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Eco-Friendly DIY Earth Day Gifts for a Clean and Green Kitchen This Spring

Eco-Friendly DIY Earth Day Gifts for a Clean and Green Kitchen This Spring

eco friendly jute mat
Jute makes for eco-friendly kitchen accessories | Image courtesy Etsy seller Yanetinne

For the last few years, my fiancé Nick and I have taken a creative approach to celebrating Earth Day. One year, while living in San Francisco, we crafted a kitchen composter out of a coffee canister. The next year we were hunkered down in Orange County so took a trip to Roger’s Gardens, followed by an afternoon spent planting sunflower seeds in our front yard. Then came our spring in Portland, and a rainy day walk through Forest Park. We even brought that woodsy vibe home with us by crafting rustic reclaimed wood tea holders.

Showing our support for the environment on April 22nd is important to us, but it’s also a way of living we like to carry with us every day of the year. We spend more time in our kitchen than in any other part of our home and, as a result, we end up cleaning it a lot! So, we like to make sure that when we put on our Motown records and get to cleaning, we’re doing so in an eco-friendly way. Not only are we protecting the environment, but we love knowing that we could eat straight off our countertops—not that we ever have.

We always share our bounty of DIY cleaners with friends and family as Earth Day gifts. Here are the three undeniable favorites: dishwasher tabs, “un”paper towels, and a simple citrus vinegar cleaner. They smell good and feel good, so when you make them for others, make sure to stock up your own cupboards as well. Here’s to your pristine (and newly green) kitchen!

Get a Sparkly Green Clean with DIY Dishwasher Tabs

The absolute cleanest kitchen I’ve ever seen was in Austin, Texas at a bed and breakfast; the innkeeper swore by baking soda and vinegar. Since then, those two items have become my wondrous miracle workers in the realm of cleaning. When you want it bright and sparkly, they do the job best.

I love the simplicity of throwing a tab into the dishwasher when it’s ready to run, and the gratification of pulling out those sparkling, clean dishes (a trait I seemed to have inherited from my queen-of-the-clean mother). So when I started experimenting with my own dishwasher tabs, I went straight to my go-to clean everything basics: baking soda and vinegar.

You cook, I'll clean
You won’t have to get out of cleaning with these green products | Image courtesy Etsy seller MadebymamaUS

For dish tabs, I like to combine them with Epsom salt (to reduce the effects of hard water), and the natural cleaner Borax. If you’d like, you can also add 10-15 drops of an essential oil, like lemon or grapefruit, to make your dishes smell beautiful too.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar

How to Do It:

  1. In a large metal bowl, mix all of your ingredients together.
  2. After a bit of fizzing, once the ingredients are combined, pack the mixture down into two ice cube trays and let them dry for 24-36 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to use the tabs, I suggest adding about half a cup or so of vinegar to the bottom of your dishwasher to ensure a clean, bright sparkle.

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk, Make “Un”Paper Towels Instead

Inspiration for the “un”paper towel came to me one evening after I used an entire roll of paper towels to sop up a carton of spilled milk. I’d recently read a statistic from the Paperless Project that if every household in the United States used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels a year, that would save a whopping 544,000 trees annually! I’ve always had a fondness for dishtowels and their sentimental value—a paisley print one given from my grandma, a heart-embroidered one from my mom—so why not create my own roll of reusable ones? And that is how “un”paper towels found their place in our kitchen.

"un"paper towels
Handmade “un”paper towels | Image courtesy Etsy seller AnneRiggsDesigns

These towels now fill my cooking space with seasonal prints and quirky patterns while decreasing our waste and environmental impact. I’m not a master seamstress, but you don’t need to be to sew these up. And, instead of buying new fabrics and towels, you can work to upcycle the old ones you already love, giving them new life in a loved one’s kitchen.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 12-inch squares of terrycloth
  • 4 12-inch squares of woven fabric
  • A package of sew-on snaps

How to Do It:

  1. First, line one piece of terrycloth up with one piece of woven fabric and sew up all the sides (about 1/2 inch from the edge).
  2. Once that’s finished, if you’d like for your “un”paper towels to roll up just like the paper ones do, the next step is to add your sew-on snaps. This part is up to you, but I find it easiest to first start with placement markers, 2 each, on both the left and right sides of the cloth. Attach the caps underneath and the sockets on top on the left side of the towel, but the sockets underneath and the caps on top on the right side of the towel.
  3. The towels are now ready to be rolled and live their new life in the kitchen!

Naturally Sweet Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

This sweet citrus vinegar smells so good that it actually relaxes me while I clean. I got this idea from the same Texas innkeeper who introduced me to vinegar and baking soda. Not only was his kitchen spotless, but it also smelled heavenly of citrus. I was convinced the scent wafting through the air in his home was a candle, or the blossoms of a tree outside the kitchen window, so was surprised to discover it was actually the citrus vinegar cleaner he made himself and sprayed the counters down with to get rid of the breakfast remnants of jam and butter. It’s now become my favorite cleaner to gift and to use—and it’s so simple!

DIY citrus cleaner
Sweet citrus cleans and brightens | Image courtesy Etsy seller CleaningThyme

What You’ll Need:

  • A mason jar
  • Orange peels (to fill half the jar)
  • White vinegar (to cover the peels)

How to Do It:

  1. First, I’d suggest making a nice batch of fresh squeezed orange juice (and maybe throw in a big breakfast of scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes as an added bonus).
  2. Save your peels and place them in your mason jar until it is half full.
  3. Next, fill the mason jar with white vinegar, enough to cover the peels.
  4. Let the jar sit in a dimly lit spot for two weeks before straining the citrus over a mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  5. Pour the liquid into a spray bottle, add a simple label if you’d like, and gift (or spray) away!

Celebrating our bountiful, beautiful Earth by creating hands-on traditions is both invigorating and uplifting. Over the years, I’ve found simple DIY projects that enable the joy of giving (and encourage others to do the same) to be incredibly fulfilling. The kitchen is the center of many households, so sharing eco-friendly kitchen cleaning tools is a wonderful way to spread the love of all things clean, and all things green.

Happy Earth Day from Elfster!

For more ideas on how to celebrate holidays creatively, visit Elfster on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram. Or, search our Gift Guide for other Earth Day inspirations.

Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: National Nutrition Month Activities for Adults

Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: National Nutrition Month Activities for Adults

goldfish cracker tie
Image courtesy Etsy seller takeabowooo

I know that goldfish crackers aren’t an appropriate breakfast food, but try telling that to my preschooler. They’re also not meant to replace all three meals in a given day, but battling a 3-year-old’s logic at 7 a.m., noon, and again at dinnertime sometimes feels like a battle not worth fighting.

