Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Tisket, A Tasket...A Penny-Pinching Basket & Placecard

This past week in Atlanta has been dreary & rainy. :-( I'm holding out hope, though. I'm holding out hope for a beautiful spring that I know is just around the corner. Don't you just love spring colors? 

In honor of spring & specifically Easter, I decided to create a cheapo place card that will make you hatch with excitement. (hmmm...that was a very, very poor attempt at a pun) 

Aren't these soo cute? But, this blog is called, "Parties for Pennies" & we'd be shellin out a lot of green paper instead of shiny little round things for these suckers. Here's a poor gals imitation: 

...This also doubles as a name/initial place card. And guess what it's made out of?? 

A toilet paper roll! 

Here's what you need & it will only take some change from your penny jar :

A couple of scrapbook sheets, a toilet paper roll & the green stuff is green paper that I put through my shredder. Side note: I LOVE my shredder. It's to me like a power tool is to a guy. There are so many ways to save money by using your shredder. And yes...I will be posting more later. Foil + shredder = love! :p 

Cut a slit half way up the tp roll. 

Cut another slit on the other side & make one more cut across the middle. Continue on the other side until you basically have half of a toilet paper roll. I know...super easy.

Like so... Don't judge me for the remaining tp left. It took me a little while to peel all that off. :p

Cut a piece of scrapbook paper & wrap around the tp roll. (Side note: I first learned of the term "TP-ing" in middle school when I toured with the Young Continentals. We stayed at one of the girls houses in California & they asked me, "Let's go TP-ing!" In Georgia, we just called it rollin'...but we also eat grits. I assumed this was the "cooler" term. ;p)

I used a glue stick to secure the paper around the roll. I'm sure spray adhesive or regular ole' elmers glue will work too. 

Who'd ever think that the thing you use to wipe your booty could look this purty! :p Well...the roll it came from any way. 

Next comes the smelly part. Hard boil your egg(s) & then make sure they cool down. Add 1 tsp. of vinegar to 1 cup of warm/hot water & add your desired amount of food coloring. 

Let your egg soak in the coloring mix until it reaches the desired color. I got impatient (it was only taking a couple of minutes, but the commercial break had ended on Dancing with the Stars) so my "purple" egg actually was more of a bubble gum pink.

I had some old stick-on letters that I stuck on there, but you could also use a crayon/wax to write the initial/name on the egg before you dye it. 

I think I like the blue one better...but I did the purple pink one for fun too.

What do you think? Any other thrifty Easter/Spring ideas? 

And...brownie points to anyone that noticed a difference with the pics. I've upgraded from my IPhone to my nifty camera that has this brilliant thing on it...called the "Easy" button. Seriously. And it lives up to its name. :-) Have a great week...sending some sunshine & daffodils your way.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crashing a Party with some Amazing Appetizers

Meet my friend Kauri...

She's a giant! I'm standing up! :p Ok, that's a lie. She is one of the most beautiful, kind & hilarious people I know & I am lucky to have her as a friend. I am also lucky because she ALWAYS has an arsenal of wonderful recipes. It never fails that every recipe is off the chain good. Lucky for you she's letting us crash a bridal shower she threw for a friend! 

Here are the contributors...Kauri, Brittany, Jenny (it was at her house & she is an awesome decorator) & Amy! 

Let's get down to bid-nez & talk about some appetizers! 

Avocado Salsa Cups 

(here's the recipe, but if you want to save time it seems like you could just add some tomatoes to your favorite pre-packaged guacamole) 

Tortilla Cups
6  (11-in./28-cm) flour tortillas
1  tbsp (15 mL) Vegetable oil

Avocado Filling

2  small plum tomatoes
2  small avocados
2  tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
2  tbsp (30 mL) fresh lime juice
2  garlic clove, pressed
1/4  tsp (1 mL) salt
1/2  cup (125 mL) sour cream
Additional chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). For cups, using Pizza Cutter, trim tortillas to form six 6-in. (15-cm) squares; discard trimmings. Cut each square into quarters for a total of twenty-four 3-in. (7.5-cm) squares. Make a 1-in. (2.5-cm) cut from each corner toward the center of each square. Brush both sides of each square with oil using  Basting Brush. Press squares into bottom of Deluxe Mini-Muffin Pan using Mini- Tart Shaper. Bake 8–10 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven.

