Friday, February 27, 2009

Birthday Party Ideas & Tips

Birthday party ideas for kids, adults, and everyone in between!

By Plum Drama

Planning birthday party ideas, whether it’s for a toddler, teenager, or adult, can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of hard work. There are a lot of great birthday party ideas out there, so how do you decide which one is best for you!? We’re here to help.

We have put together what we think are the best party ideas out there. We have been in the party planning business for a long time, so we’ve seen a lot and have helped a lot of customers throw amazing parties! We hope you’ll learn from some of our experiences and get some great birthday party ideas from us.

All of our birthday party ideas are organized by the age of the person who will be celebrating his/her birthday. For each of our birthday party ideas we provide an overview of what to expect and what to plan for, so that you’ll have a quick checklist that you can refer to as you plan your special event. Next, we offer money and time saving tips and ideas that will help to make your birthday party less stressful, so that you can stop counting pennies and start joining in the festivities. Whenever possible, we try to find coupons and special web deals if there are certain items that we’ve used in the past and are willing to endorse.

We know that all birthday party ideas have a common set of ground rules that you should keep in mind as you plan your parties.

Rule #1: Start planning early.

Part of the stress of party planning comes when you try to do everything at the last minute. Our biggest piece of advice if you’re starting to plan a birthday party is to start early. After all, you know the date of the party, right?! So, what’s the excuse in procrastinating? Start the planning process at least a few weeks ahead of the big day. This will allow you time to get your party date on the calendars of the people who you really want to invite. It will also allow you time to buy and/or order any party supplies that will help to make your birthday party that much more memorable.

Rule #2: It helps to have a theme.

Many birthday party ideas start with a theme, like your child’s favorite character (Dora the Explorer) or an experiential theme if it’s an adult birthday party idea (such as, “Tropical Paradise”). Having a theme to your birthday party creates unity among all the elements that you’ll be incorporating into the event, which then helps to make the entire day feel like a grand event that the guests will remember forever.

Rule #3: Invite guests who are coming to have a good time.

This rule sounds a bit harsh, but we all have friends who can turn even the brightest, happiest moments into Debbie Downer moments. While it’s fine to invite these “less-than-energetic” folks to your event, make sure you balance it with your friends who are more high-energy and are there to have a GREAT time. We also have friends who could have fun doing nothing at all because of their cheery disposition and positive outlooks. Make sure they’re coming to the party too!

Rule #4: Remember to have fun.

Oftentimes, everyone at the birthday party has a great time EXCEPT for the person who organized and spent all the time to get the party together. Don’t let that be YOU! Start the planning process early, so you don’t stress too close to the event date, and assign tasks on the day of the party. This will allow you to free up some of your time and get some enjoyment out of the event that you worked so hard to create.

Rule #5: Focus on the big picture.

Many hosts make the mistake of perfecting every little detail to their event. This is another surefire way to guarantee your own misery at the party you’ve worked hard to throw for someone. Keep in mind that NOTHING ever goes EXACTLY as planned, so learn to roll with the punches on the day of your birthday party. Don’t focus on the tiny details that no one will care about or notice. As long as there are guests, food, and (maybe) a cake, trust me…the rest will take care of itself.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Revolution 2009

Check out one of our Divas in action!

Diva Jessica, AKA "Fitness Diva", with the help of several other dedicated YMCA Cycling Instructors, staff, and volunteers put together Revolution 2009!

Revolution 2009 was a four-hour cycling challenge! Riders participated individually, or in teams of two, three or four. Roadies were welcome to bring and ride their trainers if they prefer! There was replenishment, door prizes, great music, and more throughout the ride! All participants received a t-shirt and awesome goody bag! And of course a post-ride celebration!

It took place last Saturday, February 21, 2009 at the Lake Norman YMCA in the gymnasium.

All money raised went directly towards Community Outreach at the Lake Norman YMCA. Programs and services provided by the Lake Norman YMCA impact the lives of children and families in our communities most fragile neighborhoods. Your contribution makes it possible for the YMCA to be a leader in community development. Funds raised through our campaign enable us to provide After-school and Teen programs, English as a Second Language classes, Active Older Adults health and wellness programs and summer literacy program. Most importantly every dollar raised through our outreach efforts stay in right here in our community.

