Category Archives: celebrations

So You Want a NonTraditional Themed Birthday Party?

Even before his birthday, all my 2 year old wanted was the movie “Rio.”  If you don’t know what Rio is – you’re not alone.  Rio is a sweet movie about two parrots in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The film includes a nice social element about conservation.  In any event, the movie was the first thing he asked for in the morning and the last thing before he went to bed.  My dad even made up a song – “rio in the morning, rio in the evening, rio in the afternoon.”  So, I took it as no surprise that CJ wanted a Rio birthday party.IMG_4878

Rio is not one of those pre-packaged parties you can find at Target, Walmart or even my favorite locale for party supplies, the Dollar Store.  Perhaps during the summer you could use luau themed supplies, but in the dead of winter they are hard to come by.  Trust me – I tried.  From invites to food it became a fun challenge and took my own party planning to the next level.

I started by sharing the challenge with a more experienced (and creative) friend of mine who makes her own invitations that look elegant, classy and professional. The trick – stamps, craft scissors and glitter.  Who knew that this affordable trinity of goods could create a heavy weight card-stock invite that was personal and fun.

Once the invites were done, it was time to consider menu & decorations.  Elements of the movie came to mind parrots, Carnival, tropical fruit.  It evolved into a quasi- Mardi Gras theme with necklaces,masks and maracas for favors, punches for beverages, and brightly colored tissue paper flowers for decorations.

IMG_4859

Punches are my favorite party beverage.  They’re easy to make and delicious.  I usually do two an adult beverage like bloody marys and a virgin beverage.  This time, Sangria popped into mind – so that was that.  The concoction – plain red wine, some white rum, a bit of gran marnier, a little sugar, orange soda and club soda.

Feathers, glittery pompoms, colored lights  and tulle decorated the house.  The table centerpiece was a pile of bananas topped with a tropical tree made with pineapples. IMG_4857

Tissue paper pom poms and origami parrots were dancing up above.  (ThaIMG_4859nk you Martha Stewart for the recipe for fabulous pom-poms, and Tiny Shiny for a template for origami parrots that was easy to follow.)  Tried making an origami parrot?  Well most of the directions call for tons of steps  that made me feel like a total idiot! I was immensely grateful to find Tiny Shiny’s post offering a 6 step parrot.

For food, I decided to do bird bites.  Since the party was mid-afternoon, the idea was to provide a mostly well rounded menu that could serve as dinner if folks desired.  Meatballs, Pineapple, Cheese Balls (recipe here), Pesto Pizza Bites, Soft Pretzels; and since a party isn’t a party without sugar (don’t tell they boys’ fabulous dentist Cherylin (JK)) – homemade fudge & kettle corn.IMG_4876

Then, there was the cake.  When you’d ask my son about his birthday, he would say “Rio Cake.”  That’s it.  He wasn’t concerned with anything else – just the cake.  Again, he’s “my” son.  So what the heck is a Rio Cake?  Well, ask Google.  A Google images search will show images of cakes topped with marzipan parrots, flowers and the like.  Since that is way beyond my skill-set, I opted for Rio cupcakes that aimed to look like the faces of little birds, pinned here.  CJ loved helping to decorate them – or helping with the M&Ms – he would hand one to me and then eat a few.  For a larger cake, I did one with fondant and a 2 dimensional very amateur or shall I say avante guard parrot. (Sorry about the pic, had started eating the cake before realizing I hadn’t taken a photo)IMG_4863

Lastly, for entertainment, we broke the bank putting $$ from my Ebay store (WinePlusCountryEqualsStyle) and rented a jumpy from a local Sonoma company.  I’m usually anti-jumpy, due to cost, but having done parties both ways the jumpy is worth the dough.  Russell at Jump Jump gets an A+ in my book for being easy to work with, providing excellent service and a practically new jumpy.

At the end of the day, throwing a nontraditional birthday party is a winner in my book.  Thinking of how to go with the theme, or no theme, and putting your own stamp on it is such a fun experience.  For anyone reading this, I totally recommend it.  For me, well, it’s time for a sugar detox. And time to plan the next shin-dig a MadMen themed cocktail party to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation – whaahoo!

Advertisements

Do it yourself halloween decorations

 photo(22) The boys and I have been busy spooking up our house. Determined not to spend money on anything but pumpkins, I decided to forge around the house to create decorations myself.

I admit, I’m in love with anything from Pottery Barn Kids, especially their painted signs. Though I wanted to make something more personal while incorporating my love of handprint and footprint art (not to mention not breaking the bank.)

2$ later, I was ready to make my own signs to hang and place in the garden.  The boys and I painted the stakes, then decorated them.  After putting on the final gloss and nailing them together, they were ready.  Voila- a fun decoration that will grace our house for years to come.

Want to20131018-123533.jpg do it yourself? All you need are a few supplies. You may even have some on hand.  If you want to make the garden sign – then grab one piece if wood about 2-3 feet long and wooden stakes (as many as you like available at amazon), a few nails and paint, and a sealer. Hardware stores sell single fence pieces separately. Mine was 2$ which beat spending 19$ per sign from Pottery Barn Kids.

If you want to make a hanging sign, just grab some eye screws that yophoto(23)u would use for hanging a picture and a bit of twine.  Super easy!

By the way, don’t let a trip to the hardware store set you back.  It’s pretty to find the wood section – just follow the scent of sawdust.  Of course, in doing so be ready to see some Christmas goodies.  Can’t we get through Halloween first?  And what about Thanksgiving?  Those turkeys need to be celebrated!

