Monday, January 23, 2012

DIY Curious George / Monkey Birthday Party

My baby boy turned two!  Woah, did that time go fast!  He can't get enough bananas and loves monkeys like crazy, so we of course had to give him a Curious George monkey party.  Here's what we did if you're looking for any ideas!

I used a Curious George image online and made these invitations.  The inside says "Translation: You are Invited to...etc, etc."

 With a little creativity you can decorate with a theme without spending any money on licensed character party supplies...

Who needs expensive balloons with licensed characters when you have a plain dollar store balloon and a Sharpie? (Okay, it helps to have a mom who can draw too.  But I also put a big "2" on one balloon and his name on another.  You could even decorate them with stickers and let the kids help!

We had these Curious George fruit snacks for the kids, so I cut out the pictures from the boxes and sprinkled them around the buffet as decorative "confetti!"

To mimic the Man with the Yellow Hat, I bought these yellow party hats from Amazon and simply drew a black band around each one with a fat permanent marker.
Pinata made by Mommy! Paper mache on a balloon! The ears are made of a ring of cardboard from a toilet paper tube cut in half taped on for each ear and then covered with newspaper and paper mache.  I used some old wall paint we had left over to paint it and used a black Sharpie for the black details.
I printed out some of these free coloring sheets from for the kids to color.

The Cake
I did a couple versions of was a banana shaped banana cake with cream cheese frosting.  It turned out really yummy!  But Momma loves chocolate and Mommy birthed the baby on baby's birth day, so Momma also made chocolate cupcakes and got her favorite kind of ice cream.

Here's the banana cake shaped and ready for frosting.  It started as a 9 x 13" rectangular cake. Pretty ugly, huh?! It didn't want to come out of the pan, despite my heavy greasing and flouring job, so it split apart on me.  But, hey, frosting covers a multitude of sins...

I just used a can of cream cheese frosting for this.  First I did this white part.

I added yellow food coloring to the remainder of the frosting to do the rest, then used a black decorating pen for the details.

Here it is all done with some of the monkey cupcakes!  Below you can see the cupcake process...

The Monkey Cupcakes:
I found the idea on Pinterest of course!  But, I made a couple of my own tweaks with the faces.

Here's what you need to for the cupcakes (minus the actual cake).  I tried this thing I saw on Pinterest and just added a can of Coke to a box of chocolate cake mix and they were yummy!

Chop a little bit of the side off of the mini Nilla Wafers for the ears.

Face parts ready to go on the frosted cupcakes

Use a regular Nilla wafer for the nose/mouth and the smaller ones for the ears.

Here's my tweak: I used upside-down white chocolate chips.

Then add the details with the black icing tube.  I decided to make mine a little more fun with some different expressions!

Finished monkeys!

The Menu
We did a baked potato bar which turned out great.  I tried another great Pinterest idea and baked the potatoes in my Crock pot.  I know it takes way longer, but I loved less thing for me to worry about right before or during the party!  We put out lots of yummy toppings.  I baked a pan full of bacon in the AM and made bacon bits, then we also had a bowl of shredded cheese, diced ham, sour cream, green onions, regular onions, and of course butter!

Of course there were plenty of bananas all over the place, and a bowl of Curious George fruit snacks!
We also had chips & dip, carrots & dip, clementines, etc.  It was a great menu for a group, and everything could be done ahead of time which is always a must for parties!
I think the party went great...this cute smile says it all!
Here are some links to our past birthday parties if you're looking for other ideas:
Robot / Space Birthday Party
Circus Birthday Party
Thomas the Train Birthday Party 
Monster Truck Birthday Party

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Making "Ice Gems" With The Boys

It's finally starting to feel like winter around here, which means more time spent in the house with the boys.  I've been taking advantage of my Pinterest board full of ideas to do with my boys, and we decided to make these cool ice gems this week! (Thank you to my friend Cindy who pinned these!)

I won't post every detail since the original tutorial already does a great job with that!  But here are a few photos of ours...

Adding food coloring to the balloons - I think I did 2 or 3 drops.

You do really need to stretch the opening over the faucet for them to fill up.  Learned that the hard way before I read that detail!