That’s why make ahead meals for busy moms— dishes that can be prepped on the weekend, then reheated throughout the week—have been such a lifesaver for my family. It’s a lot easier to say no to junk food when you have delicious, healthy choices at hand. It’s a constant juggling act to balance a nutritious diet with the realities of my family’s on-the-go lifestyle, but these national nutrition month ideas will help you kick each and every one of your weeks off to a delicious start.

Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings

Squeezing in a healthy meal every morning is a priority in my house. I know that a breakfast loaded with sugar is going to leave me and my little ones feeling bleary-eyed and hungry within an hour or two. It’s an endless cycle that’s too easy to get stuck in, especially for anyone who isn’t a morning person, myself included.

Thankfully, there are a lot of simple make ahead breakfasts you can prep on the weekends, then grab-and-go on weekday mornings. You’ll get the nutrients you need to make your days not only manageable, but enjoyable. These are the fast breakfasts my family loves—no culinary degree required:

hangry hand towel
This towel will remind you to eat breakfast | Image courtesy Etsy seller FrenchSilver
  • Whole wheat pancakes: Baking with whole grains can seem intimidating, and more nutritious than delicious, but these whole wheat pancakes are surprisingly easy and tasty. They use more baking powder than most pancake recipes, making them a little extra fluffy. We like to make them on the smaller side so they fit in the toaster oven for reheating. Make an extra batch or two if you serve them up for Sunday brunch, freezing them in a single layer before transferring them to a zip-top bag. They reheat in just a couple minutes and a smear of almond butter and some all-natural jam makes them nearly irresistible to kids.
  • Omelettes in a mug: Beat a dozen eggs together on Sunday, then store in an airtight container in the fridge. On weekday mornings, add a couple tablespoons of frozen mixed veggies to a mug. Microwave for 30 seconds, then add ¼ cup of the beaten egg mixture, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of cheese. Microwave for another 30 to 60 seconds, or until the egg is fully cooked.
  • Overnight oats: We make overnight oats in mason jars with lids on the weekend, then grab one on our way out the door on busy mornings. The basic recipe is simple: add ½ a cup of oats, 2 tsps of chia seeds, and ¾ cups of milk to a mason jar, along with any spices, sweeteners, fruit, etc. that you fancy. For creamier oats, you can add a tablespoon or two of yogurt; for thinner oats, add more milk. Stir well, then cover. Overnight oats can be eaten cold, or you can microwave them for about a minute until they’re warm. Play with the flavors. Cocoa powder and some mini chocolate chips make for a sweet breakfast that’s still healthy; coconut flakes and sliced bananas are a tropical treat; and apple butter and cinnamon replicates a classic instant oatmeal flavor in a more nutritious way. It’s a surprisingly healthy choice that kids and adults will both devour.
  • Breakfast burritos: Find an easy breakfast burrito recipe you love, then make a batch to freeze. These can easily be microwaved in the mornings for a quick meal. I like making vegan breakfast burritos by “scrambling” some extra-firm tofu with onions, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, and turmeric, then adding the mixture to a tortilla with vegetarian refried beans and salsa. I’ve even added leftovers, everything from pot roast to barbecue pulled chicken, along with some scrambled eggs and cheese. You can use egg whites, extra veggies, and whole wheat tortillas for an even lighter option.
  • Healthier toaster pastries: I’m obsessed with toaster pastries, but they’re more of a treat than a proper breakfast. That’s why I love the idea of making them myself. Using a whole wheat pastry crust adds some complex carbs and fiber into the mix, and I can choose a filling that’s free from high-fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, and added sugars. Kids are creatures of habit, so sometimes you have to compromise and these vegan toaster pastries are healthier than what you get at the store, but are still familiar enough that kids (and you) will chow down without a fight.

Grown-Up Lunches for On-the-Go

Before our kids came along, my husband and I were both putting in 70 hour work weeks, but we knew we couldn’t subsist on soggy deli sandwiches alone. A homemade meal wasn’t just healthier—it was also a pleasant mid-day reminder of life outside of work.

a grown up lunch box
You won’t forget your lunch at home ever again | Image courtesy Etsy seller BuboBoutique

Making meals in batches was the easiest way to keep well fed on our craziest of days. Just prepare enough veggies, grains, and protein for five weekday meals on the weekend, add them to air-tight plastic containers, then grab one on your way out the door for healthy lunches all week. These are our favorite meal prep lunches (served hot or cold):

  • Chicken fajita bowls: Fill containers with cooked brown rice, then top with fajita-seasoned grilled chicken and veggies. Add some salsa, hot sauce, or a sprinkle of cheese if you’re feeling fancy.
  • Teriyaki tofu bowls: Marinate cubed tofu in teriyaki sauce, then pan-fry until browned on all sides. Add to containers with soba noodles, microwave-in-bag stir fry veggies, a drizzle of sesame oil, and some sriracha.
  • Chicken pesto pasta bowls: Saute chicken, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with salt and pepper. Cook whole wheat pasta and toss with storebought pesto. Add pasta to containers, then top with the chicken-veggie mixture.
  • Tandoori chicken bowls: Marinate chicken in yogurt, garlic, ginger, and curry powder. Grill, then add to containers with brown rice and roasted broccoli.
  • Greek chicken bowls: Marinate chicken in balsamic dressing. Grill chicken, then add to containers with cooked bulgur wheat, chopped cucumbers, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and a lemon wedge.

Assembly Line Lunches for Kids

kid friendly lunch box
Forget brown-bagging it with this creative lunchbox | Image courtesy Etsy seller ChampuChinito

I remember school lunches being full of highs and lows. 7-layer bars for dessert? I still dream about them. Mystery meat casserole? It made me jealous of the kids who remembered to pack a lunch! My kids are picky eaters, so they always bring a lunch from home. To save time in the mornings, we started assembly line lunches:

  1. Add a variety of fruits to one of the drawers in your fridge. Think easy-to-eat clementines and apples, or grapes you’ve portioned out ahead of time.
  2. Clear a spot in your fridge, and place two containers about the size of shoeboxes next to each other. Label one “sides” and the other “mains.”
  3. In the “sides” bin, add things like string cheese, yogurt, or individual packs of baby carrots.
  4. In the “mains” bin, add the “entrees.” These can be sandwiches, wraps, or tupperware containers filled with leftovers.
  5. Label an organizing bin “snacks,” and put it in an easy-to-reach spot on the counter. Add nonperishable snacks like packs of nuts, whole grain crackers, and fruit leathers.

In the morning, each kid just grabs one item from each container, along with a juice or milk box, and adds it to a lunch bag. It’s so much easier than having to sort through everything in the fridge or cupboard each morning!

