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Styled-It

For our table décor we kept in line with our invitation theme and, by using coordinating place cards and using red and gold accent pieces. We  used a cozy vintage table and added some modern elements for a traditional table with a mod twist! The lovely  8” plates with the gold dots add a fun whimsical feel to the table and are a perfect size for our bites.  I love the tall gorgeous red and gold wine glasses giving the tablescape some height and color. A simple wreath in the center of your table sets the perfect touch to a holiday table. 

Looking Forward

January 1st, 2017 

I've heard it too often that Thanksgiving is really just another fancy dinner and in theory I tend to agree. However, this is one dinner I don’t take for granted. Truth is for me it’s simply symbolic; it reminds us that every meal, every day spent with family, every breath we take is special. And for that I am grateful. This year Thanksgiving was bittersweet for our family. We lost two precious women in our lives just months ago and  during that difficult time we welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family.​​​​​









 
It’s important for me in designing my tablescape to keep my guest in mind and make each place setting special. I try to remember that I’m not only sharing my table with my family and friends but with their memories as well.  The number of guest at my table has no bearing on my Thanksgiving celebration or décor, this year we had 6 at our table and it was no different than years where we had 20 guests. My objective is to keep my tablescapes comfortable, warm and inviting without overwhelming.

  I do this by including soothing colors that complement each other, setting a small favor at each place setting and using personalized place cards that make everyone feel welcome. To keep my table from looking too contrived I use as many natural elements as possible. I love to incorporate fresh flowers, vegetables and fruits in centerpieces. Ecofriendly Bamboo and Kraft paper product in place of plastic creates a more natural look as well.  Over the years I’ve learned that a comfortable setting and soothing ambiance will always create a memorable experience even when you burn the marshmallows on the Sweet Potato casserole! 

True Grit of an Etsy Shop 

Just a fancy dinner? 

The Art of Silent Storytelling

January 10th, 2016


It’s January 1st 2017, a day for many that symbolically marks the beginning of a promising new year or even better the end of a bad year, which regrettably numerous years tend to end on this note.  Every January 1st we look forward to a great new year sans any of the complications, losses and unexpected life changing events that will chaotically transpose a promising year to the “worst year ever” category.  Year after year we make resolutions, we set goals, and we aspire to be better than we were in previous years, thinking this will somehow protect us against “bad” things to come.  All in all losing weight, eating healthy or trying to become more financially responsible may potentially ward off some bad things. However for many and me included, failing at all three of these goals would have been a pretty darn good year.  2016 was hard.  I said painful goodbyes to family who left us too soon, I cried with their husbands, their parents, their children and my children, all whose world was shaken to the core. Yet 2016 brought some great  beginnings;  I watched my son  become a father, and holding my granddaughter in my arms for the first time, that was simply pure joy, yet it didn’t make my sorrow’s any less painful but it did encourage me to look forward.

So for me this year there will be no resolutions proclaimed, just some wisdom gained from harder times that life really does go on, painful as it may be. For 2017 I’m just looking forward , not looking forward to anything in particular, not trying to forget the past but just moving forward, cautiously,  knowing that whatever bad happens can’t be undone but can be endured, knowing that the little things in life are often the big things that really matter.

 To all my family and friends, I love you all more than you will ever know!

Cheers to 2017!  

