Month: October 2014 (page 2 of 4)

Carnival-Themed Second Birthday Party {Celebrating Emma Rose}

cover photo

Last year, we invited all of our family and friends to help Emma celebrate her first birthday, and it was awesome.  This year, though, we decided to just invite a handful of her little friends.  We got our first really cool day of the season that morning, but the sky maintained a bright blue and the sun was shining throughout the afternoon; all of the fall leaves were at their peak.  A perfect backdrop for an outdoor celebration at our favorite pumpkin patch and a beautiful day for one special girl’s second birthday party.

mama dada emma

This second year was definitely different in the way of photos…we couldn’t get the honoree to sit still for many shots, but watching her enjoy the day was priceless.

party overview

Pumpkins helped add a pop of color to several areas, like the tables, and they doubled as a way to help keep stuff pinned down on a breezy day.

corn stalks

Cornstalks, stacks of hay and vivid mums were a stark contrast against the blue, blue sky: just a few of fall’s finest things.  We loved the venue at Conklin Farm so much at Emma’s first birthday party last year, that we had to come back.  Chances are, we might return next year, too!

dessert table

dessert table 2

fabric garland

There were lots of seasonal treats to pick from, including the caramel dipped apples, homemade apple pie pops and apple cider donuts.  The fabric garland was a perfect mix of carnival colors and patterns and were a cheerful addition to the dessert table.

popcorn flowers

White hydrangeas tucked into paper popcorn boxes were a fresh way to look like the real deal and made easy centerpieces for each table.

kids table

These kraft paper gable boxes held sweets for the little guests to take home with them from the party.

apple cider stand

Fresh apple cider from the farm was a big hit.

donuts and pops


Lollipops and an assortment of gumballs added color to the table and the goldfish were a perfect snack for little hands to grab.

cake close up

The cake was an ideal fit for the occasion.  The stripes mimicked a carnival tent and the blue and yellow were great complements.  I added store-bought star candles for the birthday girl to make a wish.

sneaking the cake

sneaking the cake 3

The birthday girl helping to place the candles on top of the cake and sneaking some of the icing in the process.

blowing out the candles

Hope both of their wishes come true.

dada emma gigi

Snuggles with family on a beautiful day.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

ferris wheel front

One of my favorite items at the party, these letters made the perfect back-splash for the focal point of this carnival-themed bash.

marquee letters

These marquee letters were battery operated and lit up with the touch of a switch on the side of each letter, making it super convenient to hang without a tangle of wires and cords.

ferris wheel side

Homemade vanilla cupcakes were topped with mini-marshmallows to look like bunches of popcorn perched on a bright red Ferris wheel.

popcorn cupcake

Emma Rose indulging in one of her favorite treats.

bean bag toss 3

Vintage clown bean bag toss was among the three games at the party.

bean bag toss

ring toss

This ring toss was easily assembled with an old crate and a few bottles of sparkling water.


The kids loved the hayride.

wheelbarrow rideWorn out from the party, these two opted for a ride in the wheelbarrow.

My Favorite Party Details From This Carnival-Themed Bash:

  • The Ferris wheel cupcake stand
  • ‘Popcorn’ cupcakes
  • The apple cider
  • Homemade apple pie pops
  • Vintage clown bean bag toss
  • Marquee letters
  • Red and white tent birthday cake
  • and MORE!


Stylist:  Pumpkin + Rose

Photos:  Pumpkin + Rose

Venue:  Conklin Farm, Montville, NJ

Cake:  Sweet Lucky’s Bakery, Morristown, NJ

Wine Crates:  {Available for rental through Pumpkin + Rose}

Popcorn Cupcakes:  Pumpkin + Rose

Red and White Striped Baking Cups:  Amazon

Tableware:  Candy Cane Red Paper Plates via Amazon & Pool Collection: Dots via Shop Sweet Lulu & Ruby Red Collection: Dots via Shop Sweet Lulu

Wooden Rainbow Stripe Utensils:  Shop Sweet Lulu

Paper Napkins:  Amazon & Pool Collection: Stripes via Shop Sweet Lulu & Ruby Red Collection: Dots via Shop Sweet Lulu