Throwing a Meal Prep Party

I don’t want to miss out on weekend socializing just so I can prepare meals for the coming week each Sunday, and my best friend is in the same boat. We both love entertaining (Beauty and the Beast-themed dinner party, here we come!), so we decided to throw a slowcooker soup mix party. The idea was that everyone coming to the party would make enough of one slow-cooker soup mix recipe for themselves and each of the other guests. Then, we swap, each person going home with five different jars to keep in the pantry, each ready to throw in the slow-cooker on a busy morning for dinner that evening.

recipe cards
Custom recipe cards add creative flair | Image courtesy Etsy seller papersushi

We decided on soup mixes because they’re easy to make, full of healthy beans and veggies, and loved by kids and adults alike. And, dried beans cook up beautifully in the slow-cooker, meaning none of us would have to spend time fussing over the stove at the end of a long day. To throw your own soup mix party, set up a gift exchange online and have each guest mix up one of these recipes:

  1. Vegetarian Five Bean Soup Mix
  2. Southwestern Three Bean and Barley Soup Mix
  3. Rice and Lentil Soup Mix
  4. Split Pea Soup Mix
  5. Spicy Black Bean Soup Mix

All of the recipes are customizable—add cans of fire-roasted tomatoes to enrich the broth, stir in a splash of half and half at the end of cooking to make your soup creamy, throw in smoked ham hocks or smoked pork chops with the rest of the ingredients to add more umami, or spice to suit your personal preference.

We all left the party with five nights of meals, after only having to prepare one of the recipes at home—a pretty good trade-off, if you ask me! But, whether you make soup mixes or freezer meals, the real gift you’re giving one another is more time to enjoy the good things in life with your families.

It seems like everything in my life goes more a little more smoothly when I’m eating nutritious meals. It’s just a matter of making them a priority, and setting aside time on the weekends to prepare for a busy week ahead. My little one still has a thing for her Goldfish crackers, and I’ll snack on a bowl of sugar-coated cereal on special occasions, but in our everyday life, we’re eating more healthy foods, all because we’re taking the time to plan ahead.

What are your favorite meals to cook with your family? Let us know on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. For ideas on what to get the chef in your family, check out our kitchen gift guide.

 

A Sorbet Soirée: National Nutrition Month Party Ideas for Creative Ways to Serve Fruit

A Sorbet Soirée: National Nutrition Month Party Ideas for Creative Ways to Serve Fruit

red, ripe strawberries
Red, ripe strawberries | Image courtesy Unsplash user Artur Rutkowski

Growing up on an avocado farm in rural San Diego, fresh fruit was almost always in season. Our property was filled with pomegranates, blood oranges, apples, bananas, lemons, limes, cherimoyas, and, of course, our beloved, creamy avocados.

Early on, my parents instilled in my siblings and me a passion for fresh fruit that still runs deep. When we get together as a family, all of us “kids” often end up in the orchard, eating oranges straight from the trees, letting their sticky juices run down our hands, or experimenting with the slightly tangy taste of mini latundan bananas (“apple” bananas) in our birthday cakes. The sweet smell of vibrant tropical plants envelops us every time we return to our childhood home.

In March, we celebrate the start of springtime and National Nutrition Month. It’s the perfect opportunity to draw in friends and family to your own backyard and start a nutritious tradition. Giving kids a love, a zest, for fruit early on paves the way for healthy eating well into adulthood. A backyard sorbet soirée is a deliciously sweet way to welcome in the fruit-filled season—and show little ones that nutrition can be both silly and good for you.

DIY Fresh Fruit Costumes

I welcomed some unusual guests to my last backyard get together—a six-foot tall strawberry, a slice of walking watermelon, and a banana who could talk. For the party, encourage your guests to come dressed as one of their favorite fruits! You can even have a contest for the most clever or outrageous costume, allowing the winning piece of fruit to take home a basket of fresh finds from the local farmer’s market.

Fruit-inspired costumes are actually quite easy to get creative with. Here are a few of my favorite DIY ideas:

Giddy Grapes

baby grape costume
For a bundle, or bunch, of love | Image courtesy Etsy seller gentleness

I first stumbled upon this costume idea one Halloween a few years back when I thought I had absolutely nothing to wear for a last minute invitation. My quick-thinking best friend ran to a party store and, in less than half an hour, I was transformed into a bunch of grapes.

Materials List:

  • Purple leggings
  • A purple top
  • A green headband
  • Several bags of purple balloons
  • Safety pins

Instructions:

  1. Blow up your balloons, leaving about an inch after the tie so they can be easily attached to your clothes.
  2. Put on your purple apparel, making sure they aren’t pieces that can easily snag.
  3. Carefully pin the balloons onto the top half of your body, adding a few near your hips to achieve the grape shape.
  4. To complete your ensemble, you’ll need a green stem. I used a thick green headband, but you can also wear a scarf or piece of fabric.

Pineapple People

pineapple baby costume
Sweet Baby Pineapples | Image Etsy seller TheWishingElephant

The vibrant colors and unique shape of a pineapple make it one of the most eccentric in the tropical world—and, with its sweet, juicy flavor, it tends to be a favorite amongst even the pickiest of kids. What I love most about the pineapple, especially for parties, is that it symbolizes the feelings of home: warmth, welcome, and hospitality.

A pineapple costume is a simple DIY project for all ages to help craft. You’ll want to dress head to toe in yellow clothing, then create this easy pineapple topper using a toilet paper tube, green card stock, and a headband.

Cut your cardstock into leaf shapes of various lengths. I made 6, 8, 10, and 12-inch pieces, four to five leaves of each length. Then, starting with the longest pieces, hot glue them to the top of the toilet paper tube. Continue gluing the leaves down the tube, from longest to shortest. When you’re finished, flip the tube upside down. Attach it to a headband with glue to secure it in place. And, just like that, you’ve become the pine-apple of your guests’ eye.

Fruit Stamped Invitation Inspiration

lemon stamping
Lemons stamping for DIY invites | Image courtesy Unsplash user Brooke Lark

When I first discovered “fruit stamping,” my homemade cards I love to send to friends near and far blossomed into new levels of craftiness. I started stamping with apples, oranges, limes, and, my personal favorite, lemons. To create these simple but ingenious invitations, you’ll need just three things: half of a lemon, a bit of yellow paint, and a plain white card.

First, cut your lemon in half and dry it with a paper towel to get rid of excess moisture. Next, dip the lemon into your paint and press it onto the blank card as if it’s a sponge. Make sure not to use too much paint when you dip, or the fine details of the lemon won’t show up as well. Just think of it like a stamp. Less ink is often better for detailed results. Be sure to get your kiddos involved in this; it’s a bit sticky, so they’ll love this project!

