After unwrapping all the Christmas presents and before ringing in the New Year, we celebrated my husband's birthday on Saturday, December 27 at home. His actual birthday is December 28th; but we got a sitter that night and went to Uchi for dinner. Nice!

Whoa is Brian, his birthday falls in between Christmas and New Year's; in his words, "it's hard to compete with the birth of Jesus and New Year's!" I wanted to make this year extra special complete with decorations, not that it was a "big one" I just know how much it means to him.

I'm proud to say that I got all of his decorations from Party City; with the exception of the birthday banner which came from Target a while back. This is not what I had in mind; but it jumped out at me and for less than $30 with a pair of scissors and scotch tape I was able to transform our space into a birthday Fiesta amongst the holiday decor.


I bought three packs of the 'Del Sol Cut Paper Banner.' The banner measures 12 feet long with 12 flags. One banner was perfect to hang above the birthday banner. The other one I cut into sections of four and hung them over the smaller set of windows in the breakfast area and the arch way in the kitchen. The last banner, I took a section of four and hung it over the bar area separating the kitchen from the family room. I took a pair of scissors to the remaining eight flags and with some clear scotch tape draped each flag over the back of the dining chair. Genius!

Next, I took the rainbow pack of three fluffy tissues, teased them if you will; and tied them to the light fixture at different lengths. Finally, I draped the rectangular vinly table cover over our square dining table for a little more flare.


  • Gather basic supplies. Sometimes all you need is a pair of scissors, tape and a step ladder. I prefer to use the 'Gloss Finish Transparent Tape.' Maybe a thumbtack or two.

  • Reuse, reuse, reuse. I used a birthday banner that I bought in November for a friend's surprise birthday party.

  • Decorate prior to the event. I hung everything the day before, so when Brian got home from work he was completely surprised when he walked in.

  • Set the table early. Take out your silverware, dinnerware, serverware, all of it prior to the event; this is the last thing you want to worry about it.

As I mentioned, he was surprised by the decorations; however, he said, "you know your decor has nothing to do with the menu." And I said to him, "Yeah, so what?! It looks pretty, right! And you like it. That's all that matters."


I asked Brian what kind of cake he would like for his birthday. Of course, he asked for chocolate; but he wanted raspberries with it. You know me, I've got to always take it to the next level, so I came up with a chocolate-raspberry-almond cake. But I was stumped, how was I going to do the raspberries, I knew I didn't want to chop them up and put it in between the layers, I was afraid I'd have a mushy cake. And then to throw some almonds on the cake, boring!

I collaborated with my 'Mommy,' the former pastry chef, and she suggested simple syrup with chambord (raspberry liqueur) and almond praline, chopped up. Again, as Brian likes to say, "it's easy to expand on an idea, you have to know and find the right people; the hard part is coming up with the idea." My Mommy was the right person indeed.

I used my Hershey's 'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Cake recipe for the cake and icing. After three different recipes and attempts at almond pralines, this last Almond Praline recipe came out on top. Finally, for the Chambord Simple Syrup...



  • ½ cup sugar

  • ½ cup water

  • 2 tablespoons Chambord liqueur


  • Combine the sugar and the water in a small sauce pan over medium heat.

  • Bring it to a simmer, ensure the sugar has completely melted; turn off the heat.

  • Allow it to completely cool, then add in the liqueur.

  • Keep covered in the fridge until you are ready to use.

I placed the almond praline in a large ziploc bag and with a mallet, crushed the praline into small pieces. Using a pastry brush, I brushed each layer of the cake with the Chambord simple syrup, added a layer of icing and sprinkled the crushed almond pralines on top. I repeated this process for each layer. Finally, I added fresh raspberries to the top of the cake. There you have it, Brian's birthday cake: Chambord-Raspberry Liqueur-Laced Chocolate Cake with Almond Pralines.


Our guests that night included a vegan and a pescatarian. Say what?! They're worth it!

Grilled Thick-Cut New York Strip Steaks

Maple Honey Pecan Crusted Slow-Cooked Salmon

Baked Potato Bar

Roasted Apple, Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Pizza

To learn how I grilled the steaks, click on the link for instructions from my grilled ribeye recipe. As for the salmon, I made that for my Fakesgiving and just had to make it again. I used Ina Garten's baked potato recipe, super easy. Then, Brian was the one who suggested the baked potato bar (shredded cheese, bacon, chives, whipped butter and sour cream) similar to what we had at our wedding nearly four years ago. Finally, I made Chef Chloe's vegan pizza recipe, except I used frozen vegan naan bread from Central Market for the pizza crust.

The kids had a great time, I'm pretty sure the adults had a great time. All-in-all it was a wonderful birthday celebration for my darling husband, who told me afterwards, "It was one of the best birthdays ever!"

#fun #occasions #lifestyle

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