Friday, December 27, 2013

Building Gingerbread Houses...with Sunny by Design!

Good Morning Ya'll! 
The posts are just going to keep coming! Woohoo!! You fabulous readers will get not one but 2 posts today! I was suppose to do a second post yesterday but with coming home and working on cookies for a photo shoot I didn't have any time to get the post I am doing 2 today:) The first post is a tutorial by my girl Sunny from Sunny by Design.  Sunny does printables but she has branched out into some other aspects of the party world recently. I collaborated with her on her daughter's Panda themed birthday party! It came out soo cute! I will be doing a blog post about that party soon.. But for the last 2 years Sunny has decorated Gingerbread houses with her children and they absolutely love it! Since I don't do Gingerbread houses I thought it would be fitting for Sunny to share her experience with you all. So the rest of this post will be in Sunny's words. Enjoy! 

It wouldn't be Christmas without Gingerbread houses.  Every year for the last three years we have decorated Gingerbread houses.  I love it the kids love it and it makes lasting memories for the holiday season.  This year I decided to forgo the pre-made kits and make them myself.  It was a lot of work and spanned out over three days, but it was so worth it.  

It all started with this tutorial I found on Frog Prince Paperie.  It's a very detailed beautifully illustrated walk-through.  I used the White House Gingerbread recipe from this site and it worked perfectly.  It held up really well in baking and assembly.  There were two tips I found invaluable.  

1.  Roll the dough out in the pan, cut the shapes then remove the extra pieces. This way you never have to move the cut pieces and bend them out of shape.  They just sit in place and hold their shape.  

2. Once you remove the baked gingerbread from the oven.  Take the templates and trace around the warm gingerbread trimming off the extra bits that grew during baking.  This way your pieces always fit perfectly.  This must be done when the gingerbread is warm.  The knife will slide like butter through the cookie.  If you try to trim the edges when it's cold the cookie will be hard and break easily.  It doesn't work trust me I tried.

The one thing I did do differently was to place parchment paper in the bottom of the pan before rolling the dough out.  This made removal so easy.  The first couple pans I baked I followed the directions and just lightly greased the pan before rolling out the dough.  I found it very difficult to remove the pieces from the pan.  Maybe I over baked them or maybe I let them sit too long on the pan before removing.  Either way it was easier for me to just use handy dandy parchment paper.  That way the cookie pieces just slid right off when they were done.  

I started cooking two days before I planned to decorate the houses.  This way the pieces would have plenty of time to cool and set.  Like I said this recipe worked really well.  The pieces were dense and sturdy and not crisp and brittle.  The house smelled wonderful (and still does).  I let the kids munch on the extra bits I trimmed off after baking and they loved them.  

I did draw my own templates for this.  I printed them out on cardstock and used them over and over to create all five houses.  I also used them to do the trimming after the pieces came out of the oven.  If you would like the templates they are posted at the end of this blog entry.  For the back piece I used the same template as the front but didn't cut out the door.

On the second day I assembled the houses with royal icing.  Royal icing is wonderful and for those that aren't familiar with it, it starts out soft and smooth and dries to a rock hard candy like consistency.  Perfect for decorating cookies, making flowers, and gluing together gingerbread.  The icing does harden fairly quickly but I wanted to make sure it had plenty of time to set before the kids started decorating, so I let them sit for a day.  They were probably done after a couple hours but I wanted to make sure.  
After three years of this I think I finally have the decorating process streamlined. 

With four kids you have to be organized and make sure the same candies are available for everybody.  I made a little decorating station for each child with tiny candies and the pieces that needed to be attached, like the door and gingerbread men. 

 I also set out some larger candies in bowls in between the kids with enough to share.  This way I didn't have to set out individual bowls for each child. 

I also had my icing bags ready and waiting.  Speed is important once you start decorating.  Attention spans are short and the icing dries quickly so you have to keep the process going. 
My sweet Marina with the puffy marshmallow roof.

Marcus was so precise with his. 
Notice Myles adorable Lego Star Wars Jammies. 

We started out with the top of the roof. It's just easier to start at the top and work your way down. Since I had to pipe the icing I just filled in the area they were going to work on and let them go to town.

It still amazes me how steady her hand was. Marina takes this very seriously. 

Yes there is candy in his mouth. Maybe that's why he's smiling. 

I love the randomness of Mara's house. When you're three everything is random. 

