Thursday, September 29, 2011

First Day of Fall Party

So fall has arrived!!!  Fortunately I was hosting our neighborhood playgroup and had an excuse to celebrate and I took full advantage!

First it was time to decorate the house!  Decorating for fall is NOT decorating for Thanksgiving or Halloween, it's the more simple stuff like leaves, pumpkins, apples, guords, mums, ect.  Using elements from nature will keep you on the right track.  I have entirely different decorations that I add in for those holidays! :)  Don't be suprised, you already know by now that I'm a holiday freak!
I always love putting a wreath over my mirror.  It just creates more depth and makes a bigger statement than it would without one.  Then I took the matching vine/berries and wrapped a leaf garland around it and had my mantle decor!  I just added a couple sparkly pumpkins and a banner and done!  Typically I buy my decor right after the holiday so that I can get great deals!! 
Then, to the right, I decorated with mostly stuff I just have around the house.  I typically just "switch" things out from different places to create my bookshelf scene which is usually beach decor.  I also added some burnt orange ribbons to non-fall items like a bird cage, vase, candle to make it fall-like and it does the trick. 

Who can resist an awesome mum?  I bought this and placed it in a terra cotta pot that I reuse over and over again and it works!  And since it was raining that day, I put our bounce house indoors for the kids to get their wiggles out in! :)

The food!  Decorating is typically my favorite part of parties, but food is a close second!  And since fall is about warm comfort food, I chose to make the food the centerpiece of this party.  Now, the best way to display food is to put it all in different heights.  You can do this by having multiple cake stands or simply turn some pots upside down underneath your tablecloth and it will create height.
The other thing to remember about a buffet is that the dishes need to be all the same color so that they basically disappear as your food is what is on display.  So typically I only purchase white or clear glass serving dishes.  This helps keep it uniform and able to use at any party.

Now, this was a party for preschoolers but with moms there, so the food had to be easy to eat but filling.  So I bought pre-made corn dogs, pre-made sweet potato fries and baked those.  Then I just threw frozen meatballs in my crock pot with BBQ sauce and that was easy and done!

This was also very easy and the kids loved it!  Just buy trail mix and throw in some pumpkins and it's very festive!

Ok, so this I made from scratch, but I couldn't resist and you would too if you could taste them!  Here's the worth the time and effort!!!
*BTW, a great tip on baking for parties, you can freeze it all...already baked cookies, muffins, un-iced cupcakes, pancakes, waffles, ect.!!!  I baked these the week before and once they completely cooled, I just put them in a freezer bag and froze them.  The morning of the party I took them out and within 2 hours they were completely dethawed and tasted like I had just baked them that morning.  Freezing them locks in that freshness and it's a great way to prepare ahead of time so you're not so stressed the day before the party.

Apple cobbler!  This is Ina Garten's recipe and delicious with a touch of lemon and orange zest!  I prepped these the day before and put them in the fridge.  The citrus kept the apples from turning brown.  Then I baked them just before people arrived which made my house smell amazing!

So this is amazingly easy and the perfect size for little kids!  No kid can really eat an entire carmel apple, so these are made by using a watermelon baller and scooping out an apple and dipping in melted butterscotch chips, chocolate chips or carmel chips.  The kids loved them!

So the moment I saw these I wanted to make them and was so excited I could!  Super easy and fast!

So...every party has a disaster and this was mine which was sad because they were suppose to be my centerpiece; but you just have to roll with the punches.  So pumpkin cupcakes are actually very easy to make.  You just take a yellow boxed cake mix and instead of adding the oil, water and eggs, you add a can of pumpkin pie mix.  They turn out SO moist and yummy!  Then I made cream cheese icing and added orange sprinkles.  They looked beautiful.  Unfortunately my husband left our under-counter light on all night and when I woke up in the morning they were melted everywhere.  *But I thoroughly enjoyed licking that plate!! :)
*BTW, I froze these cupcakes too and thawed and frosted them the day before.

Mason jars are awesome!  Any mason jar that is used for canning can be used for baking because they already have to be able to with stand high temperature for the boiling process.  So basically they are little pyrexs!  So I just made my family's recipe and baked individual ones the day before and they were delicious!  Raisin bread pudding is always best the next day cold, so that was convenient.  Oh, and there's a delicous vanilla sauce on top that makes it all glistening and yummy!

So this is another family recipe that I love.  Sweet, wet corn bread!  I just bake them in cupcake pans and only fill half way to make the right serving size and they are delicious!
*Again, I baked and froze these days before!

I also served bowls of caramels, indian corn and candy corn but for some reason these pictures are coming onto this blog sideways?  But, for obvious reasons, the kids LOVED the candy! :) 

Beverages HAD to be Apple Cider and Iced Tea (splenda tea since we have moms watching their weight).  Then I also served coffee with pumpkin spice!

Printables!  So all these printables I just make myself.  I use Microsoft Publisher which is not the best but it's better than Word.  For the cupcake pics, just make a 2" circle, throw in a clip art and buy a 2" hole punch and tape a lollipop stick to the back.  Super easy!  I just print them at Staples on cardstock because their printing is waterproof to a degree.  So if I spill something on them or water splashes up, they don't run or get ruined. 

For a craft we did finger painting.  Now, this typically scares most parents, but all the paint was washable so that doesn't scare me at all...I'm always washing my tables, floors, walls so a little more wouldn't hurt! :)

If you look in the middle of the window, you'll see what our objective was, a Fall Tree.  The kid's arm was the trunk, hands were the leaves and fingerprints were the leaves falling.  However, with any kid's party, you have to go with the flow and they just wanted to be artistially they were and it was great fun seeing their creations!

How did I do it all?
During my kid's nap time is when I usually get stuff done, or if it's something they can help me with, we do it together.

Baked: apple muffins, corn bread & pumpkin cupcakes & froze.

Designed all my printables and printed/cut them out.
Put up my fall decorations.

Made iced tea, trail mix & apple oreos.
Prepared finger painting craft.

Made apple cobbler, raisin bread pudding & mini butterscotch apples
Iced pumpkin cupcakes
Set up tablescape & serving dishes

Cooked meatballs, corn dogs, fries and apple cobbler.
The party began at 10am!

Anytime you are throwing a party, the BEST way to have it turn out a success is to be organized so that you're not stressed the day of the party and you can enjoy yourself and the fruit of your labor!  The week before every one of my parties I set aside a couple hours each day to prepare.  Sometimes 2 weeks!  I make my list and prioritize and get it done so that I can enjoy myself too!  So plan ahead to do a little each day and it will turn out fantastic!!! 

But remember, if you're doing it and stressing the whole time, then don't do it!  If it's not an enjoyable process to you, then find a different hobby.  Parties can be great with store bought cupcakes and pin the tail on the donkey.  What really makes a party great are the people who come!  I go overboard because I LOVE the creative process, which I'm assuming you do to or you wouldn't be reading this blog! :)