Custom Photo Birth Announcements from Voilà! Customs by Nicole

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Years ago when Lily was born, the birth announcements that I sent out were hardly anything to look at.  One picture, slapped onto a thin 4×8 piece of photo paper did the trick.  When my niece was born a few month later, my sister’s announcements put mine to shame… big time.  They were beautiful – the color pictures were laid out on a custom designed theme to match her daughter’s nursery.  They were more than a card that you read and then threw away… they were a keepsake, even a mini brag book that proud grandparents and aunties could carry around in their purse to show off at a moment’s notice.

When Landon was born, my sister traveled to our house on day 6 of his new little life.  She took some of the most epic, adorable pictures I’ve ever seen, including this whole series of firefighter newborn pictures.  I knew that those pictures deserved an amazing announcement.

I turned to my friend Nicole who designs all sorts of beautiful things, from announcements and cards to wedding invitations and wall prints.  Her store, Voilà! Customs by Nicole, features many options for personalized gifts and more.  Her talents don’t stop there – she also designs websites and blogs (she helped me with THIS blog’s design!) from her other business, Techmomogy.

I shared the nursery theme that we were using for Landon’s room with Nicole (the Engine 27 line by Nojo, sold by Target) and sat on pins and needles to see what she would come up with.

In line with every other piece of work that I have seen from Nicole, the announcement proof BLEW ME AWAY.  I’m pretty sure I yelled out loud at the computer when I opened up the files.  Then I sent the email to Bob, my sister and continued shrieking.

When the actual announcements arrived, I really couldn’t believe my eyes.  Thick, glossy, tri-fold cards that showcased my sister’s gorgeous photography and of course, my sweet little man.  Within a day of mailing the cards, I started receiving numerous calls, texts and emails from card recipients telling me that they were the nicest birth announcements they have ever seen.  That really speaks to the quality and creativity of Nicole’s work!

See for yourself – you can find Nicole here:

Techmomogy
Voilà! Customs by Nicole
Voilà! Customs by Nicole ETSY SHOP

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Make Your Own Snow Paint

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We have already been subjected to several pretty impressive snow storms so far this season…. seems like as soon as one snowfall melts, another falls.

Lily absolutely LOVES playing in the snow and would spend hours outside if I let her.  Today we whipped up one of the easiest concoctions out there – and she literally squealed in delight and spent more than an hour enjoying herself.

Make snow “paint” and create some bright and colorful patterns in the snow.

All you need:

Spray bottles
Water
Food coloring (I used the gel-type coloring for even darker hues)

Fill each water bottle up with 2-3 inches of water.

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Add a few drops of food coloring.  Stop when the water reaches your preferred shade.

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Put the top on your bottle and shake lightly to mix.

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Take outside and have fun spraying all that snow!  One word of caution – I would make sure kids only spray this on snow covering grass… after all it is made with dye.  Don’t want to come out in the Spring and find food-dye-stained patio stones or deck boards!

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Brownie Bite Strawberry Santa Hats

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The crowing jewel to our Christmas Eve dinner – brownie bite strawberry santa hats!  These things taste as sweet as they look, you’ll find it hard not to pop one, two, three…  We couldn’t believe how easy these treats were to make – and a big shortcut was to pick up a container of round brownie bites from BJ’s.  If you can’t find a grocer that stocks them, you’ll have to bake up a batch of brownies and use a round cookie cutter to make your circles (which still won’t take you too awfully long).

I found the inspiration for these treats on I Heart Naptime.

To make them you will need:

Brownie Bites
Fresh Strawberries (rinsed, hulled)
1/2 cup unsalted butter -softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 TBSP half and half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make:

1. Arrange brownie bites on a tray.
2. Make frosting: combine butter, sugar, half and half and vanilla in a bowl. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes or until it becomes fluffy.
3. Place your frosting in a ziploc bag and snip the corner to make a piping bag.
4. Swirl frosting on top of each brownie.
5. Top each brownie with a strawberry, cut side down (pointy side up).
6. Dot the top of each strawberry with a tiny bit of frosting.
7. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Cheese Cube Christmas Tree Appetizer

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2013 has been a year that I really put so many ideas that I have had or seen into action.  This one is no exception.  I have probably seen half a million pins for this appetizer idea, in all different forms and sizes.

Here is my version:

I used three bars of chunk cheese (pepperjack, sharp cheddar, mild cheddar), 1 pint of grape tomatoes, 1 small bunch of fresh thyme.

Cube your cheese and arrange in layers: cheese, tomatoes, cheese, tomatoes, etc, each layer getting smaller as you shape the tree.  When you are finished, stick stalks of thyme on top but in between each layer of cheese and tomatoes.

I have a small wooden cutting board which worked perfectly for the presentation.  Serve with a plate of crackers.

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Hot Cocoa Bar with Marshmallow Snowman Stirrers

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On Christmas Eve this year we served a spread of food, desserts and drinks.  We usually leave the Keurig on with a bowl of KCups and if we remember, we’ll stick some hot chocolate packets on the counter as well.

This year, I decided that we just HAD to set up a HOT COCOA BAR.  Okay, okay, in reality I had an abundance of candy canes and marshmallows that needed to be used up.  But the whole thing turned out so cute – everyone got a kick out of it.

The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to toppings, but we offered:

mini marshmallows
crushed candy canes
chocolate covered peppermint sticks (from ALDI)
whipped cream
MARSHMALLOW SNOWMEN

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The marshmallow snowmen were easily the hit of the party.  They were so easy to make.  Simply take a wooden kabob skewer and spear three regular sized marshmallows.  Use edible cake markers to draw features on the marshmallows (eyes, mouth, carrot nose, buttons).  Take a small pretzel stick, break it in two, and stick in each side of the middle marshmallow for arms.  Wrap a piece of Fruit-by-the-Foot (we cut ours in half lengthwise to make them thinner) around the top and middle pieces for a scarf.  Place a Hershey Kiss on top for his hat!

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I was so proud of these little guys!  Then my awesome husband had some fun of his own – totally mocking my cute snowmen.  Okay, okay, it was funny.

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