Little Owl Love Story Cookies

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Just in time for Valentines Day I have  cute little cookies to share that are all about LOVE!

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A dear friend asked me for cookies for her brother and sister-in-law’s baby shower.  She gave me a few inspiration ideas and an image of a stuffed owl they were using as decoration at the party.  The little handmade brown owl was a perfect inspiration for a cookie, but I wanted to do more than just an owl on a cookie.  I decided to tell a little owl love story with my cookie set.  My cookies started with boy meets girl and little mother and her egg to the happy family of three.  Along with a few portraits of the stuffed owl, adding a pink bow for cuteness.

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I have never made a set of cookies like this before, I typically stick to one or two designs in each set.  But since the color pallet didnt change for each design I didnt find it hard to create 5 different ones.  (soon I will show my MLP cookie set that was a challenge to change up in colors and designs)  It’s certainly a design idea that I could do for any bird theme so I will be adding these cookies to my etsy shop!

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The etsy seller for the little stuffed owl, Green Owl Curiosities,  can me found HERE.

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Filed under Celebrations, Cookies, SugarCoated

How I begin planning a birthday party

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Hudson, 1year photo by Dave Lamarand www.lamarandstyle.com

Hudson’s 4th birthday has snuck up on me this year.  I usually have a few ideas for what theme or gifts he might like bouncing around in my head way before Christmas, but there really wasnt any more room for more thoughts this past December!  I realized his birthday was a month away and I had no theme, no gift idea, no date, no location…..luckily Im pretty seasoned at this, instead of freaking out I just got started.  I thought that since I was at the very beginning of my party design process that I’d document it and share.

First of all I had to get Hudson to give us a theme.  It went sort of like this:  “Hudson, its almost time for your birthday, what kind of party do you want?”  Hudson age 3years 11months:  “a red bird and a blue bird and a black bird party”  He then got to work and drew me this picture:

Hudson Bird party drawing

Clearly there is a bird, he tells me that the orange parts are a house (duh) and I got excited when I thought he drew blue party chairs, (CHAIRS!! Im a chair fanatic if you didnt already know) but those are “short caterpillars”  and at the bottom are green checks.  So you see, he pays attention to my methods and habits, I make a lot of lists!

Hudson is a cool little kid that doesnt take that long to make a choice and he STICKS with it.  I refrained from saying “Sorry Baby, a bird party is not on my grand party list of themes that Ive fantasized about since having you” but I did show him some parties on Spaceship and Laser Beams, a party site that specializes in only boy party themes and printables.  I asked him what he thought about some specific themes, hoping that he would like something from my grand party list.  There was one image of a monster party that he got excited about and that was that.  He liked it, I liked it and its on my list! Hudson is having a Monster Bash party this year and since that night it is all he talks about.

There are plenty of party check lists out there for timelines of when to do what to get it all done.  I dont really work like that. I do have an order in which the process has to happen and I have a rule about sending invites 2 weeks before.  But thats about it.  I think the least amount of start to finish time I ever accomplished a project was a dessert table for Macy’s 5th grade Luau in 2 weeks and it rocked!  I can easily think of many parties that I started on 2 months or more in advance.  I do know one thing, the longer I have to plan and design a party the more it ends up costing, so short on time really means less time to shop and thats not a bad thing!

First things first, I always start with an inspiration  that comes from something personal about the guest of honor.  Last year was easy, Hudson was obsessed with superheros.  This year he doesnt have a current favorite toy but we always have a few favorite books.  The Monster That Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz is a great book that we all love.  Besides the message I adore the colors and illustrations by Kristie Edmunds.    So I wanted that book to be the spring board for our party.  I pin and pull images into a desktop file like everyone else and if I have the time I like to make mood boards.  Even my husband doesnt really understand my vision sometimes unless I do a mood board.

So here is my mood board and Im super happy that there are a ton of inspiring Monster Bash parties out there and even the perfect printable set on etsy to be the imagery for Hudson’s party.

Hudson 4th bday board

This post is already lengthy enough so I wont describe each item but  I am working in a different way with this party.  We will be having it at a local cafe and I will not be allowed to bring in my own cake and cupcakes!!! OH NO what will I do?? Dont worry, it will be fine.  Im pretty sure simple fondant toppers on the cafe’s cake and cupcakes will satisfy our guests and my discerning eye.  Plus Im looking forward to all of the benefits of a party thats not at home…like not having to clean up my apartment!!