  It’s Super Bowl Sunday and once again my husband is going to the “boy’s party”.  Almost every year his best friend Bob will host this Super Bowl gathering, that’s basically a small group of old friends that get together for Chili, chips, beer and of course the game. And no, it’s not sexist in any way, it just so happens his best friends are all guys and Bob is single!  I attend plenty of gatherings with ladies and never see it as a way of discriminating to the male species. However, my hubby being the great guy he is, always made it clear that he didn’t have to go to this party, although I always knew he really wanted to! So me being the equally great wifey would assure him that it’s perfectly okay to go, hand him a platter of food and hurry him out the door. You see, for those of us left at home, this is where the real fun started! The Super bowl Sunday events with my girls were actually pretty awesome. Once we donned our jerseys we would begin with a cheese and charcuterie platter and an endless assortment of new appetizer recipes all through the first half. Halftime game entertainment was accompanied by our main entrée. Like all great events we pinnacled into the last half of the game with decadent desserts; yes, that’s plural, we always had several dessert choices!
  Now anyone who knows me understands how much I love tradition, especially those with my family. So letting go of a few of those traditions is going to be hard this year, because there will be no girls at home to have “our” Super Bowl party with. Another interesting twist this year is that the annual “boy’s party” has extended an invitation to me.  Well, I believe it’s still a “no girls allowed” event, but somehow an exception was made! Again, not sexist, just cute and thoughtful on behalf of my hubby and his best friend, who were both aware that the girls would not be home this year.
   Does this all sound a bit dramatic for a football game? Well it probably is, after all this is Super Bowl Sunday and emotions are high all around.  They’re awesome commercials to be watched, halftime entertainment to be anticipated and a great All American tradition of a game to be played and let’s never forget the food! Yep, there’s sufficiently good reasons to be a bit dramatic!  So regardless of your reason for a celebration today,  be it you’re a Panthers or Broncos fan,  a fan of witty commercials (albeit not all are) or just go for the food,  enjoy it and remember a new tradition today is an old tradition next year!  

Trust me; your guest will not miss the floral centerpiece when they see the delicacies on display center stage. A simple Burrata cheese drizzled with olive and a sprinkle of sea salt served with warm oven baked flatbread will not disappoint. The simplicity and subtleness of this gorgeous dish compliments the colorful table without overwhelming it. To complete the festive tablescape I placed a small favor for each guest filled with some of my favorite chocolates.  

Okay, so I received a request via my Etsy shop  to make a playdate invitation and admittedly I was a little judgmental about it - not outwardly, just in my thoughts!  Within the last 10 years or so the term “playdate” has made its debut and honestly I’ve had a hard time with the term, like not understanding why would you schedule play time?  Can’t kids just “play” with other kids; do they really need a scheduled playdate? It’s easy for someone like me to be a little more critical, after all  my kids are older and these aren’t things I think about anymore.

                                    Ladies Mingle and Jingle Night 

It’s that fabulous time of the year again and we’re all getting ready to put on our running shoes and start this frantic race to the holiday festivities. So in honor of the upcoming marathon, I host an annual girls Mingle and Jingle night with some awesome girlfriends! This is our one and final break before the holidays start.  We dress up, wear our cutest holiday heels (AKA Elf Shoes) and enjoy some sips and bites.
This year I created this cute invitation to set the mood for party. These adorable invitations and coordinating place cards from the Olice Etsy shop can be easily printed on Shutterfly

 I’m back and I'm committed to a weekly post for 2016…but where have I been for almost all of 2015 and 2016?
Well, I spent the better part of 2015 creating an extension of Styled-it,inc.- the Olice Party Printables Etsy shop and what an eye opener that was!
Let me begin by telling you… no, humbly asking you to try to understand what owning an Etsy shop is really all about.  I’ll start by saying that it isn’t a little part-time gig that you do in your spare time. In reality, it’s a full-time job that requires hours and hours of your time. It’s rarely anyone’s sole job, as a matter of fact the majority of people who own and run an Etsy shop have full-time jobs, whether it’s a job outside of the home or they’re stay at home parents.  And the biggest misnomer is that it’s easy to make money on Etsy. The truth is that most people on Etsy do not make enough money to consider this a part-time job, even after putting in full-time hours.

