.
In fact, I focused on black and orange foods and beverages, like this black rice Thai-inspired salad with mangoes, cilantro and red bell pepper.

The big spider was supposed to be hanging from the ceiling, but I decided to delegate this job to the tallest person of the house (definitely not me), who certainly taught me one valuable lesson: if you want something done well (or done at all!), do it yourself... Yeah, the spider never made it past the food stand.  But it looked nice there too!
 Detail of the punched out spider on the food tag
No Brazilian party (in the US at least) would be complete without "pão de queijo".  Even better when it is made from scratch.

 An overview of the main table, the buffet table and its surroundings

I had purchased these cream puffs the day before and wasn't sure what to do with them...  Then I found some mixed berries in my freezer and whipped up a berry coulis to serve with the puffs.  When plating, I got playful and spelled "help!" with the sauce on the white plate before placing the sweets on top of it.  As my guests were "clearing" the plate (and that happened quickly), they saw the desperate blurred message underneath...

My "scary" family photos :-)
and some fake cobwebs all over!
 I love how the spiders just dangle from this table runner
I dragged my dress form from my closet to be the "hostess" of the night.  I threw an orange boa, a few bead necklaces and a "Happy Halloween" sign around its "neck" and had it greeting guests at the door. 
My oldest boy getting ready for the much anticipated party.  He changed his mind the day before everything was arranged for him to be Spider Man, and we had to come up with an emergency pirate outfit (with a Jimmy Hendrix shirt underneath...) Three costumes later, and he was Batman by the end of the day...
 No arguing about costumes here.  Miss Piggy & Kermit, the frog.
I truly felt safe with all the super heroes at home that day...

Did you like the party printables I used for this Halloween party?  You can find them (and more!) for purchase here and a matching pennant banner here.  Check it out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween 2011 - a work in progress...

I've been working on our Halloween party and it is taking longer than ever because my oldest son wants to "help" me this year. It is fun to see how excited he is about his party and how that's all he talks about lately. At school, at home, even at restaurants, stores... We recently traveled out of town and he pretty much proudly invited everyone at the hotel to come to his Halloween Party :-)
This was my first project - create a pennant banner for the party. I started by collecting a few patterns of diamonds, checkers, polka dots and stripes in the chosen colors from online image banks and craft stores. I even came up with my own "design", by typing happy halloween and trick or treat multiples times on a word document using different types of Halloween-inspired fonts.  Just search for "free Halloween fonts" and you'll find many for download.  Putting the banner together (choosing the font, printing, cutting) was fun, until I had a little fight with the glue I was using to line them together on a ribbon...
Fortunately, I won the fight and the banner came together nicely. I made a digital file of this banner available for sale here.
The visual identity (or the "face") of the party was developed mainly from things I already had in the house.  Actually, this is how I settled on the color scheme black-white-orange: at first I thought about using black and white only, in part because I like the simplicity of these two timeless colors, but also because I had leftover supplies from my baby shower.  After stumbling on the above sign at a local store, I thought the addition of the orange brought warmth and playfulness.  And it was very fitting, since it was going to be a party for both adults and children.
A Halloween party calls for treat bags, right?  Well, I had lots of heart of palms jars sitting around (I try to reuse everything I can) so I turned them into "treat jars".  Removed the label, painted the lids, wrapped a piece of black lace and orange ribbon around it, and added stamped tags. Voilà, my newly "upcycled" candy jars for guests to fill up with goodies to take home and devour later.
Next, the "theme", which was slightly focused on spiders. It wasn't intentional, but I noticed I was collecting a bunch of spider-related items (from previous holidays, stores, even recipes!) So I started focusing on these little critters, and after a little investigation, found a super cool Martha Stewart spider web paper punch. I wasn't sure what to use them for just yet, perhaps invitations (too much work), a food menu (too formal) or to display a drink recipe (hmmm, maybe....) Then I got ambitious and used the corner punch to create little circular tags to identify the foods being served. The result is a little "chopped", but even real spider webs aren't perfect, right?
A bonus recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart 
Another project was to paint the wall mirrors (from Ikea) in orange and black
It's all in the (small) details... I think I'm going to print different species of spiders and showcase them on these mini frames.
I gathered a few antique pieces I had at home and displayed them alongside spiders, crows and skulls on top of this furniture piece.  The pictures I had on the wall behind it didn't really "match" the Halloween decor, so I went on a hunt for old family photos that would look like creepy props :-)
Love, love, love these Halloween fortune cookies!!
I'm also working on "BOO" labels for these orange, black and white striped lollipops
For the spider cupcakes, I made a whole wheat carrot-walnut cupcake (spiked with wheat germ, flax and chia seeds) and topped with a basic cream cheese frosting (whipped cream cheese and sugar).
The fun part was to decorate the cupcakes with "spider webs" 
Here's how I did it:

1. In a hurry, I used Wilton black decorating gel (but would recommend chocolate syrup instead - my son didn't want anything to do with the frosting because of its taste... plus, it's more natural and can be homemade)
2. Then I drew circles from the center of the cupcake out (don't worry about those being perfect, they'll be "destroyed" later anyway...)
3. Armed with a toothpick, I "pulled" straight lines across from the center, all around the cake
4. Finally, I topped it with a plastic spider ring in the middle

Beware... there's a part II of this post with details of the party...
Para uma versão em português da festa, clique aqui.
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