In addition to the mood board I have a list that I refer to when Im forming the initial design of a party.  I think about all the party supplies I will need to find or make.  Which ones will work or not work for my party, which ones I think should be spectacular or just supportive in the theme.  Knowing what products are readily available is a good way to make a budget and keep myself on track for my favorite part, the hunt and gather!    Ive made a cute little check off sheet to share and included my favorite party supply resources below.  Whether you are in NYC or not you can check out any of them online, most of the time their speciality items are worth the shipping.

Intial Design check list

NYC Local Stores:

Online Only Resources:

Happy party planning, more details to come!

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Farewell to the Nutcracker

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2013 has just minutes left.  I decided to take the countdown as a challenge to get one more post in this year!
What a year it was for me and our family!  While I’ve shared a lot on instagram and Facebook I havent have a moment to post more than once about what Im spending the majority of my life doing   in December: the nutcracker and cookies.
Id like to wish a farewell to my daughters first year in the New York City Ballet Nutcracker!  She has had a blast and although it was a lot for our family to juggle, as a mother I can sort of compare it to childbirth and say (now that it’s over) it wasnt so bad to go through.
Im glad that Macy had the extra time to develop some great friendships with some really nice girls  and I’m glad that I had the extra time to chat with some really nice parents.
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Of course there were lots of cookie involved.
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I was thrilled to make Nutcracker cookies for so many people and organizations this year.  My original little guy made his way to events at the Ohio Dance Theatre and the San Francisco Ballet, as well as several other of my etsy clients.
I also made a new Nutcracker design for Joffrey Ballet School NYC for the dancers recital gifts.
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But what was most enjoyable was sharing cookies with the children’s cast at NYCB’s Nutcracker.  Macy was super proud to pass them out and when they announced that I had made one for each of the 65 kids the parents applauded me…..I covered my face in astonishment.  The children were so sweet, many of them came up to thank me, its like they really understood how much time each little cookie took me and they appreciated it.  I made a solider, angel and sugarplum fairy with the costumes as close as possible as I could get to the real deal.
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I loved taking snapshots of the life going on under the stage each night (incase you aren’t familiar the children perform about every other day for 6 weeks)  Since there is not wifi or cell service on the Lower Concourse of the David Koch theatre the children entertain themselves in traditional ways, like card games and Jacks.  Yes kids still know how to play Jacks!  They celebrate birthdays, give secret santa gifts and squeeze in homework.  Parents read the newspaper, address their christmas cards and occasionally share a bottle of wine.
I thought a collage was best way to share all of those backstage shots, for my readers and for Macy its sort of a keepsake.  One of the snapshots of Macy made it as our Christmas card, sometimes those are the best!
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I hope all of my other ballet moms had unforgettable holiday performances and I look forward to continuing to share and chat with you all next year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
XOXO, NIKKI

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Nutcracker Gifts for a Ballerina

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Well, it must be a tradition for me to become so busy in October that I can’t post regularly.  It happened last year and again this year.  Its nothing new for me to become entirely occupied with my projects daily, but this year I can’t place the blame on just a Halloween party and our fabulous costumes.   We have been consumed with my my 11-year-old daughter Macy’s ballet life.  Our chic tween, will be a solider in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center this year.  We are so proud and excited for her!   She is a student at School of American Ballet and throughout the year she has amazing opportunities to be invited to perform with NYCB, last May she also performed in Firebird.  Since the last week of September she has attended 2 days of rehearsals a week on top of her 4 days of regular class.  Starting the day after Thanksgiving she will be in performances every other day…24 performances in 6 weeks to be exact!

While my cookie, cake, Halloween and craft to-do posts have piled up,  I really just want to fast forward to current events because the Christmas season happens in a blink and I want to enjoy it and share it!  So lets just talk Nutcracker gifts, shall we?  Since I proudly made Macy’s announcements on social media Ive gotten a few requests for gift ideas to commemorate her experience, as well as other ballet moms asking for ideas for their own ballerinas.  I already had a pinterest board and desktop file full of gift ideas so why not make a post for it?

I looked for gifts that were not only a symbol of the nutcracker suite, but also sings to a ballerina’s heart:  hello gorgeous pointe shoes!  What really fueled the idea for this post was my excitement for a tastemakers tag sale at One Kings Lane featuring vintage and bespoke NYCB items.  Signed point shoes, vintage costumes & play books and beautiful canvas prints.  I hopped on One Kings Lane 5 minutes before the sale started yesterday, I banged on the door at “0 minutes” and I went straight for a colorful tutu print by Wendy Whelan, NYCB principal dancer and photographer.  After I bought it within in 2 minutes of opening, I watched all the signed toe shoes be scooped up with in 5 min and half the entire sale sold in 10 minutes.  My print was limited to a dozen and sold out in 30 minutes.  Im so glad I was on top of that one!! I intended to make a post with one of a kind items from that sale, but there isn’t anything left!  I sill included 2 items for inspiration in your search for a special gift.  See item info and links below.