 So how does one (like me) who puts in an easy 50+ hour work week, or those with little ones at home,  run an Etsy shop?  This is how you do it- You start working the moment you get up, Facebook can wait! You work on the  train to and from work, you start again the moment you get home,  and or when the little ones are in bed (and often times you continue into the wee hours of the night), and you do it on your weekends or when someone so kindly entertains your children for a few hours, you work all the time! That my friends is how so many of us run our Etsy shops!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some great well established Etsy shops with full-time owners who do make a good living from their shops. Nonetheless, it takes a few things to be successful on Etsy  and these are not little things!

The first thing is Time; learning and understanding  the SEO world  and working on getting each and every item found takes more time than you will ever know. Then there’s Creative Talent; there are insanely talented and creative people on Etsy and competition is fierce. Next is Money;  this is my favorite business oxymoron  “you need money to make money”.  Advertising is expensive and new shops need to invest money to be seen. A great product just isn’t enough if no one can see it! Lastly, there’s Perseverance;  you need a whole lot of it to make your shop successful and even then, it could take years.

By now you’re probably asking yourself, “Why would anyone want to do it?” and that’s a fair enough question. The truth is that running an Etsy shop is definitely not for everyone, even those with talent and drive may not have the time. For me it’s worth carving out the time, even at midnight and in the early hours. It brings me an incredible amount of joy to create things and even more joy when someone “hearts” an item that I spent all night creating. I love creating something new and unique, and believe it or not, even more so I love the crazy competition, it keeps me grounded and makes me works harder. There’s  always going to be something out there that you feel is better than anything you can create and that’s okay because it’s probably true and if it’s not, it’s probably better that you believe it is!  I truly push myself to get better at what I do, I don’t push myself  to make more money.  Sounds a little crazy, I know, but at the end of the day if you can’t just enjoy the creative side of making things, the financial success of an Etsy shop will never be enough!

So next time you’re looking for a gift, a piece of jewelry, a bow tie, or anything, I urge you to give Etsy a try and know that you’re purchasing a handmade item that someone has poured a heck of a lot of time, love, and effort into creating. In most cases the seller is only asking for fair market value for their item…trust me, profits from Etsy will most likely be invested back into the shop to pay costs, pay a bill, or in my case, buy a strong cup of coffee needed early in the morning after working  a long night!
So here’s to a New Year, hoping 2016 gives us all a little more time to make and share all the things we love.

Traditions Change

Hmm “find your grove” well that sounds a bit cliché doesn’t it? However, the concept became such realism for me in the last few weeks that I felt it was a topic worthy of blogging about.  

 In late October I started planning for my annual Holiday Dessert workshop, by far the best attended class I host,  and believe it or not I had a bout of non-inspiration! How could this be happening, I thought I had mastered tactics on finding and recognizing opportunities for inspiration?  As it turns out I broke every rule I’ve preached about relative to creating events. I  went shopping without a clue as to what I wanted to do, I had absolutely no theme, not even colors in mind;   as a result  I spent tons of money on a lot of things like little rustic bolts of twine, horrible fake greenery,  lots of paper and some chalkboard tags amongst other things. I came home totally unsatisfied and put together a few tablescapes using my purchases, took photographs then reviewed them and I felt nothing,  it all looked so meh! I was feeling frustrated, a little worried, was I losing my touch, why couldn’t I do this? Seriously, with all the tablescapes I’ve done, especially for holidays, this should’ve been a cake walk (pun intended). All I wanted was to do something new and different…and there my friend is where I made my first mistake! I was trying to go against my grain. I know that sounds odd, however,  we all have our own sense of style and when you try to veer from that you tend to start emulating   a look that may not come naturally to you and the result is a creative block. Yes, that’s a condition, although WebMD doesn’t recognize it just yet! So I started again from scratch, I forgot about my purchases (hubby will never know) and used my own style with a new theme. The result was a very Alice Christmas table with a different theme!   Now that’s not a bad thing, just think of artist, designers  and musicians, the good ones can always be recognized by their look and sound, they just get better with each new piece of work. Moral to the blog- don’t worry that you’ll be seen as doing the same thing over and over, just shake things up a little, find a new theme or color scheme but always stay true to your style and I promise you’ll find your grove! 

