Drew and I are six years into marriage, and every single passing year we look at each other and say, “What on earth were we thinking?” when we look back at what we registered for and purchased in the early days as newlyweds. So many things (an embarrassing amount) were completely unnecessary (brand new iMac) or useless (I’m looking at you, expensive Haverty’s couch with a “protection plan” that’s worthless).

{throwbacks from my bridal shower, circa 2012!}

Other things have been instrumental and we couldn’t live without — our coffee grinder and french press have gotten literally daily use, for example. So without further ado, here is my must-have wedding registry recommendation list, six years in the making:

  • Organic cotton sheets (2-3 sets). The softest I’ve found, good quality, pretty colors.
  • Good pillows (~4).
  • A beautiful neutral bedspread / comforter / duvet / quilt / whatever you fancy.
  • Nice, fluffy towels, handtowels, washcloths (~4-8 each). We registered for some from Target, Macy’s (Ralph Lauren brand), and bought a couple from Steinmart in recent years. The RL ones were the softest, but they have unraveled and look awful now. Steinmart was awful quality (wouldn’t recommend at all!). Target’s aren’t as soft but they’ve held up the best. Note:  the gray faded/discolored quickly. Maybe towels just aren’t meant to last terribly long? If you have some holy grail towels, please comment below! Also, the older I get the more I value solid white.
  • If you drink coffee — a French coffee press & coffee grinder. Like I said before, NECESSARY. We only get whole bean coffee and I tell you, it’s the best.
  • Simple, minimalist, quality china. I love fine china, but it’s pricey and can be impractical, especially if you are always fearful you’re going to break it (so you never use it) or if it has metallic detailing (can’t microwave it). We used a green and gold-trimmed set I got from a flea market back in college for the first few years of marriage, but ultimately wanted something simpler and more practical that would last forever. I think there’s much to be said for beautiful basic china — you can always dress it up later with linens, napkins, glassware, and table accessories. I recommend a total of 12 place settings.
  • A set of placemats or chargers you’re enamored with. We got a beautiful set of capiz shell round placemats and I still LOVE them. This is another way you can dress up your table settings with super simple china!
  • Nice flatware. I like flatware with heft. We went with stainless steel but gold and rose gold are popular these days. If you don’t think you’ll see them as outdated in a few years, go for the more fun metals! I’m not into anything with wood or other material detailing; it tends to fall off and seems cheap.
  • Quality crystal glassware. Once again, we went simple on these — a set of highball and a set of lowball glasses, not TOO delicate but not too bulky.
  • If you drink wine, good wine glasses. I’m not one for drinking wine out of a juice glass! Also, a corkscrew (our electric bottle opener died!). Champagne bottle sealer if you don’t like to waste sparkling wine (and can make it last longer than a night!).
  • If you bake, a nice Kitchen-Aid mixer is pretty instrumental. I also recommend a hand mixer (for mashed potatoes, frosting, and any baked goods that you don’t want to break out the Kitchen-Aid for). Here’s my extensive list of other good-to-haves for baking/cooking couples: a couple of metal mixing bowls, a mesh sieve, a solid rubber spatula, a cookie scoop, a peeler, a cheese grater, salad servers, a flat metal spatula, tongs, an airlock cookie sheet and silpat silicone baking mat (if you plan to make cookies), a couple of 8″ or 9″ cake pans (if you plan to make layer cakes) and some magi-cake strips, a glass pie dish (if you plan to bake pies), a 9″ square metal pan (if you plan to make brownies), a glass liquid measuring cup, metal measuring cups (for flour, sugar, etc), measuring spoons, a sifter, a whisk, a garlic press, a can opener, some beautiful kitchen towels and oven mitt / potholder, a few Pyrex glass dishes for keeping leftovers, and a casserole dish (Thanksgiving!).
  • If you like super simple / easy / mindless cooking, I recommend a Joule (for sous vide cooking! It’s simpler than it sounds!) and/or a crockpot. I don’t have / haven’t tried an Instant Pot or an Air Fryer, but we’ve heard good things!
  • A food processor. We use this for shredding cheese, making nut butter, pizza sauce, pesto, you name it.
  • A glass blender. Vitamix is the holy grail (and can be considered potentially necessary if you make smoothies daily) but I have a glass one from college that has served us well. The plastic ones just don’t hold up as well! We use this for chipotle shrimp, blended soups, protein shakes.
  • Good knives. You don’t need a million, but good, heavy-duty, sharp knives are a NECESSITY. Nothing infuriates me more when traveling or maneuvering through friends’ kitchens where there are no good knives. And a cutting board. Bonus points if it’s beautiful and can serve double-duty as a serving block.
  • Heavy-duty dutch oven and a few good pots/pans. Ours are copper and work like a charm. You don’t need anything ultra fancy but they should be a little heavy and solid metal. I also use a 10″ nonstick skillet daily for frying eggs.
  • A quality broom & dustpan, trashcan, mop, and bucket for cleaning. A plunger, toilet brush, bathroom-size trashcans.
  • If you have carpet, a good vacuum. Possibly a Roomba / iRobot vacuum. I don’t have one (and we have only hardwood), but I’ve heard they’re life-changing!
  • A lingerie laundry bag, a steamer, an iron, a wicker hamper (or whatever you like!), a large canvas tote (or whatever you like!) for collecting dirty laundry. We registered for (and got) a laundry sorter that had a built-in ironing board, but we really only used it in our first apartment (now it holds a bunch of random office supplies in my office closet) so I don’t particularly recommend one of those. If you’re debating between iron vs. steamer, I have to say I love and use my steamer more often (and the best one I’ve ever gotten was a simple travel steamer from Amazon!). We don’t have a traditional ironing board because we don’t need or want to store one.
  • Good, matching hangers. We have wooden ones but the velvet ones take up less space.
Minimalist China
Capiz Shell Placemats
Gold Flatware
Crystal Glasses
AirBake Cookie Sheets
Silpat
Magi-Cake Strips
Garlic Press
Cutting/Serving Board
Iron
Travel Steamer
Wooden Hangers
Roomba
Set of Pots & Pans
Le Creuset French Oven
Calphalon Knives
Vitamix Blender
Crock-Pot
Joule sous vide
Kate Spade kitchen towel set
french press

