Thursday, October 24, 2013

You are my sunshine...

Many of you know I make cakes for a living.  If you don't, you can see my work here, and, lots of other places (just google Got What It Cakes). :)

I started making cakes because of Isabella, my 7 year old.  I wanted her to have a fabulous 1st birthday, but we had been living off of one verrrrrrrry tight income for well, a year ;)  And I just didn't have the kind of money needed for an over the top party...enter DIY Mandie.  I had always been crafty, with an eye for design, so I set out to make an 'under the sea'-themed party to remember...including, making the cake.  The cake was fair at best, but she loved it (or so her smile said), so I loved it.  And it also gave me the itch to make more.  Fast forward 7 years, and I'm about to open my very own store front in Pineville!!!

Anyways, back to the topic at hand.  My college bestie, Tina, who lives in Charleston, has a precious little boy, name Connor, and he was turning one!  She asked if I could recommend someone down there to make a cake, and I said, "why don't I just come down there for the party, and bring the cake?!  I don't think I have any other cakes that weekend!"  She was so excited, and so was I...I hadn't seen them since Connor was just born, so it was a gift to be able to be a part of this big day!  Tina and I started bouncing around theme ideas, and we kept coming back to the fact that Tina's hubby, Justin, is a meteorologist.  And I was OBSESSED with the idea of having a 'weather' themed party of some sort.  And when I have an idea, I have to follow through with it (which gets very exhausting).  But we still wanted it to be cute, young, and fun...enter 'You are my sunshine!'  It was perfect, and I got busy with design.  After many emails and pictures and phone calls and texts, Tina and I finalized every detail together.
After the theme was decided, I ordered printables right away.  Listen to me people...I highly suggest you order printables for any party you throw.  They tie everything together, are affordable, and are just plain cute. I asked my friend, Rachel, at RV Parties to get busy on design, and oh yeah, she was about to give birth to her third boy!  I told her I understood if it was bad timing, and she insisted it was "perfect" timing, because she would have down time in the hospital?!!! Yall, she emailed me the final proofs 3 hours after giving birth.  Yes, she is a ROCKSTAR. And yes, I do kind of get what she means about down time in the hospital...nurses on call, a chef (I use that loosely, although I do LOVE some hospital food), everyone tells you to lie down, and you have a nursery for the baby with built in expert help.  Oh, and no other kids to chase! Rachel, Tina and I are so appreciative for your hard work on everything for this party.

Make sure yall read to the end to see the giveaway that's going on right now from RV Parties!

Everything starts with the invitation...

I'm so excited to share the party pictures, taken by Tumbleston Photography ...ENJOY!
Here's the dessert table!  I knew I wanted to hang umbrellas upside down, and when I saw these old-school, clear ones, I was giddy!  We put some tissue paper inside to mock rain, and add dimension.
I glued rain drops, tied with fishing wire, to the umbrellas, and put some into the ceiling with thumb tacks.  The backdrop was made with a sheet and some thick ribbon...voila...we have rays of sun!  Grey fabric covers the table, and a pennant banner drapes across the front.

Cookies were shaped like clouds (made with a flower cutter), and umbrellas.  Printed paper lined the serving tray.  Marshmallows were dipped in chocolate and two-toned.  Cruffle pops were placed on top of round printables, with flags on the lollipop sticks for added cuteness.  And the cupcake display was styrofoam rounds, wrapped in printed, chevron paper.  I'm really mad at myself because I forgot to put the rice krispie treats, that were shaped like tear drops, on the final table.  Even though I had an extra empty plate, and an extra food tag, AND had made them myself, I *still* didn't notice that they weren't on the friggin' table...sigh. But here they are from my Instagram feed, to prove I did truly make them ;)

Ready for a close-up of the cake?!!! 
The printables really helped me with the design...I loved the repeating, staggered tear drop pattern, and well as the chevron.  A few clouds in the sky, and a sun with a C for Connor, completed the look!

Now, for the take home table! 

Poms, puffs, and latterns, in our color scheme hung above it using fishing wire, and thumb tacks!

I love a white goodie bag that I can dress up myself.  Some coordinating ribbon hot glued on the front, and a printable in the middle...DONE!  I love that Tina purchased these pinwheels that looked like the sun...I propped them out of the top for added decor.

Fill your own candy bags! Printables and ribbon personalize clear jars! Justin spray painted the O-N-E, and I love it on top of the fun fabric.

