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How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

With two parents cooking in the kitchen, we have modeled cooking and always involved our children in the dinner planning and preparations. By doing so, we were bound to grow a child or two that loves cooking.

Emmalynn, our middle child, will tell you that she wants to be a chef when she grows up. Therefore, it only seemed logical that she would request a cooking themed birthday party for her 9th birthday.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

When she mentioned the idea, I asked her what types of things she would like to make. At first, she had some very elaborate recipes in mind but when we encouraged her to keep the menu for the party simple, she developed some really tasty ideas.

CookingBirthday pin 682x1024 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Emmalynn loves Mini Caprese Salad Skewers. She enjoys stacking the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese pearls onto stick and making fun patterns alternating the two ingredients. Since some children do not like tomatoes, we tweaked this salad recipe a bit by adding black olives and thick cucumber slices to the ingredients which the guests would stack on their 10” skewers.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Some petite chefs only wanted cheese.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Sticking with the skewers, we offered sliced chunks of fresh fruit, such as grapes, strawberries, watermelon, blueberries for the guests to make fruit kabobs.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Since most kids love pizza, the main entrée would include the guests creating their own personal-sized pizza. Earlier that morning before the guests arrived, we made the pizza sauce following a basic marinara recipe, however, as much as we love making our own pizza dough, for time’s sake, we purchased Pillsbury classic Thin Crust. Iron Chef Allan rolled out the dough and then used a 6” wide cookie cutter to make the base for the personalized pizzas.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

To offer a work surface and a baking sheet, we gave each guest a small square of aluminum foil. The mini chefs scooped and smeared the sauce over their crusts and then sprinkled on their toppings of shredded mozzarella, Applegate pepperoni, sliced olives and mushrooms.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Once their pizza creations were finished, we slid them in the oven and baked the pizzas for about five minutes. All the petite chefs loved their finished pizzas!

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

For dessert, our petite pastry chefs all decorated their own cupcakes with individual piping bags, a ZipLoc bag full of icing with a small tip cut off.We may have gone a little over board with the toppings: drippy purple icing, mini chocolate chips, mini peanut butter chips, mini marshmallows, mini M&Ms and gummy bears.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

It definitely was the perfect mixture of ingredients and friends to whip up a wonderful birthday party!

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Our little chef guests left with goodies bags full of items I found at the Dollar Tree to encourage them to continue their culinary adventures after the party. Each cooking inspired goodie bag contained spatulas, measuring cups, measuring spoons, an apron and cookie mix.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

Not that it’s about the gifts, a few of them were the icing on Emmalynn’s day. Her favorite gifts were the LEGO Movie UniKitty Castle set and the sisters charm necklace from her big sister, Allana.

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party

But the best present was delivered after the party when Emmalynn discovered a rainbow!

 How to Cook Up the Best Birthday Party


RANdom Thoughts About an Electrodash 5K Giveaway & Discount Code, the Big 20, Some Bridges and Some Easy Miles

Have you heard about these neon 5Ks?

These mind-blowing, glowing races are redefining fun runs.  The Electrodash 5K Dance Party guarantees a non-stop neon dance party atmosphere from the electronic dance music at the start to neon swag.  Next month, my daughter and our party rocking team will be dancing our way through a gallery of dazzling light displays and rocking inflatables at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

We’ll still working on our team name and costumes, of course. Should we dress like Rainbow Brite or wear plan white?  Either way, I think a tutu is necessary.  Maybe even a tutu with lights.

Who wants to join me at Electrodash 5K Dance Party in Tampa on March 21? I’m giving away FIVE ENTRIES to one Run DMT reader for you to create a glowing team with your friends.  To enter, leave a comment below telling your team name. That’s it.  This Run DMT #ElectroTampa giveaway ends Monday, Feb. 10 at 11:59.

For a chance win an additional race entry, join the Tampa Bay Bloggers #ElectroTampa Twitter Party this Thursday night at 8 pm. Follow @TBbloggers, @ElectroDash5k, @denisermt and #ElectroTampa.

ElectroTwitterParty1 TBB 1024x1024 RANdom Thoughts About an Electrodash 5K Giveaway & Discount Code, the Big 20, Some Bridges and Some Easy Miles

But if you can’t wait to win and simply have to buy some Electrodash race entries, then at least save dough for the glow.  Use TBB15 and save $15 off your entries.