Other words of wisdom I have for newlyweds:  Hold off on adopting pets, buying expensive furniture or technology, or trying to fill every square inch of your new home together right off the bat. There is much to be said for taking your time curating a home full of things you LOVE (and not just clutter that takes up space). Quality > Quantity! Think about your NEEDS versus your WANTS, know that wealth is how much money you KEEP (rather than how much you SPEND), read Rich Dad Poor Dad and rethink the whole “American Dream” (it’s garbage, truly!).

Please note this resource guide includes some Amazon affiliate links that may earn a small commission if you make a purchase from using them.
I use these (as well as plenty of other non-affiliate links!) to illustrate exactly what I use and love at home.

let's flamingle purple pink birthday

For months we’ve been planning Lilly Beth’s pink & purple flamingo party — the ultimate culmination of all of LB’s favorite things. It just so happened that our timing was perfect with store’s summer entertaining launches; the mass availability of flamingo party goods was definitely helpful! The week of her party we hit up Michael’s and they had a huge spread of flamingo and palm party goods — banners, plates, tumblers, drink canisters, you name it. Target’s Dollar Spot was another godsend; we got everything from the mini lawn flamingos (also available here) to her inflatable ring toss game (similar), to a tiny flamingo-shaped chapstick (and girlfriend’s OBSESSED with chapstick), there. A trip this morning demonstrated they’re still not done unveiling all the flamingo goodies either — they had precious printed straws (similar) and all kinds of cool things, so if you’re planning a ‘mingo party STOCK UP!

purple-pink-flamingo-partyflamingo-birthday-purple

I’ve learned a lot over the last four kid birthday parties I’ve thrown:  don’t plan a party that coincides with naptime, don’t get too ambitious with DIY projects if you don’t have the time to do them in advance, bake anything special in advance (cakes and cookies can be frozen!), check back frequently with party supply sources like Marshall’s and HomeGoods since inventory changes so often, balloon arches will stay immaculate 24 – 48 hours after construction & balloon arch strip is your best friend, not every party needs an elaborate food spread, don’t get so caught up in the details that you miss the guests and the experience, ultimately it’s about the kid you’re celebrating and not the details… you get the picture. For this party, I knew I wanted to bake her cake (bakery cakes are stunning but $$$, and rarely allergy-safe!) but not take on any crazy cooking endeavors (she requested pizza and chocolate milk, so Domino’s and Yoo-Hoos it was!). I also am ALLLLL about the edible party favor (anyone else feel the physical pain of purchasing cheap plastic trinkets that are just going to get thrown out immediately by the partygoers’ moms? just me?) and had a cute flamingo cookie cutter from years ago that I just had to use. I practiced my best sugar cookie recipe (soft but holds its shape — the secret is to freeze the dough after you’ve cut them out but before you bake!) and made a second attempt at royal icing (not remotely perfect but did the job).

