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A Backyard Summer Snow Cone Soiree

We all have our quirks—those seemingly stringent, sometimes adorable, traits that annoy others but make us feel at home, safe and satisfied. My father-in-law brings his own hazelnut creamer in his suitcase when he visits, for instance. I get very diva-ish about two things: cold, delicious water and not driving. I’ll go six months between pedicures. I drove a 10-year-old beat up car for so long that my assistants kinda told me that they were embarrassed when we valeted together. I’m not fancy, but please don’t hand me a room temperature tap water without expecting a visible or audible display of disappointment or sadness. Lucky for all of us, as part of my partnership with Culligan—yes a water treatment company—I get to tell the story, again, of the benefits of such delicious water, accessed every day from our spout, which is easy for me as a true water worshipper. So much so, that when we started renovating our home before we had moved, I knew that finding the right water softening and filtration system was important to both me (the water worshiper) and my family. So although we have been working with Culligan this year, our system and my love for what they do to our water came far before they had reached out about working together.

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A couple of weeks ago, to celebrate my “quirks,” we threw a neighborhood back-to-school snow cone party. The idea was to create a fun, themed party with a treat that was more activity-based to show off our treated water. A snow cone party jumped out immediately as Brady and I were brainstorming, so we pitched the idea to Culligan and they loved it. I mean, who doesn’t love a delicious snow cone that is made with even more delicious tasting, water-based syrups and clear, crushed ice from our Culligan system?

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For those of you that are new to the collaboration of our at-home Culligan system, let’s take a second to talk about the all-important ingredient in the snow cones and the syrup—Culligan Water. It not only runs through all the pipes in our home but is also what we used for all the snow cones and syrup in this post. It is a water treatment company that I was able to partner with only after I already had installed their system in our home. Meaning, I wanted the system first and the partnership came later. It was something that felt organic and although you might ask yourself, “a post about water filtration?”, it is something that has made not only our home better, but also the perfect summer snow cone party better. Crushed ice just might be the next sliced bread, and I am very happy to report that our ice via our filtered system is amazing.

Brady and Emily B. ideated and created this adorable summer snow cone soirée, inclusive of the snow cone stand and table. They handmade the set-up from wood crates along with the chalkboard sign and everything. They informed me that it was VERY easy. I’ll give the DIY later, but I think they did such a great job pulling together a modern take of the lemonade stand (or in our case snow cone stand). The sign is also painted with chalkboard paint so you can easily wipe off the lettering and turn it into an actual lemonade stand, puppet show theatre, or anything in between that the kids want to do.

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We set up two stations, one to make the snow cones (where the grown-ups would crush the filtered ice) and a separate area for toppings for the kids. Then, we gave both the kids and the adults an area to relax and hang out.

Emily Henderson Culligan Snow Cone Party Diy Side By Side

There was so much anticipation from the kids about this new form of frozen water (shaved ice). We used a machine which created enough ice for a few cones at a time and then we scooped the kids’ into a paper cone and the adults’ into some faceted glass jars. The anticipation was palpable, just look at those little tongues ready with glee. Little did they know that all the toppings were healthy and that all of the syrups were all-natural, water-based, and made with real fruit. That clean-as-a-whistle shaved ice (thanks to the filtered water system we used to make it) didn’t need to be marred with artificial colorings and flavors, after all.

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A quick recap (before diving back into the snow cone soireé) about what makes this water so great. As I mentioned, I can go all diva about my water, and this is the most delicious water in the world. We have Culligan’s High-Efficiency Water Softening System and Reverse Osmosis system (as well as the whole home system for softening like I mentioned previously), which directly filters the water right at the tap. It’s small enough to live under your sink, which is great for anyone worried about space. This filters and removes the majority of contaminants you find in tap water, leaving you with clean, delicious h2o that you can feel confident about putting into your and your family’s bodies…in this case, in snow cone form. If you want more information, check out my initial post about the Culligan Water system here.

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For the party, and for the convenience of not having to imagine up three flavors for kids and three different flavors for adults, we created three all-natural fruit flavors and then made them a bit more exciting for the adults by adding the option for a cocktail version. But, trust me when I say that even if you do the mocktail version, they are just as good. Rather than buy the over-the-counter syrups (which the kids would have obviously loved) we wanted to create something that was healthy (ish), easy to make, and could be done at home with just a few different ingredients. Meaning you know exactly what was going in them. The simple syrups are water-based that we infused with fruit to give them both color and flavor.

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The base of the recipe was the filtered water straight from our tap with a 1 to 1 to 1/4 ratio (1 cup of water, 1 cup of diced fruit, 1/4 cup of sugar). You add all the ingredients in together and then simmer on low for 20 minutes until the sugar is fully dissolved and the fruit has boiled down a bit. You can strain out the leftover fruit and then decant them and they are ready to serve. They will also keep in the fridge if you don’t use them all the day of the party. But trust me when I say that they go fast—we had to tell the kids we were “out of syrup” when in fact we still had some left in the fridge because they kept coming back over and over asking for more. We pulled together three different flavors for the post that appeal to both adults and kids: Cherry Smash, Pina Colada and Summer Strawberry. 