 The presents table was covered in fabric, and had pictures of Connor through the 12 months. Tina used ribbons and clothespins to hang cute!  This was at the beginning of the party...Connor hit the jackpot with his gifts :)

I wanted a unique photo booth idea for the party, and again was inspired by the birthday boy's daddy!  Enter, the green screen!!!  We draped green fabric on the wall, and had random pieces of velcro on it. Then we had big rain drops, suns, and clouds that the kids could move around however they wanted to create their own weather patterns!  A coat rack hung next to it and had a suit jacket, tie, and umbrella on it.  Plus, we had a basket of microphones, silly glasses, and more props to use as well, on the floor.  "And now, for a check on the weather, we'll go to Bella..."

Tina had BBQ catered for the party (YUM!), and a drink station set up on the counter...
Yes, we are adorable with the Sun Drop ;)  It was just too perfect for our theme!  And I love that Tina had fresh flowers throughout the decor...SUNflowers were such a great touch!  

After we finished our food, it was time for CAKE, specifically the smash cake!  I simply removed the top tier of the cake, and that became Connor's!  He wasn't sure what to do at first...
But here's the trick to getting them to eat the cake...move it as close to their face as possible..
He got the hang of it :)

Justin and LeAnne didn't want a drop of it to go to waste LOL!!!

Some action shots of the par-tay!
Yes, my girls' outfits match the color scheme, and no, they never get sick of mommy's cupcakes ;)

Tina and Justin, thank you for letting me be a part of such a special day in your little weatherman's life...I had a blast, and can't see what we do for his 2nd!!!!  JUST KIDDING Justin! ;)

So I promised yall a giveaway, right?!  To celebrate RV Parties 1,000 fan on Facebook, they've decided to give one of their awesome, custom plates to one winner!!! I have 2 of them for my minis, and they LOVE them!  Click on this link to see how to enter!  If it's not showing up, make sure you've "liked" their Facebook page!  And then click on the blue giveaway button at the top of it!

Decor & More TIPS:
~Use fabric!!!  It makes all of the difference in the world, and although I can sew, I didn't for this party.  Just an iron will do the trick!  Solid fabric is the majority of yards in solid fabric, and dress it up with the patterned fabric.  
~Go the printable route with invites and decorations!  You purchase the package ONCE, and then print as MUCH as you want, and need!  So much more cost effective.
~Look around the house...use glass jars that you already have, and dress them up with ribbon to coordinate with your theme. We didn't have to buy anything for the photo booth...Tina had everything already!

Now go outside and tell me what kind of weather you have going on today in your neck of the woods!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The day that Katie Couric interviewed me...

It's been 365 days since one of the best things that's ever happened to me, took place. It's something that I had yearned for all those years as a broadcasting major; something I had practiced in my mirror, more times than I care to admit.  Except that I always thought I'd be the interviewer, not the interviewee.  I even mentioned this person in the speech that I gave at my sister's wedding reception! I was obsessed, and in awe of her...and yet SHE wanted to talk to ME?!  This is the story of how I ended up on Katie Couric's talk show.  No big deal. ;)

Grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine.  It's a long post, but it's a good one.
How did this happen you ask?  Yeah, I'm still processing it too... a year later.

It all starts with most of my best stories do.  Jenn is my bestie...and one of the relationships in my life that I'm most proud of.  I rank her up there with my hubby, and my kids...if that says anything.  Jenn also happens to be an insanely talented photographer over here at Peanut Butter and Jenny Photography, and a little over a year ago, she started her business's facebook page.  People, of course, LOVED it, and she booked a lot of sessions in a matter of days!  She happened to say something on her personal FB page to the effect of "I think Facebook's really onto something yall...people are finding my page, and booking like crazy!"  Well, a girl named Laura, who just happened to be college/facebook friends with Jenn, saw her post, and wrote her saying, "I work at Facebook, and am so glad your business page is working out for you!!!"  Jenn was all, "you work at facebook?!  My bestie and I are obsessed with facebook!  And she has a page too, and it's pretty popular, and I don't know what I'm doing with mine, so whatever Mandie tells me to do, I do."  So just like that, Jenn handed me the best "publicist" ever on a Zuckerburg-coated, silver platter.  Want to see her?!  Isn't Laura gorgeous?!
So after a few weeks of Jenn telling me that I needed to email Laura back (I got busy, and honestly didn't really know why anyone would care about my story, and lil ole me), I finally did and we set up a conference call for the three of us.  I wowed Laura with my wit and charm, and Jenn and I made sure to make each other sound amazing too.  Then Laura set up another conference call...this time with some additional peeps from her facebook team.  At then end of the call, she asked, "is it okay if I pitch your story to some outlets?!"  Let's pause here for a second...I thought that by "outlets," she was maybe going to send out a little blurb about my business on their Intranet or something...facebook has that, right?  Well, I was wrong.  And I'm rarely wrong yall.  Ask my husband...or my mother...or any human being. ;)  Laura emailed Jenn and I a few days later and said, "Huffington Post is doing a story on you two!!!!!!!!!!!!"  We freaked out...couldn't believe it...we were in shock, and then we were like, 'we got this!'  Read about it here...

