Smith’s Construction-Themed Second Birthday Party


construction birthday chalkboard

Our little rump roast recently turned two and we celebrated by hosting a small party with Smith’s grandparents and aunts and uncles. Since he loves all things diggers, trucks, and dirt, I chose a construction theme for this year’s shindig.

construction birthday party

The decorations were straightforward. Construction balloons, construction garland, and some bulldozer temporary tattoos.

construction birthday party

In a moment of impulse while on a Target trip with my sister, she and I thought a bull piñata would also be a great, albeit completely unrelated, addition to the party. Unfortunately, we never got around to the candy-filled bull; but it was probably a good thing considering the birthday boy is just learning how to successfully shovel food into his mouth independently. Why not give him a stick and tell him to hit a floating object repeatedly? Bert just loved this part of party prep. This picture makes me laugh.

IMG_8924The menu was pretty simple and was mostly a reflection of some of the foods our little engineer of destruction loves most. It included:

  • Grilled bratwurst and (uncured) hotdogs with various toppings
  • Baked three-cheese macaroni and cheese
  • Tippy’s tossed salad
  • Grandma’s fruit salad
  • Great Aunt Khaki’s birthday cake cookies (recipe coming soon)
  • Chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate buttercream icing
  • Ice cream



The grill master.


I had so much fun making Smith’s cake this year. The lad loves chocolate. I couldn’t be prouder.

Construction Birthday Cake

construction birthday cake

After lunch, Smith opened gifts and I assumed my role as the family creeper by snapping candid pictures of everyone without their consent.

IMG_9010 IMG_9011

IMG_9001 IMG_9046 IMG_9030



After capturing lots of fun, I whipped out my tripod and forced all of us to take a few group shots. Childhood birthdays make me sentimental and nostalgic and documenting it with pictures of the ones I love the most is a way of keeping those emotions in check.


Smith’s construction-themed second birthday was so much fun. Both for Smith and his family. These past two years have flown by and I am so thankful for the gift of motherhood that I have been given. I would be dishonest if I were to say parenting is all sunshine and lollipops, but it is without a doubt the most fulfilling adventure I have been on. We love you, Smith. Thank you for filling our lives with laughter, joy, and unbridled energy.


It’s not a party until someone brings out the (unfilled) tea kettle.

Smith’s Puppy Pawty


The little rump roast I am always writing about is a full blown toddler these days. He’s walk-running, trying to ride Athena like a miniature pony, throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, and making us laugh on a daily basis. We had a first birthday party for him last month and, boy, did we have fun. Our immediate families and close friends joined us for a little shindig that involved lunch, cake and ice cream, and opening gifts.



To highlight the adorable relationship between Smith and our dog, Athena, I decided on a puppy theme for the gathering. I kept decorations pretty low key by making some garland with cardstock and colored baker’s twine. My mother-in-law printed pictures of our rump roast and Athena together to display throughout our house.




I didn’t get any pictures of the non-desserts, but the menu included:







While this PAWTY was definitely a celebration of our ham ball’s birth, it was also a celebration for the birth of new parents, new aunts and uncles, new cousins, and new grandparents and great grandparents. This past year was definitely not all sunshine and lollipops, but it was an absolutely life-changing and incredibly amazing time that we will not soon forget. It’s difficult to put into words how it feels to be given the gift of motherhood. When I sit and think about the love I feel for my son, I can only describe it as a physical symptom of a combination of butterflies in my stomach and chest tightness. As I type that out, I realize It doesn’t sound pleasant-perhaps it may even sound like I need to find a cardiologist- but it’s a good thing. A wonderful thing. Happy birthday, my sweet boy.






Birthday Cakes


My second birthday- 1987

My earliest memory was on my second birthday. Some of my family members don’t think I could possibly recall moments from that early in life, but I absolutely do. There are pictures to prove me correct (see above). I remember it so well because my mom ordered me the most beautiful 2-tiered clown cake the world has ever seen.  It was 1987 and I was wearing purple courdoroy bibs. When I saw the cake, my toddler heart was so full that I wet my pants in pure joy. My body was still testing out the whole “fight or flight” thing. In this case- “faint or void your bladder.”  In an effort to avoid missing out on the magic of the moment, I chose the latter.


The cake was covered in fluffy white icing and decorated with colorful plastic clowns that were embellished with candy lifesavers. It was so beautiful I could hardly breathe. The only thing that seemed logical at the moment was to kiss the cake, and so I did. And I did it with the tender love and affection that sweet Fraulein Maria and Captain Von Trapp share during their first kiss in The Sound of Music. My sweet darling.