nutcracker gift guide21. Nutcracker Sugarplum Fairy fine art print 8×10, $35 – Clementseye.etsy.com

2. Marizpan and Candy Cane NYCB Tonner Dolls – collectors items that can be found on ebay

3. Signed Pointe shoes from Tiler Peck, NYCB principal dancer, $150- One Kings Lane, sold out :(  Signed pointe shoes pop up in different places like eBay too, so be on the look out, having a pair that once belong to well known ballerina is a dream for aspiring young dancers.  If you can’t find a signed pair, a custom made embellished pair of pointe shoes are the next best thing – Pointe Creations, (prepare for beauty overload when you click on this link)

4. Nutcracker set of 8 note cards, $19 – Clafoutis For her thank you notes to friends coming to see her perform!

5. This SWEET Clara doll has a disclaimer: you have to make it yourself!  Wee Wonderfuls sells rag doll patterns…but maybe you could request a custom doll, its worth a shot!

6. Tutu Print by Wendy Whelan NYCB principal dancer and photographer, $55 – One Kings Lane, sold out :( again sorry to post an unavailable item, but its TUTU gorgeous to not include.  Use this image as a inspirational springboard for your search of a similar print.  UPDATE:  OKL has renewed quantities of this print, but sale ends 12/15

7. Official NYCB Headshot of Allegra Kent, $15 – eBay  So graceful, so ethereal! I’m thisclose to ordering this for Macy.  Allegra Kent was a NYCB principal dancer joining at age 15 in 1953, she danced for 28 years!

8. Sugarplum Fairy t-shirt, $24 – Covet Dance She’d wear it proudly all year!

9.  Nutcracker Illustration Art, $15 – TheArtfulBumblebee.etsy.com These colorful and playful illustrations come as cards or 8×10 prints

10. Nutcracker cookies, $54 per dozen – By yours truly!  Nikkiikkin.etsy  Im making these puppies like hotcakes this season, fresh, homemade, so delicious and an absolute knockout in detail.  This Romeo has special powers, watch as the little girls squeal with delight, I promise some nearly cried from joy when Macy passed them out to her dance class last year.

11. Jewelry is always a girls best friend.  Ive selected 3 necklaces that will be a special reminder of the hard work and beauty she displayed on stage.  Tutu Style, $38 – SharonTasker.etsy.com, Little Ballerina Ballet Shoes, $24 – SmallBlueThings.etsy.com, Personalized Nutcracker Necklace, $27.50 – BeautifulAsYou.etsy.com

12. It’s a trinket box, it’s a decoration, it’s just really dreamy.  Sugarplum fairy holiday box, $30 – SparkleLovesWhimsey.etsy.com

13. Sugarplum fairy ornament, $24.95 – PetalBelles.etsy.com Macy still loves the idea of fairies and their magical world, this is a nutcracker crossover, so its perfect and there is no reason that it has to be packed away with the Christmas tree.

I hope you enjoyed my list and found something that you think your ballerina would cherish.  I also have a pinterest board with many other ideas, check it out HERE.

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A Vintage Inspired Halloween Dinner Party

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Halloween Dinner Party 2012

Last year this Halloween dinner party was featured on Amy Altas just a few days before Halloween.   We all know that as soon as its November 1st no one wants to look at Halloween pictures anymore. So I’ve held on to these pictures for almost a whole year!

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My party was inspired by vintage Dennison Bogie Books.  After deciding that I needed to know the origin of the iconic screeching Halloween cat face that pops up everywhere, I did a little research and discovered Dennison Boogie Books dating as far back as 1912.  I fell in love with its wholesome and kitschy suggestions and illustrations of a bygone era.  Most importantly I found inspiration in revitalizing the use of crepe paper as in inexpensive decoration material.

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I sought out a few vintage Dennison Halloween die cuts and illustrations on ebay to reproduce, ordered a republished copy of a 1926 Bogie Book and a few rolls of crepe paper.  The rest of the decorations were from our curated Halloween collection.  And of course all the treats were made by me!

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The invitation is vintage, sort of, I designed and drew it 8 years ago….pre photoshop knowledge.  Back in the day, I loved to make hand cut and one of a kind cards from card stock.  A reader informed me that the technique I used to make this card is called typesetting, who knew?  I just did what I had to do to get stuff done, I still do!  You can check out more about this card HERE and know that you can still create a beautiful invitation even if you don’t have skills of a graphic designer.