We are very proud to see one of our Divas making a difference in our community!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eco-Friendly Toys

When buying toys, I am always questioning if they are safe or not! With the lead scares and most of our toys being shipped in from over seas, you just never know. I have been looking for safe eco-friendly alternatives. Here is a great website with a variety of choices:

If you have any additional toys you'd like to share, we'd love to check them out~

Monday, February 23, 2009

What's For Supper Ya'll? Manhattan Crab Chowder

Manhattan Crab Chowder

By The Food Network

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced cored fennel bulb, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups precooked diced potatoes (see Tip)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 pound pasteurized crabmeat, drained if necessary

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, fennel bulb, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, water and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, crab and fennel fronds. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.

We call for convenient canned crushed tomatoes, but you only need 2 cups; store leftover tomatoes in an airtight container for 1 week in the refrigerator or months in the freezer. Note: Look for precooked diced potatoes in the refrigerated section of most supermarket produce departments—near other fresh, prepared vegetables.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Resource: 1001 Creative Ideas For Fun Parties

Even the most creative divas need a little help sometimes in planning parties! I picked up this great book many years ago "The Best Party Book 1001 Creative Ideas For Fun Parties" by Penny Warner.

This book gives you ideas for almost any occassion! For example, it discusses party tips for:

Wedding Showers,

Baby Showers,

Birthday Parties,




Comings and Goings Parties,

Reunions, Christmas,


New Year's,

Valentine's Day,

St. Patrick's Day,

Cinco de Mayo,

Fourth of July,

Halloween and so many others!

The book gives you a checklist and helps you plan a theme, guest list, menu and games and activities. It even talks about creative party invitations, party mood and atmosphere.

If you're in a party rut or simply want new inspiration, check out this book today!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What a wonderful event!!

To be part of a fundraiser is such a great way to give back to the community. The Cookies For A Cause/Ace and TJs Grinn Kids Foundation proved to be a great success! It was wonderful to get the opportunity to meet some of the Grinn Kid Families and the founders of the foundation too! We had a lot of traffic and raised a lot of money that will help support the Grinn Kid families travels! Thank you to all the donating cookies from BJs, Polk A Dot Bakery and Otis Spunkmeyer. The cookies were very yummy!!

"Together we are making a difference one morsel at a time!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Divas everywhere

Do you have an excellent appetizer recipe? One that every time you bring it to an occasion somebody is asking for the recipe. Well if you do, we at The Divas in the Kitchen are doing just that, asking for it. We are collecting yummy appetizer recipes for our Annual Appetizer Diva cookbook. If you have a recipe and are willing to share or you know of someone that has a great one, please email us at . We would love to put it in this years appetizer cookbook and share it with others.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spring into Diva Wear!

We are proud to introduce our latest creation - Diva Wear! As chapters are sprouting up all over the country, we thought it was time to show our Diva Spirit!

Short Sleeve T-Shirt $20

Long Sleeve T-Shirt $25

Baseball Cap $18

Taking Preorders Now! Simply email us at . Remember to tell us what size you need!

7 Superfoods to Eat for a Health Boost

Here are 7 healthy foods you should include in your diet! Enjoy.

1. Spinach- low in calories and high in nutrients. Research has shown that spinach aids in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, some cancers and cardiovascular disease.
2. Walnuts- excellent source of protein, fiber and vitamin E. Walnuts are the only nuts that contain a significant amount of omega-3s, and are known for their high antioxidant activity. Eat them by the handful or toss them on salads.
3. Honey- acts as an antioxidant- a substance that can prevent the effects of free radicals, which we're exposed to from environmental toxins such as tobacco smoke or radiation and which can contribute to disease. Honey also contains oligosaccharides, which increase the number of good bacteria in the colon. The color of honey is relevant: the darker the honey the more antioxidants it contains.
4. Salmon- is a tasty fish that's chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial fats that can improve heart health. Salmon is also protein-rich. Choose wild over farmed salmon, which has been shown to contain elevated levels of contaminants and is artificially colored.
5. Oats- The fiber in oats lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, or the bad type of cholesterol. With every 1 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol, heart-disease risk is lowered 1 to 3 percent. Oats also contain plant chemicals that have antioxidant properties.
6. Dark Chocolate- The good news: Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant and can help reduce blood pressure. The potentially bad news: You should still keep your daily chocolate intake low, due to the fat and calories. Remember that darker is better because processing strips chocolate of some of its health benefits.
7. Blueberries- Sweet blueberries don't just make your smoothies and cereal taste better; they contain high levels of antioxidants. Some research has shown blueberries can slow degenerative diseases associated with aging and improve motor skills. Still other studies have shown the fruit to improve urinary tract health.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What's For Supper Ya'll? Mini Crabcakes!

Mini Crabcakes

By Family Fun

1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs (available in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets)
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
Lemon wedges

1. Mix the bell pepper, parsley, scallions, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper in a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs and crabmeat, and toss gently to mix.