My clearest memory of that day is of me sneaking into the kitchen in the old farmhouse we lived in and trying to take just “one more taste” of heaven on earth. My mom came in after me and told me no (total buzzkill… it was my birthday, for goodness sake!) and ushered me back into the dining room. But what an impression that cake made on me. To earn a permanent spot deep in the hippocampus of my brain.


Every once in a while, I get requests to make birthday cakes and/or cupcakes for children’s birthdays. I always feel so honored and I take it very seriously. Childhood birthdays are big.  I’m not talking these out of control, Pinterest-crazed, everyone-gets-a-pony birthday parties. I am talking about the gathering of family and close friends to celebrate another year of life and the hope of a new year.


When I look back through old pictures of both me and my husband, there are lots of pictures from birthdays. My husband grinning widely while he stands next to a panda cake, me sitting in front of a frilly Barbie cake with my childhood friends smiling on. These are deposits in our memory banks that will last forever and my goal is to provide these kids with a special cake that makes an impression on them. Something that will make them “wet their pants” in excitement, literally or figuratively or both. I hope little Johnny or Susie will be able to someday look back through their childhood photos and see a picture of a birthday cake that I made for them; and I hope they smile fondly and remember what a happy day that was and the love that was shared and felt in that moment. The laughs, the singing, and probably the fights between siblings about sharing a toy. It’s all good stuff. 0Y0A7761


A Gender Reveal Cake


A little over a month ago, I had the honor of making a gender reveal cake for a lovely fellow physical therapist and her husband. I was so excited. In case you haven’t heard of this type of cake before, the expecting couple has the ultrasound tech write down the gender of baby during the “big” ultrasound. The tech then puts the secret information into an envelope and the couple gives it to a baker, who then either bakes a pink or blue cake and/or fills the cake with pink or blue icing.

The beautiful momma-to-be requested a white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and a coconut garnish. I used my favorite white cake and buttercream recipe to make it all happen. I then tinted the icing that would fill the cake with the top secret dye color, which by the way ended up all over my hands. I had to scrub and scrub to clean everything off- for a few minutes I thought I’d need to wear gloves when I delivered the cake. Crisis averted. Whew!



It was so much fun doing this type of cake. The anticipation of the couple cutting in and finding out whether they would be having a son or daughter had me on edge.

Oh and by the way…

here’s what I filled the cake with…


It’s a GIRL! Congratulations you two. She will be one lucky baby.

Robert’s 27th Birthday Party


This past week, Robert officially joined the “late twenties” club. To celebrate we had a group of friends over for homemade pizza, final four basketball (still sad the Buckeyes weren’t there), and birthday cake. The menu was pretty simple and highlighted some of Robert’s favorite foods- pizza (with sriracha sauce and jalapenos), chips and salsa, caramelized onion dip, Jess’s German potato salad, chocolate chip cookies, and dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting. I noticed that the parties we throw tend to encourage heartburn. Sorry, friends. I think a vegetable party is on the agenda for this summer.




As usual, the company was the best part of the night; but I unfortunately got swept away in the fun (and wine) and didn’t get a chance to take many pictures. We are truly so thankful for the wonderful people we call our friends.  Our lives are enriched because of with whom we have the honor of sharing life’s experiences.

Jonah and Kate- lovebirds.


Athena was in heaven with all of the loving Chelsea was giving her.  DSC_8381

Alex and Catie- two of the smartest people we know. Just look at them being so intelligent.


And then there’s Greg. A father-to-be!


Athena was exhausted from her late night of partying.


**Sap-filled paragraph warning**

And, of course, I can’t go without mentioning the birthday boy himself. Robert and I have been married for over 5 years and together for more than a decade. There is no one I love or respect greater. Sure, we drive each other crazy sometimes. Like when he doesn’t make the bed or when I drive a freshly-washed and waxed car in the rain; but with each passing year, I grow to love him even more. He’s loyal, genuine, kind, and driven. While I can be riding high on an emotional roller coaster from day to day,  he is always calm and level-headed. I’m honored to call him my life’s companion. I just pray that he doesn’t wake up one of these days and realize he got the raw end of the deal. Happy birthday, Robert. I love you. Here’s to many more chocolate-filled years.


Thanksgiving Recap

This past Thanksgiving weekend, Robert and I invited our immediate families to our house for a celebratory feast. I was much more organized and less frazzled this year and we had a glorious time. I’ve discovered one of the best things about holidays is the anticipation. The shopping and food preparation, the getting spare rooms ready and the house cleaned, the getting out of work early- it all adds to the excitement. We had a total of twelve people for the meal and everything went off without much fuss. The only snafu manifested in the mashed potatoes as I made them Wednesday night and they somehow turned sour by the next morning. There was no need to stress, though, because my superhero mother-in-law swooped in to save the day (along with Robert and my dad, who valiantly peeled potatoes).

Although I wanted to scale things back this year, it didn’t happen (as my sister so lovingly pointed out). Oh well- I guess sometimes the best way to show thankfulness is by consuming extreme amounts of carbs.

Our menu included:



And here are a few snapshots from the weekend…

Early morning bird prepping. You know, manly stuff

Someday I’m hoping to have a real dining room 🙂

Superstar in-laws

And, I just couldn’t go without including lots of Jack pictures…

And just like that, Thanksgiving is over and we are running full speed ahead into the Christmas season. I hope you had a chance to reflect on the good things in your life!

Deep Fried Halloween

This past weekend, Robert and I had some of our friends over for to watch the OSU game and celebrate Halloween. It wasn’t just any party, though. It happened to be a fry party. What is a fry party, you may be asking? Well, it is a tradition that began about a year and a half ago after I was poking fun of my beloved husband for registering for a double-decker, commerical-sized deep frier for our wedding. A light bulb popped into our heads and we came up with the idea to set aside one night out of the year where everyone brings over something to fry.  An evening no-holds-barred, deep-fried debauchery.

This year our frying menu included: pickles, avocados, ravioli, pop tarts, oreos, Chinese donuts, jalapeno poppers, bacon-cheddar fritters, chicken wings, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and the lowest of lows- a McDonald’s McChicken sandwich. Wow. Just typing that list was actually pretty embarrassing. I feel unclean. Nonetheless, a fun time was had by all and there were also some non-fried options to take the edge off. These items included: crudite, cheese and fruit, caramel corn, cookies, Rice Krispie treats, pumpkin cupcakes, chips and salsa, and cake batter dip. In terms of drinks, I served hot cinnamon apple cider and a witches brew cocktail.

Chelsea’s cheese tray

Ok, seriously. As I am recalling all of this food, I am thinking we may have a problem. We really threw caution to the wind.

I decorated our house with pumpkins, mason jar candles with candy corn, mini pumpkins with votive candles, and some spooky spider and bat decals I purchased at Michael’s Arts & Crafts.

Of course, the best party of any party is the company you share it with and this instance was no different. I was so excited to have a great mix of old and new friends at our house.

Jess’s delicious candy corn Rice Krispie Treats

As mentioned above, the low point of the night was the deep-friend McChicken sandwich. Robert and Greg were nearly giddy with excitement with their “brilliant” idea they had brainstormed a few months ago.

And this, unfortunately blurry, photo pretty much sums up the night. A gloriously fun and heartburn-inducing night was had by all.

Now, it’s time to put away the frier for another 364 days. And I also want to point out, as part of my penance,  that I don’t condone this type of lifestyle. I believe in exercise and eating a well-balanced diet.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Here are other Halloween-inspired treats to get you in the holiday spirit:

Marshmallow Ghosts

Chocolate Skeleton Cookies

Spider web cupcakes

Homemade Graham Crackers and a Housewarming

Our friends, Jess and Greg, recently moved into a beautiful new home in Dublin. This past weekend they had a housewarming party and I was happy to help with the food and drinks because I so enjoy any excuse to help plan parties. One of Jess’s desires was a s’mores station and she requested that I make homemade graham crackers. I’ve made these crunchy cookies before, but I used slightly different recipe last time around; and, I must say, I prefer this version much more. They’re perfectly crispy and the honey flavor really shines. Most importantly, though, they are delicious building blocks for s’mores. Jess even made Ina Garten’s coconut marshmallows to take things to a whole new level of scrumptastic. Hot diggity dog.

My friends, you must start making your own graham crackers. The store bought version doesn’t even compare on any fraction of a level. The recipe is very simple, but just plan ahead because the dough needs to be chilled before baking. You won’t regret it.

I’m in a glass canister mood as of late- I just love them

The new house!

The beautiful hostess

Two babies

Ladies with both beauty and brains

Two proud mamas

I love this face- pure mischief

Man talk

Mingling on a chilly fall evening

“Work it”

Graham Crackers

Yield: About 2 dozen (recipe can be doubled)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat graham flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • cinnamon sugar (1 teaspoon cinnamon/3 tablespoons sugar), for sprinkling (if desired)


1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy- about 2 minutes. Slowly add in the honey and mix until combined.

2. Whisk together the flours, soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead together into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days.

3. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Make the cinnamon sugar in a small bowl.

4. Unwrap the dough and roll it out on a lightly-floured until about 1/8 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, or a pizza cutter, cut out 3 inch rectangles. Place them on the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart, and poke with a fork. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake another 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Source: Barely adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Jonah and Kate

This past weekend our friends from college, Jonah and Kate, were united in marriage in a beautiful ceremony. Their reception took place in a gorgeous screened in pavilion. The flowers, the table setting, the decorations, the food- it was all positively fabulous. Kate’s attention to detail resulted in a beautiful rustic and elegant party that is at the top of my list for the best wedding we have ever attended.

She, along with her bridesmaids and family, made these beautiful banners that labeled various parts of the reception…

She used the window of an old door as the seating chart…

The table settings and favors (herbs and honey) belonged in Martha Stewart magazine…

Another adorable feature is the pot of sparklers they had that we lit up at the end of the party to send the bride and groom away on their honeymoon…

Without a doubt, though, my favorite part of the reception was the dessert table. It was a glorious spread of cake and cupcakes and Kate and Jonah’s favorite treats. Kate asked me to make the chocolate orange cookies I made this past Christmas. I was thrilled to help!

Congratulations, Kate and Jonah! May you have love that never ends.

Foodbuzz 24 x 24: Weekend at the Lake

Foodbuzz 24×24 is a monthly event in which 24 featured publishers are selected to create a meal sponsored by Foodbuzz, all within 24 hours of each other, and then write a blogpost documenting it. This month I was happy to find out that my proposal was accepted. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Memorial Day weekend than to showcase a family get together at Lake Erie

Ohio isn’t known to be a vacation hotspot. We have long and gray winters, lots of flat terrain, and horrible sports teams (except those Buckeyes)! However, there are a few precious months between May and early September when the sun stays shining and several members of my mom’s side of the family flock to Port Clinton, OH. This seasonal town is right along Lake Erie and about a twenty minute drive from Cedar Point. Sure, Lake Erie is a little bit murky at times and the algae bloom can get on your nerves, but we view it as our personal paradise.

I think my great aunt Rosemary and uncle Loren were the first to get a vacation spot at the lake several decades ago; and we all loved it so much that we just couldn’t stay away. Today the O’Neill clan seems to have taken over the area- just like the zebra mussels that have infiltrated Lake Erie (though, I like to think of us as slightly less invasive- but the jury is still out). 😉

We usually get together on the 3 big holidays of the summer- Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. This year, my parents hosted the first big soiree of the season at their cottage.

With this meal I wanted to honor our rich family tradition with several family-favorite recipes. I also wanted to showcase some of the delicious local Ohio produce that is starting to come into season. Most of all, I wanted to document how wonderful of a family I have; and, although we are far from perfect, I couldn’t be more thankful for these wonderful people.

The dinner menu included:

  • Uncle Don’s Lake Erie perch and walleye with Aunt Molly’s tartar sauce and lemon aioli sauce
  • Cousin Becky’s barbecued pulled pork sliders
  • Hot dogs on the grill
  • Mom’s baked beans
  • Grammy’s cole slaw
  • Aunt Dodo’s deviled eggs
  • Cousin Meg’s German potato salad
  • Robert’s hot carrots
  • My canned pickles (from last summer)
  • Cousin Becky’s potato salad
  • Cousin Jean’s buffalo chicken dip
  • Pasta salad (not sure who brought that, but it was great!)
  • Cousin Julie’s fruit kabobs
  • Bootstrap cousin Mary’s guacamole

The dessert menu included:

  • Mom’s mile-high strawberry pie
  • Grammy’s strawberry rhubarb pie
  • Mom’s rhubarb pie
  • Mom’s Coconut cream pie
  • Mom’s Butterscotch cream pie
  • Chocolate cream puffs
  • Robert’s homemade ice cream with homemade hot fudge and caramel sauce
  • Cousin Carrie’s crayon cookies
  • Rice Krispie treat pops

Specialty drinks included:

My Aunt Khaki found our cute old picnic basket and some flowering chives

MUncle Don was the fish fryer for the evening

Aunt Molly brought Grammy’s cole slaw

The dinner spread and our Ohio pride

Mom’s lemon aioli and Molly’s tartar sauce

The dessert table

Mom and her cream puffs

The Rice Krispie treat pops were a hit with Paige 🙂

Robert’s family’s ice cream was scrumptious and universally devoured

It’s not a party without some bean bag

Aunt Molly’s mojitos- delicious and deceivingly powerful

Our dog, Athena, was exhausted after playing nonstop fetch in the lake. It was great! 🙂

It was a beautiful day and a fantastic way to kick off summer 2012. A huge thanks to my parents and my Aunt Khaki for all of their hard work and help and thanks to all the O’Neills for coming over! Recipes to come in the coming weeks.