Menu buttons


                 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Horse Birthday Slumber Party - Cowgirl Style

 Our house has been Party Central this weekend - fun fun!  (and exhausting!)  My daughter turns 11 next week and she has been helping me plan the party for months.  She is definitely my child - she knows what she wants and is full of ideas, she wants it to look good, and she wants to Do It Herself.  ;)
After all the horseback riding she did while we were in Utah this summer, it was almost a forgone conclusion that she would pick Horses for her theme for her birthday party.  And her very first request- after specifying that she wanted a slumber party, of course - was that she have chocolate horses topping her cupcakes - and that she be able to do them herself.  She had seen a YouTube video about piping chocolate onto wax paper to make shapes and that was what she had in mind, but that sounded a little intense for her first attempt at real cake decorating so I found a chocolate mold online.  With our lives as crazy as they are right now and the amount of time it takes each batch of chocolate to cool I did end up making most of the chocolate horses myself, though I did make sure she got to do a few on her own.
 Once we started looking at ideas online (you can see my Pinterest inspiration board here) we decided to go with a Cowgirl theme in pink and brown with a few blue accents thrown in.  The invitations, of course, came first.  (You can see the invitations in an earlier post here)
 Kaitlyn fell in love with the idea of a big wooden pallet sign with the outline of a horse on it, but I didn't want to work on a project that big right now.  Instead, I grabbed some scrap wood from the garage, distressed it and stained it, then used hot glue to attach some jute "rope" to spell out the word Howdy.  We used this sign on the front door to greet everyone and set the mood for the party.

When the guests arrived they each received a cowboy hat.
 From previous experience with birthday slumber parties I know that the girls are always super-hyped, loud, and anxious to direct their own fun.  They spent most of the party playing Just Dance or playing with Kaitlyn's fast-growing collection of Ever After High dolls, but I did set up a couple of stations to go along with the party theme.
The Photo Booth props were a lot of fun



 And I threw together a bucket of stuff for mani/pedis, though it didn't get used.  We also had the idea to YouTube some line dances (perfect for a cowgirl party, right?!) and would have done so if the party was lagging.  As I said, the girls had no problem having fun on their own so I just let them do their thing.

 Knowing that, I spent more time on the food and the decorations than I did on the activities.  The beadboard pennant birthday banner got some theme-appropriate fabric and ribbon and provided the backdrop for the dining table.
 The longer I do this, the easier it gets.  I also have a handful of Go To tricks that I can use for any theme - like dressing up the drink containers.  For this party, I picked up a 6-pack of cream soda bottles and added a vinyl horse silhouette (made it using a horse dingbat font and my Silhouette machine.  I love that there are so many great fonts out there for free!).  The plates are part of a stack of inexpensive plastic party plates we picked up at Sam's club a couple years back - they work great for parties.  The napkins, bandana, and tiny pink cowboy hats (aren't they cute?!) were all fun finds at the party store.


 On to the food!  The cupcakes turned out great - though I suggest putting the horses on only at the last minute.  It was a warm day and some of them wanted to tip over when their legs got a little soft.

 For dinner, Kaitlyn had requested ribs and mashed potatoes.  And you know what that means?  That means the husband did most of the food prep because he is the rib smoker expert ;)
Side note - the rolls down there on the end are in a pink plastic cowboy hat.  I forgot to get a detail photo of that, but I wanted to point it out because the girls thought it was a fun detail.

 Once the girls had a couple of hours to play and were ready to settle down a bit, I prepared a tray of goodies so they could snack and watch TV.  Included:  popcorn in brown paper bags (that I had folded down and fringed the edges), water bottles with the horse decals (I try to avoid having any colored drinks on the playroom carpet - it is horrible when it comes to stains), Cow Tales carames, licorice "ropes" and rice krispie treat "hay bales."

 I went to bed around 11:00 that night and I'm told some of the girls stayed up only 'til midnight while the other half made it to around 2AM.  But they were all awake and hungry by 7:30 in the morning.  We did a full cowboy breakfast spread with pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and chocolate milk.

