Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Red Wagon First Birthday!

One of my favorite photos of our son is the one we took of him at 4 weeks old asleep in a mini Radio Flyer wagon.  We used it on his birth announcement, so I decided to take his one year photos with this same wagon and use this as the theme for his first birthday party.  He sure has grown!!

And now on to the party details...

Invite:  My sister-in-law helped my ideas come to life with her PhotoShop skills.  I wanted the red wagon to say my son's name, so she helped with that.  I also wanted the event title to match the Radio Flyer logo, so we worked on that.  I had the invite printed at FedEx/Kinkos on card stock, backed them in light blue card stock, and they were done.

I asked my talented friend Jill, of Little Boy Blue, if she could make John a wagon shirt, and she designed this amazing onesie!  She does such an awesome job (she even made him a matching super hero cape just for fun!).

Decor:  At our entry door, I borrowed a Radio Flyer wagon from friends and attached balloons to the handle.  I added a simple sign I quickly made on the computer to welcome guests. Inside, I borrowed another wagon to collect gifts.

I made a pendant Happy 1st Birthday banner out of card stock to place above the food table, and used a mini wagon to hold the plates and napkins. I borrowed yet another friend's plastic Radio Flyer wagon to hold the drinks.

As a centerpiece at each table, I bought wagon wheels from Harbor Freight.  I then bought red and white flowers and arranged them in one of those green foam pieces to place on top of each tire.  I bought $10 worth of flowers at a local florist and arranged them myself to save money.  Next to each tire flower, I made a frame to showcase photos for each month of John's first year. I didn't want to spend money on 13 frames, so I made them myself.  I cut one piece of foam board into 5x7" pieces, covered the front in black card stock, hot glued black ribbon on the edges, glued the photo in the center, and cut out a wagon with the number of the month on the front using my Cricut machine. I actually loved the way they came out, and this was a super cheap way to do it.  I stood two frames back to back so they could prop each other up and hide the back of the foam a bit.

I used a blue plastic tablecloth for my dessert table so my red items would pop a bit more. On the table, I had a couple 1 year photos of John with the wagon as well as a mini Radio Flyer banner I made out of card stock.  I made simple cupcakes for the kids with red/white polka dot wrappers. I topped them with white icing and scrapbooked toppers. I used my Cricut machine and Paper Dolls Dress Up cartridge since it had a wagon.  I love how they came out.  The smash cake was simple with a blue J on it.  I am glad I used white icing for the smash cake because John got icing everywhere!

For the cake, I wanted to make a Radio Flyer wagon.  I started with a simple vanilla cake in the largest rectangle pan I owned.  I placed it on a cardboard cake plate cut to fit exactly, so no edges would show.  Then I frosted the entire thing red. I free-handed the logo on the front (I am not the greatest artist), but you get the idea.  The wheels are frosted Rice Krispie Treats covered in frosting.  For the handle, I cut a dowel rod and covered it in black electrical tape.  The "handle" at the top is also electrical tape.  I cut a pizza box (since this is all I had handy) to run the length of the cake plus a little extra in the front.  I covered this in electrical tape as well and attached the dowel.  The cake is propped on a Toms shoebox covered in construction paper, and I died coconut green to give the look of grass.

For the favor, I made sugar cookies. I originally planned to do them in a wagon shape, but had a hard time finding a cookie cutter that wasn't a million dollars.  Instead, I did a simple circle and then just piped the wagon and number 1 on with frosting.  I put these in a clear bag, folded the top and used the extra cupcake wrappers to add a little color. My brother helped me design a wagon wheel tag that read "Thanks for rolling in to celebrate with us!" I placed the favors on the dessert table in another mini Radio Flyer wagon.

Menu:  I stuck with a simple menu of sandwiches, chips, and watermelon.  The only menu items that went with the theme were Gerber Wagon Wheels I set out for the little kids, and the Jello Wagons I made out of baby food containers I saved.  I found black spoons at a local fast food restaurant (they gave them to me for free!) to use as the wagon "handle".  I attached the card stock wheels with glue.  Some fell off, but most stayed.

Activities: I stayed simple with the activities.  We had a jumper we borrowed from a friend, and I had out a wagon, Radio Flyer scooter, and a Radio Flyer tricycle that we already owned.  Kids enjoyed taking turns with these.  I made an official Radio Flyer license for each kid.  These are free to download. I bought the Scotch brand photo-laminating sheets from Target to cover them and make them look more official.  These sheets are about $2 for 5 of them.  I also had crayons and wagon-themed coloring sheets set out for kids to do.

All in all, the party was fun and not too expensive (my kind of party!). It was great to celebrate our little man's first birthday with so many family and friends. I would definitely recommend a Radio Flyer themed party for a first birthday party. I felt there was even more I could have done if I had more time as well.

