Sunday, February 13, 2011

Maddox Turn One!!!

Lesson 10

Wall of Fame

Martha Stewart Living Magazine-January 2011
Page 128

(No not Wall of Shame but Birthday Decor that will highlight every guest at the party)

The Inspiration

Baby Maddox turned one this past January and I knew I had to throw him a super special First Birthday complete with Martha touches. Martha, never one to let me down, dedicated her January issue to innovative party ideas. However, Maddox contributed the most innovative idea-THE THEME! Maddox loves Eric Caryle's classic book 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear!' Literally his face lights up and he starts to flap his arms with excitement as you flip through the pages. I thought this would be the most fitting inspiration for the Invitation, Decor, Cake and Favors for the party.
The Invitation

Ok, so yes Chrissy and I put Baby Maddox in a basket...with an over-sized Brown Bear Book...and a board book of Brown Bear. BUT he loved it! We let Maddox nap and when he woke up refreshed and giggly we plopped him in a basket and did a mini-photo shoot. Chrissy then took four of the best photos and uploaded them into an adorable Invitation from Tiny Prints! The invites were then processed and shipped right to her door.

Brown Bear is not exactly a 'Party in a Box' theme. We couldn't just stroll down the aisles of Party City and dump the plates, napkins and matching forks into our cart. We needed to think outside the box! First, I found a bulletin board collection of the Brown Bear characters that looked perfect placed along the walls of the Mingucci house. Maddox loved seeing his favorite characters strewn all over the living room.

Next, I took a cue from Martha and organized a project to include all of Maddox's guests. I had family and friends email me photographs from their first birthday. I am talking Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Brothers, Sisters and even the family puppies! I then organized the photos and taped them in the party to form a number one.

Now we wanted to add color by hanging lanterns from the ceiling, adding balloons, and paper goods that reminded us of the polka dots throughout the book. Oh and of course bear details!

The Projects
Maddox may have been turning one but all of his guests were over the age of two and ready to PARTY! I tried to find projects that would coincide with the theme but would also be fun children of all ages.

DYO Birthday Cards

Build a Bear

Sticky Bears
The Cake
Every party needs an amazing cake! We decided to do cupcakes and a cake!! (Thanks to the baking skills of Aunt Debbie!!) The cupcakes were funfetti for two reasons. First, funfetti is delicious and second the sprinkles and colors are so BROWN BEAR! But I needed to add more Brown Bear so I had circular pieces of fondant made with scanned edible images of the characters of Brown Bear. And the grand centerpiece-A CHOCOLATE BROWN BEAR CAKE!!!

The Favors
Every party guests NEEDS to leave with a party favor filled with equal parts candy, treats, toys and personalization. I decided to use tin buckets and fill each one with a Bear Cookie Cutter, Bear Notepad, Bear M&Ms, Crayons, Gummy Bears and a personalized sticker on the front. Completed with Birthday Tissue Paper!

The Memories
What truly makes a party are the moments shared between friends and family! Creating memories that will last for years to come. Maddox's first year of life changed me for the better. He made the best days-Mondays and my moments brighter and happier! I cannot wait to watch him grow up to be as amazing as his big brother Michael. Every time I see my brother with his family I am reminded of what is important and meaningful. My biggest hope is to one day have a family of my own.

Stay tuned for my NEW blog-Home-Made, NY!!

Aunt Jenny

Thursday, February 3, 2011

All Veggie Pot Luck Birthday Bash

Blow out the candles.....

Jennifer Cust's Birthday

My Manhattan Mini-Pad

Guest List:
Handful of fabulous friends

Vegetarian Fare, Wine, Laughs & Good Times

The Invitation

An invitation sets the tone for a party. I decided to use Paperless Post for this specific occasion. Paperless Post has an aesthetic that matches any crafter's obsession with attention to detail. Simple to use, virtual envelopes, RSVP tracking and perfect for a party on a budget. Many of Paperless Post's services are free of charge and if you desire to customize their already fabulous features you can do so for PENNIES!

The Menu
I cooked some of Jen's favorite treats. Rustic bread, Escarole and Beans, Garlic Broccoli, and the big hit of the evening bow-tie pasta with home-made pesto sauce. After many batches I finally assembled the perfect combination of fresh ingredients to create the perfect pesto sauce! In the spirit of sharing, here is the recipe:

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Special equipment needed: A food processor (I bought mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Gotta love a 20% off coupon.


1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup. Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.

Added Bonus-I recommend adding toasted pine nuts to the pasta. Adds a yummy crunchy bite.