 Party favors were their cowboy hats, more of Kate's chocolate horses, some cute fingernail decals (in the closest we could find to the party colors), a pen, and some more Cow Tale caramels.
If noise levels and chaos are any indication (naw they weren't that bad - I didn't even have to wake up in the middle of the night to tell them to tone it down), the party was a rip-roaring success.  Yay!

Friday, October 3, 2014

30th UnBirthday Mad Hatter Tea Party

 It's Friday!  I love Fridays!  (Who doesn't??) Do you know what I was doing last Friday?  Throwing a suprise party for a friend's 30th birthday - that's what!  A Mad Hatter 30th Unbirthday Tea Party.  That's what the birthday girl wanted - she mentioned it to me a year ago (on her 29th birthday) that it would be fun to have a Mad Hatter Tea Party for her 30th.  I'm kind of proud of myself for remembering LOL.  For a few years now I've thought the whole Alice in Wonderland theme is full of cute and fun ideas and I've tried more than once to convince my daughter that it would be a fun birthday party for her.  I even had some ideas Pinned already.  
 And let's face it - what better way to spend an afternoon than having a tea party with these crazy ladies?
So my friend and I started plotting and had the birthday girl set aside some time for a "craft day."  First on the list - hats!  About a week before the party my friend and I got together to make fun little Mad Hatter type hats for everyone.
 The guests got black and white with some sort of variation on the heart (Queen of Hearts) theme for the ribbon.
And the birthday got one a little bigger and brighter.  We used this tutorial for the hats and it worked like a charm.  We used plastic cups and the fabric still attached to it with the hot glue just fine.  We didn't use the cup lids for the tops of the hats - we just traced around the lip of the cup and cut a piece out of an old cereal box.  Then we attached it all to alligator clips so they would stay in our hair.  If I were to do it again I probably would have gone with headbands.  I think the hats would have stayed in place on our heads better with those.
This little guy was the only kiddo not old enough to be in school while we were working on everything.  He wasn't a fan and made it very hard for his mommy to do much.  Luckily he was in a much better mood on the day of the party and the entire time we were setting up he had that cute smile plastered on his face while he happily played in the playpen (phew!).
 On to the party details!  I'm so pleased with how everything turned out.  It came together very easily and with very little expense as I tried to use what I already had or make most things ourselves.  The only things I bought specifically for the party (other than food, of course) were the mismatched tea cups and saucers and the little tea pot from the thrift store.  To get the biggest effect for our efforts we kept the decorations confined to the dining table and the food display.
The clock came directly off my kitchen wall ;)  I already had it taken down and the hands off all ready to pack up and it made the perfect base for the centerpiece.  Add in a few colorful flowers, the misdirection sign posts and mismatched tableware and the bright eclectic look was pretty easy to pull off.
 Each table setting was different from the rest.




And aren't the key adorable?!  I ran across them at JoAnn's a couple years ago in the dollar section with the intention of framing them somehow but haven't done it yet.



 Can't forget the Cheshire cat!  He hung out above the pantry.  We also thought about doing a playing card garland hanging from the chandelier, but we ran out of time.  We had also planned to have the Very Merry Unbirthday song playing in the background when the birthday girl arrived, but we forgot to download it and our hurried attempt to YouTube it and play it on the cell phone wasn't quite as effective.  Oh well.  ;)
 On to the food!  All tea parties need lots of food in teeny tiny portions, right?  We grabbed random tea cups and mugs to use for the food display.  The giant tea cups are actually flower pots that I use for decoration once in a while.  And the Happy Birthday plate was one I made years ago on one of our Saturdays with The Girls at a paint your own place.
The menu included: southwestern egg rolls, pigs in a blanket, buffalo winge, fruit skewers, individual 7-layer dips and chips, miniture chocolate cupcakes and tiny caramel tarts.  The teapot was filled with cold sweet tea and we also had pumpkin hot chocolate to drink.