Side note: If you are interested in purchasing the banner, cupcake toppers, month frames, and favor tags, I saved them and I am planning to list them on Craigslist. I'd be happy to have someone time making them as they are super cute!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fun Wall Decor

Like everyone else, I am addicted to Pinterest.  There are so many cute ideas and projects I hope to do in the future.  This past week, I finally did two of them! Thought I would share in case you want to dress up your house with these ideas...

I have been wanting to put up a collage of photos behind my dining table, but I wanted something else with it.  After breezing through websites to find ideas, I stumbled upon a Pinterest photo of a collage with this quote above it.  I was sold!  I bought my frames at Aaron Brothers during one of their buy one, get the second for 1 cent sales.  I tried a million different layouts, but decided on this one eventually.  I ordered the wall decal from LaNae from It's Written on the Wall.  She custom-made the decal to match the length of my collage and in the font I wanted.  I love it!! One of my close friends took all the family photos on a trip to the park, and she did an amazing job capturing our family.  I printed them all at Costco. I love the way this adds to my dining room, and the quote reminds me of how special my family is to me.

The second project I completed this week....a fun height chart!  This project was SO easy and very inexpensive. I followed the directions on 517 Creations blog only changing a few things.  The only supplies you need are a piece of plywood, stain in the color you desire, paint pen, clear coat enamel spray, and a ruler.

Step One:  Apply the wood stain to the wood using a brush and wiping off excess with a rag. I did 3 coats on each side waiting about half an hour in between coats.  Remember to do both sides of the wood just in case you goof on one side, you still have the other!

Step Two:  Using a ruler and pencil, draw the ruler marks on the left side of the wood an inch apart for each mark.  I made my "eighth" inch marks 1" long and my "quarter" marks 2" long.  I started my marks at 6" because I was planning to hang the finished ruler 6" off the floor.  This makes the entire "ruler" go up to 6 1/2 feet.  After you've measured all the lines in pencil, go over it with your paint pen. (Hint: Don't just use a regular will smear! Buy a paint pen.)

Step Three: I wanted my ruler to look authentic, so I found a font on Microsoft Word that was similar to a real ruler. I chose Century Schoolbook bold.  I printed out the numbers (1-6) in 200 font and then cut them out.  I placed them on the ruler in the correct spots, and traced them in pencil.  Then I used my paint pen to cover the pencil and fill each number in.  Easy!

Step Four:  Spray the entire board (front and back) with Clear Enamel to protect your work. I did 2 coats. I would definitely use a spray because I read several tips on making this board that say their work was ruined because they painted the enamel on and it smeared the marks.

Step Five:  Hang your "ruler" and enjoy!  You can hang it with a sawtooth picture hanger.  We hung ours with the extra large velcro picture tabs because my husband didn't want to nail into the wall.  It seems to work well so far.  Use an artist's pen to mark your child's heights each year.  The pen I used is Faber-Castell PITT artist pen.

I had a blast trying these ideas out and LOVE how they turned out.  Let me know if you try them!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fourth of July Snack

My daughter had an International-themed recital today at daycare.  They did 5 dances, and they were super cute!  We were asked to bring a dish from our culture to share.  Our family is such a mix of European cultures, I decided to bring a USA-themed treat instead.  It was a big hit and super easy...

Just strawberries (I cut mine in half), marshmallows, and blueberries. Yummy.  If you are looking to take something simple to a 4th of July party, this might be it.  The whole thing cost me under $15 and I had plenty of fruit left over. I bought the fruits at Costco and one bag of marshmallows at Ralphs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lemon and Lime...It's Summertime!

June is an extremely busy month for me.  Not only is my teaching year ending, but I have both of my kiddos birthdays and of course the monthly dinner!  We celebrated Ella's birthday on Saturday (see Art Party post), so I only had a two days to prepare for this month's dinner.  I decided to go with an easy theme of Lemon and Lime...It's Summertime.  This is a simple theme and would be perfect for a baby shower, wedding shower, or a spring/summer get together.

Decorations:  Go overboard on green and yellow to really make your table bright and happy.  I set my table with a bright yellow tablecloth and made a small runner with lemon fabric I found at Joanns.  The plastic placemat I found at Target.  They currently have lemons featured for the summer in plates, cups, etc.  I just bought the placemat for $2.99. (Reminder if you are new to my blog: my party's are inexpensive with mostly homemade items to save money.)  As a centerpiece, I used a large glass hurricane I already owned (you could use a bowl as well) and filled it with lemons and limes.

For added decor, I placed two small vases with yellow and green flowers.  These were flowers I had left over from the colorful bouquets at my daughter's party.  They weren't the prettiest yellow flowers, but the green ones were cool.  Inside the clear vases, I cut slices of lemon to add color and blend with the theme. Martini glasses were also on the table in preparation of lemon drop martinis!!