2.  For filling, core and seed tomatoes. Finely dice tomatoes and avocados using Utility Knife. Chop cilantro with Food Chopper. Combine tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, lime juice, garlic pressed with Garlic Press and salt in Classic Batter Bowl.

3.  Fill cups with filling using Adjustable Measuring Spoon. Spoon sour cream into small resealable plastic bag; trim corner using Utility Knife to allow sour cream to flow through. Pipe sour cream over avocado mixture. Garnish with additional chopped cilantro, if desired.

Yield: 24 servings

Nutrients per serving: (1 appetizer): Calories 70, Total Fat 4.5 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 5 mg, Carbohydrate 6 g, Protein 1 g, Sodium 95 mg, Fiber 1 g

These are just so beautiful! 

Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Crisps

4-5  small red potatoes (about 1 1/2-2 in./4-5 cm in diameter)

1/4  tsp (1 mL) coarsely ground 
black pepper

1/2  tsp (2 mL) olive oil

4  slices cooked turkey bacon

2  oz (60 mL) blue cheese crumbled

grape tomatoes

2  tbsp (30 mL) reduced-fat 
sour cream

2  tbsp (30 mL) snipped fresh chives

1.  Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Spray cups of Deluxe Mini-Muffin Pan with nonstick cooking spray. Slice potatoes with Ultimate Mandoline fitted with adjustable slicing blade on thin setting. Discard ends of potatoes. Combine potato slices, black pepper and oil in Classic Batter Bowl; toss to coat with Small Mix ‘N Scraper®. Finely chop bacon with Food Chopper.

2.  Press one potato slice into each cup of pan; sprinkle with half of the bacon and cheese. Repeat layer one time with additional potato slices, remaining bacon and remaining cheese. Top with remaining potato slices, gently pressing layers together. Bake 12–14 minutes or until edges are browned and crisp. Remove pan from oven; immediately remove crisps from pan to Stackable Cooling Rack.

3.  Meanwhile, slice tomatoes lengthwise into quarters with Utility Knife. Spoon sour cream into small resealable plastic bag; secure bag and trim corner. Pipe a dollop of sour cream onto each crisp. Top with tomato quarters and sprinkle with chives.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrients per serving: (2 appetizers): Calories 70, Total Fat 2.5 g, Saturated Fat 1.5 g, Cholesterol 10 mg, 
Carbohydrate 10 g, Protein 3 g, Sodium 115 mg, Fiber 1 g

Cook's Tip: Choose turkey bacon with 65% less fat than regular bacon and contains about 135 mg sodium per slice.

To cook bacon, cut slices in half and cook in (8-in./20-cm) Sauté Pan over medium-high heat 6–8 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

This is red pepper pesto dip & it looks so yummy. Did anyone else first notice the incredible serving knife?? The pink zebra stripes? Love it! So girly... yet fierce. :p 

Red Pepper Pesto Dip 

*you may recognize this recipe if you're a wheat thins connoisseur, Kauri got it from a wheat thins box. It looks super easy & oh so delish!

1 tub (8 oz) Light Cream Cheese Spread
1 large red pepper, chopped (about 1-1/4 cups)
1/2 cup Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
2 Tbsp. Basil Pesto Sauce (Di Giorno)
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients until well blended.
Spread in 9'' pie plate or 2-cup ovenproof serving dish.
Bake 5 min. or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 min. Serve with pita chips, bagel chips, or crackers.

Last but FOR SURE not least...dessert! If a genie appeared to grant me three first wish is that I could eat all the dessert I wanted without it 1) making me gain weight/cottage cheese (you know what I mean by this) 2) not compromising my health. I know...all in moderation. The problem is once I get one bite, I become a greedy little bugger. Ok, sorry for the tangent. 