 Find Your Groove

 A Connection From The Heart

 Summer is almost here, and for those of us in the midwest, it's been a long time coming! This was an unusually long, brutally cold and snowy winter. Truth betold, it started in the fall and went on into spring. Yes, we lost two seasons, but who's bitter? Ok, I had to get that out and now I'm officially done talking ranting about weather-at least for the next 5 months, ok maybe 4 months!


   So to kick off the outdoor season, I'm going to give you my favorite recipe for Fruity Pie Pops...and they're sooo easy and quick to make! Kids will love eating these fruity pie pops on a stick!

Fruity Pie Pops!

For parents today, entertaining our children has become an expensive job and when it comes to Birthday parties...well,l we all know how big and over the top those events can get!  I'd like to think that it's totally possible to have a fun party for our kids without breaking the bank. Unfortunately when you have tmore than one child the thought of spending several hundreds of dollars on each of these events can be very daunting. I know most moms still want to have a fun celebration for their children, however the majority of events we see in magazines, social media and the internet are not parties most people can really afford. 

Therefore I  challenged myself to create a fun themed Candyland birthday party that is just under $10 per guest and this includes a cute tablescape, a gorgeous (DIY) Candyland cake, candy party favors, cotton candy cones  and a lunch! 

 Click here for a step by step tutorial  on creating the tablescape and cake as well as  a detailed shopping list to create this fun and budget friendly Candyland party!

Candyland Party On A Budget, Yes Please!

Organize Your Rooms Don't Stage Them!


      I've  thought really hard about this post because the last  thing I want to do is offend anyone who likes staging their home.  But I just have to put it out there, there’s a time and place for “staging” and not everything in your life needs to be picture perfect.  I'm okay with staging a one time event like a party for  visual harmony. However It’s  unrealistic to believe one should live in a perfectly staged home;  it’s just not always functional to do so.
       Here’s one that always gets me, it’s the perfectly staged Laundry room.  Really? That’s the one room that will never work unless it’s organized for functionality not aesthetics!  I’m all for maintaining a relatively neat house, but my laundry room is off limits to everyone unless you’re doing my laundry. On any given day there's at least one if not more  bins over flowing with dirty clothes, piles of clean laundry that needs to be folded  and  the infamous  pile of single socks that I’ve been determined  to find the  matching sock for the last 6 month….however, that pile just gets bigger and bigger!
       So today while doing Laundry,   I decided to give it a try and stage my laundry room  so it would look clean and serene like laundry rooms in magazines and all those great web sites.  First I had to fold and put away all the clothes on the counter, move all the bottles of detergent, softener, etc.,  hide the hangers I have everywhere and make sure only nice dirty clothes were showing in the bins, and an hour later I  was ready to start  my staging.

   Although the picture looks nice,  here are the real results of the project. The branches in the vase were a nice touch, but I had to choose between that or the table top ironing board.  That  adorable stripped basket in the corner couldn’t even hold my  pile of “single socks” let alone real laundry. And the computer, well that  was useless, since there isn’t a whole lot of time in between loading, unloading , folding and putting clothes away, therefore magazines aren’t really a necessity  in laundry rooms either.  In the end I took everything out and just organized my cabinets and made peace with the fact that some things are not meant to be picture perfect.

Oh, did I forget to mention there was no room to do laundry?

Copyright  2013. Styled-IT. All rights reserved

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Here's what you'll need:

Makes 18 Pie Pops

   The truth is that Inspiration typically surfaces in a roundabout way.  Honestly I  never think too hard about looking for inspiration, because like most  things, it just happens when you least expect it, and I always seize that moment when it does! 

      When my niece Esther was getting married her sister  Sarah was planning a kitchen bridal shower. Sarah’s inspiration came from the colors that Esther had chosen for her new kitchen; cheery yellows and beautiful shades of blue.   Sarah sent me a photo of a tied cloth strip garland she had just made using Esther’s kitchen colors and I immediately fell in love with the feel and the country freshness of this garland. 