Strawberry-Guava-Grapefruit Fields Forever Playlist

tutti frutti
Tutti Frutti by Little Richard | Image courtesy Amazon

My childhood memories of food are so closely intertwined with music. Strawberry Fields Forever would play as we made strawberry jam. I Heard It Through the Grapevine would echo as we’d indulge in an afternoon snack of grapes and sliced cheese. Blueberry Hill would sound through the open kitchen on Saturday mornings when we’d measure out fresh blueberries to add to our homemade pancakes or waffles.

To this day, I have specific playlists for stirring a pot of pasta sauce, making pizza dough, or mixing guacamole. But the playlist below is the one that comes through my speakers when I’m in the mood for all things sweet and fruity. Hit play to create the ultimate fruity vibe and get all your guests grooving to their love of fruit in your backyard:

A Tutti Frutti Party Playlist

  • Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles
  • I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
  • Banana Boat by Harry Belafonte
  • Coconut by Harry Nilsson
  • Apples and Bananas by Raffi
  • Grapefruit – Juicy Fruit by Jimmy Buffet
  • Guava Jelly by Bob Marley
  • Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock
  • Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino
  • Tangerine by Frank Sinatra
  • Little Green Apples by O.C. Smith

Homemade Honied Sorbet

Easy-to-make, fruit-based sorbets will get your kids’ creative juices flowing in the healthiest of dessert ways. Fruit sorbets can be simply made with sugar, water, and your fruit of choice, but I like to make mine with honey to let the natural sweetness of the fruit shine through.

raw honey
Honey is simply sweet | Image courtesy Etsy seller thegreekpantry

For parties, I find fruity sorbets to be especially fun when given a little extra visual a-”peel” by scooping the sorbets into fruit shells before serving. Watermelon, orange, lime, and lemon sorbets all look beautiful and refreshing when served in hollowed out shells.

Lemon sorbet is my favorite party treat to whip up because the ingredients are inexpensive so you can create a big batch. The first time I made lemon sorbet with honey, I was hooked. A little bit tangy, a little bit sweet, and a lovely pale yellow in color, it’s a sorbet sure to make your springtime guests swoon.

The Ingredients:

(makes about 6-8 small servings)

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1⁄2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 12 small lemons, with 4 lemon halves reserved to use as cups)

The Directions:

  1. Combine the honey, water, and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Pour the lemon mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, just pour it into a freezer-safe container like a shallow metal cake pan. If you use a pan, you’ll need to stir and smash the sorbet with a fork every 30 minutes until it’s firm.
  3. To get your lemon cups, cut a small circular slice off the bottoms of the reserved lemon halves so they’ll stand up, then use a small spoon to hollow out the insides.
  4. When you’re ready to serve the sorbet, fill up the lemon cups with the sweet treat.

Once you start experimenting with homemade sorbets, you’ll find you can use any fruit you’d like, and even jazz them up with fresh herbs like mint or thyme.

A DIY Paper Fruit Garland (and Party Favor)

strawberry strand
A DIY string of strawberries | Image courtesy Etsy seller The Shabby Scrapper

With sweetness still lingering on your guest’s tongues after digging into their sorbet, it’s time to sit and unwind with a fruit-inspired craft. At a long table covered with parchment paper, set out card stock in every color you can find, scissors, pencils, glue sticks, mini clothespins, and baker’s twine. Also set out an assortment of sliced fruit for your guests to draw inspiration from—strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, oranges, limes, and lemons.

Have your guests trace what they see, cut out the shapes, glue on a bit of greenery or seeds for detail, then attach the fruit cut-outs to the baker’s twine with the mini clothespins to create a paper fruit garland that can be taken home as a party favor. String them up in your kitchen or in your kids’ rooms to add pops of color—and remind them that fruit is fun! An appreciation for nutritious fruit is something that can be cultivated in childhood and last into adulthood.

Happy National Nutrition Month from Elfster! May it be full of goodness that fills the belly and the soul.

For more pieces of springtime inspiration and feel-good food-related festivities, join Elfster on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram.

A Kids’ Valentine’s Day Craft Party to DIY Handmade Treats, Cards—and Fun

A Kids’ Valentine’s Day Craft Party to DIY Handmade Treats, Cards—and Fun

handmade valentine card
Handcrafted valentines say so much more | Image courtesy Etsy seller LemonDropsandLilacs

Around this time of year, my friend Sophie and I find ourselves reminiscing about the good ol’ days of elementary school, when we would make construction paper valentines for each of our friends. Though we were clumsy with a bottle of Elmer’s glue and overzealous with the glitter, we worked so hard to create perfect notes and cards that all had unique, personalized touches.

Last year, Sophie didn’t want her two school-aged daughters to have to rely on pre-made valentines featuring cartoon characters. She wanted them to learn the value of making something by hand—and to know just what it’s like to get so passionate about cutting out the perfect (non-lopsided!) paper heart. So we jumped into party-planning mode, and organized a Valentine’s Day gift and snack extravaganza!

The weekend before Valentine’s Day, Sophie invited her daughters’’ best friends and their parents over for a crafting and DIY party. In all, we had about 11 kiddos and 9 parents, each family volunteering to bring one item from a party supply wishlist. And then we all gathered to make delicious Valentine’s Day treats and handmade valentine cards—just like when we were kids.

Heart-Shaped Marshmallow Crispies

Kids (and kids-at-heart) can’t get enough of ooey-gooey marshmallow cereal treats—it’s a staple at most classroom parties. But we thought this classic treat deserved a decorative spin for the holiday of love—so we pulled out the heart-shaped tins and got to work.

handmade marshmallow treats
Marshmallow crispies are always a hit | Image courtesy Etsy seller LilMissCupcakeLady

The Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 80 large marshmallows
  • 12 c. crispy rice cereal
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 c. white chocolate chips
  • Heart-shaped sprinkles

The How-To:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add in the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted and well-mixed. Slowly add in the cereal, stirring continuously for an even mixture.
  2. Spoon the mixture into a heart-shaped cupcake pan coated with non-stick cooking spray. You can also spoon the mixture into a 9 x 13 rectangular glass baking dish and use a cookie cutter to get heart-shaped treats.
  3. Let the treats cool for 5 minutes. Remove the treats from the pan.
  4. Heat the chocolate chips over a double-boiler.
  5. Once the chocolate is thoroughly melted, dip the face of each of the rice crispy treats into the chocolate. Immediately dust with sprinkles and let the chocolate harden.

This recipe makes about 12 treats—and is so easy for the kids to help with!

Hot Chocolate Spoons

chocolate spoons
Image courtesy Etsy seller NicolesTreats

Sophie’s girls love to enjoy cozy treats in the winter months. To warm their little hearts, we made customized hot chocolate dipping spoons.