These are Glazed Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberries 

1  lemon
3/4  cup (175 mL) sugar
3  tbsp (45 mL) canola oil
1/3  cup (75 mL) plus 2 tbsp (30 mL) plain nonfat yogurt
1/3  cup (75 mL) 2% milk
1  tbsp (15 mL) plus 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) lemon extract
1 1/4  cups (300 mL) all-purpose flour
3/4  tsp (4 mL) baking soda
1/4  tsp (1 mL) salt
2  egg whites, room temperature
1/4  cup (50 mL) raspberry pastry filling (see Cook’s Tip)

Ganache & Garnish

3  squares (1 oz/30 g each) white chocolate for baking, chopped
2  tbsp (30 mL) plain nonfat yogurt
1 1/2  tsp (7 mL) lemon extract
12  fresh raspberries

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Place cupcake liners into wells of Muffin Pan; set aside. Using Microplane(R) Zester, zest lemon to measure 1 tbsp (15 mL) zest. In Stainless (4-qt./4-L) Mixing Bowl, combine sugar and oil; whisk well with Stainless Whisk. Add zest, yogurt, milk and extract; whisk until well blended.

2.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt in Small Batter Bowl; mix well. Using (7 in./18-cm) Strainer, sift flour mixture into wet ingredients; whisk until blended. Using clean whisk, whisk egg whites vigorously in Stainless (2-qt./2-L) Mixing Bowl 1 minute or until very foamy; fold into batter.

3.  Immediately scoop batter into liners using level Large Scoop. Using Small Scoop, place a very scant scoop of pastry filling (about 1 tsp/5 mL) onto centers of cupcakes; push in gently with back of scoop. Bake 15–17 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove pan from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack; let stand 5 minutes. Carefully remove cupcakes from pan.

4.  Meanwhile, for ganache, place chocolate in (2-cup/500-mL) Prep Bowl. Microwave on HIGH 45–60 seconds or until almost melted; stir until smooth. Stir in yogurt and extract. Dip tops of cupcakes into ganache, coating tops evenly. Garnish with raspberries.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrients per serving: (1 cupcake): Calories 190, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1.5 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrate 31 g, Protein 3 g, Sodium 150 mg, Fiber 1 g

Cook's Tip: Pastry filling is sold in jars and is formulated not to spread when baked. If desired, 1/4 cup (50 mL) jam and 1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch can be combined and substituted for the pastry filling.

*It seems like this would also work, if you wanted to save time, by using regular cake mix & just adding some lemon zest & lemon extract. 

From the looks of these beautiful girls, I think the food turned out great! :-)

Several of these recipes came from Pampered Chef. Kauri just started selling Pampered Chef, so I'm sure she was anxious to try out some of the recipes. Well done Kauri & the other have successfully made me hungry & forcing me to make a late night trip to the fridge! 

Thanks for letting us drool & crash your bridal shower! 

We've got more parties to crash (take that Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson) in the coming weeks & some fun easter penny-pinching-party crafts (say that three times fast). Thank you for stopping by the blog & let me know if you try any of these great appetizers! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another reason to love IKEA...

Doesn't it make your day when you're able to score some REALLY great deals? This past Friday, the deals I got gave me a little pep in my step, some swagger to my wagger, zip in my hip...well, you get the idea. I wanted to share a place that I would suggest any day over Party City for your party supplies...


Here's the case in point:

These are those big gorgeous dinner napkins. Can you see the name? "Fantastisk" Scan to the price above & you can see why they're called that! You know you're weird when you get excited about big white pieces of paper you use to wipe the mustard off your chin. (That's me I'm referring to, not you. It's me, not you :p) 

And these colorful items:

The striped "Solbrand" (such an obvious choice of name) are tablecloths & are only $9.99! Can't you imagine all the spring flingin' you could do with these bad boys? And I love the trays too. For only $9.99, you could put a plate of olives on it & I'd still be in love. (Strange Heidi Fact: I HATE olives, hate them...I've tried but I cannot see how anyone can enjoy them. Sorry to offend you, if you are an olive lover) Can you see these beautiful trays filled with glasses of fresh lemonade with a strawberry garnish? 

Ahh...Spring :-) 

I also got a great deal on these fun little plates from West Elm, but I forgot to take a picture & already took them over to Mike (my fiance's house). I just checked online & they didn't have any more it's probably for the best. Just because...I got 4 plates for $1.97 at West Elm! Who has ever heard of such a thing? See why I was giddy?! 

I've got another post for tomorrow night where I'm crashing a party! It's a bridal shower that one of my best friend's Kauri did. She always has the best recipes, so you'll want to check it out! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Simple Spring Cupcake Topper...

