November 11th, 2014 |


apple of my eye first birthday party by wh hostessWhen you plan kids’ parties for a living, and have even written a book called “Stylish Kids’ Parties”, there is a lot of pressure to “wow” when it comes to your own child’s birthday.  I’ve been planning other people’s kids’ parties for almost 6 years now, so I was thrilled to finally be able to design one for my own!  This birthday was bittersweet in a lot of ways.  I had so much fun planning the party to celebrate my little man, but yet felt a little sadness that I am sure all parents can relate to – my baby is growing up and this first year flew by in such a flash.  I really wish there was a way to stop time, just for a little while. But, alas, there is not – so a celebration was in order!

Since Daniel’s birthday falls the end of October, I knew I wanted the theme to reflect the season, be held outdoors at our local park’s amazing pavilion, and have a classic, timeless theme that I wouldn’t look back upon and cringe 20 years from now.  So, the “Apple of our Eye” theme was born and I chose to design a new collection around a red, green and black & white color palette.


We are so fortunate to live in a community with amazing parks and facilities.  This little stone and shingle house sits in our favorite park and served as the perfect location for the party.  It was a WINDY day.  You’ll notice that from some of the pictures!  All of my food tent cards and tags were literally flying around the park and eventually just had to be removed.  Linens would fly up occasionally, balloons would go wild.  But we had fun!

I decorated the picnic tables with solid colored linens, and custom-made toppers.  I alternated the toppers between our mod apple pattern fabric and a bold, black and white buffalo check fabric that I found at IKEA.  I had them all edged in a green pom pom trim to tie together the look.  Each table held a white ceramic bushel basket full of either wheat grass or apples, with a 36″ red balloon from Shop Sweet Lulu soaring above.


The main focal point of the pavilion is a big stone fireplace, so I filled that with large tissue paper balls in red, white and green and placed a chalkboard poster I designs of all of Daniel’s “stats” (how big he is, how many teeth he has, his favorite foods, book, things to do, etc).  And then I also designed a poster that sat on an easel featuring his monthly photos so everyone could see how much he had changed over the year.

We had a special time capsule box where guests could write Daniel a note, or draw him a picture (he had a lot of little cousins there to help him celebrate) and place it in the box to be opened on his 18th birthday.

DSC_0986We set up one long table for food & drinks, and tried to keep it all very “picnic in the park”.  A drink dispenser with apple cider, water bottles with coordinating labels, and juice boxes for the kids.  Big “1” stickers adorned the cups, and striped straws were accessorized with  “Daniel turns 1″ foil-stamped straw flags.  I also had red beverage napkins floating around for drinks and desserts that were stamped with an apple logo in a white matte foil.  You know me, little touches here and there to brand the party!


DSC_0909napkin and straws

The food and drink buffet was dressed in a red tablecloth and we used all-white serving dishes to really make the delicious food pop off the table.  Since I knew it would be windy, I decided to forgo the traditional food tent cards, and used chalkboard stands as labels.

DSC_0926The main centerpiece was one of my favorite decor items from the party.  I had dreamed it up in my head and wasn’t sure it would actually work (or look good) until I assembled it that day.  But, I loved how it turned out and hope you do too.  I used a big white urn, embellished with an apple centerpiece cling, and placed a styrofoam wreath form on top, before placing a white mums plant into it.  Skewered apples were then inserted into the wreath form until I made it full and the flowers were kind of sitting on the apples.  I love that it’s a touch sophisticated, and yet playful all at the same time!

DSC_0904DSC_0906Signage and napkin ties helped to brand our table with the apple theme.  To make it simple for our guests, I placed the stack of plates and silverware rolls all in one basket for an easy grab.