We started with about three cups of milk chocolate chips, which we melted over the double boiler. Next, we dipped pink plastic spoons into the melted chocolate one at a time. Laying the coated spoons on a sheet of wax paper, we had each partygoer sprinkle a few spoons with mini marshmallows, heart-shaped sprinkles, and crushed peppermint candies. We let the spoons sit for about 15 minutes before wrapping each in a plastic sleeve tied with string.

For the class party, we picked up a jumbo-sized box of hot chocolate mix, and one of the parents volunteered to bring in her electric kettle. The students had a blast watching the chocolate melt in their cocoa, releasing marshmallows and sprinkles into their mugs.

Loving Fruit Kabobs

It’s not surprising to find yourself surrounded by delicious sweet treats for kids to enjoy at any Valentine’s Day get-together. And while we couldn’t wait to dig into all the sugary goodness at our DIY party, we also thought the parents would appreciate it if we snuck in some healthy snacks, too. Sophie had the wonderful idea of making heart-shaped fruit kabobs.

watermelon hearts
Perfect heart-shaped bites | Image courtesy flick’r user denise carrasco

The Ingredients:

  • 1 watermelon
  • 1 honeydew
  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 large basket of strawberries
  • 1 bunch of purple grapes
  • A heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • Kabob skewers

The How-To:

  1. Start by cutting the melons into triangular slices. From the triangles, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many pieces as you can.
  2. Peel and core the pineapple. Cut the pineapple into 1-inch slices. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to remove heart-shaped pineapple pieces.
  3. Wash the strawberries and pull off the stems and leaves. Using a paring knife, cut a V into the top of each strawberry. Cut the strawberry in half from top to bottom so you’re left with two strawberry halves, each shaped like a heart.
  4. Push a kabob skewer through one of each of the different fruit pieces.
  5. Wash the grapes. Cover the pointed end of each skewer with one grape.

We kept the skewers chilled in the refrigerator until the Valentine’s Day party. The heart-shaped pieces were so cute, the students didn’t even seem to notice they were eating something healthy!

Valentines Crafted from the Heart

With the snacks made and looking enticingly delicious, we turned our attention to the actual valentines themselves. Sure, it’s easier to grab a box of pre-made Valentine’s Day cards from a shelf, but that misses the point of Valentine’s Day. We wanted to bring the good ol’ days of construction paper hearts and gluing on glitter to our modern kids.

Each party attendee brought one treat ingredient and one item for the valentines craft table, so we ended up with a great mixture of fun items including:

kids' valentine's day diy craft party
Get creative with your valentines this year | Image courtesy flick’r user GlitterandFrills
  • Multi-colored construction paper
  • Ribbon
  • Lace
  • Glitter
  • Buttons
  • Dried pasta
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Yarn
  • Google eyes
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Pattern scissors
  • Glue

It was exciting to watch each student come up with his or her own valentine idea and make a unique card for each of their friends. The kids got to show off their creativity and the parents got to enjoy an afternoon getting to know one another and their children’s friends.

Not only was the Valentine’s DIY party a chance to spend quality time hanging out and chatting, but it was a time to get creative and enjoy the spirit of the holiday. Sophie later told me how each of the students eagerly presented their handmade card to their friends while devouring our treats, and I hear her kids (and their friends) are already clamoring for a similar party this year.

Want more ideas on how to make Valentine’s Day extra special this year? Let the Elves help you get creative and gift straight from the heart with their downloadable coupon printables. Get even more ideas on our Facebook, Instagram @Elfstergram, and Twitter @Elfster

An Apple Bake Off Party with DIY Decor Inspirations for a Late Fall Harvest

An Apple Bake Off Party with DIY Decor Inspirations for a Late Fall Harvest

apple harvest decorations
An abundant apple harvest | Image courtesy flick’r user Onnola

The frosts of winter will soon blanket the trees around my hometown with a frozen sparkle, but, first, there’s a final harvest of my favorite handheld snack—the apple. Late fall always means a visit to the local cider mill and farm where my favorite Braeburns are ripe and plentiful, just in time to make a medley of baked treats for the upcoming holiday celebrations.

With a basket full of juicy Jonagolds or Galas at hand to inspire my holiday dessert making, I’ll soon have an overabundance of farm fresh goodies to share with my friends and family. So this year, I’m throwing an apple harvest bake off to exchange favorite recipes and enjoy the spoils of the autumn orchard, together.

Hosting an Apple-Inspired Recipe and Gift Exchange

Sweet apple recipe cards. | Image courtesy Etsy seller ThePaperBasket
Sweet apple recipe cards | Image courtesy Etsy seller ThePaperBasket

I’m not the only one of my friends who likes to play Betty Crocker this time of year, so I asked them each to bring a delectable apple-themed baked good or dessert to our get together, like cider-spiced cupcakes, apple fritter bread, or cranberry apple cheesecake to name a few. Along with their treats, they each brought enough copies of the recipe to share—and wrapped baking tools for our gift exchange.

Before the party, I asked my friends to join an online gift exchange with me so they could make personal wish lists of baking supplies currently missing from their kitchen’s repertoire. Names of confirmed guests were then swapped with each other, and we shopped for our assigned giftee based on their kitchen gadget wish list. I requested a French macaroon baking sheet and a cute new apron, while my friend Alex added a vintage flour sifter, a couple recipe books, and a set of silicone loaf baking pans. 

An Apple Harvest Tablescaping How-To

The Apple Cookbook | Image courtesy Amazon seller/author Olwen Woodier
The Apple Cookbook | Image courtesy Amazon seller/author Olwen Woodier

As a fun group activity, I prepared a demonstration on how to display seasonal dishes at family celebrations—every time I host a party, I get a bunch of questions about my festive tablescapes that perfectly tie the food offerings into the decor.