TBB15 ElectroCode RANdom Thoughts About an Electrodash 5K Giveaway & Discount Code, the Big 20, Some Bridges and Some Easy Miles

We had some really horrible weather last week. Mind you, it was nothing like the clusterfluff on snow the city of Atlanta faced, but we had a lot of rain and icky weather.  Thankfully, it all cleared up by Saturday for the Best Damn Race (recap to follow), but I never had the chance to squeeze in some easy miles before the race.

10K – 6.2 miles
Time 1:01:17
Ave Pace 9:46
Max Pace7:08

5K – 3.1 miles
Time 30:04
Ave Pace 9:34
Max Pace 6:26

On Saturday, I had to find a way to squeeze in 20 miles. Since I ran the Best Damn Race Challenge (10K + 5K), I  finished 9 miles but I still needed to run 11 more. I managed to run a few more after my two races when I paced Mica to the finish line for her half marathon. Then I had only 9 more to do in my neighborhood.

2 miles
Time 20:24
Ave Pace 11:04
Max Pace 5:47

When I attempted those 9 miles mid-afternoon, the heat had turned up and it was hotter than Hades’ bawls.  How crazy is it that the weather went from below 40 to above 80 in just a few short days?! I’m not complaining because I prefer the heat, but I was not mentally or physically prepared for it. Nonetheless, I finished 9 very slow, easy miles and hit that necessary Big 20 miler.

9 miles
Time 1:52:36
Ave Pace 12:18

My Asics Kastor marathon training plan recommends two days rest after the Big 20 miler which I gladly took to recover.  Today I ran 3 easy to get back into the swing.

3.11 miles
Time 31:03
Ave Pace 9:59
Max Pace 7:24

I followed up those easy miles with a really tough Body Pump class. Today’s express class had two leg tracks with a squat and lunge track. Holy Mother Squatter!  Those lunges killed me.

For the rest of the week, I plan to fit in some more easy miles. The plan is to run 3 tomorrow, 6 miles on Thursday and 3 miles on Friday.  Then, on Saturday, Nanci, Marcia and I organized an Iron Girl Bridge Training Run on Facebook.  If you’re local and want to run with us, RSVP here.  We’d love for you to join us.

My marathon training plan has me running 13 this weekend, so I need to run 13 miles with those bridges.  It’s all good, because my goal is to incorporate more hills into my training runs to prepare for Iron Girl Half Marathon, Sarasota Half Marathon and of course New York Marathon this November which all have some tough bridges and inclines.

So come join us this Saturday. I’m bringing bagels.  After this, it’s only one more training week until A1A Marathon!   Yippee Ki Yay, Mother Runner!

Antipasto Skewers

HorrorFFF Antipasto SkewersI know I should have shared these Anitpasto Skewers before New Year’s Eve or even earlier in December so that you would have something fun to share at your holiday gatherings.  I really wish I did now because this simple appetizer was such a hit with my friends and family this holiday season.

Selfishly, I served this dish on more than one occasion because I knew the small bites would help with my issues with portion control.  Plus, using good quality ingredients makes the dish a healthier appetizer and gluten free.

Since I’m really sensitive to MSG and nitrates, I used Applegate Natural Traditional Italian Deli Meats and Cheese, Coppa, Genoa Salami and Provolone. Each slice was cut into half and folded to make a small bite size amount for the skewers.

Each 6” bamboo skewer was topped with two tops of olive, Lindsey Natural Green Ripe California Medium Pitted Olives and Lindsey Natural Black Ripe California Medium Pitted Olives followed by a mini fresh mozzarella ball.  For the salad, I used Alessi Roasted Red Peppers cut into small slices and Vigo Quarter Artichoke Hearts.

To build each skewer, I started with the olives, mozzarella, roasted red pepper and the coppa.  Then, I sandwiched the provolone between the salami and ended with a quartered artichoke.  It’s that simple and only takes about 30 minutes to build a platter full of these Antipasto Skewers.

Antipasto%2520Skewers Antipasto Skewers

Antipasto Skewers
Recipe type: Easy
Cuisine: Appetizer, Salad
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10
A traditional Italian appetizer presented in a new, fun and simple way.
  • Package of 8" bamboo skewers
  • 1 – 8 oz package Applegate Natural Provolone
  • 1 - 4oz package Applegate Natural Coppa
  • 1 – 4oz package Applegate Genoa Salami
  • 1 – 8oz package Belgioioso mozzarella pearls
  • 1 - 14oz can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 – 7.5 oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 – 6 oz can natural black olives
  • 1 - 6 oz can natural green olives
  1. Prepare the build skewers by cutting each slice of cheese and meat into half. Then, slice the red roasted peppers into one inch pieces.
  2. Build the antipasto skewers by starting with one black olive and one green olive and slide to top of skewer with about an inch room from the top. Add one ball of mozzarella to skewer, followed by a small piece of roasted red pepper.
  3. Fold the coppa in half and add to skewer. Then, fold the provolone and salami and add to skewer. End with quartered artichoke and add to platter. Repeat steps until platter is full. Cover and chill in fridge until ready to serve.


Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

When I received an invitation to Dixie’s Tupperware Party, I dusted off my Amy Winehouse wig just for the occasion and if I had some real Tupperware, I would have brought that too.

Dixie2 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie Photo credit: Bradford Rogne

Dixie’s Tupperware Party is not your “grandmother Tupperware Party” (NBC Today Show).  Dixie has taken the Tupperware world by storm and transformed it into something reminiscent of a Passion Party.  Hold onto tight to that corkscrew and strap on in for a wild ride because Dixie will show you a side of Tupperware you have never experienced before, one “more fun than a gaggle of lesbians at a Home Depot sidewalk sale”.

IMAG0823 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

Grab your girlfriends for the ultimate girl’s night out with your favorite southern belle hostess, Dixie Longate. 

Dixie Longate, the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, has packed up her catalogues, and left her children in an Alabama trailer park to journey across the country. Join Dixie as she throws a good ol’ fashioned Tupperware Party filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, FREE giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theater stage. Loaded with the most up-to-date products available for purchase, see for yourself how Ms. Longate became the #1 Tupperware seller in the U.S. and Canada, as she educates her guests on the many alternative uses she has discovered for her plastic products! WARNING: recommended for mature audiences.


Complete with catalogues and order forms, guests welcomed into Dixie’s living room can find gifts for everyone on their Christmas list and the “Unchristmas, Chaka Khan Jewish holiday” too.  Much like Tupperware’s lifetime guarantee for its “great crap”, Dixie delivers a presentation full of laughs complete with one-liners and innuendoes that popup faster than a FlatOut!® bowl.

IMAG0838 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

IMAG0825 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

Raffi and her friend, Jennifer, were invited to sit on Dixie’s sofa.

The classics are still Tupperware’s top sellers, but Dixie offers her guests new ideas for the classic products.  I will never look at a Shape-O Toy® the same way.  Dixie also proudly declares Tupperware products to be BPA-free as well as provides helpful tips to keep those beautiful colorful plastic bowls stain-free.

IMAG0827 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

After Dixie’s Tupperware Party, my blogger friends and I had the pleasure to meet Dixie in the lobby where she processed Tupperware orders, signed autographs and posed for photos.  Her loving, adorable presence glows on and off stage.

IMAG0832 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

IMAG0840 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie “Denise, I love you more than an Asian girl loves counting. xo Dixie Longate”

IMAG0833 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

IMAG0829 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

IMAG0830 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

Dixie’s Tupperware Party premieres December 4 through December 9 in the Jaeb Theater at The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.  Tickets may be purchased by visiting

IMAG0836 Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

*I received tickets to Dixie Tupperware Party in exchange for my honest review.*
Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Don’t Stop the Music and the Party

rundmt musicmondayparty1 Dont Stop the Music and the PartyTwo years ago when I injured myself after a bad bike crash, I needed something to keep my mind off the pain and to keep my blog active even though I wasn’t. I wrote a Music Monday post and linked up at Diane of Mourning Glory’s Music Monday blog hop.

I discovered incorporating music into a blog post was a wonderful way to express myself.  It became another meaningful way to share my thoughts and a means to share my story.

During Diane’s Music Monday blog hop, I also discovered some really great bloggers as well as great music.  What started as a means to fill empty space on my blog became a way to fill my MP3 player.  By visiting all the Music Monday participants, I found tons of music that truly moved me and helped push me through the miles as I ran.

Wanting to continue my quest to find music to move through the miles and because I loved the Music Monday blog hop concept so much, I decided to jump in and host one too.

For a year now, I’ve been hosting Music Monday.  It’s been a great experience once again discovering new-to-me bloggers and reconnecting through music with some of already favorite bloggers.  Of course, with each passing Music Monday, you’re all now my favorite bloggers!

For the past year, I’ve enjoyed listening to your stories.  I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to mine.  So please don’t stop sharing your songs.  Please don’t stop the music!


Please know that I am so grateful for all the Music Monday participants each week and every comment shared.  So let’s keep Run DMT’s Music Monday going strong for another year.  Keep linking up and sharing your songs with me each week.  Don’t stop the party!