DSC_0908DSC_0922As I mentioned above, I wanted to keep the menu very “picnic in the park”, so we included deviled eggs, fresh fruit, potato salad, sandwiches, little bags of chips, a fall cobb salad, and little cups of applesauce for the kids (embellished with a coordinating sticker and cute red spoons, of course).  I dressed up plastic condiment bottles with red labels so we didn’t have different bottles messing up my color-coordinated table. 😉


The playground at the park kept the children VERY busy, but we did also have two games for them to play.  A ring toss game that I made to coordinate with the party (I spray-painted wine bottles red and green and placed them in an embellished basket), and a potato sack race that got a lot of giggles (especially when my husband got in on the action!).


The dessert table served as one of the focal parts of the party space and I had a lot of fun pulling it all together. I anchored the table in a black tablecloth and our custom-printed fabric backdrop.  If you look closely, you will see that a few of the leaves on the backdrop are three dimensional – I glued felt leaves on it to make it “pop!”

22Desserts included a birthday cake and smash cake from our local bakery, Deerfield’s Bakery.  Side note: every birthday cake I have ever had + my wedding cake came from Deerfield’s.  It’s a tradition that I am so happy to pass down to my son!  Daniel’s smash cake was embellished with a darling fondant apple made for me by Edible Details.

Caramel apples, apple cupcakes, mini rice krispy treats, and brownie bites topped with gingham and striped toppers from Edible Details, personalized sugar cookies from Flourish Sweet Shop, chocolate-covered oreos with cute little apples on top from Bella’s Bakery and Bowtique, and apple pie caramels from Firefly Confections.  It was a tasty line-up, my friends!


I also had a couple jars of candy from sour apple gumballs, red licorice wheels, and colorful bubblegum crayons that were a hit with the kiddos!


Food tent cards, candy jar tags, and coordinating Cake Plate Clings helped tie everything together, and I had little red striped bags with stickers on them for the kids to fill up with candy to bring home.

DSC_022136″ Red balloons anchored both sides of the table, and I tied them with black & white gingham check ribbon embellished with apple and “1” tags at the ends.



DSC_0514This was Daniel’s very first taste of sweets and he was a little unsure about the cake smash.  He also had about 15 little cousins cheering him on and was slightly overwhelmed.  But once we helped him with a little lick of frosting – he certainly enjoyed it!

DSC_0079In keeping with our theme, I sent each of our guests home with a caramel apple (full of red, green and white sprinkles) tied with black and white gingham ribbon and a gift tag.

DSC_0985We displayed them on a little red bar cart my mother has, and I placed a chalkboard-like sign on the table thanking people for joining us to celebrate.

party favorsHappy 1st Birthday, Baby Boy!  I hope you know how much joy you bring to our lives EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.


October 28th, 2014 |


introAs you know, this season I have partnered with Friskies and Petsmart to throw a fabulous Grumpy Cat themed Halloween party for my friends and family.  In the last couple of weeks, I shared a very simple party decoration that makes a big impact for very little effort.  Check out my paper fan halloween decorations here.  My meringue ghosts and pumpkin soda bottles were a hit – and oh, so simple to create.  (A perfect idea for you to recreate for your kids this weekend!) And last week, I shared two simple DIY projects: a candy corn paper cone for party favors and a glittered initial pumpkin!  Today, I’m so excited to share the full details of my pumpkin-carving party!

DSC_0823This party was centered around The Grumpy Cat and the amazing pumpkin stencil that Friskies is providing. If you would like to carve the perfect Grumpy Cat Pumpkin (or “Grumpkin”).  Friskies and Petsmart were kind enough to provide us with a downloadable template to make that part a snap. You can join the fun by downloading the Grump-O-Lantern stencil available at and uploading images of your personal Grump-O-Lantern, including the #Grumpkin hashtag and #ThePartyDress hashtag.

kidsI invited over my favorite little people and their parents for a festive pumpkin carving party, full of cute costumes and sweet treats.