2. Divide the crab mixture into 12 equal portions (about 1/4 cup each) and shape each into a 1-inch-thick patty.

3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crab cakes to the skillet and cook until they're golden on both sides, adding more oil as needed. Cook about 3 minutes per side.

Serve warm with lemon wedges. Makes 12.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Together Cookies For A Cause and Ace and TJ's Grin Kids are celebrating! Come join all the fun and load up on some yummy cookies.




Feb 14th

Time: 11-3

Place: Concord Mills.

$10 buys you a bag to load up with cookies. Over 25 of the grin kids and their families will be there to inform the crowd about their favorite charities.

To learn more, please visit

"Together we are making a difference"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentines wreath

Valentine's Day color Construction Paper (Red, White, Pink, Purple...)
Paper Plate
Heart Pattern
String or Yarn for hanging

1. Cut a lot of small hearts of different sizes from the color or colors of construction paper of your choice.
2. Cut out the middle of a paper plate, leaving the rim.
3. Glue your hearts all around the paper plate to form your wreath.
4. You can tie a ribbon on it if you wish, or hang string to the back to hang from a nail or hook.

Thank you to allcraft for this great idea.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A New Way to Drink Coffee

Many of us love our morning coffee! I actually just started drinking coffee after my second baby was born and now I am hooked. I love to take my coffee with me or get it while I am out but I do not like to use paper cups as it is not GREEN! :)

I am always looking for new cups and I think I have found a favorite! It is by a company called Lizzie Lane Originals! Super cute and reasonably priced. Plus my favorite part is the interchangeable fabric. I love that I can change it out and make it feel like a new cup! Most importantly the tumbler is stainless steel which eliminates polyethylene, a plastic that can be absorbed by your body, and waste that ends up in a landfill.

Cute, Eco-Friendly and Affordable!! Check them there many other fabulous gifts at

Monday, February 9, 2009

What's For Supper Ya'll? Spicy Tilapia with Pineapple-Pepper Relish

Spicy Tilapia with Pineapple-Pepper Relish

By Cooking Light

4 servings (serving size: 1 fillet, about 1/2 cup relish, and 1 lime wedge)

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple chunks
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped plum tomato
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
4 lime wedges

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle fish evenly with spice mixture. Add fish to pan, and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Combine pineapple and next 5 ingredients (through jalapeño) in a large bowl, stirring gently. Serve pineapple mixture with fish. Garnish with lime wedges.

Nutritional Information
228 (22% from fat)
5.5g (sat 1.2g,mono 2.2g,poly 1.4g)

Kate Washington, Cooking Light, APRIL 2007

Friday, February 6, 2009

Money Saving Party Ideas

Money Saving Party Ideas

Plan a Party that Fits in Your Budget
By Donna Pilato,

We have all experienced those times when we want to have a party but finances are tight. As you begin to create your guest list, you become excited about the prospect of entertaining. Thinking about the things you'll have to buy to pull off this party, the excitement comes to an abrupt halt. There are invitations, paper goods, decorations, food, drinks, the list becomes a deal breaker. But it doesn't have to if you reconsider your approach to this party. There are many things you can do to keep your party budget under control.

Set a Budget

Don't even begin to plan your party before you decide on your budget. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on your party - then stick to it. The total budget will help you decide on the style of party you can host, and will protect you from that after-party budget hangover.

Don't Mail Invitations

Send email invitations instead. Besides saving on the expense of a purchased invitation card, with the cost of postage seemingly increasing every other month, it makes good sense to turn to electronic invitations for all but the most formal events. The added benefit of using online invitation sites is that they will help you to manage your responses.

Good Riddance to Disposables

Even the least expensive paper plates, cups, and plastic cutlery will quickly add up. You can save on that expense by using your regular dinnerware, flatware, and glassware. Don't be afraid to mix and match if you don't have enough pieces in one set to serve all of your guests. Eclectic tables can be very stylish as long as you put pieces together with a little thought. Still don't have enough pieces? Ask your best friend if you can borrow some dinnerware or flatware, and you can return the favor someday. Not only will this save on expenses, it's also good for the environment.
Choose a Little Less Convenience for the Produce

It's tempting to pick up those little packages of pre-washed, pre-cut fruits and veggies, but they come at a price. Buy your produce in bulk and prep it yourself to save on your party grocery bill. It usually lasts longer, and stays fresher if you wash and cut your produce closer to the party date. And while we're on the subject of produce, always choose produce that is in-season for your area. That's where you'll find the best deals.
Pasta, Rice and Potatoes - The Sneaky Three Dollar Stretchers
Traditionally these three starches have been the keys to stretching a dollar. Salads, side dishes, and casseroles made with these ingredients will be budget-friendly. And who doesn't love a tray of baked ziti or scoop of potato salad?

