piecing together a party: smiling faces

Though I’m missing too many pictures from the party, I did get some pretty priceless ones of my little bunnies. I will be sure to enjoy these for many years.

here come the cupcakes

Bday Happy Bday to You

Bday blowing out candles

bill looking at camera

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piecing together a party: fun

One of the most fun parts of a birthday party for a little kid is the presents. Hank certainly looooved getting his birthday presents! We also had fun making little presents for his friends. Party favors! Once again, we kept it simple ūüėČ

In keeping with the theme, we made “ice cream” favors… Playdough (with glitter!) shaped into balls. Placed into large glass jars, these “ice cream balls” made a cute centerpiece for the table.

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As guests left, the kids got two scoops of playdough and put them in their very own glass jar.

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I had been collecting the glass jars for a while – salsa jars, pickle jars, etc. I had been storing nuts and dried fruits and things, but our collection was growing too large for me to use. I found a good use for the party! These are only a few of the jars – I had about a dozen of them set up for the party, all cleaned up and decorated with washi tape.

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The other fun thing we did at the party was play Pin the Tail on the Donkey… Of all the pictures that we didn’t take, these are the ones I missed the most! The kids absolutely loved playing this game – both the 4 year old set and (most of) the 2 year old set. If I’d thought of it, I’d have had the adults play too – the kiddos would have loved seeing that! At any rate, it was a great source of delight, and it added a classic party touch to the event. Here is the set that I bought – I can highly recommend it! My one critique (as you’ll read in the amazon reviews) is that the tails fall off if you don’t use additional tape!! Such a cute set though, and you can use it again as it’s made with a kind of laminated paper.

 

pin the tail on the donkey

piecing together a party: decorations

I kept the decorations minimal. I wanted it to be a simple, old fashioned, effortless birthday party for two sweet little boys. There was nothing over the top Рachieving an easy and sweet little party was my goal.

There were lots of balloons… Seemingly magically floating along the ceiling and underfoot (available for balloon fighting). Balloons are such a fun, cheap (and classic!) way to decorate for a party. They make everything more festive, and kids and adults love them. They also serve as an easy party favor!

Again, there was a severe lack of picture taking going on, so here are the only balloon pictures that I have:

balloon graveyard

balloon graveyard

balloon fight!

balloon fight!

I did some double-duty decorating by getting some really cute plates/cups/straws. I got the plates and ice cream cups from a company called Meri Meri. They have the most adorable party decorations. If you’re having an Easter party, they have some cute things for that right now!

The ice cream cups came with wooden “spoons” – the flat kind that used to come with ice cream cups at school… and they came in the cutest ice cream trucks! One side of each truck has a window, so we decorated with those and put pictures of each boy in a truck. They were really cute on the table as decorations, and the boys have been playing with them since the party.

ice cream trucks

The last little bit of “decoration” was also useful – cups and straws! How can the ever popular striped paper straws not make you smile?! These white paper cups¬†got a mini-makeover¬†with a black sharpie and¬†some simple ice cream drawings.¬†I LOVE how they turned out. I’ll be stocking up on these white paper cups because they can be customized to whatever party you’re throwing – so cute! I can also see¬†leaving out sharpies next to the bar so¬†people can draw on their own cups¬†too ūüôā

cups

piecing together a party… the invitations

My first ‚Äúbig gig‚ÄĚ as a mommy blogger and I blow it. Threw a biiiiig birthday bash and took veeeeeryyy few photos. Ah vell‚Ķ

Last weekend, we threw a birthday party for our sweet boys ‚Äď they are two years and two weeks apart, so for now at least,¬†it makes sense to combine them. I’ll do a few posts on the party. Though they will be lacking in pictures (which makes me a bit sad!), ¬†I do have a few fun things to share ūüôā

Hank turned 4 and Bill is turning 2 ‚Äď when I asked what they wanted to do for their birthday party, Hank said ‚Äúice cream and cake!!‚ÄĚ Who am I to deny him such a request?!

I decided to do a vintage ice cream theme for the party – a perfect combination of Hank’s request and my love of all things 1950s.

First things first: the invitations. I scoured the internet for some photos of 1950s birthday parties and found several images. I finally settled on an illustration of a mid-century children’s birthday party – the scene perfectly illustrated the “feel” I wanted for the party.

I used no fancy programs to do the invitations. I created it in photoshop and you can too!

1) Insert a your photo. I also formatted the picture to soften the edges – do this by right-clicking on the photo and selecting Format Picture
2) Insert text box and add your party info. Here is a great resource for cute, free fonts.
3) I then grouped the photo and the text box together (again, right-click for that option) and saved it as a jpg.
4) After that, I was done! Logged onto shutterfly.com and ordered the prints. I selected the matte option. I did not need to order any envelopes as I already had some at home.

Not only did the invitation turn out to be really, really cute, but it was super simple to pull together and super cheap to boot! Not to mention, totally custom. Win-win-win-win!

boy invite

I sent printed invitations through the mail and was also easily able to send a follow-up by email because it already lived on my computer as a jpeg.