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Those kid flavors and cones were pretty enticing, as were the adult versions…

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To make the adult versions a little more fun (I mean who doesn’t love a boozy adult snow cone?), we gave the option to add in a shot of alcohol to each. Bourbon to the Cherry Smash, coconut rum to the Pina Colada and vodka to the Summer Strawberry.

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Get creative with your toppings and your add-ins for the adults just like you would with a real cocktail at home. We toasted some coconut flakes, skewered some maraschino cherries, and offered candied lemons and limes, and bitters for the adults to add in and make their own concoction. Once the table is all set up with the toppings, ice, cones, syrups and boozy add-ins, it is self-serve, which means more time to enjoy your snow cones and less time that needs to be used entertaining and making said snow cones for everyone. Cheers to a party table that is self-sufficient and a summer soiree that both adults and kids will love.

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Over on the other side of the backyard, we set up a kids area for them to top off their snow cones to their heart’s (and stomach’s) content. There is nothing more satisfying to a child than being able to walk their freshly made snow cone over to a child-sized snow cone stand filled with toppings that they can reach and mix into their sweet treat.

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The kids get the satisfaction of thinking they are topping them off with “snacks” and I get the satisfaction of knowing that all of the kids’ toppings are just diced up or dehydrated fruit. Hot parenting tip: crushed up dehydrated strawberries look virtually identical to some sugary cereals in the eyes of kids, but are A LOT healthier.

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I tried to give a helping hand to Birdie with her first one, but after she learned her way around the topping table, she was very eager to do it on her own the next round.

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Charlie had fun pulling together his, as well.

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In all my years of bartending, I don’t think I have ever had more demanding (yet adorable) “clients” than these children asking for their next round of snow cones. Perhaps that is why there is a drinking age limit, those toddlers were VERY demanding with the speed of each drink order (and you know…the whole alcohol thing).

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But it made for some very happy kids and very happy tummies. 

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But it wasn’t just the kids that got to enjoy the pleasures of a freshly made snow cone. They were accompanied by their parents and all of us grown-ups enjoyed our grown-up versions while the kids played in the backyard.

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Tell me you don’t want to indulge yourself on a late summer day with that delicious looking boozy cocktail up there. There are still officially a few weeks left of the season, so get to it!

Who knew shaved ice could be so delicious and easy?

To create a little seating area for the adults we sourced some affordable circular tablecloths and then layered them on top of each other for hangout time. Because they are tablecloths, it means that they can easily be thrown into the wash when the party’s over and used again and again. It’s high impact and low maintenance.

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We played around with pattern and color by layering on white, blue and blush and then punched it up to make it feel more modern with hits of metallic and black-and-white buffalo check.

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We got the white fabric bunting and strung it out across the yard to give it a summery vibe. I love how fun the backyard feels with them strung across back and forth and because they are fabric, it means that if they get rained or spilled on, you can throw them in the wash. It’s staying as of now and I love seeing it outside the dining room window.

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It was a very happy afternoon in one of our last weeks before school starts and we all had so much fun. The sugar high that ensued quickly after is a different story, but let’s just all remember the look on these happy faces as we enjoyed our snow cone party.

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There we all are feeling full, refreshed and happy. Let us know if you have any questions on any of the DIYs or materials. Here is a Get the Look with everything we used for the snow cone soirée in case you want to recreate the look yourself. I recommend that if you have more than five kids (for like a birthday party, for instance), to rent a huge snow-cone cart that can produce more at a time, or hire a snow-cone tender that can crush a bunch of ice on demand so that you can serve them up quickly for the kids. But it was honestly so fun and could be a great back-to-school neighborhood party for both kids and adults. Thanks to Culligan Water, we threw our first (and probably not our last) for our neighbors.