Ever since my 24′ balloon wall for the Church of the Hills 3rd Birthday party, I’ve gotten more ambitious with balloon structures. I love balloons, since they make a visual impact without much fuss or expense, and I love the reaction the girls get when they see “their party” hung up on the wall. For the past four parties, I’ve put up my balloon wall table right to the left of our front door as you walk in to our house (also visible from the main stairway), so it’s the first thing you see and immediately sets the tone – PARTY TIME, y’all! In the past, I’ve done cute signage for drink dispensers and varying heights for stacking food, but this time I just did the cake on the main table on a simple clear cake stand (exact one in white) and put up a picture of the birthday girl in complementary colors.

flamingo-pineapple-party-detailspink-flamingo-paper-goodsfunfetti cake with raspberry swiss meringue buttercreamflamingo-birthday-coloring-pages

One project I knew I wanted to repeat this year was the custom coloring pages as interactive birthday cards. I googled flamingo & birthday cake clip art and created a little graphic with bubble letters (SO EASY!). The only unfortunate part was that the “coloring station” got covered up by birthday presents so we all forgot to color them. There’s always something that goes totally forgotten! Ah well.

flamingo-party-detailscoral-pink-flamingo-bubblelet's flamingle flamingo birthday partypink-flamingo-party-details

We saw this pineapple pinata at Target a few weeks before the party and knew we had to have it! It matched the design of our Zazzle invitations perfectly. The pinata stick was a Walmart find — it took a good deal of hiding it and keeping it out of reach from two little girls who were determined to rip off all the tissue paper (and eat it), but it served its purpose well (and will be used for years to come — all the cousins, ages 1 – 10, are super into pinatas right now, haha!). We found the little flamingo-printed party bags at Michael’s. Most stores have pinata candy mixes, but we had to go for something allergy-friendly for Lilly. We found a jumbo bag of mixed Tootsie Roll treats (gluten-free, peanut free, tree nut free!) on clearance from Easter and filled in the rest with watermelon Dum-Dums. (Did you know Walmart carries solid color lollipops in bulk in their party section?) That thing was HEAVY by the end of all the candy-stuffing! (I’m also totally a fan of non-food pinata treats… dollar sections, party sections, and Amazon have plenty of little trinkets that work great. Bubbles, chapstick, stickers, window clings are all options that are not *too* junky. And definitely pinata party bags are “good enough” as the parting favors!)

tropical-party-detailspineapple-party-detailsflamingo-party-playingflamingo-outfit-purseLB got this ADORABLE little flamingo purse from our dear friend Mariah — so perfect, right? I’ve seen them in store at The Children’s Place but couldn’t find it online. Tooooo cute! Lilly literally thanked God that night “For Jesus, Easter, my party, and my purses.” Another huge hit was a purse that came with a pretend bottle of nail polish (it actually unscrews and has a little brush for “painting” — PERFECT), pretend lipstick, a little iPhone dupe, credit cards…. the whole gamut. Girlfriend is SPOILED!

pink-flamingo-party-favorsflamingo-birthday-bubble-dress

Source List:

Photography – John Michael Simpson
Balloons – Amazon, Walmart, Dollar Tree
Balloon Decorating Strip – Amazon
“Let’s Flamingle” Banner, Flamingo Cake Plates, Goody Bags – Michael’s
Pineapple Cocktail Napkins – At Home
Mini Lawn Flamingo Cake Topper, Flamingo Ring Toss Game, Flamingo Coasters, Pineapple Pinata, Tall Birthday Candles, Lavender Forks – Target
Custom Flamingo Bubble & Dress – My mom
Custom Flamingo Birthday Coloring Pages – DIY

aqua-mermaid-smocked-bubbleMy sweet little babe turned one year old this past February! It’s incredible how fast a year can fly, especially after you’ve already gone through a “first year of life” before that seemed to be so fast but pales in comparison.

The inspiration for Julianna Cate’s birthday party theme came from her beloved knit mermaid doll rattle, which was gifted to her by one of her namesakes (the Cate/Kate part) at her Sip & See last spring. That mermaid was a permanent staple in the diaper bag and always clutched closely everywhere we went! (So much so, all but two or three of the little red spiral curls fell out over the course of a few months…) Lilly always liked to insist on bringing baby her “burnaid” and we didn’t dare put her in childcare at church or the barre studio without her little lovey.

folksy-mermaid-birthdayaqua-coral-mermaid-party-foodfirst-birthday-smash-cake mermaid-party-balloon-archaqua-coral-mermaid-cake

I tend to not reinvent the wheel with my party themes, but I do like to take my own spin off of popular parties — there’s no doubt that mermaid parties have ruled the roost for little kids in recent years, but I wanted to do something separate from the normal purple and aqua glitter events all over Pinterest. I was inspired by MeriMeri’s “Let’s be Mermaids!” line of party supplies and ended up finding the perfect invitations via SplendidSupplyCo. The little wavy redheaded mermaids reminded me so much of our little gingerbear!