As a napkin holder, I sliced a lime into thick circles and cut out all the juice.  The inside didn't go to waste though. I used it to decorate the top of the Key Lime Pie.

As a place card, I made lemon bath salts for each guest.  I found these small jars at the 99 Cent Only store two for a dollar.  I found the tag online and inserted my guest's name in the center.  I also made a tag for the top to identify the contents.  I used Mod Podge to adhere these to the metal top and glass front. Finished them off with a green ribbon.  I made the bath salts with the following easy recipe:

1 cup Epsom Salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil (I bought mine at Sprouts Grocery Store)
2 or 3 drops of yellow food coloring

 Mix all ingredients, stir, and set out overnight.  Then fill the jars! Of course, double, triple, etc. the recipe if you are making several jars.

Menu: Instead of making individual menu cards for each guest, I decided to post my menu on the wall using my frame collage. I found all images on Google.

We started with lemon drop martinis which definitely got the evening off to a festive start!

Next we had a salad with a lemon citrus dressing.  The salad was simple -- just Romaine lettuce, mandarin orange slices, and chopped walnuts.  The recipe for the dressing is:

 Julia Child's Oil and Lemon Dressing.

 2 strips of fresh lemon peel, 1 by 2 ½ inches each
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more, if needed
1/2 tablespoon Dijon-type prepared mustard
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fine fresh oil
Freshly ground pepper

Mince the lemon peel very finely with the salt, scrape it into the mortar or bowl, and mash into a fine paste with the pestle or spoon.  Beat in the mustard and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice; when thoroughly blended start beating in the oil by droplets to make a homogeneous sauce—easier when done with a small electric mixer.  Beat in droplets of more lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

For our main plate, I served Grilled Lemon Chicken, Lime Rice, and Asparagus with Lime. (Sorry, no photo)

Grilled Lemon Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel (zest)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely snipped fresh lemon thyme or thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 lemons, halved
Fresh lemon thyme or thyme sprigs, optional

1. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic back in a shallow bowl. For marinade, in a small bowl stir together chicken broth, lemon peel, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon thyme, and pepper.  Pour over chicken.  Seal bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.  Drain chicken, reserving marinade.
2.  Grill chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 12 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink, turning and brushing with marinade halfway through grilling.  Discard any remaining marinade.  Add lemon halves to grill for the last 3 minutes of grilling.
3.  Serve chicken with grilled lemons and, if desired, top with additional fresh thyme.  Makes 4 servings.

Garlic Asparagus with Lime

1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
1 bunch fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
1/4 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in garlic and shallots, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in asparagus spears; cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Squeeze lime over hot asparagus, and season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to serving plate, and garnish with lime wedges.

For dessert, I made both Key Lime Pie and Lemon Cream pie, so guests got a little of both.  Due to time constraints, I bought the pie crusts, so the recipes do not include those.

Key Lime Pie

4 egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice
1 lime, grated zest
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, or 5 to 6 minutes.  Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer.  Lower the mixer speed and slowly add lime juice until incorporated.  Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set.  Cool on wire rack, and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.  For topping: whip the cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until nearly stiff.  Evenly spread the whipped cream on top of the piece, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to serving.

Lemon Pie

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 (14ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

Mix together the cream cheese, milk, and lemon juice.  Mix well and spread in graham cracker crust.  Chill and top as desired ( I used lemon slices and blueberries).

Favor:  I used the same inexpensive jars from the 99Cent Store for my favors.  I filled them with Lemon-heads and Green Spree candies.  I created a lime tag at the top to identify the occasion.  The "Life would be sour without you" tag I found online at Darling Doodles.  She has several other super cute candy tags (free) which would be great for teacher gifts, etc.

This was another nice dinner party with great food and vibrant colors. I highly recommend this welcome to summer! As usual, comment below or email me with comments, questions, or if you would like me to email you any items used.  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

An Art Party - Ella's 3rd Birthday!

For our daughter's 3rd birthday, I decided to throw her an Art Party.  She loves to color and paint, and even though I have no idea what she is drawing most of the time, she is always so proud to hand me her finished product.  I knew this was a theme she would really love.  However, my husband and I decided only one week before to have a party for her, so I had to act quickly to get  out invitations and pull everything together.  Here is what I came up with in a week...

Invitations: Since I had to act quickly to make all the invitations, I went with supplies I already had at the house. I typed up the text on the computer and cut around it to make the artist's palette.  I then used a circle punch to cut out circles and trimmed one side to look like a blotch of paint.  I backed the palette on red card stock and rounded the edges.  Simple.