After you are ready to go – break out your paint and go to town. I used tempera paint as it is what I have most of, but acrylic would work even better.

Let your creativity guide ya! The possibilities are endless.  Need inspiration? Do a quick Google search for images.

Once you finish painting, let it dry. Once dry, then coat with a sealer.  I used a gloss varnish as it was what I had on hand from making CJ’s solar system for his room, but there 20131018-123458.jpgare spray sealers that will work too.  Again, just grab it at the hardware store.  At this point you can add glitter if ya like.  My boys sprinkled it on everything.  And, it made a cute accentuation of the pumpkin stems, which you may have guessed were made with their thumbprints.  Let dry overnight.

Then you’re ready to break out the tools. Grab your hammer photo(21)and a couple of nails and seal the deal. Or let your little Bob the Builders have fun nailing it in.    I must say that my late grandfather who was a talented carpenter and general contractor would have loved teaching the boys to drive in a nail.  But alas, I got to have the pleasure.

Then, get your goblins to help you pick a spot for your decorations!

Birthday Bash Baked Brie

Celebrating birthdays Sonoma style means being surrounded by close family, close friends and good food.  This is how we have been ringing in Bobby’s 3rd birthday.  The highlight food wise so far has been what I’ve named Birthday Bash Baked Brie (try to say that 10 times) or as it has also been called Brie Cobbler.   It is both easy and versatile.

You will need:

1 package of frozen puff pastry sheets

Wheel of brie

1 egg (beaten in a cup)

Two cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, pears would work well)

¼ cup sugar

1 Tbsp Quick cooking tapioca

Dash of cinnamon

Thaw your puff pastry sheets.  Slice your fruit.  Warm a saucepan and cook fruit with sugar, tapioca and cinnamon.  Stir frequently until the fruit is soft and the juices are thick.  About 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease an ovenproof dish with a bit of butter.  Lay one sheet of puff pastry on the bottom.  Unwrap brie and place on top.  Place fruit mixture on top of brie.  Fold pastry over brie – Depending upon size of brie, you may need another sheet of puff pastry.  Seal pastry at the seams.  And, then brush with an egg wash. Bake in oven at 350 until golden brown (about 40 minutes).  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers and/or sliced baguette.

Enjoy!

Setting the Leprechaun Trap: A Toddler Friendly St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching! There are so many fun ways to celebrate this holiday with kids. Here are a few things that will be happening around my house this year.

The night before, we’ll set out a trap for leprechauns. Who knows, we might catch one. When we go to check it, maybe there will be a little surprise waiting for Bobby.  Last year, the leprechauns left matchbox cars and green playdough.  This year, who knows?

The morning of St. Patty’s day, Bobby will enjoy a green breakfast. Spinach pancakes with milk that turns green. I’ll put a drop of green food coloring at the bottom of a glass. He’ll be amazed when I pour in the milk.  It’s like magic!

Later in the day, we will go hunt for leprechauns. Little green leprechaun footprints in the yard will keep his attention. Where will the footprints lead? Well, the leprechauns will have left little bags of chocolate coins. After all at Bobby’s house a holiday is synonymous with chocolate!

Of course, we’ll end the day with a festive meal of corned beef and soda bread.

That’s what we’re doing on St. Patty’s Day, what will you be doing? I’d love to know~

Also published at: http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2012/Kid-friendly-St-Pattys-Day/

Family Friendly New Year’s Traditions

As the ball drops, hopefully your little ones will be fast asleep gaining much energy for a fun New Year’s Day. Why not try a few family friendly traditions on New Year’s Day? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. · Have a New Year’s toast with sparkly juice
  2. · Make your own special ball drop with a bunch of balloons
  3. · Bang pots and pans
  4. · Dance to a special song
  5. · Draw some pigs, as pigs are said to represent progress. Or, borrow the Austrian tradition of decorating your table with candy shaped like pigs.
  6. · Plant some seeds. As kids get older, get their ideas about what wishes they want the seeds to represent
  7. · Reorganize some of the kids toys and pick a few to give away to a local charity
  8. · Enjoy some special dishes that are said to bring luck and prosperity through the New Year. For example, southerners enjoy black-eyed peas and collard greens to ensure luck through the new year
  9. · Borrow a Spanish tradition and enjoy 12 grapes representative of the 12 months of the year
  10. · Burn a bayberry candle. Burn it all day, when it is burnt out, it is said to bring luck for the New Year. If you don’t have a Bayberry Candle, go visit Cornerstone – Tesoro sells them

Have a wonderful New Years!

Cheap & Easy Halloween Decorations

With Halloween in the air, it’s time to dress up with your home with ghosts and goblins.  Decorations are the perfect excuse to have some crafty fun!  There’s no need to break the bank.  So, here are a couple of ideas for decorations that are both easy and inexpensive.

Hanging Ghosts – Use your stash of plastic grocery bags to make ghosts.  Just buy some white trash can liners and a sharpe pen.  Draw eyes and a mouth on the plastic trash liner, then stuff with grocery bags.  Tie with a string or fishing line and hang in front of your house.  These ghosts will fly in the breeze and are weatherproof!

Lanterns – Make lanterns out of sandwich bags or old milk jugs.  Break out a sharpe pen and draw faces on them!  If using milk jugs cut a hole out of the bottom to put in the lights.  Use either a string of white lights or battery operated tea lights.

Window Silhouettes – All you need is black paper and a little imagination to decorate your windows.  Just cut festive shapes like cats, bats and witches, out of black construction paper and hang on the inside of your window.  If you’re low on construction paper, just paint anyother paper black and it will do the same thing.

Happy Halloween!