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What about that about that wall??!!!  I love big showy backdrops and I was channeling Dorothy Draper with the black and white stripe fringe crepe paper.   Crepe paper can deliver that big of a punch without breaking the bank,  it was so easy to create and so inexpensive.  I covered a 12 foot wall with just 6 rolls at $2 a roll!

Tabletop:

The placemats are vintage Dennison illustrations that were once used on crepe paper banners.  The desert plates are crate and barrel and target.  We always cruise the thrift shops for Halloween decorations, the older and creepier the better.  These candle sticks are brass cast-off that we spray painted black.

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The crow curio is a combination of a glass dome sitting and a styrofoam round decorated with fringed crepe paper.  You can see an up close how to about it HERE.

Sweets:

The treats included a scary black cat and spider web cookies, mummy Oreo pops and a three-tiered Trick or Treat cake.

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A cake this size would easily serve 100 people, so I made two of the tiers as fake dummy cakes.  The cake layers features a Dennison Cat made from fondant, silhouettes of dancing witches and a harlequin pattern reminiscent of a paper lantern.  I finished the cake off with a witch, moon and bat silhouettes fondant topper. You can see more of the cake HERE.  And I have had a request to share the template I used for the dancing witches.  Well, there wasn’t one, I drew it!  But I might go back through my files and see if I can find the inspiration and my original sketch.  If I can I’ll clean it up and share it as a download.

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Instead of caramel or red candle apples I came up with “Black Magic” candy apples by coloring the sugar with black gel coloring. Then I dipped it in black sanding sugar for extra sparkle.  See more about them HERE.

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I had more guest (and more decorations) than one table could hold, so the littlest kids at our party had their own table.  Here I used more Dennison inspired imagery.  I created a paper chandelier right from the instructions in a Bogie Book and made tussie mussies to hold candy for the the kids to take home.

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And just incase you’re wondering, I didn’t rent orange chairs, those are our own dining chairs.  We use orange in our home decor so it was easy for our Air Chairs and Panton Jr chair to become part of the party decor.

Each year our Halloween decorations box grows, it grew alot last year and I cant wait to reuse almost all of these decorations this year at our Halloween Open House party.  But the questions is do I wait another year to share those pictures or do my readers want to see Halloween posts in November?

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Corpse Bride Costume

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It’s officially Halloween season in my book.  I believe in everyone else’s too.  It seems that costume catalogs, store displays and pinterest started early this year, but I dont mind.  Ive watched the searches and stats on our Wonderland Family Costume post rise since the beginning of September and then this week it was featured on Lil’ Luna as part of a top 65 DIY Halloween Costumes, check it out here for some amazing ideas for kids and adults.

Last year I held on to Macy’s costume pictures because it seems that when October 31st ends everyone is ready for Christmas.  So nearly a year later, I am ecstatic to finally share her Corpse Bride costume from Halloween 2012!

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Macy chose this costume character because our entire family loves Tim Burton movies, hence the reason we choose his verson of Alice and Wonderland to create our Wonderland Family.  As is the year we did that group costume, finding the perfect clothing items to make the character seem real is the key.  I dont think you have to have the exact same outfit but clothing that is inspired from the character, this always helps to keep the cost down too.  When I found this vintage bridesmaid (or maybe it was a bridal gown) I knew that Macy could pull off the Corpse Bride.

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The dress had pink rick rack detailing that we cut off and although it killed me to cut the arm off of the dress, I knew that we had to in order to make the skeletal arm.  We didnt have to alter it other than that, it was petite enough to fit her perfectly.  Make up is so important for Tim Burton characters and the Corpse Bride was on the simple side.  I heavily powdered her face to give the illuminating pale glow.  I recreated the big doll eyes of the animated character with blue eyeshadow and liquid liner and painted in the expressive eyebrows.  Her arm was first outlined with a liquid eye liner, filled in with white face makeup and the negative space was covered in black eyeshadow.  Macy’s hair is so naturally beautiful why cover it up?  We choose not to add a blue haired wig but to use blue face paint to highlight strands of hair.  I made a blue flowered veil from wire, lace, ribbon and tulle and we added creepy black roses, skeleton hands and skulls into her bridal bouquet.

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Macy had fun posing for pictures for people stopping her on the street.  We love trick or treating in our little Brooklyn neighborhood, Carroll Gardens. Although we decided not to do a family costume in 2012, we do have a plan for 2013!!

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If you missed seeing our Wonderland Family costumes, its a cant miss!