Next we did the sides and finished with the front.

I think the best part is setting all of the houses on our window sill in a row.  We try not to let anyone touch them until after Christmas but sometimes pieces go missing.  Usually on Mara's house.  

This year after the kids were finished I got to decorate my very own house.  I've always wanted to but gingerbread kits aren't cheap and having to buy four was bad enough.  Now with making my own I didn't have to worry about any of that.  Here are some pics of how my house turned out.

So after three days we had five beautiful gingerbread houses.  Goodtimes.

Frog Prince Paperie and Tradewind Tiaras for posting such an awesome gingerbread tutorial.

Sunny's Templates: 

I would like to thank Sunny for this awesome tutorial! Stay tuned later today for another Christmas party spotlight! 

Peace & Blessings 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vendor Spotlight- Christmas Party with Tunky Monkey

Good Morning Ya'll!
Boy do I have treat you guys this week! So I have rounded up some really good parties to share with you over the next couple of days:) Since Christmas was yesterday I wanted to keep with the theme and share with you some cute Christmas parties. This first party was submitted by Melissa of Tunky Monkey's Sweet Treats.  Melissa is based out of Portsmouth, Virginia so if you are in that area you should check her out. Every year, Melissa likes to give back to the community by hosting a party to in her words "give back to those who need a little extra sweetness in their lives." This particular party was given to celebrate her local military community. I for one think that is a great way to give back, celebrating those that have or are putting their lives on the line to protect this country.  I celebrate Melissa for taking on such a task especially during the holiday season when we all know just our regular lives can be a little hectic. So without further ado here are the pics!

Vendor Credit: Melissa- Tunky Monkey Sweet Treats
Website: TunkyMonkey
Twitter: @TunkyMonkey
Pinterest: TunkyMonkey

I will be featuring another post a tutorial on gingerbread houses by Sunny Duran this evening!

Peace & Blessings

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Party Spotlight: E & S Paper Studio Holiday Party

Good Morning Ya'll! 

I know its been a while since I have posted my last post, but I have been super busy with the holiday coming, orders and work. So needless to say, I am blogging now. The great part is that I will have some awesome parties to show you but some of my creations as well in the next couple of weeks! Great stuff is coming:) So right now I have another vendor spotlight for you. Elizabeth Braegger who is the owner of E & S Paper Studio and elleBakes. Elizabeth does some great stuff..if you haven't seen her work you can take a look at her Facebook page or her website here. If you are only for a fully customized party printables then check her out! Her style is clean and modern. You can tell she has a great eye for design. 

Like some of us small businesses (including yours truly), Elizabeth has a day job. For the last couple of years Elizabeth has been in charge of her department's Holiday Luncheon. Well she did a great job and she did it on a small budget! What is better than putting together a great party layout while doing it cheaply:) Elizabeth was not only kind enough to provide some great pictures for the spotlight, she also provided a cost breakdown for the party. Proof that a great looking party doesn't always has to clean out your pocket. 

Here is what Elizabeth had to say about the party: 

Here's an office lunch setup on a budget! In the last few years as our department has grown we went from a restaurant to a conference room. Our bosses provided us with lunch, and my co-workers and I would bring the desserts, drinks and serveware for the occasion. For the last few years, I've taken charge of our Holiday Luncheon. Working with a minimal budget, and using as much of my own Holiday decor as I can, I've setup this simple, festive table.

Decorations:Gold Chevron Table Runner - I sewed it with 1 yard of fabric from Joann's - $7White Poinsettias - From my own Christmas decor - $30Ornament Centerpieces - Dollar Tree ornaments - $4White & Glitter Snowflakes - Dollar Tree - $2White Damask Tablecloth - Vendor's Warehouse Sale - $3

Serveware:White Square Paper Plates - Dollar Tree - $2White Dinner Napkins - Dollar Tree - $1Silver Plasticware - Dollar Tree - $4Clear Cups - Dollar Tree - $1Gold Cups - Party City - $3Gold Napkin Rings - Scrapbooking Paper, Michaels - $2

Sweets - elleBakesChocolate Covered StrawberriesRum Cake Gold PopsMerenguesMint Chocolate Brownies

So as you can see Elizabeth is very talented and she was able to put together a great looking holiday luncheon for under $60.00! So please don't forget to stop by her fan page and websites to say hello, you will be glad you did! 

Peace & Blessings