Decorations:  At the entry door, I set up an artist's easel and made a giant crayon box Welcome Sign to sit on the easel. I used my Cricut machine to cut out all the letters and just enlarged the crayon photo from a Crayola box image I found online. I did have to do some photo editing with this to make it as large as I wanted, but I think the time spent on this was worth it. Love the way it came out. If you would like the image, just email me, and I can save you the hour editing!

I decorated all the tables with plastic tablecloths in primary colors.  As a centerpiece, I bought $10 worth of colorful flowers and arranged them into small vases I already owned. I borrowed large paint brushes from the art teacher at my school, and stuck 3 in each vase.

Above the food table, I created an art inspired banner.  I don't have a cartridge that has a paint can or paint brush, so I again used Google images to find a paint can and brush.  I traced these images on the card stock and cut them out.  The paint brushes served as the spaces between words. I have made several banners, but this one has to be my favorite.  Colorful and fun.  I also bought silver paint buckets from Home Depot and used a plastic tablecloth to  look like paint was spilled out and covering the table.  My intention was to hang these and have the paint spilling out onto the food table, but I ran out of time.  To label the food, I created tags using a paint brush font and a Clipart image.  I placed these on mini easels I found at Joanns for $2, but I also made some easels out of toothpicks (to save a bit of money).

I used a collage of picture frames on my wall to adapt into an art wall of my daughter's paintings, etc. 

Along the fence at the side of my back yard, I placed pieces of plywood together that I covered in cheap plastic tablecloths. I then used masking tape to create an art easel.  The kids used these for the painting activity (see below).

Menu:  I wanted to serve food in all colors of the rainbow to match the colors of the party.  I ended up serving:
  • Red: Strawberries and Cherry tomatoes
  • Orange: Orange Slices and Carrots (with ranch dip served in a hollowed out orange pepper)
  • Yellow: Pineapple slices
  • Green:  Grapes and Celery (again with dip in a hollow green pepper)
  • Blue: Blueberries and blue licorice
  • Purple: Purple Grapes and Blackberries
For the rest of the lunch, we had chips, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs. We had a wide range of drinks including lemonade with fresh strawberries.  As you can tell, my daughter LOVES fruit and vegetables!

Dessert: I got a little carried away with dessert!  Of course, first I made the cake.  This was such a fun cake...a rainbow cake! I promise to post the recipe in the next few days, and this was the coolest and easiest recipe!  I cut the round cake to look like a paint palette and added the paint splotches and brush.  I love the Crayon candles too.  I found them at Calico Cake Shop.

I also made cupcakes, Rice Krispie paint brushes and paint palette cookies.  We couldn't find a palette-shaped cookie cutter, so we used an empty can and bended it in to make the shape.  The rest is just frosting.  I used pretzel sticks as the paint brush on the cupcakes and just added a tip to it with frosting.  I bought some sticks at Michaels for the Rice Krispie treats, stuck them in after cutting the rectangles and then dipped them in various melted chocolates.

Party Activities:  The first art activity I had for the kids to do whenever they felt like it was Fruit Loop necklaces.  I set out yarn and Fruit Loops and let the kids make their own (and eat some along the way). It works really well to put a piece of tape around the end of the yarn so it doesn't fray and kids can easily string the cereal.

I also had chalk pieces set out for the kids to draw on the ground.

We used the easels for our first group activity. I gave each child an apron I bought at the Dollar Tree, a large paint brush (the ones from the centerpieces), and a paper plate with paint on it. I posted all the animals I had drawn on butcher paper up on the easels and the kids chose which one they wanted to paint.  SO FUN!  To make the coloring pages, I simply found an image on Google (choose line drawing) and then put it on an overhead projector to trace onto the paper.  I can't draw, so this was an easy way around it.  The kids loved these and it made great decor for the party.

The final activity was painting with their feet. I bought canvas from Michaels and used contact paper to put each child's first initial on the canvas.  The idea was that after the kids painted the canvas with their feet, I would remove the contact paper and the initial would still be the white of the canvas.  This idea did not work as well as I had hoped.  I think it would have worked great had I just had the kids use their hands to paint, but with their feet, they twisted which pulled up the initial on some of their artwork.

Favor: As a take home gift, I made crayon bags with card stock. I bought the bags in a multi-pack at Michaels, and used construction paper for the "wrapper".  I used black card stock and colored cardstock for the rest.  On the back was a tag that read "Thanks for helping to make my art party a masterpiece!".  Inside, I had a paint set I bought at the dollar store, 2 colored pencils, and a crayon I made.  If you've never made these round crayons...they are so easy and fun.  Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray, and break up crayons into each hole (I used four crayons per muffin).  Then put in a 325 oven for 8 minutes.  Take out and cool. I put mine in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  Then they are done!!  Such a fun way to reuse old crayons.

Hope you're inspired to host an art party's so much fun!