Make It a Community Party

No one minds being asked to contribute a dish to your casual party. It's not as though you've asked them to be the host! With that basic concept in mind, you can organize a:

BYOB or Other Beverage Cost Saving Tricks

For a casual party, it's very common for hosts to tell their guests that soft drinks will be provided, but guests can feel free to bring any liquor of their choosing. If you're not comfortable doing that, you can save on alcohol expenses by purchasing wine, champagne or beer by the case. Or consider making a seasonal punch as your economical, alcoholic beverage for the party.

Affordable Themes

By hosting a party with a theme, you can easily mask the underlying economy of your food. Themes make it fun, and you can add to the ambience with music (borrowed from a collector friend if you don't have the appropriate selections). Here are several affordable party themes:

Make Your Own Tacos
Pizza Party
Desserts Only
Italian Pasta Night
Ice Cream Sunday

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen Fundraiser

Here is some updated info about the Angels and Sparrows fundraiser:
1st Annual Angels and Sparrows Soup Throwdown
Date: Sat, Feb 7th
Time: 11:00-1:00
Place: Angels and Sparrows (115 in Huntersville behind New Friendship Church) corner of Ramah and 115

3 local chefs will be making gourmet soup and competing to win the 1st annual Soup throw down! Chefs from Dressler's, Northstone Country Club, and Sysco foods will be making soup.

3 gourmet soups will be served along with bread, drink, and dessert

$5: large bowl of one soup served with bread, drink, and dessert
$10: 3 small bowls of soup served with bread, drink, and dessert.
This option entitles you to vote for the best chef
This fundraiser will be a lot of fun!
Come see the soup kitchen and have some delicious soup at the same time! Tell your friends...

"Together We Can Make A Difference"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


No need to buy plant food anymore. Use your brewed coffee grounds: a solution of one part coffee and four parts cool water. Pour it on your plant's roots once a week. It makes a great homemade plant food. It works! I have been using it for years.

No More Ink Stains
The next time you or your children get an ink stain on clothing, spray the ink mark with hairspray. The ink comes right out.

Wine Lover

Freeze leftover wine in ice-cube trays and put the frozen cubes in freezer bags. When you need wine for sauces or casseroles, just pop in a cube or two. You can also make a quick, refreshing wine spritzer with a little soda water. Or, add wine cubes to your favorite party punch for a little pizzazz at your adult party!

Smells Great!

Put paper perfume samples into your shredder and add the shredded pieces to your gift boxes for a pleasantly fresh-smelling gift package.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lead Testing

Yes we want to keep our children safe and free from too much lead....but...its confusing!

There has been much discussion and somewhat of an uproar about this new law going into effect and how it will effect small businesses and second hand stores.

February 10th the new law goes into effect! All products used by children under the age of 12 must be tested and meet the new standard of only 600ppm (parts per million) and one year from now it will be 300ppm.

Here is a little bit of information I took off the US CPSC website:

Relevant Definitions
Consumer Product –any article, produced or distributed (i) for sale to a consumer for use or (ii) for the personal use, consumption or enjoyment of a consumer in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise
Children’s Product –consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger

Phthalates Definitions
Children’s Toy –consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer for a child 12 years of age or younger for use by the child when the child plays
Child Care Article –consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help such children with sucking or teething

For more information please visit the official website:

If you have a small business like I is very confusing as to what has to be done by when. Share any comments or questions you might have about this issue!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Operation No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength has launched a brand new campaign to raise funds to help end childhood hunger.

"OperationNo Kid Hungry" responds to President Obama's call to action to endchildhood hunger by 2015.

Share Our Strength has partnered with AT&T to offer two great ways that you can support and participate in "Operation No Kid Hungry":

1. Donate by text: Text "SHARE" to 20222 on your mobile device to donate$5. AT&T will match all text donations up to $100,000. Help us meet this challenge grant!

2. Collect Food Donations: Now through January 31st, help feed those in need by donating food to your local food bank.

Visit to find a food bank and a list of the most needed nutritious foods.

For more information about "Operation No Kid Hungry" and how you can helpend childhood hunger, visit Share Our Strength's website:

There are also more ways you can help get the word out, including bannersfor your blog and social networking pages here:

Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner

Featured Charity of The Week

If you're looking for a cause...

American Red Cross