Before my guests arrived, I set up an extra table for all the mouth-watering goodies everyone would be bringing. Meanwhile, my dining room table was clean and table-clothed, but otherwise empty, ready to show my friends each step of the tablescaping process. With supplies laid out and organized, I was ready to show my guests how to dress the table in the gorgeous hues of the apple harvest, creating an autumn banquet tablescape in eight simple steps:

  1. Drape your table with a richly autumn-hued cloth in a subtle pattern that won’t distract from the rest of the decor.
  2. Find a couple boxes of varying sizes and heights—shoe boxes, shipping boxes, cereal boxes, or wooden crates. Whatever is on hand will work once covered. If a box is on the thin side and can’t bear too much weight, I fill it with books for support.
  3. Next, round up some fabric remnants in a complementary color. I love the look of a lighter shade layered on a darker tablecloth. Again, whatever is on hand can work—pillowcases, curtain panels, or another tablecloth are some of the fabrics I’ve used in the past.
  4. Cover the boxes with fabric, and stack and arrange them at varying angles in the center of the table. The fabric cover should be tucked under and around the boxes so that it’s no longer visible. It doesn’t need to look perfect—in fact, all the folds and billows around the base of the boxes will add to the overall look.
  5. Bend and shape a four to six-foot autumn swag around the base of the boxes.
  6. Fill in any sparse areas around the swag with loose decorative leaves, apples, acorns, and pinecones. Add small groupings of these loose decorations around the corners of the box platforms as well.
  7. Arrange platters and dishes on the table and platforms as desired, shifting the loose decor items—and adding in some fresh apples—to best fill in gaps.
  8. Once everything is on the table and ready to serve, I like to add a little extra warmth with a few candles.

tablescape-with-candles-close-up-center-2

 

Crafting Whimsical DIY Apple Votive Holders

As part of our DIY decor demonstration, I passed out apples to my friends for making some fresh and fun candle holders that will perfectly accent our autumn tablescape. Here is my method for crafting these fall apple tea light holders:

apple candle

  1. Making sure they’ll remain flat and balanced when set on a tabletop, we lightly trace around a tea light candle at the top of our apples with a pen.
  2. Using a carving knife, we carefully cut into the apple, following the circle we traced.
  3. Next, we dig a hole with a spoon just big enough to house the tea light candle.
  4. Once we have carved out the right amount of apple, we spray them with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning as they add a flickering light to the ambience of our tablescape.

These adorable autumn votive cups are a wonderful way to bring the colors and warmth of the apple orchard to our holiday tables, along with a touch of creative whimsy. For a more kid-friendly event, I would omit the real flame candles for their flameless counterparts, and add a string of warm lights around the swag.

Now that our tablescape is festively dressed, we add our decadent desserts, including my offering of a warm caramel apple crisp. We pause briefly to bask in the beauty of our combined creative efforts before digging in to enjoy all the sweet, apple goodness.

 

Enjoying the Apple Harvest—Together

apple harvest decorations
An apple harvest basket | Image courtesy flick’r user Onnola

Sitting down with plates of apple pastries at hand, we kick off our baking gift exchange. Megan raves on and on about the ceramic pie dish she’d been hoping for, and Amber knows precisely how she’ll break in her new mini muffin trays using the spiced apple cider muffin recipe Angela handed out. And there are smiles all around as we share our newly inspired schemes for harvest tablescapes while polishing off our plates of sweets.

Eventually, my guests make their way to the door, bellies and heads full, recipes and baking supplies in hand. I can’t think of a better way we could celebrate the fall apple harvest than with warm pastries and gifts shared amongst friends—and I know I’m not alone in my delight. Best of all, the great autumn tips and treats we complied today will be adding to the joy of each and every one of our family holiday feasts this year.

Let the elves help you find the perfect autumn table trimmings with our Thanksgiving Must-Haves. Learn how to host a gift exchange of your own, and find loads of ideas to combat the autumn chill with festive warmth on our Facebook, Instagram @Elfstergram, and Twitter @Elfster.

Urbanite Inspirations for a Rustic Farmhouse Dinner Party

Urbanite Inspirations for a Rustic Farmhouse Dinner Party

embroidered leaf table runner
Falling leaves, even on a towel, means it is time to get inside. Image courtesy Etsy seller EmbroideryByJudy.

Rolling up the sleeves on my flannel, and feeling the creeping cold rustling through my beard, I picked up the bale of hay, and threw it over my shoulder. “You look,” my wife said, “absolutely ridiculous.”

I admit she had a point. After all, I was pulling the hay out of our compact sedan, which I had just parallel parked on our busy city street, and was preparing to carry it up to our third-floor urban apartment. It’s safe to say this was one of the first times hay had been introduced into the building.

But there was a reason. We were having a dinner party. And not just any dinner party. We wanted to craft a feast that transported our guests, to imbue our city walk-up with an atmosphere that ignored the horns and sirens, tall buildings and streetlights. A dinner that made us all forget that our jobs depended on the ticking of a clock, and not the rising of the sun. In short, we wanted a farmhouse dinner party.

Preparing Your House for the Harvest

We hoped to imitate how it must have felt at the end of the harvest season—all the smells and flavors of a chill air descending on now-barren fields, with warmth provided by a roaring fire (or candles), great food, and the convivial love felt for each other as we passed around dinner plates and bottles of wine. When we first started thinking about how we would go about this, we decided to focus on the colors, specifically the orange of late harvest combined with the thatchy, dried-husk look of early November.

fall flower mason jar centerpieces
Centerpieces command attention, but shouldn’t distract. Image courtesy Etsy.

See, I’m obsessed with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, especially the weirdly melancholic scenes of Snoopy imagining the South of France, and walking across its harvested fields. It appealed to me as a child, a rural and changing world I never knew. I wanted that look.

So to the country we went! At a rural pumpkin patch, we bought tall cornstalks, bereft of corn, of course, but that added to the mood—it was postharvest, after all. We didn’t even try to resist bringing home the bundles of hay big enough to sit on.

Allison and I both thought bringing the country back into the city with us was pretty cool, though admittedly I was a bit more into it. Arranging our stalks and bales around our apartment, especially in the dining room, made fall seem more real—it’s a season of transformation, and our apartment, too, became a changed place.

Actually, it was pretty close to idyllic. The leaves were in full glory at that point, and had really started to fall, blowing around the sky and rattling at our windows. We brought those harvest colors in by displaying fall flowers in rustic-looking mason jars on the dining table.

We’re lucky enough to have a beautiful reclaimed farm table that one of our more handy friends made us for a wedding gift. With wood from the Wisconsin Northwoods that actually did once belong to a barn (granted, an old horse barn in the city, but still), it gave the dinner an authentic feel.

There was something about the whole atmosphere, augmented by apple-scented candles and plenty of gourds, that truly did transport us—our four guests all commented on how the room felt strangely out of time, that we didn’t just decorate, but actually created something new and strange.

Granted, all the old wood and fall-themed runners in the world won’t do anything if you’re serving frozen pizza. So we dug into our cookbooks and found something with the feel of a feast after a long season of hard work.

The Fall Farm Menu

Our hearty meal was greatly inspired by one of my wife’s favorite food writers, Mimi Thorisson, and her book A Kitchen in France: My Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse. Mimi pretty much has the life we both want: huge French farmhouse, beautiful kitchen, amazing ingredients everywhere, and a knack for experimenting while remaining true to her roots. Our dinner was pretty French-inspired (another nod to Snoopy) but really, yours doesn’t have to be specific.

A Kitchen in France: My Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse
A Kitchen in France: My Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse. Image courtesy Amazon seller Mimi Thorisson.