I ended up going budget-friendly for paper goods, since party planning happened to coincide with my need to pare down on extraneous expenses. Luckily I stumbled upon the prettiest robin’s egg blue plates, cups, and napkins at Walmart, of all places! The invitations dictated our overall color scheme of robin’s egg blue, orange, coral, and a pale peachy-pink.

mermaid-cakewhale-napkin-holderdulce-desserts-mermaid-cake

We opted to go with our standby baker (who also did our wedding cake and Lilly’s first birthday cake) for AnnaCate’s birthday cake. She did a beautiful swiss buttercream-frosted cake (with a peach background and scalloped pearl detailing) in an almond flavor with chocolate ganache and white chocolate buttercream, complete with a sparkly green number one and a little oyster glittered pendant with AC’s name on it (echoing the same details from Lilly’s first birthday cake!). Her pastry artists made some of the prettiest little glittery sugar seashells, too! I die!

I decided to take the slightly easier route when it came to AnnaCate’s cake smash ensemble — while I did still make her little custom birthday hat, I ordered the mermaid tail 1 onesie from a vendor on Etsy. It turned out super cute (and saved me the expense of having to buy an embroidery design file and the tiny bit of sequined fabric to make it).

My ultra-talented mom made the girls their mermaid smocked dress & jumper (matching their hair colors, of course).

mermaid-tale-embroidered-onesiemermaid-smocked-dressmermaid-outfits-dress-bubble

Our menu was fairly simple but totally on-theme:  goldfish crackers, chicken salad “crab”ssants, spinach “seaweed” dip, “driftwood” pretzels… I intended to make some aqua “sea sponge” marshmallows but time eluded me. Another day! I did make little alligator-shaped sugar cookies for the parting favors. They had little tags that read “Sea you later! Love, AnnaCator”, alluding to baby’s nickname (since changing her is seriously like wrestling a gator. That baby is STRONG!). I was super stoked about the “mango mermosas” too — Trader Joe’s Secco + Mango juice; easy, perfect, delicious, and totally appropriate.

mermaid-party-favorsmermaid-party-drinksspinach-artichoke-dip-trader-joesmermaid-party-drinks

mermaid-party-cakeseersucker-monogrammed-birthday-hat

Sources:

Photography – Christy Wilson Photography
Invitations, Tags – SplendidSupplyCo via Zazzle
My dress – Marie Oliver
Girls’ mermaid outfits – DIY (My mom / smocked plate here)
Balloons – Walmart, Target, Amazon
Cake – Dulce Desserts
Mermaid Tail Picks – Michael’s
Mermaid Table Runner – Target toddler sheet
Mermaid Tail One Onesie – Etsy
Whale Organizer – Pottery Barn Kids
Food, Custom Birthday Hat – DIY

 

We celebrated Lilly Beth’s third birthday this weekend with a fabulous pink & purple flamingo party! This party has been in the works for months — we talked about doing a dinosaur party last fall, but after AnnaCate’s mermaid shindig in February, our shared spirit animal won out and flamingos it was.

Lilly isn’t a big cake girl; she will eat copious spoonfuls of cake batter, but when it comes to cupcakes or a slice of cake, she usually just licks off the frosting and discards the rest. I subscribe to the belief that a party without cake is just a meeting, so I knew I had to find SOMETHING she would like. Enter funfetti. LB always raids Grandma’s baking shelves (which happen to be at her eye level, so can you blame a girl?) and steals the sprinkles (which she calls “sparkles”), so I figured sprinkle cake would meet her approval. We got a big canister of rainbow sprinkles (obviously including pink & purple) and I got to researching funfetti cakes.

flamingo funfetti cake

As far as frosting goes, my personal preference on cake is swiss meringue buttercream. I love the silky consistency, the smoother application, and the not-cloyingly-sweet flavor. While I do have a little stockpile of bright food coloring gels, I didn’t want to have to artificially color the frosting if I could avoid it. That + the fact that Lilly is OBSESSED with frozen raspberries made it an easy decision to do a light raspberry buttercream.

funfetti cake with raspberry swiss meringue buttercream

Homemade Funfetti Cake

3 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 egg whites (set aside from other eggs)
3 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup sprinkles (not the nonpareil tiny circle kind!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and two 6-inch cake pans and line with greased parchment paper circles (Can also do three 9-inch pans if you want all layers to be the same size!). Note: I use coconut oil spray, but butter will also work!