If you preferred the cliff notes over the 200lb novel...this post is for you! :-)

Here are simple spring cupcake toppers & will only set you back a few pennies!

Those are cherry-flavored yogurt covered pretzels! You can buy 24 of those pretzels for about $1.75 from the Fresh Market. Stack the icing high on the cupcake, then take two pretzels & place the half circle ends together. Position your butterfly on one side of the delicious pyramid of icing, allowing the "hump" side (I can't help it...I had to take a quick break to let out a little of Fergie's "My humps, my" now it's in your head isn't it? sorry :p) to slightly make almost a 45 degree angle. It does look especially pretty when you can swirl the icing onto the cupcake with the round icing tip. 

Here's another view...

For the cupcake stand, I used glass plates stacked on top of glass dishes. And our "runner" was some extra napkins the hostess had in her cabinet. 

What about you? Do you have any penny-pinching cupcake topping ideas? I'd love to hear them! 

Next week, we're going to crash a party & you. do. not. want. to miss out on these recipes. (I hope my English teacher isn't reading my blog :p) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Luck be a Lady?? Nope...not this lady, at least not tonight

Sure, other websites may have perfect little pictures, easy to follow instructions, amazing tutorials & the WOW factor. prefer to show you the imperfections...the failures...the "ohmygoodnessdidatwoyearolddothat?" I like to say I help you feel better about yourself! :p

Confession: I always strive to make my party projects something Martha Stewart would be proud of.  But the reality of it is...there are disasters, flops, cry-on-the-kitchen-floor-in-a-puddle-of-homemade-german-chocolate-cake-batter-that-just-cap-sized failures.

This St Patty's day post is one of those times!

I envisioned creating a snack-type kids St Patty's day post.

Problem # 1: I was going to make mint chocolate chip meringue four leaf clovers. Apparently, meringue is harder to make than I thought. I had made meringue cookies before but somewhere between then & now I lost the meringue mo-jo. The usual fluffy, full dollops came out flatter than 9 years old when I wanted so badly to have an excuse to buy a training bra (Woah...TMI, sorry). They were pitiful looking & I SOOO wish I had taken a picture because you would've gotten a great laugh!

Problem # 2: Time...wasn't on my side. I wanted to "set the stage" with a whole lot more pizazz but I ran out of time to get supplies. I guess that's all the problems I ran into. Overall, it just didn't turn out exactly how I wanted it. But let this be a lesson to us all  to me that using our creative juices sometimes gives us watered down lemonade. (Ok, so maybe not the best analogy)

Here are a few ideas if you want to set up a snack station for kids for St Patty's day:

First up...this is so simple, inexpensive & a fun St Patty's day treat that won't give anyone a hang over. Side note: I borrowed these mugs from Mike (my main squeeze) and he definitely mentioned something about his beer mugs being emasculated ;p) 

Taste the rainbow! :-) The hardest part about this was separating the skittle colors. According to my research, the Skittles peeps really do put an equal amount of each color in the bag. Personally, I would be happy if Skittles only came in red & purple. Yes, I discriminate. :p (only with skittles people)

Can I give a shout out to my sister Meg that helped me separate these during our weekly Bachelor viewing? :p 

Like my pot of gold? That is a cauldron I had left from Halloween. I placed a bowl inside, made up some pineapple jello (you could also do lemon, pineapple just looked intriguing to me), cut it into squares & voila...a pot of gold. :-) 

So...not exactly how I wanted it all to work out...but to make up for it, I'm including a couple more ideas from other sites that I thought were really cute.

Aren't these adorable? So fun. The recipe & instructions can be found here:

Here is another recipe for Guinness cupcakes...yummy!

So...there it semi-failure St Patty's day post. I PROMISE you will love the idea I share next week. It is soooo simple, so inexpensive & perfect for Spring. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pom Pom's Aren't Just for Cheerleaders...

They're perfect for penny-pinching party-ers!

On my last post, I promised you I would give you a tutorial for making those fun looking pom poms that Taylor & her sister Suzanne made. Well, here it is & I promise you ANYONE can do this & you don't have to buy any supplies...I bet you already have them at your house (unless you want certain colors).