Paper Cups:  Ruby Red Collection: Stripes via Shop Sweet Lulu

Caramel Apples:  Whole Foods Market

Swirl Lollipops and Assorted Gumballs:  Amazon / Amazon

Vintage Glass Jars:  Shop Sweet Lulu

Apple Pie Pops:  Pumpkin + Rose

Small Hay Stacks:  Michael’s

Apple Cider Donuts:  Kings Food Markets

Apple Cider:  Conklin Farm, Montville, NJ

Food:  Tutto Fresco, Livingston, NJ

Ferris Wheel Cupcake Stand:  {Available for rental through Pumpkin + Rose}

Marquee Letters:  Michael’s

Fence Backdrop:  {Available for rental through Pumpkin + Rose}

Wooden Crate for Ring Toss:  T.J. Maxx

Vintage Clown Bean Bag Toss Game Boards:  InWithTheOld, an Etsy Shop

Carnival Bean Bag Toss Party Game:  Amazon

Vintage Style Popcorn Boxes:  Shop Sweet Lulu

Paper Gable Gift Boxes:  thefavorbox, an Etsy Shop

Fabric Garland Banner:  jpurifoy, an Etsy Shop

Birthday Girl’s Carnival Dress:  BabyThreadsByLiz, an Etsy Shop

Mason Jar Drink Dispenser:  World Market {Available for rental through Pumpkin + Rose}

end of emma bday party day

Lots of little moments from a happy day.  {Happy birthday, Emma Rose!}

Hope you enjoyed!


Something For Saturday: One-Pot Pasta

Just a little something for Saturday.

one pot pasta cooking 2

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the trend, one-pot pasta.  Photos have recently shown up on my Pinterest news-feed and recipes have quickly surfaced when looking for simple dinner ideas online.  I finally decided to give one a try the other night and it was a game-changer.

I am actually not a huge fan of pasta, which is odd since I come from a large Italian family, making that seem sort of sacrilegious.  But I think it’s due to the fact that I was spoiled having grown up in a family of great cooks.  It has made simply boiling pasta out of a box feel so lackluster and bland.  So, I usually reserve those meals for Sunday dinners at my parents, which are never boring or at a select few restaurants that I know make their pasta by hand.

one pot pasta 1

I came across this recipe on the blog, Apron Strings, where the author noted she was inspired to create this dish by a photo she had seen in the magazine, Martha Stewart Living.  And it turns out, it was as easy as it looked to prepare and the results were so flavorful.  The best part is, that you can tweak this to include the herbs and spices and vegetables, that you enjoy the most and really make it your own.

one pot pasta cooking 1

{Ingredients and instructions adapted slightly from the original version I came across on Apron Strings}


  • 12 ounces linguine pasta
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut in strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1 package sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 4 cups regular vegetable broth (not low sodium)
  • 1/2 cup regular chicken broth (not low sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 10 to 12 leaves) basil, diced
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

one pot pasta finished 1


1.     Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil leaves and mushrooms in a large stock pot.  Pour in vegetable broth.  Sprinkle the pepper flakes and oregano on top and drizzle with olive oil.  Season to taste with a small amount of salt and/or black ground pepper.

2.     Cover pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so.  Cook until almost much of the liquid has evaporated.  I left a decent amount of liquid still on the bottom as it made a warm broth to keep my pasta moist and was great for dipping a loaf of crusty Italian bread.

3.     If needed, season to taste with more salt and pepper.  Stir pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot evenly throughout the pasta as you are serving.  Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

one pot pasta finished 2

Have a great weekend.  Enjoy!