Whisk sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Beat butter with a stand (paddle attachment) or hand mixer on high until creamy. Add sugar and beat on high for 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. On medium-high, add in each of the four eggs until they are well incorporated. Beat in vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add in dry ingredients in three parts until just incorporated, alternating with buttermilk. (DO NOT OVERMIX!) In a separate bowl, beat the 2 egg whites until thick and foamy with soft peaks, then fold into batter. Finally, fold in sprinkles. Pour batter into each of the four pans, as evenly distributed as possible.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until cakes are baked through. Use a toothpick (inserted in center of cake, to see if it comes out clean) to test doneness. Set cakes on a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool, set in freezer before frosting (can be left overnight).

Frost cooled or frozen cake with Raspberry Buttercream and let it come to room temperature to serve.

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

8 oz pasteurized egg whites (from a carton)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup frozen raspberries

Place raspberries in a mesh sieve over a bowl, to extract puree. Let it sit to thaw.

Combine egg whites and sugar in heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and set over simmering water. Stir periodically until sugar is dissolved and temperature reaches 160°F.

Remove from heat and cool to 60-65°F. (I do this with an ice bath by using my metal mixing bowls, but you can also move the mixture to the freezer or refrigerator.)

Beat the butter in a mixer bowl with the flat paddle attachment for 1 minute until creamy and lightened. Reduce speed to medium low and add cooled sugar syrup to butter. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat on medium high for 3 minutes or until silky and combined.

Extract raspberry puree:  Press thawed raspberries into sieve with a spoon to remove seeds. Scrape the bottom of the sieve into bowl to collect puree. Repeat the process until only seeds remain in sieve.

Add raspberry puree to buttercream mixture. Beat in until combined.

flamingo birthday party let's flamingle

This was the first party I’ve thrown where not a SINGLE crumb of cake remained. Several guests told me they had four slices, it was that good!!! I suppose my dream of notoriety for my legit kids’ birthday cakes is coming true. 😉

1. Encourage their inner “basic” tendencies. Let me dive into this a little deeper:  Most kids have things in common; sometimes this happens to align with adult obsessions too (Exhibit A:  Lilly Beth’s pink and purple flamingo party). Some of us “party moms” have a problem with doing “overdone” party themes, but I think you can take whatever your little one loves and spin it to make it perfectly uniquely them without having to choose something totally obscure that’s impossible to source for. Seasonality helps, too — flamingo swag is everywhere these days, as we’re approaching the warmer summer months!

2. Take advantage of holidays near their birthday. Discounted Easter candy? Perfect for filling a piñata! (Allergy mom hack: Tootsie Roll treats are gluten-free, peanut-free, and tree nut-free!)

3. Don’t be afraid to opt for some cute solid color tableware, since that will ultimately be used and disposed of quickly. I tend to like cute patterned napkins (or sometimes just cake/cocktail napkins) and straws with solid plates/cups/utensils in a party hue. I’m super picky about the exact shades I use (robin’s egg blue, peach, citrusy orange for AC’s mermaid party and orchid, lavender, bright flamingo pink for Lilly’s ‘mingo party) but if you hunt around you’re likely to find something in the perfect shade.

4. Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. DIY baked goods and food spreads can be great (esp in families like ours dealing with food allergies and diabetes, but time is money and it takes a lottttt of time to make all the things. I love outsourcing a fancy bakery cake (which is what I did for both girls’ 1st bdays) and using it as the primary design focus for the party. I am not proficient with a piping bag so when it’s simply not in the budget to fork over $$$ for a bakery cake I stick to simple designs in attempting to decorate a cake on my own (and make it fancy with a cute topper, like these mini lawn flamingos). And since that’s my undertaking for this party, we’re ordering delivery pizza for the toddlers and calling it a day.

5. Balloons, balloons, balloons and practice, practice, practice are instant impactful decor tools. You don’t even need helium! Get a plastic balloon arch strip, become a pro at constructing the perfect structure, and marvel at your inexpensive masterpiece that brings joy and delight to the tiny person you’re celebrating. Which brings me to…

6. Don’t overdecorate. Not every surface in your party space has to be decked out. Be selective about what you’re going to “party-fy” and do that area well!