DSC_0675I set my tables with bold black and white buffalo check tablecloths, and embellished them with classic Halloween colors: orange, green and a touch of purple.  The kids placesettings held a mini pumpkin with their initial glittered on it.  (see my post here for the DIY tips) These were a hit!

kids pumpkinFor a centerpiece, I piled up mini white pumpkins on a cake stand, and embellished a few with glittered polka dots and ribbon.  I also created black cat centerpiece sticks to put in pots full of wheat grass, one of my signature party decor ideas.  I loved the pop of green on the table!

centerpiece stickpumpkins

My paper fan party decorations hung on the walls behind the dessert table and made for a great photo backdrop.  (get the DIY tips here)

diy projectThe kids LOVED their orange soda pumpkin bottles (get my DIY tips here), and the rest of the drinks were dressed up with paper cups and pumpkins straws.


pumpkin strawsThe sweet treats are ALWAYS the big excitement at a party.  I pulled together this festive dessert table using sweets from the grocery store and embellishing them with a few custom creations.

dessert table 2The table included cupcakes and brownie bites embellished with fondant cats and pumpkins by Edible Details, an oreo cookie “cake”, sugar cookies, tubes of candy corn from with “meow” flags on them, marshmallow “ghost” bags, and my meringue ghosts (see my recipe here).  I added a couple of 36″ orange balloons, and grass plants with my black cat centerpiece sticks for accents.

DSC_0777cupcakesDSC_0771dessertsThe kids had a blast, and it was so fun to get together and have another opportunity for them to wear their costumes!  Here is a picture of my little lion:

lionAs a party favor, I sent the kids home with “candy corn” paper cones full of candy!  You can download the template to make the cones here.  It was such a great party to throw, and the kids all LOVE the Grumpy Cat!


As a reminder, Friskies will donate $500 to PetSmart Charities on behalf of the blogger whose audience uploads the most #Grumpkin images.  Don’t forget to tag #ThePartyDress, too!  So grab that pumpkin stencil off their website and show us your creative pumpkins!


October 16th, 2014 |



Baby showers can be elegant and fun, but one thing is always missing: the baby! Why not follow a Southern tradition and celebrate after the little one’s arrival? A Sip & See is the perfect way to toast the whole family.

invitationHere are a few of my tips when hosting a Sip & See:

WHEN TO HAVE IT: Host a casual open house after the baby is a month or two old. Schedule it during a non-meal time, with a start and finish time (2-5pm) so the family’s day won’t be too interrupted.

WHO TO INVITE: Local friends and family of the parents and grandparents. If a grandparent lives out of town, they may host one to introduce the baby upon his first visit.

INVITATIONS: Most baby shower invitations can be customized for a Sip & See. Make sure to include both the baby and parents’ names on the invitation.  We love our new anchor party invitation!

DECORATIONS: Unlike a baby shower, we encourage you to keep the focus on the baby! Select a simple color palette and repeat it thru your serving dishes, simple floral arrangements and party favors.

FOOD & DRINK: Set-up a self-serve bar and buffet table with simple nibbles on it. Bite-size appetizers and desserts are perfect for an afternoon treat. In addition to champagne, make sure you have a non-alcoholic punch or drink dispenser full of fruit-infused water.

DSC_0619DSC_0321COUTURE COOKIES: Work with a cookie designer to create coordinating, personalized sugar cookies for your Sip & See. They make a lovely addition to your buffet table, and can also serve as a darling party favor.  These darling cookies are by Flourish Sweet Shop.

book 2
cardsACTIVITIES: Since toasting the family should remain the focus of a Sip & see, gift-opening typically doesn’t take place. Encourage guests to leave little notes of encouragement for the parents, or wishes for the baby. These can be placed in a small album as a keepsake for the family.


October 15th, 2014 |


3One of my favorite parts of my job is working with clients to create a custom party perfectly suited to their child.  These photos capture Parker’s first birthday party: full of polka dots, stripes and a cheery color palette of turquoise, green and yellow.  Held at a local kids’ play facility, Parker’s mom focused her energy on a cute tablesetting and stylized food tables.  We created the paper goods and fabric for the event and just love how it turned out!  Read on for more darling pics….