Shutterfly has great invitation options in their invitations/stationery section, but designing your own and using them as a printer is an option too! Another great printing resource is www.vistaprint.com. I have used them in the past for notes and cards. They have many more options for cardstock. Since I waited too long to get my act together and didn’t want to spend extra for shipping, I went with shutterfly – they are always super fast. Just know that you can make your own invitations/cards using these steps and use any online printer that you like.

 

dangerous new skill

Oh me, oh my.

I wish I didn’t know it, but I do.

There’s no un-knowing it.

And now I have to tell someone about it.

Share the secret.

Only, I don’t think it’s been a secret. I just was blind to the information. Unhearing. Disbelieving.

One word:

SCONES

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Oh yes. I have always loved them. Perhaps because they are British (ta ta for now, Downton Abbey). Perhaps because they are best served with Devonshire cream (need to get some – will be trying this place asap) and that stuff is re-dic-u-lous-ly amazing. Not sure, but I do know I love them. Get them whenever I’m at a coffee shop craving something sinful to go with my coffee.

So my friend Nicole led me to the Smitten Kitchen blog. I’d heard of it and spent a bit of time on it eyons ago. But I hadn’t made anything from it. Until today. When my boys got up way too early once again, I decided to try to bake these scones from that blog… I had all the ingredients on hand. They seemed simple (and so quick!) – could it be? But scones are so yummy. So Professional Coffee Shop. But therein lies the secret. They ARE easy!!

I made this!

I made this!

Go forth and enjoy.

Not like this guy… he just picked the blueberries out of the mix. Don’t worry – the scone didn’t go to waste!

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Here is the recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

Dreamy Cream Scones America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes¬† (I cut the butter smaller bc I didn’t see this note – turned out fine… Also, I just used my hands when incorporating.)
1/2 cup currants (I used dried blueberries because I had them on-hand)
1 cup heavy cream (I used half and half because I had it on hand!)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425¬įF.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did) and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)

6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

happy heart day

Happy Valentine’s Day!! Hope you and yours have a love-filled (caffeine-fueled??!!) day!

A quick and easy toddler-friendly craft for Valentine’s Day…

LACING HEARTS

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What you’ll need:
cardboard
something sharp (I used a meat fork) – could also use a hole punch if it’s not too big
ribbon, lacing, or yarn

Steps:
1)   Cut out your heart РI free-handed this, but you could also use a stencil, of course.
2)   Poke holes around the edge of your shape, leaving at least a half inch from the side to prevent it from ripping too easily.

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3)   Start lacing your thread through the holes!

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My almost-four year old boy LOVED this activity. We will probably be making lacing crafts for a long time to come, perhaps fancy-ing up the project by printing photos onto cardboard or using fabric strips for the lacing. I gave him the lacing and his little cardboard heart and he went to town.

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I was also able to have my almost-two year old participate. I started the lacing through the hole and he would pull it through the other side – he thought it was a fantastic game.

This simple craft is fully-adjustable age-wise. You can make the holes smaller and closer together for an older child… If I’d used a larger hole-punch, I’m certain my two year old boy could have done it all by himself. It can also easily be translated to most any holiday St. Patrick’s Day shamrocks, Easter eggs, Christmas trees – or every day shapes, numbers or letters. Basically, any shape you can cut out of cardboard!

Sure, you can buy lacing toys at the toy store, but my boys loved making these for their daddy for Valentine’s Day – fully custom and a great way for them to work on their fine motor skills – and patience!

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Happy Heart Day from us to you!

i heart new beginnings

So I started this blog over a year ago and never kept it up. After some fresh encouragement from friends, I am going to try this blogging thing again. It’ll be a hodge-podge of things I fancy – pretty interiors, great diy projects, fun things to do with kids… basically anything that I find interesting. I hope you find it interesting too!

Today I’m sharing the Valentines that my boys made (with a little help from me!). If you haven’t already made yours yet, there’s still time to do these super simple Valentines.

CHOO!! CHOO!!

Hank will be four years old at the end of this month, so he was able to do the majority of his Valentines by himself, with me acting as the director and occasional helper. This sweet little boy has been a bit train-obsessed since he was 18 months old, so we¬†already had¬†a set of train stamps on hand¬†that we’ve used for birthday party activities and general crafting. The set comes with an engine and maybe 8 freight cars with different designs on them. one of them has hearts – perfect for Valentines Day! With an enthusiastic toddler and a few simple materials, here’s the finished product:

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What you’ll need:
Train Stamps
Ink Pad
Paper (or used manila file folders like we did!)
Scissors
Wax Paper
Tape
M&Ms

