Friday, May 25, 2018

The Perfect Summer Dessert - No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake

Who's ready for this 3-day weekend? (Me!) If you're looking for something to bring to a Memorial Day cookout, or just want to make something fresh and yummy for your family, then boy, do I have a dessert for you!
Looking for the perfect summer dessert? This easy no-bake strawberry cream cheese icebox cake is exactly the recipe you are looking for! Cool whip, graham crackers, strawberries and cream cheese make for light, fluffy and sweet dream cake

To me, strawberries scream SUMMER. They are my favorite fruit and I'm always looking for new strawberry recipes to make, especially during this warm season. This is a recipe that my mom has made several times over the years, and it is definitely one of my favorites. The filling is fluffy and light, the strawberries are sweet and juicy, and the graham crackers give it the perfect crunch and texture. Plus it is so so easy to make! (Note: it doesn't take long to make, but it does need to be refrigerated for 6-8 hours before serving, so plan on making it ahead of time!)
Looking for the perfect summer dessert? This easy no-bake strawberry cream cheese icebox cake is exactly the recipe you are looking for! Cool whip, graham crackers, strawberries and cream cheese make for light, fluffy and sweet dream cake

I hope you enjoy this perfect summer dessert! [Thanks, Mom, for letting me share!]
Looking for the perfect summer dessert? This easy no-bake strawberry cream cheese icebox cake is exactly the recipe you are looking for! Cool whip, graham crackers, strawberries and cream cheese make for light, fluffy and sweet dream cake



Ingredients
  • 2 lb. strawberries
  • 2 sleeves graham crackers 
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 (3.4 oz) boxes instant cheesecake pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip

Instructions
  1. Clean and slice strawberries (1/4 inch thick), set aside
  2. Line the bottom of a 13x9 dish with graham crackers
  3. Mix cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment. Mix until smooth
  4. Add pudding mixes and 3 cups milk and mix until it begins to thicken (about 4 minutes)
  5. Fold in 2 cups Cool Whip
  6. Pour half of cream cheese mixture over graham crackers
  7. Arrange a layer of sliced strawberries over cream cheese mixture
  8. Top strawberries with another layer of graham crackers, then cream cheese mixture, then strawberries
  9. Refrigerate 6-8 hours
  10. Enjoy!
Looking for the perfect summer dessert? This easy no-bake strawberry cream cheese icebox cake is exactly the recipe you are looking for! Cool whip, graham crackers, strawberries and cream cheese make for light, fluffy and sweet dream cake




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Looking for the perfect summer dessert? This easy no-bake strawberry cream cheese icebox cake is exactly the recipe you are looking for! Cool whip, graham crackers, strawberries and cream cheese make for light, fluffy and sweet dream cake

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How to Plan the Perfect Party (Without Losing Your Mind)

When you're planning a party or event, do you ever feel scatterbrained and overwhelmed with everything that has to be done? The theme, the color scheme, the food, the drinks, the decorations, the games, the guest list, all the things you have to buy?

I know I do! I've planned my fair share of parties over the years, but I still tend to get overwhelmed, especially at the very beginning of the planning process. How in the world am I going to pull this all together?!

I have to slow down and remind myself to take it one step at a time. There are a few things I have found that help me stay organized and feel less like a scatterbrain throughout the process of planning an event, and I'd like to share those with you today!

#1. "Brain dump" all of your thoughts and ideas onto paper
Make a list of all of your ideas, thoughts, and #Pinspiration so that it's all in the same place. Write it all down. Even if it doesn't all make sense together or if you're not sure it's something you actually want to use - write it down anyway. Gather all of your favorite elements onto one piece of paper and you can review it later.
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lists and checklists for menus, decorations, favors
An example of my "brainstorm" or "brain dump" page. Random ideas of elements I may want to use. I did not end up using all of these ideas at this party
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lists and checklists for menus, decorations, favors
This is another example. For my sister's bridal shower last year I couldn't decide between a Kate Spade theme or a Tiffany's theme so I lined up the ideas side by side to compare. [I ended up going with Kate Spade and it turned out perfect!]

#2. Narrow down your ideas to a specific vision
Get rid of any elements that don't fit into the overall theme or feel of the party (or into the budget). There are so many times that I love the look of something I've seen on Pinterest, but it either costs too much or it doesn't fit in with everything else that I have going on, so I have to scratch it.
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lists and checklists for menus, decorations, favors
For this particular party, I wrote down my plan for the food and drink tables on the actual "Food and Drink" list. Sometimes I write down my decorations separate. Whatever works best for you!

#3. Break it down into more organized lists
Once you've decided on an overall theme for the party and have an idea of what food you want to serve, start breaking it down into separate lists so it doesn't all run together. As I finish a task or buy something on my list, I check it off. These are the lists I typically make:
- Decor list (broken down by area)
- Food and beverage list
- Project or to-do list
- Shopping list
- Guest list
- Packing list (see #5)
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lists and checklists for menus, decorations, favors
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lists and checklists for menus, decorations, favors


#4. Delegate!
If you have people willing to help you with a party or shower, by all means, let them! Don't try to take it all on by yourself if you can help it because it can definitely be a daunting task. Decide what you want to do yourself and what others are able/willing to help with, then pass off those tasks and let them take care of it. And hey, since you're making lists, just go ahead and make a list of who's doing what!