26541Darling party for such a darling little boy!  Happy 1st Birthday, Parker!

Images by Erin Reed Photography

October 7th, 2014 |


grumpy cat halloween party decorationsToday, I am so excited to announce my partnership with Friskies and Petsmart to throw a Grumpy Cat themed Halloween party for my friends and family.  Have you ever seen The Grumpy Cat?  He’s HILARIOUS and my little friends LOVE him.  So I was thrilled with the opportunity to design a party that I know they will get a kick out of.  Over the next three weeks, I am going to share my tips and ideas for throwing this theme party.  I hope it inspires you to throw your own party!

suppliesI want to create a simple DIY party decoration that fills up some blank walls and is theme appropriate.  I came up with these simple paper fan decorations.  Using basic supplies and a little creativity, you can take a plain paper fan and turn it into a black cat, a pumpkin, a red devil…the options are endless!  For this Halloween party, I think the black cat and pumpkin are just perfect.

Here’s how to do it:

Gather up your supplies: paper fans, solid color scrapbook paper for accents (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc), scissors and double-stick tape.

Open up your paper fans, and cut out your accents from the scrapbook paper.  I chose to do ears, eyes and a nose on my cat, and a stem, eyes and mouth on my pumpkin.

diy stepYou can secure your accents with double-stick tape, or glue if you wish for them to be more permanent.  And voila – they are complete and ready to be hung as party decor.  Simple, inexpensive and quick to make!  My kind of party decoration! 😉

tableNow, if you are interested in planning your own Grumpy Cat party, the first step is to visit to download the exclusive Friskies Grump-O-Lantern pumpkin stencil.  Your kids will get such a kick out of carving a Grumpy Cat pumpkin (or a “Grumpkin”!). Upload and share your Grumpy Cat pumpkin carving masterpiece to their site or any social media site using #Grumpkin and #ThePartyDress.

Friskies will donate $500 to PetSmart Charities on behalf of the blogger whose audience uploads the most #Grumpkin images.  Don’t forget to tag #ThePartyDress, too!


September 29th, 2014 |


apple party itemsI can hardly believe that I am about to utter these words, but…..I’M. PLANNING. A. FIRST. BIRTHDAY. PARTY.  Already!  This has been the fastest year of my life and I truly can’t believe we are here already.  I’ve spent the last 6 years planning birthday parties for other people’s children, so I am SO excited to finally be able to plan one for my own.

I wanted to choose a theme that was fun, somewhat seasonal, yet would have a very classic undertone.  A theme that when we look back at pictures 10-20 years from now, it wouldn’t seem trendy or outdated.  So, an “apple of our eye” theme was chosen.  I knew right away that I wanted to incorporate a gingham check into the paper goods, but went a little un-traditional by opting for a black and white pattern.  Mixing it with my “mod apple” pattern, a lot of crisp white accents, and a little chalkboard accent, I think it’s going to be really fun and playful.

We are having the party at our local park and other than getting the invitations in the mail and the start of this little vision board…..I haven’t done much else!  3 weeks to go and so much planning to do!  Do you have any ideas that you think would be perfect for this theme?  Pass them on!!

Images: paper goods by, ceramic bushel baskets by, black and white buffalo check fabric by, apple fabric by, red 36″ balloons by

September 26th, 2014 |


baby stationery personalized notecards and tips for writing thank you notes

Thank you notes can be a tedious process, especially with a newborn. People tend to underestimate the power of the hand-written thank you note. Some think it is better to send an immediate e-mail or simply say thanks in person. But, a hand-written note is the ideal way to show your appreciation. Follow our tips to simplify the process and write a charming note.


We prefer classic notecards that stand the test of time. A simple stripe, a soft gingham check, or a perfect monogram to share your baby’s new “logo” are an excellent choice. If you are sending thank you notes around the same time as your birth announcements, coordinating them is a lovely option.