   Sarah had hung the garland along the top of her  white kitchen cupboard; a beautiful  piece that she and her husband had salvaged and painted a distressed white. That’s when I envisioned using the cupboard as a display piece for the desserts and actually keeping the Kitchen Shower in the kitchen!

  We emptied the cupboard adjusted the shelves and placed scrapbook paper on the back walls to provide contrast for the white display pieces. Photos of the beautiful couple were placed in white frames, matted with coordinating scrapbook paper and hung with twine on the doors.  A lovely yellow pitcher was filled with the bluest of blue Hydrangeas we could find.  A wooden “you are my sunshine” plaque felt like it was made just for Esther and her fiancé William.

   The main attraction for the dessert display was a beautiful naked cake filled with fluffy whipped cream and fresh strawberries, decorated with lemon leaf foliage, small flowers and fresh cut lemons; it was such a refreshing dessert! Lemon bars cut into squares and dusted with powdered sugar were piled high  on white square pedestals. Simple vanilla cupcakes adorned with blue candy where displayed on simple white wooden stands made using candlestick bases. Cherry and Apple pie pops were placed in large blue mason jars that gave our cupboard the final country touch! Lemons were used for pops of color and freshness throughout.  A white washed round table was served as our beverage station with Lemonade and Strawberry punch.

   Lunch was a beautiful display of small sandwiches, cheese and fruit, that was all brought by the ladies attending the shower. The buffet table had small kitchen utensils (gifts) discretely placed along side the dishes that guest had on display. The feeling this shower evoked was one of sharing a cup of coffee and some dessert at your kitchen table with friends and family. There truly was a connection from the heart!

  • Pre-heat oven to 375
  • Covercookie sheet by placing a sheet of parchment paper over it.
  • Using your biscuit cutter, cut out 36 dough circles.
  • Brush outside of 18 circle with egg wash and liberally sprinkle with sugar.
  • Place the side with egg wash and sugar facing out towards the parchment, stagger on cookie sheet so the sticks are not touching the other dough circles.
  • 8 - 9 circles will fit on one cookie sheet at a time.
  • Press a cookie stick lightly onto the inside of each circle halfway up.
  • Place 1 teaspoon of filling, (I used 2 berries and a little juice in each) in center of each circle, try to keep it in the center or they will ooze out.
  • Cover each pie with the second circle and using the end of the pop stick press circles around the edges to seal the dough and have a finished look!
  • Brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle liberally with the sugar.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown on top.   
  • 2 packages of pre-made pie crust -Pilsbury makes a great flakey pie crust; you can find it in the dairy section of your grocer.
  • You can make your own crust if you prefer in which case you will need four 12" circle
  • 2 cup fruit filling of your choice, Cherry and Blueberry hold up well.
  • 1 egg white beaten
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 18 cake/cookie pop sticks at least 8" or longer
  • Flour for rolling dough
  • A 2"-3" ring biscuit cutter or any large circle cookie cutter
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet

Directions:

We had her Debutant 18th birthday photos, a glamorous wedding photo and the most precious were two photos that were taken in the hospital with her newborn babies. We decided that the best way to showcase these gorgeous photos was by displaying them individually on each table.

To tell our story we added a date, and names of individuals and event to each photo. This can be done rather inexpensively using an online printer or if you prefer you can use a thin tipped marker to write on your photos, it really works great. For darker photos like the one shown here I like using chalk markers. Once the photos were finished we simply inserted these to the traditional table number stands and added a few leaves and a stem of cascading florals in beautiful colors to contrast our vintage black and white photos. The end result had simplistic style and overwhelming sentiment, reminiscent of this wonderful lady and the beautiful life she has lived.


Overall the centerpieces cost were less than $10 each but the story behind them...well that was simply priceless!