The boys thought these were pretty cool! 

I didn't quite trust them to fill a balloon full of dye but they loved holding, poking, and squishing them and helping me carry them outside to freeze!

We lined them up on the deck, right outside the sliding glass door so the boys could watch them freeze.  I put them in a shallow cardboard box which worked great!

After two days Sammy just couldn't wait to unwrap them!

Here they are lined up on the rocks leading to the front door!  So pretty!
This one actually had black food coloring.  Turned out kinda neat!

Toby peeking out the window at the pretty "gems!"
The colors actually turned out really quite uniform in comparison to the tutorial.  Too bad the balloon broke on the red one before it froze all the way...we would have had a whole rainbow!  And what perfect timing...we unwrapped these on the day of little Toby's 2nd birthday party and they were really fun decorations to have outside as our family walked to the front door!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thrift Store Re-Use Idea: Plant Clipping Containers

If you're a plant person who takes small clippings from your thriving plants to turn into new plants, here's a little idea for you. 

I used to put my clippings in old jars and cups by a window, and they never really looked great.  But, lately I've been picking up pretty glass candle holders from the thrift store and using those instead, which makes the clippings look even prettier than potted plants while I wait for their roots to grow.

One of my favorite spots in our new house is this little window box right above the kitchen sink.  It's a perfect spot for plants and delicate things to keep them out of the kids' reach.  Plus, being in Minnesota in January, it's really nice to be able to look up while doing dishes and see green plants and colorful glass, rather than the usual brown and white.

A couple hanging candle holders from the thrift store, hung  with little screw-in hooks in the window box "ceiling"
I love this little blue one that hangs on it's own stand
Colorful glass bottles work great too, especially for this straight bamboo!
There are so many cool options for your clippings if you think outside of the box!  How about some pretty vases, or even wine glasses?  So next time you're in the thrift store or at a garage sale, if you're a plant person, be sure to peruse the glass and candle holder aisles...the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keys to my Past

What was your favorite Christmas gift this year? (Okay, technically LAST year)  One of my favorites was this old snuff jar:

"What?!  A snuff jar?!" you say?  Yeah...well, my favorite part was what it was filled with...dozens of really awesome old keys.  The jar belonged to my great Grandma Brandt, and it was where she kept her keys.

Years ago I snapped this photo at the Minnesota State Fair of a wall that was covered with old keys:

I just love the texture and patterns in all of the keys, and wondering where they all came from.  I love the various colors they've taken on and bled onto the wood as they endure harsh Minnesota winters.  I printed the close-up photo and had it hanging in my cubicle for years.

Now that I freelance from home, and don't have to worry about my valuables being swiped from my desk (like my wedding ring was...but that's a whole other sad story), I thought I'd make my own real wall of keys.  That was a year or two ago, and I've been searching for cool old keys at garage sales ever since.  So far I have found a whopping two keys, for $1 each.  At this rate it would take me FOR-E-VER.

Well, when my mom caught word that I was keeping my eye out for keys, she remembered that they had a whole jar of them stored away somewhere from my Dad's Grandma, and they gave them to me alongside other fun Christmas gifts!

...And here they are (most of them) on display in my studio, along with my shiny letter "G" and my collection of fortune cookie fortunes that are tucked under the plastic corner guard. 

Keys are important.  You'll know that all too well if you've experienced the panic that sets in when you realize you've locked yourself out of your car or your house.  They protect the things that are of value to you.  They are a symbol of adulthood.  I so clearly remember being in high school when it was glaringly obvious who just got their driver's license because of the huge, clanking ring of keys they had swinging from their pocket for the world to see. They are symbols of independence.  Your first car.  Your first apartment.  Yours and only yours because you have the key.  They are a symbol of trust in whomever you may share them with.

I see bins and bins of old keys at the Junk Bonanza with my mom each year, yet I've never purchased any there.  Sure, I could have bought this whole wall from one antique seller, just for the look.  But now I have my own collection that has a lot more meaning behind it.  (Thanks Mom & Dad!)