One of the best suggestions we can give you is to create or update your address list prior to your baby’s arrival. Creating a cohesive resource list saves you time and also can allow your husband to help you address thank you notes and birth announcements!


Thank you notes for baby shower gifts should be sent within three weeks of the shower, unless the baby has made an early arrival. Once a baby has arrived, you have a little more time to get notes sent. However, we encourage you to send them within 3 months of receiving the gift.


No matter how badly you wish to type up a letter, or even send an e-mail to express your thanks – please don’t! A handwritten note will best express your gratitude and warm the hearts of the people who put thought into a gift for your baby.


Not just in the personalized stationery, but in what you actually say in the note. Make sure to express your thanks for the specific item that was gifted to your baby, and offer how you plan to use it. Close by mentioning a time you hope to see the person in the future, or possibly introduce your child to them.


Show your personality in your note, don’t try to be too formal if you aren’t. Don’t over exaggerate your love of the item gifted, and never mention an exact amount of money.


No act of kindness is too small in my opinion! If someone took the time to bring you a meal, or take your older children on a playdate so you could spend some time with the baby – thank them properly!

Along with the launch of our digital magazine, BABY by WH HOSTESS, also came a new collection of baby stationery.  Featuring soft colors, and classic patterns such as stripes, gingham checks and polka dots, our personalized flat notecards ooze that fresh baby look.  And, as an added bonus, they coordinate perfectly with our baby shower invitations and birth announcements!

classic preppy personalized stationery for baby

September 25th, 2014 |


When it came time to put together the BABY by WH HOSTESS issue, I knew I wanted to invite a few friends to share their tips and ideas.  Of course, I went straight to the ladies at Project Nursery + Project Junior!  Melisa and Pam run, a trusted source for its millions of readers who are in search of children’s design inspiration.  They were the perfect people to ask “what’s your favorite baby shower gift?”

baby by wh hostess digital magazineMelisa and Pam came up with great gift ideas that are perfect for both mama and baby.  You can read all about them in the issue (click on the images or HERE), and the truly exciting news….they just launched an e-commerce shop where you can now search for baby nursery décor and gifts.  To say we’re excited is an understatement!

PN spread

The shop’s mission is to offer carefully curated products and exclusive collaborations with brands that meet Project Nursery’s discerning taste in an effort to elevate nursery design. Simply put, The Project Nursery Shop offers parents access to incredible products that guarantee a well-designed nursery.

Mindful of the fact that new parents are often overwhelmed by the children’s market, Project Nursery purposefully selects the best items in each category to reflect what is trending in nursery design. Project Nursery plans to strategically update its products, all while continuing to offer a small assortment of timeless products that are handcrafted and of high quality.


Project Nursery Co-Founders, Melisa Fluhr and Pam Ginocchio have been fielding the same questions year after year: Who makes that bedding? What color is that? Where can I find that rug? “The answer is easy,” said Fluhr. “Our active community has been our main source of inspiration over the last 6+ years. As our audience and traffic continues to flourish, it’s important that we listen to our readers. This means providing access to the most coveted décor items found in our Project Gallery pages via The Project Nursery Shop.” The new shop offers a wide selection of products such as paint, furniture, bedding, room decor, party decor and gifts for both mom and baby.

Congratulations!  We can’t wait to shop!

September 24th, 2014 |


tips for photographing a newborn



photographing newborns

Light, light, light! It is so important to have really great natural light. Babies are so naturally beautiful you want to make sure that the lighting in your pictures is as natural as possible. I love shooting early in the morning in a room with lots of windows and if possible on a bright overcast day. The soft natural lighting will eliminate your little one.

Tip 2

tips for photographing newborns

Simplicity. I love simple, beautiful and natural pictures. The baby should be the main subject in your picture. While backdrops are cute, real life backdrops are more natural and classic. Your pictures will never be dated and will never go out of style. Get rid of all the extra stuff (stuffed animals, signs and props). You want your back ground to be clean. I think a great location for a newborn shoot is a bed. Clear the extra clutter off your nightstands, dressers ect. You can’t go wrong with simple!