The Soup

Our first course was a soup she called “L’Ami Jean Parmesan Soup.” This is a rich and hearty soup, made with butter, cheese, and heavy cream. It’s not super healthy, but after working in the fields for months, you’ve earned it!

There’s a ritual to serving this soup. You make the soup (which also has chicken stock, salt, and pepper), put it in a tureen, but then bring out bowls with croutons, chives, crumbled bacon, and shallots in the middle, in four quarters. It sort of looks like, as one of our guests put it, “a deconstructed soup.” Then you ladle the actual soup in, and there’s a sudden warmth in the air as the flavors come together and delicious smells pour forth.

The Main Course

After the soup settled, we had a nice salad—a very light arugula, apple, and parsnip mix with a not-too-light buttermilk dressing. It had a very fall taste, and also served as a nice palate cleanser. Then, after some more wine, it was time for the main course.

 

 

I had spent most of the last two days preparing a large cider-brined pork roast. The brine, which sits overnight, consisted of:

pumpkin soup bowl
Yes, we used a pumpkin, just like on a real farm. Image courtesy Amazon seller Boston International.
  • Brown sugar
  • Slat
  • Bay leaves
  • Coriander seeds
  • Peppercorn
  • Cider

The day of the meal, I made a coriander rub, decorated the roast with bay leaves, put it in a roasting pan, threw in quartered potatoes and onions, and let it cook for a couple of hours (after browning, of course). It sat for a half hour after coming out of the oven, which turned out to be the perfect time to serve the salad! It struck me as a lucky break, but I guess chefs know what they’re doing. Our roast turned out beautifully! And one of our friends was wonderful enough to bring a spiced bundt cake with apple caramel sauce. That was the decadent finale.

The Highlight of the Feast

I know what you might be thinking—what’s the highlight after all those yummies? Well, it turned out that the food was secondary to the evening. It was the center point, it was what was on the table, it was the ostensible reason for being there, but it wasn’t what brought us to the table.

giant roasting pan
This wouldn’t have been possible without a big roasting pan. Image courtesy Amazon.

No, what brought us to the table was our friendship, the time we had spent together in the past, and the time that, as we grow older, we spend apart. Maybe fall is perfect for that. Maybe fall is meant for that. The leaves turn colors and drop, and the seasons pass. You don’t really notice it sometimes, until suddenly it’s winter.

That’s something we want to avoid with our friends and loved ones. We want to hold them close, and sit around a warm table, protected from the wind outside—but still able to notice it, and appreciate the table and its warmth all the more for it.

Maybe we don’t harvest anymore, most of us anyway. But the farm feast reminds us of a different time, a time when what mattered most was gathering close to those you love and sharing a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a pork roast if you were lucky, and just being happy to be near one another. Unlike the leaves and the seasons, that never changes.

Whether you’re a city dweller or a country maven, Elfster can help you party plan, from our gift guides and wish lists, to tips and tricks on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and Instagram @Elfstergram.

DIY Fall Paradise Party Ideas for Hosting an Out-of-Season Luau

DIY Fall Paradise Party Ideas for Hosting an Out-of-Season Luau

aloha paper banner
Photo credit Etsy seller prettypaperparty

Only the leaves blowing past my living room window gave evidence of the day’s chill—the weather in my house was a balmy 80 degrees, and not a cloud in sight. Crepe paper Hawaiian flower banners were strewn across the mantle and apple-scented candles were lit in tiki torches—the party vibe was strong, ready to transport my guests from a world of pumpkin spice to palm trees.

A month into fall, the novelty of the beautifully colored leaves and apple cider flavored everything had started to blur into the realities of stormy weather and wet dashes to my car. The forecast kept calling for rain, so I dreamt up a fall luau party to bring a spot of sunshine to a stormy weekend. By blending tropical flowers with colorful maple leaves for decor, and serving up a delicious grilled tropical fish dinner paired with pumpkin mochi cake, I was ready to break out my corn husk hula skirt and throw a Tropi-Fall Paradise Luau!

Crafting a Tropical Autumn Oasis

To set the tone for a spectacular fall luau, I draped the edges of my dining room table with grass skirting and strings of sunflowers, then propped up tiki god totem poles fashioned out of stacked apple picking baskets with construction paper faces. Pinecones became pineapples, once painted yellow and topped with a few spikes of green paper glued into place.

pineapple pinecones
Photo credit Etsy seller SouthernEscentuals

Since pumpkins are aplenty this time of year, I also crafted a simple sea turtle centerpiece to “swim” in the middle of our food display. Cutting a large pumpkin down the middle, I used one half to create a turtle shell with tribal patterns carved into it, and carefully sliced the other half into arm and leg fins, and a cute turtle head. Even more pumpkins were used to make tiki god heads with autumn-inspired jar candles lit inside them.

But I couldn’t be the only one bringing the beach vibes! I had challenged everyone to get creative with their party attire—Trevor and Emily stole the show in their get-ups of matching leaf-print sweater vests, paired with floral board shorts for him and tropical flower leggings with fluorescent rainboots for her. John also rocked the fall luau garb in a “grass skirt” he constructed out of fall leaves worn over a wetsuit—snorkel securely in place.

A Fall-Inspired Luau Menu

handmade tropical flower cookies
Photo courtesy Etsy seller ALittleBitOfParis

An underground spit to roast a full-sized pig would have meant battling the autumn winds—not to mention a huge hole in my backyard—so I served up fresh grilled mahi-mahi crusted with macadamia nuts. The recipe was simple enough to make while my guests arrived and mingled:

  1. Before the party, I combined roasted macadamia nuts, butter, and panko in a pan and set aside. I also brushed the mahi-mahi with vegetable oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, wrapped the fillets in foil, and placed them in a baking pan.
  2. Once we were ready to eat, and the oven was heated to 425 degrees F, I baked the mahi-mahi for 5 minutes while warming the butter, nut, and panko mixture until the butter melted, stirring occasionally.
  3. Next, I pulled the pan from the oven to quickly brush the fish with coconut milk, and to top each fillet with the nut mixture, before baking for another 5 to 10 minutes.

cookies decorated like leaves
Photo courtesy Etsy seller MegCobbCreations

I also prepped some simple teriyaki chicken and veggie skewers to pull in more flavors of the tropics. By simply brushing a teriyaki marinade on kabobs of chicken, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms, I was able to grill them up nicely in the oven—no BBQing in the rain required. A friend even brought fried spam and rice, Hawaiian classics.

A variety of tropical fresh fruit cut into shells, starfish, and leaves using cookie cutters paired perfectly with a light and fluffy pumpkin mochi cake. And I ordered handmade cookies decorated as a blend of Hawaiian flowers and autumn leaves—they were so cute they doubled as table decor!