Then, what happened next became a snowball of epic proportions...reporters started calling me.  Laura wasn't kidding when she told me, "pick up your phone whenever you see a number you don't recognize."  You may have heard of a paper called The New York Times?  Yeah, they called first yall. Nothing like baptism by fire.  And then Redbook. Yep, they called too!  And then CNBC picked up the link.  And Modern Mom.  And then my local Fox station did an interview.  And so on, and so on.  And then it got quiet for a few weeks.  And I thought, 'well, it was fun while it lasted!' 

I was sitting at my friend's kitchen table one Friday night, and I checked my email.  There was one from Laura, and it said, "I don't want to get your hopes up, but we pitched your story to Katie Couric's new talk show team, and they loved it. And she knows about your articles in the NYT, and in Redbook, and she'd love for you to come on the show.  Oh, and the show is going to celebrate the 1 billionth user on Facebook, so Sheryl Sandberg, our COO, will be there too! They want to use you as an example of a Facebook business success story!"  Holy shit.  I started crying right there at that table.  My whole life came to this moment. My college major was broadcasting, so I could be the next Katie. My mom and I would watch the Today Show every morning before work and school, and I would study her.  When she chose to retire, I wanted to fill her shoes. And now...NOW... she wanted to interview me?!!!  Well, OF COURSE, I got my hopes up.  And then, I heard nothing.  For the entire weekend.  And I realize lots of people don't work on the weekends, but I do, and Laura always works, and so I got a little bummed.

Monday mid-morning, I answer my phone, and it was a very hurried woman saying, "hello, is this Mandie?!  I just wanted to see if you were still interested in being on the Katie show because I emailed you this morning and haven't heard back!" Um, how did I miss this? Oh yeah, because it came in 2 hours earlier, and I had gotten the girls up for school, did the crazy morning rush, ran out the door, carpooled, went to three stores for supplies and came home.  I hadn't checked my email yet.  But there IT was, and here SHE was, and I said, "I'm so sorry...I hadn't check it yet...I checked it every hour over the weekend, but finally got busy enough that I sidelined my neurosis for a few hours.  But, YES, I'm still interested!  Actually I'm more than interested...I'm already there.  And the show is going amazing! I'm being really adorable on it."  She stammered for a second, and I realized she didn't get my sense of humor yet, and I thought I blew it.  But she said, "GREAT! We tape Thursday at noon...hold one moment while I book your plane tickets and line up your driver.  And can you make a cake for Katie...just something small will do?  And that's it!  You're booked...I'll email you the tickets and any other info you'll need.  Have a great day."  But before she hung up, I jumped in and said, "Wait! Um, is there any way my mom can come with me?  She's going to be in NY visiting my Oma and Opa anyways that day, and she doesn't need a plane ticket or anything!  She's a huge fan, and I think I may be able to creep into the 'favorite child' position if you help me out here." And she said, "of course! Just send me her info and she'll be on the list as your guest. Is that it?!"  "Yep!  Thank you so much for this," I said.

And just like that, I pressed 'end,' and I finally released everything I needed to.  I slumped to the ground, and cried hysterically.  Like, the ugliest of ugly cries. I imagined this was what feeling really proud of yourself felt like. And I was feeling every morsel of it.  And then I called my stud, and he naturally thought something bad had happened to the girls (I'm not allowed to call him mid-hysterics anymore, unless the girls and/or I am hurt for reals).  But through tears, I finally got it out and told him, and I think he cried too. And then, I called my mom.  And I shouted that Katie Couric was going to interview me.  And then I said, "but that's not the best news!  You're coming with me!!!" Stunned, my mom said something to the effect of "Shut up. No. Stop. Are you serious Mandie? Holy shit! What?! No way!  Oh my God...really?!!!!"  And we cried, and squealed, and cried some more.  And then it hit me, 'oh shit! I have a ton of stuff to do in 2 days!'