Tip 3

ideas for newborn photography

Dressing your baby. Wraps are timeless. Babies seem to sleep deeper if they are swaddled and you will be able to play with them more for pictures while they are in a deep sleep. I love the beautiful Aden & Anais wraps and they are easy to find on Amazon, target or a baby store. Make sure you get the blankets that are plain colors. Once your swaddle them tightly you can add a cute hat, bow or just leave them as they are.

Tip 4

photographing a baby

Preparing your Baby for the Shoot. When you shoot a newborn you want to make sure the heat in the house is turned up. Make sure it is warmer then normal. This will help them sleep and stay asleep. Make sure the baby is fully fed and their diaper is clean. It takes patients and time to photograph a newborn.

Tip 5

tips for photographing babies

P.S. That is Kelly’s son Daniel!

Your Camera. This amazing instrument can feel like a very daunting task to figure out. I would recommend you read the manual. I know that sounds like a silly tip to give, but honestly so many people have these great cameras and never pick up the manual. Auto is a great tool that all these cameras have, but there is so so so much more to them then just the auto click and capture. If you are getting adventurous Throw your camera in M (manual) and keep the lens in AF(auto focus) play with your ISO settings. If you want to keep it simple for now then keep it in auto and play with your angels. Don’t be scared to off center your picture or to take your picture from farther away. An inch one direction or another can change a picture.

“Photography is so much fun and can be so rewarding. It take a lot of patients and practice. Keep playing with that camera and you will be so happy with the images you create all on your own. If you have any questions or would like me to photograph your newborn, please reach out to me, Now grab that camera and get to work!”

~ Katie Gierke of Kathryn Hastings Photography

For more tips, follow Katie on Facebook.  If you are interested in a shoot in the Chicagoland area, please contact her thru her website,


September 23rd, 2014 |


After waiting nine long months for your little bundle of joy to arrive, you are naturally eager to share the news with your friends and family. Birth announcements are a wonderful way to introduce your precious baby to the world, yet proper birth announcement etiquette can leave new parents with questions. We’re hoping to answer those today and also introduce you to the new birth announcement collection from WH Hostess (featured in the new digital magazine BABY by WH HOSTESS).

birth announcements intro


While it’s wise to have a short list of announcements selected prior to your baby’s birth, we encourage you to select a design that compliments the photo of your newborn.  (see tips from Kathryn Hastings Photography tomorrow on the blog!)


With social media so available these days, chances are the arrival of your baby was news minutes after it happened. A classic birth announcement should be sent out within the first 6 months of life. We like to encourage clients to aim for sometime within the first 3 months!


Clients often ask us how many cards they should order, and that is a very personal question. The simple answer is: send them to whoever you think would want to celebrate your big news. This may include you family, best friends, neighbors, coworkers, workout buddies, old college friends. Bottom line, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the arrival of your brand new baby?


You should absolutely include your baby’s full name, birth date, and height and weight. Make sure to include “welcomed with love” followed by the parents’ names or “Daniel has a little sister” to include the whole family in the joy. Don’t include any registry information on your birth announcement. If recipients wish to send your little one a gift, they will seek out the information. If you do receive gifts for your baby, don’t forget to send a thank you note as soon as possible, though it is acceptable to take up to three months.


Can you send a birth announcement for an adoption? Absolutely! What if your baby was a premie in the NICU for 2 months? We suggest sending announcements once the baby comes home. Bottom line, there are no rules and you can make up your own guidelines for your specific situation.

Printed on a luxe, smooth cardstock with classic, yet updated designs that ooze that fresh baby look, here are a few of our favorite new birth announcements from WH Hostess:

birth announcements by wh hostess

And if you can’t find the perfect card to suit your image, or are looking for a more unique design, please contact Kelly to inquire about a custom design.

custom birth announcements by wh hostess

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