And to keep the party going strong and to show my gratitude, one lucky Music Monday participant will win a $15 iTunes card.  So link up and play along for you chance to win!

Thank you for all your love and support!denise 40 gawsimplecooltext1 Dont Stop the Music and the Party

 Dont Stop the Music and the Party


Visit AmandaXmas Dolly and Hairbows & Guitar Picks for more Music Monday fun.

Join the VCA Pawfect Twitter Party!

5960176300 7714ec6316 m Join the VCA Pawfect Twitter Party!I swore off owning pets for years.  Then we rescued a lost dog in our neighborhood and we found ourselves pet owners when our girls begged us with their own puppy dog eyes to get a dog.

For weeks, I hunted rescue sites, called the local animal shelters and then searched through Craigslist until we found our Lucy, a black Pomeranian.  When we adopted Lucy, she was a fluffy disaster with dandruff, knotted fur and a scruffy coat.  We changed her diet and within a week, she had sheen to her coat and a spring in her step.  Of course, being responsible pet owners, we had her chipped, spayed and groomed.

lucy day11 Join the VCA Pawfect Twitter Party!

These days, our filthy Craigslist outcast looks like a completely different dog.  All due in part to the quality care and love she received.

img 2747 Join the VCA Pawfect Twitter Party!

My belief about feeding our pet the best quality food and providing her with best possible care is no secret. I only feed my family the best foods and give them the best care therefore, our pet ( an extension of our family) should only receive the same treatment.

In fact, my strong opinions on the matter are what prompted Stiletto Media to contact me to participate in their first Twitter Party.

Latina on a Mission in part with VCA Animal Hospital will be hosting a Twitter Party on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.

As stated on the VCA homepage, their mission is the same as mine with regards to my pet: “Where your pet’s health is our top priority and excellent service is our goal.”  More about VCA Animal Hospitals:

VCA operates more than 540 animal hospitals in 41 states across the nation. These hospitals are staffed by more than 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians to give your pet the very best in medical care. Over 200 are board-certified specialists. Our hospitals provide a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments.

Visit VCA Animal Hospital to learn more about their services and to find a location near you.

As for the VCA Pawfect Twitter Party, pounce on Latina on a Mission  to RSVP and enter to win some pawfect prizes.  Then, be sure to follow yours truly, @denisermt , our party panelist, @VCApethealth and…

Also, “like” VCA Animal Hospitals on Facebook.

Need the VCA Pawfect Twitter Party details again?

VCA Pawfect Twitter Party
Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Time: 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. EST

Required Hashtag:  #VCApets
Language:  ENGLISH and SPANISH
Follow via TweetGrid:

VCA Pawfect Twitter Party Prizes include:

Capturing Summer Fun with Your Pet (Grand Prize)
• $100 Amex gift card
• Digital Picture Frame
• VCA branded gifts for your pet

Beach Safety Kit
• $50 Amex gift card
• Beach cooler and towel
• VCA branded gifts for your pet

Pet Travel Pack
• $50 gas card
• Pet traveler’s seat for your vehicle
• VCA branded gifts for your pet

Cat Wellness Kit
• $50 Amex gift card
• Cat shampoo, vitamins, and feline dental chews
• VCA branded gifts for your cat

Dog Wellness Kit
• $50 Amex gift card
• dog shampoo, vitamins, and doggie dental chews
• VCA branded gifts for your dog

Winners will be chosen with from those who RSVP and are answering Twitter Party questions, while using the #VCApets hashtag. 

*Disclosure: This is a paid campaign created in collaboration with Stiletto Media and VCA Animal Hospitals.*

A Harry Potter Party

My daughter definitely inherited my love for party planning and with her obsession over Harry Potter, she planned a whole party around the theme of the books and the movies.


Her magical grand design included a Hogwarts dining hall with a table for each house (Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Slytherin), a sorting hat, a potions lesson by our resident witch (me) and a Quidditch match, of course.


When sharing her master plan, she told us that she wanted to decorate the entire house to resemble Hogwarts.  Upon entering the house, the guests were to walk through Diagon Alley to find their necessary supplies and then report to Hogwarts.


As much fun as that all sounded, I couldn’t stomach the idea of 1) decorating my ENTIRE house the day after Halloween, 2) spending all the money required to decorate our entire house and 3) having about 40 children in my house.  So, I convinced Allana to scale down the party a bit and offered to rent our community’s clubhouse, which is available at a very modest price.  