Wonderland Family Costumes - Alice, White Rabbit, Red Queen & Madhatter

Wonderland Family Costumes – Alice, White Rabbit, Red Queen & Madhatter 2010

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Nautical Stripes and Sugar Sequins Cake

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If you’ve followed along with my blog for a while you probably notice this pattern: I have several posts and then I wont have any for weeks.  My silence is not laziness, during those weeks that I don’t post I am always super busy making the beautiful sugar works that I share!  I wish that I could be more consistent and always have a regular MWF blog but it’s just a lot of work when the majority of my content is all my creations.   If you would like to see sneak peaks of my day-to-day creations you can follow me on Instagram (my live feed is in the sidebar).   If you do follow me, then you have seen the beautiful cake I made for my daughter’s 11 birthday.

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Macy loves nautical striped shirts, first it was just the plain navy ones, then J.Crew started making ones with sequined hearts & anchors.  She has striped dresses and skirts, all mostly in navy.  In general navy is a neutral for all of us.  We often go out as a family looking very stripey, bluey and coordinated.  Not on purpose, we just all like it!  Ok, Hudson doesn’t really know what he likes but we like it on him (currently his favorite shirt is one that we tie dyed, he calls it his “color shirt” it makes him very happy to wear it…with navy shorts of course).

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For the first time ever Macy didnt have a party for her birthday.  It was a break that had been decided when we planned on during the planning of  her Dylan’s Candy Bar birthday party last year.  So there was no disapointment for her or me, it just the decision that was made.  I still knew that I would make a beautiful cake.  In fact, I did plan to make several cakes (all fake except one for us) but I had too many other projects going on that it fell to the wayside.  Hopefully I can make the beautiful Nautical Suite of cakes that I sketched out,  I just have to make it a project on my list.

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I made Macy’s cake an extra tall 6″ round.  It had 2 layers of chocolate and 2 layers of vanilla cake with swiss buttercream.  I used brand new recipes for every bit of the cake and I am so happy with them!  Both the chocolate and vanilla cake recipes were suggested by Jessica Harris of Jessicakes, they are the sturdiest cakes Ive ever made.  They are definitely the type of cakes you need to get a flawless fondant finish.  If you are new to fondant and find it frustrating to get perfect, it’s probably your cake and icing that is the problem.  I know when I started researching the best tips and techniques I found my fondant skills were fine, my cake stacking skills were really bad!  So along with Jessica’s recipes I also used the upside down icing technique, (its crazy sounding but for small cakes it really works!!) and I’m a big fan of the wax paper transfer method for applying cake decorations.  With horizontal stripes this is the ONLY way to achieve perfect level stripes all the way around.  You will lose your mind and too much sleep any other way.  I will post links to recipes and tutorials at the end of the post.

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So the design was simple really, it mimicked the stripped shirt Macy loves (and now has 3 of).  The sugar sequins technique on the anchor was new for me, new in general really.  I had seen it somewhere on the internet and filed it away in my mind.  In going back to look for any tips or the example I had seen I could not find anything anywhere.  So  I winged it.  I pressed candy sequins into still soft fondant and let dry over night.  Then I painted on metallic luster dust.  It turned out beautiful but I’m sure there must me some other ways to cover the candy sequins more completely.  The thicker I painted on the luster dust the less definition I got on the shape of the candy, I tried the spray color too but it didn’t cover the colored sprinkles at all.

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Over all I liked the creation enough to make cupcake toppers for my etsy shop with this technique. These cupcakes were not for Macy’s birthday but I still had the nautical theme in mind when I combined them with stripped Simply Baked baking cups I purchased from Pick Your Plum ( you can also get them here  or here and on amazon)  I’ve listed heart shapes in gold or silver in my shop, but really the shape and colors are limitless!

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Although we didn’t party like rock stars, we did spend the whole day celebrating Macy, with a movie, dinner, stroll in the old neighb (Lower Manhattan) and she had a friend stay over.  It was a beautiful and unseasonably cool August day, we enjoyed our stroll on the Battery Park City Promenade as we always do.

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My chic tween rocked a new Target dress with an on trend origami bird pattern on her birthday, she added to it a glitter Crewcuts belt (the type that inspired the sugar sequins technique) and a brass whistle necklace she bought at the Brooklyn Flea, oh and a navy blazer, lol.

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Check out my new Sugar Sequin toppers here.

My new favorite Vanilla Cake recipe for a dense sturdy cake here.

My new favorite Chocolate Cake recipe for a dense sturdy cake here.

Swiss Meringue recipe by Martha Stewart here.

Jessicakes wax transfer technique here and a video on icing a cake upside down here.

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Filed under Cakes, Celebrations, SugarCoated, The Chic Tween