#5. Make a "don't forget to bring..." list
This is especially important if the party is somewhere other than your own home. It helps ensure that you bring everything you need with you. Think of the little things you may need ahead of time like scissors, ribbon, pens or markers, tape, push pins, safety pins, hot glue gun with extra sticks, etc.

Also think about how you will want your table set up, how you want to serve the food, and what "fillers" you may want to use - vases with flowers in them, framed photos, books to put things on for height, serving platters or stands, something to put utensils in, etc.

*Below is an example of what I mean by "fillers." They are little details that are used on a center point table that pull everything together. Last year Raley wanted a Lilo and Stitch birthday party so we decided to do a luau and use small little details from Lilo and Stitch to pull it together (there isn't much in the way of "Lilo and Stitch party decorations.") A few things to take notice of:

- The palm leaves on top of the burlap brings some color to an otherwise neutral table cloth.
- The gold spray painted pineapples in the back corners of the table
- Framed photos of Raley from her birthday photo shoot (this frame is elevated on a book so it would be visible behind the stand that's in front of it)
- The crumbled up graham crackers spread on the platters to look like sand
- Raley's stuffed Stitch on the table (Her Scrump was sitting on the drink table). I also ordered little Lilo and Stitch figurines and used them as toppers for some of the cupcakes. Without these features from the movie, this party would have just been a luau!
- I also tried to keep the food within the theme of the "luau" party (more details here)
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lilo and Stitch luau birthday party. Table decorations and food
How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lilo and Stitch luau birthday party. Table decorations and food, cupcakes

Be sure to think about these things as you're making your packing list. You don't want to get to the party and realize you've forgotten something important. I try to mentally go through the party in my head as I'm making the list - how am I planning on setting everything up? What will I need to make this happen? How will my table(s) be laid out? What will my food be served on? Be sure and check through your list one more time just before you head out the door to be sure you've got everything and your party is sure to be perfect!

How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lilo and Stitch luau birthday party. Table decorations and food

A few other tips for planning a party:
- Be sure to get your invitations sent out at least 2 weeks ahead of time. If you're ordering a custom design from somewhere like Etsy, be sure you know the turn around time of the shop you're ordering from and give yourself enough time to get them printed.

- If there's anything that needs to be ordered, order well in advance, just in case it's not what you want and you need to find another alternative.

- Don't forget paper goods and plastic utensils!

-If you're wanting to create a food tablescape with some dimension, use cake stands and tiered serving platters of various sizes. To gain a little bit of height, you can use old books to elevate items (cake stands, picture frames, vases...anything you want to stand up a little taller.)

- Include in your "don't forget" list all of the food and drink items you will be bringing as well, especially if it's something you can't pack ahead of time (like something you have to keep in the refrigerator. It's easy to forget to check the fridge before you leave).

- Think about the time of day that the party is being held. If it's right at lunch time, you probably want to serve more food, because people may not have had a chance to eat lunch. If it's in the morning you can serve brunch food and coffee/OJ/milk (check out Audrey's Pancakes and Pajamas Party for a few brunch ideas!) If it's in the afternoon, you can serve a dessert and a couple little finger foods to snack on.

- Always serve drinks - water, punch, lemonade, and tea are some good options. If there will be small kids at the party, serve kid friendly drinks like juice boxes that won't spill easily.

- Don't forget favors. You don't have to spend a ton of money on favors, but they do need to be in keeping with the theme of the party. Honestly, I kind of wish this were a trend that would fade out because half the time, I feel like it's wasted money, especially for kids parties.

How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lilo and Stitch luau birthday party. Table decorations and food

For me, it relieves a ton of stress when I take the process one step at a time and write everything down in list form. Some people aren't list makers, but they are what keep me sane and organized!

Do you have any other tips for planning the perfect party that you think I should add?  How do you feel about favors?

You may also like:
Raley's Lilo and Stitch 4th Birthday Party (for more details on the party featured here!)
Audrey's Winter ONEderland Party
Kate Spade Bridal Shower
For more parties visit my Party Planning page


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How to plan the perfect party without losing your mind. Birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and other events. Lilo and Stitch luau birthday party. Table decorations and food

Monday, May 21, 2018

Birmingham Zoo Day - May 2018

Happy Monday!! This week is potty training week for us so we will be spending most of our time at home, encouraging a pantless Audrey to run and go pee-pee on the potty! This means I'll probably be stir-crazy by the end of the week, but maybe, just maybe she'll take to going potty better than her sister and I'll have some hair left at the end of it. Right now I'm feeling pretty optimistic, but we'll see how the week goes!

This past Saturday, we made a trip down to visit David's sister Lindsey and her husband in Birmingham and decided to make a zoo trip out of it. Since we weren't able to all be together last weekend for Mother's Day, David's parents drove down as well. The zoo is one of my very favorite places to visit and I wish SO BAD that Huntsville had one. Our plan is to make it to several of the surrounding zoos this summer, and we thought that visiting the Birmingham Zoo was the perfect opportunity visit Aunt Lindsey and Uncle Brian. We don't get to see them often, even though they are just over an hour away, so it's always a treat to hang out with them.
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo

We ended up getting delayed in traffic for about 45 minutes around Cullman because they were mowing the grass, of all things, so that was a little frustrating. It was lunch time when we got there so we ate a quick picnic lunch that we had packed, then got right to seeing the animals. When we asked the girls what they were most excited about seeing, Raley said the giraffes and Audrey said the tiger. Unfortunately the tiger wasn't there anymore (the last time we were there, he was right next to the glass, pacing back and forth. I'm not sure why he's not there anymore).

First off, look at this super cool little girl. She was obsessed with her sunglasses all day and cracking us up!
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
The sass is strong with this one
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo

One of our favorite parts of the day was feeding the flamingos, or as Audrey calls them, the "fwaginos." She'd say "Why is he doing dat? Why is da fwagino makin a silly face?" It was pretty cool to be so close to these beautiful animals. They are fun to watch. They kept fighting with each other, ruffling their feathers, and the girls thought it was hilarious.
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo flamingos
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo flamingos
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo flamingos
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo flamingos

After walking around for a bit, we let the girls play in the splash pad for a few minutes to cool off. We didn't think to bring swimsuits, so we thought if we let just let them play for a few minutes they won't get too soaked. Well, they did! But they had fun and that's all that matters.
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo splash pad
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo splash pad
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo

Some other favorite animals were the monkeys and the cats. Monkeys are fun to watch swing around and play (the orangatan had a paper bag on it's head😂), but the big cats are some of my personal favorites. They are such big, sleek, majestic, beautiful animals. We were bummed Mr. Tiger wasn't there this time, but there were signs saying that they would be getting a tiger in 2019. Maybe they're making a new habitat for him?
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo. Jaguar
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo. Lion
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo. coyote
Notice the tiger on Audrey's arm? Gigi got Audrey a little tiger and Raley a giraffe that hooks on their arms. They absolutely love them! 

Gigi treated me and the girls to camel rides. Audrey kept saying "dis doggy so soft!" The girl is too much! Raley looked like such a big girl up there.
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo

We had hoped to be able to feed the giraffes, especially since Raley said they were her favorites, but by the time we got to them it was later in the day and they weren't really wanting to eat anymore. There was a line of people who had already paid for the giraffe encounter, but the giraffes just weren't having it. I'm glad we didn't pay first before checking out the situation. Next time we'll be sure to get there earlier and feed the giraffes first thing.
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
I can see why these are Raley's favorite. They are so stinkin' cute!
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo

It only took a few hours to make it through the entire zoo. I must admit, of all the zoos I've been to, Birmingham is my least favorite. It's the closest one to where we live, which is why we've been multiple times, but honestly, I think it's overpriced. It's small and I don't like how a lot of the exhibits are set up. Many of them are not great for viewing and the animals don't have enough room (in my opinion). My absolute favorite zoo that I've ever been to is the St. Louis Zoo. It's huge, they have the best animals, a great set up and the exhibits are bigger so the animals have more room to roam. And its FREE, yall! There are certain encounters and activities you have to pay for, but admission is free. That's the way to run a zoo! I wish we weren't 6 hours away, because we would be visiting frequently (we went twice during our baseball trip to St. Louis a few years ago and we've been itching to go back ever since.)

So after we finished at the zoo, we went to the Bluff Park Ice Cream Shoppe. They have a ton of unique flavors which were so good. The flavor I got was called Exhausted Parent and was a mix of bourbon and espresso with chocolate pieces. I'm still dreaming about it now!
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo
Mother's Day at the Birmingham, Alabama zoo

We went back to Lindsey and Brian's house for a bit to cool off and relax. We spent the time arguing about Laurel vs. Yanny and the girls played in the dog crate (by choice!), while Audrey kept saying "can I come into the out now" and would get out and then immediately get back in. The things that entertain little kids are hilarious.

We ended up eating dinner and The Boot at The Grove in Hoover to celebrate Lynn for Mother's Day. The Boot is located in an old bank. The place is huge and had a really neat atmosphere and even better food! I got a pimento cheese burger (I've never had one before) and it was amazing! I only wish I could have eaten more of it! All entrees come with a "Boot fry blend" which is a mix of french fries, waffled sweet potato fries, and fried okra, all with some sort of Parmesan seasoning on it. Man-oh-man the food was to die for!
The Boot at the Grove pimento cheeseburger and fry blend

They also have a bouncy house behind the building that is open for customers to use, so we let the girls bounce for a bit before heading home.

It was such a perfect day and Lynn, I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day celebration! We appreciate all you do for us and your love for our babies!

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! That three day weekend will be here before you know it.

*What are your favorite animals at the zoo? What is your favorite zoo?  I would really love to hear from you so I know where to go next!

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