Food Buffet

The Cake

Candle Light

Good friends truly make for the best party guests. Make your next event one that reflects the loves of the Birthday Guest! Pinot, Hot Dishes, Cookie Cake, Treats from Sweet Katastrophe, and lots of love! Happy Birthday Jen! & Many thanks to those who attended!!

Jennifer Lauren

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Baby Brea Blog

Lesson 9

'Her colors are pink and pink...'

(If you know where that quote is from that you are either a gay man or my mother.)

The News:
One of my favorite 'Martha Messages' is the focus on truly putting thought and care into gift giving. My platinum sister, Dana Ruth/ the 'inspiration' for this blog, phoned me with the most amazing news. Dana and her fabulous husband Jeff are expecting their first child. Knowing Dana for over the past decade this moment is one we had dreamed of for years. I screamed like a school girl and immediately started to plan the perfect baby basket of goodies!

BUH! Snow:
I had been planning on attending Dana's Baby Shower in Boston but due to one of the many Blizzards of 2011 I was stranded in New York and left wishing I could teleport to see Dana's Baby Bump.

The only benefit of missing the Baby Shower was that days later Dana found out she was having a Baby Girl!!! This fact allowed me to revisit my ultimate baby gift bag and go full on PINK on PINK!

It begins with a journey to Michael's!!

Shopping List:
  1. Baby Basket
  2. Satin Ribbons
  3. Cellophane
  4. Clear Tape
  5. Butcher Craft Paper
  6. Tissue Paper
**Note: Select a color palette and make sure all of your components gel together.

What to give?
Assemble an array of gifts that connect you to the recipient. I always like to give a mix of touching, funny and practical gifts. Also, don't forget Mommy and Daddy! I think it is nice to acknowledge everyone in the family with a cute token of love and celebration.


Dana and I have been joking about Breast Feeding FOREVER! I instantly knew I had to get her something to coordinate with the BFing. I ventured my single NYC self into 'Yummy Mummy' on the UES. A breast feeding mother's haven or places their single friends can snag them thoughtful gifts. There it was-the perfect PINK Mommy Must Have-a Hooter Hider! This is a stylish way to breastfeed in public and not be so 'boobs out'. (Granted I love boobs out-cleavage bearing tops, perhaps this is why I am the single friend?)

Please note, I cannot mention Breastfeeding and NOT mention this YouTube classic!!!

I liked Jeff from the moment I met him! He appreciates my inappropriate humor and thinks my 'crazy' is far from crazy. I found this adorable book called 'Black On White' which made me LOL. When Dana and Jeff first started dating her ring tone was Michael Jackson's, "Black or White." Jeff is year round tan like me and Dana is more so milky white. (In a fierce way, I swear)

So Baby Bear-Black on White-PERFECT!

Baby Brea:
I thought Baby Brea needed head to toe attention. We begin at the tiny toes. Babies cannot wear Manolos but they can wear Trumpettes. Seriously, they come in a baby shoe box, in a variety of colors and resemble the classic 'Ballet Flat.' BEYOND! I customized the wrapping paper by adding fun quotes from Carrie Bradshaw and her shoe addiction. Also, while browsing the shoe area I spotted Baby Ballerina Shoes and just lost it! Completely NOT practical but TOO cute to pass up. So Baby Brea will need to wait three years to rock them with her first tutu but she will look j'adorable at the first day of dance class.

Best Dressed Baby:
Shoes-Check! Onto the perfect Baby Girl Ensemble. I decided to go for 3-6months as the first 3 months they are really chilling in onesies and pampers. At 3 months the REAL baby couture begins. Many top women's designers have branched out into baby-wear. Ella Moss has a line of easy to wear, super soft and most importantly fashion forward pieces for your little one. I found this PINK dress with matching PINK bloomers and the deal was sealed!

Bring on the Heart Strings:
I knew I wanted to give Baby Brea something sweet and close to my heart. I found the CUTEST apple rattle from organic Apple Park. And I inscribed a note, "So you know someone in the big apple loves you..." Being so far away from these happy monumental moments is difficult but true friendship transcends miles. I cannot wait to meet Baby Brea and give her an Aunt Jenny hug!!!

In conclusion, I cannot think of two better people to bring a life into this world. Dana and Jeff are rich in love, faith and have the kind of bond that will carry them through the challenging moments of parenthood. I wish I could share the feeling I have of such sheer joy for my best friend from the moment she shared this news. As a daughter who loves her mother through and through I know Dana will have the same bond with her daughter. Baby Brea you have a world of people waiting to love you!!!

As Always With Love,
Aunt Jenny

PS-The blog is back! The clouds have been lifted and my creativity is flowing again! Thanks for waiting...