Between races and other commitments, October is always a busy month for us, therefore, I tried to keep everything as simple and basic as possible, but still honor Allana’s request.  For the invitations, I downloaded the Lumos font from and modified text in the Hogwarts acceptance letter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.   



We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

In honour of

 Allana’s 8th Birthday

Sunday, November 1, 2OO9

2:OO P.M.

Our Clubhouse

777 Our Street Drive

We await your owl by no later than October 26.

Yours sincerely, 

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress


On the front of the invitation, I added the Hogwarts seal for authenticity.  Allana loved it and even commented on how “it looked so real”.


hp invitation1 A Harry Potter Party



table A Harry Potter Party

For the party decorations, I found everything I needed with one trip to the local dollar store.  We set up four tables (one for each house) and covered the tables with black vinyl tablecloths.  At each place setting, we set a purple plate, a purple napkin and a plastic purple spider goblet for each child, which would be theirs to keep after the party.  Each goblet held a goodie bag filled with an assortment of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans to represent Bertie Bott’s Jelly Beans.  Then, I covered another table with a purple tablecloth for the presents and hung spooky paper chandeliers from the ceiling to finish the Hogwarts dining hall look and feel.


Of course each Hogwarts student needs a wand, so I found a cheap frugal wand craft on-line that consisited of pencils, pipe cleaners and star wire. 


Our little wizards could make assemble their wands while waiting for other guests to arrive. dylan sorting hat A Harry Potter PartyAllana insisted that each child be sorted as they arrived.  I dug up two black witch’s hats from our dress-up clothes box: one to be placed each child’s head and the other to hide our baby monitor.  When the guests entered the room, we asked them to sit in a chair near the door and placed the “sorting hat” on their heads.  On the other side of the room, Dad held the baby monitor.  Speaking into the monitor, he pretended to be the voice of the sorting hat and selected a house at random for each child.  The children giggled in delight upon hearing our talking sorting hat.


As the guests made their way to their tables, we served chips and filled their goblets with Butterbeer (Root Beer).  Then, to begin our Hogwarts celebration, we sang “Happy Birthday” and served the cake at the start of the party because the planned activities would take us outside and give the children a chance to burn off the sugar high.


For my potions lesson, I told my students as I assembled the ingredients, “I’m not a very good witch and I always mess up my potions, so I don’t know what may happen here.  Sometimes the results are very explosive!”  I poured in a cup of powdered bat’s bones (baking soda) into a cauldron.  I added a drop of frog’s blood (red food coloring) and then poured in some ogre sweat (white vinegar).  The students squealed with delight as the concoction erupted out of the cauldron. 


After our explosive potions lesson, Dad lead the children in a quick game of Quidditch for Muggles.  No broomsticks required, but it was a fun game of controlled chaos. 


img 2109 A Harry Potter Party


img 2110 A Harry Potter Party


At the end of the day, Allana exclaimed, “THAT WAS THE BEST PARTY EVER!”  Although, she’s said that before, it felt good to hear it again this year.


img 2097 A Harry Potter Party

A Bootiful Masterpiece

At our Moms on the Go Halloween party, Allana proudly posed for a picture with a cupcake that she cleverly designed all by herself.  While the other children simply smeared on icing and sprinkled a few toppings on their cupcakes, Allana created a bootiful masterpiece.  With a dab of vanilla icing, she created a small ghost.  She added two sprinkles for the eyes and another for its mouth.  The candy corn represents a tombstone in a graveyard.  Isn’t it spootacular?


bootiful1 A Bootiful Masterpiece


bootiful2 A Bootiful Masterpiece


 A Bootiful Masterpiece

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

6953c34e Lets Do the Time Warp Again!Halloween is only 26 days away but our adult costume party is on the 17th.  This  means I have less than two weeks to figure out my costume and I am so ready to let my freak out!   To find my inspiration and to get into the spirit of the season, I’ve been spinning some spine-tingling tunes.


It’s astounding.  Time is fleeting.  Madness takes its toll.


The Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show conjures up some great memories from my youth.  With rice, toast and umbrellas in hand, my friends and I would dress-up and catch the midnight showing of Rocky Horror. 


I remember doing the Time Warp
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me and the void would be calling
Let’s do the time warp again…
Let’s do the time warp again!


Nowadays, no Halloween party is complete without pumpkin ale and The Time Warp


It’s just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips
You bring your knees in tight
But it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane,
Let’s do the Time Warp again! 


Let’s do the Time Warp again! 




musicalmonday Lets Do the Time Warp Again!


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