From there, it was a mad dash to get my eyebrows plucked, hair trimmed, outfits and jewelry bought, childcare lined up, design, bake and make a cake, still run a business, still be a mom and wife, pack, and oh yeah, LOSE 40 POUNDS.  But because I have the best village around, everything got done.  Well, the last thing didn't happen, damnit.  Apparently no amount of stress can take off that many pounds in two days.  Whatevs.

So about the cake.  I realize the producer said a small cake would do.  But if you think I was going to give Katie and Sheryl (yes, we're on a first name basis) a single tier, six inch round cake, on national TV, you are cray.  So I made a three tier cake, covered in rosettes and sprinkles, and if it got damaged in route, I knew I could fix it easily enough.  If I were to do a smooth buttercream cake like I usually do, and it got dented, there wouldn't be a lot I could do to fix it with limited time and resources.  I called the airline and was told I could package one tier in each box, for a total of three boxes, and then have a roll cart, plus a carry on bag.  I was told this by two separate people the day before my flight.  Well, they were both wrong.  After getting through security (twice)...apparently buttercream is a liquid...I got to the gate.  And the jackass behind the ticket counter said I couldn't have five carry-ons and sent me to customer service.
So I promptly went there, and starting crying. And begging. And crying some more.  And he also took no pity on me.  Nor did he care who the cake was for.  I named dropped as much as I could...but nada.  So you see those boxes?  Yeah, I had to open them all, and on the floor of the airport, I had to stack the cake, and then put it in the biggest box.  Then I had to use luggage tape to cover the top of the box because it wouldn't close.  Then I had to check the cart under the plane, and finally I was down to two carry-ons.  I took two steps on the plane, and the flight attendant said, "I'll take that box," and I was all, "huh?!  Can't I put it in the open seat next to me?! I have a whole row to myself!"  "I'm sorry Miss, but everything has to be stored under the seat in front of you, or in the overhead bin.  I'll take your package and keep it up here," she said.  She practically had to pry the box from my hands {think Ben Stiller in 'Meet the Fockers'}, and I retreated to the back of the plane, sat down, and cried some more.  I just knew that all of the work that went into it would be ruined upon either take off, or landing...a tiered cake CANNOT survive those kind of angles, nor the shaking upon stopping.  And I was soooooooooooo lucky to have turbulence the ENTIRE flight.  But no's not like I had been up for 4 days straight, or was anxious for the biggest day of my life, or the fact that I was going to be interviewed by my idol on national tv.  Let's add turbulence to the flight! YAY!  {dripping in sarcasm}

I landed, and was handed my "cake" box, but I didn't have the courage to look at the disaster that I was SURE was awaiting me inside that box of horrors.  So I got my cart, and threw my bag on my shoulders, and made my way down to my driver.  Yes, seeing him, holding that sign, did make me a little giddy!!!  I was shaking, so the picture is blurry...but still fabulous!  It says my real name, Miranda Miller (since that was on my ticket).

He was precious, and said, "what's in the box?" And I said "well it was a cake, but I'm too terrified to look at it after that shit storm of a flight."  And he said, "I'll open it for you," and when he did, he said excitedly, "it looks good to me!!!"  After I peered into the box, where a perfect cake existed, I started crying (shocking, I know).  I couldn't believe it!  And then I looked at him and said, "if you eff this up with crazy, New York City driving, I'll kick your ass!" LOL  He drove like he was driving a newborn home from the hospital for the first time...10 and 2...and used his horn anytime someone got remotely near us.  As we were approaching the studio, I called my mom to see how close she was, as she was walking from a subway station of some sort, and we literally rounded the corner as she was walking around the same corner.  We said "jump in the car, and we'll ride to the studio together." As she got in, she said, "I think we're really close actually," and not 20 feet later, he pulled in front of the ABC studios.  We had a good laugh about how she had walked all the way across the city, and then jumped in the car with a few feet left to go.