There are big keys and teeny tiny little keys.  Black keys and silver keys and brass keys.  Every one has a different design and unlocks some unknown object or door from my  past. I look at the keys that are slightly twisted and distorted and wonder what that one got stuck in.  I left the little strings tied on some of the keys because that's the way Great Grandma had them.  I wonder what doors they unlocked, what clocks they wound up, what secrets they kept, and what treasures they may have secured...yet I find it delightfully ironic that in the end, the objects they unlocked are probably long gone, and the keys themselves are the treasures!

On a related note, here's a fun idea I came across on Pinterest via "Young House Love"...
A little shadow box displaying the keys to the places you've lived.  Makes me wish I had kept copies of my old keys!  After all, modern keys may look totally boring to me now, but who great grand kids may unlock everything with fingerprint recognition and may find my keys to be fascinating relics!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Crumbs on the Floor can WAIT!

Who doesn't want to lose a few pounds and/or get healthier, right? 

My fabulous friend Jess found this great plan for an "8 week weight loss challenge" online, and gathered together a group willing to take on this challenge, myself included.  In a nutshell, everyone who's in on it pitches in some agreed upon amount of money.  Each week you earn points for doing various healthy behaviors (ie. drinking 64 oz of water per day, exercising 30 minutes a day, keeping a food journal, eating 3 servings of veggies, etc...).  At the end of the 8 weeks there are 2 winners, one for the highest points earned, and one for the highest percentage weight loss.  Those two winners split the pot.

I gravitated toward the idea because I knew that the accountability alone would help me, along with having a clear plan printed out to look at each day and blanks to fill in with points.   So far so good...while I haven't earned every point possible every day yet, I feel like I'm making some great strides in taking on some good, healthy behaviors on a regular basis!

Looking at a daily list of guidelines has brought me back to when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) in my last 10 weeks of pregnancy with my 2nd baby.  For those 10 weeks I stuck to my GD diet to a tee.  I counted every carb in ever meal and snack, wrote down every single thing I ate, had my scheduled amount of carbs every 2-3 hours, and checked my blood sugar and ketones religiously. To give you a little background, needles have been known to make me pass out.  Yet I somehow pricked myself with a needle twice a day without hesitation.

So why is it such a challenge to follow this much much simpler 8 week plan?  

Why do I struggle to push my workouts from my usual 10 minutes a day to 30?  I don't have to count carbs or calories, and I don't have to make myself bleed every day.  The difference is that with GD, I was doing it all for my baby boy.  And if you're a mom, you totally get'd do ANYTHING for your baby.  I would eat nothing but pigs' feet and anchovies and stab my fingers with a needle 10 times a day for 10 weeks if that's what it took to ensure my baby was healthy.

I have discovered so far, in week 1 of this challenge, that my greatest challenge is convincing myself that I am worth the time.  I am worth taking a half hour out of my precious few hours of the boys' nap times to work out.  I can tell myself I'm doing this to look better for my husband, or to have more energy for my kids, but in the end I really need to find myself worth the time in order to make the time.  There are SO many things that I need to pack into that short nap time every day being a small business(es) owner, not to mention keeping up the house and taking care of daily family upkeep, that it's very hard for me to put myself even ON my list, let alone at the top of it!

So far in this 8 week challenge I have made myself immediately do my workout as soon as the boys go down for naps, because I know if I start doing something else I'll get too into it and will lose track of time, and before I know it, they'll be awake and ready for supper.

The other day I was doing my workout in my living room (I love my kick boxing DVD's!).  During my warm-up I was doing some push-ups and here was my view...

GROSS! The floor is seriously covered with crumbs from the boys' snacks.  (Yeah, snack traps don't trap everything.)  Every time I lowered my face to the floor I was met with a close-up view of crunched up whole wheat Chex.  With every push-up I had to remind myself that my health is more important than having a freshly vacuumed floor all the time.  While the lady on the workout DVD was saying "one, two, three, four" I was saying, "it can wait, it can wait, it can wait, it can wait."

And guess did wait.  It was all still there when I was done, and I was still able to vacuum it up.  And the boys didn't get seriously injured or die from the crumbs.  And my house doesn't look like it will be featured on "Hoarders." Go figure?  Life still goes on even if I take a little time for myself. And I lost 3 pounds in week 1! Win-win!


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