Beach Party Games for the “In” Crowd

After our feast, someone turned up the tunes and we danced like our bare feet were in hot sand. With the dance party well underway, I introduced this funny spin on a hula dancing contest:

  1. I collected a few empty tissue boxes, painter’s tape, and plenty of acorns.
  2. After filling the tissue boxes with 10 acorns each, I taped a tissue box to the backside of each participating guest’s pants.
  3. Then, we cranked up the ukulele music and watched to see who could hula the hardest until all of their acorns fell to the floor like out of a wind swept tree.

tiki head mugs
Photo courtesy Etsy seller RowhomeVintage

Once everyone had shaken out their acorns and loosened up their nerves, we set up a limbo stick made from a cornstalk. As the classic Limbo song and other Luau melodies played on the speakers, we all got a little bent out of shape vying for the coveted prize of a vintage tiki head coffee mug to add a little extra feeling of warmth to a fall morning cup of joe.

To cool off after all the dancing and shaking, I filled a kiddie pool with water so everyone could bob for mangos. It was a riot to watch, as we soon discovered that mangos are a bit more challenging to bite than apples—a bit of water ended up splashed about my kitchen, and more than a couple of my friends nearly submerged themselves trying to get the mangos out.

Gifts of Pocket-sized Paradise

Once we had danced our best hula, limboed the night away, and feasted on luau favorites new and old, it was time to call it a night—and come back to the reality of the fall weather outside. But I wanted to make sure my friends took a little bit of the warmth of the tropics with them into the chill as we said “aloha,” so I sent them off with favor bags filled with Hawaiian mango sugar scrub and a Tiki Room-inspired candle to bring a spot of sunshine to their own homes. I hope it becomes a new tradition for my friends to gather together and soak up some chill beach party vibes each autumn at a Tropi-Fall Paradise Luau.

The Elves are professionals at bringing the warmth of paradise to your fall party! Check out our Luau must haves, and keep the party going by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter @Elfster, and sending some Luau love to our Instagram @Elfstergram.

Fourth of July Party Ideas : Decorations of Independence

Fourth of July Party Ideas : Decorations of Independence

Fourth of July Party Ideas - Decorations of Independence

 

Looking for some pretty ways to show your patriotism this Independence Day? Well, thank your lucky stars and stripes, because Elfster has a handful of helpful hints. This weekend, we’re celebrating the land of the free by rounding-up a few complimentary party-planning ideas to help make your Fourth of July sparkle.

Take a look at these great tips and tutorials from our favorite holiday events bloggers, and feel free to join the blog party by adding your own ideas and links!

 

Pretty Printables- Sparkler Holders

Porch Decoration- Patriotic Bunting

Party Favors – Let Freedom “Ring”Photo credit- Simply Creative Insanity

3D Cookie Cupcakes- Tutorial

Berry Lemon Napoleon- Dessert Recipe

Polka Dot Tablescape

Star Medallion- Tutorial

Pennant Banner Printables

Pie Decoration and Party Ideas

Tee-Shirt Pom-Poms- Tutorial

Strawberry Shortcake Popsicles

Red, White and Blue Kabobs

Confetti Popper Rockets- Tutorial

Photo credits: Lisa Storms , Simply Creative Insanity
Friday the 13th : Spooky Treats by the Baker’s Dozen

Friday the 13th : Spooky Treats by the Baker’s Dozen

Friday the 13th - Spooky Treats by the Baker's DozenJust hear us out. If Christmas in July can be a “thing”, why can’t Halloween in May?

Friday the 13th isn’t just about avoiding ladders and knocking on wood. (That stuff is mere “Child’s Play”, if you ask us!) No, this day is the perfect excuse to dust off the culinary cobwebs and revisit some sinfully sweet Halloween treats.

Though you might be hesitant to go anywhere near the kitchen on such a notoriously unlucky day, here are a few recipes from our favorite food bloggers for those of you willing to tempt fate.

 

1. Ghost Crepe Cupcakes

2. Owl-Ween Treats

3. Meringue Bone Cookies

4. Black Cat Cookies

5. Gingerbread Skeleton Cookies

6. Silhouette CookiesFriday the 13th - 1

7. Spider Web Shortbread

8. Owl Cookies

9. Mini Ghost Cupcakes

10. Gingerbread Sandwich Bats

11. Spooky Sugar Cookies

12. Mini Cookie Cut-Outs

13. Nutter Butter Ghosts

 

Photo Credits: Cupcake Project , Celebrations at Home
Elf Week Kick-off: The Rookies n’ Milk Marathon!

Elf Week Kick-off: The Rookies n’ Milk Marathon!

We’ve gone Macadamia Nuts these past few weeks preparing for Elf Week’s opening event, The Rookies n’ Milk Marathon.  From stretching our stomachs at the All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Palace, to growing our milk mustaches just the way we like them, we haven’t worked this hard since Rudolph got stuck in the doggie door!

Well, it’s now officially “crunch time” and we’ve got all the delicious details of the Rookies n’ Milk events, right here on the Elfster Blog!

Remember, if you’re following the Elf Week competitions at home, be sure to keep an eye out for all of our updates this week, and check out these official Rookies n’ Milk “Elf-Help” articles in the meantime!

Current Rookies n’ Milk Standings

Elf Julie is presently in the lead, having successfully scarfed the North Pole’s entire population of gingerbread men.  She is now speed-skating over Lake Freeze-Pop with the finish line in sight.  But don’t count your turtledoves before they hatch!  Julie is recovering from a brain freeze injury last week, and only time will tell how she holds up for the final moments of the race.

Buttered Rum is no match for Elf Peter who is chugging for Second at the Sleigh Bell Saloon.  He may be a savvy sipper, but a lot can change in this stage of the game.  Oddly, many an elf has gotten stuck in the Buttered Rum leg of the journey… We can’t imagine why.

In Third Place, Elf Stephanie is still slip-sliding her way through the Grease-the-Pan portion of the competition.  On a baking sheet the size of a Hockey rink, she’s got to toboggan a giant pad of butter down the slope, earning a minimum of 12 “Santa Style Points” to make it to the next round. But even that might not be enough to help her advance.  (Judges were aghast earlier when she pre-heated her oven to a mere 349° and not the required 350°…)

Elf Adrian was a particularly eager participant in the day’s first trial, The Eskimo Pie Eating Contest.  Though he doubtlessly demonstrated the healthiest appetite, his refusal to leave the table has only landed him in Fourth Place, where he is still “competing” as we speak.  The last time he took a breath he was quoted as saying, “You all go on without me… I’ll just stay here and clean up.”

Stay tuned for more Elf Week coverage in the next few days.   Tomorrow’s event:  The Wrapping Paper Relay!

Photo Credits:  lara604, poppet with a camera, zackzen