We checked in at security, and were given an assistant right away.  I got the cake in the green room's fridge, and we went up to our dressing room!  We were like two little school girls, still in shock from what was going on, where we were, and for the moments still to come!
We settled in, and then were told that hair and makeup was ready for us.  So we scurried down the hall, and not only did they do mine, but they did my mom's as well!  We were tickled.
The girl in the makeup chair was a Kate Middleton look alike, who was filming a bit for another episode to be aired the next day.  The irony was not lost on me.  Here's a little secret...I'm obsessed with all things royal, specifically Princess Diana, her boys, and Kate.  In dawned on me in that moment that my guardian angel, Di, had watched over me this whole time.  I bet she's the one who kept the cake from collapsing too! :) 
This is the producer briefing me while I got my hair done.  This was a very surreal moment for me.
It took A LOT of work to cover up the damage that crying for days on end, and little-to-no sleep, had done to my face.  But these two magicians made me look like this...
So not to seem too #firstworldproblem here, but I wasn't allowed to wear the fabulous necklace on the show.  It was interfering too much with my microphone.  Womp womp.  But big thanks to Page 6 for dressing me in a fabulous outfit, that I felt beautiful in!
My adorable mom right before THE moment happened...the moment where Katie walked by our dressing room, and mom gasped SO LOUDLY that Katie backtracked, stuck her head in our room, and said, "are you okay?" And mom lost it.  And I had to keep it together, and act cool, calm and collected. Katie said something like, "you must be Mandie?" and I said, "you must be Katie?!" HA!  You know it's been forever since she's heard that!  She 'got' me right away, and laughed. I told Katie that I am so used to being around A-list celebrities, but that my mom isn't, so to go easy on her "starstruckedness." My mom, through sobs said, "can I hug you?" and Katie was all, "of course you can!!! Thank you for coming here, and we're so excited to have your daughter on the show! And you too!"  And mom didn't say anything...just cried in Katie's shoulder.  And I apologized profusely for the hot mess, and we all laughed a bunch. And mom said, "I've loved you forever" to her, and it was sweet.  She was so incredibly kind to us...and my mom hasn't looked that happy in the longest time.  I was so excited to have had even a little part in making that moment happen.  Then we headed down to set!
I don't say this much, but I look really pretty here yall. Everyone, let's just have a quick moment right now, for what can be done with professional hair, makeup and lighting.  Annnnnnnd, moment's over.

After we finished taping the show, it was picture time! Let's start with the fact that Sheryl Sandberg wanted a picture with me.  Um, okay incredibly inspiring woman that I'm in awe of...yes, you can take a pic with me.  But don't look me in the eyes...because I'm almost as important as Oprah.  I'm sure you understand.  

PS. Yall, Sheryl is amaze.  I am her best friend...she told me so. Really.  
Then came time for pics with Katie, and with the cake, and with my mom, and all sorts of silliness ensued.

We stayed for a bit, fed Katie cake, watched her film a bit of solo scenes, and then had to pack up.  Our driver picked us up, took my mom to the station, and then I went straight back to the airport.  Where I ran into my dear friend's Dad, who was getting off of the plane that I was about to get on! How about this for small world...the very first time I ever came to NYC was with him, and his daughter, 20 years ago! He was like, "what are you doing here?!" "Oh, just getting interviewed by Katie Couric, and meeting Sheryl know...just like any other Thursday," I replied.

When I had a few seconds to check my feeds, I saw that Katie posted this picture of us on her IG feed!
And then, Sheryl posted this pic of us on her facebook page (with her 1.25 million subscribers), and even tagged me in it!  
I remember sitting on the airport floor, looking around at all of the people.  I've ALWAYS loved to people watch, and wonder what everyone's story was for that day.  Where are they going, who are they going to see?  Is it for something happy, or something sad...or maybe it's for business. But I was confident that at that moment, no one could feel as good as I was feeling...that I literally had a life-changing experience just hours before hand.  I'm 5'2," but I walked so tall that day.  I was proud of myself.  All of the hard work, sleepless nights, time away from my family over the last few years, and all felt worth it.

When I got home, and walked in the door, it was very quickly back to reality!  I had 6 cakes due that weekend, and 1 1/2 days to do them all. Oh yeah, and I had around 600 of the nicest messages EVER awaiting me...they really got me through yall, so for everyone who wrote, called, texted, emailed, came over, etc., it meant the world to me.  I did take an hour on Friday to watch the episode with some friends, and besides the fact that I have a bad habit of closing my eyes when I talk, I think I did a great job!

And so did Katie, as she was very complimentary of me after taping.  I asked her if she wanted to produce a show with me in it.  I'm still waiting to hear back ;)  Sheryl also sent me a lovely email, which I'll treasure forever.

I recently tweeted Katie about the premiere of season 2, and she tweeted me back!
She also got engaged recently, so I'm gunning for the wedding cake...let's make it happen people!

For a while, I thought, 'what will I ever do to top this?!'  And I realized, it will be damn near impossible. And you know what?  That's okay.

I'm NOT going to cry about it ;)

xo, M