Steps:
1)¬†¬† Stamp your paper with the train images. This step is way more fun with a toddler! Hank decided he needed to “body-slam” the stamps – he inked the stamp, set it on the paper, then jumped on it with his belly – way. more. fun.
2)  Cut around your trains РHank and I both wielded scissors for this step.
3)  Count 20 M&Ms for each Valentine. This was a crucial step for us, because Hank is having a hard time counting to 20 Рthose teen numbers mess him up!
4)  Have your kiddo write his name on the back of each one. Again, this step was fun for Hank and also practice!! He got through just over half one day and we went back and finished the following day.
5)¬† Cut out a rectangle of wax paper, secure sides with tape – you can do this step whilst the toddler is cutting… That’s if you’re super lucky and both your other kids are napping!
6)  Fill wax paper packet with M&Ms, fold and seal with tape.
7)  Tape wax paper packet to Valentine over the freight car for a very special delivery! NB: I first taped along the top, but found the bag too easily ripped off the card, so a strip of tape across one corner worked better for us and has kept the M&Ms secured so far.

Lots of steps here as we included a lot of activities that Hank is working on at school – cutting, writing, counting… If you needed to do these quickly, though, it’s just stamps and M&Ms!! And if you don’t already have an arsenal of train stamps, draw a simple train.

Hank was super pleased with his creation!

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DON’T GO BREAKIN’ MY HEART

Here are the Valentines that little B and I did together… I think they turned out pretty cute!

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Bill is not quite two. He helped decorate his Valentines, but I did most of the “work” – again, these are easy, so not too much work!

What you’ll need:
thick paper (we used old file folders, again)
freezer paper (or wax paper, or typing paper would even do)
tape
decorating supplies like glitter, stickers, markers, crayons

Steps:
1)   Cut out a heart for a template (I used the folded edge of a file folder to cut an even heart).
2)¬†¬† Trace hearts on the thick paper you’re using (file folders, again).
3)   Let your kiddo decorate the hearts before you cut them out Рless mess on your table that way when they go out of the lines. I did encourage Bill to try and put stickers in each heart.
4)¬†¬† Cut out your hearts. I gave Bill his dull kid scissors and he “cut” while I was doing this part.
5)¬†¬† By this point, my kiddo was done with this activity! While he was off doing goodness knows what, I cut strips of freezer paper (used this because I had it and it’s nice and thick), approximately 2″ by 6″… Hank helped me count 10 M&Ms for these babies.
6)  Roll up your M&Ms in the paper and tape closed.
7)  Use a black marker to draw an arrow on the paper roll.
8)  Attach to your heart!

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You could also just do the arrows by themselves as a simple and super quick/easy/things-you-already-have-around-the-house Valentine.

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So there you go – simple Valentines made with things we had around the house + a bag of M&Ms!

Disclaimer #1: One of the things that I am aiming to do this year is to get better at photography. My husband has agreed to watch all three kiddos while I take a day-long photography class. I will certainly report back here when that class happens! Hopefully, though, you’ll be able to see the difference before I even bring it up ūüôā

Disclaimer #2: Any posts older than this one are OLD! To update, we have taken our place off the market and have no plans to move. Also, my boys do now share a room because their baby sister has moved into the nursery!

we want the bunk

For now, my sweet baby boys are in separate rooms. I wanted to try and get the little one to sleep through the night before putting the two together. I’m thinking that when we move, though, we will have them share a room. My sister and I shared a room when we were little and (from what I remember) we loved it. I guess I should check with my mom on the reality of that, though!

At any rate, aside from wanting the boys to create fun memories together, there is a more selfish reason I’d like for them to share a room. You see, I am obsessed with bunk rooms. Not bunk beds, per se, but rooms with 2+ twin beds. To me, they just scream fun. Perhaps someday we’ll have a lake house or beach house with a bunk room, in the meantime, I’ll practice on my kiddos.

I’ve found a ton of inspiration on the web – here are a few of my faves, some with built-ins, some just twin beds.

hurry up and wait

Our condo is on the market now. We turned the house upside-down and cleared it of all its clutter. No small feat with a toddler and an infant!¬†We then¬†put it on the MLS the very week the whole budget crisis went down. Needless to say, we’ve found ourselves in a “hurry up and wait” kind of scenario re: our condo sale. While we’re waiting for some movement in the market, all our straightening up has had a wonderful impact on our day to day lives.

It has been such a nice feeling living in a more streamlined space. Don’t get me wrong. I love homey spaces, warm, with lots of layers, so it’s not as if we live in a white box. We did not toss all the toys, just kept the most loved ones. We kept out only the serving pieces that we use on a weekly basis. Nothing unusual for most people, but for a clutter-bug like me, it’s been transformative. Everything has a place now, and that place is not in an overstuffed drawer or behind the closet door that you have to quickly shut before things fall out… not that it was ever that way – ha!

Living in a place where each thing has its place has been lovely. As much as I love beautiful magazine cover shoots, with everything is¬†spotless, I love the¬†few images that look as if people actually live there – like everything is in its place, not hidden away for the cameras. Here a couple of these “real” images.

All of our extra toys and books and coats and dishes are in storage in our basement. Whenever the move happens, though, we may get rid of them for good.