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1. Blue Cake Stands | 2. Buffalo Check Table Runner | 3. Handblown Glass Ice Bucket | 4. Wood Cake Stand | 5. Striped Bunting | 6. Small Jam Jar | 7. Medium Jam Jar | 8. Paper Snow Cone Cup | 9. Blue and White Striped Straws | 10. Copper Oil and Vinegar Set | 11. Copper Tong | 12. Ngwenya Recycled Glass Jojo Decanter | 13. Marble + Copper Serving Board | 14. Ngwenya Recycled Glass Bottle Decanter | 15. Mini Gold Spoon | 16. Low Copper Planter | 17. Glass Jug | 18. Copper Tray | 19. Colorful Spoon Set | 20. Copper Plated 4″ Cocktail Picks | 21. Copper Jigger | 22. 2-Tier Loop Server with Handle | 23. Electric Ice Crusher Shaver Snow Cone Maker Machine | 24. Solid Brass Ice Cream Scoop | 25. Scratch Marble and Resin Platter | 26. Copper and Brass Louise Bowls | 27. White Bunting | 28. Rose Gold Paper Straws | 29. Kid’s Picnic Table Set | 30. Wooden Crate | 31. Buffalo Check Round Table Cloth | 32. White Round Table Cloth | 33. Oar Small Enamel Light Purple Bowl | 34. Oar Medium Enamel Mint Bowl | 35. Blue Pillow | 36. Pink Floor Pillow | 37. Dark Charcoal Velvet Tufted Floor Cushion | 38. Mustard Throw Blanket | 39. Pinwheel Cupcake Picks (set of 8) | 40. Black Mini Bowl | 41. Blush Shallow Bowl (set of 4) | 42. Woven Floor Pouf | 43. Glass Pitcher | 44. Copper Tray | 45. Dip Milky White Double Old-Fashioned Glass | 46. Mustard Napkin | 47. Blush Napkin | 48. Wood Tray | 49. Wood Spoon | 50. Buffalo Check Napkins

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5 years ago

Fun and adorable! Yard looking beautiful too! I’ve been wanting an update on your botched tree trimming from last year…hope all is well there. I was so feeling your pain!

5 years ago
Reply to  AllyR

I would love a tree and yard update too!

5 years ago
Reply to  Emily

HA. The trees are good but as you can see the grass is meh. We didn’t know it but our sprinklers were off one week during a huge heat wave as we were out of town. It is struggling to be healthy again. But yes, trees are good (they haven’t fully grown back, but definitely filled out).

5 years ago

How Emily how !! How do you make everything look so easy and beautiful? I have some very unrealistic expectations of the way my home needs to look AT ALL TIMES thanks to your ridiculously stunning styling. Love the whole snow cone-healthy fruit-great backyard extravaganza ! So much fun xxx

5 years ago

Fun and adorable! Yard looking beautiful too!

5 years ago

Adorable! At the risk of raising an unhappy subject — is that the mangled tree in the background and how is it doing? Update please!

5 years ago

Hi Emily,

I think that I’ve caught all of your Culligan posts and one thing that I don’t believe was ever addressed is whether it contributes to water wastage. In thinking about a reverse osmosis system for my home, I read that they waste about 4 gallons of water for every gallon made (equating to about 25% efficiency). I would like to know if this applies to Culligan as well (as I think the main component of their system is also reverse osmosis). The lack of clean drinkable water is an increasing concern to me, and I imagine that some information on this topic (not a whole post – maybe just a short explanation) could be of interest to your other readers as well, when considering Culligan and similar systems. Thanks for considering!

5 years ago
Reply to  Alexa

WOW! I had no idea that a system like that contributes to water waste, as someone who lives in SoCal that is HUGE. Say what you want about LA tap water, it doesn’t actually make you SICK. I had been seriously considering a water softening system, but was clueless as to what that really meant for the environment, thank you for the insight.

5 years ago

Emily, Does the Culligan system contribute to water waste? I though that the stat on reverse osmosis was that 4 gallons were wasted for every one gallon created? I would be interested in knowing whether Culligan is an environmentally responsible choice. Thanks!

5 years ago

What a fun post!!

5 years ago

Need your hat! Please post brand, thanks.

Paige Cassandra Flamm
5 years ago

This is so fun! All the details are perfect! I totally want to do this when we get into our new house in a couple weeks!


5 years ago

Love this! Could you share the link for the white bunting, please?

nancy m.
5 years ago

this is great – i figured all the items were expensive, and i’m so happy to see that it’s all really affordable. my kids would LOVE this.

5 years ago

What a great post!! Love all of it!

5 years ago

What especially caught my eye is the gorgeous patina now on your brass faucet and cabinet pulls-lovely and worth the wait.

Kelsey Oran
5 years ago

I’m a giant water snob — this is RIGHT up my alley.

Paula Carr
5 years ago

We had Culligan when I was a kid (in Culver City) because the water was SO hard you could barely get it to suds up. I used to love their old TV ads when I was a kid: “Hey, Culligan man!”

Looks like a fun time, too. 🙂

5 years ago

Where did all the other comments go?

5 years ago

Can you tell me where the white colander bowl with strawberries came from? It’s the one in Emily’s kitchen. I love it!

5 years ago
Reply to  Thuy

It is from Target from a while back, but is unfortunately no longer sold there.

5 years ago

its very delicious in see so how much delicious it for eat i want tooo eat i like friday ads

5 years ago

This looks like such a fun backyard bash for the kids (and adults) I am definitely going to have to try a few of these syrups. Can I be your kid?

5 years ago

Great work Emily, Emily and Brady!! This is beautiful and looks like a nice way to enjoy being outside

5 years ago

Wow, great way to have some fun with our children 😉 thanks so much for the inspiration!


5 years ago

Hey! This so nice and fun!
Great ideea…

love the photos too.