Total success!  Our friend was very suprised (yes!  it's hard to keep a secret like that!) and we had so much fun no one wanted to go home.  We ended up crafting after all, just to prolong the our time together.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How I Handle Screen Time with the Kids

It's a constant internal battle right?  How much TV/video game/computer time is too much?  How do I get the kids to adhere to whatever rules I set without constantly monitoring or nagging?  I had  noticed during the summer that it was very easy for the kids to get sucked into the screens first thing in the morning and have a hard time redirecting themselves afterward.  I would be in the garage working and when I would take a break at 9 or 10AM I would go inside to find them both still in pjs  glued to the tablet and generally the little guy hadn't even fed himself breakfast yet.  (I know - some of your kids sleep until then so it doesn't sound like a big deal.  We are a house of early risers and generally my kids wake up on their own by 7:00)  Not good.
Well, about a month ago I ran across a brilliant idea (found here).  Instead of setting limits on screen time, this mom sets up a list of things the kids need to do BEFORE they spend any time on the computer or TV and once those things are done they are free to spend as much time as they want with the screens.  The beauty of the plan is that you customize your list and change them as needed so that a good chunk of the day is spent doing the items on the list if you so desire.  By putting things on the list that are likely to get the child involved in other activitiess (outside play, something artsy or creative, etc) chances are they will get wrapped up in those activities and be less likely to spend as much time on the screens anyway.
The night after I found the idea I brought it up for discussion at the dinner table.  The kids and the husband were on board and we took the time to discuss what we all thought should be included on the lists.  Kaitlyn was highly involved in the process (she's 10) while Tyler was less interested (he's 8) but both were enthusiastic to start in on the lists as soon as I got everything typed up and posted in their rooms.

 Kaitlyn wanted her lists on her bulletin board and we taped Tyler's inside the doors on his nightstand.
Kaitlyn was so excited she took the initiative and made herself and her brother duct tape organizers to hold the dry erase markers so they could be within easy reach of the lists ;)

 We had decided the format we wanted to use for the lists would be a checklist with spaces for an entire week.  To save myself from having to print and reprint the lists I inserted them in page protectors so the kids can use dry erase markers and the lists can just be wiped off when they are ready to start the next week.  We also did two lists - one for days when the kids have school and one for the days without school (weekends, summer, holidays).  The lists are fairly similar for each child, the only difference being the amount of time each needs to spend reading and things they need a little more help remembering - like Kaitlyn remembering her asthma meds and to apply deordorant in the morning while Tyler's has a reminder that playing with the dog DOES NOT mean wrestling in the living room ;) - and there is a slight difference in their daily chores.  I also divided the lists into sections for Morning, After School, and After Dinner.  My main focus was on getting them to be self-directed (especially with the daily routine/chores) along with giving them some balance between responsibilities, play, creativity, learning (reading), and exercise.

Kaitlyn's List: For Days Without School
Breakfast:  includes putting dishes in dishwasher, putting away food, wiping down counter/table where you ate
Vitamins, Medicine
Get Dressed: includes deodorant, comb hair
Brush Teeth:  with timer, rinse sink afterward and make sure towels are hanging up nicely
Make Bed
Unload Dishwasher (if it’s your day)
Feed/Water Bambi


Active:  60 Minutes
Reading:  30 Minutes
Creative/Productive (Play):  1 ½ hour
Play with Bambi
Chore(s)
Straighten up Bedroom
Clean Up Playroom


Dinner:  includes putting dishes in dishwasher, helping to clear table and put away food
Take Out Garbage

Kaitlyn's List:  For Days With School
Breakfast:  includes putting dishes in dishwasher, putting away food, wiping down counter/table where you ate, help pack lunchbox
Vitamins, Medicine
Get Dressed: includes deodorant, comb hair
Brush Teeth:  with timer, rinse sink afterward and make sure towels are hanging up nicely
Make Bed


Homework, put away lunchbox
Unload Dishwasher (if it’s your day)
Active:  30 Minutes
Reading:  30 Minutes
Creative/Productive (Play):  30 Min
Play with Bambi (not wrestling!)
Straighten up Bedroom
Clean Up Playroom


Dinner:  includes putting dishes in dishwasher, helping to clear table and put away food
Take Out Garbage




I'm happy to report that this system seems to be working really well and I have high hopes that the longer we keep at it the more self-sufficient and self-modifying my children will become.
Hey, a mom can hope, right? ;)