In These Genes

me and grams 1984

I’ve always considered myself pretty lucky, seemingly unscathed by the drama that unfolds during teenage years and the struggles that often ensue during young adulthood. Personally untouched by tragedy and disease that were and are both still constantly just out of reach. So much so that two out of four roommates in college had seen one of their parents pass. One of them, sat attentively a few seats away from me, taking notes, occasionally laughing in unison with the rest of our Sociology class at something the professor said, when she was interrupted by a counselor who came into the room to break her of the rhythm of her ordinary Thursday. The University staff member took her into the hallway to tell her that there had been a student running rampant, opening fire on Red Lion Junior High in Pennsylvania where her father worked as the Principal, and that her dad had been shot and killed in the fourteen-year-old gunman’s path. The other hadn’t even outgrown her toddler years, when her mother succumbed to cancer. Stripping her of the person that would teach her all of the things she would want to learn about becoming a woman, a mother. Having only foggy images, a cocktail of old photos and stories mixed together, to rely on.

And in my own family, I had witnessed so many women get sick. Some of them taken far too young, others held on, but never fully recovered. Breast cancer was to blame in each and every instance; a sort of plague that swept through our genealogical tree, scarring its victims physically and emotionally in its wake. But the reach was so much greater than I could have imagined at that time. It began before I was even born, before my great-grandmother perished at the hands of this illness, and when I started to have somewhat of an understanding, I was only a grade-school kid, watching Ben Affleck make his screen debut in Voyage of the Mimi, then learning to dissect a pig, and going to dances where the girls stood clear across the other side of the gym as the boys. In between all of the mundane, I would visit my grandmother in the hospital or sit with her on the edge of her bed as we watched Wheel of Fortune. I would ask my dad how my aunt was holding up, knowing nothing of the tests she endured, the procedures she underwent. And then, more school dances, and eventually proms. I would attend a heart-wrenching funeral for the woman who made the best Italian knot cookies and pasta e fagioli soup, who was every ounce maternal, who watched my brother and sister and I so many sick days and Friday nights; the glue that held together our family traditions. I would attend annual masses in memory of another aunt who had sadly passed, too, back when we were little. And then more track practices and swim meets and dreaded math equations for homework. Cancer had simply become a very normal backdrop of everyday life. I hadn’t even considered that other families might not be experiencing the same. That some kids had still never met someone with cancer. And at the same time, I was blindly unaware that some families also knew the sickness well, that some families had it far, far worse.

me and aunt lucille 1984

My grandmother’s sister had also fallen to breast cancer along the way and then came the diagnosis in not one, but both of her daughters. It was touching virtually all of the females in our family. It was spotted much younger and in rapid succession. It was showing no sign of slowing down. We were soon urged that all members, of both sexes, find out whether or not we contained a gene that held the propensity for cancer in the first place. And in instances like that, it is a flip of a coin, a 50/50 chance for each of us that the result would be positive. But one by one, every man and every woman turned up a carrier, having inherited this mutation, defying those very odds. The men, though, thankfully only remained carriers and never seemed to develop the disease. The women, all of them, got breast cancer, some shortly after having tested positive for the gene. Including my cousin, who was not yet thirty years old.

me and linds 1984


Fast-forward a short time later, to my mid-twenties when I was newly married and sitting in the cramped office of a genetic counselor. My husband, sister and her boyfriend (my now-brother-in-law) also sat close enough to touch knees in the other upholstered, blue-speckled chairs. After having swished a small cup full of mouthwash around my gums and taken a cotton swab to the inside of my cheek, we tucked the Q-tip into a sealed, Ziploc bag that would be sent to a lab somewhere out in Idaho. A month later that same lab would mail over an official, typed letter revealing that I did, in fact, carry, along with my sister whose test heeded the same outcome, the BRCA1 gene: a mutation somewhere in a long strand of our DNA that determines a predisposition for cancer, an increased chance of developing breast cancer, specifically, by around 90% and an increased chance of developing ovarian cancer by up to 60%. A ticking time-bomb, if you will. An indication that cancer is likely in the future, though not entirely definite. A reminder that there is no reversal of the susceptibility to the disease, no way of knowing when it may rear it’s ugly head.

But it also meant that I had the chance to try and get ahead of cancer, to be ridiculously aware of my body in the shower, to be diligent about early and frequent tests, to schedule the same rotation of ultrasound, then MRI, then mammogram every six months. It meant that I had the luxury of discussing a course of action with my husband over a glass of wine, that we would go on to have countless other conversations about preventative measures over dinners and in between commercials and at night before we went to bed. That we would lay out a very succinct timeline that would start with a double mastectomy and then the removal of my ovaries following that. These luxuries that the women in my family, and so many other women, didn’t have when they were forced into surgery or chemotherapy hurriedly because there was simply no other option.