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: If you were blown away by the pictures of Taylor & Suzanne's fiesta, like I was...That was all Suzanne! Come to find out, she's quite the photographer. She's done weddings, portraits...she KNOWS what she's doing. In fact, I'm pleading with Taylor right now to talk Suzanne into doing a guest post to give us rookies some great photo-taking tips! If you're like me, the term "aperture" makes me eyes twitch. Which is why you guys have to endure my Iphone pics...but not for long. I just bought a decent camera, but wouldn't you know...I brought it to B'ham last weekend & left it. Yep...that's a day in the life of Heidi.

So...without further ado...Pom Poms (you can also find how to do this on Martha Stewarts website, my hero, but I do add a couple of tweaks)

Here's what you need:


I already had the white tissue paper & the tie was from and old loaf of bread. :-) Oh...and you'll also need scissors. I used 8 sheets of tissue paper.


Fold the tissue paper up accordion style.

Once it is all folded, tie the twist-tie in the middle & secure. 

Take the scissors & cut a round edge at either end. (I did round, but you could do a triangle...or even use one of those paper punchers to make a cute design at the end) 

Then with as much care as trying not to get your freshly painted fingernails smudged (:-), pull apart the tissue layers. This was honestly the hardest part of the whole thing. I did rip one of the sheets. Oops. But my momma always said, "When crafting, there's nothing you can't fix." And I fixed it...with some handy dandy scissors. Here's a tip that may help you: Fan out the bases closest to the twist-tie center to loosen it up, then begin slowly pulling the sheets apart. 

See, my momma was right! :p I just used some old ribbon that I had to hang it from the chandelier. If you didn't want people to notice that it's hanging from a ribbon...also try dental floss or fishing wire. 

Thanks again to Taylor & Suzanne for letting us crash their party & inspiring us by those cute pom poms! Suzanne, we'll be begging on our knees for the photog tips! :-) 

Check back next week because I'll show you some really cute St Patty party ideas! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Party Crashers

Every time I drive by one of the big fancy smancy mansions in Buckhead & they're having a party...I always fantasize about trying to crash it. But, they'd see my Merona purse & my Walmart flats & I'd get kicked out in 10 seconds flat.

But you & me...we're going to be able to live out that fantasy today! Kinda. It may not be a Buckhead mansion but it's quite the fiesta & no one is kicking us out!

Here's the story: Taylor, my wonderful co-worker & friend, joined forces with her sister to throw her mom a birthday party she wouldn't forget. Without the Buckhead budget (btw...for those that don't live in Atlanta, Buckhead is like the Beverly Hills of the area...swanky), Taylor & her sister were able to create a real-life Mexican fiesta. Let's get busy crashin'...

Isn't that a vibrant table setting? The ladies were able to save some pennies by buying the flowers from Publix for $4.99 & arranging them. By using the tissue paper around the base, it doesn't matter what you use for a vase. That old empty can of baked beans...not only good for your heart but a fiesta flower centerpiece (I'm not sure what they used for the base, just an example. I wanted to clarify before you think of Taylor downing cans of baked beans. Sorry Taylor).

Taylor & her sister were so smart to use solid color plates but to spice it up with some fiesta napkins. Fun napkins are one of the cheapest ways to add some pizzaz without breaking the bank. 

This is one of my favorite party crafts that anyone can do! Don't they just look awesome?? I love the way Taylor & her sister used the different colors too. I will post a tutorial tomorrow on how to create your very own party pom-poms! :-)

Whether you like your margarita with a little somethin' somethin' in it or you like it like Madonna (like a virgin, if you didn't get it), you are going to love how simple & easy these are. Taylor & her sister just mixed sprite & minute maid limeade (add together with some ice in the blender or get the frozen limeade) for their penny-saving margaritas. If you like the somethin' somethin'...just add it to the sprite/limeade mixture. 

Umm...anyone else hungry?? This is the only bad part about virtual party crashing! If you comment some really nice things to Taylor...she may even give me some of the recipes to this spread! She makes this chocolate cake that is out of this world, so I know everything here had to be Rachel Ray good.

Here are few more penny saving things they did:

Decorated the table with yellow, red & orange peppers
For dessert...they bought a $9 key lime pie from Costco

What did you think about your first Party Crashing experience? If this isn't your first, you are now elevated to a new coolness level in my book! :p If you'd like me to crash your party, just take some good quality pictures, along with your tips, recipes, etc to: