Friday, November 20, 2015

An Evening in Excellence Tea Party: Alice in Wonderland

Our Laurels were in charge of coming up with a theme this year. They chose Alice in Wonderland—so I went on the search for a way to tie it into personal progress and found this quote by President Monson:

Let us not find ourselves as indecisive as Alice. You will remember that she comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom Alice asks, "Which path shall I follow"

The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”7Unlike Alice, we all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for by choosing our path, we choose our destination.

So there we had it, personal progress helps us choose the right path! Consequently this is the topic one of our speakers used—and we also sent it out on the invitations.


We decorated with hearts, books, and teacups hung from the ceiling to make them look like they were "falling down the rabbit hole." And one of my Laurels did the flower center pieces. She purchased white roses and actually "painted the roses red" by brushing red craft paint on them.

Also signs and arrows were posted around the room pointing in all directions. (We should have had some that listed the values, oh well.)



A second speaker used a quote from the Doorknob character above.

Food was all purchased from Costco: Muffins cut in half, Madelines, Aussie bites, Crackers and cheese, and fruit drink. We borrowed the tea pots from members of the relief society who were glad to lend them to us.

The girls had a great time! One of them told me it was her favorite Young Women in Excellence so far.

I can't share any of the graphics with you, as I purchased them from Dollar Photo Club, a stock website. But at least this can give you an idea to do your own. And I am however, including PDF sheets for the decorations—the lines are thin so as to use very little ink.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mountain Man Surprise

My bestie, Dafni accomplished an amazing feat—she put on a surprise themed Mountain Man party for her husband in her home! She used cash and was able to hide the decorations and evidence of food preparations from him. Isn't that amazing!?
She borrowed a few stuffed animals for the walls, found animal figures at the secondhand store, and purchased cheap plaid to create a fun backdrop for photos. I'm withholding some photos here (okay, I'll show one at the end)—but you can imagine some of the pictures we got after everyone left.
My friend had a lovely spread of party food available,
All around the room you could find mountain men photos like this.
Of course prizes HAD to be deer and moose droppings (peanut chocolate clusters).
Cornbread, soda in old fashioned bottles,
and chile were on the menu, with some trail mix and berries for snacking. (The chile was amazing! Dafni has a website with the recipe right here. EVERYONE was commenting on the flavor. It was THAT good.)
Yummy cupcakes for dessert.

Okay, okay…I'll show a little teaser of the photoshoot. I begged my hubby to put on my costume vest. This is what he did, and then I couldn't help it, I later added Dr. Pepper to the image. There are about a thousand great captions for that photo….

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fa la la!

Went a little crazy this year and hand made ALL my Christmas wrapping. I used some Higgins® Black Magic® Ink (watered down for a gray color) and Ikea Måla paper (from a roll) and started scribing with a paintbrush Fa la la on long swaths of the paper.
I was just going to wrap with it, but then there was enough left from which to make gift bags. (As seen on the left.) I made TWELVE of them. TWELVE. A little crazy maybe should be changed to a lot crazy.
And THEN I was having so much fun I scribbled MORE Fa la la's on some black paper with watered down white paint, to make boxes to hold some decidedly DELICIOUS and addictive Nutella truffles with Frangelico from MyBakingAddiction

Using eyelets in the lid, I strung black ribbon through it to create a loop pull. It made the perfect little container for the truffles. What a great presentation. I used this tutorial to make the boxes—which I love because this method doesn't leave any crease marks in visible areas of the box.
(There's some yummy cranberry orange bread from here  wrapped up in the photo below.) Isn't everything so lovely?
Now, you can go make your own!


Friday, May 9, 2014

New Beginnings: Girl on Fire

Although the idea of "Girl on Fire" for a New Beginning theme isn't original I think the young women pulled it off brilliantly. One of our Laurels found the idea and did all the research for refreshment and decorating ideas. The rest of the work was delegated between the girls and leaders.
I put the invitations together using the official movie poster fonts.

Our Beehive advisor created the dessert table and even created labels for all the food using the font from the books. I was so excited to see she'd done that!

The girls created fireball poofs to hang from the ceiling.

And a welcome poster….

See the labels…awesome!


Keeping with the color over black theme, each girl painted a value onto black poster board and explained how the value keeps her spiritual flame burning.
We used all the appropriate labels for things such as:

Values = Districts
Girls Explaining the Values = Tributes
One of our girls received her Young Woman in Excellence that night = Victor

And the songs: The Spirit of God...like a fire is burning... and The Lord is My Light.
Of course there were speakers, a skit, and some teaching involved so everyone got to do something.

The skit was made up by the girls and was hilarious. The prompt was "Show us what Personal Progress is and how it works." So their skit included introducing PP to a classmate, carrying out a service project with her—raking leaves—and then going to a leader (played by a girl of course) to get it checked off in their books. We let the girls practice the skit a week beforehand—I'm glad because we got a lot of blank faces at first LOL.

It was a great evening…the Stake YW Leaders were there and couldn't stop their praising.  I LOVE that it was all headed up and started with one of the young women. I enjoy seeing what they want to do and the pleasure (and pride) on their faces when it all turns out.

I'm sorry, I do not have a template of the invitation to share at this time. (I think I deleted it by accident ugh.) But here's a .png torch file. Click on it to open it full size, then right click to download it. Note, this is the official logo for the Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Olympic New Beginnings

The Winter Olympics are here again! What better theme for a New Beginnings? You can talk about going for gold—setting goals and accomplishing them. Have your girls march down the red carpet isle with their flag and introduce each theme. Give out awards and use lots of gold and silver everywhere...and golly—you could even fashion an Olympic torch out of the Young Women's logo.
Decorating Ideas:
During mutual have the girls cut out the Olympic rings and a whole TON of snowflakes.
Print off the invitations and help the girls assemble them as well. (Directions and printout at the end of this post).



Make winter cupcakes for refreshments. Don't forget the gold wrapper.


This cupcake display is just three boxes wrapped in white with ribbons wrapped around each one and then stacked. Brilliant!


Ok. Are you ready to know how we did some of this? Let's start with the flags. I'm sure you've heard of freezer paper stenciling by now? Print each value on the paper and then cut them out with an Exacto knife. Iron them onto the fabric and stencil them in.
The flags were 1/2 yard each. I made a casing on the side of each one which slipped easily over a wooden dowel. The flags stayed on nicely—and they are removable for washing or if someone wants to hang them instead (which we did the next year for a Royal Theme...you know, flags hanging in the "great hall"....)

Drill the appropriate size holes in a 2 x 4 and, stick the doweled flags in they display nicely. These flags have been used for various occasions, even the Stake has been using them. So they are worth the time investment.
Next up: Snowflakes.
Print up a snowflake pattern you like. Tape the papers onto something flat and moveable. Then tape wax paper over that. 
Next whip up a batch of Royal icing and trace over the snowflakes. Don't forget to add a toothpick. These will take about 1-3 days to dry completely.
Lastly are the invitations.
Use the file below to put your own information in. (Fit the file into your document so it is 8.5 inches tall —the FILE, so it includes the white space above and below the crop marks) Two will fit on an 11 x 8.5 paper). Cut them out following the crop marks.

Purchase multicolored paper. If you are holding the paper horizontally, you will want to cut a strip off the bottom about 2 inches tall so your invitation comes just to the top and bottom.
Paste the invitation in the middle and fold both flaps in. 

Punch holes in either side of the oval cut-out and thread ribbon through, tie in the back. Pass them out and you're good to go.
Below are the invitation and oval templates. Click on the image, it will come up...then right click and choose "save as" to save it to your computer.



And now you're set! Just Google "Olympic New Beginnings" and you'll find all kinds of program ideas.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pasta Italia: Easy Dish, Great for Groups

My husband made this dish up while he was in Italy for two years and ate it all the time. The ingredients were cheap and easy to find and well, it's really tasty! Several friends have asked for the recipe so here you go:

Note: don't worry too much about exact quantities. It's all to taste and according to how large your group is—in other words, we usually "eyeball" it. If you have questions send me a message.
Pasta Italia

You'll need equal parts (almost) of:

• ham, cubed
• Mozzarella cheese, cubed (we like less cheese, more tomato)
• tomatoes (any kind) cubed
• Rigatoni noodles work best, the big fat kind you can stick your thumb in. Yum. (the amount should be about 1/3 or less of the total ingredients.)
Note: we use whole wheat noodles for health reasons but rigatoni is hard to find, which is why you see a different pasta in the photo above.)

and also some

• olive oil
• fresh basil, one "package" finely chopped (if serving 6—10) If using fresh, a good fistful of leaves
• balsamic vinegar



1. In a large pot begin boiling the rigatoni. (Do NOT over cook, throw the noodles out if that happens…it just won't taste good in this dish and you will be disappointed.)

2. In a skillet add a bit of olive oil and allow to heat.

3. Add cubed ham to the skillet and cook until just browning on sides and still juicy. Set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, (while the ham is cooking) combine the cubed tomatoes, cheese, chopped fresh basil, and drizzle olive oil over the ingredients (to taste). Mix. see photo above.

5. Salt the mixture to taste.

6. When rigatoni is finished, drain and add all the ingredients to the pot (tomato/cheese mixture and ham) while the noodles are still hot.

7. Mix. Your cheese will begin melting, this is good.

Serve hot with balsamic vinegar on the table for drizzling. (This is a must!)
Great with French bread and fresh fruit.
Makes good leftovers too! Just reheat until cheese begins to melt.

Note: If you want this to be a South Beach Phase 1 meal, leave the pasta out.
If you want it to be a phase 2 meal, use 100% whole grain pasta.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Strawberry Cake Decor

 Need an idea for a cute cake? Here's a simple strawberry themed two tiered cake. Keep reading for instructions and tools you will need.

This cake was created for a Wilton cake class I took through Michael's a few years ago. I was so tired of making flowers that I wanted to do something a little different for our assignment. Enter the cute strawberry!

The strawberries are made of fondant and shaped by hand. The little seed indents are made with a tooth pick and the hull was cut out of fondant using the “star” shaped cutter below. Just pinch the tips and press a line down the center of each flap with a tooth pick. (Toothpicks are such a handy go-to tool!)

The blossoms used the rose cutter seen below. I put a slit between each petal with an Exacto knife so that I could lift and curve each petal. The centers are piped in using a grass tip with yellow frosting.

Lastly, can you see the little curly tendrils on the cake? Those were painted on with a brush and green food coloring.

All the cutters, including the leaf shape (not shown) can be found in the Wilton Rose Bouquet Flower Cutter Set found here.