I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt every time my cousin was stuck in a hospital bed or recovering from surgery. Or when she lost her hair. I couldn’t help but think about how it very easily could have been me instead of her. That our chances were just as great, our risk just as high. But she has shown incredible strength and resilience and has not stopped smiling through her whole endeavor though there have been plenty of bad days, so many challenging times. She still carves out time for her family, nights out with her friends, goes to bars and baseball games and concerts. She takes trips and makes memories. She is moving on. I don’t know if I could say I would have been able to handle it the same had that been me who was diagnosed, but if I am ever in her shoes, I will have had the greatest example of courage that I could ever ask for. She will undoubtedly be the kind of survivor I try to emulate.


I think of my cousin and the women in my family often, but never so much as in the month of October when awareness for this epidemic floods our social media news feeds, when football jerseys are adorned with pink patches and the athletes wear pink gloves, cupcake stores frost their baked goods with pink icing, and neighborhood trees are tied with pink ribbon.


If carrying this gene has taught me anything, it is that we can’t always control every outcome. We can’t decide how much or how little we will hurt or be scared or endure. How hard we may have to fight. It has taught me that I am lucky, extremely lucky to have been given this huge warning and not more devastating news. It has taught me that we must take an active role in our health; that we must educate ourselves about cancer, and that an increased understanding of the disease can be lifesaving. It has driven me to take even better care of myself, so that I can be here for my children, my family, so that I can see my husband walk our daughter down the aisle. Cancer undoubtedly tears persons, and all who care for them apart, but I have also seen how it can strengthen a group of people. Let’s make sure that in every month, not only in October, we take the time to be proactive about screenings, speak up if something seems amiss, and ask countless and thorough questions of our doctors. If cancer is in the future, let’s catch it early enough so that it remains just a small part of our future, and not let it be something that defines us, but something that we are better equipped to tackle and ultimately conquer.

Just For Fun: Halloween Cookie Pizza

cookie pizza side view

Because who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies and holiday-themed dessert…and toppings like Snickers bars and Reese’s Pieces, creamy orange frosting and chocolate syrup…and being able to whip all of this up in under 15 minutes?   It just seemed like the spirited thing to do.

cookie pizza close up


  • 1 package Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 1 can Duncan Hines creamy vanilla frosting
  • red food coloring
  • yellow food coloring
  • candies of choice – mine were miniature Snickers bars and Reese’s Pieces
  • HERSHEY’S classic chocolate syrup

cookie pizza birds eye view


1.     Pre-heat oven to temperature recommended on the back of the cookie dough package – in this case to 350 degrees.

2.     Cover a flat cookie sheet (preferably one with no edges) with parchment paper.  Form cookie dough into ball and place on parchment paper.  Roll out with hands or rolling pin into the shape of a circle, and make it fairly thin.

3.     Place in pre-heated oven and bake for about 11 minutes or until golden brown.

4.     While you let the cookie cool, add a few drops of red and yellow food coloring (I used about 7 drops of yellow and 5 drops of red) to your can of vanilla icing to create an orange hue.  You can add more or less of one or both colors until you reach your desired shade.  Spread orange frosting over cooked and cooled cookie using a spoon.  Top with chopped candy pieces and drizzle with chocolate syrup.  Slice like pizza and serve.

cookie pizza close up 2



Shades Of Gray

There is something about wearing the color gray that is automatically comfortable.  I guess that’s why half of my lounge-wear is made up of different shades of gray, upping the cozy factor.  And on a day where the sky was a similar hue, I pulled out this relaxed outfit to run some errands and hang with my daughter.  Very comfortable, indeed.

shades of gray{TARGET pink floyd graphic long-sleeve tee / SPLENDID layers cotton tank in white / LULULEMON ebb to street pant / NEW BALANCE women’s WR993 running shoe via FLEET FEET SPORTS MONTCLAIR}

Happy Friday!

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