​​ROOM FOR iNSPIRATION

A friend recently called me to ask for some party advice. She was in the midst of planning her mother’s upcoming 85th birthday and wanted to do something special with the décor that would also be meaningful. She mentioned wanting to display momentous photos of her mother’s life but didn't want to do the traditional "photo table". She also said that her mother has lived her life in a very stylish manner and the standard floral centerpieces would not suffice. She definitely needed something just a little different and representative of her mother's personality. 

As we looked through the photos she wanted to display it became apparent to me that these photos would tell her life story in a touching and nostalgic way. 

A Playdate Invitation?

Six years ago today our family lost my beautiful nephew Carlos, he was only 36 years old and way too young to be taken from us. He left a void in all our lives; he also left his legacy that was immensely rich for such a short life that he lived.  As an accomplished reporter, TV and radio personality in Chicago, he was well known for his investigative reporting and his political acumen. He was definitely a busy young man, yet he always made time for family. My fondest memories of Carlos always revolved around his passion of his ethnicity, although he was born in Chicago Carlos embraced his Puerto Rican heritage like no other… and the food, well that was definitely up there on the top of his list! So today I choose not to remember his death but to remember how he lived and loved by making one of his favorite foods, the Empanada!
This recipe is for a basic pork empanada but it can be substituted with beef or chicken.

What you’ll need
Makes 10 Empanadas

  • 1 ½ pound pork shoulder cubed into small ½ pieces
  • 10 *empanadas disc – Goya brand or similar
  • 1 med white onion finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup of small capers
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • ½ can of beer
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying 


Directions


Meat

  • Heat large frying pan over a medium flame for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the olive oil, onions, peppers and garlic and cook for 3- 5 minutes stirring continuously.
  • Add the pork, cilantro, cumin, capers, salt, pepper and tomato sauce and stir to mix all ingredients
  • Lower heat and let this simmer for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally making sure meat does not dry out.
  • Check for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Add the beer and cook the meat for another 15 minutes or until the pork in tender and beer has evaporated.
  • Transfer meat into a bowl and put aside to cool.


Assembling Empanadas

  • Defrost frozen disc by separating each piece out on a flat work surface for at least 15 minutes.







  • Next add a heaping tablespoon into the center on each empanada disc.








  • Fold the disc over and gently press the sides together with your fingers.








  • Using a fork make impressions all around the empanadas to seal them.








  • Heat oil to 365 degrees and carefully drop empanadas into a deep fryer or a deep frying pan with at least 1 ½ inches oil. Fry 2 - 3 minutes on each side or until dough is bubbly and deep golden.







*Goya Empanada discos can be found in most Latin American grocery stores, However these can be substituted with any standard pastry dough suitable for frying.

Celebrating Carlos

January 17th, 2016

I used a beautiful marble and wood cake stand in the center of the wreath to place our food items.  When working with a small table a decorative food display can definitely take place of a centerpiece. 

Since I had a mom requesting this custom invitation, I decided to seize the opportunity and ask her in a very nice and polite manner about the playdate craze. When she explained her need for the invitations I was touched and a little embarrassed that I even questioned it. She told me that her pre-school aged daughter is a special needs child and being away from her is difficult. She explained the process of a play date, where a parent of each child is available and attentive at all times. So a playdate allows her daughter to be with other children in her presence with supervision. She told me her daughter is often excluded because of her differences, but having a scheduled playdate gives her child one on one with other kids, something she might otherwise never get to do. She also said many of her friends have work schedules that make it difficult for their children to be available on a whim to play. Therefore a scheduled playdate is something a parent can plan ahead of time to ensure that their kids have playtime with other kids. I also learned that one of the big reasons parents like playdates is that it also gives them an opportunity to interact socially as well. Some of these parents are stay at home parents and getting together with other adults is often a treat.
So moral to the story, there always more to it than meets the eye!